Sunday, October 27, 2013

Entering into the Love of the Trinity: Sr. Cecilia’s Reflection on the General Assembly

This is our second reflection on the Eparchy of Parma's General Assembly.  See our October 15th post for Sr. Gabriella's reflection.

After a powerful experience of the Mystery of Holy Repentance (confession) on Friday and as I sat down in the church, I felt strongly that there was something I needed to totally give over to God.  TOTALLY—to be able to say, “You can take this out of my life if You want to; I surrender it.” I panicked.  I was terrified to give this over TOTALLY.  But I immediately heard Jesus speak to my heart, almost in a sad tone of voice: “Do you think I won’t give it back to you?”  My stubborn heart was melted.  How could I refuse to surrender this gift to the One who loves me TOTALLY?  He was even telling me that He would give it back to me!  In the very instant I heard these words, I also understood that this statement didn’t mean that the thing I needed to give over would be given back to me in exactly the same way as I have it now, but I knew that it would come in the form that is exactly as I need it.

During the Assembly, God was speaking to my heart in a very personal way, yet this personal experience was not separate from my experience of being part of the Church.  In fact, it seemed to me that God was speaking the same things to the Church as He was speaking to my heart.  This makes so much sense.  Deacon Michael Lee explained that we are made to live in the context of the Church, and “without communion is despair.”

Here are a few other quotes that struck me during the Assembly (there were also many others!):

Fr. David Petras:
“We are in love with the Divine Liturgy…because this is God who gives Himself to us.”
“It is God who takes initiative.”

Deacon Michael Lee:
“The cross reveals God’s love;…we see an inkling of the love of the Trinity.”
“Look at what He did [giving Himself on the cross]…WHY DO WE DOUBT HIM?”

God loves us!  We are loved by infinite love!  And yet, Deacon Michael reminded us, as he spoke about the love of the Trinity revealed through the cross: “We are supposed to have that kind of love for each other.”  “We find ourselves only in the sincere gift of self,” he said.  We were created for no less than to enter into the love of the Trinity—to enter into a continual life-giving cycle of self-emptying and receiving!  Our Church, founded by Christ, was made for no less than this!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “God’s very being is love.  By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (221).

When we look at our relationships with God and others in terms of this “eternal exchange of love”—this cycle of self-emptying and receiving—we understand what it means to be Church and what it means to be human.  And when we discern that God is asking something particular of us, we will be able to see how His request fits into this life-giving cycle (or at least trust that it does!).  We will know that whatever He asks us to let go of, He will give back in greater measure!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

LIVE from Mumford Rd: Episode 5!

Don't miss this episode, which includes a beautiful interview with the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light, a new community of Maronite Sisters which was founded around the same time as our monastery!

"LIVE from Mumford Rd" takes you inside Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, with your hosts Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella, LIVE in the eternal time of the Kingdom of God!

In this episode, the Sisters talk about what they have been up to and about their upcoming discernment retreat.  They answer an "ask the nuns" question and read a quote from one of their favorite books.  Sr. Gabriella also interviews Sr. Marla Marie and Sr. Therese Maria of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light.  And, as always...there are bloopers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sharing in God's Serenity: Sr. Gabriella's Reflection on the General Assembly

Our previous post included the witness videos from our eparchy's General Assembly which took place last month.  The Assembly was a powerful experience for each of us and for the eparchy; therefore we would like to reflect on it, especially during this time when the parishes are holding follow-up sessions.  We hope that our reflections will also benefit those outside the Eparchy of Parma!

In his book Courage to Pray, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom writes:
“Often we are in tumult… That is why our prayer is trembling and hesitant, a prayer of tumult, uncertainty and incoherence.  Isn’t this the story of the storm on the lake of Galilee?  The Lord and his disciples are on the lake.  A tempest comes up when they are out to sea.  Death threatens them, the waves are huge, the winds beat against them.  They fight for their lives as hard as they can, and all this while the Lord is asleep on a cushion at the prow.  He looks comfortable to them.  They can’t bear him looking so comfortable, his indifference.  In their wretchedness they turn to him, wake him up, try to force him to realize what is happening.  ‘Lord, do you not see that we perish?’  But what are they doing by asking this question?  Are they appealing to the Lord to control the storm?  Yes and no.  First of all they want him to share their suffering.  They want him to be as anxious as they are.  They think he will not help them unless he shares their anxiety.  The Lord gets up, he refuses to share their panic.  He keeps his own serenity.  First he turns to them, ‘How long must I be with you, men of little faith?’  And then he turns towards the storm, and casts his own serenity onto it.  He orders the waves to be still and the wind to be silent, and his own peace to come down on everything about him.  The storm is still and the disciples fall at his feet.  Who is he?  They are still doubtful.  We often make the same mistake.  Instead of seeking to share God’s serenity, we ask God to share our tumult.  Of course he does share it, but with his own serenity.”

While reflecting on the Assembly, I read this excerpt from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom’s book, Courage to Pray, and I saw a few things that made a lot of sense to me.  First of all, I saw myself – in my own sinfulness, restless in the tumult of my own life, seeking Christ to calm the storm – instead of curling up with Him in the helm and realizing the God who I love can conquer all and has all under control.  I am the problem.  How often I am the small child yelling for my Father to “Fix it!” instead of the trusting child, curled up in His lap, assured that He is in control.

Next I saw our Byzantine Church, scared about what is coming next: “How will everything turn out, how will we keep this or that church open, where are the young people?!”  I saw our Church rushing to Jesus asleep in the boat, shaking Him, demanding Him to share in our anxiety – seeing only our fears of the future, not His insurmountable wisdom and power at work – the work that needs both death and resurrection in order to be complete.

Then I looked at myself and our Church in light of the Assembly and I felt a sense of peace.  Serenity.  Trust.  Openness.  After experiencing such a weekend of prayer, opportunities for forgiveness, times of personal and communal reflection, talks on Jesus, Mary and prayer, witnesses of Christ working in the lives of people – my heart is moved.  I felt on a personal level what I would venture to say everyone present on group level experienced, which is a true revival of faith, hope and trust in God and in prayer and a greater appreciation for our shepherd and father, Bishop John, who valiantly led all of us through the experience.

What a weekend it was!  I dare to say we and future generations will look back at this Assembly and see it as a decisive moment in the history of the Eparchy of Parma.  Now it’s up to each one of us – clergy, monastics, and laity – to embody the fervor, to enflesh the zeal, to incarnate the Gospel of Jesus Christ we received at the Assembly or that we will receive through the subsequent meetings.  We need to see the Church in a new light – one of hope, one of trust, one of expectation.  We need to act now not as one dead but as one truly alive.  As St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  Let us make St. Paul’s words to the Galatians our own:  “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (2:19-20).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Eparchial Assembly Witness Videos!

You may or may not have heard about our Eparchial Assembly that happened just a few short weeks ago, but it was a wonderful event held at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Parma, Ohio for members of the Eparchy of Parma.  We were privileged to be present throughout the weekend for all the prayer services and talks, and we wanted to share with you some videos of the witnesses that were given during the Friday presentation.  Say a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit for the continued efforts of the Assembly - then dive right in to these great personal reflections on our Eastern Catholic faith and our Byzantine Church in America!

Bishop John:

Fr. David Petras:

Mrs. Anna Barna:

Chris Singel:

ByzanTEENs and Young Adults:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Interviewed by Fr. Mark of EWTN's Life on the Rock!

Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella were interviewed by Fr. Mark from EWTN's show for young people, Life on the Rock, at the Fest in Cleveland this August.  Fr. Mark asked them some tough questions, but they had a great time and did their best to answer from the heart based on their experiences in the monastic life.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hot off the Press!

Our Summer/Fall edition of Pomegranate Blossoms is now online!

Have you heard about someone making a "pilgrimage" to a holy place, or have you made one yourself? Have you attended the annual "pilgrimage" at Mt. St. Macrina, the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch or another religious shrine? WHY DO WE DO THIS?? We hope you'll enjoy Sr. Gabriella's article, "What is a Pilgrimage for?" in the newest edition of our newsletter.

We have also included photos of groups who have visited the monastery this year, as well as articles on our girls' camp and the Mariapoch pilgrimage. The back page includes information on our upcoming discernment retreat in November. Enjoy and share with a friend!

Photo: Enjoying a visit from Pilgrim George, a life-long pilgrim,  as he made his summer pilgrimage through Ohio this year.