The following is a pastoral email shared by the Very Rev. Fr. Patrick Tishel of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. I find it to be a prime example of the command from the Scriptures to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ”. It is republished here with permission.
Stay Within, Seek the Lord, Save Your Soul.
Spider webs can be used to stop bullets; they also can entrap a fly for dinner. The slogan: stay home, stay safe, save lives is a brilliantly effective slogan, but as a simplistic slogan, it can be misguided unless we unravel it and find its proper spiritual application. Unless we parse it a little: expose it to the UV Light of Christ, boil it to disinfect and analyze its DNA structure, we can’t be sure when it will protect and when it will entrap.
As a universal command STAY HOME does not work for everyone, of course. People who are sick or immuno-compromised should take this advise to heart. For this idea to be effective for everyone, we should see its application in the monastic sense as it is given to hermits: Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything. This is a good idea while we are staying home more. Use the time to go within, pay attention to the inner person, our heart and mind, do more spiritual reading, especially read the Scriptures, repent as the Lord commanded and practice ascetic feats to accomplish this. Practice more interior prayer; spend more time with our families and care for our relations.
Staying home in this regard is positive but if it leads to overeating, binge movie watching, domestic unrest and depression because of social isolation then obviously it is a slogan gone wrong.
Staying safe from what? We have to be specific and target what we can control and what is in God’s hands, not ours. One doctor injected this reality in a conversation: “People die all the time!” We cannot be safe from this natural occurrence. We can take reasonable precautions and not be foolish. The question is what do we mean by safe? Safe from disease, safe from death? As a Christian we care most for the relationship with God, and the safety of our soul. We are reminded by the Lord:
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. Luke 9:24
The idea of being safe should be expanded to being safe from spiritual wounding, loss or undermining of faith, or depression. We are directed to look to God for safety. One expression of this is in the prayer from Small Compline given by St. Ioannikios the Great when he said: My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my shelter is the Holy Spirit, O Holy Trinity, glory to Thee. And from Psalms we are also directed to the Lord for our safety and refuge: I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my foundation, and my refuge Psalm 17:1 Without seeking and finding our safety in God and in prayer we find ourselves cowering in fear unnecessarily and to our destruction.
In the name of social responsibility, which can merely mimic love for neighbor, we might end up abandoning love for God which is first and love for neighbor altogether. The specific concern is that many loved ones have had to die alone without family or the spiritual medicine of eternal life from a priest for the sake of “stay home, stay safe, save lives.” This is an even greater tragedy.
We are rational sheep of the flock of Christ and all slogans must be tried and tested in the Light of His Radiance so the spider web material of good advice protects us and doesn’t entrap us.
With love in Christ,