Tag Archives: COVID-19

“O God, your unfailing providence…”

“O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord” (BCP 134).

We often use this prayer in Compline. The COVID 19 pandemic casts it in an unwelcome light. Is God’s “unfailing providence” getting confused with an economy in which “essential” too often means “expendable,” whether farm laborers, cashiers, or home health workers like Kim Rockwood, profiled in this New York Times Op-Ed video posted today?

It’s a good prayer. May it kindle anger, and move us to seek effective action.

Re the Daily Office Readings: The Psalms appointed

Praying in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic is hard. The psalms assigned to the 11th day of the month in the Book of Common Prayer Psalter, Psalms 56-61, are curiously comforting, reminding me that praying was no less hard for the psalmist. For example,

Whenever I am afraid,
I will put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust and will not be afraid,
for what can flesh do to me? (56:3-4)

“Will not be afraid”—perhaps prayed in desperation, and repeated in v.10.

Do you indeed decree righteousness, you rulers?
do you judge the peoples with equity?
No; you devise evil in your hearts,
and your hands deal out violence in the land. (58:1-2)

Dealing with a constant barrage of spin, propaganda, and deceit is nothing new.

They go to and fro in the evening;
they snarl like dogs and run about the city. (59:7)

But the vivid images bring no sort of catharsis. The last two verses of the psalm:

Let everyone know that God rules in Jacob,
and to the ends of the earth.
They go to and fro in the evening;
they snarl like dogs and run about the city. (59:15-16)

At present everyone certainly does not know that. Too much snarling and running, which in the psalm gets the last word. But God’s rule is the future for which the psalmist struggles to hope, struggles to pray into being.

Praying is hard work. But abandoning oneself and one’s world to the current realities: even harder.

A Prayer of Protection from the Coronavirus

Lord our God, You who are rich in mercy,
and with careful wisdom direct our lives,
listen to our prayer, receive our repentance for our sins,
bring an end to this new infectious disease, this new epidemic,
just as you averted the punishment of your people in the time of David the King.
You who are the Physician of our souls and bodies,
grant restored health to those who have been seized by this illness,
raising them from their bed of suffering,
so that they might glorify You, O merciful Savior,
and preserve in health those who have not been infected.
By your grace, Lord, bless, strengthen, and preserve,
all those who out of love and sacrifice care for the sick,
either in their homes or in the hospitals.
Remove all sickness and suffering from your people,
and teach us to value life and health as gifts from You.
Give us Your peace, O God,
and fill our hearts with unflinching faith in Your protection,
hope in Your help,
and love for You and our neighbor.
For Yours it is to have mercy on us and save us, O our God,
and to You we ascribe glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and forever, to the ages of ages. Amen.

(Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; h/t Bp. Matt Gunter

For additional prayers from the Archdiocese, here.

Easter (April 12, 2020)

The Readings: Morning: Exodus 12:1-14; John 1:1-18; Evening: Isaiah 51:9-11; Luke 24:13-35

To whom am I listening?

That first Easter the disciples were mostly hunkered down, afraid, unsure to whom to listen. So this year—alas—we’re well-positioned to celebrate with them.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus to the (risen) Jesus: “Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him” (Lk. 24:22-24).

So maybe listen to the women? At Evening Prayer we traditionally join Mary in her song (Luke 1:46-55):

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
 to Abraham and his children for ever.

(In passing, for “the strength of his arm,” recall “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD!” from the Isaiah reading, and “to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” which occurs in the Isaiah text which forms the virtual script for Good Friday.)

What if we use Mary’s song as the lens for encountering today’s Event (Jesus 1, Death 0)?

These days it can be deeply unnerving to realize that things may not get back to normal. Perhaps Mary’s song can remind us that that’s not what we’re about.

Mary, Moses (in Exodus), the speaker in the Isaiah text, John the Baptist (in John), “some women” (in Luke)—so many witnesses. And today, so many additional witnesses whose voices this world’s pharaohs would also silence.

To whom am I listening?

Re Daily Office Readings 4/8/2020

The Readings: Lamentations 2:1-9; 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11; Mark 12:1-11

I wonder when and why we started reading Lamentations during Holy Week. The Jews used Lamentations on the anniversary of the destruction of the temple; Jesus had spoken of himself as temple (e.g, John 2:19): perhaps that was the route. But once in place, reading Lamentations invites further reflection. Here’s Gregory of Nazianzus on a somewhat different theme: “For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved” (Critique of Apollinarius and Apollinarianism). ““For that which He has not assumed He has not healed…” So yes, Jesus’ death under Pontius Pilate is one thing, and our current desolation (COVID-19) and brutal politics another thing, but has Jesus not assumed these too? “If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there” (Ps 139:8b).

When we read the Passion during Holy Week we say/shout “Crucify him!” Today’s Gospel can help us chew on that. Jesus’ parable is a rereading of Isaiah’s vineyard parable (5:1-7), where our sympathies lie with the vineyard owner. Times change, and in Jesus’ time absentee landlords are usually part of the brutal politics “grinding the face of the poor” (also Isaiah: 3:15). So we, heirs of the revolution some 200 years ago against this sort of thing, where do our sympathies lie? What claim does this vineyard owner have on us, really?

April 2020: in what ways are we experiencing this G-d as absent from us, present with us, distant, near?

Re Daily Office Readings 4/6/2020

The Readings: Lamentations 1:1-2, 6-12; 2 Corinthians 1:1-7; Mark 11:12-25

vehicles beside buildings
Photo by Anas Hinde on Pexels.com

Then there are the mornings when engaging with the readings is like trying to drink from a fire fighter’s hose…

“How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!” This coronavirus disaster, in the USA both natural and human in origin (google comparative national infection and unemployment rates)… Some mornings we may not get past the first reading.

When, and only when, we’re ready to do something other than lament, the other readings offer two paths. Paul: solidarity, in the form of consolation (or encouragement). How might I console, encourage, show solidarity? Which groups particularly need our solidarity?

Mark sandwiches one sign-act (the cursing of the fig tree) around another (the cleansing of the temple). Both seem to point to the temple’s destruction (cue Lamentations?). G-d also is in the game; G-d bats last. And Jesus points to our second path: prayer. Prayer, unlimited in power (vv.23-24), but with a demanding requirement: “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” I wonder: the demand to forgive does not immobilize Jesus (see the two sign-acts); how does the demand affect how he carries these out?

Between lamentation, solidarity, prayer and forgiveness my hands need not be idle.