Saturday, May 16, 2020

The gift of monastics during the pandemic

Below is a beautiful letter by a bishop in Italy to monastics (in particular, fully cloistered ones) during this pandemic time. In actuality, it is a letter to everyone, pointing out the profound and timely lessons that monastics can teach us by the witness of their lives.

Before we get to the letter, here is a link to some videos and other resources for the Sunday of the Man Born Blind, and here is a quote from the liturgical typikon arranged by Fr. David Petras:
"Jesus anointed the eyes of the Man Born Blind, and he was enlightened, professing Jesus to be his Lord. He is an image of our baptisms, when we are enlightened out of darkness by the anointing of the chrism of the Holy Spirit. We remember the salvation of the Man Born Blind and our own enlightenment as we close the Feast of the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ."


A letter by Bishop Aiello of Avellino:

Monastics’ gift to Italy

Letter to the nuns and monks:

We turn to you, sisters and brother monks, to ask for your prayers, to support your raised arms, like those of Moses on the mountain, in this time of particular danger and unease for our communities: by your persistent prayerful intercession, we acquire resilience and future victory.

You are the only ones who do not move a facial muscle in the face of the rain of decrees and restrictive measures that rain on us these days because what we are asked for, for some time you have always done it and what we suffer you have chosen.

Teach us the art of being content living  with nothing, in a small space, without going out, yet engaged in internal journeys that do not need planes and trains.

“Give us your oil” to understand that the spirit cannot be imprisoned, and the narrower the space, the wider the skies open.

Reassure us that you can live even for a short time and be joyful, remember that poverty is the unavoidable condition of every being because, as Don Primo Mazzolari said, “being a man is enough to be a poor man”.

Give us back the ability to savor the little things you who smile of a blooming lilac at the cell window and greet a swallow that comes to say that spring has come, you who are moved by a pain and still exulted by the miracle of the bread that is baked in the oven.

Tell us that it is possible to be together without being crowded together, to correspond from afar, to kiss without touching each other, to touch each other with the caress of a look or a smile, or simply … a gaze at each other.

Remind us that a word is important if it is reflected upon, ruminated within the heart for a period of time, leavened in the soul’s recesses, seen blooming on the lips of another, called a low voice, not shouted or cutting because of hurt.

But, even more, teach us the art of silence, of the light that rests on the windowsill, of the sun rising “as a bridegroom coming out of the bridal room” or setting “in the sky that tinges with fire”, of the quiet of the evening, of the candle lit that casts shadows on the walls of the choir.

Tell us that it is possible to wait for a hug even for a lifetime because “there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embraces,” says Qoelet. President Conte said that at the end of this time of danger and restrictions we will still embrace each other in the feast, for you there are still twenty, thirty, forty years to wait …

Educate us to do things slowly, solemnly, without haste, paying attention to details because every day is a miracle, every meeting a gift, every step a step in the throne room, the movement of a dance or a symphony.

Whisper to us that it is important to wait, postpone a kiss, a gift, a caress, a word, because waiting for a feast increases its brilliance and “the best is yet to come”.

Help us understand that an accident can be a grace and a sorrow can hide a gift, a departure can increase affection and a distance that can finally lead us to encounter and communion.

To you, teachers and masters of the hidden and happy life, we entrust our uneasiness, our fears, our remorse, our missed appointments with God who always awaits us, you take everything in your prayer and give it back to us in joy, in a bouquet of flowers and peaceful days. Amen.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Reflections for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman


Enjoy these two reflections:


2. Reflection from Sr. Petra:

You ask her for a drink—not because You need anything from her (even in Your humanity:  presumably Your disciples would soon return with drink, as well as food)—in order to open the dialogue between you, to gently entice her heart to open to Yours.  You are here initiating

She responds to Your request for a drink with some bewilderment:  It doesn’t make sense socially or religiously for You to speak to her.  In inviting us—to pray, to respond to our vocations, to seek union—we also feel the dissonance between our view of the world (and of ourselves) and what You’re doing.

You lead her further…  “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”  You’re opening before her another way, another path:  her response to Your request could be like a doorway.  You’re offering a quenching to her thirst that goes beyond this world, deeper than the desires of mere flesh.  You’re letting a ray of Your identity penetrate her darkness—begging her to ask the question:  Who are You?

She responds accordingly, curious in her thirst.  How will You do this, having nothing with which to draw water?  Are You greater than Jacob?  She wants, needs, further revelation and reassurance before she opens herself to You.  The burden of action is back on Your shoulders.  She responds, but You must direct this encounter.

And yet, for all Your leading, Your reply isn’t really an answer to her questions.  “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  You’ve gently lifted her desire heavenward.  For a moment, she forgets her puny, earthly questions.  You’ve danced with her into the realm of the Spirit.

She responds from a heart moved beyond worldly constraints.  Eyes off herself, no longer weighing You against logic, her heart cries in eager hope, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw!”  She wants freed from more than the inconvenience of drawing water:  She aches to be free of the shame that enfolds her as she walks to the well alone in the heat of the day, in order to avoid the condemnation of the “respectable” women.

Knowing the throbbing wound behind her request, You go there, knocking on the door behind which her shame crouches.  “Go, call your husband and come here.”  You aren’t playing with her, or tricking her into confessing for legal necessity.  You are moving to open her capacity to receive You, this gift You are.

“I have no husband.”  She can’t bring herself to unveil the painful truth.  At that point, such a confession is beyond her ability to utter.  And so—You do it for her, relieving her of the burden:  “You are right…”  And You speak the terrible truth of her deeds:  they take form between you.  This must be; there is no other way to union. 

She tries to deflect this solid history, to remove herself—her heart—from the conversation.  “Lord, I perceive You are a prophet.”  Then she turns to the shield of theological controversy, a vain effort to cover her spiritual nakedness.  She implies a concrete, external question (where is the proper place to worship?).  Is she also trying to robe herself in the illusion of respectability?  See, she seems to say, I care about such things!  Perhaps she’s also trying to distance herself from You in self-protection, by bringing to the fore all the deep divisions between you, Jewish Man, and Samaritan woman.

You move through that strategy as though through a spider’s web, guiding her back to the heart of this whole exchange, to Your Heart for her:  to worship, the restoration of man’s union with God.  “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth…”  You reply to her query as though, yes, worship has significance even for her, fallen as she is.  Once more, she retreats.  “I know that Messiah is coming; when he comes, he will show us all things.”  As though to say, I don’t need to deal with this now.  Let it wait for another day.

The urgency of Your love—the Truth—pierces her last defense.  Heedless of the shame that bound her minutes before, she rushes into town, bearing witness.  Many come to believe in You because of her testimony—because You sought her in love, pursuing her gently yet inexorably.  You are not rebuffed by our resistance.  Again and again, You move to woo Your bride.  Locked in our prisons of shame, pain, and sin, we can’t reach You, we can’t seek You.  So You seek us.  You knock on the door of our cells and offer the key of love—love unto death, Love that trampled Death, the jailer of our souls.

When I feel the lie that it all depends on me, remind me, Lover of Mankind, that You’ve taken the lead, You’re taking the lead, and You’re leading me back to the Garden where we may drink deeply of Love.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

We were very blessed to be able to have a priest stay with us from Palm Sunday to Bright Tuesday and to celebrate all of the services. We live streamed many of them through Facebook Live, and many people joined us in prayer this way. Some even encountered the Byzantine Church for the first time. We really sensed the presence of those who were praying with us, and we felt the importance of our prayer and of being leaders in prayer. This was a grace for our monastic vocations, because it has helped us to better understand that we are always praying for and with the whole world.

We were also overjoyed that so many people were helped by our "Holy Week & Pascha for the Domestic Church" guide. We were so blessed by seeing the photos that people emailed us or posted on the Facebook group The Domestic Church, Byz-y at Prayer. We hope to share them with you soon!

This week, "Bright Week," we are resting and enjoying the brief and festive Paschal services! We hope that you are resting in the joy of the Resurrection. We are praying for you and your loved ones, especially those who are sick, or suffering in other ways.

Enjoy this album of photos from our celebration of Holy Week & Pascha.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

A guide for praying at home during this Holy Week & Pascha!


Holy Week and Pascha (Easter) without being able to go to church??? Nuns to the rescue. Our monastery is just a little family, not so unlike yours, living the life of the Church in an intense way. We are here to help give Byzantine families/couples ideas and resources for Holy Week and Pascha for your domestic church (the church of your home), because the Resurrection isn’t cancelled! We need to remember now more than ever the hope we have in Christ’s destruction of death and His gift of eternal life. This current crisis is an opportunity to revive our domestic churches and begin to pray (or pray more) as a family/couple and individually. And, when we pray, we must remember that the whole Body of Christ—the Church, is with us.

We are excited to share with you this project we've been working on for the past week! Please share it quickly with others, in time for Holy Week to begin! God bless you!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Live stream schedule for the next two weeks

[Updated 4/5]
Below is our live stream schedule through Pascha (Easter). To pray with us, either live or later, visit our Facebook Page and click on the currently playing video or a past video. You do not need to have a Facebook account to watch (simply click "not now" when prompted to create an account).

Also, here is a resource we put together to help you pray the Holy Week & Pascha services at home! Praying for you!!


All times EDT
Monday, March 30
4:45 p.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
5:00-6:00 p.m.     Vespers

Tuesday, March 31
6:15 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
6:30-8:00 a.m.     Matins

4:45 p.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
5:00-6:00 p.m.     Vespers

Wednesday, April 1
6:15 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
6:30-8:00 a.m.     Matins

8:00-9:00 p.m.     Great Compline

Thursday, April 2
6:15 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
6:30-8:00 a.m.     Matins

4:45 p.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
5:00-6:00 p.m.     Vespers

Friday, April 3
8:00-9:00 p.m.     Great Compline

Saturday, April 4
Lazarus Saturday
6:15 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
6:30-8:00 a.m.     Matins

4:45 p.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
5:00-6:00 p.m.     Great Vespers for Palm Sunday

Sunday, April 5
Palm Sunday
6:15 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
6:30-8:00 a.m.     Matins

5:15 p.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
5:30-6:10 p.m.     Vespers

Monday, April 6
Great & Holy Monday
8:00 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
8:15-9:30 a.m.     Bridegroom Matins

2:45 p.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
3:00-4:00 p.m.     Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Tuesday, April 7
Great & Holy Tuesday
8:00 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
8:15-9:30 a.m.     Bridegroom Matins

2:45 p.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
3:00-4:00 p.m.     Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Wednesday, April 8
Great & Holy Wednesday
8:00 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
8:15-9:30 a.m.     Bridegroom Matins

Thursday, April 9
Great & Holy Thursday
6:15 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
6:30-8:00 a.m.     Matins

We encourage you to watch the live stream of Vespers & Divine Liturgy of St. Basil from the cathedral of your own eparchy, if possible. Here is the link for the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio. We will update with the time when it is available.

Friday, April 10
Great & Holy Friday
7:30 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
7:45-9:45 a.m.     Matins with the 12 Gospel readings

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.     1st & 3rd Royal Hours

2:00-3:00 p.m.     6th & 9th Royal Hours

We encourage you to watch a live stream of Entombment Vespers from your own parish, if possible.

Saturday, April 11
Great & Holy Saturday
7:30 a.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
7:45-9:30 a.m.     Jerusalem Matins

3:00 p.m.             Jesus Prayer in Silence
3:15-5:30 p.m.     Vespers & Divine Liturgy of St. Basil (The Paschal Vigil)

9:00-9:45 p.m.     Midnight Office

Sunday, April 12
Pascha: The Resurrection of Our Lord!
We encourage you to watch the live stream of Resurrection Matins and Divine Liturgy from your own parish, if possible.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

"Introduction to Sacred Silence: A Prayer for the Empty"

You can watch below the recording of Mother Cecilia's webinar about silence from last week.

About this talk: Silence, the most mysterious form of prayer, is also the simplest. But most people either run away in fear from this simple route of Theosis (union with God) or attempt it but quickly become discouraged. Mother Cecilia will clear up some misconceptions about silence and stir up your desire to plunge into the mystery. Her talk will be encouraging news to those who feel that they are empty and have nothing to bring to prayer, and it will be challenging news to those who feel the opposite!


You can still sign up for further talks in this Lenten series on prayer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A poem during the pandemic

An Acceptable Time*

Lord, help us to find You
waiting in our souls,
when Bread is withheld and
Your Voice falls silent.

In this desert darkness,
may the invisible glow of
Your indwelling Presence
enfold us in hope.

You are not removed,
cannot be kept from us.
Closer than our own selves,
You’re buried in our hearts.

Teach us to keep vigil
with You in the Garden,
to surrender—not my will
in trust that our tears water

other gardens, a million gardens
that have lain dormant
in our dust.  We submit
to this pruning.

Bring forth a harvest
for Your Church, renew us
in the faith that God is with us:
We cannot be shaken.*

*Title taken from Isaiah 49:8 (Douay-Rheims and KJV--rendered in modern translations as "a time of favor").  The last lines allude to Psalm 46/45, v. 5  "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved".

--Sr. Petra