Our Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Bless! The Lord!
Summer is a wonderful time of change as the great outdoors is fresh and full, kids are out of school, many people take their vacations in this summer season, and generally we are busy but conscious of nature’s abundance and fruitfulness. Recreation is usually a part of these days, and so is exploration of other places and activities not so available in the other seasons of the year. The sun is up early and sets late, so the days are longer too. It is a special time of the year.
One of the challenges of Church life in the summer is that when we are so busy and so caught up in outward activities, we can forget how important it is to be grounded in Godly activities, for through practical means our spiritual life can only be enriched by regular practice including prayer, fasting, church attendance, and the reading of spiritual books. We don’t forget to eat in the summer (although we might grill out some days), so we shouldn’t forget to nourish ourselves with spiritual food which sustains our heart to seek Heavenly things and Heavenly places, and the yearning for the unseen Goodness that defines the specialness of human life. Only humans dream of Eternity, but we must seek it in practice too.
There are other challenges today in the world and we all read about this or hear about this in our contact with media or other people each week. Political strife, the spread of disease, economic downturns, financial restrictions, and the everyday pain and suffering of humanity is a regular feature in every news broadcast, whether written or oral. These problems are often heart-breaking, but they are not new in history, and Christ gives us a way to relate to troubles without despair or loss of hope. This is the genius of the Christian Church, a way to make suffering not just a burden but a blessing. This is a wonderful freedom-- that we can act with conscious choice on how to approach and respond to adversity in our life on any level, and not just react. This is a way to find the liberty of generous-hearted love, forgiveness, and hope in every circumstance. This is the teaching of Jesus Christ and the witness of all the Saints who have ever lived a righteous life. We are free to follow Christ and overcome the evil of this world with goodness.
It does take courage to learn how to not react. It does take practice too, and patience, and then practice again, but it can be done even by us. It is learning how to make choices that give us freedom inside, not just outside, that give us space to breathe in the pure air of Heavenly life. When we are trained through constant practice, then we can say with St. Paul, “no longer I, but Christ!” Heaven is not just a future event, but a present reality. It is right here and right now if we begin to enter a Heavenly life. It is the promise of the bestowing of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, and through them to us. Let us pray that we all continue to ask and receive the blessing to follow them to Heaven.
Life at the Skete, Convent, and Mission Center is moving slowly forward too in this summer season. The grass gets cut, the weeds trimmed, the garden planted and tended, the grounds and buildings spruced up and repaired, and special projects that need good weather pursued. Many guests come to visit as they are out and about traveling and we welcome them into our midst for they are always a blessing to us. This year, unfortunately, we have had to cancel the Open House for the first time in nine years as our resources are quite limited, especially in manpower to take care of such a large and extensive event. We did discuss this possibility last year after the June event. We hope, God willing, to be able to have another Open House next year. Please pray that we can do so.
The monastics have been busy with more reorganization of daily activities and also of management of the daily tasks that make up our lives. Food management including buying, planning, and stock rotation has been one of these efforts. It is much more organinzed now. Outdoor maintenance, housekeeping, and repairs and maintenance are also planned to be redone. It takes good organization to teach new members coming into our monastic establishments on how to best take care of the many tasks and needs before us.
Early spring rainfall further eroded a spring-fed stream bank to within less than a foot of an electrical pole and an extensive plan to manage these banks according to stream bank restoration principles is in process and should be completed this summer. The drainage ditch for overflow of a small pond was just dug out from debris yesterday. The roof between two trailers that had moved consistently from ground heaving each spring between the two unconnected trailers has been raised to float about the shifting trailers and stop the subsequent rain damage to the roofs. All of the outside repairs to the Common Monastic Building have been completed from the ice and water damage from the last two years’ heavy rains.
Spring-fed stream at St. Isaac's
Common Monastic Building
As was mentioned last winter, the typesetting of our educational material to send them out for review is still in process. The first 17 of 25 books of grades four through eight have now been done, just lacking some graphics, and all of the first 20 books of grades one through three are scanned, but need to be sorted and compiled into proper order. Eight main lesson books are still un-typeset. This process has gone slower than we would have liked, but again limited personnel resources have made this take longer than we had hoped. We hope to finish this stage by the end of the summer or early fall if possible.
We ask you to remember us and our needs even during the summer’s busyness and its busy schedules. Please keep us in mind during your daily prayers. We ask help for the stream restoration process which can be expensive but is so immediate and necessary right now. We ask help to finish the rebuilding of the cabinets inside the Common Monastic Building that had contained all of our tools and their supplies which were damaged from the water leaking. They need to be put back together to put away again and finish cleaning up this building and its resources. We ask help to support the Convent’s needs through pledges and one time financial help. We ask help to support the Skete and its daily upkeep, and the Mission Center and its outreach. In short, please help us do this Godly work in a monastic setting to which we are called to serve Him and His Body, the Church. We would greatly appreciate it.
We also continue to ask you to try to save $2 a day and send it to us once a month to help our little Skete, and Mission work. God bless your good hearts,
The brotherhood of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the sisterhood of St. Silouan’s Convent
and the community of St. Nicholas Church