Sunday, August 7, 2011

We'll be back!

Dear Friends,

We wanted to let you know why you won’t be hearing from us too much (if at all) for the next three months.

We are heading out to Otego, New York, for a stay with the nuns of Holy Myrrhbearers Orthodox Monastery.  This experience will be a time of preparation for Sr. Celeste as she prepares for her life profession on November 20th of this year, and it will also be an opportunity for all three of us to learn from an established Eastern monastery.  We are grateful to the nuns for enthusiastically welcoming us into their home and community life for these three months!

We are also grateful to those who have offered to work on projects around the monastery and grounds throughout this time that we are gone.  We know that the monastery is in good hands!

We are sad that we will not be able to be present to the pilgrims at the annual eparchial pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch (Aug. 13-14) right across the street from the monastery, but God has chosen this time for us to spend with Him and to learn more about the monastic life.  He is asking us to trust Him in an even deeper way—to let go and trust that He is taking care of everything.  We hope that this time will help us to become better nuns so that when we return we will be better able to love you, to be a witness to you and to uphold the Church in prayer.

As we leave, we are carrying all of you and your needs with us, even if we do not know you.  We believe that this time away will help us to draw even closer to you and to the whole Church as we intensify our prayer life, draw closer to Christ and unite our daily work with your efforts and struggles.

We are asking for your prayers also.  We rely on the prayers of the people of the Church so that we can continue to be open to God’s will and faithful to Him, especially when difficult challenges arise.  Thank you and God bless you!

Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery is part of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), and their website is

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Transfigured Vision

“The world will be saved by beauty.” –Dostoevsky

On a quiet morning as I gaze out the window at the drizzling rain and the hazy trees in the distance, this phrase comes to mind. I see the daisies bent over by the weight of raindrops, the multicolored daylilies adorning the chapel sign and the intricate and rugged bark of the large maple tree. God has given me the priceless gift of seeing the world with the eyes of an artist.

As I take it all in, I am mulling over the reason for art. What comes to me is the longing God has placed in our very beings—the longing for beauty. The artistic ability (in different forms) is a gift given to many of us to draw hearts to God. I think of my love for landscapes, but more especially for the “close up” details. I love to photograph the interior of a flower, a grasshopper perched on a blade of grass or a drop of water on a leaf. The artist focuses our attention on beauty—or rather, teaches us how to see beauty. He teaches us to pause, just as this rainy morning has taught me, to alter our gaze, and to allow the world to be transfigured. The artist teaches us to see, not everything all at once (because this has confused us), but the little, tiny strokes of beauty. From there he opens our eyes to the reality of infinite beauty, purity and holiness. He opens our eyes to God Himself.

The tiny strokes of beauty are ones that we can imitate by our gentleness and silence. And the more we truly see and experience beauty, the deeper our longing for beauty becomes. The more we long for beauty, the more we long for God—for an intimate union with Him. And so in a way, we can say, “The world will be saved by beauty!” It is God Himself who has given it to us, created us for it and is beautiful Himself without flaw. He is calling us to this perfect beauty and to see it in each other, so we can cry out with the bridegroom in the Song of Songs: “You are all beautiful, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you” (4:7).

The process and experience of the artist not only teaches others to see beauty in the world; it also allows the Holy Spirit to work in the artist himself and transfigure him and his vision. This transfigured vision allows us to see the joy and the grace of God that permeates all things, even suffering.
“An all-embracing love…transfigures its object, making the human environment transparent, so that the uncreated energies of God shine through it” (Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, “The Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity”).

Blessed John Paul II also has wisdom for us on this topic, in one of his letters to artists:
"Human beings, in a certain sense, are unknown to themselves. Jesus Christ not only reveals God, but fully reveals man to man. In Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself. All believers are called to bear witness to this; but it is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation which, according to St. Paul, 'awaits impatiently the revelation of the children of God' (Rom 8:19), is redeemed. The creation awaits the revelation of the children of God also through art and in art. This is your task. Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny” (Letter of Pope John Paul II to Artists, n.14, April 4, 1999).
What a beautiful opportunity we have today to reflect on beauty: the Feast of the Transfiguration!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ordination Pilgrimage

We promised that we would share more about what we have been up to this summer, so here you are!  Earlier this summer (in June) we were blessed with the opportunity to take a pilgrimage (and it truly was a pilgrimage!) out West, with our destination being Las Vegas (of all places!) for the ordination of Fr. Diodoro Mendoza to the priesthood.  Fr. Diodoro is a good friend of ours and it was truly worth it to make the trip, by car, all the way to Las Vegas.

God provided in so many ways for us on our trip.  In His providence He arranged for places for us to stay with people we didn't even know (found through mutual friends), but who will now remain our friends.  He provided donations, great weather and so many memories.  He placed so many beautiful people in our path, connecting us, as He loves to do, with those who would inspire us and those whose lives He wanted us to touch.

The highlight of our trip was Fr. Diodoro's ordination and his first Divine Liturgy the next day, both at his home parish, Our Lady of Wisdom Byzantine Catholic Church in Las Vegas.  Our Church has been gifted with an amazing priest!  At Fr. Diodoro's first Divine Liturgy it seemed to us like he had been a priest for years--his celebration of the Liturgy and preaching seemed so natural to him--he was made for this! :)  It was also wonderful to spend time with the seminarians and all of the people we met.

On our way to Las Vegas we stopped at several National Parks, including Arches, Bryce Canyon, Zion and the Grand Canyon.  These excursions were blessed opportunities to enjoy the beauty of God's creation, spend some time in quiet contemplation and speak to other visitors who were curious about our way of life.  Some favorite memories include singing "O Joyful Light" at the Grand Canyon as we watched the sun set, hiking at Bryce Canyon and sitting in the silence of the desert at night at Arches National Park.

On our way out and our way back we stopped at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Church in Denver and joined the parish for Divine Liturgy.  We loved meeting the parishoners and spending time with Fr. Michael O'Loughlin and his family.  Our final scenic excursion was Rocky Mountain National Park with Fr. Michael, and then we headed home.  On the way home we also stopped at Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Church in Homer Glen, Ill., and joined the parish for vespers and Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist.  God continued to bless us even as we returned home, introducing us to a beautiful family at the parish.  We enjoyed our last night of the trip with a cookout with Fr. Tom and these parishioners.

We thank all the amazing people who hosted us or supported us in various ways throughout our trip!  It was a much-needed and inspiring pilgrimage, and we will cherish these memories forever!