On April 16, 2020, Holy Thursday, the Day of Remembrance of the Last Supper, His Metropolitan Tikhon celebrated the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great at the Monastery of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude offered these words to the faithful.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We all experience isolation. The feeling that no one loves us, that no one cares for us, that no one desires to be with us. At the same time, we all have the capacity to love others, to be kind to others, to be generous to others. When these two experiences collide, we experience loneliness: that sense that we have all this love in ourselves that we want to share, but no one will reciprocate that love to us.
Even in a close family, in a marriage, in a community, we often find our minds trapped in this overwhelming sense of loneliness, as if we were alone on an island.
A real and trusted friend is there for us at every moment, not just the good moments but the bad moments.
A real and trusted friend stays with us even when he is disappointed in us.
A real and trusted friend loves us even when we betray him.
Such a friend do we find in Christ, who was a friend to Lazarus even in death, who washed the feet of the very disciples who would later flee from him, who prayed for those disciples even though they could not watch with Him one hour. Only to such a friend can we say, with the psalmist:
O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139:1-10
Christ did not conclude his Passion with the institution of the Mystical Supper, but entered into his passion with it. The moment that we celebrate today is the most intimate moment that our Lord will have with His Disciples, with us, until the time that He returns in glory. It is the moment in which he gives us the hope and the consolation of knowing that even as He is smitten on the back, even as He is lifted up upon the tree of the cross, even as he descends into hades, even when the only evidence of his rising are the grave clothes in the empty tomb, even when he fleetingly comes to the disciples behind closed doors, even when he is lifted up into heaven,
He is here with us.
Our communion with Christ is not limited to our partaking of his precious body and blood, but is made perfect by it.
Our communion with Christ takes place at our baptism, when we are clothed with Him, when we put on Christ.
Our communion with Christ takes place in confession, when he lifts from our hearts the heavy stone of despair and despondency and sin, which are the true causes of loneliness.
Our communion with Christ takes place when we recognize, not that he is our friend, but that we are His friends, and become amazed and humbled and overjoyed in receiving such grace and such love from the only Friend of Man.
Now is the time, not to forsake the Lord and to flee, but rather to watch and pray, so that we might say, with the Apostle Paul:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
[One might add: nor civil directives, nor social distancing measure, nor threat of contagious illness] shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39