Home/Rod Dreher/Pandemic Diaries 20

Pandemic Diaries 20

Dampney's raspberry gin drink, homemade in Hampshire, England, was just the thing this afternoon

Another Sunday under lockdown. No news to report. We said and sung the reader’s typika (pron. “TIPP-uh-kuh”) service together as a family. The reader’s typika is a prayer service used when there is no priest and liturgy available. Nora made pizza, with homemade crust and homemade pizza sauce. I took a mono nap, then went out onto the bak porch to read Serge Schmemann’s history of his family’s ancestral village in Russia, and sip on Dampney’s raspberry gin cordial, a small-batch concoction I brought back from the Hampshire (England) village where it’s made by the Dampney family. Matthew holed up in his room to study for his college classes. Julie graded papers to get ready for online school on Monday. And that was our day.

These days cooped up in the house are getting long. But who can complain, when one thinks of the days of men and women who work in hospitals? Here’s the best thing I saw all day. I hope it delights you as it delighted my family. Stick it out until Claire sings:

Here are your diary entries. The first is from Father Seraphim Bell, an American Orthodox priest (of ROCOR) locked down in Moscow. He sent this the other day, but I just got permission to share it with you:

(Today I received an email from my friend, Dn. Innocent in Kodiak, Alaska. He asked me how I was doing. That, as I wrote him, is not an easy question to answer for an introvert. But it did give me pause and an opportunity to evaluate my life at the moment. Here is some of what I wrote to him:)

Hello Dn. Innocent.

How am I? What a difficult question to answer. Especially for an introvert who probably thinks things over much too much. Today I am confined to the tiny apt, like most everyone else in Moscow. Everyone is supposed to stay home except for certain job categories, but everyone over 65 has been confined for a week already and we’re all supposed to remain inside for the entire month of April.

You would think this perfect conditions for a spiritual life. But that would only be true for a spiritual person, and I am still very unspiritual. And so I only profit a little from the isolation. I miss the services. I miss serving and communing at the altar very much.

I’m grateful for the internet. Because of it I’m able to stay in touch with family and friends. Because of it I was able to pray the canon of St. Andrew of Crete. Because of it I was able to pray the Akathist to St. Seraphim of Vyritsa today on his day (and mine). By way of the internet, Marilyn sends me the daily readings from the Synaxarion.

By the internet I’m able to continue language classes with our instructors. I’m also in daily contact with young Matushka Elizabeth, Liza, who is the daughter of a priest and the wife of a priest who lives across the street. She has helped to bring me food and medicine (I was hit with allergies a week ago and am still treating athletes foot). She has adopted me as her father figure since her own father is so far away and she can’t care for him. We are God’s gift to each other she says, and I would have to agree.

I can’t say I am happy about this confinement, but the reality is I am better off than so many other people. I was really happy to be here when I still had the freedom to go places and I was looking forward to visiting monasteries and churches. Maybe in a couple of months the opportunity will present itself to do those things. We have to wait and see what unfolds. As they say, only “today” is given to us.

I think life has always been unpredictable and “unexpected” but it is only in times of crisis that we see it so clearly. Only in such times do I realize that my life is not in my own hands and my own will, though even in such times my worldly flesh rebels against that idea. (But in such times as these, I’m much more aware that though a man makes his plans, “God directs his steps.”)

The isolation causes me to live one day at a time. I have always been a visionary, a dreamer, and so lived, in my mind, in the future. I can’t do that so easily anymore. So I’m learning to live in the moment and for the day. . .

As I mentioned earlier, today is the feast of St. Seraphim of Vyritsa, my name’s day or as they say here in Russia, День Ангела, Angel’s day. Fr. Ioan, the rector of the nearby church in which I was serving, surprised me today. My cell phone rang and a voice asked me to open the hall door leading to the apartment. I thought it was Fr. Demetri, but when I opened the door, there stood Fr. Ioan in cassock and face mask. He was carrying 3 large bags of food and brought them into the apt.

He smiled, gave me a hug and congratulated me on my День Ангела. And then he was off to help others. His short visit filled me with joy. For just a moment I felt reconnected to “my church.” I’m sure it will not be soon, but I long to return there to the altar and serve once again. In the meantime, God has given me all I need for my salvation here in my urban monastic cell. The challenge is to make good use of it!


From Tacoma, Washington:

I am a part-time controller/administrator for a law firm.  My work hours actually went from part-time to double full-time as I attempted to prepare people to work remotely that had never worked remotely.  I assume some risk, along with the accounting manager, in going into the office once a week to make sure deposits are made and that business continues.  We have a bankruptcy division that I am thinking will soon be overwhelmed with work.  We also have an estate planning division that is even more busy right now since hospitals and clinics are telling doctors to make sure they and their staff have their estate planning documents in order.  But we also have people whose line of work will decline.  What will be the impact for those attorneys and their staff who work in areas of law deeply affected by the decline?  There is much uncertainty at the moment.  We are still planning a major office move to a new building in December.  Will the construction companies be able to complete their work?  Questions, questions, questions.

The office has kept in contact using Microsoft Teams, which I now see as the ultimate in social distancing.  I question how the cohesion of groups will continue using video conferencing.  Our church, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, is using these methods and we are planning to have Pascha dinner with our friends using Zoom.  As an Orthodox Christian, the physical presence of reality is so important.  To celebrate as a community using teleconferencing seems so foreign and disordered.  Will it become part of who we are? Permanently? Our Church is now questioning whether to have the Greek Festival this fall.  It will probably not happen.

Rod, about the time that you were becoming Orthodox, my family too became Orthodox.  In 2003 I was encouraged by an atheist friend, of all people, to go to the Greek Festival since I enjoyed culture and was religious.  I took the family and missed the lecture on iconography.  I was disappointed and mentioned to a deacon wearing a cassock that I missed the lecture.  He said, “Why don’t you come on Wednesday night.  They are giving the lecture then.”  So, I went on Wednesday night not realizing I had signed up for a catechumen class!  The priest’s first introduction was so stimulating and fulfilling that I continued to come back to class week after week.  The priest encouraged me to question and I fired off tons of questions.

I was brought up in the Christian Church, attended a Baptist Church in college, and married a Methodist and became a Methodist knowing the uphill battle I had against the liberalism in that denomination.  My wife was the Church pianist at the Church she attended from birth to college.  We were married in her Church.  One Easter I pulled up to the Church and saw a rainbow banner draped around the cross.  That was the final straw and I left with the children.   Anyway, I attending the Orthodox catechism.  But I would not join without my wife.  She attended catechism a year later.  After two years of instruction, I and my wife and the two girls were all chrismated.   The story goes longer and deeper, but suffice it to say by a miracle we live within walking distance of Church, I live within walking distance of work too, and we live right next door to our dear Greek friends and very close to other friends.  We all attend Church together and I have struggled in some ways to create the Benedict Option lifestyle you recommend.  With work and Church services and life in general, I have not always fulfilled the requirements necessary to meet the balanced life goal of the Benedict Option that enables us to carry on.  I know from your posts that you have struggled with reaching this goal too.  I have a health condition similar to you that can make me feel physically tired.  It impacts my prayer life, but I also recognize that I am overcome with distractions from my own passions.  I am way to interested in current events and the news and documentaries now available on YouTube.  Prayer time should not be sacrificed during these times.  Prayer is the counterweight that allows us to be faithful and productive.  Perhaps this time of quarantine can be used effectively to recommit ourselves to the Lord and to recommit ourselves to our family and friends we so dearly love.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

leave a comment

Latest Articles