Thursday, January 19, 2017

Please pray for Sara Lynn, entering on February 1st!

Please keep Sara Lynn Gafford in your prayers as she prepares to enter our community on Feb. 1! Sara Lynn is from Ashville, Ohio (south of Columbus).  We are very excited to welcome Sara Lynn into our monastic family and to be blessed by her joy, zeal and love! She, and the simple, black clothes she will wear during her initial stage of formation and discernment, will be blessed by Metropolitan William at her entrance. In this first step, she will be a dokimos (or postulant) and will continue to go by the name Sara Lynn. We look forward to sharing more with you soon about Sara Lynn and her entrance!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Teen Girls' Sleepover, Feb. 11-12

Teen girls age 13-18 are invited for an evening of prayer, food and fun at the monastery for our teen girls' sleepover, Feb. 11-12. Click here for the schedule and to register! Families are invited to Divine Liturgy and brunch on Sunday morning. Space is limited to 15 girls, so sign up soon!

Monday, January 2, 2017

A God of Longing

Happy New Year!

Here is a reflection from Mother Cecilia, published in our recent newsletter:

I recently received a letter from a friend, and in the letter my friend asked me, “If you met someone from another country who didn’t know about Jesus, how would you teach this person about Him?"  As I read the question, I had one immediate thought and one immediate feeling.  The thought was, “Why in the world is my friend asking me this question?” and the feeling was anxiety!

I don’t recall ever talking to someone who “didn’t know about Jesus,” but I know that I’ve talked to many people who don’t truly know who Jesus is.  But do I even really know Him?  I speak to others of God as Love, as One who wants to be so close to us, who wants to share in our life, but in reality, I often see Him as an unreasonably demanding God, as someone I can never please, or as a strict employer from whom I must earn my wage.

After I read the letter from my friend, I decided to come up with an answer to the question.  I was surprised at how quickly my answer came to me, as fruit of my recent reflections on the love of the Trinity.  I would tell this person about the communion of love in the Trinity—the continual outpouring of perfect love between the three persons of the Trinity—and how Jesus is the person of the Trinity who became man and took on our humanity in order to allow the divine love of the Trinity to pour into mankind, so that we can be one with this perfectly fulfilling love.

As soon as I came up with my answer, this Scripture came to my mind: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!” (Mt 23:37 & Lk 13:34).

In these words I could see God’s deep longing for me.  He longs to hold me to Himself.  He longs for me to receive His continual outpouring of love. He longs for me to let Him be with me.

As I have prepared for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord, I have sought to rest in the knowledge of God’s longing for me which moved Him to completely empty Himself for me in His Incarnation.  I have reflected on my favorite Old Testament story, the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace, and how God, in the form of an angel, came into the furnace to be with the youths, prefiguring His coming to be with us in human flesh in our suffering.

We can ask ourselves, “How would I live my life differently if I really believed in God’s longing for me and rejected the lie that I must earn His love?”  I think we would want to love Him and give our lives to Him, trusting in His ability to transform our feeble actions into something powerful.

If we truly knew Jesus, we wouldn’t be anxious about talking about Him, talking to Him, loving Him or living for Him, because He—the One who longs for us—is the One that every human heart longs to know.

Icon of the Three Youths by the hand of Mother Cecilia

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Merry Christmas from the monastery!! 

"You have shown forth from the Virgin, O Christ, Sun of Justice. A star found You, whom nothing can contain, manifested in the cave. It led the Magi to adore You. With them, we worship You, O Giver of Life; glory to You!"

(One of the Troparia of Vespers for the Nativity)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Enjoy our Winter 2016/2017 Issue of Pomegranate Blossoms

In this issue, enjoy a reflection titled "A God of Longing" by Mother Cecilia, read about the tonsure of Sr. Natalia and the "Bridegroom's Banquet," take note of our upcoming events, and more!

May God bless you in these final days of preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord!

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Gift of Seeing Our Poverty

A reflection by Mother Cecilia as we prepare for the Nativity of Our Lord

During this time of preparation for the birth of Our Lord, He has given me the gift of seeing my poverty a little more clearly. I am not talking about poverty in terms of a lack of physical things that I have, but in terms of my utter inability to do anything on my own without God. I’m weak, I’m limited and I’m frequently making mistakes and sinning.

When things are going well, I feel like I’m in control and I think that I can do anything! It’s when I’m struggling and suffering that I see my poverty. God allows this struggle and suffering for many reasons, one of which is that it helps me to see my poverty. When this happens, I often wonder, “Why do I have to see this poverty?” It really hurts! Sometimes I remember the words of one of my favorite saints, who said, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and the greatest of these is to have shown me my littleness, my incapability of any good" (St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul).  Wow! I usually don’t think of this revelation as a gift, let alone as the greatest gift!

I’m beginning to learn that the knowledge of my poverty is a gift. I’d like to share some of the reasons why. First of all, it’s always better to know the truth. “The truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). And the truth is not only that I’m poor; it is also the truth that God is rich—rich in power, mercy and love. Seeing my poverty gives me the opportunity to more clearly see God’s greatness.

Secondly, as I learn the truth, I see that it is God who does all things in me, and I learn that He does them so much better than I could ever imagine. St. Paul tells us that the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Therefore we can say with St. Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).

Thirdly, the knowledge of my poverty shows me that God loves me for who I am, not for any sort of perfect actions I can do for Him. It’s actually my poverty that attracts God to me! The poverty of mankind drew Him to become man and to pour His divinity into our humanity! I am like the poor and messy cave in which Jesus was born. He could have arranged to be born in a cleaner, neater place, but He didn’t. He could wait until I seemingly have “everything under control” to do His work, but He tends to do His most powerful work in me when I am the weakest.

Finally, a great gift of seeing my poverty is so that I can surrender to God and give Him permission to work in me and be with me. When I think that I can do everything, I forget to do it with Him. I forget that He wants to be with me!

As we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord, we notice the poor and messy cave because of the One who was born in it. We rejoice that Jesus chose to enter into this poverty. But the point of the feast is not to remain gazing at the cave and the manger alone, but to gaze upon God who has become man. We can see His face and live (Ex 33:20)! I often get stuck focusing my eyes on the poor “manger” of my heart and forget to keep my eyes on Jesus. I get discouraged by all of my weaknesses and forget about Him there in the midst of them.

When I am discouraged, I am a poor and messy closed space, but when I trust in God, I am a poor and messy open one. I need to accept my weakness and allow it to be the place where God can enter in and work in His power. When we open to the birth of Divine Life in us, we can rejoice with Mary, the Mother of God, in the words of her Magnificat: “He has looked with favor upon the lowliness of His servant, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and Holy is His name!”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Photos from Sr. Natalia's Tonsure

Enjoy this album of photos from Sr. Natalia's tonsure as a rasophore nun on December 5. See our previous two posts to read more about the tonsure and about Sr. Natalia's patron saint.