Saturday, April 30, 2011

Christ is Risen!

Bearing torches let us meet the bridegroom, Christ, as He comes forth from His tomb; and let us greet, with joyful song, the saving Pasch of God.  (Ode 5, Paschal Canon)

Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is Risen!

Wow, what a crazy and awesome couple of weeks it has been!  We could write numerous blog entries about it, (and maybe we will) but we have to start somewhere.  On Palm Sunday weekend we hosted the eparchy's young adult retreat and welcomed into our home a wonderful group of joyful young adults.  They all enjoyed learning more about discerning God's will for their lives during talks by young adult Cyril Pinchak, SJ, (from my home parish) a Jesuit scholastic.  Bishop John celebrated the Divine Liturgy on Palm Sunday at the Shrine chapel across the street and joined us for a closing brunch.

That evening, our friends Michelle and Chrysostom from Raleigh, North Carolina, drove in to stay with us for the beginning of Holy Week.  Our soon-to-be postulant, Jessie, was also able to stay with us all week.  On Monday morning Bishop John celebrated Bridegroom Matins in our chapel, and a few parishoners from the Cleveland area joined us as well.  We just love this service! (I wonder why...)  Fr. Stephen Titko graciously made the trip out to the monastery from Parma multiple times during Holy Week to celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, Bridegroom Matins and Matins on Great and Holy Friday with the twelve Gospel readings.  It was such a gift to be able to pray many of the services in our own chapel.

Great and Holy Wednesday was a big day for us!  Bishop John celebrated the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, during which I was received as a novice, Sr. Celeste was tonsured a Rasophore nun and we both received our new habits.  Some family members and friends were able to join us, and the joy was just bursting!  Sr. Celeste is working on a reflection about this experience to share with you.  For me, it was an awesome experience to receive my habit.  I truly feel embraced by Christ!

Sr. Celeste, Bishop John and Sr. Julie

On Great and Holy Thursday we attended vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil at the Cathedral in Parma, at which Bishop John washed the feet of twelve altar servers.  On Great and Holy Friday we prayed Matins with the twelve Gospel readings, the Royal Hours and attended the vespers and burial service at St. Andrew parish in Mentor.  On Saturday we prayed Jerusalem Matins, finished preparing our paschal foods, packed up the car, drove to the airport to pick up Rosalie--a friend from California staying with us for Pascha and Bright Week, got locked out of the car (oops...that was my fault!), talked to some people in the parking lot as we waited to be rescued, managed to be only 15 minutes late to vespers and the Liturgy of St. Basil at Holy Spirit church in Parma, drove up to Holy Ghost church in Cleveland where we thought we would have an hour and a half of peace before Midnight to arrange our paschal foods in our basket and have some quiet, but instead found ourselves in the midst of frenzied last minute preparations and helped out as much as we could! 

Ah...but what a beautiful celebration of Resurrection Matins and Divine Liturgy for Pascha!  Holy Ghost church, in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, has been closed for a year and a half, but it is being reopened as the new site for the Bishop Emil J. Mihalik Byzantine Catholic Cultural Center and hopefully a new men's community!  Resurrection Matins and Divine Liturgy that night were the opening events for the church's new future.  We processed with candles around Lincoln Park and then entered the church now radiant with the light of the Resurrection, singing Christ is Risen!  Youth Choir director Bryan Scotton had put together a choir made up of voice students from local colleges, and the four-part harmony was beautiful!  As we came out of the church after Liturgy at 3:00 a.m., the birds were already singing...(they must have known it was Pascha!). Everyone's baskets were blessed downstairs and we enjoyed the delicious foods we had given up for forty days, as much laughter was shared, especially among the young people.  We were thrilled to be a part of the joy and excitement, and we ask for your prayers for Fr. Richard Plishka and those who are and will be helping with this new venture.  We can't wait to have a brother community!  (We hope it is in God's plans!) 

Needless to say, after getting to bed at about 6:00 a.m., we slept in a little, and then got ready for a visit from Sr. Celeste's sister Charmaine and her family.  We enjoyed the afternoon with them, complete with an impromptu Resurrection procession around the monastery with the kids, a delicious dinner and an egg hunt!  After resting a little, we trekked back out to Cleveland for Agape Vespers (and some more eating!) at Holy Ghost church. 

It took a couple of days to recover, but Bright Week has been much more restful!  We are so grateful to our Bridegroom for the joy He has given us as He has come forth from the tomb, raising us with Him! 

Thanks to Jessie's parents, we now have a video camera and captured many clips of action from Holy Week and Pascha.  I am now attempting to edit them into a short video to share with you.  Unfortunately our computer is a little slow for the editing program, but as long as I don't throw the computer out the window, hopefully we can share it with you soon!  Christ is Risen!!! 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lights, Habits, Action!

Sr. Julie, Claire (co-host) and Sr. Celeste
Recently we enjoyed a little Lenten retreat in the Chicago area at Annunciation parish in Homer Glen, Illinois.  The evening we arrived, Fr. Tom Loya, pastor of Annunciation parish, asked us if we would like to be on the radio with him the next day!  He was filling in that week for Fr. Anthony Bus, host of a live radio program in Chicago called Winds of Change.  We didn’t want to turn down such a good opportunity, so we agreed.  We had a blast talking about being brides of Christ, spiritual motherhood and Lent in our first live radio appearance!  The archived show (episode #123) can be heard for a limited time on the Show Archives page of the Winds of Change website

Darlene and Sr. Julie cutting out habit pieces
Currently we are busy preparing for the Byzantine young adult retreat we are hosting this weekend, cleaning and preparing for Holy Week and Pascha, and finding fabric and sewing our official habits!  A huge thank you goes out to Paula Plishka from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, for sewing our formal habits, and to Darlene Hritz (Sr. Julie's mom) from North Royalton, Ohio, for sewing our casual and work habits.  It has been quite a challenge for us and our dedicated seamstresses to find good, usable fabrics, and to work with the patterns we had obtained to adjust them to fit us!  As with many of the projects we have tackled, it was much more difficult than we envisioned!

Our habits will be blessed and given to us by Bishop John in a private ceremony on Great and Holy Wednesday.  It will mark our formal acceptance into the novitiate, and Sr. Celeste will also be tonsured as a Rasophore nun (a "nun of the first degree").  A Rasophore nun does not yet make any formal vows, but she promises to live all aspects of the monastic life.  She will receive, in addition to the basic habit, a riassa (outer garment worn for liturgical services) and the monastic belt.

We look forward to the intense and beautiful prayers of Holy Week that will increase in us the longing for Jesus, who we will soon meet coming forth from the tomb "like a Bridegroom!"  All are welcome to join us on Holy Monday for Bridegroom Matins, celebrated by Bishop John at 8:00 a.m. (see the "Events" tab).  You’ll hear from us again on our blog after Pascha!