We are overjoyed to announce that Sister Iliana will make her life profession and be tonsured as a stavrophore ("cross-bearer") nun on Saturday, December 8, at 1:00 p.m., at St. Stephen Byzantine Catholic Church, 532 Lloyd Rd., Euclid, Ohio. All are invited to the profession service and Divine Liturgy on this feast of the Maternity of Anna. Here is some information about this step in the monastic life and what you will experience at the profession:
After several years of discernment and experience in living the monastic life as a dokimos (postulant) and then as a rasophore (“robe-bearer”) nun after her tonsure, a nun may request to make her life profession and commit her whole life to Christ as His bride. If she is determined to be ready to make this commitment, she is received as a stavrophore (“cross-bearer”) nun during the monastic profession service. At the beginning of the service, she is led up through the center of the church in a white robe (symbolic of her baptismal garment), barefoot, with her head uncovered and long hair flowing. She makes three prostrations as she walks up through the church, symbolizing the three immersions in the baptismal font. As she walks and approaches the bishop standing before the Royal Doors, the people sing a troparion about the return of the prodigal son to his father. After the final prostration, the bishop helps her up. He then asks a series of questions to determine her free will, her intentions, her willingness to renounce the things of the world, and her willingness to embrace poverty, chastity, obedience and all the “sorrows and restraints of the monastic life for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.” She answers, “Yes, Master, with God’s help.” The bishop then recites a powerful catechesis (instruction) about the monastic life and beautiful words of encouragement, such as, “May He be with you when you fall and when you rise up again, consoling and cheering your heart with the comfort of His Holy Spirit.” The bishop then prays to God that He may accept her and help her. The bishop then asks her to give him the scissors that he will use to cut her hair. She must hand them to him three times to demonstrate her free will. Then he tonsures her (cuts her hair) “as a sign that she has renounced the world, and everything that is in the world, and for the restraining of her will and of all fleshly desires.” The bishop then blesses each piece of the habit one by one with prayers that explain the significance of that piece of clothing, and she is clothed in each piece. In addition to the habit she has been wearing since her tonsure as a rasophore nun, she also receives the klobuk (hat with veil), the paramandyas (a square of black wool embroidered with a red cross and the instruments of the Passion), the mandyas (cape), a hand cross, a 300-knot chotki (prayer rope), and a lighted candle. In Christ the Bridegroom Monastery the nuns also receive a wedding ring to symbolize their union with Christ as their Spouse. The nun is now led in front of the icon of Christ where she will stand holding her hand cross and lighted candle for the duration of the Divine Liturgy that follows, just as the newly baptized would do.
A stavrophore nun experiences the fullness of monastic life, sharing in the passion, death and resurrection of her Bridegroom. She is given the title of “Mother” to express the fruitfulness of her union with Christ. Before the nun is tonsured as a stavrophore she relinquishes all monies, possessions and property. At this point, the nun is committed to remain for her lifetime in Christ the Bridegroom Monastery. Many people ask, “Is the life profession the same thing is ‘final vows?’” Yes, but Eastern monastics do not make “temporary vows” as other types of religious communities do, so there is no need to specify that these are the “final” vows. To read more about the stages of monastic life, visit the “Discerning?” tab. Please pray for Sr. Iliana as she prepares for this serious, yet exciting and joyful day!