I was alarmed in the blizzard that struck the country as I was having a big meeting and many were absent. I excused the sick and those who couldn’t take the road because of the snow. However, I didn’t excuse those who were afraid of the severe cold. We love God in cold and warmth and we reflect this through a required presence.

After that, and in the midst of the storm, I celebrated the Divine Liturgy in one of the villages which wasn’t in the high mountains and its roads were passable with some soft rain. I excused the elders but I didn’t excuse young people.

I wonder today: Why do people endure the discomforts of the climate to visit a friend or a lover and cannot tolerate any trouble to visit Christ in his word that they hear in their Churches? How do they deprive themselves from receiving his precious body and blood? Isn’t he the beloved one that misses us and we must exchange with him the same yearning? As if the absent person is saying: I postpone my visit to Christ because he invisible, while my lover is visible.

One of the priests of the archdiocese told me that a doctor asked an old woman not to go to Church on Sunday in order not to be exposed to bad climate or stumble while walking, so she replied: I prefer dying on my way to Church or in Church over dying in my bed.

I do not wish for anyone to catch the flu but this life has choices. If the care over our health became a huge obsession or a severe fear, then there is a defect in us. Here I would like to talk to you about the spiritual father that used to guide me in Paris when I was studying theology there in the mid-twentieth century. This priest-monk used to love me and welcome me every afternoon for a cup of tea. I entered once and his forehead was covered with a wipe. I asked him about his health. He said that his temperature was 39 degrees Celsius. I sat in my place and after several minutes, the phone that was in the hallway that leads to the room where I was, rang. He left me and went to take the call and I saw him coming back to me as he took the wipe off his head. So I said: “What happened to throw the wipe?” He replied: “There is a sick student in the tubercular hospital and he asked me to go and give him the Lord’s body”. So I asked him about the distance between the institute of theology (where we were) and the hospital. He replied: “sixty kilometers”. I told him: “so you have to pass 120 kilometers in addition to the distance of the Metro while being in your condition. Isn’t it better to rest tonight perhaps your temperature would decrease and you go next morning to our friend?” He replied: “Our friend might not live until tomorrow, he must have communion tonight”. My spiritual father went and came back feeling indifferent towards his health and he was cured from his sickness.

Some excuses for not going to Church are: “I am tired this week and I don’t have any other time to rest except on Sunday morning; I want to take my family to the mountain; or I want to take them to the beach…etc.”

A person told me that the mother of a young man died, so she was buried on Saturday and this young man didn’t accept condolences on the morning of the next day because he couldn’t breathe without the Divine Liturgy. I imagine that this person carried his mother in his prayer and didn’t drown in his grief. I know that some Africans drive their cars for four hours to reach the nearest Church. Their bodies get tired as all bodies. However, they are aware that this is the bread that descends from heaven and that without it their bodies would be fed with only bread and vegetables.

My soul was sorrow to death when I celebrated the Divine Liturgy that I told you about and I was looking at the void in the Church, i.e. I was looking at nothing and people are afraid of the cold. The absence made me in a more severe and painful coldness from theirs.

When will we understand that our love for God, which we claim, should be reflected?

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الكنيسة والطقس الرديء” –Raiati 08- 20.02.2005