March 11/24, 2020
Holy Hierarch Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem
To the Clergy & Faithful of the Eastern American Diocese
As we enter the fourth week of Great Lent, may the "invincible and incomprehensible and divine power of the precious and life-giving Cross" bless and protect you!
The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Public Health Threat is in a dangerous ascendency in the United States. Public officials are unanimous that the spread of the disease will be dramatic. They have called upon all private and public institutions to support strict guidelines to slow the spread of the disease to prevent a catastrophic loss of life associated with an unrestrained rate of infection.
All clerics are asked to invoke prayers and petitions for times of sickness and distress into appropriate litanies, and into personal morning and evening prayers. These can be found on the website of the Eastern American Diocese.
Within the Eastern American Diocese, we are dealing with practical requirements of federal and local government officials enacting increasingly strict measures to slow the potential spread of the disease. We should do our best to be attentive to government policies in such times, and as much as possible follow the reasonable requirements they set out.
In some parishes, with the ruling bishop’s blessing, the clergy are serving the divine services, while the congregation is home. The services are being viewed via live-stream. This is unprecedented for us. We pray that this temporary situation will end soon.
I often hear about the various pilgrimages our faithful take. Our clergy, families, youth, all try to be part of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land or travel to San Francisco to venerate the relics of the Holy Hierarch John, Archbishop of Shanghai & Wonderworker of San Francisco. Others visit our monasteries in Jordanville and West Virginia.
We should also remember that our Diocese is blessed with the presence of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God. The main cathedral at the Synod, where the icon is kept, is dedicated to the Kursk Icon. When the Kursk Icon is traveling, and this is quite often nowadays, a beautiful copy of the icon is placed in the kiot. Many of you have been able to pray before the Kursk Icon at the Synod and many of you have been blessed to see the icon not only at your parish, but even in your home.
It is precisely today that we need to pray and to remember the wonderful pilgrimages we took and the blessing of the Theotokos in her image of the Kursk Icon. I specifically would like to point out the following words from the akathist to the Kursk Icon: Rejoice, thou who dost look down upon the earth that is filled with much sorrow and misfortune; rejoice, thou who with gracious step dost enter unseen into our homes together with thine icon; rejoice, thou who therewith dost bring blessing and joy (from Ikos VIII).
Truly we are blessed and this is the time to reflect on these blessings. This is also the time to contemplate on the many times we did not attend the Divine Services and why this was so. This is the time to focus on improving our spiritual lives reciting the words from the psalter: Lord, I have cried unto Thee, hearken unto me! (Psalm 140).
His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, and I are at the Synodal Headquarters in New York City and want to assure you of our prayers and support.
With love in Christ,
Bishop of Manhattan
Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese