My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
The year of 2020 will certainly be long remembered as perhaps the most difficult and painful year of a generation. Between pandemic, social unrest, a country at war with itself, a populace that could not believe anything coming from their leaders of either political stripe, we witnessed ugliness. But I would like to look at the fact that we also witnessed extreme acts of kindness, extreme generosity to those in need and an increased spiritual renaissance for many.
When I was in the parish of Holy Trinity in Sioux City, IA, I learned that their stewardship committee had pushed in the year 2010 a question. Where will we be in ten years? Where will we be in 2020? It was clever exercise in trying to revitalize the parish to see what needed to change and what needed to be honed so that their beloved church would not only still stand in 10 years, but would be thriving and healthy.
For those of us with vision impairments, when we go to the optometrist we sit down and the doctor tests both of our eyes to see if there exist any problems. Our eyes are tested for macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other issues that can arise that not only impair vision but can lead to the destruction of the eye. To achieve the goal of 20/20 vision, we need to first see what is wrong, and then we can take corrective measures through either contacts, glasses, or surgery.
For our parish, I had hoped in 2019, that 2020 would be a year of reflection and achieving a greater vision. It was for this reason that our beloved Parish Council formed the vision statement of St. Basil to be “A Community connecting to Christ and one another through our Orthodox Faith.” But then the Pandemic hit, and everything, everything changed.
We were confronted with a reality none of us considered possible. Who among us had asked what we would do if we were not able to go to Church anymore? How would that affect us? How would we cope? What would this say about our personal identity and how we interact with our Savior?
In essence, we all got an immensely powerful look into who we are and where our faith lands on our priority list. For some, this caused individuals to sink into a nihilistic funk in which the current worldly matters took on an importance they might not have normally. For others, these blessed individuals saw the state of their souls and reflected deeply.
In the 6th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, our Lord Jesus Christ says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
We were given the opportunity to see how great the darkness is within ourselves individually and as a people. For many, we were given that moment for 20/20 vision into what we lack and where we must now go. We have now been able to understand the deficiencies in our vision and we can now put on the corrective lenses of truth to realize that even though the pandemic is soon to end, perhaps earlier than many of us dreamed possible, we cannot go back to the way things were before. We cannot return to the darkness of our previous lives and the previous world that ushered in the pandemic and division between us.
No, now is the time to look forward with clearer vision. We must adopt the vision of Joshua 24:15
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
The community of St. Basil will lead the way with our own statement of connecting to Christ and one another through our Orthodox Faith. We will walk by this, serve by this, and live by this. We will unite together in Christ and to our brothers and sisters near and far. We will become a stronger, more beautiful family. And we will accomplish this through our Orthodox Faith.
Our Lord descended into the darkness of hell to bring us to His Light and to make us that light as well. YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD! (Matthew 5:14).
I remain your servant in Christ,
Fr. Dimitri Tobias