Our Lord Jesus reminded us that although we do not belong to this world, we are still in the world. As responsible citizens of our country and the community we live in, we need to be aware of what is happening around us and we need to do all we can to co-operate with the Government and the Health Department to help reduce the spread of the dreaded COVID 19. This will help us to remain safe, while keeping our neighbours safe too!
Here are some specific things we need to do in the wake of the spread of the Coronavirus.
1. Hand Hygiene: The one thing that really help prevent spread of infection is washing your hands with soap and water. Take 20 seconds to wash your hands and do this frequently. In places where (alchohol based) hand sanitizers are available, they can be also used (but washing hands is always the best)
2. Avoid touching your face: Even if your hands are clean, you still need to keep your hands off your face, especially from touching your eyes, mouth and nose.
3. Avoid hand to hand contact: Avoid handshakes and instead use ’namaste’ or ‘waving’ of hands for greetings. The idea is to minimize hand to hand contact.
4. Coughing and/or sneezing: If you cough or sneeze, do it into a handkerchief or a tissue or into the elbow portion of your arm. Make sure you wash your handkerchief daily and put all tissues in dustbins.
Governments in certain State and/or regions (Delhi, Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan) have taken stricter measures because of the rapid spread of the virus. Be aware that more states and/or countries will follow.
1) Public gatherings are to be avoided. The most common way an infection spreads is in gatherings where an infected person comes in close contact with others. So, until this infection is over, let us avoid:
a) BOH centres from gathering (they are like tuition centres, or schools)
b) Prayer meetings
i) Lenten prayers
ii) Cottage prayers
iii) Fasting prayers
c) Women’s Fellowship, Sunday School and Youth Fellowships
d) Conventions, larger prayer meetings etc.
2) Limit Participation at unavoidable events. Since funerals and weddings cannot be avoided, please have them, but with limited participation
3) Regarding Sunday Divine Liturgy:
a) Whether to have Sunday Service/Divine Liturgy or not: Unless specifically banned by authorities, it is not wise to cancel the Divine Liturgy, but let us be very cautious about it. During the Sunday service: the following restrictions must apply.
i) Younger children and older people should be discouraged from coming for Sunday service
ii) Those who are sick with cold or cough or fever should not come
iii) Avoid passing of peace and shaking hands during the service
b) Whether to have Holy Communion for the Sunday Service: The heart of the Divine Liturgy is the ‘Eucharist’. If we see worship similar to climbing a mountain, then all the prayers and songs are leading up to the ’communion’ which is on top of the mountain. After the communion we go down the mountain into the world.
i) So it makes no sense to have ‘Divine Liturgy’ without ‘Eucharist’.
ii) Besides, it then shifts the focus from the Holy Communion to the priest – an individual.
In effect: Let us have Holy Communion.
c) Whether to have people take part in Holy Communion: This question arises specifically because of the way we have communion. From a healthcare standpoint, no matter what we do, as long as contact is there with hands on the wafer, giving it to anyone will be dangerous. This is applicable even if we have cup and bread method because of hand contact. The priest who celebrates the Eucharist alone can take part in the elements.
In effect: Let us not have anyone take part of the elements.
1. Have restricted access to Sunday service
2. Let us celebrate the Holy Communion
3. But do not have the public take part in the elements
In spite of all these restrictions, this is a season where we are called to spend more time with the Lord alone in prayer. Let us continue to have Lenten prayers at homes, where the family comes together and prays. And let us specifically pray for the Government and the Health care professionals who are doing all they can to help keep us safe. Let us also pray earnestly that God will protect all of us and the world from this sickness.
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