Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To descend to be raised up

Today we celebrate the feast of the Dormition (falling asleep) of the Mother of God. Now that I have been at the tomb of the Mother of God in the Garden of Gethsemane during our recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I was struck in a new way as we celebrated the feast.

I was especially moved by the phrase in bold in this first stichera at Vespers:

"O what a wonder! The Source of Life Itself is placed in a tomb; the grave becomes a ladder to heaven. Rejoice, Gethsemane, holy chamber of the Theotokos. As for us, O faithful, let us cry out with Gabriel, the prince of angels: Rejoice, O woman full of grace, the Lord is with you!--the Lord, who because of you bestows great mercy on our souls."

Why did it strike me? Take a look at the second photo to the right. These are the many steps descending into the church which contains the tomb of the Mother of God. (The people in the photo are only about half-way down the steps.) This, to me, is an image of Mary's humility. "For He has looked with favor upon the lowliness of His handmaiden..." (Lk 1:48a). In life, and in death, Mary embraces the littleness and poverty of her humanity, and God raises her up. "From this day forward, all generations will call me blessed" (Lk 1:48b).

Mary is an example to us of the daily dying to self which "becomes a ladder to heaven." When we descend the many steps down into the poverty within us and surrender our lives into the hands of God, He then raises us up to a new life of joy and freedom, ultimately in heaven, but even now in the Kingdom that has already begun.

Mother Cecilia

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Discernment Retreat, Oct. 12-15

"As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you” (Is 62:5). Single Catholic women, ages 18-35, who would like to take a weekend to pray about a possible vocation to the monastic or religious life, are invited to inquire about attending the upcoming discernment retreat at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, Thurs., Oct. 12 – Sun., Oct. 15, 2017. Experience the life of prayer at the monastery, listen to talks on prayer and discernment, make use of the opportunity to get to know the nuns, and receive healing through the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession). For the schedule and more information, please see the retreat brochure. If you are interested in this retreat, or a future retreat or discernment opportunity, fill out the online Vocation Inquiry Form. Please fill out the form by Sept. 29 for this retreat. Space is limited. Mother Theodora will call you to talk about availability. With questions, call 440-834-0290 or email christthebridegroom@gmail.com.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Transformed into the image of His Love

By the grace of God, a benefactor sponsored us to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, July 6-18. In the coming months, we will share reflections and photos from this life-changing experience. Here is the first of our reflections, written by Mother Gabriella for the occasion of the Feast of the Transfiguration.

During our recent trip to the Holy Land, I had the privilege of going so many places I never even dreamed of going.  Even though I read the itinerary ahead of time, every moment seemed to be a surprise from God!

Below this icon is the Stone of the Transfiguration
One of the feasts while we were there was for St. Veronica (July 12), who has been part of my journey for many years.  Tradition tells us that she was the woman with the flow of blood for 12 years that Jesus healed, which was a very important image for me during my discernment of monastic life and even now.  On the day of her feast, we began by riding to the top of Mount Tabor to an Orthodox monastery which has a piece of the rock where Christ was transfigured.  I didn’t have a particular excitement about the trip up the mountain – be it the jet lag, lack of sleep, or generally being overwhelmed by all the holy places we had been – but as soon as we got there, many of my sisters were very moved by the experience, so I thought, maybe I should get excited to be here!

Each of the nuns was blessed to receive an icon of the Transfiguration to touch to the stone where Jesus was transfigured and as I touched my icon to the stone, I prayed, “I want to be transfigured, so my life will show the change you have worked in my heart.” And I heard immediately from the Father, “You are transfigured,” in a very knowing voice, so I trusted He would let me know what that meant.

Praying at St. Veronica's Chapel in Jerusalem
Fast forward to the end of the day back in Jerusalem, one of my sisters had expressed interest in going to the sixth station to visit the chapel dedicated to St. Veronica in honor of her feast, so we headed out through the Old City to find it.  We arrived after a several minute walk and were blessed to find the church still open!  So we went in and were able to sing her tropar (hymn) in the chapel.  We also had a deacon friend with us who chanted all three gospels of the woman with the flow of blood and we ended with some quiet time to pray.  As I sat there praying, I meditated on the gospels we had just read and imagined myself as the tassel on Christ’s garment.  I don’t normally do imaginary prayer, but since that is where the Spirit led, that is where I followed.  As the scene played out in my mind, I could feel the power of Christ move through me to St. Veronica as she was healed and I was struck with a connection between Christ and St. Veronica I had not seen before – the importance of cloth and blood.  I saw how St. Veronica came to Jesus confident that He would heal her flow of blood, if she but touch the tassel of His garment.  And I saw Jesus, approaching St. Veronica during His passion, also bleeding and in need of comfort, seeking St. Veronica to wipe His flow of blood away with her veil.

This scene moved me to also desire to comfort Him, but I had no cloth to wipe His face.  I told Jesus this desire and He spoke to my heart that He had already given me something to use – my habit.  I gave Him myself already and He gave me this cloth, which He invisibly imprints His face upon for all to see everywhere I go.  In accepting my dependence and need, in laying down my life and receiving from Him, I had something to offer back to Him – the very clothes on my back, to comfort Him.  In comforting and receiving that imprint, I became transfigured – I became the very image of Him in the world – an icon of His love.  I became an image of heaven on earth – of what our life in heaven will look like, in union with Him forever.  So I prayed that His image would become more present in me, on me, through me, making me a living transfiguration – which was exactly what He said had already happened that very morning!

So as we encounter the Transfiguration anew today, let us all ask Jesus how we can offer ourselves to Him, to be further transformed into the image of His love for the world to see.

Happy Nun Pilgrims!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bishop Milan to speak at Mariapoch Pilgrimage, Aug. 12-13


Join us for the annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, 17486 Mumford Rd., Burton, Ohio (across the street from the monastery), on Saturday, August 12 - Sunday, August 13. Visit the shrine's website for the schedule and more information (scroll down on the homepage).

We will be cantoring some of the services, as well as coordinating the teen and family talk and campfire on Saturday night and the teen activity on Sunday afternoon. Unlike the past few years, we are not chaperoning a teen campout, but teens are encouraged to ask their families to camp out with them on the grounds!

Our new Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Milan Lach, will give the talk on Sunday afternoon at 1:15 p.m. and will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at 3:30 p.m. The new replica of the icon of Our Lady of Mariapoch, which was painted in Mariapoch, Hungary, will be installed at the shrine. Come and get to know Bishop Milan and pray and spend time with others from many different parishes in the eparchy. All are welcome!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"He must increase, I must decrease"--Highlights of Girls Camp 2017

What a blessing! God's providence was so manifest during Girls Camp, June 22-26, here at the monastery. Rain may have "messed up" the schedule and flooded the tents, but the Holy Spirit was clearly pouring out upon the girls and us!

A record number of teen girls (30) traveled from seven different states (Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia) for the camp, sponsored by the Eparchy of Parma Office of Vocations. The girls listened to talks on the theme, "He must increase, I must decrease" (Jn. 3:30), engaged in small group discussions, spent time in quiet reflection, participated in the Mystery of Holy Repentance, prayed many of the daily liturgical services of the Church with us, and enjoyed other activities, such as a "nun obstacle course!"

A unique event during this year's camp was a trip to our cathedral in Parma on our eparchy's patronal feast (the Nativity of St. John the Baptist) for the ordination of Fr. Cyril Pinchak to the priesthood. In God's beautiful providence, the day before the ordination, Fr. Cyril unexpectedly walked in the door of the monastery just as we were about to tell the girls about him and what they would experience at the ordination! Fr. Cyril did a much better job than we would have, and the girls were able to meet him in person.

Girls Camp began in 2009 and is meant to catechize teen girls about the various vocations in the Church and to help them encounter God in a deeper way and to grow in their relationship with Him. It seems that the the purpose of the camp is truly being fulfilled, by God's grace. We are so overwhelmed by all of the graces that He poured out during the camp, that we want to share some of them through the words of a few of the girls:


"I felt a great sense of peace and joy that I had never felt before in my entire life" (Isabella Way; Tucson, Ariz.).

"[Girls Camp] deepened [my relationship with Jesus Christ] a lot. I feel like now I can just talk to Him, as if I was talking to a friend" (Bella Popp; Cleveland, Ohio).

"I feel closer to Him in everything I do now and like I can talk freely to Him about anything. It's just really amazing!" (Maria Hartung; Springfield, Ohio).

"[Girls Camp] made [my relationship with Jesus Christ] stronger and 'surfaced' it. I've always sort of known that God was there but I just started realizing that He was there for me" (Dominica Lupia; Seven Hills, Ohio).

"I have received so many special graces these past few days" (Anonymous).

"It feels as if a door was opened for me to walk through and experience Jesus in a more raw and pure way" (Anonymous).

"[My favorite part was] meeting all of the nuns, seeing how happy they are, loving, and just feeling the love of God radiate off them; [also,] all the talks leading back to Jesus. [Girls Camp] reminded me that Jesus is really all I need in life, the only thing that can fill my heart" (Eva Mangels; Tucson, Ariz.).

Enjoy more photos from the camp!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Welcome, Bishop Milan!


We are very happy to welcome Bishop Milan Lach as the newly appointed administrator of our eparchy! This photo is from his visit to our eparchy in December of 2013. Here is a video that we took of some remarks he gave at the end of a Liturgy during that visit.

Our eparchy published the following information about Bishop Milan:

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, auxiliary bishop of Presov, Slovakia, as apostolic administrator of the Eparchy of Parma.

The appointment relieves Archbishop William C. Skurla of Pittsburgh from the pastoral governance of Parma. He had served as apostolic administrator since Bishop Emeritus John Kudrick resigned May 7, 2016.

Bishop Lach was born in Kezmarok, Slovakia, Nov. 18, 1973. He was ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus (commonly known as the Jesuits) July 1, 2001, and was ordained to the episcopacy to serve as auxiliary bishop of Presov June 1, 2013. Bishop Lach is fluent in English, among several languages.

The 43-year-old Byzantine Catholic Jesuit is the first European-born bishop to be appointed to oversee the Eparchy of Parma since its founding in 1969.

Please see www.parma.org over the next few days and weeks for updates and additional information on the appointment.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pray for our Girls Camp!

We're almost ready for Girls Camp! Please pray for the 30 teenage girls who will arrive on Thursday afternoon and camp out until Sunday on the monastery grounds. Pray for open hearts as the girls pray with us, listen to talks, engage in discussion groups, participate in the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession), and more. We will also have plenty of fun!

Half of the girls are new this year, and more than half are from states other than Ohio (Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia). Please also pray for the boys who are participating in Boys Camp across the street at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch.

Our theme this year, for both of the camps, is "He must increase, I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). Thanks for your prayers!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day!

We offer our love and prayers today to all of our fathers, biological and spiritual!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Our favorite saints

Happy Sunday of All Saints! In the Byzantine Tradition, we commemorate all the saints on the Sunday after Pentecost. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us into saints. We at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery love the saints so much; they are our constant inspiration for saying “yes” to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Their widely varying stories and gifts show us that we each have a unique path of holiness. They also teach us that holiness is not about doing everything perfectly, but about union with God through the acceptance of His will and His love. They encourage us to respond to God’s love whole-heartedly, holding nothing of ourselves back from Him.

Here are some of our favorite saints, of both the Eastern and Western Traditions. Many of these saints have sought us out and made known their intercession for us. If you see a name you have never heard and that strikes your interest, perhaps you could do a little research on the life of this saint and make a new friend!      

Mother Theodora
Bl. Theodore Romzha
St. John Paul II
St. Peter
St. Mary of Egypt
St. John Chrysostom
St. Gregory of Nyssa

Mother Cecilia
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Julie Billiart
St. Clare of Assisi
Bl. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich
St. Faustina

Mother Gabriella
St. Gabriel
Servant of God Fulton Sheen
St. Teresa of Avila
Servant of God Catherine Doherty
St. Dorotheos of Gaza
St. Catherine of Siena

Sr. Iliana
St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Philip Neri
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
The Prophet Elijah
St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

Sr. Natalia
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati
St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
Bl. Theodore Romzha
The Apostle Nathanel
St. Mary Magdalene
St. Mary of Egypt

Sara Lynn
St. Thomas More
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
St. André Bessette
Servant of God Dorothy Day
St. Joseph
St. Julian of Norwich


Monday, June 5, 2017

"Through the Spirit..."


Happy Feast of Pentecost! All this week we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, and we can also reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. Here are some beautiful words from St. Basil to help us:

"As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit dwells, and who are enlightened by the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God. Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God...."

--St. Basil, "On the Holy Spirit"

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thank you to our spring work day volunteers!


Thank you to all our amazing volunteers who helped us at our spring work day on Saturday, May 13! Click on the photo to see more photos from the day. (However, these photos only show a fragment of our many awesome volunteers!)

We had such a beautiful, fun and productive day. Trees were cut down, bushes trimmed, flower beds weeded, a frame for the herb garden was built, windows washed, grass weed-wacked, the chapel sign received a first coat of new paint, gravel spread, the light post repaired, the chapel cleaned, and more! We couldn't have accomplished all of this work on our own!

We also enjoyed lunch at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch with the shrine volunteers. Many volunteers also stayed for Great Vespers for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, celebrated by our chaplain, Fr. Dennis, and enjoyed a cookout/potluck. We thank God for the beautiful weather and for the gift of your generous hearts.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Boys & Girls Camps Registration Open

Update: Girls Camp is full for this year. To be added to a waiting list, email youth@parma.org or call 440-834-0290.

Registration opened this week for the Eparchy of Parma Boys and Girls Camps, sponsored by the Office of Vocations and the Byzantine Catholic Cultural Center. See below for more information about the camps. There are only a few spots still open for Girls Camp!


Girls Camp is for girls 13-18 and provides an opportunity for teen girls to discover the different vocations in the Church and develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.  We will pray together, listen to inspiring talks, engage in group discussions, enjoy various activities and have fun! The camp is hosted by the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, and led by the nuns and young adult women.

Space is limited and may fill up before the deadline!  Questions?  Email youth@parma.org call the nuns at 440-834-0290.

Boys Camp is for boys 8-18 and is an ascetical boot camp aimed at assisting young men in their path to true Christian discipleship and holiness.  The four-day weekend focuses on the boys need for God and how to best hear His call for their lives.  All vocations are discussed both in large and small group settings.  Campers will experience a variety of liturgical prayer, hiking and team activities. Please note that registration for boys ages 8-11 requires his father or legal male guardian's registration and participation.

The camp takes place at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch in Burton, Ohio, and is led by a dedicated team of priests, deacons, and lay leaders from the Eparchy of Parma.  Questions?  Email youth@parma.org or call John Popp at 216-741-8773 x225.

Registration
Cost per camper: $100 (Family maximum: $300)
Scholarships available upon request
Register Online by June 5

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Work Day, May 13


Join the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery and the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch on Saturday, May 13. Volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome! The day begins at 10 a.m., includes lunch, and closes with vespers at 5 p.m. followed by a cookout. Come at whatever time you are available, and bring a side dish to share if you can. The monastery is located at 17485 Mumford Rd. Burton, Ohio. Please RSVP* by Monday, May 8, to 440-834-0290 or christthebridegroom@gmail.com, so that the appropriate amount of food can be prepared.

*Please RSVP with:
1. The number of adults (include teens) and the number of kids (12 and under)
2. Will you be here for lunch or dinner or both?
3. The dish you plan to bring

Monday, April 24, 2017

Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen! We hope you are enjoying this beautiful celebration of the Resurrection!


"Thomas Didymus dared to touch with his hand
the side of Him Who is untouchable
yet his hand was not consumed by fire!
He diligently probed the wounds
crying out concerning Him Whose side was pierced for us:
You are my Lord and my God, Who endured the Passion!"

(Sessional Hymn II, Monday of Thomas Week)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

To be Consoled, or to Console?


By Sr. Iliana

As Jesus hung on the cross in utter anguish, struggling for every breath, He turned to the thief crucified to His right and said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). These words suddenly had deeper meaning for me when I found myself one day struggling to breathe in an emergency room. If any of you have ever struggled to breathe, you know the anxiety that this produces. I do admit I felt pretty anxious. I soon realized that I felt lonely, too, as if I had been abandoned. I hadn’t actually been abandoned, but that is how it felt. Due to a series of unforeseen events, I was there alone. The nurse who was caring for me was truly a dear, but she was a stranger to me, and I desired my loved ones to be there. Even though I knew in my mind that there was no need for them to come, my heart still desired for them to come. This is a very normal human reaction! When we’re suffering, we want to be consoled by our loved ones. We even want this when we’re not suffering. The first thing I do when I’m in a large crowd is scan the room for someone I know.

Jesus was actually abandoned by His friends. Of His twelve disciples, only John came to the foot of the cross. Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him, and all the others fled in sheer terror. Though His Mother was there, and a few women at a distance, His intimate friends abandoned Him as He foretold. Jesus must have felt truly abandoned. Jesus is fully human and He desires consolation just as we do.

Yet in the moment that all of humanity would most desire to be consoled, Jesus turns to the stranger at His side – the thief who had been mocking Him just moments before – and He consoles. He says, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” as if to say: “You are now as close to Me as possible. You are now a saint. You are about to be face to face with your Father who loves you. Between us is the most intimate friendship, the most intimate love.” He takes the stranger and brings him into intimate relationship with Himself, the same relationship He desires for each of us. Whereas I desired my intimate friends, Jesus makes the stranger His intimate friend.

When I was in the emergency room, I eventually stopped feeling sorry for myself, and began to talk to Kaitlyn, my nurse. She asked me to pray for her, and I was profoundly moved by our encounter. I even wondered if Jesus had allowed me to be sick just so that I could be there with Kaitlyn in that moment. Kaitlyn was a consolation to me. Imagine how much more Jesus was consoled to see the salvation of the thief at His side. The Lord wants to take us out of mere feelings and into true communion with Himself, so that in the moment of our utter darkness we can see the hand of God and be consoled – not because the darkness has now passed, but even in the midst of the darkness. The thief was still nailed to the cross in anguish when He received the greatest consolation of all – the promise of eternal life. As we face the trials of our life, as we pick up our crosses and follow Him, let us join St. Francis in praying, “Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console.”

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Holy Week & Pascha Schedule

All are invited to join us for any of these services during Great & Holy Week, also called "The Week of the Bridegroom," or for Pascha, the Resurrection of Our Lord!


Monday, April 10
Great & Holy Monday
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Tuesday, April 11
Great & Holy Tuesday
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Wednesday, April 12
Great & Holy Wednesday
8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Bridegroom Matins with Bishop John, followed by a light breakfast (please RSVP to 440-834-0290 or christthebridegroom@gmail.com if staying for breakfast)
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts & Mystery of Holy Anointing

Friday, April 14
Great & Holy Friday
7:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.  Matins with the 12 Passion Gospels
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.        1st & 3rd Royal Hours
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.  6th & 9th Royal Hours
5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.  Vespers and Burial Procession

Saturday, April 15
Great & Holy Saturday
6:15 a.m. - 8:45 a.m.  Jerusalem Matins
3:00 p.m. - 5:40 p.m.  Vespers & Divine Liturgy of St. Basil

Sunday, April 16
Pascha: The Resurrection of Our Lord!
9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.          Resurrection Matins & Divine Liturgy

Bright Monday & Tuesday Liturgies Cancelled due to a funeral

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"My Life for Yours:" Spring Issue of Pomegranate Blossoms

Enjoy some great reflections in the spring issue of our newsletter. Sr. Iliana reflects on her experience of meeting St. Gianna's daughter, Sara Lynn shares about her entrance into the monastery, and Sr. Natalia explains what has drawn family members to the Church through her vocation.  Click on the image below!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Join us for Bridegroom Matins

Great & Holy Wednesday, April 12; 8:00 a.m.

Join us for this beautiful Holy Week service that is so special to us at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery! Bridegroom Matins, celebrated by Bishop Emeritus John Kudrick in our chapel, will be followed by a light breakfast. If you plan to stay for breakfast, please RSVP by Holy Monday, April 10, to 440-834-0290 or christthebridegroom@gmail.com. The service will be approximately 1.5
hours.  Click for Facebook Event.

More info:

The Church celebrates Bridegroom Matins only on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week. This morning service commemorates the days of the earthly life of Christ and His teachings of watchfulness to His disciples before His voluntary passion.

The Icon of Christ the Bridegroom is venerated during Holy Week. The icon reveals Christ enduring the marks of His mockery and suffering before His crucifixion and yet preparing the way for the marriage feast in His kingdom. The readings and hymns of Bridegroom Matins 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.

Other Holy Week Services

Friday, March 31, 2017

Despair or Repentance?

In this video blog post, Sr. Natalia reflects on her own experience during this year's Great Fast and on the life of St. Mary of Egypt. When faced with our own wounds and sinfulness, what will we choose to do?

This year we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt two days in a row. April 1 is her feast day, and on the Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast (this year on April 2) the Church commemorates St. Mary of Egypt.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Mother of God, our teacher of the Prayer of St. Ephrem


By Mother Gabriella

As we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, we come into contact with one of the great mysteries of our faith – the Incarnation.  God enters into time, at the consent of a virgin in Nazareth, and takes on human flesh.

As I pondered this mystery, something else that came to mind is the Prayer of St. Ephrem, a staple of the Byzantine Lenten prayer diet, which is as follows:

O Lord and Master of my life,
spare me from the spirit of indifference, despair,
lust for power, and idle chatter.

Instead, bestow on me your servant,
a spirit of integrity, humility, patience, and love.

Yes, O Lord and King, let me to see my own sins
and not judge my brothers and sisters;
for you are blessed forever and ever.  Amen.

As I was praying these words and thinking of the Theotokos at the Annunciation, I began to see just how beautiful it is to celebrate this feast in the context of Lent.  Being a lover of feasts and all things relating to St. Gabriel, I have a natural affinity for the Annunciation, but Mary wanted to take that love even deeper.  I stood in awe of her, as did my namesake, as I began to see how Mary, as the first disciple of Jesus, is our model for living out the Prayer of St. Ephrem.

 “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!...Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Lk 1: 28,30).  Hearing Gabriel’s exhortation, I can see what might be a bit disconcerting!  How often in my life do I hear Jesus calling me to something more and deeper, and I cringe and moan and shudder to think of it (until I finally say yes!).  Mary, hearing these words for the first time, could have fallen into any of the first sins that are named in the Prayer.  Indifference – she could have given Gabriel the cold shoulder and walked away!  How could a conception happen without a man?  Despair – she could have realized the full weight of what he was asking her, without considering the mercy and love of God, and folded under the weight of the request.  Lust for power – can you imagine what kind of prestige would come if people knew and believed she was the Mother of God?  Idle chatter – how many people could she have told about her news – the world’s greatest “gender reveal!”  But instead, she receives the angel’s request and asks only one practical question.  She does not pause in her question long enough to consider any amount of worry about the future.  She does not flippantly share about her pregnancy.

Her response embodies integrity, or wholeness of being, so much so that her “yes” cooperated directly with the power of the Holy Spirit to conceive a child – Jesus.  She accepted this invitation to motherhood with the utmost humility; she put no conditions on her acceptance, but simply offered herself to God.  She became our model of patience and love, starting with her care of Elizabeth in the hill country and ending at the foot of the Cross on the mount of Calvary.

Lastly, she exemplifies not simply introspection into faults but a proper understanding of herself before God – seeing her weaknesses and trusting perfectly in His mercy and grace at all times.  This posture of receptivity allows her to place love above judgment, loving any and all who may have been lead to judge what they did not understand regarding her pregnancy, and later, her life in service to her Son.

On this Feast of the Annunciation, let us take a moment to reflect on our own Lenten journey, in light of our beloved Theotokos and her “yes.”  How are we saying “no” to sin and “yes” to virtue during these days in the midst of our own daily "annunciations?"  What more needs to be purged before we can give ourselves, fully and without reserve, to all that Jesus is asking of us this Lent?  We place ourselves under the mantle of Mary and ask for her intercession – O Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross

May we receive strength, during this mid-point of the Great Fast, from the Cross held up before us. It is a sign of suffering, but also of intimacy with Jesus and the glory of our salvation!


"Come, let us drink from the inexhaustible stream which flows from the grace of the Cross. Behold, we see exposed before our eyes, the most holy wood, the fountain flowing with grace, given by the blood and water from the side of the Lord of the universe; He was voluntarily raised upon the Cross to exalt all mortals with Him" (From the Stichera at the Praises; Matins for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Fasting: part of every Christian’s journey toward holiness

By Mother Gabriella
As published in Horizons, the newspaper of the Eparchy of Parma, March 5, 2017.
While Byzantine Catholics are called to abstain from meat and meat byproducts during the Great Fast, many are unaware that the traditional fast also includes abstinence from the food products pictured above. The author reminds readers that the traditional fast also includes eggs, dairy, oil and wine, with a mitigation for oil and wine on weekends and certain feast days. (Photo: Laura Ieraci)

     As we begin the most strenuous of the four fasting periods in the Byzantine Catholic Church, the Great Fast, it is good to be reminded of the purpose and goal of fasting in the Eastern tradition.
     It is important to remember that what we fast from and when we fast are dictated not by our own tastes but by the typikon or rule of the church.
     During the Great Fast or Great Lent, the traditional Eastern fast outlined by the church includes abstaining from all meat and dairy products, including eggs, as well as oil and wine on weekdays, with a mitigation for oil and wine on Saturday and Sunday.
     There are a few feast days that oil and wine are also allowed, which can be found in the typikon, and there are two feast days when fish is allowed — Annunciation and Palm Sunday.
     It is necessary to remember why we fast. In the wisdom of the Church, fasting developed as a physical reminder of our primary dependence on God.
     Our fasting calls us out of ourselves and our self-sufficiency and reminds us of our utter poverty before our Heavenly Father.
     As Jesus tells us in the Gospel of St. John, “apart from me you can do nothing” (15:5).
     We see the truth of these words at the beginning of every fast in the monastery. Deprive us of our easy sources of protein and we quickly begin to get irritable and out of sorts.
     Our poverty and dependence on food become tangible as our stomachs remind us that we aren’t being filled by food in the same way.
     Even as nuns, we need this reminder, so we can begin again to surrender to our ultimate need for God to fill us — beyond a full stomach.
     It is essential to realize that fasting is not simply the work of the monks and nuns; it is implicit in each Christian’s baptismal call to holiness. That’s right — everyone is called to fast!
     The ascetical life of the Eastern Church is on a spectrum, calling each person to some degree of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, that is appropriate for his or her state in life.
     As monks and nuns, we hopefully live that witness in its fullness, offering our lives as a model for the ideal or goal of the Christian life of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
     We pray our witness may inspire everyone also to engage more fully in the ascetical Christian life, which will lead all to a deeper union with God, beginning heaven on earth.
     A good summary of these ideas is found in these words from the Aposticha at Vespers for Monday of Cheesefare Week: “By fasting, let us strive to purify ourselves from the stain of our sins. By mercy and the love of our neighbor; by our zeal to help the needy, we shall be able to enter the bridal chamber who grants us his great mercy.”
     As you start the Great Fast, be sure to consider how you would like to incorporate fasting in your preparations for Pascha. Make a commitment to start one new fasting practice this year.
     Be sure to increase your prayer as well — fasting without prayer is just dieting! Out of that life of prayer and fasting, you will find it easier to do the acts of charity or almsgiving that we are also called to do during the Great Fast. Make sure you have all three or you won’t have a stool to sit on!
     For more information on fasting, as well as some practical dos and don’ts for how to incorporate fasting practices into your Great Fast, be sure to check out my reflections along with Father Moses of Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, Wisc., on our new cooking show, Eastern Hospitality.
     Go to www.easternhospitality.org and click on Episode 2:2.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Join us for the Great Canon, March 29

Join the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in a deeply-moving, once-a-year Lenten experience on Wednesday, March 29, 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 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.  We will also listen to the life of St. Mary of Egypt and venerate her relic.  The opportunity for the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession) will also be available.  A simple Lenten meal will be served 5:00-5:45 p.m., and the Canon will begin at 6:00 p.m.  All are invited to come for part or all of the Canon, even if you are not physically able to participate in the prostrations.  The duration of the Canon is approximately 3.5 hours.  Please RSVP by Friday, March 24, to 440-834-0290 or christthebridegroom@gmail.com so the nuns know how much food and how many booklets to prepare.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The poverty of fasting

A heart-opening reflection on the pain and glory of fasting and what it's really about, by Sara Lynn

Recently, my confessor enabled me to see the root of the long litany of sins I was laying before him: self-reliance, as opposed to trust in God.  When I signed up to write a blog post to mark the beginning of the Great Fast, I had planned to write about the theological context of Lenten fasting as observed in the Eastern Church.  But as I have prayed with the self-reliance so deeply rooted in my heart, I find that none of what I had intended to write now seems important.  It was all neatly and logically arranged in my head (on which I often depend too heavily in my self-reliance), but it didn’t reach my heart—and repentance must come from the heart.  In light of the revelation of my self-reliance, my heart is moved by an awareness of my own poverty, by all the ways I try to fill myself or act from my own partial or flawed understanding.  I resist Jesus’ call to humbly consent to the experience of being needy and inadequate, waiting in trustful expectation in the midst of my own emptiness and inability.  It is precisely in this place of poverty that I find the hope that is at the heart of Lenten fasting.

In Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, Fr. Alexander Schmemann describes the interior posture of a Christian entering this holy season of repentance: “I stand before God, before the glory and the beauty of His Kingdom.  I realize that I belong to it, that I have no other home, no other joy, no other goal; I also realize that I am exiled from it into the darkness and sadness of sin.”  This is my awareness also.  And my hope—our hope—comes from the promise of our Faith, that we will not merely (merely!) share in Christ’s Resurrection, but that we will also become one with Him through theosis, totally united to God Himself in the spousal union for which we yearn in our exile.  But how do we become one with Jesus?  How are we to be healed so that we can once again live as citizens of our True Country?  Healing and redemption come through the Paschal Mystery—the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  “If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him” (2 Tim 2:11).  Where do we need to die so that we can be raised to new life?

For most of us, that answer involves, to some degree, our relationship with food.  The fundamental lie hiding in our often unhealthy relationship to food—and in all sin, really—is that I know what will make me happy far better than God does; that I, creature that I am, know more than my Creator.  Schmemann defines fasting as “the refusal to accept the desires and urges of our fallen nature as normal, the effort to free ourselves from the dictatorship of flesh over the spirit.”  Fasting is about submission to our creaturely inadequacy, acknowledging that we need God more than we need all other things for which we are reaching (even good things that are His gifts).

Living at the monastery begs the question: What is the point of the monastic life?  What is the merit of a life in which we are perpetually tired, surrender the freedom to satisfy our preferences, and even sacrifice our ability to love people in the ways both they and we desire?  St. Augustine explains, “You are a vessel; but as yet you are full.  Pour out what you have, so that you may receive what you do not have….”  T. S. Eliot adds, “In order to possess what you do not possess / You must go by the way of dispossession.”  As monastics, we freely and joyfully accept deprivation so that we may receive Jesus into the emptiness of our aching, waiting hearts.

For all Christians, not just monastics, fasting serves a similar purpose:  It creates space in which we touch our poverty, our utter insufficiency, and thereby open ourselves to the necessity of relying on God to fill our hearts and satisfy our needs.  Fasting must not become something that we do, part of an ego-satisfying plan of asceticism by which we plan to take heaven by storm.  Rather, it is a very effective means of becoming small and creating space for God to draw us closer to His Heart.

To be fruitful, fasting must be closely accompanied by prayer.  In our prayer, we bring to Jesus our raging desires and pour out to Him our distress at not having what we crave.  And it is precisely through the wound of our insufficiency that He enters into us, revealing the lies we have believed (such as the lie that eating that chocolate is going to ease this loneliness in my heart, or that a particular person’s affirmation is the source of my identity).  In the silence of the Lenten desert, we listen in expectation for the Voice of Love.

Fasting is not about legalistic perfection, but about letting go of ourselves in order to make room for God.  “For He has, in the last resort, nothing to give us but Himself;” says C. S. Lewis, “and He can give that only insofar as our self-affirming will retires and makes room for Him in our souls….What matters, what Heaven desires and Hell fears, is precisely that further step, out of our depth, out of our own control.” This Lent, join the Great Fast; take that further step, out of your own control (which is an illusion anyway) and discover with St. Paul that when you are weak, then you are strong (2 Cor 12:10).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cooking tips and catechesis for the Great Fast & Pascha

Mother Gabriella has been working hard, along with Fr. Moses (Holy Resurrection Monastery, St. Nazianz, Wisconsin) and the crew of "Eastern Hospitality," to produce a series of videos providing both practical cooking tips and spiritual catechesis for the upcoming seasons of the Great Fast and Pascha.

Fr. Moses was a professional chef before becoming a monk and is the main cook at his monastery. Mother Gabriella enjoys cooking at our monastery and tackling the feeding of large groups!

In the video below, Mother Gabriella and Fr. Moses have a discussion about fasting. This is the second video of the second series of "Eastern Hospitality." The first series took place during the Philip's Fast (or Nativity Fast). To access all the videos, as well as recipes for each of the meals prepared, visit the Eastern Hospitality website.

We hope you learn a lot, enjoy some new recipes, and deepen your understanding and experience of fasting and feasting throughout the Church year!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Welcome, Sara Lynn!


Sara Lynn Gafford was received as a dokimos (postulant) of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery during Vespers for the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord with Simeon and Anna, on Wed. evening Feb. 1, 2017. Bishop John, bishop-emeritus of our eparchy, blessed her and her headscarf and cross. Metropolitan William, administrator of our eparchy, also joined us later on to celebrate her entrance. A few friends and family members also joined us for Vespers and dinner. We are overjoyed to welcome Sara Lynn into our monastic family!

Enjoy more photos here.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

"Come down!"

Today is the first pre-Lenten Sunday, the Sunday of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus "sought to see who Jesus was" (Lk 19:3), but Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "Make haste and come down, for I must stay at your house today" (Lk 19:5). Jesus says a similar thing to each of us: "Come down! I desire more for you than having you just thinking about me; I desire a real relationship with you. I want to come into the house of your soul!" When Jesus comes into Zacchaeus' house, Zacchaeus experiences a conversion and tells Jesus what he is going to do to amend his life. Zacchaeus is willing to let go of those things that hinder his relationship with God. When we come down from our thoughts and let Jesus into the meeting place in our soul, He gives us the strength to let go of those things we cling to that prevent us from deepening our relationship with Him. He can then say to us as He said to Zacchaeus, "Salvation has come to this house today!" Let's pray for each other that we may be willing, with the haste of Zacchaeus, to "receive [Jesus] joyfully" (Lk 19:6) as we begin our preparations for the Great Fast. It is Jesus in us who will give us the strength for our Lenten journey of conversion.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Eternal Memory, Steve Trudick

We will deeply miss Steve Trudick, dear friend of our monastery and of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, who passed away Wednesday, January 25, at the age of 86. For years, every day after leaving work at his lumber mill, Steve drove to the shrine to pray, up until cancer kept him out of the driver's seat last year. But he could still often be seen in the passenger seat of caretakers' cars as they pulled into the shrine driveway. Steve supported the shrine in countless ways, especially making sure that the many grassy acres of the shrine grounds were mowed. Whenever we asked him for wood for monastery projects, he would interrupt us before we could finish our request, saying, "Just give me the dimensions!" We will miss his smile, humor, stubbornness and love. May God grant to His servant, Stephen, blessed repose and eternal memory!

Viewing, Sun. Jan. 29, 2-4 p.m. & 6-8 p.m. at Russell Sly Funeral Home, Middlefield, Ohio (Parastas service at 3 p.m.). Viewing, Mon. Jan. 30, 10-11 a.m., at St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church, 8111 Brecksville Rd., Brecksville, Ohio, followed by the Funeral Liturgy at 11 a.m. Interment at All Souls Cemetery in Chardon, Ohio.  Obituary

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Please pray for Sara Lynn, entering on February 1st!


Please keep Sara Lynn Gafford in your prayers as she prepares to enter our community on Feb. 1! Sara Lynn is from Ashville, Ohio (south of Columbus).  We are very excited to welcome Sara Lynn into our monastic family and to be blessed by her joy, zeal and love! She, and the simple, black clothes she will wear during her initial stage of formation and discernment, will be blessed by Metropolitan William at her entrance. In this first step, she will be a dokimos (or postulant) and will continue to go by the name Sara Lynn. We look forward to sharing more with you soon about Sara Lynn and her entrance!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Teen Girls' Sleepover, Feb. 11-12


Sorry, the sleepover is at full capacity for this year!

Teen girls age 13-18 are invited for an evening of prayer, food and fun at the monastery for our teen girls' sleepover, Feb. 11-12. Click here for the schedule and to register! Families are invited to Divine Liturgy and brunch on Sunday morning. Space is limited to 15 girls, so sign up soon!

Monday, January 2, 2017

A God of Longing

Happy New Year!

Here is a reflection from Mother Cecilia, published in our recent newsletter:

I recently received a letter from a friend, and in the letter my friend asked me, “If you met someone from another country who didn’t know about Jesus, how would you teach this person about Him?"  As I read the question, I had one immediate thought and one immediate feeling.  The thought was, “Why in the world is my friend asking me this question?” and the feeling was anxiety!

I don’t recall ever talking to someone who “didn’t know about Jesus,” but I know that I’ve talked to many people who don’t truly know who Jesus is.  But do I even really know Him?  I speak to others of God as Love, as One who wants to be so close to us, who wants to share in our life, but in reality, I often see Him as an unreasonably demanding God, as someone I can never please, or as a strict employer from whom I must earn my wage.

After I read the letter from my friend, I decided to come up with an answer to the question.  I was surprised at how quickly my answer came to me, as fruit of my recent reflections on the love of the Trinity.  I would tell this person about the communion of love in the Trinity—the continual outpouring of perfect love between the three persons of the Trinity—and how Jesus is the person of the Trinity who became man and took on our humanity in order to allow the divine love of the Trinity to pour into mankind, so that we can be one with this perfectly fulfilling love.

As soon as I came up with my answer, this Scripture came to my mind: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!” (Mt 23:37 & Lk 13:34).

In these words I could see God’s deep longing for me.  He longs to hold me to Himself.  He longs for me to receive His continual outpouring of love. He longs for me to let Him be with me.

As I have prepared for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord, I have sought to rest in the knowledge of God’s longing for me which moved Him to completely empty Himself for me in His Incarnation.  I have reflected on my favorite Old Testament story, the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace, and how God, in the form of an angel, came into the furnace to be with the youths, prefiguring His coming to be with us in human flesh in our suffering.

We can ask ourselves, “How would I live my life differently if I really believed in God’s longing for me and rejected the lie that I must earn His love?”  I think we would want to love Him and give our lives to Him, trusting in His ability to transform our feeble actions into something powerful.

If we truly knew Jesus, we wouldn’t be anxious about talking about Him, talking to Him, loving Him or living for Him, because He—the One who longs for us—is the One that every human heart longs to know.

Icon of the Three Youths by the hand of Mother Cecilia