Saturday, December 21, 2013

Enjoy the Master's hospitality!

Click on the photo to read our Christmas Letter!  Our letter shares a reflection on God's hospitality and also announces some exciting news!

If you would like to make a year-end tax-deductible donation to the monastery, please click here for instructions.  We are so grateful for your love, prayers and support!

May God bless you and your loved ones as we prepare for the beautiful feast of His Nativity!

"Through the Spirit, the prophet called out: This is our God and the Way.  There shall not be another but Him.  From Him you will discover the way of all knowledge.  He will take on our likeness by clothing Himself in the flesh of the virgin Handmaid of God.  He is coming to be born; He who is unapproachable by nature, is approachable to me" (Stichera from Vespers, Dec. 21).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The week of the bishops!

What a week of grace!  We are so grateful to God for the amazing encounters last week with some holy bishops!  The troparion (hymn) to St. Nicholas (which is also used for other bishop-saints) sums up the qualities that we found in these bishops:
Your life has shown you to your flock as a rule of faith, an image of gentleness and a teacher of moderation.  You acquired greatness through humility and wealth through poverty.  O father and archbishop Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.
Us with Bishop Kurt
Bishop Kurt Burnette

First was the ordination of Bishop Kurt Burnette as the new bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic (New Jersey).  For all of us at the monastery, it was the first ordination of a bishop that we had ever witnessed.  We were in awe to witness the bestowing of the vocation of apostle and the fullness of the priesthood upon this priest of God.  It was a rare gift to see so many bishops participating in a Divine Liturgy: bishops of multiple countries representing various Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as numerous Roman Catholic bishops.  We also loved Bishop Gerald's homily.  He spoke about the qualities of St. Nicholas, especially his zeal for the faith, gentleness and humility, and set him as an example for Bishop Kurt and all the bishops and priests.  We were touched by the way he spoke about humility and his challenge to the bishops and priests to spend an hour each day in prayer.

Bishop Fülöp Kocsis

One of the bishops attending the ordination was Bishop Fülöp Kocsis of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog, Hungary.  After the ordination, we had the privilege to drive this bishop home to our monastery.  Bishop Fülöp lived the monastic life prior to being chosen as bishop.  He received his formation at the famous Monastery of Chevetogne in Belgium and then founded a monastery in Hungary.  He and the other monk at the monastery were both chosen as bishops, but shortly after the monastery became vacant, three young women approached him with their desire to become nuns.  These women have recently begun to live the monastic life in Bishop Fülöp's former monastery.  After reading about us in our eparchial newspaper, Horizons, he was interested in meeting us and took this opportunity to visit the monastery and spend some time with us.  He celebrated Great Vespers in our chapel for the feast of St. Nicholas and also prayed Matins with us.  He and his secretary, Tamas, sang with us in beautiful harmony, and it was one of the most beautiful and moving experiences of prayer we have had in the monastery.

Bishop Milan Lach

Us with Bishop Milan
On the Feast of St. Nicholas, we took Bishop Fülöp and Tamas to the Byzantine Catholic Cultural Center in Cleveland for the Moleban to St. Nicholas (a supplicatory prayer service).  Also present were Bishop John (our bishop) and Bishop Milan Lach, auxiliary bishop of the Archeparchy of Prešov, Slovakia.  [A fun fact: Bishop Milan is currently the youngest Catholic bishop in the world!]  A number of students from St. Mary's Byzantine School in Cleveland came to pray and meet the bishops.  At the end of the service, Bishop Milan and Bishop Fülöp were given an opportunity to say a few words to the participants.  Bishop Milan spoke about the joy that comes from Jesus Christ and Bishop Fülöp spoke about the importance of visiting a monastery -- a place where prayer is continual.  Here are their touching words:

In the evening we attended the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of St. Nicholas at St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Barberton, Ohio.  The three bishops (Bishop John, Bishop Fülöp and Bishop Milan) concelebrated the Liturgy.  What a rare gift!  One of our favorite moments was when the three bishops sang the "Agios o Theos" together (the third verse of the "Holy God" which is sung in Greek by the bishop in a hierarchical Divine Liturgy) and harmonized with each other!  Bishop Milan also gave a beautiful homily on the qualities of St. Nicholas which we should imitate.  "Christian love should be discreet," he said.

The Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Church, as well as other moments of prayer during those few days, was truly heaven on earth.  There were many moments in which we lost all sense of time, and praying with these bishops from other countries spiritually connected us to their Byzantine Catholic flocks -- our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The bishops also connected us to the saints who have come before us, especially the bishops and apostles, through the succession of episcopal ordination, and ultimately to Christ.  Like St. Nicholas, they emulated the faith, gentleness, moderation, humility and poverty of Christ.

If you're interested in viewing more pictures or videos from our experience last week, check out these links:

Photo Album
Homily of Bishop Milan for the Feast of St. Nicholas