First Hierarch of ROCOR calls on clergy, faithful to humble themselves, obey bishops and local authorities

New York, April 2, 2020

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Those clergy and laymen who, out of a zeal not according to knowledge, are disobeying the directives of their hierarchs and local authorities during this time of pandemic risk causing unforeseen consequences both on a parish and a wider-community scale, writes His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, in a new letter to his flock, published on the official ROCOR website.

Met. Hilarion notes the sad reality that in many places, Church services have been prohibited altogether, or perhaps continue with the priest and small number of servers and possibly a limited number of parishioners. However, he rejoices that so many parishes are using modern technology to support their flocks through holding spiritual talks and livestreaming services.

“I am sure that such a creative approach strengthens the unity among people who together endure these difficult circumstances, and will bring good fruit in the future. In general, any positive examples in such complicated situations, when new methods of preaching and pastoral nourishment are discovered, are always inspiring and instructive,” His Eminence writes.

“Unfortunately,” Met. Hilarion continues, “we also hear of sorrowful instances of insubordination not only to local authorities, but also to the ruling bishops.”

“Such behavior on the part of the clergy and lay parish officers is completely irresponsible and involves risk not only to the physical health of our neighbors, but also to our relationships with these communities and to parish property,” the First Hierarch notes.

“Tempting God and man” in this way, they risk legal trouble for their parishes, and, moreover, “they irreparably damage their relationships with those around them, sowing in them doubts toward Christ’s Church, whose members must serve as an example.”

Such zeal not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2) could even cause problems within parish communities themselves, Met. Hilarion laments.

Quoting the holy Apostle Peter: Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time; casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you (I Peter 5:6-7), His Eminence calls upon his clergy and laity to adhere to all precautionary measures issued by the local authorities and the instructions issued by the hierarchs.

He also calls upon his flock to increase its prayer, fasting, reading, and salvific contemplation during this time.

His message concludes:

Perhaps before we did not sufficiently treasure the opportunity to pray in church, missing the divine services through our laziness and carelessness, or were so swallowed up by our affairs that we practically never saw our families, never prayed, never read anything of spiritual value, never prepared for the feasts, and never observed the fasts. General quarantine is a gift from God, which drives man into the depths of himself, forcing him to reexamine his attitude toward life, to think and to care about what is most important. Let every one of us make use of this blessed opportunity, at midnight on the Glorious Pascha night, to say to our own heart: “Christ is Risen,” and to hear from it that sweetest reply: “Indeed He is Risen.”

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Youkhana 4/7/2020 9:52 am
I would like to publicly confess that I the terrible sinner communed of the Holy Mysteries while I was sick with the flu! I did not quarantine myself, and I was actually cured by taking communion! Also, nobody got sick after using the same spoon as me! Please forgive me Nancy Pelosi, George Soros and Bill Gates!
Leper4/7/2020 9:43 am
Didn’t Christ heal the leper’s? He should of asked them to quarantine themselves instead.
Raphael 4/5/2020 7:11 pm
"Saint Drosida was daughter of the emperor Trajan (98-117), a fierce persecutor of Christians. In the year 99 he re-activated an earlier existing law which FORBADE SECRET GATHERINGS and was INDIRECTLY AIMED AGAINST CHRISTIANS, and in the year 104 he issued a special law against Christians.Beginning with this year, the persecutions continued until the end of his reign."-Taken from the Life of St. Drosida the virgin Martyr, whose memory was commemorated yesterday according to the true calendar of the Church.
Mikhail4/5/2020 4:02 pm
Dear Herman, It would have been nice if the Metropolitan would have said that Churches in states which have religious exemptions, should continue to minister and serve the laity in these difficult times. Instead, the statement reflected a fear of the consequences that may occur from disobeying the civil authorities. I live in a state where there is a religious exemption...and yet the Orthodox Churches have locked the people out...including ROCOR. Interesting. They must have misinterpreted the Metropolitan's directive. Nevertheless, regarding my statement about donations...I have donated a considerable amount to the Fund For Assistance over the years...and especially in the past year because I always felt that ROCOR was a shining light in America. I will still donate to various parishes where I know that the priests are not happy about locking us out. This is not the fault of the priests. They are being obedient. But I will divert most of my donation to places of need in Bulgaria and Georgia where the Patriarchs have stated unequivocally that Christ's Church must not be locked down...especially in circumstances such as these...regardless of what the civil authorities say.
Leonid4/4/2020 7:08 pm
Brother in Christ, Herman, to answer your question, it would have been very nice to see some sort of unified reaction from the Bishops appealing to the "powers that be" not to infringe upon the spiritual and religious rights of the people during these times. It would have been nice to see a Metropolitan whose ancestors suffered under the godless communists remind the governor of NY and others not to react in such a manner that it infringes upon our "God-given rights" as Christians and as Americans. Please forgive me, but from what I have read in the bible and example of the lives of the saints, the church should be the voice of balance and sanity even when everyone else around Her is going crazy. I would have loved to hear the Bishops of the Church of Christ say something like "we understand the stress and pressure placed upon you Mr. Governor, but here is the church's recommendations (maybe even insistence?)on how to deal with such crisis situations now, and in the future, so that our religious liberties are not trampled upon". Why are almost all of our Bishops simply bowing down without an iota of resistance? This is what griefs us "zealots", this is what makes me very very sad!
V. Jackson4/4/2020 3:17 pm
The Metropolitan has not change anything in his own diocese. He is simply calling on people to follow the law, and the directives of their bishops.
Leonid4/4/2020 7:41 am
Deep grief fills my heart as I read this. Please tell me whether the ancient pastors and bishops who refused to close the churches even when faced with the possibility of torture and martyrdom had "zeal not according to knowledge". Today we have not a tyrannically leader threatening us with death if we disobey his decree, but we have the terrible and scary....flu! Although I agree with His Eminence, that people will now begin to think about things which they did not think about before and it may cause deep reflection, his address is not to the people that were "missing the divine services through our laziness and carelessness", because such people would most likely be happy to have a "good" reason to miss church, such as a decree from the Metropolitan or Governor! It is we, the "crazy and zealous" who actually want to pray and attend church that he makes his address to, since we are the ones fighting to go to church and...PRAY! Let me say, that such statements coming from the highest primate of ROCOR (not GOARCH, but ROCOR) causes me to have such sadness that I almost feel like God has abandoned His people! I almost feel like we are "sheep without a shepherd" left to be slaughtered by the world and its powers. Where is the Orthodox faith of our fathers? Does it exist anymore? I wonder whether St. John Chrysostom would say "close the churches and do not pray like a good little obedient son of the state". "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?" -St. James, the brother of our Holy Lord Jesus Christ, Epistle of St. James 4:3-5 If the Metropolitan can not see that this is the devils work -to close down the churches during Holy Week- then truly I grieve and mourn and say with Job "O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!" -Job 14:13
Herman4/3/2020 7:17 pm
To Mikhail: Did you read the article here, about DiBlasio threatening to close churches permanently that defied the health orders in NY? I don't think you understand what is going on here. Met Hilarion is not "mimicking" anyone. Met Hilarion is offering reasonable guidance and responsible pastoral directive here. He is not ordering anyone to "lock the faithful out of their Churches" he is asking his clergy to obey the authorities of whatever region they are in. It's different in different places. What do you want Met Hilarion to do? Order all churches to remain open, so they can be fined, closed by authorities, neighbors will be calling the police, many parishioners will feel threatened by possibility of infection... our Matushka at my church is sick, and so is my mother's godmother at her church and her husband. They have been tested positive for the virus. Are our priests supposed to continue services, open the doors, openly defy the stay-at-home orders? That is not wise, is it? So at a time like this, you think it is the Christian thing to do to withdraw your financial support for your Church? During Lent, this is how you react? My parish will be losing many thousands of dollars from loss of sales for kulich and pascha baskets, we will be losing thousands of dollars from all the Russians that only come to church twice a year and donate generously on Pascha. This is a MAJOR financial setback for us. And you want to make it even worse? Met Hilarion is responding in the only possible way - to give blessings for clergy to perform the services according to the rules of the local health authorities. In some cases, doors are open. In some cases, clergy can celebrate Liturgy behind closed doors, with a few choir members. In some cases, sadly, churches have been closed completely. Our First Hierarch is not betraying us, or bowing to the secular government, he is offering to us his wise guidance - and we are his flock, we must follow him, and support him. He is responsible to God for us. Go to the Fund for Assistance youtube page and watch the videos about our First Hierarch, if you haven't already. Let us pray that God will strengthen us all during these trials.
Mikhail4/3/2020 3:48 am
Alas, Met. Hilarion has decided to mimick the other hierarchs and lock the faithful out of their Churches when they need them the most. When will a courageous bishop emerge whom we can all follow with confidence? ROCOR was the shining light in America when all other jurisdictions surrendered to the world. I have donated generously to ROCOR and the FFA over the years. That will end.
Gary Cox4/2/2020 1:37 pm
These are troubling times but good will come of it. Perhaps this is a cleansing of God's people. I know I need to do better in my life. May this wake us all up.
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