Tuesday, December 28, 2010
All creation is filled with joy today!
'"All creation is filled with joy today. Christ is born of the Virgin!" (Verses after Psalm 50, feast of the Nativity)
"May the whole universe exalt and leap with joy, for Christ has come to regenerate it and to save our souls." (Aposticha at Vespers)
As we meditated on the mystery of God's incarnation, the meeting of God and Man and the coming together of all creation at the Nativity of Our Lord...it was fitting that our dear cat Scout participated in the festivities. This picture was taken during Vespers on Christmas Eve. She sat in rapt attention like this on the bench for almost the entire service. And at dinner she joined us to partake in one of the twelve dishes of the traditional Velija Supper: the fish. She also seemed to enjoy the straw under the table! It is tradition to feed the animals at or after this supper to remind us that they, representing creation, were present at the birth of Christ--when He took on flesh to redeem all of creation.
Do you like our nun cookies? :)
"O Christ, what shall we offer You for Your coming on earth in our humanity for our sake? Every creature that has its being from You gives thanks to You: the angels offer hymns of praise, the heavens give a star; the Magi present their gifts and the shepherds, their wonder; the earth provides a cave and the desert, a manger. As for us, we offer a Virgin Mother. O God who are from all eternity, have mercy on us." (Stichera at Vespers for the Nativity)
Looking for a fun and interesting way to spend your New Year's Eve? Check out a benefit event, "Help Us Get Our Habits On," to support our friends Anna and Amanda in their journey to become TOR Franciscan Sisters. We'll be there, and so will the TORs!
Thursday, December 9, 2010
2nd St. Nicholas Celebration
|Click to view collage in full size|
What an evening! Almost 50 people packed into our monastery to celebrate the feast of the patron saint of the Byzantine Catholic Church, St. Nicholas. Everyone was instructed to take off their shoes and leave them in a row in the dining room, and after vespers the shoes were found to hold some treats from St. Nicholas. Great Vespers was beautiful, celebrated by Fr. Dennis Hrubiak. It amazes me how beautiful the prayers are for this saint about whom we know very little, and everyone sang together very well. Fr. Dennis blessed my recently completed icon of St. Nicholas at the end of vespers. And then we feasted on an amazing potluck dinner! After dinner, St. Nicholas himself showed up (he looked very much like Fr. Dennis...they must be cousins). St. Nicholas announced the winner of the trivia contest, Jessica Santacrose (congrats!), and gave the correct answers to the trivia questions about his life. He spoke to everyone about caring for the needs of others and of course gave the kids chocolate! We felt so blessed by the presence of so many great people who joined us (even in the snow) to celebrate, some coming from as far as Pittsburgh. We are glad that you can feel at home in our home.
If you will be near the Parma area on Saturday, come out to the Cathedral (1900 Carlton Rd. Parma, Ohio) and visit us at our table at the St. Nicholas Craft Show taking place there from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We will be selling our jams, jellies and breads.
May God bless you as you continue to prepare your heart for Christ's coming.
Monday, November 29, 2010
"But Israel does not know, my people do not understand."
and the donkey its master's crib;
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.
Abbot Leo Schlosser from Holy Trinity Monastery in Butler, Pennsylvania, came recently to give us a short retreat in preparation for the Nativity. He spoke to us about many things regarding monasticism, prayer and preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ's birth. What struck me the most, however, was his definition of the word vigilance. Vigilance, he said, is "looking for and being aware of God's presence."
During this Nativity fast, it seems very difficult to be vigilant. As the darkness of each day lengthens and deepens, as the busyness of the world increases and captures our attention, waiting and seeking for something--someone--who is very silent and very hidden is often the last thing we are thinking about. It must have been the same for the residents of Bethlehem.
Isaiah reproves the people of Israel, long before the coming of Christ, because the animals in the stable recognize Him, but they (we!) do not.
Bishop John came to the monastery on Saturday to celebrate, in union with Pope Benedict, what the pope named a "Vigil for All Nascent Human Life." Several people joined us as we prayed the Akathist in honor of the Mother of God followed by Great Vespers. I felt that we were honoring the Mother of God for her deep faith and vigilance and asking her to teach us!
Bishop John prayed this beautiful prayer which Pope Benedict had just prayed earlier in the day. We would like to share it with you and ask you to pray it with us. May we "look for and be aware of God's presence" in each human life we come in contact with and in each moment of our day, so that we will be ready to welcome our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into our world and into our hearts.
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.
Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you.
Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.
Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.
Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of ever human life.
Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no-one endures suppression or injustice.
Gift creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children
Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.
Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Charity,
the consolation of your divine Heart.
Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Just another week in the life...
So…whew…what a week! Monday, October 6, was a full day focused on putting the monastery back in order after a really busy weekend (the weekend of our fall work day). On Tuesday afternoon, I was driving back from my parent’s home, after picking two large boxes of pears for jelly and pear butter. I was less than a quarter mile away from home when someone went through the stop sign at the corner of Nash and Mumford. The driver of the van was approaching the intersection at a high rate of speed, but I thought to myself, “No, he’s supposed to stop.” DAH. I t-boned his van and spun onto the other street. It’s funny now, but wasn’t then, when on impact, not only did the airbags deploy, I was also pelted with the pears from the back seat. I, thank God that I had no broken bones. I was banged up and bruised but nothing too serious. It was my first time to be in an ambulance. When the paramedic saw the condition of the car and some of my “damages,” she convinced me to be “escorted” to the hospital. I thought I was going to sit in the back of the ambulance. Nope. She put a neck brace around my neck, laid me on a back board and totally strapped me down. I must admit, I felt quite silly. Being a passenger in an ambulance was not an item on my “bucket list.” Luckily, there were no lights or sirens. As time has progressed, the pains and aches have subsided and I have one more session of therapy for my neck and shoulder. I should be as good as new, but the car, I’m afraid, will never be, since the adjuster claimed it totaled. So, now we’re a little in limbo for another vehicle. With tongue in cheek, I hope God has an all-wheel SUV in mind!
The next day, Fr. Richard Rohrer, Michelle Sapsara, Chrysostom Rubush, and Chris Watson came from Sts. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic parish in North Carolina for a visit. Michelle and Chrysostom stayed with us for a few days. It was wonderful to pray, work and laugh with them. They were a phenomenal help! They helped clean and pare loads of pears, picked apples, trimmed trees, helped seal the back wooden deck, cooked, cleaned dishes, did yard work, oh, lots of things.
Then Sr. Julie and I drove to the Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Parma on Friday for the opening of the Eastern Churches Seminar. Fr. Ronald Roberson, associate director for the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reflected on the topic “The Current State of Affairs.” Fr. Ronald’s interesting talk opened with a historical background to shed light on some of the advances and obstacles in the dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
On Sunday, we enjoyed an inspiring Divine Liturgy in our chapel with Fr. Richard Rohrer as the celebrant. Afterwards, we took a long walked around the shrine and enjoyed the beautiful weather, then went to Blazin’ Bill’s Restaurant for some awesome ribs and camaraderie. We reluctantly said our good-byes and then they departed for their long trek back to North Carolina. It was a great joy and blessing to have them with us, and we wish they weren’t so far away, though they are close in our hearts. When all is said and done, we thank Christ our Bridegroom for His steadfast love and all the blessings that he abundantly showers upon us!
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Nun Friends & Upcoming Events
If you will be near Solon, Ohio, this Saturday, please stop in at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church to say hi! We will have a table at the craft fair where we will be selling our jam, jelly, apple & pear butters, breads and more! We will also be raffling off a beautiful Christmas gift basket. We (especially Sr. Celeste) have been working hard to transform the fruits God has given us into delicious gifts for you and your family!
Details about this and other upcoming events, including a Vigil for All Nascent Human Life and our 2nd Annual St. Nicholas Vespers and Potluck, can be found on our Events Page.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Fall Work Day 2010
“Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he gave over the vineyard to caretakers. For its fruit one would have to pay a thousand silver pieces. My vineyard is at my disposal; the thousand pieces are for you, O Solomon, and two hundred for the caretakers of its fruit.” (Song of Songs 8:11-12) There are times when tending to the “vineyard” at our disposal is a bit overwhelming. We were blessed with wonderful caretakers on our workday on October 2, 2010.
What a great day! The weather was cool and damp, and an occasional misty rain throughout the day made the outdoors a little damp, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm and energy of the caretakers. A good sized crew of individuals and families came to the monastery for our work day and lamb roast. They trimmed trees, fixed spouting, painted, erected another raised raspberry patch, pulled weeds, cleaned and organized the garages, reinforced our herb garden, planted trees, hauled dead branches, prepared the property for winter and any other things that needed attention.
At lunch time we gathered to break from work and shared stories and laughter. (I wonder if they realized that we really feed them to reenergize them to work more.) During lunch, the two youngest volunteers, Irena and Juliana Pochatko, enjoyed the opportunity to momentarily wear an apostolnik (veil), but I believe the adults enjoyed it more than they.
The chapel was filled with beautiful voices of praise as we prayed Vespers with Fr. Gary Francisko. We thank God for holding back the heavy rains until Vespers. Afterwards we went to the shrine cafeteria to enjoy the lamb roast. It was quite cold, windy and wet, so we gathered inside the cafeteria. Everyone was able to enjoy the delicious roasted lamb and chicken through the generosity of Steve Trudick. They all brought various covered dishes to share which enhanced the camaraderie. We are grateful to God and for the selfless work and love of our caretakers. Their precious friendships and the value of their assistance is greater than two hundred pieces of silver. We look forward to our next opportunity to gather together for the glory of God and enjoy the fruit of our vineyard.
Photo of "Sister" Irena courtesy of Denis Kucharski. Thank you! Adorable!
Friday, October 1, 2010
Happy Feast! And Our First YouTube Appearance...
|Icon by the hand of Sr. Julie|
Happy Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God! We also have to mention the feast day of one of our favorite saints...St. Therese! :) I think the two feasts coincide beautifully, especially in the third reading for Vespers: "Let whoever is simple turn in here" (Proverbs 9).
Below is a video of ourselves that we found on YouTube! A woman from the website ClevelandPeople.com went around the vocation tent at the Fest (August 8, 2010) asking members of the religious communities if she could record them praying their favorite prayer. So we sang "It is Truly Proper." I don't think it is our best singing voice, but we thought we would share it with you anyway!
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
A Fruitful Harvest
Song of Songs 7:14
Sr. Celeste and I have been enjoying the fruits of our garden, sharing them, canning them, making jam and jelly with them and thanking our Bridegroom for these gifts that He has blessed us with this year. We thank those who provided us with plants and seeds for our garden. This year we started our garden in a different location than last year (closer to the monastery) and downsized it quite a bit (much more manageable!). For various reasons we tried an interesting method of planting each plant in a bag of topsoil or a pot, in rows, on top of landscaping fabric mulched with grass clippings. It may sound strange, but it worked wonderfully for us (no weeds!). We have been blessed with a delicious crop, especially the multitudes of tomatoes!
|Seminarian Musil helps to make salsa|
|Selling jelly at the Vatra|
As we enjoy the last harvests from our garden we ask for your prayers as we continue to discern God's will in the formation of our monastery and seek to bear fruit that will endure.
We hope you can make it to our fall work day this Saturday! Please remember to RSVP!
Friday, September 10, 2010
Fall Work Day & Lamb Roast Announced!
|Volunteers at last year's fall work day|
Join us for a day of service, prayer, food and fun! Bring friends and make new friends! We need your help with projects such as these: building a raised bed for a second raspberry patch, yard work, repairing downspouts, painting and more!
10:00 a.m. Work day begins
1:00 p.m. Lunch (provided)
5:00 p.m. Great Vespers, followed by lamb roast
-Bring a side dish to share if you are able
-Wear old clothes and dress for the weather
-Please RSVP by Wed. Sept. 29 to 440-834-0290 or firstname.lastname@example.org (so we know how many projects and how much food to prepare)
We realize that this event conflicts with the eparchial women's retreat taking place that weekend. We're sorry for the inconvenience, but this was the only date that worked for us! We hope this will give the dads and kids something to do together while the moms are on retreat!
Check out other upcoming events (there are several happening soon at the shrine) by visiting our "Upcoming Events" page. We hope to see you soon!
Friday, September 3, 2010
Monastery Visit in Olympia, Washington
Fr. Joseph Stanichar, pastor of St. John Chrysostom in Seattle was a gracious host. He traveled to the monastery and drove us to his parish. We shared heartfelt conversations with Father Joseph and his parishioner, Elizabeth, who fed us well, then we all went to the beach to watch the sun set behind the Olympic Mountains and topped off the day with ice cream before heading back.
Sr. Julie and I were also given the opportunity to suit up in bee keeper’s gear and were intrigued by the meticulous and dedicated work of the bees as we watched Mother Irene gently tend to them to start a new hive. Although she was extremely careful, she still was stung. We hope to raise bees at our monastery in the future, but we’ll probably have to stock up on Benadryl.
Blossom, the monastic dog, created some excitement one afternoon when she chased six raccoons up a tree. She had fun barking and jumping at the tree and intimidated the cute raccoons as they cuddled together on a large branch, but they obviously saw no humor in it.
We are grateful to Holy Theophany Monastery and to Fr. Joseph and Elizabeth for their love, prayer and support. We still have a few more places to visit before we discern where God wants us to be for formation, but we continue to trust in the unfailing love and infinite wisdom of our Bridegroom and gaze higher knowing our help will come from Him.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
"O You Through Whom Creation is Renewed"
|Litija prayers during Great Vespers|
|Burial Shroud surrounded by blessed flowers|
|Pausing for prayer before Fr. Rich's talk|
|"Frozen T-shirt" icebreaker|
Sr. Celeste's chicken paprikas was a hit again this year, and sold out quickly!
I learned during the pilgrimage, as God patiently teaches me over and over again, that I will not be in control, no matter how well I plan out my portion of an event. It is He alone who knows how to bring life, breathing His Holy Spirit into the very midst of our actions and conversations. But we can participate in His life-giving action--in the renewal of creation--by following the example of the Mother of God, for, "Today she places her all-pure soul into the hands of her Son. With her, the universe is filled with joy, and the grace of salvation is given to us" (A hymn at the Litija).
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Our First Vocation Table--at the Fest!
We enjoyed meeting the members of the other communities represented and catching up with friends who stopped by to chat and show their support. Later in the afternoon we joined some friends on their blanket in the field to enjoy a live concert by one of our favorite musicians--Matt Maher!
Thank you for your prayers for our pilgrimage here at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch last weekend. It went very well, and we promise to post some pictures soon!
Monday, August 9, 2010
Summer Youth Events
Praying compline each night at midnight was a highlight for us, as well as the impromptu Panachida (prayer service for the deceased) prayed one night for recently departed Metropolitan Basil. The most inspiring moment however, would have to be the procession from the college to Sts. Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church, a couple blocks away, and the Divine Liturgy celebrated with all of the bishops. A group of teens had been practicing throughout the weekend to cantor the liturgy, and with the incredible singing and the sense of energy and reverence, we were quite sure we were in heaven!
Two weeks after the Youth Rally we hosted the 2nd Annual Life in Christ Girls' Sleepover Weekend, sponsored by the eparchial Office of Vocations, July 22-25. Teen girls from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania gathered to pray, have fun and learn about modeling Christ, during the weekend themed "Byzantine Next Top Model: What are you modeling?" Activities such as the "Maze of Life," virtue fashion show skits, crafts and games complemented a talk by Sr. Julie and Jessie Houck on real beauty and being clothed with Christ, a talk by Sr. Celeste on the monastic habit and how we are all called to live in poverty, chastity and obedience, and other talks on the challenges and joys of married life and the importance and joy of the Mystery of Holy Repentance.
The girls seemed to enjoy spending time with us at the monastery. During a competitive game of Spud, participant Rose Hunt from St. Stephen's in Euclid exclaimed, "I never knew nuns could be so crazy!" (We hope it's the good kind of crazy...)
On Saturday we spent a beautiful evening in the chapel across the street, gathered in the dark around an icon of Christ surrounded by candles, meditating on how we had at times failed to model Christ in our lives. One by one we participated in Christ's healing grace in the Mystery of Holy Repentance and returned cleansed, clothed anew in Christ.
On Sunday morning the girls prayed Matins in our chapel and then joined the boys (who were participating in the Alive in Christ Ascetical Boot Camp for Guys across the street at the Shrine) and families down at the Shrine altar for the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with Bishop John. The weekend closed with a nice dinner and wrap-up awards program.
So, we are looking for a much-needed break! Hmm... In the meantime, please keep in your prayers the annual pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Mariapoch taking place across the street at the Shrine this weekend, especially for the teens and young adults who will be camping out. (Good weather would be great!) If you are in the area please stop by! The schedule is available here. You won't want to miss, among other things, Sr. Celeste's chicken paprikas!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Two Monastery Visits
Afterwards we visited the Holy Myrrhbearers Orthodox Monastery in Otego, New York. We enjoyed the opportunity to pray with the sisters and eat with them. We witnessed their hard work in the garden, barn and fields as they cared for their goats and sheep. We were edified by their joy. I had the opportunity to milk one of their goats. I think I bonded with the goat! Sr. Julie and I also enjoyed feeding some of the baby goats as they guzzled down milk from a bottle. We actually drank the goat’s milk and it was surprisingly delicious! Mother Raphaela offered us two goats to take home with us, but we really aren’t prepared to take proper care of them…who knows, maybe we will in the future, especially in our efforts to rid the massive poison ivy growing in the woods where we hope to have our prayer walk!
We also traveled with the Holy Myrrhbearers to the annual pilgrimage at St. Tikhon Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. What a beautiful Divine Liturgy. It was two and a half hours long, but didn’t seem like it. Our holy excursion to Pennsylvania and New York was a wonderful experience. We hope to return again. As we continue to seek God’s will with all our hearts and souls, we are eternally grateful to Christ, our Bridegroom, for all the blessings and love experienced. I believe that the relationships that developed during our brief visit will be life-long and fruitful.
You are welcome to view additional photos from our trip:
Monday, June 14, 2010
Eternal Memory, Metropolitan Basil
Please also keep our Church in your prayers and those who will be choosing the new Metropolitan. May the Holy Spirit be poured out on them.
May God grant to His servant the Priest Metropolitan Basil Eternal Memory and Blessed Repose!
Obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Spring Work Day
A huge thank-you goes out to all who came to share their hands, talents and joy with us! The energy throughout the monastery and grounds was uplifting. Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit?
Please view our pictures from the work day:
|Spring 2010 Work Day|
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Front Page News!
‘My heart was just burning within me and I knew that was what God was calling me to’
By Loretta Nemeth
BURTON, Ohio — On Monday morning of Holy Week, March 29, following the celebration of Bridegroom Matins in the chapel of the former residence of Mariapoch Sisters Flora and Adalberta, Bishop John gave his approval of the first steps to the establishment of the Monastery of Christ the Bridegroom there. Acknowledging that Julie Hritz and Celeste Strohmeyer have lived a modified monastic life at the residence for over a year and have formulated a draft typicon to govern a monastic community of women, Bishop John asked for their commitment "to continue this endeavor to its canonical establishment and your full membership."
Following their agreement, Bishop John gave them the following permissions:
•to maintain a private chapel, with the privilege that Divine Liturgy served there will satisfy one’s obligation for Sunday and holy days of obligation, and
•to use some of the monastic symbols: to preface their baptismal names with the title "Sister" and to wear a common garb whenever representing the monastery.
Bishop John then blessed the property and presented the sisters with an antimension for their chapel.
The journey to that day began during the time Sister Celeste was a nun of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Province, Uniontown, Pa.
Sister Celeste is originally from Niles and one of 11 siblings. A vocation from St. John Parish in Solon, she worked at Nestle USA for 10 years there before becoming a nun. Sister Celeste was the director of youth ministry for the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. "I liked where I was," she said, but felt God calling her in a different direction. Unsure of what the direction was, Sister Celeste said it started to materialize through casual conversations with Bishop John about his vision and finally with his open letter to invite the establishment of traditional Eastern monastic communities in the eparchy.
Sister Celeste was given a year’s leave of absence from her religious community to discern this new calling. It was an intense time of "tons of prayers," and the decision to answer this new call was not without heartache. "The decision to leave my sisters – and the teens – was difficult," said Sister Celeste.
Bishop John’s invitation letter also hit home with Sister Julie. "When I was reading the letter, my heart was just burning within me and I knew that was what God was calling me to," she said. Sister Julie was in her final semester at the University of Akron and living on campus at the time she read the letter. After praying about it, she wrote a letter to Bishop John, expressing her interest in a monastic community. Sister Julie is a member of St. Joseph Parish in Brecksville and after graduation lived with her parents and two brothers in North Royalton and continued working at Right to Life of Summit County until she moved into the monastery.
The two women visited Sisters Flora and Adalberta, now at Regina Health Care Center in Richfield, seeking to rent their former residence at the shrine. The elderly sisters were so excited to hear that the home would again be a monastery and that Sisters Celeste and Julie would continue being involved at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch that they just turned the property over.
Sisters Celeste and Julie, along with many, many volunteers, began renovating the house in January 2009. The house was still under major renovation when the women moved in April 3, 2009. They and their helpers pulled down paneling, installed dry wall and tore down a wall to expand the chapel. "New life was generated there," said Sister Celeste, "with people coming in, really giving of their time, giving us things that we needed."
"The first summer we were there, we were already able to help out with activities at the shrine, host the girls’ camp and host two discernment retreats," Sister Julie said.
Their project over the winter and spring was to compose a provisional typicon, a monastic rule of life for the community. The sisters said that their typicon was inspired by John Paul II’s document "Orientale Lumen." In that letter he "encouraged the rediscovery of Eastern monasticism, especially in the United States … and called the church to support these monasteries," said Sister Julie. They also looked at the typicons of other Eastern monasteries. "We made it our own unique typicon by incorporating our own spirituality of the spousal relationship with Christ," she said.
The ceremony on Holy Monday "made us a part of the eparchy as Christ the Bridegoom community and commissioned us to begin it, so we promised to live by what we’ve spelled out in our typicon," Sister Julie said.
Sister Celeste commented on the day: "I felt excitement, more grounded – for me personally, it was neat that I could be called ‘Sister’ again … the bishop’s presence, especially during Bridegroom Matins, that was such a very significant and intimate connection with the eparchy, Jesus Christ, our community … it culminated that sense of unity."
Sister Julie said she "felt kind of nervous about making that commitment," but she said she was also glad that they could "take this step to move ahead with the formation of the monastery. … It was good to have Bishop’s concrete support."
Sister Julie also said, "I felt more deeply our need for the prayers of the church to help us at this time."
The next step for the sisters is to formalize their formation process and who will be assisting them. Once their formation is complete, they will be able to invite other women to join the community; they have been in communication with women who are already interested in the community.
The sisters see their ministry as prayer and hospitality, welcoming people and helping them to understand and nurture the spousal relationship with Christ. Right now, they can host individuals who need to get away and have a personal retreat. Future goals include working with youth and families, especially at the shrine pilgrimages, and to be able to host formal retreats for small groups.
The sisters said their blog (http://christthebridegroom.blogspot.com) has been a good communication tool. They also said Eastern Christian Media (easternchristianmedia.com) was a big help to them in the production of the video on the creation of the monastery. There is a link to the video on Eastern Christian Media’s home page.
The sisters invite helpers to their next work day at the monastery, Saturday, May 22, beginning at 10 a.m. The day will include lunch, great vespers and a cookout. They ask that volunteers planning to attend contact them at (440) 834-0290 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Holy Week 2010
On Holy Saturday afternoon we attended Vespers with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma. We were thrilled to hear a beautiful homily from Bishop John about the Resurrection as the wedding feast for the marriage of Christ the Bridegroom and His Church. Bishop John also mentioned the creation of our monastery and its dedication to this spousal relationship. We would like to share with you the text of his homily:
In the book of Revelations, we read: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready.” (Rv 19:7)
Thursday, April 1, 2010
The Beginning Continues
Bishop: In 2008 I issued a call for the establishment of monasteries to complete the ecclesial activity of the Eparchy of Parma. I identified this property, a gift from Sisters Flora and Adalberta, Sisters of Mariapoch, to be a monastery of nuns. For over a year you have resided here, living a modified monastic life and, with the help of many others, improving the property. From your experience, combined with the shared experience of other monasteries of women, you have formulated a draft typicon to govern the life of nuns in a monastery to be established here at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch in the future. You have expressed a desire to continue this endeavor to its canonical establishment and your full membership. And so I give approval of these first steps to the establishment of the Monastery of Christ the Bridegroom and I ask you
Bishop: Are you aware of the expectations presented in the typicon, that was given initial approval, and are you willing to try to live according to it?
Celeste, Julie: I am.
Bishop: Are you willing to represent the monastery appropriately as you continue formation into the monastic way?
Celeste, Julie: I am.
Bishop: Are you willing to welcome others into the community?
Celeste, Julie: I am.
Bishop: Do you acknowledge that your involvement in this monastery is one of formation and discernment and that, until formal formation begins, you do not have canonical standing as a monastic?
Celeste, Julie: I do.
Bishop: Are you willing to grow in the spiritual life toward a possible full entry into the monastic way?
Celeste, Julie: I am with the help of God.
Bishop: I, as Bishop of Parma, assure you that the eparchy will provide you every support at our disposal. To lay the foundation upon which the monastery will be built, I grant you the following permissions. I give you permission to maintain a private chapel, with the privilege that Divine Liturgy served here will satisfy one’s obligation for Sunday and holy days of obligation. I give you permission to use some of the monastic symbols: you will preface your baptismal name with the title “Sister” and you will wear a common garb whenever representing the monastery.
Although not graced with vows, your living the life of the evangelical virtues will identify you with the monastery and the monastery will be identified as an appropriate means of grace. Because the monastery has no canonical status, all real property and its contents, unless specifically identified, remain the property of the eparchy. By following the typicon you will live a chaste life. To be able to maintain obedience to this way of life, we must identify one person to serve as guardian of the common life, a role satisfied in a monastery by the hegumena or abbess. To that end, are you, Sister Celeste, willing to serve in this role until such time that the monastery will be established and a hegumena identified?
Sister Celeste: I am.
Bishop: May God be blessed by this endeavor and may He bless the monastery with properly motivated nuns and may he bless each of us with proper discernment.
Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord.
Response: Lord, have mercy.
Bishop: Almighty God, creator and fashioner of all, who made Heaven with understanding, and founded the earth on its firmness: Look down on your servants Sister Celeste and Sister Julie, who, together with myself and many others, desire, in the might of Your strength, to raise up a monastery. Establish it on a firm rock, and, according to Your Divine Voice in the Gospel, found it so that neither wind nor water, nor anything whatsoever may be able to harm it. Be well-pleased to bring it to completion and bring those who desire to be members thereof to live lives worthy of Christ the Bridegroom, and to be delivered from the snare of the adversary.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, Father Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.
Bishop: This property, as it is, and as it may become, is blessed with the sprinkling of this Holy Water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Longing for Paradise
We do not have doors yet on the iconostas in our chapel (actually we only have two tall icons…though a design has been drawn up!), but if we did, we would be praying before these closed doors each day remembering our exile from Paradise.
The Great Fast, or Lent, is all about this exile. The Sunday before the fast begins, called Cheesefare Sunday (because it is the last day we eat dairy products before the fast) or Forgiveness Sunday (because at the end of vespers that evening, which marks the beginning of the fast, we forgive each other), the theme is the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. We remember the sin of our first parents and our own sin, and in the prayers of Matins we call out to Paradise itself:
O pleasant meadows, O sweetness of Paradise, * you trees planted by God, * let your leaves, as so many eyes, pour out tears for my nakedness * and my estrangement from the glory of God. (Ode 4 of the Canon, Matins of Cheesefare Sunday)
Why are we called now to remember this particular chapter in our history?
It is because God is calling us to Himself, and He wants us to long for the Paradise we have lost. Before we experience His Resurrection, we must know why we need this Resurrection.
The prayers of the Church will take us on a journey. Especially in the Old Testament readings during vespers and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, we will travel from the Garden of Eden, through the whole book of Genesis, to the beginning of Moses’ mission.
As we listen to these stories we will see in them glimpses of our own sinfulness, our own tendencies to choose our own paths instead of God’s, and our own longings to be reunited with Him. The story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Paradise is especially appropriate, because we do not have anything to strive for unless we realize that we have fallen—fallen from a state of great dignity and glory. How will we hear God calling us to Himself if we do not know that we are separated from Him?
The 40 days of the Great Fast are a journey through a spiritual desert, just as the Israelites wandered for 40 years through the desert, exiled by their sins. We can reflect on many similarities: Our deserts are full of difficulties and temptations similar to the struggles faced by the Israelites; we will come face to face with ourselves and fall in our weaknesses just as the Israelites grumbled against God and fell into to the worship of idols; we are fed by the Eucharist at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts just as God provided manna for the Israelites; and at the end of our journey we know that the Resurrection awaits us, just as the Israelites entered into the Promised Land.
At Forgiveness Vespers, which begin the Great Fast, we softly sing part of the Resurrection Canon as we forgive each other. We will sing this Canon at Resurrection Matins in its full splendor, but we are given a little taste now so that we long for more.
It is your joyful task to continue to reflect on all that God is speaking to us during this journey through the desert. May we all recognize our longing for Paradise and know that this longing is a great gift.
O delightful Paradise, * share in the sorrow of your fallen master, * and, by the whispering of your leaves, beseech the Creator * not to keep you closed forever; * O merciful Lord, have mercy on me, a fallen one. (Ikos of the Canon, Matins of Cheesefare Sunday)
For additional Lenten reflections, we recommend listening to podcasts by Fr. Thomas Hopko at Ancient Faith Radio: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko
Thursday, January 28, 2010
A Witness of Life and Joy
The ByzanTEENs joined a massive convergence of people celebrating life and praying for an end to abortion at the 37th Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Friday, January 22.
Departing the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio, at 5:30 a.m., the sleepy teens, many of whom would be attending the march for the first time, did not quite know what they would be experiencing. When the group of 13 teens, 10 young adult and adult chaperones and one priest (Fr. Mychail Rozmarynowyz, St. Basil, Sterling Heights, Mich.) stepped out of the Metro station in the center of D.C., a scene of an estimated 300,000 people stretched out in front of them.
“It was a very life changing experience to see all of the people there supporting the same cause,” said Rachel Pawluszka, a teen from St. Basil in Sterling Heights, Mich.
“Seeing all of the other people there at the March got me to think about what we were marching for,” said Cathedral teen David Bratnick. This year’s march took place in the midst of the national health care debate, in which federal funding of abortion is the major issue at stake. Many signs read, “Abortion is not Healthcare.”
The group met up with Bishop John, Fr. Richard Plishka and several of the Byzantine seminarians and marched to the Supreme Court building, following an icon of the Visitation depicting Jesus and John the Baptist in the wombs of their mothers. The young adults led the singing of Marian hymns using portable speakers.
“Everybody was asking questions about the icons, which I thought was cool,” said Pawluszka.
At the Supreme Court building various groups paused to sing or pray in their own unique expressions as the mass of marchers continued to pour around the corner and in front of the building. The ByzanTEENs stopped at the edge of the crowd to share their own gift by praying the Akathist to the Mother of God, led by Bishop John.
Numerous marchers paused at the circle of Byzantines to listen for a while to the words and melody of this beautiful prayer. One man planted himself next to the icon sign holding a sign of his own that read: “When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe John leapt in the womb…(Lk 1:41)” He smiled at the group as he stood there, knowing that his sign described this icon perfectly. In this and in so many ways, the group was united to all of the many other marchers.
Just as the Akathist was finished the march ended. The group ate dinner nearby and then returned to the Supreme Court building, which was now lit up against the black sky. The marchers were gone and the streets had been returned to their usual car traffic. The teens sat in front of the steps as young adults Jessie Houck and Julie Hritz gave a reflection and led the group in prayer.
The group stayed overnight at Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church in Annandale, Va., where they prayed compline at night with Bishop John and third hour in the morning. On Saturday the 23rd, the group explored several of the Catholic sites in D.C., including the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. For lunch the group took a break at the Ukrainian Catholic Monastery of the Holy Cross.
The trip concluded with vespers and Divine Liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The beautiful Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop John in the Byzantine chapel, and attracted the attention of pilgrims visiting the various chapels in the Basilica. Many stopped to experience part of the Liturgy.
Bratnick enjoyed capturing the trip on video along with young adult Jenny Forkal. “I plan to edit the video with Jenny at the Eastern Christian Media Studio,” he said, and he hopes to incorporate the funny moments of the trip along with the serious.
Pawluszka said, “I would tell someone who wants to come next year to bring their walking shoes because it’s going to be a blast. There were so many cool things that we did this year and next year should be even better!”
Saturday, January 2, 2010
A BIG “thank you” goes out to Bob Kasarda and the people of Eastern Christian Media and Gemini Productions for sponsoring, filming and editing the video, and for posting it on their home page! Please visit http://www.easternchristianmedia.com/bridegroom.html to check it out! Running time is 9 minutes.
We would also like to share a couple of photos from our first Christmas Eve at the monastery. It was a gloriously joyful day packed with prayer, cooking, laughs and time with friends. In addition to praying Matins, Royal Hours and Great Compline, Bishop John joined us in the afternoon to celebrate Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. We also held the traditional Christmas Eve Velija Supper, complete with twelve dishes representing the twelve apostles, straw under and on the table reminding us of Christ’s birth in the manger, and other meaningful traditions. As the Mother of God treasured in her heart the birth of her Son and the visit of the shepherds, we also will always treasure the memory of this Christmas Eve.