Almost exactly nine years ago my family and I were in Saskatoon attending the evening prayers and the funeral service for one of my older brothers. As he and his family were members of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, both services involved the liturgy of scripture, songs, prayers and acknowledgements. The open casket with my brother’s body was there and all of us had time to view him and pause for a few moments with the body.
Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!”2 And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”4 And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another; and he was given a great sword.5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I saw, and behold, a black horse, and its rider had a balance in his hand;6 and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not harm oil and wine!”7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”8 And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him; and they were given power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. (Revelation 6. 1-8).
Some of you will perhaps recognize the figure of the man in civilian dress standing to the right of centre of a group of uniformed British Army chaplains. It is C.S. Lewis, celebrated author of children’s stories, and most celebrated Anglican lay theologian of the 20th century.
In a lecture he gave to his students at Oxford University during World War II, Lewis said, “The war creates no absolutely new situation, it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men has postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare thewar with “normal life.” Life has never been normal.”
Replace “the war” with “the corona-virus” and you have some sobering words for us to take to heart in the midst of what we regard as an abnormal situation and our longing for and our wondering how long before things return to normal…As far as our calling as Christians is concerned, nothing has changed. We must go about our business.
“My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27:9.)
On a practical front, please note the following:
Public services of worship at St. Mary’s have been suspended until further notice.
A phoning committee has been struck and will be contacting you to touch base either today or tomorrow.
I have prepared an order of service for Morning Prayer with Sermon which I will be sending out tomorrow. I encourage you all to create a beautiful space and read and pray through the service at home, knowing that though “spacially-distanced” from another, we have communion with Christ and with one another through His Word and Holy Spirit.
Pending the resolution of some technical issues, I may be able “live stream” the service on the St. Mary’s U-Tube channel on Sunday morning.
I will be checking messages on the office answering machine at 306-522-6052 daily. Please call me at home for emergencies.
I have been asked what the plans are at St. Mary’s in regard to preparing for a possible outbreak of the “corona-flu virus “ in Saskatchewan. The Bishop has issued heightened hygiene protocols for us to follow for worship. They include: