Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Do not close off Your love and Your heart to me..."

Well, we've made it to Great and Holy Week!

During this week, many scriptural themes are placed before us to us to rouse us from our sleep and inspire us to keep watch for the coming of the Bridegroom, Christ.  Some of these themes include: the parable of the talents, the image of the sterile fig tree which Jesus curses, the account of the Last Judgment, the sinful woman who washes Jesus' feet with her tears, and others.

One of these primary themes is the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).  There are many ways to interpret this parable, and many saints have given diverse and beautiful reflections.  Today, let's allow St. Macarius the Great to speak to us about the oil which filled the lamps of the five wise virgins:

"The five wise virgins, watchful and alert, had taken oil in the vessels of their heart. That oil, not part of their own nature, means the grace of the Spirit. They were enabled to enter with the Bridegroom into the heavenly bridal chamber.  The other five virgins, however, were content with their own nature. They neither watched nor busied themselves to receive the oil of gladness [Ps. 44:6] in their vessels, while they were yet in the flesh. ...  Held fast by their tie to the world, and by some earthly affection, they did not give their whole love or passionate devotion to the heavenly Bridegroom; thus they were not provided with oil" (Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily IV).

How encouraging to know that the oil which we need (the grace of the Spirit) doesn't come from us!  God provides it!  But we need to turn to Him and give Him our "whole love!"  Let's try to do that, this week.

"My slothful soul has fallen into sleep, O Christ, my Spouse, and I do not have a lamp shining with the fire of virtues.  I have become like the foolish virgins; for, instead of laboring, I have wasted my time.  Do not close off your love and your heart to me, O Master; but dispel my dark slumber; awaken me that I may enter your palace with the wise virgins.  There the choir of the just shall resound as they sing to You: O Lord, glory to You" (Stichera at the Praises, Matins of Great and Holy Tuesday).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Enjoy our Spring Newsletter


Read Mother's reflection on our fifth anniversary and the current growth of the monastery, meet our new dokimos (postulant) Jacqui, read a reflection about God's commandment of love as our song during this earthly exile, and more!

Click on the image to read it online.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

You're invited to join us for Bridegroom Matins with Bishop John

Great and Holy Wednesday, April 16
8:30 a.m.

Join us for this beautiful Holy Week service that is so special to us here at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery!  Celebrated only on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, the readings and hymns of Bridegroom Matins rouse the heart to conversion and vigilance for the coming of the Bridegroom and offer strength to His Bride the Church as we journey with Him in His passion.  The service, celebrated in our chapel with Bishop John, begins at 8:30 a.m. and will be followed by a light breakfast.  Please RSVP by Wednesday, April 9, to 440-834-0290 or christthebridegroom@gmail.com.

Facebook Event

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Today is our fifth anniversary!

Our makeshift "habit" in our early days!
Five years ago today, on April 3, 2009, Mother Theodora and Sister Cecilia moved into the monastery, with drywall dust still hanging in the air due to the ongoing renovation projects!  Prior to this move, they had been living and praying together for a short time at the empty rectory at St. John's Byzantine Catholic Church in Solon, Ohio.  But on April 3 they moved into the monastery which had been donated to them by Sr. Flora and Sr. Adalberta, the Social Mission Sisters who formerly lived there for many years.  So we celebrate this day as the beginning of our monastery!

We are overflowing with gratitude today for all of God's blessings in these past five years!  Many of these blessings have come through you, our family, friends and benefactors!  Thank you for seeing potential in our small and humble efforts and for your continued support and prayers!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Join us for a Lenten "workout": The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

Join us in a deeply-moving, once-a-year Lenten experience on Thursday, April 3 (our fifth anniversary!), at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 1900 Carlton Rd., Parma, OH.  The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete takes us on a journey through the entire Bible, placing us in the shoes of all the penitents of the Old and New Testaments and teaching us from their examples.  The hundreds of prostrations unite our body and soul as we repent of our sins and pour ourselves out in love as Christ did on the cross.  Simple Lenten food will be available 5:30-6:30 p.m. and the Canon will begin at 6:30 p.m.  All are invited to come for all or part of the Canon, whether or not you are physically able to participate in the prostrations.  The Canon will last approximately three hours.  Please RSVP by Monday, March 31, to 440-834-0290 or christthebridegroom@gmail.com so we know how much food and how many booklets to prepare.

Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete
(Held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 1900 Carlton Rd., Parma, Ohio)
Thursday, April 3 (Our 5th Anniversary!)
5:30 p.m.: Simple Lenten meal
6:30 - 9:30 p.m.: Great Canon

Facebook Event
Video from Last Year

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Finding Joy in the Cross - Reflection on current world conflicts

As we have been journeying these last three weeks in the Great Fast, my mind and heart have been lost in a sea of misunderstanding, grasping for a reason for the recent violence that has been splashing the news headlines – and all that has been missed by the media as well. It seems as if the oldest sins are being replayed in the newest ways, in places where the consciences of people are still stained with the blood, sweat, and tears of the struggle for freedom that was only obtained half a generation ago. As I write, I hear echoed in my mind a passage from Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s book, Characters of the Passion, where he speaks of the beginning of this not-so-distant past:
A human organism can adapt itself to the torrid heat of the equator or to the glacial cold of the North, but it cannot live without air. In the like manner, the Church can adapt itself to every form of politics, but it cannot live without the air of freedom. Never before in history has the spiritual been so unprotected against the political. Never before has the political so usurped the spiritual. It was Jesus Christ Who suffered under Pontius Pilate; it was not Pontius Pilate who suffered under Jesus Christ.
Living in a country where freedom of speech and religion has been long protected but is beginning to be chipped away, I watch these global scenes unfold with much trepidation, fearing soon in the U.S. we may face such political persecution.  Where are we to turn?  What are we to do?

As we approach this coming Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross, we receive our answer, which we sing every Sunday in the Hymn of the Resurrection: “through the cross, joy has come to all the world.”  But it is only in accepting our cross, the one Christ gives us, not the one we try to fashion on our own, that this true joy through suffering may be found.

In a physical way, we recognize this reality on the Third Sunday of Lent.  The priest will process out from the sanctuary and place the cross before us, marking the halfway point of the fast and showing us the end goal, the sign of victory – the Cross of Christ.  We will sing, “We bow to Your cross, O Christ, and we glorify Your Holy Resurrection!”  Then we will all process forward and venerate the cross – but what does this veneration signify in our life?  As the author of The Year of Grace of the Lord puts it so eloquently, “Am I ready to accept all the trials or sufferings which may come to me as sharing in the Cross of the Savior? When, in due course, it is my turn to come and place a kiss on the cross which is displayed in the middle of the church, will my kiss be that of an unrepentant sinner, the kiss of Judas, or will it be a gesture which is respectful and superficial but changes nothing in my life, or will it be a sign of adoration, of faith, and of tenderness which will be binding on my whole life?”

In embracing the Cross this Sunday and holding it up as a sign of hope and victory, let us allow the Cross to change our view of suffering, both in our lives and in the world.  Again, from the Characters of the Passion:
Even though Christ Himself would not deliver us from the power of the totalitarian state, as He did not deliver Himself, we must see His purpose in it all.  Maybe His children are being persecuted by the world in order that they might withdraw themselves from the world…. Maybe the very secularism from which we suffer is a reaction against our own spiritual infirmity.  Maybe the growth of atheism and totalitarianism is the measure of our want of zeal and piety and the proof of our unfulfilled Christian duties…. Maybe it is our loss of supernatural standards, our decline of the family, our want of reverence for others, our growing selfishness, that have made this state of affairs possible…. 
But whatever be the reason for these trying days, of this we may be certain:  The Christ Who suffered under Pontius Pilate signed Pilate’s death warrant; it was not Pilate who signed Christ’s.  Christ’s Church will be attacked, scorned, and ridiculed, but it will never be destroyed.  The enemies of God will never be able to dethrone the heavens of God, nor to empty the tabernacles of their Eucharistic Lord, nor to cut off all absolving hands, but they may devastate the earth.  
Let us rejoice in the Cross of Christ this Sunday, so we may rightly sing, “Save your people, O Lord, and bless your inheritance.  Grant victory to your Church over evil, and protect your people by your cross” (Troparion of the Cross).


Monday, March 10, 2014

Wake up!

Last Monday was the first day of the Great Fast (Lent) in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  We offer this reflection as we begin the second week of the fast!

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His arrest, He took Peter, James and John with Him and asked them to “remain here and watch with Me” (Mt 26:38).  We know the story…just after they promise that they will never abandon Jesus, the apostles fall asleep; they are woken up and warned by Jesus and then fall asleep again, and shortly thereafter they all flee.  That promise didn't last too long

St. Jerome said, “The more confident we are of our zeal, the more mistrustful should we be of the frailty of the flesh.”  As the Great Fast begins, we might find ourselves quite zealous about our Lenten practices and resolutions.  So let’s be warned!  Jesus told his apostles the first time He woke them up, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:41).

In order to “watch and pray” we’ll need God’s help and we’ll need to do our part to pay attention!  Inevitably, we’ll learn that we can’t stay awake and watchful on our own, so we’ll learn that we have to pray for help.  And if we’re not paying attention we won’t come to know about God and His mercy, about our own weaknesses and need for growth and about the needs of others and our call to love God by loving them.

We need all that the Great Fast offers us in order to truly “watch and pray.”  We need to allow this time to be one that’s different and set apart.  It needs to be quieter and more focused.  The Great Fast calls us to make a greater effort to pray, fast and give alms.  These disciplines help us to be more aware of God, ourselves and others.  One way of looking at this is to match up the three: God (prayer), ourselves (fasting) and others (almsgiving).  (Of course, this is one way of looking at it; we are actually made aware of all three by each of the Lenten disciplines.)  This awareness is the watchfulness that Jesus asks of us, and it leads to the conversion of heart and acts of love which make us more like Him.

“Watch and pray” in order to be with Jesus and also “that you may not enter into temptation.” If the disciples had allowed themselves to be strengthened and receive grace by keeping vigil, perhaps they wouldn't have abandoned Jesus.  St. Jerome said, “It is impossible that the human mind should not be tempted, therefore He says not ‘Watch and pray that you be not tempted,’ but that you ‘enter not into temptation,’ that is, that temptation vanquish you not.”

As monastics, we are uniting ourselves and our efforts to “watch and pray” with those whose lives in the world cannot be as quiet and structured with prayer as our lives can.  Take heart!  We struggle too!  But we challenge you to “watch and pray” too, because we know that you too are called in a particular way and are able (with God's help) to answer this call.  God is always keeping watch over us to deliver us and free us from evil.  Can we not keep watch with Him?