As the Leaves Turn with the Seasons to the Color of Repentance
Since I was a young child I have loved the fall season, with its mixture of bright leaves aflame, the nip of cool in my face and hands, and clear skies with their crisp stars almost glowing in their pulsing nearness and luminous intensity. It is as if the very air is filled with waves of freshness, like looking through an old glass window that makes the light ripple. There is a certain bitter-sweetness that layers conflicting emotions in my heart—gladness, hope, the warmth of warmer clothes, hot chocolate, a crackling fire that hisses and pops when the coals settle down, the life of mind and body energized now as if splashed with the cold water of a mountain stream, and yet at the same time seeing the passing of green leaves through the pastels into bare shouldered suddenly barren trees ready for the winter snows. Things are changing and things are dying, and all this too will pass, but it is a journey, yes a journey, and my heart is awake and listening. I have never solved these conflicting emotions that this season brings, just entered into them and when buffering the sadness with gladness, somehow the season has a motion that moves like the dark deck of a ship silently moving at night in open water, and bringing you somewhere that cannot be understood as yet, but is moving, moving, moving.
There is a spiritual dimension to the season, for it is the stage before the burial of the last year in hope of a springtime that has yet to come. We see and sense that all things of nature are just in motion too, and they will change and wilt, withering in the sleep of winter or time, so we are brought to that great sentinel of life—the fact of death in this world of impermanence. This grows and grows as we grow in mind (if we don’t just live in distraction), for whatever is born truly must die, and this universal law gives focus and meaning to look for permanence, stability, sobriety, and the search for the eternal and the deep heart of man. So if we all must die, we can yet live so that our death has not just fear, but hope. If we are willingly confined by growing self-awareness and a desire for that which will last beyond this fact of life and death in this world, then our interior eyes may open to make our life meaningful and real. I can already feel that the change has begun here in the Wisconsin valleys, and can see the first color come up across the hills surrounding us. I look around to see what needs to be done before the white winter coat covers all, and we have just begun the season. It is a time for change.
Many other changes are around us here now at the Skete, and the monks are deepening their hearts in deeper prayer and remembrance of death to hearken the changes outside to come in too, for the Fathers speak of the change of repentance as Godly sorrow, and bright sadness tinged with joy. In the outward parts here at the Skete we see changes too, and the energy of greater completion as we had hoped in this season. The Trapeza / dining room and kitchen has reached its final stage in its construction just this week, and it is quite beautiful. What a welcome change to the hospitality that we can offer our guests and visitors when they join us in sharing God’s bounty. As Abraham and Sarah were so hospitable (and what a privilege it was), so we see those that bless our door could be angels or even God Himself in the form of angels.
The main woodworking in panels and doors for the iconostasis in St. Nicholas Church is scheduled to arrive on September 26, and to be put up in the next few days following. We are very excited to see these pieces all come together, for when the design becomes living it enhances the parts with each distinct beauty and grace. We also hope to have this done for Metropolitan Joseph when he comes on October 6. We are still working to plan and fund-raise the rest of the funds for the interior of the church as God blesses. Thank you for all your generosity, past, present, and future.
We have quite a few icon shows planned for this fall, one in Cincinnati this weekend, one in Chicago at the end of October, and one in Des Moines in early November. Our icon reproduction levels of production have risen in the last two months in preparation for the Nativity Season, and are even planned to be higher than this for the months to come. A more coordinated and lively crew has made the difference, with some more timely organization included. This has given me much more peace of mind for the coming season, for we should be able to meet increased demands of this season in a very timely and professional manner, even more than in other years. At the same time, much more time as of late has been spent in the Icon Studio for hand-painting icons for the many patrons that have placed an order for this truly spirit-bearing art form. Fathers Anthony and Theodore are working many more hours daily to keep this effort productive and finish the many orders already made. If you would like a hand-painted icon, please make your inquiries to Father Theodore at email@example.com
I want to keep this short, so I will just mention that I am feeling the effects of fall right now and part of my gladness is writing you to try to convey what I am thinking and perceiving at the moment. We pray for all of our friends each day, and will continue to pray for you. Please remember to keep us in your prayers. God bless you,
Your Brother in Christ,
Father Simeon, Abbot
And the Monks of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
And the Nuns of the Convent of St. Silouan
And the Faithful of St. Nicholas Church