COVID-19
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News Concerning Services Conducted at St. Herman Antiochian Orthodox Church, Wasilla

 

As of May 29, 2020, St. Herman Church is still closed to the public until further notice based on restrictions from our Archdiocese. All events, programs are cancelled. Any liturgical service that is done will be limited to 25% capacity and will be open to church members only. We ask visitors, for the time being, to please call Fr. Matthew Howell at (907)373-5254 to ask permission to attend if desired.  

 
We will continue to pray for the peace of the whole world as well as for the sick and the suffering. We look forward to the time when we will be able to worship God together in person as a full community, and will post a message here on the website when we have more news. May God bless and keep you.
 

 

Spiritual Resources and Encouragement
During COVID-19 Pandemic

 

A Special Prayer for Protection and Healing from the New Pandemic

His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East, and His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, have approved use of this “Special Prayer for Protection and Healing from the New Pandemic” by our clergy and faithful.

O Lord, our God, the rich, the merciful, and wise in His care: in Thy wisdom take care of our lives, hear our prayers, accept our repentance for our sins, and stop this rampant pandemic in the same way that Thou didst stop punishing Thy people in the days of David the King. O Physician of our souls and bodies: grant healing to those infected by this pandemic, and let them rise quickly from their pain to glorify Thee, O merciful Savior; as for those who are healthy, protect them from any disease.

Bless, O Lord, and support all those who care with love and sacrifice for the sick wherever they are found, whether they are at home or in hospitals, and keep them with Thy grace. Protect Thy people from all disease and pain, and teach us to value life and health as Thy gifts.

Grant us, O God, Thy peace, and fill our hearts with firm faith in Thy care, and with love towards Thee and our neighbor. Have mercy on us, and save us, O our God, and to Thee we ascribe glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Amen.

(Issued by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Church March 11, 2020)

 

A Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian

For the withdrawal of the spirit of fear

"May the spirit of fear, the spirit of despondency, and the spirit of pride and of all manner of malice withdraw from my soul.  In it may all manner of excitement produced by the workings of the devil be extinguished.  May my spirit, soul, and body be enlightened by the light of Thy knowledge.  May I come to be a perfect man made unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ with the angels and all who have been pleasing to Thee throughout the ages, and I shall glorify Thine all-honorable and venerable name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
 
--St Ephraim the Syrian, A Spiritual Psalter, Prayer 18
 
 

 

Studies on Genesis Chapters 1-3

A video Bible Study

Fr. Matthew Howell and his dad, Fr. Stephen Howell, do an introductory study of the first three chapters of Genesis. Along the way, they give definitions of important theological terms as well as tie the beginning of the Old Testament to the last two chapters of the New Testament. 

Episode 1 - April 1, 2020

Episode 2 - April 8, 2020

Episode 3 - April 22, 2020

Episode 4 - April 29, 2020

Episode 5 - May 6, 2020

Episode 6 - May 13, 2020

Episode 7 - May 20, 2020

Episode 8 - May 27, 2020

Episode 9 - June 3, 2020

Episode 10 - June 10, 2020

 

It is also relevant to Episode 8 for someone to listen to this podcast by Bishop IRENEI about St. Symeon the Theologian's writings on The Temptation to Cast Blame for Our Sin.

Loving God Without Fear

Audio Lectures by Bishop IRENEI Steenberg

"Loving God Without Fear" is a free three-part lecture series by Bishop Irenei (Steenberg) of London and Western Europe of the Russian Orthodox Church in America. Bishop IRENEI is author of the book The Beginnings of a Life of Prayer and is a onetime fellow of Oxford University and Chair of Theology and Religious Studies at Leeds. He also the founder of the Sts. Cyril and Athanasius Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in San Francisco, and for many years produced a wonderful podcast on Ancient Faith Radio called "A Word from the Holy Fathers."

These lectures were given at the Antiochian Diocese of Los Angeles and the West Parish Life Conference in San Francisco in 2014. At the time of the lectures, Bishop Irenei was an archimandrite. Also, shortly before the third lecture of this series, our own bishop, Metropolitan JOSEPH, was elected as the new metropolitan and archbishop of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America by the Holy Synod of Antioch. 

These lectures are free courtesy of Patristic Nectar Publications, and can be downloaded here

 

Liturgy of the Heart

Spirit of St. Tikhon's Podcast on Ancient Faith Radio

by Archimandrite Sergius Bowyer and Fr. John Parker

Archimandrite Sergius, the Abbot of St Tikhon’s Monastery—the oldest Orthodox monastery in North America—has recently posted a few short reflections on Facebook titled “The Liturgy of the Heart” (see links on page below) Fr. John Parker, Dean of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, hosted Fr. Sergius on a live show on Thursday, April 2 on Ancient Faith Radio.

From one of Fr. Sergius’ recent videos: “Let us dust off the altar of our heart, place the Gospel back in the center, take what is given to us in this life (both good and bad) and offer it to God in gratitude (εὐχαριστία). When we do so, we will find that we will receive Christ Himself in return, and every encounter with Christ is Pascha.”

 

Stories That Work: Fr. Michael Oleksa

An Interview with Alaska's Senior Priest about the Providence of God

Click here to watch an interview with Fr. Michael Oleksa by Dn. Adam Roberts and Fr. Matthew Howell on their show "Stories That Work," done on behalf of the Antiochian Department of Missions and Evangelism on April 9, 2020. Fr. Michael has been a priest in Alaska for 50 years and shares some of the history of Orthodoxy in Alaska, including stories about St. Innocent Veniaminov, St. Yakov Netsvetov, and blessed Matushka Olga Michael, and he tells us how God's Providence is involved in every circumstance of our lives. 

 

Stories That Work: Fr. James and Kh. Linda Ellison

An Interview about the Struggle of Processing Grief

Fr. James and Kh. Linda have spent the last 15 years processing grief from major losses of loved ones. They have both gone through a Clinical Pastoral Education program (CPE) and have helped create bereavement support groups. On Holy Tuesday, April 14, 2020, they shared part of their story with Fr. Matthew Howell and Dn. Adam Roberts. Their story is powerful, but is not one that centers on the pain of loss in this world. Rather, their story encourages all of us to make firm the foundation of our personal faith in Jesus Christ and His Resurrection so that we can all live with hope in the world to come.

 

 

The New Abnormal: On Getting Back Together

A Video Reflection by Fr. John Oliver

Click here to watch an encouraging video from Fr. John Oliver, an Antiochian priest and the pastor of St. Elizabeth Orthodox Christian Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Fr. John reminds us that the new "abnormal" caused by this virus should not become the long-term "normal." 

 

Series of Lenten Talks with Bishop Irenei (Steenberg)

Video Lectures with the ROCOR Bishop of London and Western Europe

Lenten Spiritual Talk #1 - March 23, 2020

Lenten Spiritual Talk #2 part 1 - March 25, 2020

Lenten Spiritual Talk #2 part 2 - March 25, 2020

Lenten Spiritual Talk #3 - March 27, 2020

Lenten Spiritual Talk #4 - March 30, 2020

Lenten Spiritual Talk #5 - April 2, 2020

 

Liturgy of the Heart

Video Reflections by Archimandrite Sergius Bowyer, Abbot of St. Tikhon Monastery

Archimandrite Sergius has been the abbot of St. Tikhon Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania since 2010. He is the author of the book Acquiring the Mind of Christ, and is also a professor of spirituality at St. Tikhon Orthodox Theological Seminary. 

Liturgy of the Heart Part 1 - Archimandrite Sergius gives a brief word on the "liturgy of the heart"—especially important during a time when so many are separated from the Liturgy at church.

Liturgy of the Heart part 2 - Archimandrite Sergius gives a practical word on how to develop a short prayer rule that can help us enter into the "liturgy of the heart" he discussed in his first video.

To learn more, check out this short PDF on getting started with a prayer rule at home.

 



 

Quotes

 

"Death prevailed and swalled them, but again God wiped away every tear from every face; He took away the disgrace of His people from all the earth; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Then it will be said in that day, 'Behold, this is our God, in whom we hoped and rejoiced exceedingly; and we shall be glad in His salvation.'" -- Isaiah 25:7-9, Orthodox Study Bible

"No man shall be able to oppose you all the days of your life, and as I was with Moses, thus I will be also with you. I will not forsake you nor disregard you." -- Joshua 1:5, Orthodox Study Bible

"Behold, I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be cowardly or fearful, for the Lord your God is with you in all things, wherever you go." -- Joshua 1:9, Orthodox Study Bible

"You dwell among the saints, O praise of Israel.  Our fathers hoped in You; they hoped in You and You delivered them.  They cried out to you and were saved." -- Psalm 21:4-6, Orthodox Study Bible
 
"In Your righteousness deliver and rescue me.
Incline Your ear to me; Rescue me speedily;
Be to me a God who protects me, And a house of refuge to save me.
For You are my strength and my refuge, And for Your name's sake You will guide and sustain me;
For You will bring me out from the snare they hid for me; For You are my protector.
Into Your hands I shall entrust my spirit; You redeemed me, O Lord God of truth."
--Psalm 30: 2-6, Orthodox Study Bible
 
"Be courageous, and let your heart be strengthened, all who hope in the Lord." -- Psalm 30:25, Orthodox Study Bible
 
"Be courageous, my child.  May the Lord of heaven and earth give you grace instead of this sorrow of yours.  Be courageous, my daughter." -- Tobit 8:17, Orthodox Study Bible
 
"Before you speak, learn; and before you get sick, take care of your health." -- Wisdom of Sirach 18:18
 
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
-- Ephesians 6:10-11, Orthodox Study Bible
 
 

"Fall upon prayer as your only aid and help in this life. When you are weary, pray. When you are joyful, let your joy feed deeper prayer. When in hunger or thirst, open your heart to the Lord. When in exultation, bind your life more firmly to God. When prayer itself is hard, pray all the more. For prayer is 'the ascent of the heart to God,' Who is its true and proper Master in every condition of this life." -- Bishop Irenei Steenberg, The Beginnings of a Life of Prayer, p. 83

 

"Thus let us purify our heart! Let us throw out all the dusty trash that is stored there; let us scrub the dirty floor, wash the windows and open them, in order that light and air may come into the room we are preparing as a sanctuary for the Lord. Then let us put on clean garments, so that the old musty smell may not cling to us and we find ourselves thrust out" (Luke 13:28). -- Tito Colliander, Way of the Ascetics, p. 14

 

"For God is able to free you from all these evils this day. But not until He sees that you are purified; not until He sees that a conversion has taken place, and a repentance firm and unshaken, will He entirely remove the tribulation. The goldsmith, until he perceives the gold well refined, will not draw it out from the furnace; and even so God will not take away this cloud before He hath thoroughly amended us."  -- Saint John Chrysostom

 

"Only God knows how many Lents I will have before my repose. I should make this one count." -- Bishop JOHN Abdalah, The Word Magazine, March 2020, Vol. 64, No. 3, page 3. 

 

"It is a great labor to acquire love in one's heart.  All afflictions, misfortunes, illnesses--every kind of suffering that we endure courageously, giving thanks to God--make the soil of our heart fertile and capable of cultivating love." -- Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov, Striving for Knowledge of God, p. 194

 

Elder Zacharias on the Pandemic
 
Many people are in confusion and others panic because of the threat of the Coronavirus epidemic that spread in the whole world. I think, however, that this should not happen, for whatever God does with us, He does it out of love. The God of Christians is a good God, a God of mercy and lovingkindness, ‘Who loveth mankind’. God created us out of His goodness in order to share His life and even His glory with us. When we fell into sin, He allowed death to enter our life again out of goodness, so that we may not become immortal in our wickedness, but to seek for a way of salvation. Although we have fallen, God has never stopped to provide for us, not only material goods in order to sustain our race, but He also sent prophets and righteous, preparing His way so that He might come and solve our tragedy, and bring eternal salvation through the Cross and Resurrection of His inconceivable love. He came and took upon Himself the curse of sin, and He showed His love to the end: ‘Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end’ (John 13:1). All the things that God did when He created us, when He provided goods in order to sustain the world, when He prepared His way for Him to come on earth, when He came Himself in person and wrought our salvation in such an awesome way, all these things He did out of goodness. His goodness is boundless. He saves us and is so longsuffering towards us, waiting until we ‘come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2:4) and bring true repentance, so that we may be with Him for all eternity. Thus, at every stage of His relationship with man, our God shows only His goodness and mercy, ‘which is better than life’ (Ps. 63:3); goodness is His Nature and He does all things for the benefit and salvation of man.
 
Consequently, when He shall come again to judge the world, will a different God judge it? Will it not be the same good God, the God of mercy and lovingkindness, Who loves mankind? Let us be certain that we shall not appear before any other God than Him Who created us and saved us. And so, it is again with the same mercy and love that He will judge us. For this reason, we should neither panic nor waver, for it will be the same God that will receive us in the other life and will judge us with the same kindness and compassion. Some fear that the hour of their end has come. This plague of Coronavirus has also a positive aspect, because we have a few weeks from the moment it will assail us until our end. Therefore, we can dedicate this time to prepare ourselves for our meeting with God, so that our departure may not occur unexpectedly and without preparation, but after we have run through our whole life each time we stand in prayer before God, at times with thanksgiving unto the end for all the things God has done for us and at other times with repentance, seeking the forgiveness of our transgressions. Nothing can harm us with such a God, Who allows all things out of His goodness. We must simply keep thanksgiving unto the end and the humble prayer of repentance for the forgiveness of our sins.
 
As for myself, this plague is helping me. I longed to find again the prayer I had before, with which I can run through my whole life from my birth until now, thanking God for all His benefits ‘whereof I know and whereof I know not’; and also, with which I can run through my whole life repenting for all my sins and transgressions. It is wonderful to be able to run through your life praying, bringing all things before God with persistence in prayer. Then you feel that your life is redeemed. This is why this situation is truly helping me. I am not panicking but ‘I will be sorry for my sin’ (Ps. 38:18).
 
We must see the goodness of God in all the things that are happening now. The Holy Fathers did see His lovingkindness. A similar epidemic occurred in the 4th century in the Egyptian desert, which harvested more than a third of the monks, and the Fathers were saying with great inspiration that, ‘God is harvesting souls of saints for His Kingdom,’ and they did not waver. The Lord Himself speaks in the Gospel about the last days, about the trials and afflictions which the world will go through before His Second Coming. However, we discern neither morbid sadness nor despair in His words. The Lord Who prayed in the garden of Gethsemane with a sweat of blood for the salvation of the whole world, says that when we see the terrible things that precede His Second Coming, we should lift up our heads with inspiration, for our redemption draws nigh (cf. Luke 21:28). Some tell me, ‘May God extend His helping hand.’ But this is precisely the hand of God. He desires and works our salvation ‘at sundry times and in divers manners’ (Heb. 1:1): ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work’ (John 5:17). This virus may be a means that God uses in order to bring many to themselves and to repentance, and to harvest many ready souls for His eternal Kingdom. Therefore, for those who surrender and entrust themselves to the Providence of God all will contribute for their good: ‘All things work together for good to them that love God’ (Rom. 8:28).
 
Thus, there is no room for morbid dismay. Neither should we resist the measures that the government is taking in order to diminish the spreading of the afflictions we see in the lives of so many people. It is wrong to go against the authorities. We should do whatever the Government says, because they are not asking for us to deny our faith, they are only asking us to take a few measures for the common wellfare of all people, so that this trial may pass, and this is not at all unreasonable. Some people take it too confessionally, they raise flags and play the martyrs and the confessors. For us there is no doubt: we shall show pure submission to the orders of the Government. It is unfair to disobey the Government since, when we fall ill, it is to their hospitals that we run and they are the ones who undertake all the expenses and our care. Why not listen to Part II
This is the ethos of Christ that God showed in His life on earth and this is the apostolic commandment that we have received: ‘...be subject to principalities and powers, obey magistrates, be ready to every good work, speak evil of no man, be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men’ (cf. Tit. 3: 1-2); and ‘Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme...’ (see 1 Pet. 2:13-17). If we do not obey our governors who are not asking much, how will we obey God, Who gives us a divine law, which is far more sublime than any human law? If we keep the law of God we are above human laws, as the apologists of the 2nd century said during the Roman Empire which was persecuting the Christians. It is surprising to see in the country where we live, in the United Kingdom, that the footballers show such understanding and discernment so as to be the first to withdraw from their activities with docility towards the indications of the Government to take prophylactic measures. It would be sad for us, people of faith, to fail reaching the measure of the footballers and showing the same docility towards the authorities for which our Church prays.
 
If they ask us to stop our Church services, let us simply surrender and bless the Providence of God. Besides, this reminds us of an old tradition that the Fathers had in Palestine: in Great Lent, on the Sunday of Cheese fare, after the mutual forgiveness, they would go out in the desert for forty days without Liturgy; they would only continue in fasting and prayer so as to prepare and return on Palm Sunday to celebrate in a godly way the Passion and the Resurrection of the Lord. And so, our present circumstances force us to live again that which existed of old in the bosom of the Church. That is to say, they force us to live a more hesychastic life, with more prayer, which will however make up for the lack of the Divine Liturgy and will prepare us to celebrate with greater desire and inspiration the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Thus, we will turn this plague into a triumph of hesychasm. In any case, whatever God allows in our life is out of His goodness for the well-being of man, for He never wants His creature to be harmed in any way.
 
Certainly, if we will be deprived of the Divine Liturgy for a longer period of time, we can endure it. What do we receive in the Liturgy? We partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, which are filled with His grace. This is a great honour and benefit for us, but we also receive the grace of God in many other ways. When we practice hesychastic prayer, we abide in the Presence of God with the mind in the heart calling upon the holy Name of Christ. The Divine Name brings us the grace of Christ because it is inseparable from His Person and leads us into His Presence. This Presence of Christ which is purifying, cleanses us from our transgressions and sins, it renews and illumines our heart so that the image of God our Saviour, Christ, may be formed therein.
 
If we shall not have Easter in the Church, let us remember that every contact with Christ is Easter. We receive grace in the Divine Liturgy because the Lord Jesus is present in it, He performs the sacrament and He is the One imparted to the faithful. However, when we invoke His Name, we enter the same Presence of Christ and receive the same grace. Therefore, if we are deprived of the Liturgy, we always have His Name, we are not deprived of the Lord. Moreover, we also have His word, especially His Gospel. If His word dwells continually in our heart, if we study it and pray it, if it becomes our language with which we speak to God as He spoke to us, then we shall have again the grace of the Lord. For His words are words of eternal life (John 6:68), and the same mystery is performed, we receive His grace and are sanctified.
 
Furthermore, each time we show kindness to our brethren the Lord is well-pleased, He considers that we did it in His Name and He rewards us. We show kindness to our brethren and the Lord rewards us with His grace. This is another way in which we can live in the Presence of the Lord. We can have the grace of the Lord through fasting, alms giving and every good deed. So, if we are forced to avoid gathering in Church, we can also be united in spirit in these holy virtues which are known within the Body of Christ, the holy Church, and which preserve the unity of the faithful with Christ and with the other members of His Body. All the things we do for God is a Liturgy, for they minister unto our salvation. The Liturgy is the great event of the life of the Church, wherein the faithful have the possibility to exchange their little life with the boundless life of God. However, the power of this event depends on the preparation we perform before, through all the things we have mentioned, through prayer, good deeds, fasting, love for neighbour, repentance.
 
Therefore, my dear brethren, it is not necessary to make heroic confessions against the Government for the prophylactic measures that it takes for the good of all people. Neither should we despair, but only wisely machinate ways so as not to lose our living communication with the Person of Christ. Nothing can harm us, we must simply be patient for a certain period of time and God will see our patience, take away every obstacle, every temptation and we shall again see the dawn of joyful days, and we shall celebrate our common hope and love that we have in Christ Jesus.
Elder Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou (left) with Fr. Matthew Howell - May 2019 at Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England
Elder Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou (left) with Fr. Matthew Howell - May 2019 at Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England
Elder Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou (left) with Fr. Matthew Howell - May 2019 at Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England


 

 

External Resources for Information on COVID-19

 

 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention

The Center for Disease Control is the national organization tracking the development of the COVID-19 pandemic

A message from Concerned Physicians
A message from Concerned Physicians

This is a forum on the COVID-19 created by Howard Luks, MD

For Parents
For Parents

This is a forum created by the American Academy of Pediatrics