Greetings in the Name of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Please accept my gratitude for all you have done to guide your holy flocks during this immensely difficult Great Lent. You and your families have been in my constant thoughts and prayers, and I want you to know how proud I am as your father in Christ.
We have attached a pastoral letter to this communication for you to share with all of your parishioners as we cross the threshold from Great Lent into Holy Week. Our directives of last week will be in force beginning this weekend, but I would like to offer some clarifications based on questions we have received over the course of this week.
v Along with our Mother Church of Antioch and our sister jurisdictions, we will continue to limit our services only those necessary to conduct the service – clergy, servers, and chanters. Due to the timing of the peak numbers of cases and hospital resources coming in the next days and weeks, we are limiting this number of necessary persons to five or less.
v We remind you that none of the traditional material offerings are to be distributed to the faithful in any way, including palms and/or pussy willows, flowers, candles, and eggs, etc. Likewise, there should be no gathering of cars in the parking lots for listening or for other alternate means of distribution.
v Some localities may have less strict guidelines, but our Archdiocesan ones take precedence. If your locality has stricter ones or you or one of your servers or chanters has fallen ill to the virus, please be in touch with our headquarters.
v To clarify, you may serve the Orthros and Liturgy of Lazarus on Saturday morning and the Vespers of Palm Sunday on Saturday evening in the church.
v If there are any citations from local authorities for any suspected violations of local ordinances, please immediately contact our headquarters.
v All Divine Liturgies must be served in the church. The other services may be done at home if necessary due to local conditions.
v We should not offer hours for the faithful to visit the churches and light candles until further notice. We now know that the virus can remain airborne in closed spaces for long periods of time. For the safety of all involved this needs to stop until things calm down. Bottom line, churches are closed except for the people (maximum of 5) conducting the services until further notice.
v We do not have confession-by-phone. You may have a spiritual conversation that includes spiritual direction by phone, but you must wait until you are able to meet face-to-face to offer the prayer of absolution.
v Processions may take place within the church building in the style of the Great Entrance. You may conduct the Rush service outside the church with the clergy, servers, and chanters – no gathering of the faithful, even in cars – keeping social distancing.
v We have been asked about purchasing a minimal number of flowers for decoration. Yes, but please keep it to a minimum considering the economic struggles we are experiencing.
v There should be no Holy Friday Vigil overnight this year.
v For those parishes with the custom of blessing baskets, if the people are watching the livestream of your blessing at the end of the Paschal divine liturgy, that will suffice or, if not, they may simply say the blessing prayer in the book themselves at home. You can provide them the text.
v To clarify, you may serve both the Agape Vespers on the day of Pascha and Vespers, Orthros, and Liturgy for St. George in the church, however, all other Bright Week services (Orthros, Vespers, Paschal Hours) can only be done from home.
v If your local area has curfews, please consult our headquarters about scheduling your services – including whether you need to serve the Paschal Orthros and Liturgy very early on Sunday morning to coincide with the rising of the sun.
v After Bright Week, we will limit services in the church to Saturday evening Vespers (replacing our previous blessing to serve the Friday evening Akathist) and Sunday morning Orthros and Liturgy with our current limit of five clergy, servers, and chanters. We will review these directives as conditions continue to change and, God willing, improve.
We know that these directives are very difficult for all of you. Please continue your prayers and your good work. We hope that in the coming weeks we will be able to return to our liturgical life. We ask your understanding and patience as we do our best to navigate our Archdiocese through these challenging times, and we ask your holy prayers.
With paternal love in Christ,