St. Simeon Skete, Taylorsville Kentucky USA

With St. Simeon, the God receiver, as our patron, the skete seeks to practice the ideals found in our Rule, The Thousand Day Nazareth. In simplicity and poverty, the skete embraces the struggle of inner life through the practice of the Prayer Rope.

See our website at www.nazarethhouseap.org

Donations should be addressed to: Nazareth House Apostolate, 185 Captains Cove Drive, Taylorsville, Kentucky 40071.

Important Notice: All writings, posts, graphics & photographs in this blog are the copyrighted property of (unless otherwise indicated) Nazareth House Media, a division of Nazareth House Apostolate and cannot be copied, printed or used without written permission from NHA Media, Taylorsville, KY.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

And so this is Advent

Today begins the preparatory Season of Advent.

Advent wreath at table in Holy Trinity Kellia, St. Simeon Skete


The Gospel for 1st Sunday of Advent
St. Matthew xxi. 1.
WHEN they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name 'of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. 
Jesus tells His disciples to go into the city  AND He tells them to find a tethered colt that no one had ridden.   

Think about that image:  "a tethered colt which no one has ridden..."
Young mule of Denny & JoanE Markwell,  members of St. Simeon Skete

Of course the people are waiting for a dominative, powerful, substantive image - a King, A Ruler who is going to change everything from the outside (the surface).  

But Jesus says "I'm not going to come in on a horse, in triumph but ...as Zechariah 9:9 prophesied... I'm coming in on a donkey to redefine what power is, worth is, strength is, trust is...


This colt/donkey, THIS powerless image is a tethered colt, its been tied up in all of history.  No one's ever wanted to use it, no one's ridden this kind before but Jesus is going to ride it into the city to show the world a different way, a new way, the way of trust, the way of vulnerability, the way of powerlessness.  



When your generosity has been tied up, loosen it and when greed rises up and asks "what are you doing?", say, "The Lord has need of it"  When your humility is tied up, loosen it and when pride questions you, say "The Lord has need of it."  When your forgiveness is tied up, untie it and when mercilessness asks you "why?,  say "The Lord has need of it." 

As Jesus rides into the city in this "different way" the people wonder "Who is this?"  "What is this new way?"  Jesus upsets the system and says: "its prayer". 


Jeremy Lopez, in prayer before his Confirmation.  Nazareth House Apostolate, Athens, Georgia
Of all the battles that God has with human consciousness, the battle to get rid of those things (furniture) that keep us from making our souls a house of prayer must be God's most difficult battle.   Culture wants to rearrange the "furniture" by dominative power - the ability to influence others through coercion, hiring and firing, punishing, threatening, lawsuits, money, position.  This will rearrange the "furniture" and most will respond to it.  But at best, this is all we can do: re-arrange the "furniture".   But Jesus doesn't re-arrange the furniture, He pitches it - throws it out - opting for a House of Prayer!  Anything in your life that is keeping you from prayer needs to be pitched! 

As the Holiday Season approaches many will be re-arranging their living rooms to prepare for Holiday guests or give a new look but only PRAYER can change the living room into a LIVING room.  
Personal milagro of Seraphim, housed where he hangs his prayer beads

Advent Collect

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and ever. Amen. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Take it from a cow...

Yesterday we had to go into the city to get some supplies. While shopping, I happened to notice many people were oblivious that anyone else was in the store. They were talking in their own little worlds on their cell phones.  Several of them, on speaker phone exposing us all to both sides of the conversation.  One lady was lamenting to her friend on the phone that her granddaughter gets upset if she is in the room when her granddaughter is trying to watch a movie.  She said her granddaughter cries that she has no privacy, even though it's her grandmother's house.  So Grandma moans that she has to stay in her bedroom so her granddaughter can watch a movie in the living room.  I wasn't ease dropping, I was simply in the same aisle as this lady on her speaker phone.

 It wasn't a specific designated holiday shopping day, but people were still in a rush, tense, impatient and generally frustrated.  The employees, I must say, to the contrary of their patrons, were very pleasant, friendly and helpful.  

Inline image 6

As we left the store and headed out of the city and back to the country, I couldn't help but notice some very peaceful cows.  Just sitting there.

Inline image 1

We are experiencing some unusually nice days this November: warm air, bright sun.  Many of us haven't noticed because we are inside stores using our cell phones, but these cows were taking it in and enjoying it.  Then I noticed something more, so I had Seraphim stop the car so I could get a closer look.  

About a hundred starlings had just completed their synchronized dance routine in the sky and had invaded a nearby clump of trees. 

Inline image 2

Though their Dance in Flight is a wonder to see, their completion of the routine meant the contented cows received a dousing of bird droppings in the face. 

 Inline image 3Inline image 4

Nevertheless, the cows remained contented in rumination.  You can really learn how to meditate from a cow.  Much better than from these groups that want to teach you to empty your thoughts of everything, even Jesus.  "Don't think of anything, totally strip your mind of all thought".  Sorry... I want to think on Jesus! I never want to empty myself of Him.  

Anyway, if you watch a cow, they eat grass, taking it in.  When they are full and content, they sit, regurgitate the cud back up from their first stomach along with other ruminants to the mouth for a second chewing. They chew slowly so they can receive the full benefit and nutrition from what they have taken in.   This is how we should be with our Lectio Divina.  Studying the Word of God, Praying and when we find a place (Holy Corner) to become content,  we can recall (bring back up) what we've received, ponder it and gain full benefit and nutrition from it.  

Inline image 5

And if we ruminate contentedly on God's Word and Love... on whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy— if we meditate on these things (Phil.4:8) when the world's droppings fall down on us, our peace remains in tact. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Phil. 4:6-7



Father Gabriel once shared with me:  "At the Offertory of the Roman Mass it is said: 'Blessed are you Lord of all creation, we not only lift up the bread and wine for transformation, but we lift up the whole realm of nature that it may share in the freedom and the glory of the children of God.'

In that sense we are all a priestly people. When I walk through the fields or pray the Rosary in our garden, I look around me at the splendour of nature and make an offering of it all to the Father in heaven.”  


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Holy Cross

Pilgrimage is a vitally important and adhered to practice at St. Simeon Skete.  

In his book "The Road to Emmaus, Pilgrimage as a Way of Life", Jim Forest says "Roads are the circulatory system of the human race and the original information highway. From times long before the written word, roads have linked house to house, town to town, and city to city."


The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out
of an inner journey.  The inner journey is the interpolation
of the meanings and signs of the outer journey.  One can 
have one without the other. It is better to have both.
                     -Thomas Merton, Mystics and Zen Masters

On this Feast Day of the Most Holy Cross, we took to the road to make pilgrimage to a little area known as Germantown in Louisville, Kentucky.  There we find another one of those "thin places"("thin places", a Celtic Christian term for "those rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses") that you happen upon that is somewhat forlorn and forgotten except for a few who realize the significance of the place. 

We've been here before and as a child my grandfather and I would take walks to the Grotto.  At that time, it was part of the enclosure of St. Joseph's Infirmary.  Its now hidden off the side of a main highway and encircled by apartment complexes.  At first glance, its hardly noticeable.

As you close in on it, its a bit difficult to figure out what it is...



However as you walk towards it, the enclosure reveals its purpose. 






As we walked inside, immediately you feel drawn to prayer.  





On this Feast of the Holy Cross, we felt called, especially in this place, to say the Stations of the Cross.  We said the opening prayers at the Grotto


At the skete, we begin the stations with the Garden of Gethsemani, so we turned around to face the garden.  (You can see the apartment dwellings all around the area).  


One by one we followed the Way of the Cross, even singing (out loud) the Stabat Mater between each station. 


The hand painted Stations are vividly incredible.  



The rain began to fall as we journeyed through each Station of the Cross. But it was only a mist and it served to enhance the mystical atmosphere. 




Its my belief that there are many places like these, scattered about hidden smack in the middle of life, subdivisions and Pallet Yards.   We must search them out, stop what we are doing and take the time to go closer. 


"...Moses's turning aside from his original path. He felt that the marvel of the Burning Bush warranted making a stop; he was moved with desire to contemplate it and ponder deeply on it.  He accepted without question this sudden, extraordinary, divine event.  And it was because he did not hesitate to change his direction towards the Burning Bush that God was able to call to him. 'And when the Lord saw that..(Moses) turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.'


All this applies just as much to us today as it did to Moses. If during the course of our lives we hurry along without stopping, without even a glance towards the Burning Bush (which nevertheless continues its blazing along the whole of our way, though most of the time our eyes are close to it), we shall miss the opportunity God desires.  If, on the contrary, we do not hesitate to leave aside for a time the flocks of Jethro - our daily cares - the Lord will call to us from the midst of the bush.  He will call to each on of us by a name that is our own. 

Moses answered 'Here am I' without knowing what God would require of him.  Such declaration of being at His disposal is what the Lord awaits from us also.

May we place ourselves before Him, before the Burning Bush, and say: 'Here I am at this moment. Here I am in this very place.  Here am I for Thee, without any reservations whatever.'  " -L. Gillet










Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Winds of Change

Yesterday, I told you about the wonderful "LOVE Scale" at the Pallet Yard. We found something else on that same property that I want to share today.  God is absolutely everywhere trying to break into our life, we only need to look for him - in our neighbor, at the grocery, at the gas station, at work and yes,... in a Pallet Yard. 


Next to the scale was a statue of a woman, a mother standing tall as the winds of change bear down on her.

The sign reads 



The sign says "Yet I do not want to be anymore than I am; a woman, your mother"; I am reminded we must be leery of the false self that seeks to please the world.  Do not listen to what society and progression dictates you should do, be who God made you to be, the real you. "All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." -John 1:3




"Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." - 1John 4:4



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Hundred Wishes


There is a saying "When you look at a field of dandelions you can either see a hundred weeds or a hundred wishes."

Hurricanes just slammed into Texas and Florida, Fires are raging through the Montana, people are protesting for peace in a very violent way, the kids all have runny noses and coughs, grandma and grandpa are getting a divorce...    It seems all we hear is bad news.  Its easy to feel overwhelmed and flat out disgusted and believe there is no good left in world.  But there is.  Where? You have to shut the laptop, put away the phone and go out into the world and take note.  There is no fear, no threat that stimulates our brain to automatically take note of the good.  You have to look for it and this is why constant attention to Social Media, News and such can create negativity in you.   



So yesterday, we went out into the world to take note of the good. And we found it, hidden away in a most unexpected environment.  In Southern Indiana, there is a Pallet Company in the middle of a forlorn industrial area running along the railroad tracks.  There we found a large scale, it would be easy to drive right past it without noticing it.  But we saw it.  

Further investigation revealed that on the two weights - one had the word "LOVE" 


and the other weight said "EVERYTHING ELSE" 



The scale was tipped in weight toward the side of LOVE



under each weight, there was a pyramid



on the pyramid under the "EVERYTHING ELSE" weight it said, "Always too much" 


and under the weight of LOVE, the pyramid said "Never enough"


What an incredible sight to find in the midst of a pallet factory!  

Please, make a point to look for what is hidden, we've lost so much by trying to keep in touch on Facebook instead of going out amongst people, we're missing what is out there - - go out, take a deep breath and blow out a hundred wishes! 




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Media Fast

As the Lenten Season begins next week on Ash Wednesday (March 1) many people think about fasting.  There are many ways to fast, you can give up something and you can also add something to your daily discipline as well.

Many years ago (decades ago) my husband, Seraphim began a perpetual fast from all news media.  Oh, he graciously listens from time to time as people insist on reporting news events to him.  He doesn't read newspapers and he doesn't watch or listen to news.  He has never read a newspaper other than quotes from newspapers that might be in a book he is reading.

I see some events through the internet when they appear in different feeds but neither of us watch the news, ever.  We've never suffered from not knowing what is going on in the world.


In Seraphim's "Little Philokalia, vol. 3" he writes about St. Silouan the Athonite and the saint's aversion to news - taken from pages 72 -74 of the book "St. Silouan the Athonite" by Archimandrite Sophrony. (St. Silouan is a  favorite saint of Seraphim.



  Seraphim stayed at the Monastery of St. Panteleimon when he was on Mt. Athos specifically so he could be in a place where St. Silouan had been)







"When the soul prays for the world she knows better without newspapers how the whole earth is afflicted.  She knows what people's needs are and feels pity for them" - St. Silouan

It is not necessary to know the details of the world reported by the media, more importantly it is better to know the needs of the world as placed in your heart by God through prayer.

During our last trip to Africa, Seraphim took a prayer walk up a pathway in Kabala.  As he hiked through the jungle, a man came from out of the bush.   They engaged in a conversation and at one point Seraphim asked the man to pray for the world.  The man said that he knew the world had gone awry without ever having a television, a newspaper or internet. He wouldn't even know what "the internet" was.  Yet, this jungle man said he knew the world was not good by the behaviour of the animals, the crops and the land.

Especially with the "Fake News" of today, biased reporting and general hype from the media -- I can't quit thinking of St. Silouan and the words from this Scripture:

Matthew 6:24-34

King James Version (KJV)
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

I'll be doing my normal Lenten Discipline this year, but I'm beginning a more intensive Media Fast.  I want to be guided by my relationship with God, my prayer life and by the constant assistance of my guardian angel and not by things of this world that seek to gain my dependence on them.

AdiĆ³s, medios de comunicaciĆ³n siempre