Christ is Risen!
This week this Spring we continue to celebrate the Feast of Feasts, Pascha or Easter, the Day when all of Creation is renewed. It is the time of great light that has shone on all, enlightening and enlivening all who enter the mystical chamber where Christ is risen from the tomb to give life to all who wish to partake thereof. It is the celebration of new life that is flowering around us in Spring, but has dimensions that reach beyond time and space to all of Eternity.
In the beautiful Orthodox hymn of “Let God Arise” sung at the Paschal vigil it says,
“Today a sacred Pascha is revealed to us
A new and holy Pascha
A holy mystical Pascha
A Pascha worthy of veneration
A Pascha which is Christ the Redeemer
A blameless Pascha
A great Pascha
A Pascha of the faithful
The Pascha which have opened for us the gates of Paradise
A Pascha which sanctifies all of the faithful”
Here in the Skete valley the grass has just jumped up green all around us and the trees are all budded, their tender leaves are not yet unfurled, but should happen any day now. The abundance and exuberance of Spring is amazing and bursts forth when the snows end, the temperature comes up, and the water is plentiful. This is the beginning of the light shades of spring green which is only seen at this time of the year. It is beautiful and full, and mirrors somehow the spiritual renewal that is also in full bloom in this Paschal Season. We are touching the source of Life Who has come to bring us out of spiritual winter into Paradise.
We are hard at work this Bright Week in the awakening Southwest Wisconsin outdoors, clearing the old brush and leaves, and sorting, cleaning, and restacking what had been buried in the sizeable snows this Winter. If this can be done soon, before all of the plant life explodes in growth, the grass, shrubs, trees, and other plant life will remain open and clear for the whole Summer and Fall seasons. Then all the growth will be orderly and manageable. There is a small window to make this happen, but the results are quite visible and appealing. Spring has come at last.
We hope to plow and disc the garden soon and plant hardier root vegetables that can survive a hard freeze, which can still happen even to the first week of June. Last year due to other pressing work and unusual rains a very short time after the plowing, the garden didn’t happen. As it turned out to be a poor garden year here in Wisconsin, it was less painful for us, but we pray that this year will be planted and have a better growing season. Nothing tastes quite like fresh vegetables that you grow and nurture yourself, and then you feel an active participant in God’s creative cycle too.
The preparation of Great Lent is also a plowing of the heart and mind to bring forth the plenty of Paschal joy. If we increased our prayers, our self-restraint, our generosity to others, and our living dependence on God in thankfulness, then we are receiving the blessings of a cooperative and helpful spirit, as God renews us. Let us not leave the good practices and lessons of repentance in this season now of celebration and growth, but wisely continue to plant more seeds of righteousness so they too will blossom into an ever increasing spiritual life. There is no end to God, or Eternity, so there is no end to a lively spiritual life. May we enter it joyfully.
Spring is a time of hope, and it is also a time of faith. We hope that when we plant our seeds that they will come up abundantly, but this hope is founded on the faith that seeds produce this abundance from the experience of our own life and that of our common understanding of life. There are many variety of plants that even have a very specific number of days for maturity, such as the many varieties of tomato plants. Some come to fruition early, and some later. With careful planning, we can have outward abundance continue for many months this growing season.
With the same logic, we can plant spiritual seeds too, and understand that our faith in Christ as a living God and active Saviour of our souls awakens the image and likeness that was planted in us at our creation. It was made alive at our baptism and chrismation, and is fed and watered by our sincere confession of our sins, repentance and participation in the life of the Church, especially prayer and Holy Communion. God is the Sun that will warm us, the Water of Life that will bedew us, and the Spirit of Life that will bring us to the fullness of the stature of Christ. All that is lacking is our conscious active participation and cooperation. May we do so now in this Holy Paschal Season.
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 better than January or February, but overall our donations this year are still down 40% from last year (which was tight), and April has been a particularly hard month as it is 73% below last year so far. We know that you are struggling with financial concerns too, so even if you can just give a little, it will help us. God, seeing your generous heart, will be generous towards you. When we give with love, God widens our hearts to love Him and His love grows in us too.
Because of your generosity last year we were able to live within our means and also purchase several tools that will make our life here at the Skete, Convent, and Mission more beautiful and carefully manage all that surrounds us. Many roofs were repaired or replaced, which was sorely needed. A used zero-turn mower, a new engine our our old brush hog, and a used skid steer (like a Bobcat) were bought in your generosity, and will certainly go a long way in maintaining and improving our grounds and growing areas now and in the years to come. These were a good investment in the monks’ future.
St. Isaac's Common Monastic Building
We are also asking again for capital funds this year to help move to completion the beautiful Common Monastic Building which has been 12 years in construction. It will provide kitchen, dining, bathroom and shower, laundry, library, tool, and work space for the monks living here now and in the future. From the last newsletter someone donated the funds to buy the floor tile. We have a shop worker here now that has time to do all of the construction on the floors, walls, window and door trim, and storage construction without additional cash flow outlay. It is a golden opportunity to finish this fine and practical building.
We still need $4,000 for the wall tile, $3,000 for the re-sheetrocking of the renewed storage and work area, $6,000 for a septic field installation, $4,500 for drilling a well and installing its solar well pump, and an initial $5,000 to begin our conversion to a 48 volt solar electric system to provide all of our heat circulation and water pumping needs of this off-the-grid green energy solution for all the years to come. The whole building concept is green and self-sufficient, and has been so planned for the last 12 years. Please help us move forward to realize more of this dream this year if you can.
The Convent is looking to add a better foundation this year that will stop the yearly frost heaving which moves everything, and an additional room for storage. Again we would have the labor to do this without additional cash flow outlay this Summer or Fall. We just lack the construction materials and concrete pads. These would cost about $6,500. Mother Elizabeth also needs regular contributions to help her pay for her daily needs and special medicines and medical cost for her diabetes. She remembers all of her donors in prayer and thanksgiving. Please help her if you can.
In conclusion we ask that your hearts be full of God’s generosity and love this Paschal and Spring season. We ask you to remember us in your prayers and to participate in the abundance of spiritual and material life that this Spring is bringing forth. Know that we are earnestly praying for you and your life and growth.
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 at St. Nicholas Church