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.

The outreach of Nazareth House Apostolate is in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Matthew 25:31-46. For more information 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.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Puddles, Border Collies, Denominations


Republished from 2012:

Yesterday, many areas of the Eastern United States experienced severe and dangerous storms.  

There were those who lost their homes and things ...and those who lost their lives. 



At St. Simeon Skete in Taylorsville, Kentucky a *wall cloud approached from the South.  The Warning Sirens began to sound.  

 

As the bellowing cloud crossed Taylorsville Lake it gently swirled into the form of a funnel cloud that stayed in the sky and crossed directly over the Holy Trinity Kellia.   


Large hail pelted the roof, sounding like artillery fire as it hit.  Within minutes the threat had passed.
Our border collie is terribly afraid of storms and had been shaking in the basement most of the morning as the storms came through, one bout after another.  


The Warning Sirens ceased and I ran the dog outside to do his business as the sun began to peek out of the clouds and brighten the sky.  


Looking to the East, I noticed a rainbow.  


As my dog ran around finding and gobbling up the remaining unthawed hail left on the ground, 

 

I noticed the rain puddles and I remembered Seraphim’s thoughts on seeing rain puddles, some years ago.   


I asked him to share those thoughts again.  --



“One day after a large thunderstorm in Louisville, I walked out towards the pond and noticed there were rain puddles all over the ground.  It seemed as if most of the ground was one small lake.  
As I walked around I noticed each puddle reflected a different part of the sky.  One revealed a sky with two clouds, one with only one cloud and yet another contained a glimpse of the sun passing through the clouds - but they were all reflecting the same sky.  


I thought of our different denominations, each saying that this is the sky (this is God), but forgetting that they are reflecting part of the sky, not the whole sky.  

As the ground began to dry up, the more separation there was between the rain puddles.   The distance between the puddles and the dry land was great.  Like the land between the puddles, denominations become territorial, the more there are - the further the distance between us.  Finally, there was just a few tiny pools of water, here and there.  


God will send a “rain” on earth and blend all the “rain puddles” and we’ll be one body of “water”.  But for now God unites us in our hearts.”  - Seraphim+ -recalling thoughts after a rainstorm  


+++++++++++++++++++++++

“Throughout his life he (Lev Gillet) continued to display a fixed aversion for all forms of ecclesiastical aggression and polemics.  He did not believe that reunion could be achieved through theological confrontation through controversy and formal discussion.”  -“The Jesus Prayer” by A Monk of The Eastern Church. pg. 8.

“The Monk of the Eastern church concluded that the “Communion of Saints” transcended confessional and institutional barriers and that a genuine and intense spiritual life is the shortest and safest way towards reunion.” - pg 277 of "The Biography of Lev Gillet”, by Behr-Sigel 

“If I can unite  in myself  the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, The Russians with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians.  From that secret and unspoken unity in myself can eventually come a visible and manifest unity of all Christians.  If we want to bring together what is divided, we can not do so by imposing one division upon the other or absorbing one division into the other.  But if we do this, the union is not Christian.  It is political, and doomed to further conflict.   We must contain all divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ.  - Thomas Merton: Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pg 21.



*A wall cloud (or pedestal cloud) is a large, lowering, and rotating base of a cumulonimbus cloud that potentially forms tornadoes. It is typically beneath the rain-free base (RFB) portion of a deep cumulus cloud (normally cumulonimbus but on rare occasion cumulus congestus), and indicates the area of primary and strongest updraft which condenses into cloud at altitudes lower than that of the ambient cloud base. Most strong tornadoes form from wall clouds.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

“My Way of the Cross”

Reprint of a previous NHA Blog Post: 



As we are in the middle of the Lenten Season,  St. Simeon Skete/Nazareth House Apostolate shares with you this journal writing of Seraphim's:  “My Way of the Cross”.   

I see you Jesus, I walk with you Jesus...
The Nails of the Cross.  Placed in the Chapel at St. Simeon Skete during Lenten Season.

“My Way of the Cross”  (Written by Seraphim, 5 April 2005, Louisville, KY.)
     Dropped in St. Martin de Tours Church to say my Rosary and found a group already praying so Im joining them.  Its been a strange journey today.   The bus driver was out of sorts and her spirit was throughout the bus.  Her job, her cross, and it hurts. Just now a man with Downs Syndrome in his 60’s left his pew after the Rosary finished.  He was carrying a bundle of well used devotional booklets and a prayer book bound together with rubber bands.  I could tell, sense, that a life time of devotion had just passed, a Simon of Cyrene, bearing His cross by bearing his.  Could this be another station in which the Lord is developing, “my personal way of the cross?”  Perhaps in all likelihood these stations are going on all the time and it is still Jesus, we’re passing and it is He that is passing us by in His way, His “personal Way of the Cross”. 

The Crown of Thorns, The Scourging.  Placed in the Chapel at St. Simeon Skete during Lent.
     I boarded the bus again and at the next stop a woman and her daughter got on.  She had been beaten by life; her ratted, worn polyester stretch-pants over a body long worn and pushed out of shape, her teeth missing on a face  that looked as if it had been beaten in from time to time.  And her daughter?  She was a teen, concerned about her looks as most naturally are. She had on trendy “gym shoes” and dressed nicely, a covering not only for her body, but also for what she didn’t want others to know.  When they boarded the bus the mother paid the fare for both of them.  The daughter went to the back of the bus while the mother sat at the front.  I could almost hear the thought of the daughter, “I hope no one thinks I’m with her”.  I watched the mother for response - none -  she sat with dignity, not energizing the stares and ignorance of her daughter. When the stop came for them to de-board the bus, the mother inconspicuously looked to the back to catch her daughter’s eye and gave a nod, she de-boarded from the back and the mother from the front of the bus.  I thought as the stops came and went, this mother who, as it were, had holes in her hands, feet and side, her face as if someone had struck her repeatedly and she was stooped as she walked, as if someone had beaten her back. Her loved one fleeing lest someone might associate her with this embarrassment.  The mother showed no sign of hurt over this, no resignation, as if at one time there was hope, expectation that she would be accepted, loved and not an embarrassment to others. Things were just as they were, nothing was to change, or for that matter, was able to change.  Again, could this be another station, another “bus stop” of the cross? ...my own stations of the cross that God, the Holy Spirit was bringing to me?  As I thought on these things I heard three beeps of a car horn that strangely sounded like a cock crowing.
As you walk through your own life be aware that Christ continues to carry his cross in others. 
The remaining ashes of Ash Wednesday are enthroned in the Chapel of St. Simeon Skete during the Lenten Season.

...and he went a little further...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Choosing

The Scripture:  Matthew 20:1-16

1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

The Choosing

Relative to the above Scripture, the choosing happened at 6AM; 9AM; 12 Noon; and again at 3PM, but most passionately it happened at 5 in the Afternoon.  The best were gathered at 6 AM, Mediocre at noon and last string around 3PM so what kind of person is left at 5? 

All day these people were passed by; they are unskilled, untrained,  inappropriate…right?  Wrong!  There is no place in the Gospel that says that.    When we put our value systems on God, we come up empty. 

They have been left behind to be chosen.  They are the anawim, the remnant.  This is a parable of the last days.  Where in a short while the shore beyond the belly of the beast will be realized.

TEST…
Malachi 3:10:  
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

CALL…
Jeremiah 33:3: 
Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

TRUST…
Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

DELIGHT…
Psalm 37:4 
Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.”-Ezekiel 22:30


The Gap Dwellers, the Remnant believe in the mustard tree from the tiny seed, that Mountains can be moved into the sea, they believe in greater things, they believe in 1 John 1:9 -1 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”, …they believe that water can be walked on and that there is a shore beyond the belly of the Beast.



They don’t ask man for money, help and support,  they ask God.  

You see, they believe that a Holy righteous life,  a life of prayer is what makes possible the choosing at the end of the day. 



What is the choosing at the end of the day? After a lifetime of bearing witness, of living the Great Commission, of Prayer, of being Faithful, those who have been left, know something - after everyone else has long gone  - those left behind know that they will be claimed by God and will hear:  “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” -Mt. 25:21.   



“If it were not so, I would have told you” - Jn. 14:1, 2

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Epiphany 2016


Every year on the Feast of Epiphany, those of us at St. Simeon Skete hike down to the river to toss the Blessed Cross into the it, as the Cross flows from tributary to tributary it blesses the waters, making all water Baptismal

For more information on this NHA Tradition, see these links. 

http://blog.nazarethhouseap.org/2013/01/epiphany-2013.html
http://blog.nazarethhouseap.org/2012/01/6-january-2006-feast-of-epiphany.html

Friday, December 25, 2015

I have a Name

"Where God also hath highly exalted Him, 
and given Him a Name which above every Name." -Phil. 2:9

During one of Seraphim's first visits to Sierra Leone during the war, he visited Grafton Camp - a displacement camp for those who lost their homes and limbs from the atrocities of war.   The RUF rebels were hacking off arms and legs with machetes in a cruel and inhumane effort to gain control of diamonds and power.  Notice in this photo that even the baby's hand has been hacked off. 


As Seraphim visited with the people in Grafton camp, he delivered food (rice) and clothing with James.  As he got ready to leave the camp they all wanted to know his name.  He told them his name and turned to board the transport only to hear the words that continue to haunt him to this day:

"I have a name." 

He turned and saw that food and clothing, etc; even love were not enough.  There was something called dignity - the recognition that this is a person and not just flesh to be covered and fed!  

A lifetime of repeating the Name of Jesus had suddenly gone super-nova, exploding with the blinding light of understanding.  It was God Himself crying out:  "I have a Name!" 

Rudy and Os lying on a prayer rug studying the Name of Jesus

"I have a name." 

God has a Name




The Mass of Christ-Mass is this Name.  "A Name which is above every Name" 

God has a Name
   

Matthew 1:18-25 
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.




Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Question Answered




The Gospel for the Third Sunday in Advent
St. Matthew xi. 2.
NOW when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 

Early 19th Century Icon enthroned at St. Simeon Skete, Taylorsville, Kentucky 

As we prepare for Christmas, today’s Gospel seems out of place - seeing that John is in prison and Jesus is an adult.  John is waiting to be executed.  He is in pain, suffering.  He is  the man who recognized his savior from the womb. Later as John Baptized Jesus, the Heavens open up,  he heard God exclaim his pleasure in His Son and he witnessed the Holy Spirit descending, leading into the desert.  And yet, he now sends his disciples to ask “Are you the one?”  Our troubles touch us, sometimes pain is so great it leads us to questions for which only Jesus is the answer.    A great answer doesn’t necessarily get you out of the question, the journey, or the pain but sends you back into it all to find Jesus to be that answer.  We must stay in the pain long enough to answer the questions that the pain is asking.  Make sure the answer is NOT a way of getting out of the pain (running away, denying, buying new shoes or taking a happy pill) but a real answer.  I can always tell more about a person by the questions they ask rather than the answers they give.  John was asking good questions that demanded only one answer: Jesus.    

Much of our religion these days leads us to living a prophylactic existence; preventing us from ever becoming pregnant with life and infected with what it brings - sorrows and difficulties.  They are a part of life.   Our purity must not be the result of NOT being touched by our troubles.  “In the world you will have troubles”.  That’s the truth.  Yet we hear so much from the world that uses belief in God as a shield from difficulty.  They hold that being with God means no loneliness, no hassles, no suffering.   I remember a lady years ago storming off after a sermon in which we were lead to examine ourselves.  The woman shouted as she left, “I don’t come to church to be instructed or made to critique my life.  I come to church to feel good, be happy and be comforted.”  Before you can be comforted you first have to be confronted.  John suffered, Jesus suffered, they had troubles and so do we.  I remember seeing the hand-written sign in a hermitage “Pain is the Kiss of Christ”.    God is in our pain with us, therefore, you might say our sorrows are a sign of the presence of God.   We are not alone.  

John sits confined in prison, alone, waiting to be executed.  His question really has three parts. 
  1. Are you the one?  (see also NHA Blog "Are you the one?")
  2. Is it real? 
  3. Is it enough? 


And Jesus answers  “Yes, Yes, Yes”  He is the one, He is real and He is enough. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Preparing to prepare...





Like the fallen Autumn Leaves, one month blows by after another.  One Season after the next. 



The Year 2015 is drawing to an end.  

_______________________________

Thanksgiving Day 2015 has come and gone and here we are on the second Sunday of Advent.   For many, Thanksgiving Day ignites the beginning of the Holiday Shopping Season.  Frenzied and determined crowds have hit the stores on Black Friday at the crack of dawn (or earlier) in order to find that perfect gift at the perfect price.   Stampedes and suffocation headline the news as the day unfolds. 




At St. Simeon Skete, we prepare for Christmas by making the preparations for Advent.  




We’ve dug out the Advent Candles, found our carefully stored away bells to pin up our sleeve 


 and cut up some yellow yarn.  


On Advent Sunday an empty creche & yarn (straw) is placed on table


Advent Sunday was last week, November 29.  It began a penitential time to prepare our souls - making room in the “Inn” of our hearts for Christ, the One who is the Perfect Gift that paid the Perfect price for us.   

At St. Simeon Skete, we follow The Nativity Fast, a period of abstinence and penance in preparation for the Nativity of Christ (December 25).  The fast is similar to the Western Advent, except that it runs for 40 days instead of four weeks and is observed from November 15th until December 24, inclusively. 

We live in a fast paced world in which our wants and goals are best defined by the words:  "bigger and better".  Small things are overlooked as we strive for super size, super stars, super heroes.  Little things don't seem to have much potential but, in fact, it is those "small things", "small beginnings"  and "impossible situations" that God uses to do His best work.  (Zechariah 4:10). 


At Nazareth House Apostolate we are daily reminded of God doing big with little.  


When we look back over the years of NHA in Sierra Leone we find one man with a prayer as its beginning.  


A decade and a half  later, we have a school with 300 students, a compound, a farm and are reaching more and more in the villages.  


Our accomplishments in Sierra Leone stand up along side many NGO's that have far more resources than us.  Never underestimate the potential in small things, especially when they depend entirely on God.  

Secretly,  a strand of straw (yarn) is placed in the creche representing a good deed

God could have chosen better people to do the great things of the Old  and New Testament; but he didn't.  He chose souls like Abraham - afraid to believe in the promise, Jacob, the cheat who struggles with everyone, Moses- an impatient murderer, unable to wait for God.  David, an adulterer, abusing position, perk, and power.  There was Hezekiah, the reforming king who could not quite go far enough, Peter who denied Christ - all these guys messed up - they were real, like us - bungled and botched, impossible situations... but God saw fit to use them.... and then there was a very young, unassuming, unnoticed Jewish girl from a small village that didn't do anything wrong ....    God did what He did in them and He can do it in us. 


by Christmas Morning, our good deeds will have lined the creche for the Christ Child 

So when you find yourself tempted to buy that expensive gift you really can't afford, or you find yourself adding more decorations because your neighbor's yard looks better than yours, or you just knocked someone out of the way so you'd be the one of the first ten in line to get that "hot item" ... think about the capacity in small,




































 think about what we are really celebrating ... think about Love.