On April 18, 2020, Holy Saturday, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon celebrated the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil at the Monastery of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk. At the conclusion of the service, His Beatitude offered these words to the faithful.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Apostle Peter writes that, in His divine power, our Lord Jesus Christ has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. And through these things that God has given us, Saint Peter continues, we are given exceeding great and precious promises: that by these [we] might be partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:3-4).
Our most merciful Lord has given us all things in the great work of salvation which he wrought by his incarnation, his life upon earth and death upon the Cross, and his glorious resurrection and ascension into Heaven. The Lord has also given us all things in his Holy Gospel, which is an icon of Christ Himself and a treasure of Divine teachings for us. And in a unique way, but just as powerfully, he has given us all things in this year’s journey through Great Lent, Holy Week, and our present anticipation of the glorious resurrection.
Our Lord spoke to us of all of this even when we began our Lenten journey by offering us the Parable of the Prodigal Son, a parable that the fathers refer to as a “miniature Gospel.” In this parable, the younger son of the benevolent and wise father asks for the portion of the goods that belongs to him, and the older son feels entitled to that very same portion, which he feels deprived of.
Like the younger son, some of us may feel like we have departed to a foreign land and that we are starving.
Like the older son, some of us may feel that we are unable to participate in the banquet that has been prepared.
The present circumstances which the coronavirus crisis have created for us have turned many things on their heads. For most of us, who are North Americans, we are not used to not having all that we feel rightly belongs to us. No matter what our political ideology, no matter what our philosophical outlook, no matter what our theological opinion, we all want that portion that we feel belongs to us, that portion which we have lost, or that portion which we feel is owed to us.
The father in the parable of the Prodigal Son is an image of our heavenly Father, and today, our heavenly Father speaks to those of us who are like the older son through the father’s words: “Son, thou are ever with me and all that I have is thine.”
And to those of us who are like the younger son, he silently and without protest reminds us that His love was always with us, even when we took and squandered what He gave to us.
It is hard to be in exile.
It is hard to be as if we were strangers to one another.
It is hard to be isolated.
To be far from our churches, for our family, and from our friends.
To be deprived for a time of the Body and Blood of Christ.
But let us be mindful of two things:
First, let us be inspired by these words from Abbess Thekla of the Monastery of the Virgin Mary of Consolation in Quebec, who writes concerning the times, many years ago, when she and her sisters were deprived, for months at a time, of a priest who could offer up the holy mysteries. Even then, they would prepare for and partake of a special meal, as if it were the mystical supper:
“The chapel would be fragrant as if someone had sprinkled it all over with myrrh. Our eyes would stream with endless tears. Our heart would leap from the Grace of God. On the days that we supposedly “communed”, without even realizing it, we would speak softly because we felt as if we had partaken in some sacred ceremony. Saying the prayer, our mouth would taste as if we had taken a very fragrant candy. We would feel the presence of Holy Communion, even though we had not received it, and throughout the day we would be cautious not to spit, nor chew gum and throw it out. So great was the sense of the presence of Holy Communion.”
Then, let us remember that God is ever speaking to us as the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son and reminding us that all that He has is ours, as our Lord reminded us in the Gospel on Holy Thursday.
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
And I have declared unto them thy named, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:22-26
May our loving Lord grant each of us a taste of that love and that unity with Him as we make our journey towards, and approach, the glorious feast of the resurrection.