Sunday, December 24, 2017

Allow Jesus to "lay down" in your weakness

A reflection by Mother Cecilia, originally published in Horizons, the newspaper of the Eparchy of Parma.

Through the sponsorship of a benefactor, the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, organized by the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, this past July. It was the first time in the Holy Land for most of the nuns of the monastery.

On the first full day of our pilgrimage, my amazement grew as each new site increased in importance. I was in awe when we visited the place where some of the prophets are buried. Then we visited the place where the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, was born. As we approached the place of the birth of the Messiah — of God on earth — I simply didn’t know what to think.

In Bethlehem, we went first to Shepherd’s Field, where the angels announced the Good News of Christ’s birth to the herdsmen. We walked through the ruins of a monastery that existed during the Byzantine period.

After lunch, we arrived at the Church of the Nativity. It is one of the oldest churches still in existence. The doorway is very low, so that visitors must bow in order to enter.

Underneath the church is the Grotto of the Nativity, where the place of Jesus’ birth is marked with a metal star on the floor. Nearby, in the same chapel, is the place where Jesus was laid in the manger. We listened to the chanting of the Gospel and then venerated the place of the Nativity as we sang the Troparion of the Nativity.

I was overwhelmed and nervous to venerate this holy spot, especially as we were being urged to move quickly. As I kneeled down and leaned over to kiss the star on the floor, my metal water bottle fell out of the side pouch of my backpack and crashed loudly on the marble floor near the star. Someone picked it up for me. I tried to touch my chotki to the star, but because it was attached to my belt I couldn’t reach it there. I awkwardly got up. I quickly understood that Jesus was allowing me to be humbled in the very place where he humbled himself by becoming man.

Then I walked a few steps over to the place where Jesus was laid in the manger. It was slightly less chaotic there. I stood there quietly for a few moments and said in my heart to Jesus, “I don’t know how to pray here. I don’t know what to think about in this place where you have lain.”

Immediately, an image came to my mind: I saw myself receiving the Eucharist. Then I understood, and exclaimed to Jesus, “Oh, I’ve experienced this before! You lay in me every time I receive Communion!”

At that moment I began to relax. The places I visited in the Holy Land were not actually foreign to me. I had already experienced these mysteries interiorly, in the liturgy, and in the mysteries of the church.

As I look back on the experience of our pilgrimage, I realize that I didn’t need to figure out how to think or how to pray. God was giving himself to me, and my job was to open to receive him. This is what he continues to do in every moment of our lives.

During this Feast of the Nativity, may we humbly accept our weaknesses, allowing them to be places where Jesus lays down in us so that we can give him to the world.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Renovations have begun!

We are very excited to share some good news! Thanks to the generosity of many donors this year, especially at our Bridegroom's Banquet, our newest renovation project has begun! The "old farm house" and "former rectory," buildings attached to our chapel, are being renovated into retreat space for our growing number of retreatants.

Please keep the workers in your prayers as they undertake this project! Thank you for all of your support!

Monday, November 20, 2017

"Silence, Prayer, Poustinia": A Video

"The Christian life is a real's actually a blood and guts battle, especially an interior battle with the reality of sin and temptation that we deal with in our lives every day" (Mother Theodora).

We hope you are inspired by this 17-minute video, produced for our recent Bridegroom's Banquet, in which we share some wisdom that we have learned about silence and prayer. We and a couple of poustinia guests also share some experiences of our time in the poustinia (literally "desert," but referring to our retreat house used for silent retreats). We hope that our video helps you to understand the importance of silence and daily prayer, and perhaps plants a seed for a future retreat! Some of the funds raised at the Bridegroom's Banquet will help us to renovate our remaining empty buildings into additional retreat space, so that more people will be able to take time to be alone with Jesus, the Bridegroom of our souls.

The video was filmed and edited by Bowling Green University film student David Bratnick, parishioner of our Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

We surpassed our goal at the "Bridegroom's Banquet!"

Thanks to the generous support of many, we received over $82,000 in donations and pledges at our Nov. 11 Bridegroom's Banquet or through pre-event donations. Generous benefactors pledged to match up to $75,000! We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, which will help keep the monastery running in the coming year and will help us to renovate our remaining empty buildings into retreat space.

Some attendees of the banquet attended the Vigil Divine Liturgy at St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church in Brecksville, Ohio, the parish which generously hosted our event. We then cantored Great Vespers, at which Bishop Milan presided, and then dinner followed in the hall downstairs. About 250 guests enjoyed the evening with us.

We shared a 17-minute video titled, "Silence, Prayer, Poustinia," filmed at the monastery by film student and Cathedral parishioner David Bratnick, which we will share with you soon. Donations were then collected, and while they were being counted, Fr. Ryan Mann (St. Charles Borromeo, Parma) and Fr. Jacob Bearer (St. Francis de Sales, Akron) provided many laughs with three improv comedy skits.

Enjoy more photos here. Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Prayer for the Nativity Fast

In the Byzantine Tradition, the 40-day fasting period in preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord begins today. Below is a prayer from the service of Royal Hours on the eve of the Nativity. It can be used as a daily prayer during the Nativity Fast. May your journey to this great feast be blessed!

O Christ our Lord and God, You did not think equality with God something to be grasped at, but You emptied Yourself, took the form of a slave and were born in human likeness. Enlighten us as we prepare to celebrate Your holy birth. Make us worthy to see the mystery of Your becoming man for us, while remaining God in eternity. Fill our minds with understanding, that we might see You even in the least of our brothers and sisters. You have given us the gift of Your Holy Spirit, You have loved us even to the point of your saving death and glorious resurrection, grant us also a faith that cannot be confused, a love that does not pretend, and a wisdom that is complete. You have said, "Unless you become like children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." Grant that in this feast we may again experience the rebirth we were given in baptism, and sing out with the angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests." You have humbled Yourself, O Christ our God. May Your name be exalted, together with the name of Your eternal Father and the name of Your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.

Monday, October 30, 2017

How to help if you can't attend the Bridegroom's Banquet

We had to close registration for the Bridegroom's Banquet a day early because all the seats were full! If you did not get a spot before we closed registration, or if you are unable to attend for other reasons, you can still help! Here's what you can do:

1. Please pray for us, for our guests and for a fruitful event. 
2. Your donation can still be doubled! Donations, up to a total of $75,000, will be doubled by matching donors!!! You may send a donation before the event, marked "Bridegroom's Banquet," by cash or check payable to "Christ the Bridegroom Monastery" to: 
The Bridegroom's Banquet
Christ the Bridegroom Monastery
17485 Mumford Rd.
Burton, OH 44021

Your donations will help with two needs:
1.  To keep our monastery running so that we can continue our life of prayer and hospitality 
2.  To renovate the remaining empty buildings on our property to meet the growing need for personal retreat space for retreatants and our community (we will add these funds to last year's funds that were set aside for this purpose and will then, God-willing, be able to start construction!)

Thank you for all of your support! God bless you!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pomegranate Blossoms--Holy Land Edition!

We could also call this the pomegranate edition of Pomegranate Blossoms! We hope you enjoy our reflections from our recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land--the homeland of our Bridegroom, in our summer/fall issue of our newsletter. If you would like to receive our newsletter by mail or email, you may subscribe using this form.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

One month until the Bridegroom's Banquet!

Don't forget to register for our benefit dinner, taking place on Sat. Nov. 11, at St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church in Brecksville, Ohio. Admission is free, but you must register using our online form by Oct. 30. Visit our Bridegroom's Banquet page for more information! Donations, up to a total of $75,000 will be doubled!

We are looking forward to enjoying the evening with you, and we think you will especially enjoy the improv comedy of Fr. Ryan Mann and Fr. Jacob Bearer! 

If you are unable to attend, you can still help! First of all, please pray for a fruitful event. Secondly, your donation will still be doubled if you send it in before the event. You may send a donation by cash or check payable to "Christ the Bridegroom Monastery" to:

The Bridegroom's Banquet
Christ the Bridegroom Monastery
17485 Mumford Rd.
Burton, OH 44021

Thank you for all of your support!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The one thing needful

On Saturday we hosted a retreat day for wives of priests from the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Parma. The eight women, who came from the northeast Ohio area, Pittsburgh and Florida, asked to spend a day away from their responsibilities at their homes and parishes and gather at the monastery for some encouragement, prayer and rest.

It was a rare opportunity for these women, who often feel alone in their unique vocation, to spend time with each other and to be free to talk about their struggles and joys.

Mother Theodora gave a talk on the theme of the retreat day, "The one thing needful." She reflected on Martha and Mary of Bethany and the gifts of both of these friends of Jesus. She encouraged the women to take advantage of the opportunities during the retreat day to sit at the feet of Jesus in silence and listen to His voice. She reminded them that in their daily life they first need to be the bride of Jesus and to be with Him and be loved by Him; this relationship is the foundation of their other vocations of wife of a priest, mother of children and mother of their parishes.

After Sixth Hour, lunch and silent prayer, Sr. Iliana gave a talk from the perspective of a child of a priest. She shared funny stories from her childhood in the rectory, her struggles and the graces that helped lead her to her monastic vocation. Regarding the wives and children of priests, she said, "We don't just happen to be here; it's not just chance. We each have a particular vocation in the heart of the Church." She encouraged the women to asked the Lord, "What part of Your body am I?" She reminded them that all are called to holiness. Just as Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus' feet, "We need to receive our oil from Him so that we can pour it out on others."

After more time for silent prayer on the monastery grounds, the women departed, but not before asking to come back next year!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Thank you to our fall work day volunteers!

Thank you to all of the awesome volunteers who joined us this past Saturday on a very hot day to help us with many projects around the monastery and grounds. The grounds are looking great, the library is closer to being organized, the chapel is clean, and our chapel sign is ready for the words to be painted!

Enjoy more photos here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Registration open for the Bridegroom's Banquet!

You’re invited to the “Bridegroom’s Banquet,” a benefit dinner for the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, on Saturday, November 11, at St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church in Brecksville, Ohio.

There is no cost to attend the dinner, but registration is required (by October 30). Adults 21 and older may attend. Enjoy a buffet dinner, improv comedy (similar to the show "Whose Line is it Anyway?") by Fr. Ryan Mann (St. Charles Borromeo, Parma) and Fr. Jacob Bearer (St. Francis de Sales, Akron) and an evening with us and our guests. Learn more about us and our life of prayer and hospitality. Donations given at the event (or designated for the event and mailed in ahead of time), up to a total of $75,000, will be doubled by a matching donor!!!

Register now using this form. The schedule and more information can be found at our Bridegroom's Banquet tab. We hope to enjoy the evening with you on November 11!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A poem

Inspired by Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration, especially the line, “And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only” (Mt 17:8), one of the nuns in our monastery wrote the following poem after our pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We pray that the words can help deepen your own intimacy with our Bridegroom!

It is on Tabor that I first fell in love.
There did I behold my Lover, radiant and ruddy.
And when I fall to my face in shame,
unworthy to bask in those rays,
You touch my chin.
I lift my gaze.
And I can see nobody but You.

It is a love so effortless,
when I let it be so.
I need not even think of where is Your love.
When I cry, it is in Gethsemane.
When I laugh, it is in Cana.
There is no part of my life outside of our love.

It is a love meant for the world to see.
It cannot be kept secret.
And so I left the mountain,
because the mountain is not my love.
My Love is You, and You have asked
to make my heart a Mt. Tabor,
so others may fall in love.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Join us for our Fall Work Day & Cookout, Sept. 23!

Join us for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery on Saturday, September 23.  Volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome!  The day begins at 10 a.m., includes lunch, and closes with vespers at 5 p.m. followed by a cookout.  Come at whatever time you are available, and bring a side dish to share if you can.  The monastery is located at 17485 Mumford Rd. Burton, Ohio.  Please RSVP* by Tuesday, September 19, to 440-834-0290 or, so that the appropriate amount of food can be prepared.

*Please RSVP with:
1. The number of adults (include teens) and the number of kids (12 and under)
2. Will you be here for lunch or dinner or both?
3. The dish you plan to bring

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Save the Date for the Bridegroom's Banquet

Save the date for our benefit dinner, Saturday, November 11, 2017, at St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church in Brecksville, Ohio. The evening includes Vespers (evening prayer), dinner, entertainment (comedy by Fr. Ryan Mann and Fr. Jacob Bearer), and the opportunity to learn more about us and support our life of prayer and hospitality.

Your donation, whether at the event or designated ahead of time, will be doubled by generous matching donors!

The event is free, but registration is required. Registration will open in a few weeks. Please keep an eye out for more information!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To descend to be raised up

Today we celebrate the feast of the Dormition (falling asleep) of the Mother of God. Now that I have been at the tomb of the Mother of God in the Garden of Gethsemane during our recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I was struck in a new way as we celebrated the feast.

I was especially moved by the phrase in bold in this first stichera at Vespers:

"O what a wonder! The Source of Life Itself is placed in a tomb; the grave becomes a ladder to heaven. Rejoice, Gethsemane, holy chamber of the Theotokos. As for us, O faithful, let us cry out with Gabriel, the prince of angels: Rejoice, O woman full of grace, the Lord is with you!--the Lord, who because of you bestows great mercy on our souls."

Why did it strike me? Take a look at the second photo to the right. These are the many steps descending into the church which contains the tomb of the Mother of God. (The people in the photo are only about half-way down the steps.) This, to me, is an image of Mary's humility. "For He has looked with favor upon the lowliness of His handmaiden..." (Lk 1:48a). In life, and in death, Mary embraces the littleness and poverty of her humanity, and God raises her up. "From this day forward, all generations will call me blessed" (Lk 1:48b).

Mary is an example to us of the daily dying to self which "becomes a ladder to heaven." When we descend the many steps down into the poverty within us and surrender our lives into the hands of God, He then raises us up to a new life of joy and freedom, ultimately in heaven, but even now in the Kingdom that has already begun.

Mother Cecilia

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Discernment Retreat, Oct. 12-15

"As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you” (Is 62:5). Single Catholic women, ages 18-35, who would like to take a weekend to pray about a possible vocation to the monastic or religious life, are invited to inquire about attending the upcoming discernment retreat at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, Thurs., Oct. 12 – Sun., Oct. 15, 2017. Experience the life of prayer at the monastery, listen to talks on prayer and discernment, make use of the opportunity to get to know the nuns, and receive healing through the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession). For the schedule and more information, please see the retreat brochure. If you are interested in this retreat, or a future retreat or discernment opportunity, fill out the online Vocation Inquiry Form. Please fill out the form by Sept. 29 for this retreat. Space is limited. Mother Theodora will call you to talk about availability. With questions, call 440-834-0290 or email

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Transformed into the image of His Love

By the grace of God, a benefactor sponsored us to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, July 6-18. In the coming months, we will share reflections and photos from this life-changing experience. Here is the first of our reflections, written by Mother Gabriella for the occasion of the Feast of the Transfiguration.

During our recent trip to the Holy Land, I had the privilege of going so many places I never even dreamed of going.  Even though I read the itinerary ahead of time, every moment seemed to be a surprise from God!

Below this icon is the Stone of the Transfiguration
One of the feasts while we were there was for St. Veronica (July 12), who has been part of my journey for many years.  Tradition tells us that she was the woman with the flow of blood for 12 years that Jesus healed, which was a very important image for me during my discernment of monastic life and even now.  On the day of her feast, we began by riding to the top of Mount Tabor to an Orthodox monastery which has a piece of the rock where Christ was transfigured.  I didn’t have a particular excitement about the trip up the mountain – be it the jet lag, lack of sleep, or generally being overwhelmed by all the holy places we had been – but as soon as we got there, many of my sisters were very moved by the experience, so I thought, maybe I should get excited to be here!

Each of the nuns was blessed to receive an icon of the Transfiguration to touch to the stone where Jesus was transfigured and as I touched my icon to the stone, I prayed, “I want to be transfigured, so my life will show the change you have worked in my heart.” And I heard immediately from the Father, “You are transfigured,” in a very knowing voice, so I trusted He would let me know what that meant.

Praying at St. Veronica's Chapel in Jerusalem
Fast forward to the end of the day back in Jerusalem, one of my sisters had expressed interest in going to the sixth station to visit the chapel dedicated to St. Veronica in honor of her feast, so we headed out through the Old City to find it.  We arrived after a several minute walk and were blessed to find the church still open!  So we went in and were able to sing her tropar (hymn) in the chapel.  We also had a deacon friend with us who chanted all three gospels of the woman with the flow of blood and we ended with some quiet time to pray.  As I sat there praying, I meditated on the gospels we had just read and imagined myself as the tassel on Christ’s garment.  I don’t normally do imaginary prayer, but since that is where the Spirit led, that is where I followed.  As the scene played out in my mind, I could feel the power of Christ move through me to St. Veronica as she was healed and I was struck with a connection between Christ and St. Veronica I had not seen before – the importance of cloth and blood.  I saw how St. Veronica came to Jesus confident that He would heal her flow of blood, if she but touch the tassel of His garment.  And I saw Jesus, approaching St. Veronica during His passion, also bleeding and in need of comfort, seeking St. Veronica to wipe His flow of blood away with her veil.

This scene moved me to also desire to comfort Him, but I had no cloth to wipe His face.  I told Jesus this desire and He spoke to my heart that He had already given me something to use – my habit.  I gave Him myself already and He gave me this cloth, which He invisibly imprints His face upon for all to see everywhere I go.  In accepting my dependence and need, in laying down my life and receiving from Him, I had something to offer back to Him – the very clothes on my back, to comfort Him.  In comforting and receiving that imprint, I became transfigured – I became the very image of Him in the world – an icon of His love.  I became an image of heaven on earth – of what our life in heaven will look like, in union with Him forever.  So I prayed that His image would become more present in me, on me, through me, making me a living transfiguration – which was exactly what He said had already happened that very morning!

So as we encounter the Transfiguration anew today, let us all ask Jesus how we can offer ourselves to Him, to be further transformed into the image of His love for the world to see.

Happy Nun Pilgrims!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bishop Milan to speak at Mariapoch Pilgrimage, Aug. 12-13

Join us for the annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, 17486 Mumford Rd., Burton, Ohio (across the street from the monastery), on Saturday, August 12 - Sunday, August 13. Visit the shrine's website for the schedule and more information (scroll down on the homepage).

We will be cantoring some of the services, as well as coordinating the teen and family talk and campfire on Saturday night and the teen activity on Sunday afternoon. Unlike the past few years, we are not chaperoning a teen campout, but teens are encouraged to ask their families to camp out with them on the grounds!

Our new Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Milan Lach, will give the talk on Sunday afternoon at 1:15 p.m. and will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at 3:30 p.m. The new replica of the icon of Our Lady of Mariapoch, which was painted in Mariapoch, Hungary, will be installed at the shrine. Come and get to know Bishop Milan and pray and spend time with others from many different parishes in the eparchy. All are welcome!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"He must increase, I must decrease"--Highlights of Girls Camp 2017

What a blessing! God's providence was so manifest during Girls Camp, June 22-26, here at the monastery. Rain may have "messed up" the schedule and flooded the tents, but the Holy Spirit was clearly pouring out upon the girls and us!

A record number of teen girls (30) traveled from seven different states (Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia) for the camp, sponsored by the Eparchy of Parma Office of Vocations. The girls listened to talks on the theme, "He must increase, I must decrease" (Jn. 3:30), engaged in small group discussions, spent time in quiet reflection, participated in the Mystery of Holy Repentance, prayed many of the daily liturgical services of the Church with us, and enjoyed other activities, such as a "nun obstacle course!"

A unique event during this year's camp was a trip to our cathedral in Parma on our eparchy's patronal feast (the Nativity of St. John the Baptist) for the ordination of Fr. Cyril Pinchak to the priesthood. In God's beautiful providence, the day before the ordination, Fr. Cyril unexpectedly walked in the door of the monastery just as we were about to tell the girls about him and what they would experience at the ordination! Fr. Cyril did a much better job than we would have, and the girls were able to meet him in person.

Girls Camp began in 2009 and is meant to catechize teen girls about the various vocations in the Church and to help them encounter God in a deeper way and to grow in their relationship with Him. It seems that the the purpose of the camp is truly being fulfilled, by God's grace. We are so overwhelmed by all of the graces that He poured out during the camp, that we want to share some of them through the words of a few of the girls:

"I felt a great sense of peace and joy that I had never felt before in my entire life" (Isabella Way; Tucson, Ariz.).

"[Girls Camp] deepened [my relationship with Jesus Christ] a lot. I feel like now I can just talk to Him, as if I was talking to a friend" (Bella Popp; Cleveland, Ohio).

"I feel closer to Him in everything I do now and like I can talk freely to Him about anything. It's just really amazing!" (Maria Hartung; Springfield, Ohio).

"[Girls Camp] made [my relationship with Jesus Christ] stronger and 'surfaced' it. I've always sort of known that God was there but I just started realizing that He was there for me" (Dominica Lupia; Seven Hills, Ohio).

"I have received so many special graces these past few days" (Anonymous).

"It feels as if a door was opened for me to walk through and experience Jesus in a more raw and pure way" (Anonymous).

"[My favorite part was] meeting all of the nuns, seeing how happy they are, loving, and just feeling the love of God radiate off them; [also,] all the talks leading back to Jesus. [Girls Camp] reminded me that Jesus is really all I need in life, the only thing that can fill my heart" (Eva Mangels; Tucson, Ariz.).

Enjoy more photos from the camp!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Welcome, Bishop Milan!

We are very happy to welcome Bishop Milan Lach as the newly appointed administrator of our eparchy! This photo is from his visit to our eparchy in December of 2013. Here is a video that we took of some remarks he gave at the end of a Liturgy during that visit.

Our eparchy published the following information about Bishop Milan:

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, auxiliary bishop of Presov, Slovakia, as apostolic administrator of the Eparchy of Parma.

The appointment relieves Archbishop William C. Skurla of Pittsburgh from the pastoral governance of Parma. He had served as apostolic administrator since Bishop Emeritus John Kudrick resigned May 7, 2016.

Bishop Lach was born in Kezmarok, Slovakia, Nov. 18, 1973. He was ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus (commonly known as the Jesuits) July 1, 2001, and was ordained to the episcopacy to serve as auxiliary bishop of Presov June 1, 2013. Bishop Lach is fluent in English, among several languages.

The 43-year-old Byzantine Catholic Jesuit is the first European-born bishop to be appointed to oversee the Eparchy of Parma since its founding in 1969.

Please see over the next few days and weeks for updates and additional information on the appointment.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pray for our Girls Camp!

We're almost ready for Girls Camp! Please pray for the 30 teenage girls who will arrive on Thursday afternoon and camp out until Sunday on the monastery grounds. Pray for open hearts as the girls pray with us, listen to talks, engage in discussion groups, participate in the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession), and more. We will also have plenty of fun!

Half of the girls are new this year, and more than half are from states other than Ohio (Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia). Please also pray for the boys who are participating in Boys Camp across the street at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch.

Our theme this year, for both of the camps, is "He must increase, I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). Thanks for your prayers!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day!

We offer our love and prayers today to all of our fathers, biological and spiritual!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Our favorite saints

Happy Sunday of All Saints! In the Byzantine Tradition, we commemorate all the saints on the Sunday after Pentecost. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us into saints. We at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery love the saints so much; they are our constant inspiration for saying “yes” to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Their widely varying stories and gifts show us that we each have a unique path of holiness. They also teach us that holiness is not about doing everything perfectly, but about union with God through the acceptance of His will and His love. They encourage us to respond to God’s love whole-heartedly, holding nothing of ourselves back from Him.

Here are some of our favorite saints, of both the Eastern and Western Traditions. Many of these saints have sought us out and made known their intercession for us. If you see a name you have never heard and that strikes your interest, perhaps you could do a little research on the life of this saint and make a new friend!      

Mother Theodora
Bl. Theodore Romzha
St. John Paul II
St. Peter
St. Mary of Egypt
St. John Chrysostom
St. Gregory of Nyssa

Mother Cecilia
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Julie Billiart
St. Clare of Assisi
Bl. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich
St. Faustina

Mother Gabriella
St. Gabriel
Servant of God Fulton Sheen
St. Teresa of Avila
Servant of God Catherine Doherty
St. Dorotheos of Gaza
St. Catherine of Siena

Sr. Iliana
St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Philip Neri
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
The Prophet Elijah
St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

Sr. Natalia
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati
St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
Bl. Theodore Romzha
The Apostle Nathanel
St. Mary Magdalene
St. Mary of Egypt

Sara Lynn
St. Thomas More
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
St. André Bessette
Servant of God Dorothy Day
St. Joseph
St. Julian of Norwich

Monday, June 5, 2017

"Through the Spirit..."

Happy Feast of Pentecost! All this week we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, and we can also reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. Here are some beautiful words from St. Basil to help us:

"As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit dwells, and who are enlightened by the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God. Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God...."

--St. Basil, "On the Holy Spirit"

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thank you to our spring work day volunteers!

Thank you to all our amazing volunteers who helped us at our spring work day on Saturday, May 13! Click on the photo to see more photos from the day. (However, these photos only show a fragment of our many awesome volunteers!)

We had such a beautiful, fun and productive day. Trees were cut down, bushes trimmed, flower beds weeded, a frame for the herb garden was built, windows washed, grass weed-wacked, the chapel sign received a first coat of new paint, gravel spread, the light post repaired, the chapel cleaned, and more! We couldn't have accomplished all of this work on our own!

We also enjoyed lunch at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch with the shrine volunteers. Many volunteers also stayed for Great Vespers for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, celebrated by our chaplain, Fr. Dennis, and enjoyed a cookout/potluck. We thank God for the beautiful weather and for the gift of your generous hearts.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Boys & Girls Camps Registration Open

Update: Girls Camp is full for this year. To be added to a waiting list, email or call 440-834-0290.

Registration opened this week for the Eparchy of Parma Boys and Girls Camps, sponsored by the Office of Vocations and the Byzantine Catholic Cultural Center. See below for more information about the camps. There are only a few spots still open for Girls Camp!

Girls Camp is for girls 13-18 and provides an opportunity for teen girls to discover the different vocations in the Church and develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.  We will pray together, listen to inspiring talks, engage in group discussions, enjoy various activities and have fun! The camp is hosted by the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, and led by the nuns and young adult women.

Space is limited and may fill up before the deadline!  Questions?  Email call the nuns at 440-834-0290.

Boys Camp is for boys 8-18 and is an ascetical boot camp aimed at assisting young men in their path to true Christian discipleship and holiness.  The four-day weekend focuses on the boys need for God and how to best hear His call for their lives.  All vocations are discussed both in large and small group settings.  Campers will experience a variety of liturgical prayer, hiking and team activities. Please note that registration for boys ages 8-11 requires his father or legal male guardian's registration and participation.

The camp takes place at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch in Burton, Ohio, and is led by a dedicated team of priests, deacons, and lay leaders from the Eparchy of Parma.  Questions?  Email or call John Popp at 216-741-8773 x225.

Cost per camper: $100 (Family maximum: $300)
Scholarships available upon request
Register Online by June 5

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Work Day, May 13

Join the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery and the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch on Saturday, May 13. Volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome! The day begins at 10 a.m., includes lunch, and closes with vespers at 5 p.m. followed by a cookout. Come at whatever time you are available, and bring a side dish to share if you can. The monastery is located at 17485 Mumford Rd. Burton, Ohio. Please RSVP* by Monday, May 8, to 440-834-0290 or, so that the appropriate amount of food can be prepared.

*Please RSVP with:
1. The number of adults (include teens) and the number of kids (12 and under)
2. Will you be here for lunch or dinner or both?
3. The dish you plan to bring

Monday, April 24, 2017

Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen! We hope you are enjoying this beautiful celebration of the Resurrection!

"Thomas Didymus dared to touch with his hand
the side of Him Who is untouchable
yet his hand was not consumed by fire!
He diligently probed the wounds
crying out concerning Him Whose side was pierced for us:
You are my Lord and my God, Who endured the Passion!"

(Sessional Hymn II, Monday of Thomas Week)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

To be Consoled, or to Console?

By Sr. Iliana

As Jesus hung on the cross in utter anguish, struggling for every breath, He turned to the thief crucified to His right and said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). These words suddenly had deeper meaning for me when I found myself one day struggling to breathe in an emergency room. If any of you have ever struggled to breathe, you know the anxiety that this produces. I do admit I felt pretty anxious. I soon realized that I felt lonely, too, as if I had been abandoned. I hadn’t actually been abandoned, but that is how it felt. Due to a series of unforeseen events, I was there alone. The nurse who was caring for me was truly a dear, but she was a stranger to me, and I desired my loved ones to be there. Even though I knew in my mind that there was no need for them to come, my heart still desired for them to come. This is a very normal human reaction! When we’re suffering, we want to be consoled by our loved ones. We even want this when we’re not suffering. The first thing I do when I’m in a large crowd is scan the room for someone I know.

Jesus was actually abandoned by His friends. Of His twelve disciples, only John came to the foot of the cross. Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him, and all the others fled in sheer terror. Though His Mother was there, and a few women at a distance, His intimate friends abandoned Him as He foretold. Jesus must have felt truly abandoned. Jesus is fully human and He desires consolation just as we do.

Yet in the moment that all of humanity would most desire to be consoled, Jesus turns to the stranger at His side – the thief who had been mocking Him just moments before – and He consoles. He says, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” as if to say: “You are now as close to Me as possible. You are now a saint. You are about to be face to face with your Father who loves you. Between us is the most intimate friendship, the most intimate love.” He takes the stranger and brings him into intimate relationship with Himself, the same relationship He desires for each of us. Whereas I desired my intimate friends, Jesus makes the stranger His intimate friend.

When I was in the emergency room, I eventually stopped feeling sorry for myself, and began to talk to Kaitlyn, my nurse. She asked me to pray for her, and I was profoundly moved by our encounter. I even wondered if Jesus had allowed me to be sick just so that I could be there with Kaitlyn in that moment. Kaitlyn was a consolation to me. Imagine how much more Jesus was consoled to see the salvation of the thief at His side. The Lord wants to take us out of mere feelings and into true communion with Himself, so that in the moment of our utter darkness we can see the hand of God and be consoled – not because the darkness has now passed, but even in the midst of the darkness. The thief was still nailed to the cross in anguish when He received the greatest consolation of all – the promise of eternal life. As we face the trials of our life, as we pick up our crosses and follow Him, let us join St. Francis in praying, “Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console.”

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Holy Week & Pascha Schedule

All are invited to join us for any of these services during Great & Holy Week, also called "The Week of the Bridegroom," or for Pascha, the Resurrection of Our Lord!

Monday, April 10
Great & Holy Monday
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Tuesday, April 11
Great & Holy Tuesday
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Wednesday, April 12
Great & Holy Wednesday
8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Bridegroom Matins with Bishop John, followed by a light breakfast (please RSVP to 440-834-0290 or if staying for breakfast)
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts & Mystery of Holy Anointing

Friday, April 14
Great & Holy Friday
7:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.  Matins with the 12 Passion Gospels
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.        1st & 3rd Royal Hours
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.  6th & 9th Royal Hours
5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.  Vespers and Burial Procession

Saturday, April 15
Great & Holy Saturday
6:15 a.m. - 8:45 a.m.  Jerusalem Matins
3:00 p.m. - 5:40 p.m.  Vespers & Divine Liturgy of St. Basil

Sunday, April 16
Pascha: The Resurrection of Our Lord!
9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.          Resurrection Matins & Divine Liturgy

Bright Monday & Tuesday Liturgies Cancelled due to a funeral

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"My Life for Yours:" Spring Issue of Pomegranate Blossoms

Enjoy some great reflections in the spring issue of our newsletter. Sr. Iliana reflects on her experience of meeting St. Gianna's daughter, Sara Lynn shares about her entrance into the monastery, and Sr. Natalia explains what has drawn family members to the Church through her vocation.  Click on the image below!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Join us for Bridegroom Matins

Great & Holy Wednesday, April 12; 8:00 a.m.

Join us for this beautiful Holy Week service that is so special to us at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery! Bridegroom Matins, celebrated by Bishop Emeritus John Kudrick in our chapel, will be followed by a light breakfast. If you plan to stay for breakfast, please RSVP by Holy Monday, April 10, to 440-834-0290 or The service will be approximately 1.5
hours.  Click for Facebook Event.

More info:

The Church celebrates Bridegroom Matins only on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week. This morning service commemorates the days of the earthly life of Christ and His teachings of watchfulness to His disciples before His voluntary passion.

The Icon of Christ the Bridegroom is venerated during Holy Week. The icon reveals Christ enduring the marks of His mockery and suffering before His crucifixion and yet preparing the way for the marriage feast in His kingdom. The readings and hymns of Bridegroom Matins rouse the heart to conversion and vigilance for the coming of the Bridegroom and offer strength to His Bride the Church as we journey with Him in His passion.

Other Holy Week Services

Friday, March 31, 2017

Despair or Repentance?

In this video blog post, Sr. Natalia reflects on her own experience during this year's Great Fast and on the life of St. Mary of Egypt. When faced with our own wounds and sinfulness, what will we choose to do?

This year we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt two days in a row. April 1 is her feast day, and on the Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast (this year on April 2) the Church commemorates St. Mary of Egypt.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Mother of God, our teacher of the Prayer of St. Ephrem

By Mother Gabriella

As we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, we come into contact with one of the great mysteries of our faith – the Incarnation.  God enters into time, at the consent of a virgin in Nazareth, and takes on human flesh.

As I pondered this mystery, something else that came to mind is the Prayer of St. Ephrem, a staple of the Byzantine Lenten prayer diet, which is as follows:

O Lord and Master of my life,
spare me from the spirit of indifference, despair,
lust for power, and idle chatter.

Instead, bestow on me your servant,
a spirit of integrity, humility, patience, and love.

Yes, O Lord and King, let me to see my own sins
and not judge my brothers and sisters;
for you are blessed forever and ever.  Amen.

As I was praying these words and thinking of the Theotokos at the Annunciation, I began to see just how beautiful it is to celebrate this feast in the context of Lent.  Being a lover of feasts and all things relating to St. Gabriel, I have a natural affinity for the Annunciation, but Mary wanted to take that love even deeper.  I stood in awe of her, as did my namesake, as I began to see how Mary, as the first disciple of Jesus, is our model for living out the Prayer of St. Ephrem.

 “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!...Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Lk 1: 28,30).  Hearing Gabriel’s exhortation, I can see what might be a bit disconcerting!  How often in my life do I hear Jesus calling me to something more and deeper, and I cringe and moan and shudder to think of it (until I finally say yes!).  Mary, hearing these words for the first time, could have fallen into any of the first sins that are named in the Prayer.  Indifference – she could have given Gabriel the cold shoulder and walked away!  How could a conception happen without a man?  Despair – she could have realized the full weight of what he was asking her, without considering the mercy and love of God, and folded under the weight of the request.  Lust for power – can you imagine what kind of prestige would come if people knew and believed she was the Mother of God?  Idle chatter – how many people could she have told about her news – the world’s greatest “gender reveal!”  But instead, she receives the angel’s request and asks only one practical question.  She does not pause in her question long enough to consider any amount of worry about the future.  She does not flippantly share about her pregnancy.

Her response embodies integrity, or wholeness of being, so much so that her “yes” cooperated directly with the power of the Holy Spirit to conceive a child – Jesus.  She accepted this invitation to motherhood with the utmost humility; she put no conditions on her acceptance, but simply offered herself to God.  She became our model of patience and love, starting with her care of Elizabeth in the hill country and ending at the foot of the Cross on the mount of Calvary.

Lastly, she exemplifies not simply introspection into faults but a proper understanding of herself before God – seeing her weaknesses and trusting perfectly in His mercy and grace at all times.  This posture of receptivity allows her to place love above judgment, loving any and all who may have been lead to judge what they did not understand regarding her pregnancy, and later, her life in service to her Son.

On this Feast of the Annunciation, let us take a moment to reflect on our own Lenten journey, in light of our beloved Theotokos and her “yes.”  How are we saying “no” to sin and “yes” to virtue during these days in the midst of our own daily "annunciations?"  What more needs to be purged before we can give ourselves, fully and without reserve, to all that Jesus is asking of us this Lent?  We place ourselves under the mantle of Mary and ask for her intercession – O Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross

May we receive strength, during this mid-point of the Great Fast, from the Cross held up before us. It is a sign of suffering, but also of intimacy with Jesus and the glory of our salvation!

"Come, let us drink from the inexhaustible stream which flows from the grace of the Cross. Behold, we see exposed before our eyes, the most holy wood, the fountain flowing with grace, given by the blood and water from the side of the Lord of the universe; He was voluntarily raised upon the Cross to exalt all mortals with Him" (From the Stichera at the Praises; Matins for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Fasting: part of every Christian’s journey toward holiness

By Mother Gabriella
As published in Horizons, the newspaper of the Eparchy of Parma, March 5, 2017.
While Byzantine Catholics are called to abstain from meat and meat byproducts during the Great Fast, many are unaware that the traditional fast also includes abstinence from the food products pictured above. The author reminds readers that the traditional fast also includes eggs, dairy, oil and wine, with a mitigation for oil and wine on weekends and certain feast days. (Photo: Laura Ieraci)

     As we begin the most strenuous of the four fasting periods in the Byzantine Catholic Church, the Great Fast, it is good to be reminded of the purpose and goal of fasting in the Eastern tradition.
     It is important to remember that what we fast from and when we fast are dictated not by our own tastes but by the typikon or rule of the church.
     During the Great Fast or Great Lent, the traditional Eastern fast outlined by the church includes abstaining from all meat and dairy products, including eggs, as well as oil and wine on weekdays, with a mitigation for oil and wine on Saturday and Sunday.
     There are a few feast days that oil and wine are also allowed, which can be found in the typikon, and there are two feast days when fish is allowed — Annunciation and Palm Sunday.
     It is necessary to remember why we fast. In the wisdom of the Church, fasting developed as a physical reminder of our primary dependence on God.
     Our fasting calls us out of ourselves and our self-sufficiency and reminds us of our utter poverty before our Heavenly Father.
     As Jesus tells us in the Gospel of St. John, “apart from me you can do nothing” (15:5).
     We see the truth of these words at the beginning of every fast in the monastery. Deprive us of our easy sources of protein and we quickly begin to get irritable and out of sorts.
     Our poverty and dependence on food become tangible as our stomachs remind us that we aren’t being filled by food in the same way.
     Even as nuns, we need this reminder, so we can begin again to surrender to our ultimate need for God to fill us — beyond a full stomach.
     It is essential to realize that fasting is not simply the work of the monks and nuns; it is implicit in each Christian’s baptismal call to holiness. That’s right — everyone is called to fast!
     The ascetical life of the Eastern Church is on a spectrum, calling each person to some degree of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, that is appropriate for his or her state in life.
     As monks and nuns, we hopefully live that witness in its fullness, offering our lives as a model for the ideal or goal of the Christian life of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
     We pray our witness may inspire everyone also to engage more fully in the ascetical Christian life, which will lead all to a deeper union with God, beginning heaven on earth.
     A good summary of these ideas is found in these words from the Aposticha at Vespers for Monday of Cheesefare Week: “By fasting, let us strive to purify ourselves from the stain of our sins. By mercy and the love of our neighbor; by our zeal to help the needy, we shall be able to enter the bridal chamber who grants us his great mercy.”
     As you start the Great Fast, be sure to consider how you would like to incorporate fasting in your preparations for Pascha. Make a commitment to start one new fasting practice this year.
     Be sure to increase your prayer as well — fasting without prayer is just dieting! Out of that life of prayer and fasting, you will find it easier to do the acts of charity or almsgiving that we are also called to do during the Great Fast. Make sure you have all three or you won’t have a stool to sit on!
     For more information on fasting, as well as some practical dos and don’ts for how to incorporate fasting practices into your Great Fast, be sure to check out my reflections along with Father Moses of Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, Wisc., on our new cooking show, Eastern Hospitality.
     Go to and click on Episode 2:2.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Join us for the Great Canon, March 29

Join the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in a deeply-moving, once-a-year Lenten experience on Wednesday, March 29, 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 Friday, March 24, to 440-834-0290 or so the nuns know how much food and how many booklets to prepare.