With the new restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic this Lenten season, now more than ever is the perfect opportunity for us to draw closer to God. Many of us without the illness have been confined to our homes as a safety measure to protect our brothers and sisters. And when kept away from others and from the Mysteries of Christ, we often fall into despondency, depression, and sin. It is important then, to remember to lean on God during times like these. In this post, we list 7 ways you can deepen your spiritual life while under quarantine, within the walls of your home.
1. Read Scripture
The Holy Bible is the written word of God. It speaks to the soul of every child of God, especially those suffering or in need of the Lord’s comfort. And it teaches you so much more about your Faith. Every time you read it, you notice something you didn’t notice before. Carve out some time each day – even if it’s just 30 minutes – to read passages from the Bible. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider following the daily readings calendar. In Orthodoxy, the Church prescribes certain passages for certain days (usually a reading from the Epistles and one from the Gospels). This method is best if you have limited time to devote to reading.
Alternatively, you could simply start at the beginning and read so many chapters a day. One young woman at our parish follows a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan. Some plans take you in chronological order, while others take readings from throughout the Bible (Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and New Testament) to expose you to different genres of the Bible each day. There are many Bible reading plans you can find online with a simple Google search!
2. Pray Reader’s Services
Another way you can enrich your spiritual life is to add what we call “reader’s services” to your prayer life. The Orthodox Church created these services for the laity whenever a priest could not be present. Perhaps the most popular is the service of the Hours, which is traditionally read at four different times throughout the day. The first hour (6 AM), the third hour (9 AM), the sixth hour (12 PM) and the ninth hour (3 PM). Each time of the day bears remembrance to an event on the day of Christ’s Passion. If you can’t read them at the different times, we usually recommend you read them one after the other in the morning.
Other edifying services you could read as a family at home are Vespers, Little Compline, Great Compline, an Akathist or Canon, and the Typika. Recently, the OCA Archdiocese published a Prayer Service for Protection from the Coronavirus, which we highly recommend.
3. Dive into other spiritual books
Fortunately, there is no shortage of spiritual reading available in the Orthodox Church. Ancient Faith Publishing has an abundance of spiritually enriching books you can purchase (ask your priest to check the parish library and see if your church has any you are interested in). Another great place to find Orthodox spiritual books is St. Vladimir’s Seminary (SVS) Press.
4. Create an Icon Corner
Just as we pray before icons in the Church, we also pray before icons in our homes, our little churches. Every Orthodox home should have a special place set aside for worship, with icons, incense, candles, and prayer books. This is a beautiful activity you can do with your entire family, once you have your supplies. You can find everything you need online!
However we caution you to avoid the company Monastery Icons. Their icons are blessed through occult rituals and are not Christian icons. When in doubt, ask your priest!
Read More >> How to Set Up an Icon Corner
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to deepen your spiritual life under quarantine is by fasting. Since we are currently in the midst of Great Lent, you should be fasting anyway. But in the event that you have not thus far, this is the perfect opportunity to begin. There are many ways you can fast, depending on your health needs and your spiritual fortitude.
As a general rule, we recommend fasting from things that occupy a lot of your time or attention (ex. television) or from foods you tend to overindulge in (ex. pasta, meat). You could also fast by limiting your portion sizes more than usual, eating one less meal per day, or (if you have strength and a blessing from your priest) to fast from everything but water a couple days a week. Keep in mind we fast to remind ourselves we don’t need these earthly things as much as we think we do. Moreover, unless we accompany our fasting with prayer and almsgiving, our fasting does not benefit us at all.
6. Tune in to Liturgy livestreams
Due to the pandemic, many of our churches must limit attendance to church services to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thankfully, we live in a time when we can watch services live through platforms like Facebook and YouTube. If you cannot participate in services in person, at the very least you can tune in electronically. Check with your Archdiocese to see which churches offer live stream services. Then, all you have to do is click a link and you can see the service on your screen or device.
7. Keep in touch with other parishioners
One final way to enrich your spiritual life while under quarantine from this virus is by keeping in touch with other people in your parish. Call them on the phone, or FaceTime them! Especially make sure to do this with elderly members of your parish, with shut-ins, and with any catechumens. You’d be surprised how a simple phone call from you could make someone else’s day.
Stay safe and well
During a quarantine, your physical well-being and the well-being of your brothers and sisters in Christ is incredibly important. But remember not to neglect your spiritual health. Read the Scriptures to remind yourself of God’s love for mankind and His promise of eternal life to those who love Him. Continue to pray and worship to the best of your ability. Explore other spiritual books, create a worship space, fast, participate in services whenever you can, and communicate with other parishioners. And most of all, remain steadfast in your faith.
Read More >> Keeping the Orthodox Faith Alive At Home