Nativity of Christ - F02
Christ Draws Near
With colder weather definitely in the air, we can begin to think about deep Fall and the beginning of Winter. Although the seasons revolve around us throughout the year, there is also a Divine cycle which is important for us, for Christ reveals Himself to us in each season to sanctify time, enlighten the world, and consecrate all of nature both outwardly and inwardly. The most important revelation, however, is the sanctification of men and women made in His Image through their willing conformation to His Likeness. If we become more and more like Him, then our inner nature is truly revealed, and in no season is this more apparent then at His Nativity, the time and fulfillment of His coming on Earth. In His Birth, everything was changed.
God is not just the God of Love, He is Love itself. He is not just merciful, or kind, or compassionate, or forgiving but expresses these qualities as the outpouring of Love on those He has made, and most especially on us, the human race. Although infinitely above all of Creation, He chose to come to us, as sinful and broken as we are, in His full Incarnation and by taking up all of human nature to restore it to its full potential and life. Since He is life, when we partake of Him, we too are full of life. Since He is love, then when we live like Him, think about Him, see His image in others and treat them with respect and love, then we slowly grow into the inherited state that Adam and Eve lost when they foolishly chose material and mental appearances and desires over a trusting spiritually dependent relationship with the author of life and love. We become living icons of God.
Distinctive Sunset over Monastic Cell
and St. Nicholas Church
Christ is born on earth, but He needs to be born in us. For this to happen, we need to make a place for Him to be born, to be nurtured, to grow, and to attain to His full stature and work just like He did in His life here on earth, only this time within us. This is the adoption of the Divine life, and the becoming of sons and daughters of the King of Heaven and Earth. It is to this change and enlivenment that we were born, and through repentance, in every dimension is this accomplished. May we invite the Lord Jesus Christ now into each moment of our life. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely....Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:17, 20)
First Snow Dusting on St. Nicholas Church
Our Fall to Winter at the Skete
The last full moon rose here at the Skete over a sky with a sprinkling of clouds set above with beautiful luminous edges. The rising moon had a deep silvery pale white-yellow tint and came up over the trees now half empty of their leaves. It was very beautiful. Southwestern Wisconsin is a very beautiful place with hills filled with hardwood trees of many types in abundance, fresh water and springs, good earth to grow food, clean air, and many animals running free in the woods. It has a feel of great fullness.
In addition to the outward beauty of this area, there is here at the Skete, in spite of our many limitations, an underlying spiritual atmosphere that is so tangible that many guests comment about it when they come to visit here. That it is peaceful, restful, alive, and deeply silent making interior prayer easy. Just the other day a Russian and Georgian (the country) couple and their children came in the afternoon to visit. They said that it reminded them of Georgia. Often guests from other Orthodox countries say that it reminds them of home. The home that they are feeling is the same spiritual foundation of Orthodoxy that had baptized and transfigured their culture at their conversion and afterwards. This same conversion happens wherever we can establish Orthodox life outwardly and inwardly. Pray that we here at the Skete still work consciously towards this continuing conversion of life.
CMB Greenhouse with Growing Trough
Two Monastic Cells w. Split-wood
Crated for Use this Winter
We are now putting away the Spring and Summer mowers and other outdoor tools, winterizing the buildings where needed, getting our wood in order for the boiler that heats the Common Monastic Building in the back valley, and buttoning up anything else that will get buried by snow. There have been some snow flurries already and several deep frosts here at the Skete. It was an abrupt change from the long Indian Summer that continued until the middle of October this year. Much has been done this last year, and much has been put into further order, so that all will be clean and available in this coming season and in the Spring. It was a good year for completion. New roofs were put on the Hospitality Center and the Bookstore in the front valley, and also over the Walkway, the Shop, and other production buildings. All of the outbuildings were completely cleaned out, rearranged, and restocked with their materials.
We still need a newer brush hog for clearing heavy brush in outlying areas and steep hills, and a roto-tiller for the garden next Spring. Can you help us find or finance these most helpful tools? It would truly be a great blessing.
The Back Valley of Silence
The construction on the Common Monastic Building has been the focus of our fund-raising and our energy spent this last year, and it has shown many visible results, so much so that its construction is now nearly 95% complete. The heating system with its wood fired boiler, radiant heated floors, radiators to the greenhouse, and many separate heat zones, even a heat zone in the front growing trough in the greenhouse, was majorly improved and is now fully functioning. The solar electrical system is completed in its first stage, which provides all of our current needs. We are now functioning entirely off-the-grid. The well and septic system are connected to the water system which was updated in the kitchen and throughout the building.
We have a new stairway installed up to the second floor, new bookcases built in to house our monastic library, and a new balustrade upstairs with an integrated elegant cross design. When the radiators are heating the greenhouse and windows are opened upstairs and downstairs into it from the main living area, a natural convection breeze is created to evenly circulate the heat throughout the building.
With a good deep well, new septic system, large passive solar heat gain through the greenhouse, an good active solar electrical system, a wood-fired boiler using much wood harvested from our property, year-round growing potential in the greenhouse for healthy organic vegetables, and natural cooling from the earth-bermed back pantry area, we are very cognizant of the monastic ideal to live in harmony with the earth, and be as reasonably self-sufficient as possible. It has taken many years to realize this dream. We need your help to complete the last small steps to move in this Fall.
CMB Upstairs, Meeting Area, Dormitory, & Library
CMB New Decorative Stairway and Balustrade
Our need of your kind financial support is always a steady daily reality. Your donations help us live prayerfully and to reach out to provide spiritual tools to improve the spiritual lives of the Faithful. The Holy Icons, Devotional Goods, and Books that we provide and distribute are a wonderful outreach, but they do not entirely support our food, heat, electricity, clothes, medical, and other expenses, even though we remain personally frugal. The nearby Convent of St. Silouan is even more dependent on your support, and Mother Elizabeth has special medicines that she needs for her diabetes. We ask you to help her, and to help the monks. Every little bit helps. Give something if you possibly can.
How to Help Now
Monastic life is an important part of the Church’s life. We here at the Skete and Convent are trying to live that life as fully as our circumstances allow while still outreaching to the greater community and meeting our daily practical needs. You can help us by your prayers and your practical support. It would be a great blessing to have the monks move more of their time and energy into the back monastic valley of prayerful silence. Finishing the Common Monastic Building is the best way to do this now.
We just need the tiles we have already purchased put up in the bathrooms and kitchen, buy and install the kitchen cabinets, and put in the bathroom fixtures: sinks, toilets, and showers. With a few more incidentals, the construction on this wonderfully green functioning building is complete. It will only cost about $12,000 to do this, and we have had two kind donors pledge the matching funds for half of that amount, so we just need to raise an additional $6,000 now to move in this Fall before the beginning of the next year.
In addition, we ask again for help with our daily needs. These are not extreme, but still necessary. May Christ amply reward you.
May God bless you in this time before and during the commemoration of the Lord's Birth on earth. Keep us in your prayers, and we will keep you in ours. In anticipation, we give you the joyous greeting of the feast: Christ is Born! Glorify Him! Amen.
God bless your good hearts,
The brotherhood of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the sisterhood of St. Silouan's Convent,
and the community at St. Nicholas Church
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