Metropolitan Ambrose (ret.) of northern Greece has strong words to say to the current hierarchy. Here is an excerpt of a recent statement where the bishop denounces the draconian measures that the Greek synod took to shut down the parishes during the pandemic.
“We have seen metropolises locking churches and threatening priests.
We have seen masks in front of the Holy Altar, before the holy icons and the holy relics streaming with grace, gloved hands of clergymen handing out antidoron, many times in inappropriate containers and elders protecting their stole from being kissed.
We have seen a single-use disposable spoon for distributing of the immaculate Body and Blood of our Christ.
We saw the Lord “resurrected” on the second day.1 (parishes conducting the Liturgy well before midnight on Holy Saturday.)
We have seen bishops prohibit the sacrament of Confession.
A new religion has been established and the Mysteries of Christ have been defiled, the consequence of long-standing violations of the Holy Rudder, the Canons of the Fathers, and the Gospel itself.
Holy bishops: You have become more royal than the king. [“Holier than the Pope” -tr.]
You have done more to tear down our faith and deny us Christ, with greater zeal and wrath than the anti-Christian government rules.
You lead the Church into schism.
And when a few pious clergymen resist this demonic atheistic current, reverently offering the Gifts of the Holy Mysteries as before, as immaculate as they received them from Holy Orthodoxy Tradition, with faith and trusting in the Lord, they are given a beating with the bishop’s staff – beaten with suspension, beaten with transfer, beaten by removing their offikia [clergy ranks], beaten with citations from prosecutors.
You punish pious priests. You punish the people of God by depriving them of the salvific Gifts of the Mysteries, or you make them available under certain conditions – conditions that defile and are irreverent toward the Holy Trinity. With masks, with distances and with a limited number of people, you sin against the Holy Spirit.
And the pulpits fell silent. They stopped echoing the word of Truth. They are no longer bases of Orthodox struggle. Instead, they echo government decisions and medical ultimatums. Vaccine advertising campaigns and unholy measures are broadcast by preachers and bishops.
And you demand obedience to the Church?
What is the Church? The hierarchy and the clergy? Not the people?
What does Tradition teach us?”
This holy metropolitan expresses my own sentiments about the knee-jerk reaction of our clergy and hierarchs at the beginning of the pandemic here in these United States. Nervous about the possible consequences to the physical health of their flocks, and submissive to the bureaucrats who demanded compliance with strict public directives, our Church leaders seemed to roll over and play dead. It was as if they were mindless of the consequences that long adherence to such drastic measures might have to the spiritual health of their people. Orthodox Christians have been deprived of the salvific properties of the holy mysteries for too long and have suffered from the deprivation. A year and half on, there are still some obstacles to church attendance and the reception of communion. How long will these last? When will the government use some future emergency to demand that parishes shut their doors again, now that they know that they can control us? The tail seems to be wagging the dog. Not good. Not good at all.
Meanwhile, it is certainly no substitute for the real thing for parishioners to sit on the couch, sip their Sunday morning coffee, and casually watch their parish’s Sunday Liturgy streamed on the Internet. It is as if they are now distant spectators of the sport that they used to play on the field. Thus the clergy of the ancient Faith, with the full cooperation of the parish councils, have inadvertently trained the people to do something novel, and while watching the service on the tube may be of some consolation to a few shut-ins, it is no improvement for those who are now capable of getting back to church to struggle like good Orthodox again and humbly receive the sacraments for the benefit of their eternal health.