We all hoped but did not believe
One year ago, on the 16th of December, the Consultation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate “The Pastoring Church in times of Pandemic” held its first meeting via Zoom. The consultation was organized by the Network of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for Pastoral Health Care.
Throughout the duration of the three-month consultation, eight sessions were held where the speakers and the participants shared their experiences “in times of pandemic”. At that time, we hoped that the pandemic would soon end. More so, we did not believe that its duration would last so long and that it would have such force.
Today, as the virus persists, uncertainty befuddles most of our plans. There is an underlying sense of panic that determines interpersonal relationships, together with a depression that hovers over everyone and everything. The sense of loneliness has deepened, together with an exhausting feeling of dismay. As Natalia Shishova told the New York Times, “It is all chaos, like a fantasy film. You watch all these apocalypse films and realize their writers were real prophets.”
While this predominates our world, “Today Christ is born in Bethlehem from a Virgin”. Christ’s Birth brings hope regarding the world’s future. The Incarnation of the Word is the total revelation not only of God but also of Man. With the God-man Christ, the meaning of human existence is revealed and accomplished. “In Christ human nature is perfected, it is renewed, rebuilt, created anew.” Christ brings with Him a new way of existence and co-existence, a new way of approaching one another and communion (communication), a new way of life – politevma – which entails faith, trust and the freedom to love as He loves.
This new way of existence, revealed in the Nativity, uncovers the tragic side of this world. It challenges the world that generally wants to hope but has lost its faith in human relations, in its institutions and its societies, and, together with all of this, in God. The Incarnation is the emphatic indication that God believes in the human race and does not want it to be lost. His will is for us to believe that He believes in us, for us to have trust in His love, but also to cultivate faith, trust and love between us. On this we should base our hope.
Surely the pandemic created new circumstances. But, more than anything else, it brought to the surface the dichotomy and lack of trust that deeply existed in the world before the virus appeared. The pandemic revealed the distorted views that exist concerning God and what is called “the Church”; it showed us how far we are from what God wills us to be. In the Joy of the Feast, this tragic revelation can motivate us to change and be saved. The only thing we must do is to acknowledge this tragic revelation and desire salvation.
 Georges Florovsky, “The Catholicity of the Church”, Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, Vol. I: Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View (Büchervertriebsanstalt, Vaduz, Europa, 1987), p.38.