Thursday, January 10, 2019

Bishop Milan calls for renewal of personal holiness during eparchy's 50th-anniversary year

Bishop Milan's first pastoral letter to the Eparchy of Parma was read at our parishes--and our monastery--this past Sunday, inaugurating the eparchy's 50th-anniversary year. We are encouraged by his call to a renewal of the grace given at baptism, and we pray that all the people of the eparchy (and beyond) will accept this challenge.

Dear brothers and sisters,

On this day, as we celebrate the feast of the Theophany of Our Lord, I would like to open and dedicate this year — which marks the golden anniversary of the establishment of the Eparchy of Parma of the Ruthenians and of the Metropolitan Church Sui Iuris of Pittsburgh — as the year of renewal and deepening of our faith.

Blessed Pope Paul VI issued a decree February 21, 1969, entitled Quandoquidem Christus, which transformed the status of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States, creating the Metropolia of Pittsburgh with two suffragan eparchies — Passaic and Parma. Prior to that, when our ancestors came to this country and brought with them a desire to worship in their own rite and have their own churches, we were part of the Eparchy of Pittsburgh.

Fifty years provide the opportunity to look back and reflect on the life of our Church. We do this in thanksgiving, recognizing the many examples of sacrifice, piety, dedication and vitality that resulted in growth, especially in the 1970s and 80s. Without a doubt, many souls were led to their heavenly reward. With gratitude we remember that cloud of witnesses — the bishops, priests, religious and laity, who, in countless ways offered testimony to their faith.

The anniversary year also offers an occasion to acknowledge the negative events that weakened our eparchy and caused a loss of vitality and, at times, even a loss of hope for the future. We should approach the Lord with repentance in our hearts and ask forgiveness, individually and as an eparchy.

Above all, we need to look forward with hope. This is only possible with renewed faith and a firm decision to follow the Gospel that contains the commandments of Christ. If our hearts have abandoned this willingness, we should look into the reasons why. St. Theophan the Recluse says this happens when the grace given at baptism is not preserved. He provides the following causes:

1. Leaving the church and its grace-giving means, which starves the root of the Christian life, disconnecting it from its sources. In this way it wilts, just as a flower does when it is not watered.
2. Failure to pay heed to one’s bodily nature, which opens the door for passions to take hold of the soul.
3. Forgetting the main goal of life: People do not have direction and lack the means to achieve union with God.
4. Neglecting the spiritual life: Prayer, the fear of God and conscience are overshadowed by earthly cares.
5. Neglecting to put into practice Christian principles and God’s way of life.

Could this point to the lack of vitality in our individual faith and lives, and in the eparchy as a whole? I would like you to join with the clergy at your parish and meditate on these causes. My hope is that this exercise will lead to spiritual activities in your parish that could renew the grace of baptism in our souls. We must first, however, be convinced that personal holiness, which leads to salvation, is a priority. This will take courage and conviction. I challenge you to make a pledge to begin the process that leads to this goal. I challenge all priests to preach during this 50th-anniversary year about how to avoid the five points of St. Theophan the Recluse above and to teach the art of spiritual living, the importance of prayer and the sacraments, and of giving up small things for the sake of gaining everything.

We sing in the Kontakion of the feast of the Theophany of Our Lord the beautiful and profound words, “You have revealed yourself to the world today; and your light, O Lord, has set its seal on us. We recognize you and exclaim to you: You have come and revealed yourself, O Unapproachable Light.” Let us not be afraid to renew the grace of our baptism in us, to recognize the Unapproachable Light who has set a seal on us.

We pray at the Great Blessing of the Jordan Water: “The waters beheld you, O Lord; the waters beheld you and they trembled. The River Jordan turns back on its course as it beholds the fire of the Godhead coming down upon it and entering it in the flesh.” We need to understand that the River Jordan turning back on its course as Christ enters its waters is symbolically its turning away from the Dead Sea (death) towards the Sea of Galilee (life).

As we begin this year of renewal and of deepening our faith to mark the 50th anniversary of the Eparchy of Parma and the Metropolia, I exhort you to make a pledge to renew your faith, as well as our Church, with the pledge cards that were distributed to your parish and that may be found in a visible place in your church.

As we commemorate the Baptism of Our Lord, let us be mindful of our own baptism, when we first received the grace to live the life of Christian discipleship. I pray that we are renewed in our journey and that we accept Christ in our lives, so that Life can turn us back to life as individuals, parish communities, and as the Eparchy of Parma.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Milan Lach, SJ
Bishop of the Eparchy of Parma

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Happy Theophany!

Happy Feast of Theophany! (The baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan) In this feast, we celebrate the revelation of the Trinity and our re-creation in Christ through baptism. May we overflow in gratitude to Him for the gift of salvation!

Enjoy these photos from our celebration of Vespers, the Great Blessing of Water, and the blessing of the poustinias and monastery. To read the 13 powerful readings from the Old Testament that are read at Vespers and prefigure this feast, visit this web page and scroll down to "Eve of Theophany, January 5." 

"Let us imitate the wise virgins; come, let us go to meet the Master who is now present, for He approaches John as a Bridegroom. When the Jordan saw Him, it bowed down in fear and stopped; John spoke out saying: I am unworthy to touch Your immortal head. The Spirit descended in the form of a dove and sanctified the waters, and a voice was heard from on high: This is My Son who comes into the world to save all. O Lord, glory to You!" (Hymns of the Litija, Great Compline for the Feast of Theophany)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Photos & video from Mother Iliana's Life Profession

What a great joy! We have another Mother in the community! Enjoy these photos from Mother Iliana's Life Profession as a stavrophore nun on Dec. 8. Photos taken by Tara Marcic.

And enjoy this short highlight video, produced by David Bratnick at Horizons Media.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Winter Newsletter

Enjoy our winter issue of Pomegranate Blossoms. Read some quotes from our video, Christ our Bridegroom, learn about our Bridegroom's Banquet, see photos of the problem spots in our chapel that we hope to repair and renovate soon, and more!

We pray that you have a beautiful and peaceful week of spiritual and material preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Enjoy our video: "Christ our Bridegroom"

The amateur nun-videographers are at it again, with another video that we produced for our annual “Bridegroom’s Banquet” benefit dinner. This time, our video is titled “Christ our Bridegroom,” and in it we explain why our monastery is named "Christ the Bridegroom," the symbolism of the icon of Christ the Bridegroom, more about why Jesus is the Bridegroom, and how we model this relationship for the Church and the world. A few monastery guests also share their thoughts. We hope you enjoy it!

Past videos:
Silence, Prayer, Poustinia (Produced by David Bratnick)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Giving Tuesday: Your donation can be matched!

Our matching donor for the Bridegroom’s Banquet, which took place on Nov. 10, has offered to continue to match donations after the event, until the end of the year, up to the $100,000 goal for the event. Some donations have already come in after the event, so this means that $3,108 in donations and pledges can still be matched! Please mark “Bridegroom’s Banquet” on your donation to include it in the matching funds opportunity. Donations beyond this amount are also very welcomed, and will help with...

Where will the donations go?
Donations will go towards the general operation and maintenance of the monastery for our daily life of prayer and hospitality, and also towards the renovations and repair of our chapel. Our chapel has been in need of repair for a while, and now that the poustinia project is just about finished, it’s finally time to get started! Elements of the project include: waterproofing and mold-removal in the basement, new siding and roof, new gutters and downspouts, new bathroom, and new lighting. Enjoy the slideshow below to see the "before & after" photos from our recent poustinia project, as well as photos of chapel problems that we hope to repair and renovate with your help. Thank you for your support of our monastery and for your help in making a safer and more beautiful place to praise God!

Donation options
1. We are happy to announce that we can now receive online donations! Online options also include pledges and automatic monthly donations.
2. Or, mail in a donation, payable to "Christ the Bridegroom Monastery":
Christ the Bridegroom Monastery
17485 Mumford Rd.
Burton, OH 44021

Monday, November 19, 2018

Sister Iliana's Life Profession, Dec. 8!

We are overjoyed to announce that Sister Iliana will make her life profession and be tonsured as a stavrophore ("cross-bearer") nun on Saturday, December 8, at 1:00 p.m., at St. Stephen Byzantine Catholic Church, 532 Lloyd Rd., Euclid, Ohio. All are invited to the profession service and Divine Liturgy on this feast of the Maternity of Anna. Here is some information about this step in the monastic life and what you will experience at the profession:

After several years of discernment and experience in living the monastic life as a dokimos (postulant) and then as a rasophore (“robe-bearer”) nun after her tonsure, a nun may request to make her life profession and commit her whole life to Christ as His bride. If she is determined to be ready to make this commitment, she is received as a stavrophore (“cross-bearer”) nun during the monastic profession service. At the beginning of the service, she is led up through the center of the church in a white robe (symbolic of her baptismal garment), barefoot, with her head uncovered and long hair flowing. She makes three prostrations as she walks up through the church, symbolizing the three immersions in the baptismal font. As she walks and approaches the bishop standing before the Royal Doors, the people sing a troparion about the return of the prodigal son to his father. After the final prostration, the bishop helps her up. He then asks a series of questions to determine her free will, her intentions, her willingness to renounce the things of the world, and her willingness to embrace poverty, chastity, obedience and all the “sorrows and restraints of the monastic life for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.” She answers, “Yes, Master, with God’s help.” The bishop then recites a powerful catechesis (instruction) about the monastic life and beautiful words of encouragement, such as, “May He be with you when you fall and when you rise up again, consoling and cheering your heart with the comfort of His Holy Spirit.” The bishop then prays to God that He may accept her and help her. The bishop then asks her to give him the scissors that he will use to cut her hair.  She must hand them to him three times to demonstrate her free will. Then he tonsures her (cuts her hair) “as a sign that she has renounced the world, and everything that is in the world, and for the restraining of her will and of all fleshly desires.” The bishop then blesses each piece of the habit one by one with prayers that explain the significance of that piece of clothing, and she is clothed in each piece. In addition to the habit she has been wearing since her tonsure as a rasophore nun, she also receives the klobuk (hat with veil), the paramandyas (a square of black wool embroidered with a red cross and the instruments of the Passion), the mandyas (cape), a hand cross, a 300-knot chotki (prayer rope), and a lighted candle.  In Christ the Bridegroom Monastery the nuns also receive a wedding ring to symbolize their union with Christ as their Spouse. The nun is now led in front of the icon of Christ where she will stand holding her hand cross and lighted candle for the duration of the Divine Liturgy that follows, just as the newly baptized would do.

A stavrophore nun experiences the fullness of monastic life, sharing in the passion, death and resurrection of her Bridegroom. She is given the title of “Mother” to express the fruitfulness of her union with Christ. Before the nun is tonsured as a stavrophore she relinquishes all monies, possessions and property. At this point, the nun is committed to remain for her lifetime in Christ the Bridegroom Monastery. Many people ask, “Is the life profession the same thing is ‘final vows?’” Yes, but Eastern monastics do not make “temporary vows” as other types of religious communities do, so there is no need to specify that these are the “final” vows. To read more about the stages of monastic life, visit the “Discerning?” tab.  Please pray for Sr. Iliana as she prepares for this serious, yet exciting and joyful day!