Another feast, another restriction.

In many respects, we have come to terms with some kinds of restrictions over the last two years or so. We have changed the way we work, shop, meet, and entertain ourselves, as variations of the COVID-19 virus have put our healthcare system on the brink of total collapse. Indeed many of these changes have become second nature and habit for us, regardless of whether we like it or not. Yet there is a feeling that no matter what we do, it doesn’t feel like we can get ahead of this virus and the restrictions put in place to curb its effects. This is so painfully evident as we prepare for one of the great feasts of the Church; Christmas

We still can’t come together the way we had hoped to at this time, when  we instinctively are drawn to be with our families. We still can’t come together as brothers and sisters in Christ and to bring our sacrifice of “mercy and peace” to our Saviour as he lies in a manger. It all feels so unfair and unjustified, especially as many of us are vaccinated,  and/or  take to heart the protocols and procedures that have safeguarded our communities. Yet here we are, having to juggle our schedules, and find ways to accommodate various family events, let alone our attendance at Church. But in it all, we have to remember that as unfair and unjustified as this might be, or feel like, this all falls short of the world that the Lord entered into as a newborn child.

What is more unfair than the blessed Theotokos, a young woman in labor having to travel to a strange town in the dead and darkness of winter? Or unjust than being relegated to give birth in a stable? What is more dismissive than the Lord of Glory, our Saviour Jesus Christ, having to enter into humanity as a defenseless child surrounded by livestock? Well nothing! We tend to sanitize the whole Nativity in the flesh of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ with bright lights, and a comfy rustic environment that is warm and inviting. Yet the reality is quite different  if we see it, as it is described in scripture.

The King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, enters this world as a human in the darkness, that we might see the “Light of the world” and that we might not “walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”(Jn. 8:12). He enters the world in the cold of winter, He might baptize us “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk. 3:16). He enters the world as a stranger that we might be called “friends” (Jn. 15:14) He enters the world amid mute beasts so that we might “speak to the people all the words of this life.” (Act. 5:20). He enters into the muck and filth of our broken and mortal nature, that we might “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”(Heb. 10:22)

Truly He sees our frustration, our loneliness, our relegation, and isolation at this time, and acts as he has done for every generation; by entering into it. This should not be a surprise for us who are Christians, rather the circumstances of this pandemic should reveal with all the more spendor and wonder the love that God has for us. Unfair, and unjust as it all might be, we live in a world that turned itself away from God, Yet God has not turned Himself away from us. On the contrary he goes so far as to enter its broken fray, that we might be saved eternally.

May we strive all the more to see this miracle especially now.

Important Services Update for this week due to Public Health Order Changes.

On behalf of the Parish Council and Father Gregory, I am contacting you once again with a disappointing update as it relates to our upcoming services.  We had hoped to be able to all join together to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity later this week.  Unfortunately, the recent surge of COVID cases and pressures in the hospitals have led to changes to the Public Health Orders and increased restrictions on public gatherings including those affecting churches.  This impacts us, as we are no longer able to hold a service at St. Demetrios on Christmas morning.  We have had to adjust our slate of services for the upcoming week and we now intend to hold the following services all at St. Nicholas of Narol:

Dec. 24 Christmas Eve Vesperal Liturgy at 6pm

Dec. 25 Christmas Morning Festal Liturgy at 10am

Dec 26 Sunday Liturgy at 9:30am

Dec 27 Feast for St. Stephen the First Martyr at 10am.

The recent changes do put additional pressures on attendance, and to facilitate the coordination to optimize everyone’s ability to attend at least one service over this Christmas season, we have decided to move back to the email registration process for this week.  Even if you have already registered via the Jotform App, we ask that you send an email to register for these services (Jotform registrations will be canceled for this slate of services).  If everyone can email their registration preferences to as soon as possible that would be greatly appreciated.  Including 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices (if more than one option would work for you) will assist us as we schedule people in.  If you would like to attend multiple services, you can identify that as well but please, be clear in your preferences.  This way, if there is any space remaining in additional services we can be sure to add you. 

When sending these in please identify all the names of those who would be in your cohort for that service as we will need to consider both the number of people and number of cohorts at this time.  We will aim to have confirmation emails out by the 23rd at the latest (will do so earlier if we receive enough emails to do so).

We will also be live-streaming all these services as well so even though everyone will not be able to attend all the services they would like, we will have the virtual option available.  Youtube Links will be sent out later this week.

If you have any questions or require additional clarification, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Thank you all for your understanding, and may each of you have a truly Blessed Christmas.

In Christ,

Dale Douma

Sunday of the Holy Forefathers.

Dearest all.
Something to consider as we are called to the wedding banquet of the Lord (Lk. 14:16-24).

“…Let us hearken to the voice of the bridegroom, that we may go in with Him into the bride-chamber. Let us prepare the marriage-gift for His bridal day, and let us go forth to meet Him with joy. Let us put on holy raiment, that we may recline in the chief place of the elect. Whosoever puts not on wedding raiment they cast him out into outer darkness. Whosoever excuses himself from the wedding shall not taste the feast. Whosoever loves fields and merchandise, shall be shut out of the city of Saints. Whosoever does not bear fruit in the vineyard, shall be uprooted and cast out to torment…Whosoever is invited to the Bridegroom, let him prepare himself. Whosoever has lighted his lamp, let him not suffer it to go out. Whosoever is expectant of the marriage-cry, let him take oil in his vessel. Whosoever is keeper of the door, let him be on the watch for his Master. Whosoever loves virginity, let him become like Elijah. Whosoever takes up the yoke of the Saints, let him sit and be silent. Whosoever loves peace, let him look for his Master as the hope of life.”

St. Gregory II of Rome (731)

+Archpriest Anastasy (Stacey) Richter

Fr. Stacey (as he was affectionately called) was a proud Manitoban, and his journey to Orthodoxy and the Priesthood was woven into various Orthodox Churches throughout Winnipeg, especially at St. George’s Romanian Orthodox Church where he was received into Orthodoxy, St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary, where he studied, and  our own St. Nicholas where he was ordained to the Priesthood on Aug. 4th 2001.  Fr. Stacey would go on to serve in Edmonton AB and Moose Jaw SK, before moving to the United States with his young family. 

Unfortunately I never got to know Fr. Stacey the way that many many people across this city, province, and continent did, being “late to the game” so to speak. I certainly knew about his energetic demeanor and  overwhelming enthusiasm for the Gospel, but never got to experience it first hand. There is something quite fitting that the first time I was able to meet him formally was where he began his life of service to the Body of Christ as a Priest, at St. Nicholas, while his family were visiting Winnipeg. Later on that week both Fr. Stacey and myself were able to steal away and grab a coffee. We talked about everything from family, to Church politics; but all our conversation would inevitably come back to the providential love of God for our families, our Church and the whole of the world. “It has to be about the Gospel and nothing else”  was a constant phrase he would say, regardless if it was about a difficult situation he was in, or about the blessings he had received. 

Those words that I’m sure many people across the continent have heard from him, have echoed in my head and heart ever since that day we had coffee. 

As we now know, this past Sunday morning Fr. Stacey Richter, collapsed in the altar during the Liturgy at the parish of St. Elizabeth where he was the rector. He was rushed to the hospital, and although he was in good health, was pronounced dead a short time later. I am not one who is superstitious, or one who sees omens in everything, but as I served Proskomide before the Liturgy (the preparation of the bread and wine), and made my way through my list of commemorations, his name (and that of his family) seemed to jump off page as I read them. I paused for a moment and remembered his words “it has to be about the Gospel and nothing else” and said “thank you God”, then kept on going thinking nothing of it, until after I heard the news of his repose. 

We remember many of the Saints of our Church because of the “big things” they did whether it was stopping invading enemies, performing miraculous healings, or mortifying their flesh through prayer and fasting. But all those “big things” are in many ways like the tip of  an Iceberg; what is seen might be a pristine chunk of ice floating in the ocean, but what is not seen is deceptively profound and massive. For every Saint, those “big things” of miracles were always built on the “little things” of grace and mercy and a life lived in the Gospel; unseen by the world, beneath the waves of life. I say this, because as I was considering all that had happened while I was serving Proskomide, and our blessed  conversation over coffee, there was the realization  that the only way to truly be a priest, a husband, a father, a friend, and  even a Christian, is to live out the “little things” of grace and mercy; and it is only  “Gospel and nothing else” that can do this. In the same way that the Saints throughout the ages manifested this, our beloved Fr. Stacey did; even to the end, while serving at the Altar of our Lord.

My heart goes out to Matushka Trudi and their daughters Anika, Sarah, Michal, and  to the community of St. Elizabeth, as well as the many people who were blessed to know Fr. Stacey better than I did. May the Lord grant consultation and peace to them all, and grant the Archpriest Anastasy the Kingdom of Heaven! 

May His memory be eternal!  

A Beautiful ending to a sad story.

A group of worshipers join the Peters family as they pray over Sophia’s casket at the Sts. Peter and  Paul Church, St. Paul Island, Alaska, in July. (Courtesy of St. Paul Island Productions)

 As we continue to reconcile our country’s tragic legacy with our indigenous peoples and the specter of Residential schools, we should always remember that the same fate that many indigenous children suffered here in Canada, was also shared by the indigenous people of the United States,  and Alaska (whose people were Orthodox Christians since the late 1700’s).  

Sophia Tetoff, was a 12-year-old girl. Orphaned in 1896, she was taken from the people and home she knew on St. Paul Island, Alaska, to live eventually, at the Carlisle boarding school (the American version of Residential schools)  in Pennsylvania, where she died of TB in 1906.  A time consuming process of locating and returning Sophia to her home was undertaken by Andrew and Lauren Peters (distant relatives) where she was greeted by the whole of the community of St Paul’s Island.

Her funeral was one she would have understood; sung in her own language, with traditional melodies, and with customs she would have known. There is much we can learn from the work to honour Sophia, as we strive to understand and deal with the tragic legacy of Residential schools in Canada.

Oh that we might bestow such dignity and respect for those who had any dignity and respect taken away from them! Indeed “every child matters”. Truly may we strive to honour the lives of the thousands of children who perished at Residential schools across North America, like Sophia Tetoff, and commit them to the mercy and love of our Lord, and the Kingdom of Heaven. 

A beautiful piece that documented this journey can be viewed at

Our God is a consuming fire ( a reflection on the Holy Prophet Elijah and St. Maria Skobtsova)

On July 20th we celebrate the feast of two remarkable Saints in our Church, the Holy Prophet Elijah and Saint Maria Skobtsova, of Paris. On paper both saints seem very very different. One was a Old Testament prophet who served thousands of years ago, and the other a Russian emigre in Paris in the living memory of many people. But for as many differences that exist between these two saints, the element of fire is one that connects them arm in arm in their witness of a loving and merciful God. 

We all understand the benefits of fire. How it can transform and purify, it can warm, and even renew; yet it also can destroy and devastate. For this reason we teach our children about it and its proper uses. The same could be applied to our lives as Christians, for this fire is truly creative and merciful love of God, a love that seeks to transform, purify, warm and renew our nature grown old by sin. We have been baptized not just with water, but by the Holy Spirit and as the Evangelist notes “fire” (Mt. 3:11); it is the tongues of fire that not only came upon the Apostles on the feast of Pentecost, but upon all of us in the anointing of Chrism and the “Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”. It is by fire that we are saved (1 Cor. 3:15). For the Lord has come  “to send fire on the earth” (Lk. 12:49). Indeed it is a fire that transforms us from being raw and without strength, to being mature and strong, purifying us like the purest silver. It is  fire that warms our cold hearts. It is a fire that consumes that which is of no use to our salvation. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28-29)

It was this divine fire that both St. Elijah and Maria bore witness to in their lives. It was by fire that the Lord God revealed Himself to Israel and the priests of Baal, when the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the sacrifice of Elijah on Mount Carmel, and it was by fire that St. Maria’s heart  was illuminated, causing her to abandon her bohemian and radical atheism. It was by fire that Israel was delivered from the wrath of God, and by fire that St. Maria delivered Jewish children to safety from the clutches of the Nazis.  It was by fire that Elijah manifested the mercy of God in the rains that delivered Israel from drought.  It was by fire that St. Maria, manifested the Love of God in her care of the homeless and alcoholics in Paris. It was by fire that Elijah was taken up to heaven on a chariot, and by fire that  St. Maria entered the Kingdom of heaven through the gas chambers at the  Ravensbruck concentration camp.  
These Saints understood this fire as love, and bathed in it like the Three Holy Youths. A fire that would consume and destroy that which was not founded in the Lord, but  transform and purify, warm and renew that which was offered to the Lord.

Our challenge is to also understand this fire that we are offered and confirmed in as being truly the Love of God and nothing else; for it is the very content of our faith. Or as St. Maria said “It is all crystal-clear to me. Either Christianity is fire, or else it doesn’t exist.

The Gospel, All Saints of North America, and Residential Schools.

This past weekend we continued to bask in the glory and light of Pentecost beholding the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and all humanity. It is in this “light and glory” that we see the abiding presence of the “Comforter and Spirit of Truth, who is everywhere and fills all things” in those holy men and women, who bore the fruit of the Holy Spirit, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law”(Gal 5:22-23); the Saints.

To understand the importance of Pentecost, is to understand and give thanksgiving for the Saints. For this reason, the two Sundays following Pentecost are focused on the Saints; first in general (with All Saints) , and then more specifically, in specific (All Saints of Russia, Ukraine, Mount Athos, and in our case, North America). Those men and women, known and unknown who have borne the fruit of the Holy Spirit here on our continent, in our country, province, and even our Church.

Yet our remembrance of these blessed Saints who served us here, is done under the shadow of this county’s tragic and racist history towards the Indignious and Metis peoples. The media’s revelation of a long known understanding that more than 6000 children never returned from the Residential Schools they were forcibly taken to, has reached the tipping point challenging the notion of our Canadian identity, and even the validity of our Christian witness. Even if some involved were unaware of the evil effects of forced assimilation, or the generational trauma and harm done by these schools, the effect is the same. All churches are lumped together as evil.

To be sure, the perception that all “churches” are the same (and evil), and as such are responsible for residential schools in Canada is wrong. This crisis directly affects the Roman Catholic Church (predominantly) and to a lesser degree, the Anglican United, Presbyterian Churches of Canada, who worked in partnership with the government to “get rid of the Indian problem”(Duncan Campbell Scott, a leading architect in the Residential school program).

Yet we see the witness of the Saints, and especially those who laboured in North America whom we commemorate, standing in stark contrast to the goals of the Residential School program: run by churches, that polluted the pristine Gospel message of hope and victory, with the poison of western enlightenment and racial superiority.

Truly the Saints throughout all the ages, have changed the world because of the imperative to “Go, stand in the temple (or wherever country, or city or village throughout the world) and speak to the people all the words of this life”(Act. 5:20) and only that Life; He who is the “Way the Truth and the Life” (Jn. 14:6) Jesus Christ!

One only has to look at the enduring witness of Orthodoxy among Alaska’s Indigenous peoples to see this striking contrast. From the very beginning Orthodox missionaries in Alaska sought to witness the Gospel in the language of the people, and like a new Cyrill and Methodius, Saints like Innocent and Jacob and others, not only learnt the local dialects and languages, but created an alphabet and a written language for the Indigenous peoples they served. They translated parts of scripture, and services. They baptized the Indigenous understanding of the Cosmos, revealing the work of Father Son and Holy Spirit in them. So much so, that trying to delineate between pre-Christian and post Christian understanding of the Creation, redemption, and life is almost impossible for modern ethnographers.

It was the proclamation by these Missionary Saints in Alaska, of the Gospel and only the Gospel, that cultivated a vibrant Christian culture, that was more Aleut, or Tlingit, than it was Russian (even 150 years ago). It should be said that those same Saints also cultivated a vibrant Christian Culture that has become for many of us in the last 50 years more English, or French or Spanish than it is Russian, Ukranian, Romanian or Greek.

But we are not in Alaska, we are here, and there is terrible pain and suffering that compels us to act with the same kind of fervor as it compelled the Saints of this continent to act.

And this is the point.

Whereas we might not be directly responsible for the forced assimilation of the Ingignious and Metis peoples of Canada, and the misguided application of a flawed and polluted gospel; we nonetheless can not claim total innocence because we have not borne witness to the Gospel that baptized nations and cultures of Indigious peoples. Despite having a presence in Canada for over 100 years, there is no Orthodox Church that is more Anishinaabe, or Cree, or Nakota, Metis, (or any other nation ) than it is English or French.

Those Saints who shone forth in these lands, now point the way for us, in their love for God and neighbour alike. We might not be able to fix the wrongs of the past (especially as they were not our mistakes); but we can recognize them as being wrong and sinful, that is missing the mark of Christ, as revealed in the Gospel.

We can’t offer apologies, and gestures of reconciliation, that are empty sentiments and baseless words; Rather we, like the Saints, should offer our repentance (that is turn back to God) and offer our prayers, fasting, and works, in supplication for ourselves and these peoples. Bringing it all to the Lord

We shouldn’t hang onto history and tradition, as something that is of more value than the lives of a people and their culture. Rather, we should heed the witness of the Saints who would go so far as to “hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, (and even one’s own nation and culture) yes, and his own life also” (Lk. 14:25) in following Christ, and serving Him.

We can never condone any violence and vandalism in this tragedy, but we can seek to heal and understand the profound pain that has caused such a reaction, greeting it with the humility and love of the Saints, who bore all things for Christ, as the Lord bore all things for us.

We can not expect anyone else to solve this crisis, nor can we ignore our Mission as Christians because of this tragedy. We (Orthodox Christians) like the Saints, have to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). Changing not the culture and life of a people, rather opening their hearts to life.

Like the Saints, we have to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:13), even if it is hard for those around us to hear, even if it makes us look like fools. We have to speak of this tragedy, and we also have to speak of the only reconciliation that can happen between Indigenous peoples and everyone else; the reconciliation of our broken humanity with the Creator. That of God’s saving love, and only that love.

All Saints of North America, pray to God for us in the crisis of confusion and pain.

Treading water with the Samaritan women.

I was asked recently how I was doing in this third lockdown? My answer wasn’t as optimistic as I have been in the past. Normally I am a glass half full kind of guy, but as of late, that half full glass is looking kind of murky… in essence I am getting tired. 

Truthfully,  I thought I would get used to serving at Church with just a couple of people and  that it would become normal enough to keep me going, but  like treading water, and waiting to be rescued, one only becomes more tired rather than used to it.  Yet like treading water and waiting to be rescued, the alternative to stopping  is dreadful to consider. 

It is this dreadful alternative that keeps me and many others going. No amount of frustration, or even rebellion can solve our current Public health orders (let alone everything else), and bring us back to simpler days when we could all be together, not wear masks, or anything else; in fact it would make it even worse. We can look at all kinds of solutions, and alternatives, but in reality it is only the Lord who can bring about a resolution to whatever challenge life might give us; this pandemic included. 

It is in this all that the Lord meets us as he meets that Samaritan women. Indeed the Lord greets the Samaritan woman, in need and thirst, asking for her assistance; as she goes to get water herself. Yet it is also the Lord who offers her something more than just water, or  something practical. The Lord who is like us in every respect (including being weary and thirsty), offers us, like he does to her, something more,  something beyond understanding; hope. It is a hope of clarity and peace, of having our thirst for meaning and purpose in life quenched beyond something tangible and practical (like never having to go and get water, or be free from this pandemic).

In many respects we are like this Samaritan women. As she had to work in the  midday heat, we are asked to work in the heat of a pandemic and restrictions; As she was an outcast (a Samaritan) we to are outcasts not being able to gather together at Church as it is deemed “inessential”; as she was a sinner (having many husbands and more), we to are caught up in sin and its effects. Yet as the Lord quenched her thirst, not by giving her something that is finite and corruptible (like water she was seeking) but life itself, manifested by the Holy Spirit, the Lord quenches our thirst. Not by giving us ” miraculous water drawn forth from a barren stone, but a new vintage from the fount of incorruption, springing from the tomb of Christ.” (Ode 3 Paschal Canon). 

Although I, like many others, are tired and worn down by the effects of this pandemic and by life itself, the Lord stands with us and offers us something more than a vaccine can provide (although this is very important and encouraged) something more than politics  can offer (although this facilitates good order), something more precious than liberty and our freedom (although in this we can live out or proclamation of God’s saving love). 

He offers us the empty tomb; ultimately he offers us our empty tomb; as “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), and has come that  we “may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn. 10:10), stretching out His hands to us as we tread water, as He did for Peter sinking in the sea of doubt and fatigue (Mt. 14:30). 

May we have the eyes of faith like the blessed Photini, to desire not that which is perishable and tasteless like water or political solutions, or a fully vaccinated population. As I said, those are indeed important, but we will inevitably thirst again in whatever situation we find ourselves in. He offers us something sweeter than anything we could imagine; the “water springing up into everlasting life.” (Jn. 4:14). Glory to God.

Come receive the Light!

When I first came to St. Nicholas , I was intrigued by the thought of serving Pascha at sunrise. I had only ever known serving this beautiful service at midnight, but who was I to change a Galatian tradition that stretched over a hundred years. 

Yet after serving Pascha at sunrise for these last 9 years, I don’t think I could ever serve a midnight service (may the Lord bless). This Pascha drove home this for me.

This year, as the Royal doors opened, and the Paschal flame was being disturbed, the rising sun broke into the Church, blinding those few in attendance (not to mention, giving some spectacular effects for our streaming camera). Truly this manifested what this service bears witness to, that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn. 1:5). To have a cosmic witness of our sorrow turning to joy, and the darkness of this world giving way to the “Light of this world” (Jn. 8:12), makes this tradition all the more amazing and profound. Almost as amazing and profound as the Risen Christ shining his victory upon us on His glorious Pascha! 

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen! 

Alone with the Bridegroom (Holy Week and Pascha away from Church)

During the first three days of this Holy Week, we and many other Churches served those beloved and dear “Bridegroom Matins” as a meditation and clarification of what the Lord will be doing to heal our broken and mortal nature; by going to, and dying for His bride the Church, “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Heb. 5:25-27). And in the middle of the Church arrayed in flowers is the Icon of of the Bridegroom (Ο Νυμφίος — Ho Nymphios —).

Truly, it is a very striking image that we are more likely to note as His “Extreme Humility” (a similar but different Icon), but it is certainly anything other than what we would consider an image of a Bridegroom; after all, most bridegrooms generally are well dressed and giddy (if not a little nervous). Yet this Icon speaks volumes to the length the Lord goes to be with His beloved, to be with us. We see in this Icon, the Lord’s movement to us is not about Himself, it is all about us. He humbles Himself so completely to demonstrate this; being bound like a criminal by our sins, crowned with thorns- by our vanity and pride, and arrayed in mockery with a cloak and reed- by our contempt, so that He might transform our broken and mortal nature by His self emptying love. 

Yet this understanding can be lost on us with everyday life, getting the family ready for Church, preparing for the feast and all. Indeed we can lose perspective on what we are preparing for, and who it is we are doing these things for; The Bridegroom, the Lord. For The Bridegroom comes to offer a ransom for our humanity- disciples and us seek to sell Him in betrayal. The Bridegroom comes and offers Himself in a feast- His disciples and us, argue about who is the greatest. The Bridegroom comes to serve- His disciples and us, we protest. The Bridegroom is betrayed- and His disciples and us, we flee. Indeed The Bridegroom comes and we are unprepared (Mt. 25: 1-13).

It is in this that we see maybe the most striking aspect of the Bridegroom Icon, that the Lord is alone in His sorrow, abused, shamed and abandoned; with only His humble and undying love left. 

This is something to consider in the light of the new Public Health Orders that have come into place in Manitoba (and across the country). We have spent our Lenten season in anticipation of the Lord’s Holy Pascha. We have prepared ourselves through fasting, prayer and acts of mercy for that glorious third day, like a bridegroom (and bride for that matter) preparing for a wedding, only to have this feast of feasts pulled out from underneath us like a carpet, even while it was so close. It  feels like we have been betrayed, we have been relegated, we have been protested against, and we have been abandoned. Indeed, we, like the Icon of The Bridegroom are truly alone, unable to participate in the Liturgical, cultural, and social life of the Church in a normal way. 

We have been stripped of those elements of grace and respect that we associate with our preparation for Pascha, and like the Lord have been humbled by circumstances beyond our control. The question is, what is left to offer the Lord when everything has been taken away? To answer this is to see the Icon of the Bridegroom for what it offers; love, and only love. There are no snappy suits (or bridal gowns), no services; no laurel wreaths or gilded crowns, no beautiful temple to be in; no cheering bridal party, no brothers and sisters in Christ to share our Pascal joy with; there is only love, witnessed in the most profound way.

It might seem that I am just promoting these Public Health Orders, or cowering to an antagonistic civil authority. Far from it! I don’t like these orders, although I am sympathetic to their goals (reduction of infection) yet any disobedience to either the civil authorities and Bishop would have drastic effects for myself and more importantly our community. Regardless of what I might think or feel about the whole situation, I know that the Lord is in this all. 

Maybe, just maybe, the Lord has permitted these restrictions as a way of helping us understand the mystery of God’s love for humanity as revealed in this Holy Week, and profoundly understand the miracle that is Pascha. That as St John Chrysostom proclaims  “Hades It took a body (broken and shamed one relegated as criminal), and met God face to face. It took earth (the finite and corruptible), and encountered Heaven (the infinite and everlasting). It took that which was seen (creation), and fell upon the unseen (the Creator).

Maybe, just maybe we have been stripped of those blessed elements of the Holy Week and Paschal services, to be like Him; alone with only our love to offer. 

Maybe, just maybe, this is what we need to do to realize that we are not alone in our sorrow, abused, shamed and abandoned by the world around us. Rather we have the Risen Christ with us, calling us by name, and offering His peace and life to us, which can not be taken away. 

These are difficult times, and our prayer is that we might see the Lord’s love through it all: and moreover respond to it with the proclamation that Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!