Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Holy Week & Bright Week Schedule

The Feast of Pascha--the Resurrection of Our Lord--is the climax of the liturgical year.  The journey to the highpoint of our faith is felt with particular intensity in a monastery, where our lives literally revolve around prayer, fasting and preparation for this day.  Great & Holy Week is a week that on the Byzantine liturgical calendar is not even considered part of the 40 days of the Great Fast (the 40 days are completed this Friday); it is a week of its own special intensity and beauty.  Great & Holy Week can also be called the Week of the Bridegroom, because during this week, Jesus is preparing to lay down his life for His Bride, the Church (and for each of us individually).  This is why the icon of Christ the Bridegroom portrays Jesus in the moment of being mocked and humiliated as his Passion begins.  He loves us to the extent of humiliation, to death on the cross, to descending into Hades, and to raising our human nature with Him.  The coming week is a time to be with Him during all of this, so that we can experience, to a small degree, the depth of His love for us.

We encourage you to participate as much as possible in the Holy Week services at your parish, and we also welcome to join us at the monastery for any of these services listed below.  Our schedule can also be found on our Upcoming Events page.

Saturday, March 28, 2015 (Lazarus Saturday)
9:30 a.m. Divine Liturgy 

Sunday, March 29, 2015 (Palm Sunday)
8:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy 

Monday, March 30, 2015 (Great & Holy Monday)
3:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 (Great & Holy Tuesday)
3:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 (Great & Holy Wednesday)
8:00 a.m. Bridegroom Matins with Bishop John,
                 followed by a light breakfast at the monastery (Please RSVP by Holy Monday)
Time TBA Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts & Anointing of the Sick

Thursday, April 2, 2015 (Great & Holy Thursday)
We will be attending Vespers & Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 1900 Carlton Rd., Parma, Ohio, at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, April 3, 2015—our 6th anniversary (Great & Holy Friday)
7:00-9:30 a.m.  Matins with the 12 Gospel Readings
5:00 p.m. Vespers and Burial Procession

Saturday, April 4, 2015 (Great & Holy Saturday)
6:30 a.m. Jerusalem Matins
4:00 p.m. Vespers and Divine Liturgy of St. Basil

Sunday, April 5, 2015 (Pascha--the Resurrection of Our Lord)
8:00 a.m. Resurrection Matins, Divine Liturgy & Basket blessing

Monday, April 6, 2015 (Bright Monday)
8:00 a.m. Resurrection Matins & Divine Liturgy 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 (Bright Tuesday)
9:00 a.m. Resurrection Matins & Divine Liturgy 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 (Bright Wednesday)
9:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy 

Thursday, April 9, 2015 (Bright Thursday)
9:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy 

Friday, April 10, 2015 (Bright Friday)
8:00 a.m. Resurrection Matins & Divine Liturgy 

Saturday, April 11, 2015 (Bright Monday)
10:00 a.m. Memorial Divine Liturgy for Sr. Flora, celebrated by Bishop John
Refreshments at monastery (Please RSVP by Wed. April 7)

Sunday, April 12, 2015 (Thomas Sunday)
8:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy
Potluck at the monastery (please RSVP and let us know what dish you plan to bring)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Holy Mother Mary (of Egypt), pray to God for us!

Today is the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt (the 5th Sunday of the Great Fast).  During the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, which we led at the Cathedral in Parma on Thursday (click here for photos), we followed the tradition of reading the story of St. Mary's life. Listening to this story of profound repentance was a powerful experience for us, and others who participated in the Great Canon also expressed that they were moved by this story.

"Once you were filled with all kinds of harlotry; but today, through repentance, you have shown yourself to be a bride of Christ.  Yearning for the angelic life, you crushed the devils with the weapon of the cross.  Therefore, O glorious Mary, you became a bride in the kingdom." --Kontakion of St. Mary of Egypt

Bishop John has asked us to pray today, on the commemoration of this Egyptian saint, in a special way for peace in the world.  Please join us in praying these petitions that were included during the Divine Liturgy at the monastery and in each parish of our eparchy today:

Special Petitions in the Litany of Fervent Supplication (after the Gospel)

Loving Lord, look down with merciful eyes on your servants who, with faith, bow before your great kindness. You are good beyond all measure, and merciful beyond all mercy. You are the abode of calmness, peace and concord. Put an end to the hatred that separates us from one another, and lead all of us to love, mutual respect and tranquility by Your grace, and for your glory.  We pray you, O most powerful King, hear and have mercy.
One of the hundreds of prostrations during the Great Canon

Response:  Lord, have mercy. (Three times)

Lord, you commanded that everything be done for your glory. You spoke peace to a sinful world and brought us the gift of reconciliation by Your suffering, death and Resurrection. Teach us, the people who bear Your name, to follow Your example. May our faith, hope, and charity turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, and death to eternal life by Your grace. We pray you, O generous creator, hear and have mercy.

Response:  Lord, have mercy. (Three times)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

ALMOST THERE! (Can you help?)

Today as we celebrate Mid-Lent, the halfway point to Pascha (yay!!!), we are pleased to announce that we are nearly at our fundraising goal for our renovation project!  Of our $100,000 goal (to make the most of our matching funds opportunity), we have been blessed with donations totaling $83,150!  But it is always that last stretch that is the most difficult!  Are you able to help, or do you know anyone who might be interested in helping us to reach our goal?

We are in week six of the main phase of our renovations, and currently the rooms are being painted!  We are so grateful for all the support that has made this project possible, and with further support we will be able to tackle additional important projects.

May you encounter God in a powerful way in this second half of the Great Fast!
"A lance pierced your side, opening for me the fountain of forgiveness, to cancel the condemnation that came through the tree, in the middle of the earth, You were nailed to the Tree of the Cross; in the middle of this Fast, we now venerate it as we praise your divine goodness" (Mid-Lent Canon, ode 9).

Monday, March 9, 2015

"Lent is time of ‘joy’ for Eastern Catholics": Mother Theodora quoted in Catholic News Service article!

Lent is time of ‘joy’ for Eastern Catholics

By Laura Ieraci
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY  — “Joy” is not a word people usually associate with strict fasting and penance — unless they are Eastern-rite Catholics.

In the Eastern church, the penitential period that prepares believers to celebrate Easter, is called “Great Lent,” and its prayers invite the faithful to recognize their “need for forgiveness” and to “delight in the joy” of the fast.

Mother Theodora, the “hegumena” or abbess of the Byzantine Catholic Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, describes the Lenten disposition as “bright sadness.”

“We recognize our weakness and sinfulness, but rejoice in the mercy of God,” she told Catholic News Service.

Unlike Lent for Latin-rite Catholics, Great Lent does not begin on Ash Wednesday, but after Forgiveness Vespers. For Eastern churches using the Gregorian calendar, the vespers are held on the Sunday before the Roman church’s Ash Wednesday. During Forgiveness Vespers, the clergy and the congregation ask forgiveness of each other, one person at a time, for offenses they committed, knowingly or not, and exchange a kiss of peace.

While all Catholics, East and West, are called to fasting, prayer and almsgiving during Lent, fasting and prayer are accentuated and lived more intensely in the Eastern church.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mother Theodora's thoughts on fasting

Despite terrible road conditions due to the overnight snow, we made it down to Akron on Sunday morning for the Divine Liturgy at Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church.  Mother was invited to speak after the Divine Liturgy about fasting.  During the brunch, Moki shared her vocation story with the parishioners.  We were welcomed with the greatest hospitality by the loving parishioners!  Their pastor, Fr. Vsevelod ("Fr. Sal") Shevchuk is the brother of Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.  Fr. Vsevelod's wife is due any day now with their second child! Please pray for this beautiful parish as they celebrate their 100th anniversary.

We would like to share with you a portion of Mother's talk:

Serbian bishop Nikolai of Ochrid said (regarding his experience at the tomb in Jerusalem on Easter morning):
“We waited, and at last our expectations were fulfilled. When the Patriarch sang 'Christ is risen,' a heavy burden fell from our souls. We felt as if we also had been raised from the dead. All at once, from all around, the same cry resounded like the noise of many waters. 'Christ is risen' sang the Greeks, the Russians, the Arabs, the Serbs, the Copts, the Armenians, the Ethiopians one after another, each in his own tongue, in his own melody…Coming out from the service at dawn, we began to regard everything in the light of the glory of Christ’s resurrection, and all appeared different from what it had yesterday; everything seemed better, more expressive, more glorious. Only in the light of the Resurrection does life receive meaning."
This experience of resurrection joy is foundational to our worship and is the root of our Christian life and hope.  Yet if we are to experience the beauty and power of the Resurrection, each of us needs to go through a journey, a time of preparation and waiting. Without going through this journey of waiting—of expectant preparation, the deeper meaning of the Easter celebration will be lost.  In others words, if we do not die, we will not resurrect.

Fasting is a way of emptying ourselves in order to be filled with God. The purpose of fasting is also to discipline ourselves and to gain control of our passions. The soul is strengthened through self-denial and grace.

We as human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, are body and spirit. Our spirit could not express itself without the body and the body is alive and animated by the spirit.  Since we are a synthesis of body and spirit, both the body and spirit need to go through this time of preparation and be attentive not to neglect one or the other.

St. John Chrysostom teaches us about the meaning of the true nature of the Fast:
“The value of fasting does not consist in abstinence only from food, but in a letting go of sinful practices, since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meat is he who especially demeans the fast.  Do you fast?  Give me proof of it by your works.  If you see a poor man, take pity on him!  If you see a friend enjoying honor, do not envy him.  For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of your bodies.  Let the hands fast by being pure from greed.  Let the feet fast by ceasing from running to forbidden spectacles. Let the eyes fast by being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances…For it would be an instance of the highest absurdity to abstain from meals and from unlawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to feed on what is forbidden.  Do you not eat flesh when you feed on immorality by means of the eyes?  Let the ear also fast. The fasting of the ear is not to receive evil speaking and slander.  Let the mouth also fast from fowl words.
For what does it profit if we abstain from meat, and yet bite and devour our brother?”
There needs to be a proper balance between the body and the spirit.  St. Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…glorify God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  Without physical abstinence a full and true fast cannot be kept; yet we have to be careful not to treat the rules about eating and drinking as an end in themselves.

Ascetic fasting always has an inward and unseen purpose. The primary aim of fasting is to make us aware of our helplessness and dependence on God. We experience hunger, thirst and physical strain in order to lead us to a sense of inward brokenness and repentance. Through fasting and prayer we realize, in a profound way, the words of Jesus, “Without Me, you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). 

If it is important not to overlook the physical requirements of fasting, it is even more important not to overlook its inward significance. If we disregard the spiritual aspects of the Fast, then fasting without prayer becomes a mere diet. And...prayer and fasting without works of charity is dead. 

Moki with Fr. Sal's wife Helen and son Juri
The gospel of the Paralytic has a message of perseverance and hope. The paralytic was unable to get to Jesus because of his condition and the crowd. The friends of the paralytic overcame the obstacles that were in the way of their love for their friend. The gospel says, "Jesus saw their faith..." It was through their faith that the paralytic was healed. We, through our faith, through our prayer, fasting and almsgiving can bring others to Christ and overcome obstacles of spiritual paralysis or anything that separates them from Christ.

Fasting makes us light, vigilant, free and joyful. In time, it actually makes us work more diligently and think more clearly. 

When we over eat and drink we can become complacent and self-reliant. We become spiritually sluggish and our well-meaning intentions to pray or exercise an act of almsgiving can yield to compromise. Our opportunity to spend intimate time with God, a loved one or someone in need may ultimately end in a fruitless enslavement with something like a Smartphone.  

The Lenten journey, the Christian life itself, is a real battle. If it is true fasting it will lead us to temptation, weakness, doubt and irritation. We will probably fail many times in various ways.  Let it be said that there is no growth in the Christian life without the unpleasant experience of failures.  Did you start the fast with enthusiasm and then give up after your first failure? “Oh well, I messed up, maybe next year.”

The real test actually comes after your first failure.  If after having failed in your efforts, you start all over again and do not give up no matter how many times you fail, sooner or later your fasting, prayer and almsgiving will bear spiritual fruit. 

Be patient with yourself. There are no shortcuts to holiness (other than martyrdom!).

We have 5 more weeks--35 more days--of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. We have 35 more days of preparation and waiting, waiting for our expectations of the resurrection to be fulfilled. 

Let the fast be one of hunger and thirst for God. At the end of the Lenten journey we can say with all our being, “We waited, and at last our expectations were fulfilled. Only in the light of the Resurrection does life receive meaning.”

(Some points adapted from The Meaning of the Great Fast: The True Nature of Fasting by Mother Mary and Bishop Kallistos Ware)