Reflections in Quarantine


I kept silence all day long today. I have not been in contact with people for a few days now. I make no secret of the fact that I spend a good many days of the year in this way. In silence and self-isolation. There is nothing unusual or surprising in this for me (and some of you, looking at my photos, selfies etc., draw the conclusion that all I do every day is joyfully run along the streets like crazy and entertain myself twenty-four hours a day! That is an illusion created by pictures and mass-media. The photos taken by someone in two or three days may be viewed online for a long time, maybe for months, giving the impression that you are always away—now here, now there—as if you live a full, eventful life).

But now I am not talking about myself.

This time I am talking about all of us.

I started thinking about how our life has changed. Everything has stopped, is blocked and closed.

I started thinking about you. You stay at home and this is hard for you. It is against your will, since you are neither a recluse nor an introvert. You are staying at home because such are the regulations. And you are doing it out of love, knowing that it is necessary for your good, for the good of all of us and all of our loved ones.

Additionally, you keep indoors out of fear and our general vulnerability.

I have also started thinking about all those who are choking in the environment of psychological helplessness. These are lonely people who have found themselves in the dark desolation of the wilderness, total silence and the abandonment of the soul.

In these days I wake up in the morning, and, though the sun addresses me: “Smile! Look, how beautiful the coming day is!” the other reality quickly reminds me of the danger, horror, and the “black horseman” who will claim the lives of my fellow human beings on our planet.

All that is happening these several weeks made me ponder much and seriously about the frailty of our world and the transience of our life.

I also make no secret of the fact that I started musing on death too. I normally forget it due to my active lifestyle. I am so used to enjoying life with its colors, aromas, music, achievements, flavors, strong drinks, theatrical roles, and people that at some point I have begun to view myself as the only inhabitant of the globe and acquired the psychology of a person who has the only secure dwelling-place—“here.”

Here. In this wonderful world, alongside my wonderful neighbors, in my wonderful fatherland.

But like a bolt from the blue there has appeared something invisible and microscopic—a virus—that has reminded me that the end will come. Even if it won’t happen to you and me today, it will certainly come one day.

I have my own “expiration date” in this world and in the present form. I am a stranger and a sojourner with you (Gen. 23:4). I am standing on a metro station platform and waiting for the call to get on the train: “Aboard!” But I am still standing, spellbound by the station’s beauty, without reacting, unable to tear myself away from it.

At some point I got terrified. I was scared and frustrated and became despondent. And the question, “Why?” kept passionately escaping my soul, in search of an answer and with a sense of injustice: “Everything that is going on in the world is so unjust!”

So much labor and sweat, both physical and mental: studies, overstrain, work, dreams, shopping, real estate, property, capital investments, plans, intentions, reveries, heartbeats, relationships, promises, commitments, agreements, IOUs, and all that we have earned with hope and anticipation! All that is covered with the veil of constant prolongation and the faith that something new will come over and over again. An inexhaustible thirst for development: “And then I will do so-and-so. And after that I will go to such-and-such a place.” This is the delight of creativity that gives you something of the Divine “worldview”.

This is faith in the fact that the unfolding of the veil of joy is everlasting.

But a virus comes and unexpectedly says to many: “Stop!”

Perhaps it hasn’t said it to me personally. But it has already said this to so many fellow human beings across the globe and even to some of my fellow-countrymen. It has disrupted everything. Without asking, without permission, without any elementary discussion! And that is that! It didn’t say: “Let us talk.” In the sense, that he has meant me as well if I want, if I agree, if I am ready, if I have family, children, dogs and cats to mourn me and grieve over me when I go.

But it can’t be helped. A sudden and cruel death, unthinkably indifferent even to the bitterest tears.

I open my fridge: it is full because I have stocked up with food for some days ahead. I drink some orange juice and have three cinnamon rolls. Delicious! It is so wonderful to live, rejoice, be healthy, feel that the river of life flows in you and the breath of God inspires you.

Only prayer goes easy in these days: I converse with God and share everything with Him: about my confusion, my family and friends, our vulnerability, all who are sick and those who will get sick and probably die. They say so… I can’t believe this and don’t want to.

Discord of all kinds doesn’t worry me. I am never involved in them and don’t care about them because the end is eventually inevitable for all of us. If not now, then soon. Even if in it’s the long run.

The unpleasant and complacent discord of people standing at death’s door. Can you really say with certainty how you are going to spend this day?

Clamor and quarrels. Even about Christ! In such days and from all sides. Without stop. Groups and parties, cliques and companies. A frenzied thirst for something and total oblivion of Christ!

It’s n this style: “I’ll show you!” “This is how it should be done, and you understand nothing!” “I’ll give you a hard time!” “You are a learned atheist and rascal!” “You’re a worthless Christian!” “You are guilty of everything!” “Be damned!” “Leave us alone!”

The indefatigable zest for self-justification: to find excuses; prove that I am right; that what I do I do well; that I am good; that I am better than you, while you are a bad, benighted, ignorant and lost person.

The only sensible behavior for me in these days is to keep indoors and pray when I can and when prayer goes well. I am speaking about the inner prayer of the heart, of stillness, love and sincerity. Like Christ, Who fell on the ground and prayed all night long in the Garden of Gethsemane. He did it on many nights of His life, praying for the whole universe.

Scientists—the high priests of our days—are doing all in their power. And let them do it because our capacity is limited.

Politicians, doctors, nurses, clergymen, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, policemen, businessmen, athletes, artists, spiritual figures, thinkers, writers, poets, men of prayer, ordinary toilers, enterprise workers, farmers, those with a sense of humor and the gift of communication, consolation and power—we are all called to become “wonderworkers” in this period.

And to experience the miracle of love, unity (and as far as possible to consolidate our… jungle!), respect, patience, and self-sacrifice!

Let us stay focused on the essence, which is the deadly enemy of the virus, and let us hope for the immortality of love! Let all of us believers show Christ not in mere public statements but in the fervor of loving hearts that can beat like the heart of Christ—like the sun and not snow!

Indeed let us keep indoors for a while. Let us “travel” online wherever we like, do shopping online, speak and communicate with each other, exchange opinions, pain, suffering and hopes.

Let us become a kind of modest ascetic in these days. And if we do it in the spirit of love, we will perform the most striking fast before God!!!

You know the rest: it is being talked about permanently. Cleanness, washing hands, and so forth… Perhaps I have bent your ear. But I thought that since you are reading this article, you couldn’t find anything better to do to while your time away.

Otherwise I apologize for taking your time.

Archimandrite Andreas (Konanos)
Translated from the Russian version by Dmitry Lapa


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