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How Long O Lord?

+Fr. Achilles Karathanos, Sts.Constantine and Helen - Swansea, IL | May 14, 2020

Achilles Karathanos Christ is Risen!

Yes, we are greeting each other with this beautiful proclamation and Paschal greeting, but underneath it we are yearning to know:

“How long, O Lord, how long!?”

Many of us have been praying to Almighty God and asking Him to lift the scourge of the coronavirus from the face of the earth, and we are wondering, “How long, O Lord—how long until this disease departs, so we can return to normal life?”

While not against the coronavirus, similar prayers have been prayed by the faithful to God for centuries, seeking a return from a scourge to normalcy.   As we see in the 40th Psalm of David, the “scourge” which afflicts us is often spiritual in nature, rather than physical.  The Band U2 popularized this calling out to God for deliverance in their 1980’s song “40” from the Psalm:

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the mire and clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long, to sing this song

Our circumstances today are no doubt more difficult than they were two months ago.  It is natural to desire to go back to a “disease free” life and society, but we don’t know when, if ever, the external circumstances in our world, nation, and town will go back to “normal.”   That is why, brothers and sisters, we should consider “normal” more from an internal, spiritual, rather than external perspective.

In a word, “normal” for the Christian life, means “good, holy, pure—devoid of sin and full of virtue.”

King David waited patiently for the Lord, in a state of repentance, to deliver him from the mire and clay of the grave sins he had committed, so that he could return to the normalcy of peace with God and between his fellows.

In today’s reading of the Book of Acts, Ch. 10: 34-43, we catch another glimpse of spiritual normalcy.  The Apostle Peter has arrived at the home of the Roman centurion, Cornelius, who had received an angelic visitation while praying at home.  The Scripture says that God sent the angel to Cornelius as “his prayers and almsgiving have come as a memorial before God” (Acts. 10:4).  Keep in mind that Cornelius was a Gentile—a Roman, a pagan, who nevertheless was a devout believer in God. St. Luke describes him as “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2).

Although Cornelius was living apart from the body of Faith—he sought the face of God daily in prayer, served others in need, and God took compassion on him and revealed to him the true Faith of the Resurrected Christ.

Cornelius, together with his entire household, was already approaching the “normal” life of the Christian believer—praying daily with piety; giving alms, blessing the body of the faithful—and further, he did all of this in great humility.  St. John Chrysostom writes that even though the angel told him to send his men to Joppa to Simon Peter, Cornelius did not have them commandeer Peter back, but simply had them proclaim to him the vision he had seen, demonstrating his unassuming and humble demeanor (Homily 22 on Acts).

We know how God blessed Cornelius, who, together with his household, was baptized by the Holy Apostle Peter.  Cornelius continued to live with even more vigor the “normal” life of prayer and good works.  Soon his circumstances changed drastically, and he left his high-ranking post to be a co-laborer in the Vineyard of the Lord, preaching the Gospel alongside the Apostle Peter. Ultimately, Cornelius was ordained Bishop by St. Peter and sent to a pagan stronghold, Skepsis, is Asia Minor, where he spent the rest of his days unto ripe old age living the “normal” Christian life, converting thousands by his word and example. (

Beloved in the Lord, we pray constantly that the Lord deliver us “from the peril of the coronavirus against us,” and glory be to God, we are already beginning to see positive signs.   And yet, we cannot predict the future or the circumstances we will behold six months, six years from now.  What we can do is to deepen our devotion, our prayer to God, and continue our almsgiving to those in need, and place our hope in the Risen Lord. May pious Cornelius be our example today!

We will also naturally continue to pray, “How long, O Lord!?” The answer may not be measured in time, but in increased faith and grounding in the foundation of Christ:

He set me feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm.
Many will see, many will see and fear.
I will sing, sing a new song... 

Truly Christ is Risen!

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