Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Sunday of the Cross: Our “pacer” for our goal of union

A Reflection from Victoria for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross

As supposed lovers of Christ, it must seem to many an absurd tradition for us to even look upon a crucifix, much less venerate (kiss) one. Isn’t a cross, without the murdered body of Our Lord, enough to remind us of His sacrifice? Do we really need the added, gruesome detail of a bloodied, naked corpus? In the Canon at Matins every Friday, we express the anguish felt by the Theotokos: “Seeing Christ sacrificed on the cross as a lamb, His Mother cried out: O long-suffering and eternal Son, where has all your beauty gone?” Imagine the awful sight it must have been for the Bridegroom’s own mother to have momentarily lost perception of His beauty.

The crucifix should be embarrassing. This is when Jesus, the Anointed One, who was expected by the Jews to come in waging war, emerging victorious, appears to be at His weakest, most human moment. Yet therein lies the beautiful sacrifice of our King! At any time He could have snapped His fingers, descended from the cross, and sent all around Him into the pit of Hell. Instead He chose to be in the muck of humanity, to take on every aspect of being human…even death…even a humiliating, public death. He nailed our sins to the cross and yet we struggle to even look at the scene. Our attention should certainly be on the crucifix, a constant reminder of our goal to climb up onto the cross with Him, our nuptial bed. If we truly want to be in union with Him, this means union in every way. As Catherine Doherty wrote, “Christ occupied one side of the cross—you must be crucified on the other side. From its height, you will get a first glimpse of the land of love.”

Now, it may seem that to venerate the cross the third Sunday of the Great Fast is a bit…premature. He won’t be crucified for nearly four more weeks! But as we sing during Matins this Sunday, “Today we have the joyous veneration of your life-giving Cross as a foretaste of your holy Passion, which you endure to save us, O Christ our God and almighty Savior.” So you could say this feast does something to whet our appetites, to really help us hunger to reach out and take Christ’s hand on the cross. Often, however, I view this feast as more of a reminder, a time to refocus on our goal. If any of you have ran a marathon, you’re familiar with “pacers.” These are the people who run the marathon at a much slower pace than they’re actually capable of running, holding up a sign with a time on it. If you stick with the “3:50” pacer, you’ll finish in 3:50, etc. In truth, though, I find the pacers real job to remain peppy, encouraging, and ever-optimistic. They strike up conversations with runners, cheer them on, and remind them of all the intense training they went through to prepare for this very moment. This is how I see the crucifix on the third Sunday of the Great Fast. I hear our Bridegroom calling down to me, “Keep it up! Run the race! Keep your gaze fixed on Me, purge yourself from sin, and we will forever be one.”  Then I get to respond to that call with a big old smooch and a renewed zeal to take on whatever cross He wishes for me to bear.

I encourage you all to gaze upon the crucifix today with new eyes. Examine our Savior’s face, touch His wounds, and fall in love. Let Him be your “pacer,” constantly calling you on to keep running the race. Know that He is the best of all pacers because He never leaves your side and always desires to whisper words of encouragement into your heart.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Eternal Memory, Regis Strohmeyer

Mother Theodora's Father, Regis Strohmeyer, fell asleep in the Lord on Wednesday, February 24th. Below is the funeral information, taken from his full obituary.  Regis was the father of 11 children, Mother Theodora being the 5th.  Please keep Mother and her family in your prayers!  May God grant eternal repose to the soul of His servant, Regis.

The family will receive friends from 4PM-8PM on Monday, February 29 at Lane Family Funeral Homes, Mineral Ridge Chapel, 1350 N. Canfield-Niles Rd., where closing prayers will be held on Tuesday March 1 at 9:30AM. Funeral Liturgy will take place Tuesday, March 1, at St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, 356 S. Belle Vista Ave., starting at 10AM. Interment will follow at St. Mary Catholic Cemetery. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

"And you will be called by a new name..."

Newsletter Reflection 4 of 6

A reflection from Sr. Emilia about her tonsure as a rasophore nun, Sept. 7, 2015

"And you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will give" (Isaiah 62:2).

While on my retreat the week before I was tonsured and given the name Sr. Emilia, I realized that the theme of my retreat was “the Father’s gentle love.” As I prayed with Scripture, talked with my retreat director and sat in the presence of God the Father, allowing Him into wounds and areas of my heart I had never opened before, I began to be filled with healing and the awareness of how loved I am. A while before I left for retreat, I had to give Mother Theodora my three name requests and I struggled with deciding which one to choose as the third name. My heart greatly desired Emilia, but it was already my name because it was the name I took for my confirmation. I just couldn’t write it down…but oh, how desperately I loved that name! So I left it up to God. I prayed, “I took that name at confirmation, so if You want me to be Emilia, You have to tell me by inspiring Mother Theodora to choose it without me requesting it!” I wanted the Father to name me. He did!

Since my retreat, the Father has not ceased to show me His particular love for me. So many connections have arisen with the name Emilia. I chose it in eighth grade to honor my mom. She had died just months before I was confirmed, and that was the name she had chosen for my youngest sibling if he had been a girl. Secondly, I chose that name in eighth grade in honor of St. Emilia, the “Mother of Saints,” and also in honor of Pope St. John Paul II’s mom, whose name was Emilia. I love the connection of the name with motherhood, because I love children and a huge part of my heart is full of motherly love for them. The day of my tonsure, I also found out that Bishop John’s mom was also named Amelia. As he said my name for the first time, tears streamed down my face because of all of the ways this name has always been God’s name for me. A huge part of my retreat was about how motherhood will be fulfilled in my heart as a nun, and then I received that name and all of these motherhood connections haven’t ceased coming up. God spoke to my heart in a clear way the day of my tonsure, letting me know that He had chosen me years before and that I was His.

As I sat to write this article, I reflected on Bishop John’s homily from the tonsure. In his homily, he was talking about our tonsure and about motherhood. What he said touched my heart in a very special way: “It is truly a blessing for a bishop to receive two daughters, two spiritual daughters…Someday, I look forward to calling you ‘Mother’ and realizing how marvelous your vocation is to be not a biological mother, but in truth a mother, not circumventing nature, but expanding on it–expanding on your nature to indeed give life; give life to those who come to the monastery, who come to realize the glory of God.” He went on further to express that not every nun who makes the step into novitiate will necessarily conclude that step, but that we (the Church) hope and pray for each sister in formation, that God-willing she will become “Mother” someday.

“Ask the Father to speak your name. The Father can say your name like no one else. When the Resurrected Jesus said, ‘Mary,’ she recognized Him instantly. Listen for His voice. One whisper from the Father can change everything, just like it did for Mary” (Neal Lozano, Abba’s Heart).

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, March 10 in Parma

Thursday, March 10
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
1900 Carlton Rd. Parma, OH
5:00-5:45  Dinner in the St. Nicholas Room (see signs)
6:00-9:30  Great Canon in the church, including the reading of the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and the veneration of her relic and the opportunity for the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession)
Facebook Event

Join the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in a deeply-moving, once-a-year Lenten experience on Thursday, March 10, 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 Monday, March 7, to 440-834-0290 or so the nuns know how much food and how many booklets to prepare.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Before we step into the desert

Today is the first day of the Great Fast, and in exactly one month from today I will turn 30, the age of Jesus when He began His public ministry. And before Jesus began this ministry, the Spirit led Him out into the desert for 40 days where He was tested by the devil. So as we begin the Great Fast, which commemorates in part these 40 days of Jesus in the desert, I am putting myself in the shoes (or sandals, I should say...) of the Son of God who came and put Himself in mine by taking on my human nature.

A friend pointed out to me recently that after Jesus was baptized and before He went out into the desert, He heard the voice of the Father saying, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Lk 3:22). What consoling, strengthening words! In the devil's temptations of Jesus, he challenged Jesus' trust in the love of God the Father and of Jesus' identity as His Son. The Israelites were tested in the same way during their 40 years in the desert, but they failed in their trust in God. Jesus did not.

Jesus heard the Father's words of love and did not doubt them, and He remained faithful in the desert. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to hear these words, how do I think that I can remain faithful to God without accepting these words? How can I step into the desert of the Great Fast, or even step any further into the desert of monastic life, if I do not pause and simply let God love me? If I continue to think that I have to earn God's love, that I have to do the right things in order to be pleasing to Him, or that I am not of priceless value just as a child of God, then how will I not succumb to all of the devil's temptations?

Before I can fast, I need to know God's love for me in a deeper way. Fasting is not what draws God's love to me; the poverty of my humanity and my existence as His child does that. Before we step out (or step further out) into the desert of Lent, let's give God a chance to speak these words to us in the unique way that He speaks to each of our hearts: "You are my beloved son (or daughter); with you I am well pleased." And then our fasting will open us even more to His love and mercy.

Mother Cecilia

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A bit of Super Bowl Sunday fun with nuns...

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, we wanted to share a bit of our "experience" playing football.  In this video, you will witness what we learned from a dear priest-friend about the virtue of fortitude through the analogy of football. Using the technique "repel and drive," we represent literally the need to "repel" off the temptations of the devil and use that momentum to "drive" forward towards Christ. Also, when we do fall because of sin, we must always "fall forward" so as to lean into Christ to gain those "extra yards" in perseverance and grace. (Note how well Mother Cecilia illustrates this technique!) Perhaps these techniques will help us as we begin the Great Fast tonight!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Aleteia article makes a fitting conclusion for our Year of Consecrated Life!

The Year of Consecrated Life, which the Catholic Church has been celebrating since November of 2014, concludes today on the Feast of the Encounter of Our Lord with Simeon (the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple). It has been an epic year for us, as Mother Theodora wrote about in her newsletter update, with major renovations, our first fundraising event, two Rasophore tonsures, the entrance of a new dokimos (postulant), two life professions, the appointment of Mother Theodora as Hegumena (Abbess), and more!

And today this beautiful and fruitful Year of Consecrated Life comes to a close, but not without a finale!  Enjoy this article published today on about our monastery.  And keep us in your prayers as we find out what God has in store for us this year, and as we seek to persevere and remain faithful to Him!