On the Shutdown of Churches
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Dear brothers and sisters,
We are now unable to gather in our churches for prayer. But was it right on the part of the Australian government to ban all religious gatherings?
Humanity in the past experienced much more dangerous epidemics, but temples didn’t close during epidemics. On the contrary, at such times people turned to God with fervent prayer asking Him to avert His wrath.
The fact that communicable diseases are transmitted through personal contact has always been known. Nevertheless, people hurried to churches, repented of their sins, walked in crowded processions, asking God for deliverance from the epidemic. They knew nothing about viruses, but they well knew the cause of such disasters that it was God’s punishment. They knew that nothing happens in the world without God’s will, that even a hair of our head cannot fall without the will of the Heavenly Father (Luke 21, 18).
We find in the Bible that the people of Israel were punished more than once by epidemics for their sins and for their retreat from God, and only repentance and prayer averted God’s wrath.
The Australian authorities should not prohibit public prayer, but, on the contrary, ask the population to strengthen their prayer to end the disaster.
Instead, the government decrees listed the places of worship along with nightclubs, bars, and casinos, and closed them as something unimportant, that you can easily do without. A decree was passed stating that all places of worship, of all religions, should be closed. Similar decrees are published all over the world, even in the Orthodox countries.
Something unprecedented from the beginning of the world has happened: a worldwide termination to public prayer. And when did public worship begin in the world? The book of Genesis speaks of Enos, the grandson of the forefather Adam, that in his time “began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). This remark of the Bible is explained in such a way that the righteous Enos established for his generation to solemnly call upon the name of God, i.e. he introduced public worship. Since that day, no government, no dictators or tyrants, dared to issue such a godless decree, which completely prohibits public worship of God. In Soviet Russia churches were blown up and clergy were killed, but even there such decrees have not been issued.
The rulers of the world have demonstrated that they carry the spirit of the Antichrist. Holy Apostle Paul says that the Antichrist will “oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped,” (2 Thess. 2: 4). Another sign of the Antichrist’s coming, indicated by the prophet Daniel, will be “that the daily sacrifice will be taken away” (Dan. 12,11), which, according to the interpretation of the Holy Fathers, means that the Antichrist will prohibit the offering of the bloodless sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ – the daily Eucharist.
On the other hand, the Holy Scripture says that the Eucharist will be celebrated until the day of the Second Coming of Christ. This seeming contradiction should be understood in such a way that although the Antichrist will forbid to openly celebrate the Eucharist in churches, it will still be secretly performed.
The Antichrist has not yet appeared, but churches have already been closed by decrees of the authorities, and the faithful are deprived of the communion of the Most Holy Mysteries of Christ. Violators face fines and even imprisonment. We are forced to obey these rules not because we consider them right and reasonable, but giving way to coercion. We must, according to God’s commandment, “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”, but we should not give to Caesar the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21).
In Soviet Russia when the authorities closed churches, people rang the bells, unarmed parishioners and women resisted soldiers, refusing to obey. Now, the people not only silently accepted the ban on church worship, but also approve it, believing it to be correct and reasonable. If angry crowds took to the streets, demanding the opening of temples, the authorities would have to cave in. But no one is indignant that their churches are equated with night clubs and are closed during the most important religious feasts.
They may say that the closure of churches is only a provisional measure. Even if so, a precedent has been created, unheard of from the beginning of the world: with universal approval, all places of public worship have been closed all over the world. Let no one think that this is something of little importance. Without exaggeration, this fact in itself is a spiritual catastrophe of mankind. Another important milestone was passed on the way of the approaching Antichrist.
We are witnessing a colossal global campaign of deception. The backstage directors play an impressive global performance, the ultimate goal of which will be the reign of the Antichrist. Never in the history of mankind has the “mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2.7) shown itself with such power and such overt impudence.
Suddenly, in the shortest possible time, the world turned into a huge prison, where the fear of contracting the virus, better than any guard, keeps everyone in their houses.
The world has been placed in an induced coma, has fallen into “hibernation”, but it is clear that after this “hibernation” the world will wake up different. The world is now, as it were, closed for reconstruction. But what awaits us “on the other side”, in the words of our Prime Minister? We are warned that the world will not be the same as before. And it is quite possible that in this new world, there will be left not enough room for the Orthodox Christians.
Very important for us now is the indication of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17, 32). During Lot’s flight with his family from Sodom, the Angel forbade them to look back. Lot’s wife looked around and perished. This act exposed her attachment to her life in Sodom. This instruction of our Lord means that we must be ready to leave all worldly things.
Epidemics are one of the signs of the approaching end. The Lord says in the Gospel: “And there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24: 7). The Apocalypse arrived quickly and unexpectedly and caught us by surprise.
The time arrived to put our faith to the test. This is an exam that we all have to pass. The present time requires from us a serious, attentive attitude to our lives. We must look at everything from a spiritual point of view, trying to understand the spiritual meaning of these events.
Holy Evangelist John consoles his disciples: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4.4). Whatever trials await us, the Lord will always be close to each of us. He allows the trials, but He also shows us the path to overcome these trials and gives us strength to walk on this path, by the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos.
“But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22).
RIGHT REVEREND ANDREI, BISHOP OF YARRAVILLE AND AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND