Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

We hope you all are having a merry Christmas! May we become more aware each day of Christ born into our hearts, dwelling in us and in our neighbor. 

(We meant to post this on Christmas, but we were having such a wonderful feast day that we forgot. It's a good thing we have a whole festal period for Christmas wishes! Let's be persistent in the joy of Christ's birth into our brokenness!) 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Conservation of Love -- a reflection and poem by Mother Natalia

As we finish up the Nativity Fast, we wanted to make sure we shared this beautiful reflection from Mother Natalia with you. She wrote it for our eparchial magazine, Horizons. Even though the fast is now coming to a close as we are now in the prefestive days, we hope it will bless you and give you some inspiration as we prepare for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ. 

When I was studying engineering physics, a basic concept that often came up in our courses is
that of the conservation of energy. Simply put, this law indicates that energy can be neither
created nor destroyed; it just is. And this energy that exists is merely converted from one form
into another. So if I need solar energy, I can’t just create it out of thin air; I have to harvest it
from the energy source that is the sun. Similarly, when I convert one kind of energy into another
–kinetic energy into thermal energy – it can go from kinetic into thermal energy, but it doesn’t
just disappear into nothing.

I was reminded of the principle when an engineer visited the monastery to go on poustinia.
During this personal retreat he shared this idea: In the universe there exists not only the law of
conservation of energy or the conservation of mass, but there is also the law of the conservation
of love.

This concept struck me and stayed with me, so much that I took it to prayer with me on my own
poustinia. This concept that brought together two of my great loves – physics and the spiritual
life – brought together for me two passages from the apostle John. At the beginning of his
gospel, he writes about God’s creation of the world: “All things came to be through Him and
without Him nothing came to be” (John 1:3). And then in his first epistle, he tells us that “God is
love” (1 John 4:8). Everything that was created exists in God, and it is good, and it was created
in love by Him who is Love.

As we enter into the Nativity fast we are given an opportunity to re-order our loves. But as we do
so we must not fall into the trap of thinking that rightly ordered love means to turn away from
food or drink or other material things because they are bad. These are good gifts given to us by
our good Father. But they lose their goodness when they become the object of our love as
opposed to a gift received in love. Nor does love of God in the Christian life mean turning away
from human love/love of neighbor. Quite the contrary! As we read throughout scripture,
especially in Matthew 25, the very act of loving our neighbor is loving God. C.S. Lewis reminds
us that our desires are “not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about
with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants
to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a
holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (The Weight of Glory).

God placed in us a desire for the infinite; this desire is like a magnet inside of us drawing us back
to Him, because only He – the infinite – will satisfy our deepest longings. When we turn our gaze
from God, we divide our love among other things, or worse, we place our infinite desire on finite
things, turning them into little gods. This not only gets the proper order of things wrong, flipping
it on its head, it also means that I’m not loving all of these things and these people with fullness.
We have to go back to the law of conservation of love: I can’t just create love out of thin air. I
have to harness it from a pre-existing energy source, and St. John tells us what – or who – that
source is: God. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His
Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1
John 4:10-11). I must first go and receive from the Source, and having done so, I can and must
transfer that love to the world around me: to my neighbor and to my daily work.

The Nativity fast is, as all fasting periods are, an opportunity for us to refocus on where we are
directing our love and our desires. Are we willing to sacrifice passing or temporal pleasures for
the sake of conserving and appropriately directing love? In order to receive God’s love, we have
to remove all those little gods that distract us from him; temporarily removing them so that we
can return to them with a proper love, a love without idolatry.

Conservation of Love

Nothing brought into being
can just slip into non-existence.
And all that is,
ever has been,
or still is to come,
came into being through Love.

Thus love must be conserved,
even if it changes form.
It can move
from God to mammon
to sex, food, or sleep.
In each, love aches for the Good.

But the ache isn’t enough.
We must pursue love
in its purest form.
For when spread out,
we find a disintegration,
each separation feeding into destruction.

Yet herein lies the paradox
that when love is focused
singularly on Love,
we find it permeates
even sex, food, and sleep…
when in everything we seek You.

The forms can be deceptive,
for really, there are only two:
I can love You
or love myself.
And each day, hour, moment,
You offer me this choice.

Friday, December 16, 2022

The End of Our Wandering and Today's Feast


Glory to Jesus Christ! 
Happy Feast of the Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths! This is a feast we get pretty excited about at our monastery (well, at least the nuns who write the blog posts do!). 

As we are now in the final stretch of the Nativity Fast, we'd like to let you know what life at the monastery has been like lately. 

Since Sister Onuphria's Tonsure, the big focus (which we are striving to keep secondary to our life of prayer and hospitality) is the finishing of our chapel. As you can see, things ended up behind schedule, but we are so pleased to now be settling into our beautiful chapel. It's a really amazing place to pray already, and it's not even totally finished yet. 

The chandelier was finally installed! However, like us, it's not perfect yet. When we turned it on, some of the wiring acted up, and many of the lights aren't working. We're getting that fixed though, and we're on our way to, at least physical, illumination. 

On Saturday, a small crew of us did a preliminary cleaning of the chapel, just to get it into a condition that we could consistently pray in there and not get covered in saw dust. The protective layers that covered the floor for months were removed that morning, and when each of us saw the chapel free from construction equipment for the first time, we all exclaimed various versions of "WOAH!" and couldn't help but laugh with joy at how amazing it looked. As we dusted and vacuumed and swiffered, we were getting closer and closer to the end of our months of wandering in the wilderness (praying in a tent for a couple of months, and then the chapel for a brief stint, and then our living room for a little more than the last month). We were able to put out our new altar cloths, and set the tetrapod up again. 

When we finally entered the chapel to pray Great Vespers, it was so good just to get back to the normal routine of donning our monastic chapel garb and venerating the icons (something that we have not been able to do consistently for months). It feels good to be home. 

On the other hand, there are still many details to finish and icons to hang and many new things to figure out. It's a wonderful place to pray, and at the same time, as we are praying the services in there, we are confronted by our humanity and have to struggle to be in the moment and not to get caught up in planning out everything that needs to be done or worrying about which lights to turn on at different times. 

This week, we've settled in even further with a very thorough cleaning (thank you very much to those who came to help us!), and hopefully, Christmas decorations will go up very soon. We've moved in all of the large furniture. And best of all, we'll have the Eucharist reserved in our tabernacle again starting Sunday (something we haven't had in months). 

The Feast of the Three Holy Youths: 

There's a really wonderful explanation of Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael's faith in The Winter Pascha by Father Thomas Hopko. We'd like to share it with you, as something to reflect on on this awesome feast. 

"Nowadays there are many, even among Christians, who say that to have faith in God is to make claims on the Lord, to be assured of His actions on behalf of the earthly well-being of His people and to count on His deliverance in very human ways. They say that those who do not express their faith in this way are actually weak in faith, doubting the divine promise of the Lord. But such an attitude, sometimes referred to as the 'name it and claim it' approach to faith in God, has nothing in common with the faith of the three holy children. 

"The three young men who were confronted by the wicked king of Babylon did not claim that the true God would save them from death in the flames. They surely believed that He could, but they did not insist that He would! Just the contrary. They bore witness to the fact that their God does whatever He wants. It was none of their business what He would or would not do, and it was certainly not the business of the king. They trusted their God in everything. If it was His will to deliver them, they were ready for that. But if it was His will that they should perish in the flames, they were ready for that as well! For they believed that whatever God did, He was still the God in whom they could trust for their ultimate victory. And no matter what God did, they still, under whatever circumstances, would not worship the idol that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. In a word, according to the witness of the three young men, real faith and genuine trust in God makes no deals and no claims. It is completely and totally ready, as was shown supremely in Jesus, to accept whatever the Father wills and provides, knowing that His faithful ones will never be put to shame. Only such faith can change fire into dew and deliver from death."

May we grow in true faith this feast! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Tonsure Photos!


It's been a little over a week since Sister Onuphria's rasophore tonsure, and we'd like to share some photos from the evening with you. We hope you enjoy them! 

Thank you very much to everyone who came out to pray with us as well as to all of those who prayed for Sister Onuphria as she prepared for her tonsure. Please keep praying for her and for all of us. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Introducing Sister Onuphria!

We are thrilled to share with you the monastic name of our newly tonsured rasophore nun--Sister Onuphria! She is named after St. Onuphrius the Great, a desert father whose feast day is June 12. Below, she shares about her patron saint.

I met St. Onuphrius for the first time during my observership. Someone mentioned him in a conversation joking that I could eventually be named for him, if I were to follow the tradition of taking a name with the same first letter of my baptismal name. I had never heard of him before. A couple of weeks later, I was flipping through books in the monastery library about the Desert Fathers, and I came across Paphnutius’s account of the life of Onuphrius. Out of curiosity, I began to read, and as I read about his life, my heart was burning within me. That night, I felt like Onuphrius adopted me. He felt so close. I didn’t think a hesychast from a millennium and a half ago could feel so close. He is my desert father, and has been my consistent companion since then, gently present as a light in dark times. 

Onuphrius was a wild man. He had lived in solitude for sixty years when Paphnutius found him. Paphnutius recounts his first encounter with the Saint: “Suddenly, I looked in the distance. I saw a man coming who was completely fire, his hair spread out over his body like a leopard’s. Indeed, he was naked… Now when he came close to me, I climbed up on a mountain ledge, thinking he was a mountain man.” Onuphrius calls Paphnutius by name, having spiritual knowledge that he was coming.

The two go back to Onuphrius’ cell, and he tells Paphnutius his story. “I walk in the mountains like the wild beasts, and I live on plants and trees, and I have not seen anyone I know.” He started his monastic life in the Erete Monastery, a cenobitic community. He ached to live in the desert as Elijah and John the Baptist did. He sought to follow their lives of complete dependence on God in the desert where there is no human help for a man. Eventually, Onuphrius found an experienced solitary to teach him the eremitic life, and from that point onward, he struggled in the wilderness. After sixty years of struggle, he was so open to God’s love that he appeared to be on fire, and angels brought him the Eucharist. After Onuphrius tells his story and the two spend the night in prayer, Onuphrius breathes forth his spirit, and Paphnutius buries him and continues his journey, heartbroken that he couldn’t stay there. 

The journey of Paphnutius is one of returning more and more to Paradise. Each ascetic he encounters as he goes deeper into the desert reveals to him a deeper layer of how monastic life returns us to Eden. Onuphrius is an image of this in his nakedness, in his total trust in the Father who provides him with everything he needs and in his dominion over the land. In this posture of utter dependence on his Father, Onuphrius burns with love as a “burnt offering wholly consumed.” 

For me, Onuphrius is an image of a bride. He is totally given. When we chant the fourth chapter of the Song of Songs at Compline, I can’t help but think of him when we chant the invitation of the Bridegroom: “Come from Lebanon my bride, come from Lebanon, come! Descend from the top of Amana, from the top of Senir and Hermon, from the haunts of lions, from the leopards’ mountains.” The bride of God is a wild one, and Onuphrius images this for me. 

Friday, October 28, 2022

Olivia to be tonsured as a rasophore nun on Nov. 20!

We have some exciting news! On Sunday, November 20, dokimos (postulant) Olivia will be tonsured as a rasophore ("robe-bearer") nun! During Vespers for the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple, at Holy Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Parish in Euclid, Ohio, the bishop will cut four small sections of her hair as a sign of her deepening commitment to God in the monastic life. She will also be clothed in the monastic habit, including the tunic, apostolnik (veil), belt, riassa (robe) and skufia (soft-sided hat). And finally, she will receive her new monastic name! 

Ahead of time, the dokimos submits three names to the hegumena (abbess), and the hegumena, through prayer, chooses one of the three, or she may choose another. When the name is spoken by the bishop during the tonsure--Sister _______--this is the moment that Olivia (and all of us) find out the name that God is giving her in monastic life. If she is called to remain in the monastic life and make her life profession in a few years, the Holy Spirit will continue to reveal to her the intimate meaning of this name for the rest of her life! 

Please pray for Olivia as she enters this next step in her monastic formation and discernment!

All are invited to join us for Vespers and the tonsure. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of space, we cannot invite everyone to the reception.

4:00 p.m., Holy Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Parish, 532 Lloyd Rd., Euclid, Ohio

The service will also be livestreamed through our Facebook page, and can also be viewed afterward. You do not need to have a Facebook account to view.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Chapel Updates, a Monastery 10k, and More

Glory to Jesus Christ! 

We're nearing the end of the month of October now, and all kinds of different things have been going on, from continued chapel renovations, to a monastery 10k race. Here are some updates:

Chapel Renovations:

The ceiling and walls are blue! A new tile floor was laid in the sanctuary, replacing the blue shag carpet that used to be there. New flooring in the bathrooms has also been installed, which vastly improves the previous situation (the subflooring was totally exposed before). The can lights in the ceiling are operational now. We are still waiting for pendant lights and chandeliers to arrive to complete the lighting of the chapel. In the meantime, exposed lightbulbs are hanging.

Today, the wood molding finally arrived! We were waiting for it for a couple of weeks without any sign of when it might finally come. This and waiting for the lights are the only problems we've really hit so far in the entire project, so that's really amazing! We're glad that the molding is finally here so that it can go in and all kind of other things can happen like plumbing, putting carpet in the confessional, putting in doors, and reconstructing the icon screen. 

Outside, some landscaping work has been happening, like smoothing out the ruts created by all the machinery that's been needed for moving and pouring the sidewalks. Some exterior lights were also installed along the sidewalk and to illuminate the bell tower. The siding has been going back up, a roof over the main entrance is in the process of being finished, and grass seed will be sown today. 

It's wonderful to see things coming together, so much so, that we have moved back into the chapel for prayer (during the times when work isn't going on in there). On Monday, October 17th, we got our first snowflakes of the season. We've moved basic liturgical supplies into the chapel so we can have Vespers, Compline, and Divine Liturgies in there. We get to be right in the midst of the renovations during the final stages, experiencing it coming together around us as we pray at the different times of day. Today, we are saying good-bye to the "tabernacle" (our temporary tent chapel) and packing it away. 

Friday night, we prayed Compline in our unfinished chapel for the first time. The acoustics are so much better than they used to be. We were amazed. We don't have to strain our voices so much to be heard. On Sunday, we had Divine Liturgy in the chapel for the first time since the summer. We're getting really excited for everything to be finished soon.  

Bridegroom's Banquet Photos: 

We meant to do this a while ago, but had some technical issues. Here are (finally) some photos from our Bridegroom's Banquet which was last month. It was such a wonderful evening. 


The First Ever "Speedy Celibates 10k":
On Thursday, October13th, rubber hit the road as some of the nuns competed in a 10k race of their own invention. Mother Natalia and Mother Gabriella ran 10 kilometers with three priest-friend-runners. Mother Iliana was training for the footrace but because of an injury, had to adjust her plan. She did a 20k bike ride, and Mother Cecilia, a last minute entry, did a 10k bike ride. The race route was on the roads around the monastery. Mother Theodora stayed at the monastery to prepare a delicious and nutritious breakfast for the competitors, and Olivia was on poustinia. She sat on one of the new concrete pads outside of her poustinia and watched the beginning and end of the race while drinking tea and doing some spiritual reading. 

All of the participants did amazingly, and it was so much fun to work toward a goal and then to achieve it together. (Fr. James Kulway won the race with a time of 38:49.)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Renovations Updates: Inside, Outside, and a Sad Good-bye

Glory to Jesus Christ!

It's been a while since we had a chapel renovations update, and a lot has happened since then! We have a lot of photos for you, so make sure you keep scrolling to the end to see all of them. 


After all of the electrical wiring was completed, new insulation was put in. 

Next, drywall and mudding. 

We've been choosing design details like paint colors, tile for the sanctuary, and lighting. We're getting really excited to see what it's going to be like when it's finished! 


The new sidewalks, poustinia entry pads, and chapel entrance are nearly complete. 

Also, a big thank you to everyone who came to our Fall Work Day last weekend. We got a lot done, including painting the trim of our chapel sign, so we'll have a fresh sign to match our freshened up chapel. We can't thank you enough for the work you have done to help us maintain our monastery. 

Finally, good-bye to our St. Anthony Poustinia. 

One really important project we needed to have done was the demolition of our oldest, dearest poustinia house, dedicated to St. Anthony of the Desert. The foundation was irreparable, and at times, nuns and guests would feel the entire house shift on its foundation. We knew it was time to say good-bye to St. Anthony. Many of our nuns received their call to the monastery and to make steps in their monastic lives in this poustinia, so we are certainly feeling the loss. We also know that many, many people have had profound experiences of prayer in this poustinia as well. It was becoming more and more unsafe though, so we had to let it go. 

The demolition crew arrived as we finished Matins on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14th. There was a blanket of fog over the field as the work began. For the next couple of hours, we watched the demolition of the poustinia, until it was time to have Divine Liturgy. 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Thank you for your generosity!

 Thank you so much to everyone who so generously supported our monastic life through our 2022 Bridegroom's Banquet. It was such a beautiful evening, and we are blown away by your love and generosity. We were able to surpass our goal of $100,000 (which will be matched), and our monastic life will be able to continue and flourish by God's grace and your assistance. 

Thank you especially to everyone who invited friends and family to join us for the first time. We met  wonderful new people this year, and we are so glad. It's so good to see the community of people surrounding the monastery growing and expanding in such incredible ways. 

You have already given us so much, but we also ask you to please pray for us, as we pray for you. May we all be united in prayer for each other under the loving gaze of our Bridegroom, Christ, and the protection of His Mother.

Please save the date for next year's Bridegroom's Banquet: November 4th, 2023, but please don't make us wait that long to see each other again. We'd love for all of you to join us for prayer anytime. Please see our Divine Liturgy schedule and our daily prayer schedule for opportunities for us to pray together.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

"Receive the Gift: Reflections on Chastity" is now on YouTube!

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Our new video which premiered last night at our Bridegroom's Banquet is now available on YouTube!

This year’s video is entitled “Receive the Gift:  Reflections on Chastity.”  Chastity is not merely about sex:  it’s an attitude toward life, a posture that receives all good things as a gift and refuses to grasp.  In this video, we journey through what chastity looks like in several areas:  Creational chastity, intellectual chastity, emotional chastity, sexual chastity, and spiritual chastity.  This video is an invitation to open yourself to receive the gift the Lord desires to pour into your heart...

God bless you for your generous support for our monastic life at this year's Bridegroom's Banquet! We're so happy to announce that we surpassed our goal! We are so grateful.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The Newest Fair in the Country

Last week, in community we were talking about the Geauga County Fair, which was celebrating it's 200th anniversary this past weekend and is just a few miles away from us. We learned that's it's the second oldest fair in the country, so we decided to create the newest fair in the country. Thus, our own personal monastery fair was born. Mother Natalia spearheaded the planning process, which included inviting a couple of friends, gathering supplies, and inviting all of us to plan some part of it if we'd like to. Sunday afternoon, amidst our usual rest time and much rain, some of us were preparing our contributions to the fair. We tried to keep everything a surprise as much as possible. Then we prayed Vespers, and it was time for the fair to begin. 

We opened it up with a corn shucking contest, and then it was revealed that one of our guests, Fr. Steve, brought a pizza oven. So we all took turns making pizzas. 

Mother Theodora got to work making elephant ears and freshly squeezed lemonade. 

Mother Gabriella grilled a couple other food options, and Olivia opened up a set of face paints. The fair had begun, and the amount of rain steadily increased. 

Mother Natalia and Fr. Steve provided us with the opportunity to try axe throwing near the fair's pumpkin patch (little orange gourdes that volunteered in our garden this summer which one of our other guests arranged to spell his name). 

We also had a "corn maze," planned by Olivia and Mother Natalia. At this point, the sun had set, and it was pouring rain, so it was pretty spooky. The "corn maze" consisted in walking into a corn field near the monastery, and trying to get lost, and then getting out again. For the most part, we all split up, and it was very difficult to find one another because of the loudness of the rain and the corn stalks all around us. But no worries, we all made it out alive (but very wet). 

We did some more face painting. Below you can see Mother Gabriella sporting her monarch butterfly face paint. 

And then it was time for the final activity: a flower arranging contest. Mother Cecilia spent some time in the afternoon taking cuttings from various plants in our gardens and wildflower areas, and presented us all with many vases to choose from and three large buckets of flowers and foliage. She gave us twelve minutes to make the best arrangement we could, and she deducted points for complaining. She was a tough judge. After we all presented our arrangements to her in the garage, we all huddled under a tent, while the garage door was closed so she could award prizes in private. A few minutes later, the garage door was lifted up, and revealed that Mother Petra won first prize for a very nice woodland themed arrangement. Fr. Steve came in second, and Mother Natalia took third. 

Altogether, we had so much fun, and we're thinking of making this a community tradition for our Sunday night recreation during fair weekend. And now, we'll have a whole year to come up with ideas instead of just a few days. It was really fun to be creative in so many different ways, to have everyone share their gifts, and to just get to play as a community. 

Also, while you're here, just a reminder that our Fall Work Day is coming up on September 17th. If you're planning to come, please RSVP! As of right now, we're going to need a lot more volunteers! Please feel free to invite your friends. Thank you!