My Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Bless! The Lord!
This is a wonderful time of the year for our Great and Holy Lenten Season is here to refocus our minds toward the great mysteries of Christ’s Suffering, Death on the Cross, and His Holy Resurrection. Of all of the times of the year, nothing is so poignant, so real, and so immediate as these days which touch us at the deepest levels, for since we are made in His Image and Likeness, the God-Man Jesus Christ is in fact the prototype of all men and women and of all time. Adam was made in His Image, and later He took on the form of Adam to save us from our sins. When you see an icon of Adam (as in Adam Naming the Animals), you can see a familial relationship between Christ and Adam, for Adam even looks like Christ young. May we be reformed to more and more closely look and act like Him.
We fast more now in this Lenten Season, and we pray more now, and we give alms and do generous acts more now, but these are the means to an increased spiritual life, not the ends in themselves. What we are truly seeking is the deep heart of man (in all of its potential) to be touched by the deep heart of God, for as the Psalmist says, “deep calls unto deep.” What we are truly yearning for is the unfolding commitment to live a God-centered and Godly life, with more conscious dependence and love on the very Man Whose Life has really touched humanity the most, for He is the Bridge to Heaven and the Light of the world to come.
What we are entering in these days is the fulsome time of Eternity which is more manifest in this season than any other time of the year, for when God draws near, so does Heaven in all of its beauty. Pilate said, “Behold, the Man!” as he brought Christ out to His accusers after mockery, yet for those who wish to see, the Perfect Man is here as then in all of His humility and meekness. Our Saviour is a
Suffering God, but His greatest suffering is in the limited return of His unconditional love for us while we are sinners. His only limitation to express this love outwardly is our still wavering and worldly hearts. May we return this love gladly, with grateful and praising hearts.
How can we simply begin again this Lenten Season? By consciously seeking this Man and His Heavenly abode, “for My Kingdom is not of this world.” By setting our hopes high that He will come and touch us now, and that we will respond with love. By putting aside those things that distract our mind and heart from what is strong and eternal. This then is a wonderful beginning. May our small and fragile efforts draw God’s love down upon us in some perceptible way so that our hearts live in repentance (or change) through Lent to the Holy Resurrection.
Life here at the Skete, Mission Center, and Convent has been particularly challenging this Winter because of the massive snows (we have already set a record for snowfall in a given year by mid February, and typically March is the month with the greatest snows), because of the long hard winter temperatures for the season began early and has not let up, and because we are hard put to manage the work, snow removal, and everyday tasks as we are living day to day here this winter in Wisconsin. The snow is piled so high that there is no place to put it, and our parking lot and roads are getting smaller and smaller in the meantime. We pray that at the Spring thaw, there is not a heavy runoff as the snow melts. Please pray that this is gradual enough to be manageable.
We ask several times each year in a letter to our donors for help with what is needed here to help our life grow and be blessed. Our Lenten Appeal is especially focused because this season has as one of its focuses Alms-giving as a means to enrich spiritual life in Lent (along with prayer and fasting). We are looking for more than usual help this Lent because of all of the extra expenses for heating, food, snow plowing, and other daily expenditures we have to make at this time. Please help if you can do so, for we rely on it to make ends meet. A donation of $20, $50, $100, $200 or more would be most welcome to manage this winter season.
We are also looking for regular donors to pledge to help support the Convent with donations, anywhere from $20 to $100 a month. If you can help Mother Elizabeth this way, God bless you for that help. She has been working hard for many years and suffers from diabetes which is hard to control and has expensive medications too. Any help here would be most welcome.
The beautiful church dedicated to St. Nicholas is still in need of donations. In particular for this winter we are trying to get and pay for two new sets of altar vestments, one purple for Lent, and one white for Pascha or Easter. When we built the new altar table, the new proskomede or preparation table, and the seven new analoy or icon stands for the church’s Consecration last September, we needed new altar vestments for each season as the old ones didn’t fit as each of the new church furnishings is larger than before. There are 26 individual pieces in each vestment set which includes the altar table, proskomede table, seven analoy, two chalice sets with aers, and two dust covers. We have a gold set, a red set, and a blue set made and paid for as those seasons already came up. I was able to buy the cloth for the main part of all six planned sets very inexpensively near Chicago last summer, for about $1,400 total. This is also paid for. What is lacking is about $1,500 per set labor and trim for these two needed new sets. We could certainly use help in paying for these. After this there is only one other set needed, the green for the Pentecost season. That will have to wait probably until next year, when we can better afford it.
St. Nicholas Church -
- ready for more finishing work
The second project for the church is the completion of the trim on the baseboards (from putting in the new floor last September) and the installation of the rest of the tile and grouting it in the second bathroom and then installing the new fixtures which have all already been purchased and paid for. The installation of all this would only be about $500 and is hopefully to be done before this Pascha, and for this a little help now will bring immediate and obvious results. Thank you for your help.
The third project of beautifying the church this winter is already underway, but needs more sponsors: the continuing work on the principal icons on our iconostasis. The icon of St. John of Rila is started and well on the road to completion, and we will begin the icon of Christ this week to start our second icon that has a sponsor. That is only the second of the eight icons that have been commissioned. The icons left are: the Virgin Mary Theotokos, St. John the Baptist, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the Holy Archangel Michael, the Holy Archangel Gabriel, and St. Herman of Alaska. Father Anthony is painting each icon with some help from the other iconographers. To sponsor an icon, we ask $2,500 for each of these large principal icons. They are 24” wide by 45” tall including the rounded top. Please let us know if you would like to sponsor one of these icons. God bless you.
The first two of these church projects would cost about $3,500 (while the sponsors for an icon is by an individual or a group for $2,500 each). 100 donors could help do the altar cloths and finish work in the church by giving only $35 or more each. The Convent would be greatly helped if 100 people gave $25 or more each. The Skete and Mission would be helped (and this is most pressing) if 100 people gave $90 or more each. This is only a $150 total this Lenten Season. Pray and see if you can help now. As always we pray each day for our benefactors.
Let me close this letter with this thought: I was reading in the life of St. Barsanuphius of Optina a wonderful phrase that greatly struck me for its simplicity and yet wide applicability. He said, “Humble down.” How very direct and to the point, and yet how many problems can be solved by using this concise principle in our lives. After all, pride is the very center of all sin, and humility is its cure. We are all still sinners, that is true and ongoing even when we make efforts (and these are so necessary to continue) to overcome our sins.
What we often lack is the open heart and willingness to receive God’s direct blessing into our inmost being, and this openness and willingness come from the foundational virtue of humility. We are not great, we are not more special, we are not advanced in spiritual practice or virtue, and most pointedly we are not really entered into the humble mind of Christ which He invites us to do now. If we turn to Christ and confess our weakness and inability to change ourselves (and who hasn’t known this weakness), with a real intention to cooperate to let Him change us, He will give us all that we lack, for He will not refuse a broken and contrite heart. O Lord of Hosts, hear us in our poverty and bring us the gifts of Heavenly riches, love for God in Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Keep us in your prayers and love,
Your Brother in Christ,
Father Simeon, Abbot & Archimandrite
and the brotherhood of St. Isaac of Syria
and the sisterhood of St. Silouan’s Convent
and the community of St. Nicholas Church