Our Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Bless! The Lord!
There is a direct correlation of imagery in the Spring season of Nature’s renewal in the budding and growth of new life all around us, and of the Paschal Season until Pentecost when the Lord lives with us in a special way as He did with His Apostles until He is taken up and sends the Holy Spirit down upon His Disciples and upon earth. It is a time of both renewal and fullness too, for the tree is present too in the acorn by anticipation. We have still within us in a most tangible way the memory of that glorious night of Pascha which resonates like a clear bell with the echoes of Eternity, and the abundance of Life to come. When we look carefully forwards, like a good farmer or gardener has to do to be fruitful, then we will also reap much spiritual fruit at the time of harvest by God’s Grace. This is not automatic, but needs timely work and help.
The Skete is budding too, and everywhere the leaves are unfurling, the grass is shooting up, and the early fruit tree blossoms are jumping out heavily in the meadows and valleys around us. It is the green time, and a most special green at that–this Spring Green of new life and the sign of more life to come. It is really a different color than the later green of June, or the even later green of early September, for lightness is in its tender shoots. Now between the rain storms of Spring we are trying to get that first cultivation and mowing in so that the growth later will be orderly and manageable. Nature has now become exuberant.
The garden is also just plowed and disced but only the hardier root plants are safe to plant here until the first week of June, as often a hard freeze can still happen here in our valley at that late a date. Last year was the first time that we had no garden at all due to the press of other work, and having that fresh produce and seeing the garden grow was sorely missed. It is also somehow helpful to put your hands in the soil and touch and nurture things that grow. It makes one a part of the creative cycle rather than just a bystander.
In a spiritual sense, Great Lent was a time for harrowing and preparing our inner ground to receive the seed of God’s blessing to later blossom into fullness and life. Its lessons of more prayer, both inwardly and outwardly, more fasting, both with food and from un-sober things, and more creative generosity in giving to others, was a preparation too. What broke forth with splendor on the Paschal night ended the penitential time of preparation outwardly to the time of joyous celebration, but this is something that can just fade into pleasant memory if we don’t integrate these spiritual experiences and meanings into our daily lives.
Spring is most evidently the season of hope, which is the constant theme of the Christian Church, so that we are not just passive victims of circumstances, but active and willing participants of a life in Christ which gives meaning to every aspect of our life and our being. No longer simply caught by outward circumstances, which can be pleasant or unpleasant, we have a choice to make these circumstances a blessing by just looking at them with spiritual eyes and understanding. When Christ revealed by His teaching and Resurrection the invisible immaterial world of Angelic Beings and the Future Life, He gave us the freedom to rise above the mere choices of others and to use everything in a Godly way. So hope is a spiritual springtime too, and in this Paschal Season to Pentecost, we rejoice at such a positive and truly liberating hope and love.
We see in the lives of the modern Elders and in all of the Saints of the Church their reliance and choice of hope in a life in Christ, and in the better and more complete world to come. It is from this hope that Faith and Love follow. May we too follow their path to love.
The end of Winter was milder than normal, and Spring came in in such a way that we did not have the quick melting of the snows coupled with early rains on a still frozen top soil, so that our little cascading spring did not flood as often happens at that time of year. The frost had not gone deep because of the early snows at the beginning of last Winter. Some of the wood cut down but not moved last Fall has reappeared when the snow cover left, but it was just a small amount this year. We survived the Winter and still had some wood left over and stacked near the wood-fired boiler, which will be helpful next year.
Springtime at St Isaacs
This is our second email and direct mail sent to you this year of a newsletter and donation appeal. Our last appeal was very helpful, and your response made this March in particular even better than last year, but overall our donations this year are still down 19% from last year (which was tight), and April has been a particularly hard month as it is 45% below last year. We still are living with a lot less to try to manage daily affairs, especially recently. As was mentioned in our last newsletter, we are still struggling to just make simple ends meet, and we know that many people are doing this in their own lives. We are not asking much, but everyone can give something to others: prayer, love, a kind word, and as we are able, some alms-giving.
Your donations go directly to support our daily needs and to help others. Just this last week two people called who could not pay their utility bills and were in danger of having all of their utilities shut off. We helped as we could and with others were able to at least let them live with electricity and heat for now. Being poor is not a crime, and many famous people have lived through such times. What is needed is to share something of what we can when God sends someone to us for help. Boscobel, even though it is such a small rural community (population 3,050) has a Free Medical Clinic, an extensive Food Pantry, has an outreach to help children obtain at least minimum free dental care, and is just starting a community garden. The local churches do outreach individually and also in coordination, and this area is a very poor part of a mostly agricultural and recreational state, besides its manufacturing. We are glad to be a part of such progressively sharing efforts and help them as we can. We at our Skete also do outreach to many others each week, including gas vouchers for those without fuel.
In a way, our own efforts and those of the surrounding community are not surprising, for it is known that often the most generous and outreaching people have come from the lower economic stations in each culture and at most historic times. When you personally know hardship, it is easier to sympathize with others experiencing the same troubles. God is the ultimate benefactor, yet He lets us share with Him the joy of giving, and in our case the amount is not the main thing, but the fact of doing so, and the gladness of attitude when actually giving. This begins to bring the joy of a generous heart into our awareness and deepens as we are more regular in doing so. So for all of us, we must really thank God that He has let us share in this most Godly joy, for He said for all times that, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
We invite you to also share with us the joy of this blossoming season. Take a walk and smell the fresh air and look at Nature’s beauty all around us. Freshen up your homes with some flowers and bright colors, a little spring cleaning and just enjoy that Spring has sprung. The Lord of Life, Jesus Christ, is the life that is blossoming now too. He is the reason why everything grows and expresses beauty. He is in the gentle rains, and in the growing light around us, the fine breezes and the singing birds, and above this, He is also the reason that we can rejoice inwardly too, looking for the Springtime of greater hope, faith, and love.
We pray that you touch this joy this Spring and as our family of mutual prayerful support grows in strength and regularity, that together we may all rejoice in anticipation of the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Apostles soon and through them to us. God draws us near. Please continue your prayers for us, your good thoughts and hopes, and also some alms-giving if you can. Thank you.
God bless you and keep you in His Holy Name,
Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Monastics of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the Convent of St. Silouan,
and the Community of St. Nicholas Church