Pascha, Christ’s Holy Resurrection 2008 Newsletter and Donation Appeal
My Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
The central fact of faith, for it is a fact with many eyewitnesses for over two thousand years, is that Christ is risen from the dead by His own Will in His Glorious Resurrection after three days in the tomb. He was not only resurrected and seen by His Apostles and Disciples but by others as well, and stayed with them and taught them how to live and how to be Christians and worship the One God in Trinity during the forty days after His Resurrection and before He was taken up from them bodily into Heaven at His Holy Ascension. While He was with them, they ate with Him and they talked with Him and they touched Him and saw His Wounds in His Hands and His Side, for He was resurrected in a physical body too that was tangible, real, and apparent. It is this living Christ, Who is far more than the Jews at that time hoped for as just a political and social Messiah, that has brought salvation to the whole world if they and we will only reach out and by cooperation take it.
We are challenged today with this promise and with this responsibility to learn how to make our lives conversant and conformed to this living Image of Christ in us, for this must be a free and conscious offering of love through following His Commandments, the greatest of which is focused and ardent love for Him above all things, and then secondly true love for our neighbor as ourselves. What I wanted to consider today is how are we to show love and respect for ourselves without falling into pride or vainglory. This is important for often our rightful dislike for sin and false self-worth can lead one to wrongly disdaining that which God has made, the Image and Likeness of God, in which we were created in love by the will of our loving Trinitarian God, and manifest to us Christians in His Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In today’s Epistle reading for Palm Sunday, St. Paul says in part, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil 4:8) Here we see a way to look at every thing before us that is blessed and hopeful, for we are concentrating on the Good things that He has promised us. Is there anything or any circumstances that the Saints have not turned into blessings when they sought God and in patience endured all things for His Name’s sake? And we see that so often in their lives that they suffered much, were wronged much, were persecuted and falsely accused much, and were slandered, abused, and berated much. Yet they returned blessings for curses, and showed by their patient example and active faith how to love everyone at all times, whether good or bad from a worldly point of view. This is our calling too, to be numbered with them in Heaven when we pass from this life to Eternity.
And St. Paul also says something else quite profound in today’s reading, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say rejoice. Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Phil. 4:4-5) This is a wonderful word, rejoice, for it is not just happiness or present satisfaction, not just momentary joy at getting something we want, and not just enjoyment or pleasure, but a deep and abiding sense of well-being, thankfulness, and profound relationship that only a living and continuing life with Christ can provide in this world. “Your sorrow will turn into joy,” the Lord says in another place. This is the joy of rejoicing which has an everlasting dimension, for where God is, so is Eternity, and He came to make our joy full. Let us rejoice today in the Light of His Resurrection, for all things have been remade, and His Glory has come forth upon the world in the brilliant, gladsome light, and everlasting radiance of Christ Himself made manifest to us. And He is really at hand, incarnate and resurrected, for God is with us. When we think of these things, we are joyful too, for He did all of this personally for each one of us. He is the lover of our souls, and we give Him the Glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Affirming this love, this light, this hope, this promise, this way of looking, and thus this thankfulness, we are made blessed and can find the healthy love of self in His Image and Likeness as God has made our uniqueness fully and by conforming ourselves more and more to Him, we can become living and loving icons of Christ in both this world and the world to come. Amen. It is in this love that we can love our neighbor, for He is our self too. When love turns in on itself in wrong self-love, we are out of relationship with God and the rest of Creation, for the image of Hell is overarching and complete self-love, which drives away true spiritual and relational love. May our love always be grounded in the healthful living interaction with Christ and therefore with all other beings and all of Creation, for He is Love Itself. God bring this love to us!
The monastics here at the Skete and the Convent have had a fruitful Great Lent with many struggle and challenges. In the spiritual realm these have been good and engender faith and hope, as we learn to become more and more dependent on God in all things. He is the Pearl of Great Price, Christ our God, Whom we turn to again and again each day and hour in fervent supplication by calling out to Him, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” In the outward realm we have the same challenges to look at all things with a spiritual eye and perspective. This has been a particularly trying whole year now since last May in 2007 with more limited resources in monastic manpower, greater demands on our time and persons, and limited material means at our disposal. We ask for your continued and ardent prayers. I used to think that I was busy, but this is different. The other monastics are feeling the same. We have more hope just now as another person has asked to come and be with us in our monastic struggle, the servant of God Matthew, and he will be joining the Skete as a postulant in the latter part of May. Pray that he makes a very good beginning.
Mother Elizabeth and Father Anthony
The winter was also very hard with high energy bills and much damage to many roofs because of ice dams in more than half of the buildings. The sales of icon reproductions also slowed, causing a great cash flow problem which has made it hard to eat, to pay utility bills, and to do the many things that we are asked to do each day. I am appealing to you again to help us in this very critical time, for our resources are not adequate to pay for our living expenses just now and the strain of past energy debts and reduced revenues. With Spring just about here this will get better, but right now we still really need some help. Can you see from prayer whether you can respond to our call? It is hard for me to ask, but it is most necessary. Your recent generosity prevented us from overwhelming difficulties, and we all thank you for that, but we are not out of hot water. Please help if you can. A substantial Spring donation drive can bring us from scary financial needs to reasonable scheduling of payment for our daily needs and paying recent debts. Please give generously.
Today is a real bright and warm Spring day at last. There are only one or two little tiny pockets of snow still on the ground and the green grass is blossoming in the special Spring Green of this regeneration of life that Spring brings. We held the palms and greeted inside our hearts the Lord coming into the outward Jerusalem, praying that He would come into the inner Jerusalem of our hearts and draw us to Him. It is a wonderful feast of hope and life in God. We pray that you will be blessed by all the events of this time and in the most bright radiance of the Holy Resurrection.
I did want to mention that several things that I had asked in my last appeal have begun to make a difference. First of all, Mother Elizabeth of the Convent of St. Silouan has benefited from your recent donations and this has made it easier for her to work a half an hour to an hour or so less a day to just make ends meet. If we could find some regular donors to consistently give a little, this would go a long way to help her. Her health issues with diabetes do limit her energy and her strength and require extra time when she is not feeling well from bouts of high sugar levels even though she is careful in her diet and with her medicines. The medicines are expensive. She also suffers from severe migraines often, which, if you know anyone who has this problem, are very debilitating. Thank you for your support. One time donations also help each month.
St. Nicholas Church has the new purple and white altar vestments sets (26 pieces in each set) which were paid for by your generosity since our last appeal. We are hoping to get a donation for our last set, which is green, so that our seamstress can finish this entire project before Pentecost. She has had all of the material since last summer. The last set will cost $1,500. If you are touched by this request, please specify that your donation go towards this worthy cause. Donations for the church construction or beautification go into a special separate account. The second bathroom is finished tiling, and the wall grouting is being done this week before Pascha. We may be able to install the fixtures which are already purchased if there is still time. The floor trim is also scheduled to finish this week just before Pascha, God willing, but we are running out of time. This will still cost about $500 more.
St. Nicholas Church
We have had more sponsors for our principle icons for the iconostasis. They are made in traditional egg-tempera technique by our own icon studio. Two have been taken since our last appeal. There are three still left : the icons of the St. John the Baptist, the Holy Archangel Michael, and the Holy Archangel Gabriel. They are just $2,500 each for these 24” wide by 45” tall principle icons to beautiful St. Nicholas Temple. Please pray to see if God is calling you to this sponsorship.
Iconostasis Icons will be replaced by Hand-Painted Icons
The Common Monastic Building sustained the most serious damage from the ice dams this winter of all of our roofs. Large sections of 4 foot by 8 foot sheets of dry wall that were installed in the ceiling in the dry storage area have fallen down from the water that leaked in through the roof, and there is a sizeable mold problem covering much of the same area which will require tearing out all of the sheet rock in this area and all the insulation beneath it, and cleaning or throwing out the bulk food storage, and carefully cleaning the many hand and power tools, wood heating equipment, and kerosene lanterns that have been stored in this area for years. This is a major storage area that is completely contaminated. This has been hard to deal with and a specialized service to deal with mold damage came out a few weeks ago to assess the damage and the price to fix it. We are considering doing the work ourselves to save costs, but we will have to see. Please pray for us. This is on top of our other nine buildings that sustained less damage and need roof repairs, which would be much less time-consuming and expensive.
Common Monastic Building in quiet back valley
Everyone today is aware of our current economy, but almost everyone can give a little, and such giving in the name of Christ has a profound effect on one’s heart and soul. If any of the specific items listed above touch you and you would like to give something to help, God bless you for your wonderful generosity in our time of need, and indicate what it is that you wish to give for. Most of all, as I mentioned in the beginning, we need right away special help in just general operating funds to cover our recent energy bills and other difficult cash deficits from this hard last year, and especially this hard last winter. We are asking for 120 to 150 of our special patrons and friends to give $200 or more just now to just get us back on track and able to operate at more normal levels. It would take that to do this. These winter deficits are serious and continuing, especially in cash flow to just meet our everyday needs. Please, please help us continue to serve our neighbors and friends in prayers and service. We are committed to do this every day and have done so for twenty one years here at the Skete. We pray daily for all of our many benefactors. Without some serious help, I don’t know if we will be able to continue.
I believe in the lilies of the field, and in God’s active Providence. I believe that if we do what is most needful in spiritual work, God will provide what is needed for our physical bodies. But I also believe that the Christian community asks each other for prayers in what they truly need, and responds together in mutual love when we can be of help. We do this here at the Skete for anyone that ever asks, turning no one away, even if we can only give a little. Please forgive me for asking, but I believe that our relationship allows us to make our requests known. Let us know about your requests for prayers, for your pains and sorrows, your joys and thanksgivings. We will pray for you, and remember you each day. I ask most of all that you pray to our Lord Jesus Christ to move our hearts to love others more than ourselves, and do what is pleasing to Him each day, and rejoice with all the Saints now and in the everlasting Kingdom, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
God bless you and keep you in His Holy Name,
Keep us in your prayers and love,
Your Brother in Christ,
Father Simeon, Abbot
and the brotherhood of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the sisterhood of St. Silouan’s Convent
and the community of St. Nicholas Church