Today we essentially visited two places: the Transfiguration cathedral in the city of Prilyki, and the Gustinsky Holy Trinity Convent. That may seem rather insignificant at first glance, but honestly, the convent was really quite remarkable, and the cathedral was very interesting as well. The day was not at all insignificant, but rather quite enlightening. The convent especially was very impressive. I'll give a little anecdote at the very end, after we present the pictures.
Here are the pictures from the Transfiguration cathedral in Prilyki:
And here are the pictures from the Gustinsky convent:
And now for the anecdote. The Abbess of the convent did not really speak Russian – or at least she was not comfortable with her Russian. Vladyka Peter could understand her Ukrainian quite well since he said it was the same Ukrainian that the brothers spoke in Jordanville when he arrived there as a seminarian. But she wanted to have one of the sisters who spoke Russian give the tour of the convent. That seemed quite reasonable to us. She knew a lot about the history of the convent, the important people buried there (the mother of St. Joasaph of Belgorad is buried there, for instance), and her pronunciation was very clear, which made it much easier for me to understand. The tour was very good. One interesting fact we found out is that the cathedral church of the convent was the place where St. Demetrius of Rostov was ordained a priest – on the day of the consecration of the cathedral in fact. Later this same nun fed us in the refractory. Very humbly, quietly – she didn't join us for the meal – she just served it. All was very unassuming. The Abbess sat and ate with us. At the very end of the meal the Abbess gave gifts and we gave gifts to the convent. This is the tradition – to give and receive gifts everyone you go on such trips. So you have to bring gifts with you! We have been giving the icon of St. Jonah of Hankow along with his life. Most people know nothing about him since he was glorified in the Church Abroad some years ago, and only recently was this glorification officially adopted by the entire Russian Orthodox Church. We are also giving copies of the booklet that was prepared for the retirement celebration of Archbishop Alypy a few weeks ago. One of the gifts the Abbess gave us was the latest edition of their convent magazine. On the front cover was a picture of the Sisterhood. Seated just to the right of the Abbess, who is wearing two crosses (Abbesses often are given the right to wear a cross) was our servant – wearing a cross herself! She is the assistant Abbess! We would have NEVER known that. Not that assistant Abbesses are known to be proud, but we couldn't have guessed that this humble servant was anything other than a novice or a simple nun.
This example was very inspiring to me. Monastic life here is very strong – very vivid – very alive! The Church always evaluates itself in the end based on the monastic life. If the monastic life is strong one knows that the Local Church is strong. If not, then the life is weak. The life here is VERY strong! There are many monasteries and convents, and the life in them is, by an large, very authentic and strong. Many men and women are struggling for their salvation and praying for the salvation of the whole world in these monastic institutions. And we owe them a great debt for their selfless and humble service. And more than that – we really need to consider the beauty, simplicity, and significance of this life in our own diocese. As parents do we EVER consider that the monastic life might be something we would want to expose our children to so that they might choose that life for themselves, or at least have the opportunity to consider that life for themselves? We really must do this – we must expose our children to the best examples of the monastic life so that they will at least understand that this spiritually healthy alternative is indeed an option for them! In our diocese we have a small monastery in Houghton, MI and a small convent in House Springs, MO. Please take a moment and say a prayer that the Lord will continue to send good candidates to our monasteries for their growth and improved life, which honestly would be also quite helpful for our salvation!
Please pray for us as we travel!
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