Musings Pandemic 2020

St John of Kronstadt

Today, June 1st on the Old Calendar, is the commemoration of St John of Kronstadt. A number of things stand out for me about St John. I remember visiting the St John of Rila convent in St Petersburg which he founded and venerating his tomb in the basement there.

In the article by Bishop KALLISTOS entitled JOHN OF KRONSTADT: SAINT OF COMMUNION, SAINT OF CONFESSION he discusses the power of love, as shown in the life of St John of Kronstadt himself. But this is not a sentimental or emotional feeling he is talking about, it is much more profound. Bishop Kallistos writes,”The kind of love that they envisage [that is, St. John in his Epistle and our Savior in the Gospel] , a universal all-embracing love, a love without limits, can only be a result of prayer, of ascetic effort.” He asks, what is the deeper basis for this love? “It is … the service of the Holy Eucharist, which is indeed a sacrament of mutual love. Our love has its foundation and inspiration in the Divine Liturgy.” But,

“If we are to show more vividly the kind of love of which the apostle John and our Lord speak, that can only come first and foremost through a deeper experience of Holy Communion, through frequent Communion received after profound and searching preparation.”

And how should we prepare he asks? “We are to prepare above all through the use of the sacrament of Confession.” And then he goes on to enumerate three compelling reasons why frequent confession should accompany frequent communion. He concludes :

“St. John of Kronstadt was above all a Eucharistic Priest. He put The Holy Liturgy at the center of his life, and this was the source that enabled him to show such a dynamic and universal love.”

Sometimes we can take the most important aspects of our lives for granted because they are so familiar to us. But when they are taken away from us we can either yearn to experience again the joy of being with a person or we may become resentful that we are inconvenienced. So it is with Holy Communion. For some weeks at the beginning of the COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ period our churches were closed and we were unable to receive communion. Then, slowly, more people have been able to attend. This last week I was privileged to attend Divine Liturgy twice and to receive communion both times. It was a profound joy to participate in the communion of the Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour with the assembled throng, 20 strong including children. I think that the weeks of enforced abstention from church had indeed deepened my experience of the Eucharist. So I can thank the Lord for His inscrutable wisdom and bountiful love for us in all things.