{a poem and prayer in time of COVID-19}

Three days in the tomb, the angels in heaven sing,
and three times around the chapel, You
enable us on Earth to glorify You in purity of heart.

Three—a number we can hold in our minds, that
we can count on our fingers. We can praise the Three
in One, speak the language of Trinity even if we
can’t parse all the grammar, can’t break the sentence
down—we can speak Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But the days are longer than three and each hour
grinds into the next and we do not know how
long, O Lord, how long this procession will be—
these rounds of quarantine. How long until
the door is rolled away and we may return
to Your house of prayer?

I remember the procession at seminary in New York—
standing outside the Three Hierarchs Chapel at midnight,
my mom’s jacket wrapped tight around me, against the falling
snow, her shoulder pads turning my seven-year-old self
into a mini football player. Three and seven. Seven and three.

And the three strikes on the door, and a hidden voice,
calling out to the crowd and the slush and the cold:
Who is this King of Glory?

I’m not sure I have the full answer. What does it mean
to have the full answer? To understand—
Who is this King of Glory?

Our physician, who watches over us
as pandemic takes hold. Who holds the ill and
their families in His healer’s hands.

Who is this King of Glory?

Do You know how angry I am?

People are dying in numbers far greater than three,
far greater than seven, far greater than forty,
far more than two hands’ fingers can count.

And we can’t touch the hands that could
count so high. Could help us hold on. Could
help us stand together.

We can’t touch the marks of the nails
or the wound in Your side.

Lord, Have Mercy.

I didn’t set out to write anger.
Pascha is not a time I want to be angry,
or afraid, or to realize how my anger
and my fear have the same eyes, the
same mouths, eating, always eating,
never feasting. Always hungry,
never satisfied.

I am grieving, this Pascha.
Grieving to be stuck in a long procession,
where threes stretch into fourteens and
twenty-eights and I’ve forgotten how
many days now.

Lord, Have Mercy.

And I’m grieving for those who
hold this as their daily reality—
a Church they are afraid to enter,
where they may not be safe,
where they cannot be who they are
and be accepted by others at Your altar.

We were made for communion and for
a different kind of eternity.

Lord, Have Mercy.

Forgive me if I am angry. Forgive me
if I grieve. I don’t think I am wrong
to do so.

But I would be wrong if I forgot what people will
cry, have cried, in thousands of languages
all around the world. From locked doors and
sheltered hospital beds and barricades and basements
and gravesides and emergency rooms and icon corners
and prisons and streets and our mostly-empty churches:

Christ is Risen!

So small we can count it on our fingers,
so large it touches all Creation.

Khristós Anésti!

Like You Yourself—whose small, human body
shattered the gates of Hell.

Khristos voskrese!

Like You Yourself, who humbled Himself,
who wept at the death of a friend.

Le Christ est ressuscité!

Like You Yourself, whose Father’s house
has many rooms.

¡Cristo resucitó!

Another number we cannot hold: the number
celebrating with us today. The voices
crying out:

Harisutosu fukkatsu!

It is more than three.

Geuriseudo buhwalhasyeonne!

More than seven.

Kristus er oppstanden!

More than forty.

al-Masīḥ qām! 

The hosts of heaven and of Earth
are mightier than death will ever be.
And we will rejoice and feast
together in spirit.

Christ is Risen!

Shine! Shine!
For we are never alone.
God is with us.

Indeed, He is Risen!

Rejoice! Rejoice!
For Death’s sting is plucked off
and Hell’s victory is overthrown.

Christ is Risen!

God’s enemies are scattered
and we do not have to flee
from before His face.

Indeed, He is Risen!

We can sing together—

Christ is Risen!

—and carry on this long procession.

Helen Coats is an undergraduate student of professional and creative writing at Purdue University. She loves playing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture over and over again in her room while working. She wants everyone who can to stay home and those who can’t to stay safe.

If you wish to help us feed the homeless on Pascha and beyond, send your offering to via PayPal.
God bless you for your kindness.
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

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