My Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Bless! The Lord!
The Skete’s quiet valley is covered just now with a deep and glistening white blanket of snow as another storm has come through today with an extra five inches of this year’s record snow fall. Last year was also a record snowfall and this year is already moving beyond it. When we are out shoveling or trodding through the paths before they are all cleared, or when we are scraping off of the roofs and windshields of the cars and trucks here, it can seem quite a bother, but one look at the marvelous beauty of deep snow in the moonlight as it flows around the trees, and drifts along the edges of roads and buildings puts another perspective on the snows so bright. As the song said so many years ago, it is a “winter wonderland.” Beauty touches something deep within us, and we often miss it when looking at what we are trying to get to, rather than what is right before us. Maybe this is true too often in other aspects of our life.
I remember a most interesting discussion I had with my mother and father (may their memory be eternal!) many years ago as I was asking them about different times in their life, times that were easier and times that seemed hard. We got around at one point to the years of the Great Depression which they experienced when they were still single and living at home, as they weren’t married until April, 1940. Story after story came out of the trials and difficulties of that time, the carefulness of materials use, the tightness of monies and the family struggles to make ends meet. These were vivid times in their memories, and they talked and talked until it was quite late. Throughout the discussion (I was asking them for the practical details of how they did it), something surprising emerged. In all of the trials and troubles, what came through the most was how their families shared with each other what little they had, and even shared with others. Neighbors and friends were at dinner every night, distant relatives came for long visits, often over the summers, and all of the resources of these young people were pooled together to help each family manage to do what they needed, not wanted to do. And, you know, there was an overall glow and love and somehow unselfishness burned into their very tones and gladsome memories. This surprised me very much. Hard times for them, were mysteriously good times too, and the best that they had inside spilled over and came out. Maybe this was the unspoken part of those very hard times. I wonder if we can learn a lesson from that generation--their struggle in the Depression and then the War. Sacrifice has deep wells of goodness that can unexpectedly flow upwards and out, and touch a whole person’s life. Maybe that lesson will come again to us, now in this present generation, who have grown up with so much abundance and plenty.
We have all heard the cliche about the glass that is half full: is it half full or half empty? What do we see? Mostly, a mind focused on self or on its wants sees what is lacking and tries to get more, but there is another way to look at it. In this looking we can get back to deeper values and relationships that are not bound up with getting more, or having fancier toys, but values that don’t fade so easily or are not stolen by the time bandits of our life, pushing and shoving to distract us from what is really more important.
St. Nicholas Church Side Entrance
St. Nicholas Church Front Entrance
I just finished tonight (while still taking time to admire the beautiful snow) a two month process of revised budgeting to try and live within reduced means which are a hallmark of the times which are now upon us. This awareness of financial need extends, I think, to almost everyone here in our country, and it may continue for some time, and in many other places of the world. But the question is pointed now to us: shouldn’t we make this time a spiritual time, and a time of gratefulness and solace to others, a time for sharing, helping, consoling, and keeping an increasing care for all those around us? Does our struggle preclude generosity of heart? After all, Christ was born in a stable and didn’t have a place to lay His head, and He never stopped blessing the world, helping those in need, or feeding the poor and uncared for. Even as He was persecuted, He never stopped. The Saints didn’t either, and even our own parents or grandparents, if they lived long enough ago to live in those previous hard times, found generosity as a way of life, and so, we can too.
Well, you are probably thinking, what can we do with less resources? Although not always obvious, many things are generous, but cost us little more than time and attention. We can visit those in local nursing homes in our communities (they are always looking for volunteers to do this, and a simple enquiry will let you know how you can help), we can help volunteer to work in a local food pantry, or homeless shelter, or a soup kitchen, or in church programs that are built to help those in our community. Free clinics are becoming more plentiful in these hard times, and they can always use our help. We can be more kind when pressed, more attentive when others are needy or tired or depressed, more willing to give or share what we have with all those God sends to our immediate vicinity. Generosity isn’t measured in amounts, but in intents, and with the means that we have. If we pray to help others, God will give us the means and opportunity to do so, even today. Let us ask Him, and He will certainly let us know.
Now a word about our small needs and how you can share a little with us. See if you can put aside two dollars a day if possible and store it up and send it to us once a month. This is a modern two mites, and give it with love to God, not just to us. We are praying each day a special molieben (intercessory prayer service) to the Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas for all of our friends and benefactors, and you are all included. You have all given something before at sometime, and we have always prayed for you as our most special and honored friends. It is your heart and soul, as well as your bodily needs that we ask God to bless, in both this world and in the world to come. There is a little more, and this is intangible but very important. Get up a little earlier each day and ardently pray to God for yourself and for others. Make this time of adversity a time of greater prayer and blessing.
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