Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Girls' Camp Registration Now Open!

Teen girls ages 13-18 are invited to the 8th Annual Eparchy of Parma Girls’ Camp, June 23-26, 2016, hosted by Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio. This year’s theme is “His Mercy Endures Forever.” The camp is an event sponsored by the Eparchy of Parma Office of Vocations, which provides an opportunity for teen girls to discover different vocations in the Church and develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. More information and online registration can be found at the “For Teen Girls” tab.  Space is limited to 20 girls! Register as soon as possible to guarantee your spot.  Registration will close June 10 if not already full.

The Office of Vocations also offers a boys' camp, the Alive in Christ Ascetical Boot Camp for Guys, for boys 8-18 during the same weekend, across the street from the monastery at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch. Visit www.parma.org for more information.

Friday, April 15, 2016

"My weaknesses don't inhibit His love"

Newsletter Reflection 6 of 6

A reflection from Victoria about her entrance as a dokimos (postulant) on Sept. 30, 2015.

The days leading up to my entrance were focused on opening my heart to be receptive to the love of the Father, a grace for which I had never really asked, but badly needed. God answered those prayers through scripture and meditation, helping me to see the ways He has healed my wounds and invited me to a deeper discernment of marriage to Him. He graciously showed me how my weaknesses not only don’t inhibit His love, but are in fact endearing to Him, and how it brings Him joy to work through and in those weaknesses.

I was most struck at my entrance by Bishop John’s passionate homily. His words on trust stirred within me both an anticipation of the ways in which I would need to trust, but also encouragement that when I do trust, God will always provide. In the Gospel reading from Matthew at Vespers the night of my entrance, Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you…what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?...If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (7:7-11). This was a reminder to me of the Father’s intense love for us, so much more intense than anything we’ve ever experienced.

Because my entrance was on a feast of Our Lady—the Protection of the Mother of God—we sang many hymns to her during Vespers. In one of these hymns we sang, “O Theotokos, you cooperated with the invitation offered by the Holy Spirit.” Mary is the most prominent example of immense trust in our Bridegroom. She is a constant reminder for me that God always gives us a choice, but also that He bears so much fruit within our hearts when we make the choice to follow Him. This hymn, combined with the Gospel reading, says we must trust and believe in how much it delights Him when we say “yes” and also how much He delights in saying “yes” to us!

A few days after my entrance, I was reflecting on the Lord’s words, that we should ask of Him what we desire. My first thought was one of concern, that I may ask for the wrong things. But Christ reminded me of His love of my weaknesses and of the trust He requires of me, and He gently reminded me that even when I ask the wrong question, He will always give me the right answer. The two months [now six months!] since my entrance have already presented opportunities for trust—trust that God will bless and bring forth fruit from my sacrifices, and that He will continue to pour upon me the graces I need to keep my heart open to Him and to maintain this path of discernment.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Join us for our Spring Work Day, May 14!

Join us for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery and the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch on Saturday, May 14. Volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome! The day begins at 10 a.m., includes lunch, and closes with vespers at 5 p.m. followed by a cookout. Come at whatever time you are available, and bring a side dish to share if you can. The monastery is located at 17485 Mumford Rd. Burton, Ohio. Please RSVP* by Monday, May 9, to 440-834-0290 or christthebridegroom@gmail.com, so that the appropriate amount of food can be prepared.

*Please RSVP with:
1. The number of adults (include teens) and the number of kids (12 and under)
2. Will you be here for lunch or dinner or both?
3. The dish you plan to bring

Facebook Event

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"I don't know what to do with all this joy!"

Ok, we're back to posting the remaining reflections from our winter newsletter!

Newsletter Reflection 5 of 6

A reflection from Sr. Iliana about her tonsure as a rasophore nun, Sept. 7, 2015

One of the most pivotal moments of my discernment occurred almost two years ago, while I was on retreat here at the monastery. To be completely honest, I had almost cancelled the retreat because I was afraid of what God might be doing in my life. I had heard Him call to me, “you are mine” over a decade earlier – which in my heart was very clearly a call to religious life – but I did not really understand where He wanted me to live out His calling and was a little tired of asking. As I prayed on the first morning of the retreat, I found myself sitting in a tree with Zacchaeus, waiting for a glimpse of Jesus in the crowd below. As Jesus walked by my hiding place, He looked up at me and said, “Moki, come down” (Moki was my name before I became a nun). It was in response to these words that I immediately quit my job and left everything behind to follow Him. The prophet Isaiah says, “I have called you by your name, you are mine” (Is 43:1). Jesus had called me by my name, and as Zacchaeus, I “made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully”(Lk 19:6).

All words seem inadequate in expressing the joy that I felt on the day of my tonsure. This joy came from being called by Jesus, who had stooped down to his lowly servant saying, “You, follow me” (Jn 21:22). What joy it is to be called by Jesus – called by name – and to dwell in His heart in the heart of the Church. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Gal 5:22), and this particular fruit is very apparent in those who respond to His call. The tonsure was on the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, and what a beautiful example Mary is of the joy of responding to God’s call. After her “yes,” Mary cries out, “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1:47). The Gospels tell us that after Jesus calls the rich young man to follow him, he goes away “sad” (Lk 18:23). Just as the fruit of not answering Jesus’ call is sadness, conversely the fruit of responding to His call is infinite joy.

During my retreat before tonsure, the Lord asked me again if I would follow Him, and I was repeatedly able to join in Mary’s “yes.” These many “yeses” brought an incredible joy to my heart: the joy of knowing that He had called me, and most importantly, the joy of knowing that I was loved. After retreat, I kept being led to scriptures such as: “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps 100:2), “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Neh 8:10), “I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy” (Ps 27:6), and “Let the faithful rejoice in their glory, shout for joy and take their rest” (Ps 149:5). I wondered, how could souls be shouting for joy and resting at the same time? Then I understood that they are resting in the knowledge of His love. They are resting because they know that they are His own, His chosen ones. It is when they rest in His heart of love, in His loving gaze, that they can do nothing other than “shout for joy” and dance as God Himself is dancing “with shouts of joy,” for they know that God has “renewed them with His love” and this joy is too great to keep contained in their hearts (Zeph 3:17).  

On the evening of the tonsure, I exclaimed to a priest-friend, “I don’t know what to do with all this joy!” But deep in my heart I do know what to do with it: I must share it with you. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Christ is Risen!

"Bearing torches let us meet the bridegroom, Christ, as He comes forth from His tomb; and let us greet, with joyful song, the saving Pasch of God" (Resurrection Matins, Ode 5).

We wish you a blessed celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord! Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Friday, March 25, 2016

In the Shadow of the Cross, at the Tomb

I went to visit a family member in the hospital this week, and while I was there, we were chatting about the weather and I commented that the sun was shining when I came in.  “The sun is shining?  It looks dark out to me!” was the reply.  So I opened the curtain, but part of the hospital building was blocking the sun from shining directly outside the window.  “Still looks dark to me.”  No matter what I said or how I reassured that the sun was indeed shining, since it could not be seen from the angle we were looking, it was not believed.

I was struck by this exchange because so often in my own spiritual life I experience moments of "darkness," where I am not able to "see the sun shining."  All I can see from my vantage point is the shadow, the lack of sunshine – the absence of the presence of God.  In those moments when God seems far away, hidden or completely absent, I must rely in faith on those around me who assure me that He is in fact still there, still "shining." I also must rely on His word, because He said He is always there: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight” (Proverbs 3:5).

I often times feel as if God’s felt absence is a sign of displeasure or disfavor, and I am led to ask "What did I do wrong?  How can I fix it so You will come back?"  In that moment, I can echo the words of the Bride in the Song of Songs: “I sought him whom my soul loves, I sought him but I did not find him” (3:1).

I was reminded in a talk I heard this past weekend that His absence is not because I have done something wrong – but it is a means to draw me deeper.  The priest speaking was married and was relating his own distress when he and his beloved bride were forced to be apart for a number of months because of issues out their control. “I was a mess,” he confessed.  “I began to see her in the people walking down the street.  I thought of her when I heard our favorite songs on the radio or saw our favorite food in the grocery store.  It was in her absence that her presence was made known.”  As he spoke those final words, my heart was pierced.  How often do I endure God’s absence, rather than embrace it and allow it to produce THAT kind of longing in my heart?  If only His absence could be transformed into seeing Him in everyone and everything, instead of lamenting that I can’t "feel" Him! Oh, how much I have to learn!

So as we commemorate Our Lord's Passion, I offer this little reflection as something to ponder while we sit in the shadow of the Cross, while the Sun is darkened and His felt presence leaves us, and we await Him at the tomb.  May we cling to the Cross, embracing His absence as a sign of the great work He is doing for our salvation, full of expectant hope in the Resurrection to come on Pascha.

-Mother Gabriella

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Good Friday and Annunciation…Together?

This year, Great and Holy Friday falls on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. The Byzantine Church doesn’t move the celebration of the feast, which might seem strange! However, I'd like to propose that it actually makes a lot of sense.

In these two events we see the awesome condescension of God, and we can look at both of them through the role of Mary, the Mother of God. First, at the Annunciation, God condescended to become man through Mary. Mary said “yes” in behalf of humanity, receiving in her body--as in a chalice--the gift of divinity, so that it could be poured out into the world in a way that we could receive it.

St. Ephrem beautifully expresses this mystery in one of his Hymns on the Nativity (#11):

A wonder is Your mother: The Lord entered her
and became a servant; He entered able to speak
and He became silent in her; He entered her thundering
and His voice grew silent; He entered Shepherd of all;
a lamb He became in her; He emerged bleating.
The womb of Your mother overthrew the orders:
The Establisher of all entered a Rich One;
He emerged poor. He entered her a Lofty One;
He emerged humble. He entered her a Radiant One,
and He put on a despised hue and emerged.
He entered, a mighty warrior, and put on fear
inside her womb. He entered, Nourisher of all,
and He acquired hunger. He entered, the One who gives drink to all,
and He acquired thirst. Stripped and laid bare,
He emerged from [her womb], the One who clothes all.

Secondly, at the Crucifixion, the Lord made another great act of condescension: the acceptance of physical death. And again, Mary was there saying “yes,” this time in behalf of the Church, receiving the gift of eternal life that was pouring forth from Jesus on the cross, as He changed death into life.

The Festal Theotokion in Tone 4 clearly illustrates the connection between these two events of the Annunciation and the Crucifixion, as well as Mary's role:

The mystery hidden from all ages and unknown to the angels has been made known to those on earth through you, O Theotokos. God has taken flesh in a union without confusion, and willingly accepted the Cross for us; whereby He raised the first-formed Adam and saved our souls from death.

These two condescensions of God--these two parts of the mystery of the Incarnation--changed everything, and they happened at the beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly life. So even though we think of one as a joyful event and the other as a sorrowful, it doesn’t seem strange to me to commemorate them together. There is also a tradition from early in the Church to do just that! This tradition said that Jesus died on March 25: “He suffered in the thirty-third year, March 25th, Friday, the eighteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Roubellion were Consuls" (Commentary on Daniel by St. Hippolytus, 170-240 A.D.). And as the perfect man, it was believed that He had been conceived and died on the same day, therefore making March 25 the date of the Annunciation. (Later, the date of His Nativity, December 25, was based on this calculation.)

Fun facts aside, this Great and Holy Friday is a beautiful opportunity for us to reflect deeply on the mystery of the self-emptying of Christ through the Incarnation, with the Mother of God as our teacher and model. We can allow her to teach us how we can be a chalice like she was—receiving the love of God and pouring it out to others by loving them, making it accessible to them and helping them to thirst for more.

This year we lose our Annunciation mitigation of the fast for fish and oil, we get a major headache trying to decipher the liturgical typikon, and we feel the awkwardness of celebrating the Divine Liturgy on Great and Holy Friday…but theologically it seems very beautiful and meaningful to me to celebrate these two earth-shattering events of the Incarnation on the same day. Disagree if you want!...It won’t happen again until the year 2157 anyway!

–Mother Cecilia