Monastic Tips for Self-isolation
The Quarantine of the Son of God
The entire world is experiencing the impact of COVID-19, the Novel Corona Virus pandemic. It is commonly said that one of the Chinese words for crisis can be interpreted as opportunity. With the limiting of so many being able to go out, we invite you to discover the opportunity to go in. To go in to the place of the heart. Over the coming days, we will be posting wisdom from the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the Church regarding the values to be found from times of silence, solitude, and reflection.
One of the fourth-century African fathers, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, wrote that “God became a man, that man might become God” [by grace]. The idea of God becoming a man to bring us into eternal communion with Himself is at the heart of the Christian message. It began with a nine-month period of containment, quarantine if you will, for God in the womb of the Virgin Mary. It was during this period that the preparation for worldwide healing was taking place.
It is said of Jesus that He was tempted in every way as we are, yet He never yielded to sin. (Hebrews 4:15) When we say the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” we are speaking to Someone who understands us completely and can come to our aid with sympathy and strength. Consider these words from the Feast of His Nativity:
How is He contained in a womb, Whom nothing can contain? And how can He who is in the bosom of the Father be held in the arms of His Mother? This is according to His good pleasure, as He knoweth and wisheth. For being without flesh, of His own will has He been made flesh; and He who is, for our sakes has become that which He was not. Without departing from His own nature He has shared in our substance. Desiring to fill the world on high with citizens, Christ has undergone a twofold birth.
The Festal Menaion, p. 268 Sessional hymn for Nativity of Christ
The Isolation of the Mother of God
Likewise, the Virgin Mary had a significant period of isolation and containment. According to early Church tradition, from the age of 3 to 12 she was raised in the Temple in Jerusalem. Because she eventually carried God within her womb, she was referred to as the Ark or the Holy of Holies. She became the prototype of monastics for her life of stillness, prayer, and handicrafts in the temple. Through her prayers for us, she can strengthen us as well during these difficult days.
The following verses are taken from the Church feast when she entered the Temple as a three-year old little girl.
Today the Theotokos, the Temple that is to hold God, is led into the Temple of the Lord, and Zacharias receives her. Today the Holy of Holies rejoices greatly, and the choir of the angels mystically keeps feast. With them let us also celebrate the festival today, and let us cry aloud with Gabriel: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace: the Lord is with thee, He who has great mercy.
The Festal Menaion, pp. 169-170 Lity for the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos
Today the living Temple of the great King enters the temple to be prepared as a divine dwelling-place for Him, O ye people, rejoice exceedingly.
The Festal Menaion, p. 174 Exapostilarion: Matins for the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos
Through the prayers of the Mother of God, may our Lord Jesus Christ save us all! Amen.