Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Merry Christmas from the monastery!! 

"You have shown forth from the Virgin, O Christ, Sun of Justice. A star found You, whom nothing can contain, manifested in the cave. It led the Magi to adore You. With them, we worship You, O Giver of Life; glory to You!"

(One of the Troparia of Vespers for the Nativity)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Enjoy our Winter 2016/2017 Issue of Pomegranate Blossoms

In this issue, enjoy a reflection titled "A God of Longing" by Mother Cecilia, read about the tonsure of Sr. Natalia and the "Bridegroom's Banquet," take note of our upcoming events, and more!

May God bless you in these final days of preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord!

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Gift of Seeing Our Poverty

A reflection by Mother Cecilia as we prepare for the Nativity of Our Lord

During this time of preparation for the birth of Our Lord, He has given me the gift of seeing my poverty a little more clearly. I am not talking about poverty in terms of a lack of physical things that I have, but in terms of my utter inability to do anything on my own without God. I’m weak, I’m limited and I’m frequently making mistakes and sinning.

When things are going well, I feel like I’m in control and I think that I can do anything! It’s when I’m struggling and suffering that I see my poverty. God allows this struggle and suffering for many reasons, one of which is that it helps me to see my poverty. When this happens, I often wonder, “Why do I have to see this poverty?” It really hurts! Sometimes I remember the words of one of my favorite saints, who said, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and the greatest of these is to have shown me my littleness, my incapability of any good" (St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul).  Wow! I usually don’t think of this revelation as a gift, let alone as the greatest gift!

I’m beginning to learn that the knowledge of my poverty is a gift. I’d like to share some of the reasons why. First of all, it’s always better to know the truth. “The truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). And the truth is not only that I’m poor; it is also the truth that God is rich—rich in power, mercy and love. Seeing my poverty gives me the opportunity to more clearly see God’s greatness.

Secondly, as I learn the truth, I see that it is God who does all things in me, and I learn that He does them so much better than I could ever imagine. St. Paul tells us that the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Therefore we can say with St. Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).

Thirdly, the knowledge of my poverty shows me that God loves me for who I am, not for any sort of perfect actions I can do for Him. It’s actually my poverty that attracts God to me! The poverty of mankind drew Him to become man and to pour His divinity into our humanity! I am like the poor and messy cave in which Jesus was born. He could have arranged to be born in a cleaner, neater place, but He didn’t. He could wait until I seemingly have “everything under control” to do His work, but He tends to do His most powerful work in me when I am the weakest.

Finally, a great gift of seeing my poverty is so that I can surrender to God and give Him permission to work in me and be with me. When I think that I can do everything, I forget to do it with Him. I forget that He wants to be with me!

As we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord, we notice the poor and messy cave because of the One who was born in it. We rejoice that Jesus chose to enter into this poverty. But the point of the feast is not to remain gazing at the cave and the manger alone, but to gaze upon God who has become man. We can see His face and live (Ex 33:20)! I often get stuck focusing my eyes on the poor “manger” of my heart and forget to keep my eyes on Jesus. I get discouraged by all of my weaknesses and forget about Him there in the midst of them.

When I am discouraged, I am a poor and messy closed space, but when I trust in God, I am a poor and messy open one. I need to accept my weakness and allow it to be the place where God can enter in and work in His power. When we open to the birth of Divine Life in us, we can rejoice with Mary, the Mother of God, in the words of her Magnificat: “He has looked with favor upon the lowliness of His servant, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and Holy is His name!”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Photos from Sr. Natalia's Tonsure

Enjoy this album of photos from Sr. Natalia's tonsure as a rasophore nun on December 5. See our previous two posts to read more about the tonsure and about Sr. Natalia's patron saint.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sr. Natalia explains her name

Sr. Natalia was tonsured and received her new name on Dec. 5, during Vespers for the Feast of St. Nicholas. Following monastic tradition, she submitted three names to Mother Theodora, who chose Natalia. Sr. Natalia is named after the Apostle Bartholomew (Nathaniel). She would like to share with you about her connection with her patron.

The Apostle Bartholomew (Nathaniel)
Feast Day: June 11

My greatest draw to Nathaniel is John 1:43-51, when Christ calls him and Philip. I wish to emulate both his knowledge of scripture, and his bold conviction of faith in saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I also wish to imitate his immediate conversion and whole-hearted trust in proclaiming Christ as God and King as soon as he encounters Him intimately. More than anything else in this passage though, I strive to one day be “without guile,” as Jesus acknowledges Nathaniel to be.

His life after Christ’s ascension is also a great source of inspiration. He was crucified upside down next to Philip. Though Philip died, Bartholomew was rescued. Rather than understandably “retire” from mission work at this point, Batholomew continued traveling and preaching the gospel until he was flayed and beheaded. I pray our Bridegroom grants me this courage to profess my faith for all time, unmoving in the face of adversity and persecution, as did the good Bartholomew.

Some beautiful liturgical propers:
“Jesus our God, the Sun of glory, sent you to the whole world like a ray of light to disperse the gloom of ungodliness, O all-glorious one, and to enlighten all who sit in the darkness of ignorance.” 
“Submitting to the will of Him Whose will all things obey, you imitated Him as a teacher of righteousness.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Introducing...Sister Natalia!

Yesterday evening, our dokimos (postulant), Victoria Olsen, was tonsured as a rasophore ("robe-bearer") nun by Metropolitan William at St. Stephen Byzantine Catholic Church in Euclid, Ohio, during Vespers for the feast of St. Nicholas. During this service, she received her habit and new monastic name: Sister Natalia! She is named after the Apostle Bartholomew (Nathaniel).

We look forward to sharing more photos from the beautiful service, as well as Sister Natalia's explanation of her name.

God grant you many blessed years, Sister Natalia, and blessings in your continued monastic formation and discernment!