Something we can Trust
We all know the past two years have been difficult to navigate the waters of COVID19. The trouble has been both political and spiritual, as many have turned a virus into a war. I have written about this several times in the past two years, but this morning I have a different comment. The question isn’t whether the virus is real or imagined, as there are thousands who have died. The question is, to whom will we listen to for advice on how to navigate the virus waters?
The other day I came across a tweet from an Orthodox Christian who was complaining about having to find a new spiritual father after more than twenty years. It was obvious from the thread, that this was due to the difference between what the spiritual father was saying about the virus and what the person believed about the virus. The disagreement was a spiritual one, and the use of masks and encouragement of vaccines. It seems the spiritual father was in favor of masks and vaccines, while the spiritual child was not, but the issue could just as easily have been in the reverse.
I have seen this before with other sins. I remember one time I was told during confession, “I don’t care Father, I don’t plan to stop. I don’t think it is wrong.” My spiritual advice was being rejected, and every person has free will, so off the person went, remaining in sin. I didn’t take it personally, but I never forgot the interaction. I wanted to say, but didn’t, “Then why come to confession if you don’t think the behavior is wrong?” The person never came to me again for Confession, and it is because of interactions like that one, that I am strict about the relationship between spiritual father and spiritual child. Anyone can come for confession, but not everyone is interested in a spiritual relationship.
Now back to the tweet. What causes someone to trust spiritual advice for more than twenty years, and even refer to the priest as spiritual father, only to reject the spiritual advice when it comes to COVID19? I know of another person who after years of trusting a doctor for medical advice, now is searching for a new primary care doctor because of a disagreement over the vaccine. Again, I ask, “Why reject the relationship now?”
Titus, my son, appoint elders in every town as I directed you, if any man is blameless, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of being profligate or insubordinate. For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy, and self-controlled; he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it. For there are many insubordinate men, empty talkers and deceivers especially the circumcision party; they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for base gain what they have no right to teach. One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, instead of giving heed to Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth. – Titus 1.5-14
In today’s reading from Titus, we see the importance of the office of Bishop in the Church. The bishops are the caretakers of the faith and must stand up to all sorts of accusations against the Church. This has been their role from the very beginning. As overseers, it is their responsibility to protect the faith “once and for all delivered to the saints,” (Jude 1.3) so that we can remain faithful to God and His Church. This is just as important during covid times as it was during Arian times.
The Orthodox Bishops of the world have been in the thick of the COVID19 storm from the beginning, guiding the Church and responding to scientific developments along the way. The overwhelming majority of bishops have been in agreement, while a few have stood against their brothers. That too is nothing new. Time will tell how the Church ultimately weathers this storm, as with every other storm in Church history. An honest reader of history will acknowledge that some storms last more than two years, even more than a generation, to be fully resolved.
I’m not saying your bishop is right or wrong. The emphasis I have for today is this. If you have a spiritual father, whom you have trusted in every other spiritual struggle you have encountered thus far, there is no good reason to abandon his advice now, just because you read something on the internet (unless you read it here LOL) or watched something on cable news. As with every other theological storm, the bishops will work it out, and we will follow our spiritual fathers, not because we are blind, but because the Church isn’t guided by the internet or cable news, or faithful to a political party. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and faithful to the teachings of the Apostles. That is something we can trust.