My Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Bless! The Lord!
This year’s Yearly Newsletter focused on generosity and faith, hope, and love. It is a constant theme now in our lives. Just last week, in the Sunday’s Epistle reading for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, St. Paul writes, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (II Cor. 9:6-7) Of all the readings I can think of, this one best highlights the most essential part of giving, for it is that yeast that makes the whole loaf rise: cheerfulness in generosity. It is this cheerfulness that I wish to speak about just now.
First, something about generosity: Generosity is usually an intangible thing in our lives, for we feel this sometimes and in some situations, and towards a certain person or group, and in the same way not at times towards others. It can be a feeling that arises periodically, and not always with conscious effort on our part or for a particular reason that we can understand. At times it is just a wonderful day, or a successful effort completed that brings it on, or it can be a tender moment of blessing or even tragedy that evokes in us such a feeling. This is natural generosity, and it ebbs and flows. What is exciting as Christians, is that we can go beyond natural generosity to Godly generosity, and live in this state much more of the time.
Christian generosity is the imbibing of unselfish love from God that naturally seeks to find a continuous outlet towards others. It is not just a feeling, or a moment, but a way of living that can be systematically practiced until the very feeling of heart, that is a symptom of the will to be generous, becomes habitual. We then share in an inward and mystical way with the naturally supernatural outpouring of the love of God on all Creation. The innate and wondrous beauty of Godliness becomes our second nature.
When we look to understand things from above, with the Gospel lessons before us, we see that the Disciples of Christ were constantly stretched to become more unselfish and generous. They did this because they tangibly felt this same unselfish and generous love from Christ in His love for them, and His living example of how “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
This is only an effort when we forget to be grateful, when we forget how much God has done and is doing for us. When we see with the true eye (or as things truly are) and with a good heart, we become not just grateful, but very cheerful too. We are seeing that God is remaking us into something more, something truly amazing: a reflection of Godliness in humility and love. Then we have learned the most important lesson of life: “Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” May we learn this today
What is important, then, is to learn to give freely and thankfully in cheerfulness and joy, and to become like our Christ in this manifest love. This is how to both love God, and our neighbor as ourselves. It then is the quality of our giving, and of our mind and heart in doing so, that bring the blessedness of generosity of heart so necessary for a Christian. Let us do it as we can, even with two mites, but with gladness each day of our life.
Many of you have been generous to us and have given to us at some time in the past. For this we not only thank you, but we pray for you that you may continue to gain the Mind of Christ, and be rewarded with great love of heart. It is our work here to pray to God first in silent and hesychast prayer, and then in love for those we are in relationship with through active communication, and then in love for the world at large and all that are in it. We are asking again for your generosity and the generosity of new donors, but now most especially in this cheerful giving as you can, not as an undue burden.
In our last donation appeal we asked 200 of our donors to give $50 to help us, and we received 89 donations from that mailing with an average donation of $47.60 for which we are most thankful. We mailed 2,319 letters out, but less than 4% responded by returning a donation in their envelope. I know that there are many demands on your income and resources, so I will not ask for much but rather for a greater number of responses from this letter. Please help us now as you can. Of course, if you have more means and it is not a strain, then you can give more.
St. Nicholas Church
Inside St. Nicholas Church
First let me tell you what are our needs just now. There are four particular needs that we are requesting help, that is, 1) some finishing work in the church in the second bathroom and the 3/4” round installation on the narthex and holy place floor edges ($600), 2) help with purchasing a professional coil or wire binding machine for preparing our educational books for readers as the first step of the publication of Orthodox Christian elementary school curriculum grades 1-8 ($2,700), 3) the timely reconstruction of the back part of the Common Monastic Building damaged during last year’s ice and snow storms so that the new postulants coming to try monastic life will have a warm and heated place to stay ($10,500), and 4) general funds to provide help with living expenses for the monks, the nuns, and for our many visitors and guests, and for mission work ($6,000).
Common Monastic Building
in quiet back valley
Together this would add up to be $19,800. We need 400 (just 17%) of our 2,300 donors to give $50 or more to raise the monies for these projects. This is a modest gift and a modest request. We know that many of you can afford $50. Pray to see if you can help us and keep a generous and cheerful heart. In any case, you can earnestly pray that God help us do all that He asks and that we live a Godly life and welcome all who come here to our Mission, Skete, and Convent for rest from their cares in the world. If you can ever visit us, you would be our honored guests. God bless you.
Keep us in your prayers and love,
Your Brother in Christ,
Father Simeon, Abbot and Archimandrite
and the brotherhood of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the sisterhood of St. Silouan’s Convent
and the community of St. Nicholas Church