Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pope Francis, St. Andrew of Crete, St. Mary of Egypt...

We were blessed to have the opportunity to watch the announcement of the new pope live on the internet (we don't have television).  We delayed the start of our Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (the Lenten evening Liturgy celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays) to watch, and then began the it was probably one of the first liturgies to commemorate Pope Francis!  We are thrilled to welcome and pray for our new Holy Father!

Check out this article: Pope Francis is very familiar with the Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy!

On Thursday we led the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio, joined by about 30 others who came to pray with us.  The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, prayed in the Eastern Church on Thursday of the 5th Week of the Great Fast (Lent), takes us on a journey through the entire Bible, placing us in the shoes of all the penitents of the Old and New Testaments and teaching us from their examples.  The hundreds of prostrations unite our body and soul as we repent of our sins and experience God's mercy.  It was truly a moving experience for us, not only because of the beauty and intensity of the service, but also because of the unity we felt with those who came to pray with us.    Their deep prayer and perseverance lifted us up off the ground after each prostration and filled us with great energy!  Thank you!

This short video is a small look into this beautiful three-hour long service:

Happy Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt!  (Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast)  We are praying for you as we complete the Fast and enter into Great and Holy Week!

"Once filled with all kinds of evil, now through repentence she appears as a bride of Christ.  Leading an angelic life, she crushes the devils with the help of the Cross.  Therefore, the venerable Mary has become a bride of the the kingdom." (Kontakion of St. Mary of Egypt)

The story of St. Mary of Egypt--a great read if you have time!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

“This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

(This article was written as a reflection for the Byzantine Catholic Vocations Facebook Page - be sure to check out this great endeavor for our metropolitan church!)

On this fourth Sunday of Lent, we commemorate St. John Climacus, a seventh century monk known most popularly for his work, ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent,’ which is a treatise on the importance of asceticism as a means of attaining spiritual perfection.  The two main ascetical efforts undertaken by the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Byzantine Church during the Great Fast are prayer and fasting.  But why?  Why prayer and fasting?

Prayer is our relationship with God, our connection to the Divine.  It moves our hearts and minds outside of our earthly home, and allows us to lift our “eyes to the hills” because our “help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:1-2)  Often times though, we have trouble praying because we are very attached to this world.  To things, people, food – you name it, we grasp for it.  Fasting attempts to break the hold of these temporal or transitory goods on us in a tangible way so that we may remember that the good things God gives us are just that – gifts provided by God and are not God in and of themselves.  It allows us to take a step back from these essential goods in our life and remind ourselves that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4), that is Jesus Christ.  In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, fasting combined with prayer “allow [Christ] to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”

There are also times in our life (or rather in our hearts) when we experience demons that can only be cast out through prayer and fasting.  We hear in the gospel today about a faith-filled father who approaches Christ on behalf of his demon-possessed son.    Because of the father’s great act of faith, Jesus is able to heal his son – but this healing causes a stir among the disciples.  “Why could we not cast him out?”  Jesus responds, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”  When we encounter such demons, or even harder, the inner reality of our own sinful heart, we realize that prayer and fasting become not just an ascetical effort but a way of life, a necessity to our salvation and a pathway by which we purge our hearts, minds and bodies of the demons or sins that possess us.

According to our Typikon or rule of life, “Fasting is one of the pillars of monastic life and an important tool in attaining detachment, freedom and self-discipline.”  In the tradition of our Holy Fathers, such as St. John Climacus who we commemorate today, monastics participate in the traditional ‘black fast’ for the 40 days of the Great Fast and Holy Week, which means we fast from meat, dairy, wine and oil.  (Yes, there are in fact still some food groups available outside of these categories!)

For monastics, fasting becomes our way of life.  We first learn to fast from food but that external fasting reminds and leads us to the internal reality that I mentioned before – God alone satisfies our hunger.  But we are human – and sometimes are very forgetful. (Perhaps I just speak for myself!)  For this reason, the Church in her Wisdom combines prayer with our fasting.  Again from our Typikon, “However, fasting is not an end in itself….Fasting must always be joined with prayer. Therefore the periods of fasting in the monastery coincide with the liturgical cycle of the Church. In this way, fasting also creates a spirit of expectation and joy as the monastery looks forward to the coming feast.”  By living out our fasting in conjunction with the Church’s liturgical cycle, we are constantly reminded of why we fast  through the prayers we pray and our prayer directs our attention back towards God, the One we desire to fill us.  Just remember, fasting without prayer is simply dieting!  Our fasting must serve a purpose; otherwise we become “a resounding gong or a clashing symbol.” (1 Cor 13:1)

Remember, it is never too late to participate in the Great Fast!  If you haven’t kept your Lenten promises to yourself or you never got around to coming up with any, ‘plug in’ to the wisdom of the Church and pick one of the items of the traditional fast to give up! (Or all of them!)  Find a Lenten prayer service to attend at your church (or at a monastery!) or try praying the Prayer of St. Ephrem.  Offer up these sacrifices for the intention of finding your vocation!  Allow these final weeks of the Great Fast to engage your mind and heart in a new way through the prayer and fasting tradition of the Church, so that when we reach Pascha, you will truly know Christ is RISEN, body and soul!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

LIVE from Mumford Rd: Episode 3!

"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!

This episode begins with a montage of footage filmed by the nuns during their March for Life trip with the ByzanTEENs for Life. The Sisters then answer an "Ask the Nuns" question about Lent in the Monastery and talk about their upcoming Lenten events. This episode again features a fun "Helpful Hints with Handy Gabriella" segment and closes with a word from this episode's "sponsor" Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nun Run!

Pray with us this week for a beautiful group of young women from Benedictine College who are taking a "Nun Run" during their spring break!  We made it into the list of stops on their whirlwind trip that is taking them from Benedictine College in Kansas to as far east as NYC to visit the Sisters of Life and CFR Sisters.  We were blessed to host these inspiring and joyful women overnight, and will host them on their way back west at the end of the week.  God bless you!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Come and pray with us!

Looking for a unique Lenten prayer opportunity?  Join us for one or more of these Lenten services:  (Remember to visit our "Upcoming Events" page for more!)

At the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
1900 Carlton Rd., Parma, Ohio:

The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete
Thursday, March 14; 5:30 p.m.
Join us in a deeply-moving, once-a-year Lenten experience on Thursday, March 14, at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 1900 Carlton Rd., Parma, OH.  The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete takes us on a journey through the entire Bible, placing us in the shoes of all the penitents of the Old and New Testaments and teaching us from their examples.  The hundreds of prostrations unite our body and soul as we repent of our sins and pour ourselves out in love as Christ did on the cross.  Simple Lenten food will be available 5:30-6:30 p.m. and the Canon will begin at 6:30 p.m.  All are invited to come for all or part of the Canon, whether or not you are physically able to participate in the prostrations.  The Canon will last approximately three hours.  Please RSVP by Monday, March 11, to 440-834-0290 or so we know how much food and how many booklets to prepare.
Facebook Event

At the Monastery
17485 Mumford Rd., Burton, Ohio:

Akathist Saturday
Saturday, March 16; 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
On the fifth Saturday of Lent we pray the Akathist to the Mother of God, a beautiful, poetic service in praise of the Mother of God.  The Akathist begins at 11:00 a.m. and will be followed by a simple lunch.  Please RSVP by Monday, March 11 by phone or email.
Facebook Event

Bridegroom Matins
Wednesday, March 27; 8:30 a.m.

Celebrated only on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, the readings and hymns rouse the heart to conversion and vigilance for the coming of the Bridegroom and offer strength to His Bride the Church as we journey with Him in His passion.  The service begins at 8:30 a.m. and will be followed by a light breakfast.  Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 20 by phone or email.
Facebook Event