Thursday, April 20, 2017

Two walls of frescoes completed

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Two walls of frescoes using traditional fresco technique on wet lime plaster have been completed at the hermitage of the Annunciation. It was decided to decorate the trapeza with women ascetic saints to strengthen our monastic labour.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Exaltation of the Cross - Camp

From September 25-27, a group of young people came to the Annunciation Hermitage for a camp.

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They made and erected a Cross on “Mount Tabor” above the monastery.
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6206a.jpg Carpentry skills by the boys were put to good use. Some of the boys helped with the iconography, whilst the rest had the difficult task of digging a deep hole in the rocky ground. The tropar and other hymns to the Cross were sung.

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The participants had five lectures and discussions on the Law of God.

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They prayed at the services morning and evening, and took part of Holy Communion.

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6308a.jpgA competition - the teams were handed the first question, which started them off on a search for ongoing clues hidden all over the monastery property. Competing team members share experiences on the challenges of the competition track - quick decisions had to be made during the race.

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A campfire with discussions about ancient Rome, the first Christians, and tall tales.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Abbess Alexandra: On Christian love (conference report)

Love is the only thing that can not be demanded. You can cry when it is not present, and rejoice when it is. People are mistaken when they demand love.
Saint John of Shanghai

abbess-alexandra.jpgSpeaking of Christian love, let us first of all turn to St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, in whose works we find all the priceless teachings the Fathers have left us, who theoretically and and by experience internalised the Gospel teaching.

He writes:

We know from the Fathers that there are two kinds of love for neighbour: the natural and the evangelical, which is love in Christ. Natural love has been planted in us at creation, and therefore it is certainly present in every human being. It has been damaged, just like the other good human properties, by the fall, or the ancestral sin. Therefore, each person is subject to more or less damage, short or long-lasting changes. Christ heals all our diseases in a marvelous way, also heals our damaged love: He commands people to love Himself - the Lord - in a man. This brings love up to the highest degree of fervour, gives it purity, spirituality, a sanctuary. Likewise, the flame of love in Christ extinguishes the discordant, smoky flame of carnal love - which consists of a mixture of dreamy, non-existent delight and brutal, murderous torment. The feeling of spiritual love guided the pen of St. John of the Ladder, when he said: “Love of God extinguishes our love for our parents. And so he who says that he has both deceives himself.” He also said: “he is pure who expels fleshly love with divine love, who has extinguished the fire of passion by the fire of heaven (i.e. the Holy Spirit)” When we look at ourselves with attention we will see, with God’s help (God’s help is needed for such a vision! This vision is the gift of God!), that we mostly have a natural love, and have yet to acquire the evangelical love [1].

Give homage to your neighbour as to the image of God - a respect within your soul, which is invisible to others, which is clear only to your conscience. Let your activity be mysteriously conformable to your state of mind.

Give homage to your neighbour, without distinction to age, gender, class - and gradually holy love will be revealed in your heart.

The reason for this holy love is not flesh and blood, not the drive of the senses - but God.

Give homage both to the blind and the leper, and the one with a mental disorder, to infants, and criminals, and pagans show reverence as to the image of God. What are their weaknesses and shortcomings to you! Watch yourself, that you do fall short in love.

In a christian, give reverence to Christ, Who said in His instructions, and also will say when our eternal fate is pronounced: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25.40).

In your relation to your fellow man, keep in mind this saying of the Gospel, and you will be made a confidant of love for neighbor.

The confidant of love of neighbor enters into the love of God by it.

But if you think that you love God, and in your heart there lives an unpleasant attitude to even one person, then you are in grievous self-delusion.

St John the Evangelist says: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar…this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.[2]

The Gospel rejects the love that depends on the movement of blood from the feelings of the carnal heart. The fall subjected the heart to the dominion of blood, and by blood, to the sovereignty of the prince of this world. The Gospel frees the heart from this bondage, from this violence, and leads it to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit teaches us to love our neighbor in holiness. Love which is lit and fueled by the Holy Spirit is a fire. This fire extinguishes the fire of natural, carnal love, which is damaged by the Fall.

What a fallen state our nature is in! He who by nature is capable of vehemently loving his neighbour, has to force himself extraordinarily to love his neighbour in the way commanded by the Gospel. The flame of natural love easily turns into disgust, into an implacable hatred.

How plagued our natural love is! What a grievous wound to her is passion! Possessed by passion, the heart is capable of any injustice, any iniquity, just to satisfy its morbid love. Natural love gives his favourite only what is earthly, for it does not think of heaven. It rebels against heaven and the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit calls for the crucifixion of the flesh. It rebels against heaven and the Holy Spirit, because it is under the control of an evil spirit, the unclean spirit of one perishing.[3][/quote]

For every Christian (and especially for monastics) it is very important to understand what passion is and how it differs from love in Christ. I will bring your attention to a conversation of Bishop Photios of Triaditza with monastics on this topic.

“Often we confuse love with passion, passion for man … In fact, it is not the person it is difficult to leave, abandoning him himself. We could leave him to God, but it is difficult for us to deny ourselves, deny our own desire for a person, our attraction to the person. This is passion.

Passion is a manifestation of our self-love. It is very dangerous and extremely harmful to the spiritual life. Love is pure and disinterested; passion is something quite different. Passion is a morbid fascination, the soul cleaving to a specific person. This is constant thoughts of him, how he sees me; a special excitement and satisfaction, an agreeableness, when that person pays attention to us; and vice versa - unsettledness, depression, moodiness when that person does not have a friendly attitude to us or does not behave as we would like. In all this - God forbid - it is possible to go to the lowest depths. I do not wish to speak about this. We should wage an uncompromising struggle with these things, even fighting unto blood. Otherwise, self-love will remain the guiding principle in our lives, in our existence. The Lord tells us that it is impossible to serve two masters - this we know.

I think that we are afraid; the voice of our self-love does not give us trust in the Lord until the end, trust in the truth that the life of the soul can be purchased in its entirety only in the communion with God. Yes, we do not have any similar experience; we are sinful, unclean creatures. As she moves away from God, the soul is hungry, poor, wandering the world like a stranger, rejected by all. And then the soul begins to become attached to one soul, or the other. This is obviously a terrible self-deception, a serious illness. The soul is trying to find in another soul some kind of a world, in which to find satisfaction, pleasure for her selfishness. Here we must be uncompromising, strict to the end, otherwise we will remain in captivity to our selfishness.

If someone seems nice to you and your heart is drawn towards him, it does not mean that you love him. If this enthusiasm continues, you yourself will soon learn what treacherous, even tyrannical claims your soul presents with respect to this “dear” man. You will see how your soul can not stand that man’s independence from you, she is jealous and demands love for herself, demands that the subject of your love be slavishly devoted to you.

And your soul is ready to retaliate if this affection grows cold! We see that in this case everything rests on self-love, on the expansion of one’s own possessions in this world: “What I like - this is mine. It is in some way belongs to me.” For the most part this “cute” man is a door to a new, interesting and enjoyable small world trust for your heart. At the beginning you just want to enjoy this world as a little garden, and then you wish to put a small house there. When you are strolling through the garden, you no longer admire what is planted in it, but rather, yourself. This is the most disgusting of partiality in false love. Therefore, I repeat that here we really have to be uncompromising.

True Love - says Saint Paul - seeketh not her own” (1 Cor. 13:5). Pure love is unselfish. It is generally quite alien to be possessive of what you love, because it is love in the Lord. Love in the Lord always respects the freedom of the other, and always loves man in Christ. It is difficult to understand this for us, because we are not committed, there is no trust and openness to the Lord, in order to make an effort in this direction. When a man fights, when he knocks, the Lord eventually opens. And then all these truths become clear to the mind, she knows them in her inner experience. Then the soul rejoices, because the truth has become her own private treasure. She rejoices because in her quest, in her struggle against all that separates her from the Lord, she is seeing a stronger stream of light in the tunnel; She rejoices because this brings her to God, and this joy is natural from her perspective - yet it is supernatural in terms of our fallen state.”

Abbess Alexandra

[1] Meeting of the letters of St. Ignatius, Bishop of the Caucasus. Publication Research Center, the protection and restoration of the heritage of the priest Paul Florensky. M., 1993. p. 153
[2] St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov). Ascetic experience. T. 1. M., “Rule of Faith”, 1993, p. 125-126
[3] St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov). Ascetic experience. T. 1. M., “Rule of Faith”, 1993, p. 121-122

Source

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Festal Services for the Annunciation of the Mother of God

The monastery of the Annunciation of the Mother of God celebrated its patronal feast on 6-7 April (24-25 March, old style). The feast commenced with Vespers, and later in the evening, a festal Vigil. Around 30 people came to the monastery for the feast.

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Abbott John concelebrated with Protodeacon Vasily Yakimov. Many young people attended and helped with reading, singing and serving.

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After the Vigil, rassophore nun Elisabeth was tonsured to the small schema, with the name Evgenia.

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Monastery Feast Service Schedule

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The services for the Monastery feast of the Annunciation of the Mother of God at the Annunciation Hermitage will be as follows.

Monday 6.April (24 March):

3 pm Vespers
530 pm Festal Vigil (Great Compline, Matins, and first hour)
930 pm Trapeza

Tuesday 7. April (25 March):
8 am Hours, Typika and Vespers
930 am Vespers with the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom
11 am Trapeza

This year the feast falls during Holy Week, and is therefore combined with the services of Holy Tuesday.

All are most welcome to attend!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pilgrims and workers at the Annunciation Hermitage

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896a.jpgDuring the third week of Great Lent, three groups of visitors fortified themselves spiritually at the monastery of the Annunciation. The visitors had tours of the monastery, participated in the divine services and helped with work.

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May God grant them health, salvation, and many years!
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One local also stood by!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Secret sin, secret repentance, open slander, glory from God

This summarises the life of St Theodora of Alexandria.
Young Theodora was happily married, which upset the enemy of all good, the devil. He tempted a young man to fall in love with her. The young man was so desperate that he resorted to magic to seduce Theodora. The simple Theodora was tempted by the thought that if she sins during the night, God will not see the sin!
death-to-the-world2.jpgSo, Theodora fell into adultery with the young man. Her conscience witnessed it all, and her heart felt no peace.
St Theodora fell into a second simple-hearted error: She thought God would never forgive her! Running to a wise Abbess she knew, she asked for advice. However, she did not confess her sin clearly, nor receive spiritual medicine from this wise doctor. Instead, she convinced herself that no forgiveness was available, that no healing could ever occur.
Theodora decided she must give up the world entirely and become a monastic in order to repent. So that her husband would not find her in one of the women’s convents, she cut her hair and changed into men’s clothing. She presented herself at the gate of a men’s monastery as “Theodore”, asking to be accepted. Her distressed husband searched, fearing that his beloved wife had left with another man…after several years, God answered his prayers and showed him his wife - but he did not recognise her.
Theodore went through many trials in the ascetic life. The brothers, incited by the enemy of God, quickly started to envy the young “brother”. Because of this they exposed her to unecessary dangers, sending her on errands where wild animals would be sure to attack her. Theodora remained safe, as she never doubted God. She also never exposed which brothers had caused her trouble, keeping her mind set on God and her body set on serving the brethren. Miracles even started to occur, which made her spiritual life evident to all.

…[someone] offended you; do not hate him but rather hate the offense and the demon who contrived the offense. If you hate the offender, you hate a person and transgress the commandment, and what he did in word you do in deed. But if you keep the the commandment, give proof of your love, and if you can in any way, help him so that he can be delivered from wickedness.
Christ does not want you to have hate for anyone, or grief, or anger, or resentment in any way at all or for any temporal reason whatsoever,. And this is thoroughly proclaimed in the four Gospels.
St Maximos the Confessor, 7th century

Finally, on an errand to the city, the devil constructed a sure trap. Monk Theodore did not make it home, and was forced to spend the night outside with his camels and goods. A girl, tempted by the devil, tried to seduce the “monk”, but he was not the least interested. She finally found another man among the travellers, and became pregnant.
theodora2.jpgSoon, the girl’s outraged relatives came to the monastery, accusing the “monk” Theodore of raping her! Theodore was evicted from the monastery. When the baby was born, the relatives threw him into the monastery for upbringing, by the “adulterer himself”. Theodore accepted this new obedience just as he had previously accepted all other obediences, for the sake of God and his repentance. Seven years passed. Theodora’s skin was black from the rough conditions. She fed the baby with the work of her own hands. Everyone despised her as a great sinner.

There is no hardship more oppressive to the soul than slander, whether one is slandered in his faith or in his conduct. And no one can disdain it except the one who like Susanna looks to God who alone can rescue in need, as he rescued her, and to reassure men, as he did in her case, and to encourage the soul with hope.
To the extent that you pray from your soul, for the one who spread scandal about you, God will reveal the truth to those who were told the scandal.
St Maximos the Confessor, 7th century

Theodora could have proved her innocence easily - simply by showing herself as a woman. But she did not - she chose to endure hardship, to prove her secret repentance before God for an old sin. Theodora knew well that it is the devil that tempts us - not our circumstances or the people around us:

There was a monk who, because of the great number of temptations said, “I will go away from here.” As he was putting on his sandals, he saw another man who was also putting on his sandals and the other monk said to him, “Is it on my account that you are going away? Because I go before you wherever you are going.”
Venerable Mother Theodora of Alexandria, 5th century

Theodora was by now very experienced in the spiritual life, having endured many kinds of temptation. She instructed her “son”:

Seek my child, the nobility of the soul, for it is truth; that of the body is false. Do not seek honour from men, for this injures one; but rather, seek heavenly glory…Thou art to be sympathetic with all the brethren and help them as much as possible; also thou are to minister unto them that are incapacitated or weak. Do not desire to live by another’s labour. Guard thy mind never to condemn something, whether it is good or bad. When thou art spoken to, lower thy face to the earth and then answer. Never ridicule anyone, especially when they are in misfortune. When thou wilt hear that a certain brother is disorderly, supplicate God to correct his life. Visit and help the sick, and serve the brethren as their servant…
Venerable Mother Theodora of Alexandria, 5th century

Then, “father Theodore” died. The child wailed inconsolably, and attracted the brothers to investigate what was happening. The abbot, in the meantime had a vision of the glory awaiting Theodora in heaven - which also revealed who she really was. An angel commanded him to bring the husband to the funeral. All the brothers shed tears, amazed at the spiritual strength of the Saint, and full of remorse for their previous judgements and false accusations.
The husband remained at the monastery and became an exemplary monk. The child later became a wise Superior of the same community.
And Saint Theodora from Heaven assists all those who struggle with the temptation of slander and false accusations, encouraging them to endure with God, for the salvation of their souls.

Blessed are ye when men shall persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven.
Mt.5:12

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Archbishop Andronik’s visit to the Annunciation Hermitage

On Saturday 7/20 September, at the fore-feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, Archbishop Andronik served at the Annunciation Hermitage.
Vladyka arrived Friday afternoon for a tour of the monastery property, taking part in the evening service and trapeza.

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s494.jpgIn his sermon (audio recording), Vladyka Andronik reminded the people to stay faithful to the Holy Orthodox Church in these difficult times.

Vladyka also spoke regarding distancing ourselves from the world, seeking spiritual nourishment in monasteries (audio recording), for the salvation of our souls.

After Liturgy, Vladyka Andronik blessed the new portal Cross and kupol at the hermitage entrance.
The work was carried out by master craftsman and benefactor Dmitri Kichakov.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kupola and Cross erected at the Annunciation Hermitage!

01.jpg05.jpgGlory to God, on the day of St Anthony the Roman, Saturday 3/16th August workers put up a golden kupola and Cross over the church at the Annunciation Monastery.
Left - The kupola master builder - Dmitri Kichakov. Right - Blessing prayers

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The workers managed to lift the kupola without the use of machinery.
We were blessed with good weather and no wind.

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Left - View from St Hariton’s skete. Right - View from St Herman’s skete.

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Finally, the spring sun came out to make the kupola and Cross shine!
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Note the local inhabitants wondering at this new sight
(circled in red, this and next 2 pictures).
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Kangaroos are a common sight in this area - as are eagles, echidnas, and lizards…
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The monastery now has a traditional Orthodox look. 93.jpg
Glory to God!
May He save all our workers and kind helpers!

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Holy father Seraphim, pray to God for us!

Our holy father Seraphim became a saint, filled with the Holy Spirit, by going through the steps of Christian spiritual activity.
In his childhood and youth, he lived as a pious Christian in the world. When he entered the Sarov monastery as a novice, he struggled in obedience to the Abbott and all the brothers, performing all the necessary obediences. He carried his Cross of obedient service and later, sickness, in an exemplary way, without grumbling and complaining. He denied his own will.
After this, through many years of struggle in solitude, battling with the demons and what still remained of his own sinful passions. His prayer-rule in this time was immense, and took hours every day to complete. He prayed for 1000 days and nights on a rock, regardless of the weather. He remained obedient to the Sarov monastery Abbott, even on those occasions when the Abbott and brothers did not understand his way of life.
Only after these purifying ascetic struggles did St Seraphim start to receive the people, who came to him to ask his advice and prayers.
St Seraphim gives us an example of how to struggle in Christian life: By zealously putting God before every physical comfort and even basic needs, with prayer, almsgiving, obedience, patience, humility, fasting, fighting against his body and sinful desires, enduring slander, encouraging every Christian soul with love to carry their own Cross in life with faith.
Finally, he reminds us that this struggle, in its many forms, is not the goal of our Christian life…The aim is to acquire the Holy Spirit!

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Community of the Tabinsk Mother of God Icon

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  • Spiritual Father: Bishop John.
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