THE PATH OF LOVE
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Posted by Catalogue of Saint Elisabeth Convent on Wednesday, July 29, 2015
"Just as the Lord is solicitous about our salvation, so too the murder of men, the devil, strives to lead a man into despair.
A lofty and sound soul does not despair over misfortunes, of whatever sort they may be. Our life is as it were a house of temptations and trials; but we will not renounce the Lord for as long as He allows the tempter to remain with us and for as long as we must wait to be revived through patience and secure passionless!"
Stories of the Sisterhood:
THE BREATH OF FRESH AIR IN A HOSPITAL WARD
THE BREATH OF FRESH AIR IN A HOSPITAL WARD
"...comforting the sick and helping them to get ready for the Sacraments of Penitence and Communion is the most wonderful work a believer can dream of doing..."
Today we get to know Sister Marina Jaskievič who carries out her obedience in the Spiritual Centre of the Belarusian State Agrarian Technical University and the City Hospital No.2…
Sister Marina, could you please tell us how you found yourself in the Sisterhood?
It happened fourteen years ago. I read a book about the Holy Martyr Grand Princess Elisabeth and was very impressed by it. Then I came to SS Peter and Paul Cathedral and saw sisters wearing white robes, and my heart was set ablaze momentarily! When I approached Father Andrew Lemeshonok, asking for his blessing to become a member of the Sisterhood, he replied, “Let us work together!” That was how I started visiting the patients of Minsk City Hospital No.2. I was very fond of this obedience: comforting the sick and helping them to get ready for the Sacraments of Penitence and Communion is the most wonderful work a believer can dream of doing.
I have my obedience in the cardiology department. People who stay there are in great need of spiritual support…I recall my first visit to this department: I was afraid to enter the wards, let alone to open my mouth and say something… However, the Lord acts within our hearts – undoubtedly! Everything went fine at that time. Most importantly, I was sincere. People may have various reactions, of course, but the majority react in a positive, rather than negative, way.
At first, we visited only the rheumatology department of the City Hospital No.2 but then they allowed us to visit the burn centre where they brought in emergency cases (it was relocated to our hospital due to a renovation of its previous premises). It was really horrible! The patients were brought in with severe burns. I recall one young man who had 70 per cent of total skin area burned. It was God's mercy that we managed to prepare him for confession and communion quickly. He started partaking of the Sacraments regularly. He spent eight months in hospital and led a devoted spiritual life, relying solely on God. One day I came and saw Sergei walking towards me! It was like the real Pascha for me! Christ is Almighty. He always gives us what we really need according to our faith and never fails those who trust Him!
Had that young man been a believer before he found himself in hospital?
In all likelihood, no, he hadn't. Our sisters told him about Orthodoxy and that the Lord awaits each one of us… We helped Sergei to get ready for confession and communion. Gradually, he started to believe in God. It must be noted, though, that for such a miracle to happen, the person needs to open his or her heart to God. The sisters of mercy will certainly explain everything in detail but it is the person in question who will have to choose. This is a matter of their free choice. Because people may react otherwise. We may come to the hospital unit and enter the wards, and the people would refuse to talk with us. There are superstitions that meeting a priest in a hospital is a bad omen, a sure death. It might seem funny or absurd but many people believe it and avoid both the sisters and the priests.
Did they openly ask you not to come?
Yes, they did. There was a patient who was sure that our visits bring misfortune. Then he has a vision of some sort, and he told us in the face, “Don't come here again!” We cried and prayed for three months. We did not visit that man during those three months but when we suddenly met him again, he allowed us to come and visit him again — just imagine! Our joy was limitless. We flew to that hospital unit as if we had wings.
Sister Marina, do you feel that the atmosphere in the City Hospital No.2 is different in any way from that in other hospitals, which the sisters of mercy do not visit?
Yes, it is. It is radically different! I recall how I was in hospital as a patient… I was to have an operation performed on me. How pleasant and joyful it was for me to see a sister of mercy wearing the white robe! It was like a breath of fresh air. She did not do anything special: she simply stood by my side, comforted me as much as she could, read some excerpts from spiritual books. This might turn out to be enough to get stronger and to renew one's hope…
By Natallia Klimova
The image of Our Lady of Kazan is said to have come to Russia from Constantinople in the 13th century.
After a fire destroyed Kazan in 1579, the Virgin appeared in a prophetic dream to a 10-year-old girl named Matrona and told her where to find the sacred image. As instructed, Matrona told the archbishop about her dream, but he would not take her seriously. After two more such dreams, on July 8, 1579, the girl and her mother themselves dug up the icon, which was buried under the ashes of a house, where it had been hidden long before to save it from the Tatars.
The unearthed icon looked as bright and beautiful as if it were new. The archbishop repented of his unbelief and took the icon to the Church of St. Nicholas, where a blind man was cured that same day. Father Hermogen, the priest at this church, later became Metropolitan of Kazan. He brought the icon to Kazan's Cathedral of the Annunciation and established July 8 as a feast in honor of the Theotokos of Kazan. It is from Hermogen's chronicle, written at the request of the tsar in 1595, that we know of these events.
FEAST DAY OF THE CONVENT
July 18 is a special day for the residents and the parishioners of St Elisabeth Convent. This was the day of martyrdom of the heavenly patroness of our Convent. We all know that during this night in July, on the uncovering of the relics of St Sergius of Radonezh feast, the Grand Princess Elisabeth together with Nun Barbara and other prisoners were thrown into a pit in the vicinity of Alapayevsk. That was where she passed away and went to the Lord. They say that the Cherubic song could be heard from the pit. Angelic hosts joined in singing this song in the places invisible to a human eye where nothing can deprive the soul of eternal joy. Here is a fragment from the book “The Path of Love”:
The Grand Duchess Elisabeth was arrested on the third day of Easter in 1918, on the Holy and Bright Tuesday. Nuns Barbara and Ekaterina were allowed to come with her. They were brought to a Siberian town called Alapayevsk on May 20th 1918. Here is one of the letters she wrote to the sisters of her community while on the way to exile:
“May the Lord Bless.
May the Resurrection of Christ comfort and strengthen you. At 6 O’clock we passed Rostov and in the evening - The Trinity Lavra of St.Sergious. My dearest, may Saints Sergious, Dimitry and Efrosinia of Polotsk keep us all safe. The trip is going well. There is snow everywhere. I cannot forget yesterday because of all the precious and kind faces I had seen. Lord, there is so much suffering in them, oh, how the heart aches.
With every minute, you became more and more precious to me. How can I leave you my children, how can I comfort you, how can I strengthen you? Remember everything I have told you. You will always be my children but also my obedient students. Unite and become one soul: everything for God – and say the words of John Chrysostom: “Glory to God for everything”
I will live hoping that I will soon be with you again and to find all of you together. Read together, the works of the Apostles along with the Holy Gospel. The head sisters – unite your sisters. Ask Patriarch Tikhon to take the young ones under his wing. Allow him to stay in my middle room. My bedroom – for confession and the large room for receptions. If there will be no delays we should arrive on the fifth day. Ekaterina will return very soon to you and will tell you how we have settled in.
Your ever loving mother in Christ, Matushka"
CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: Current status of the Church of St.John of Shanghai & San Francisco
PHOTOS TAKEN: July 15th, 2015
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According to the tradition, the icon was painted by or for St John Damascene and it is associated with his miraculous healing around the year 717. It is said that while he was serving as Vizier to the Caliph, he was falsely accused of treachery and his hand was cut off. Upon praying in front of an icon of the Theotokos his hand was miraculously restored. In thanksgiving, he had a silver replica of his hand fashioned and attached it to the icon. The Icon is commemorated on July 11.
RESCUED FROM DEATH ROW
"...I saw the Convent, entered the Convent's yard, and talked with some people there. I thought, “I could stay here for some time...”
My journey to God began when I spent my summer holidays in the village where my grandmother lived. She used to walk to a church in Logoisk every Sunday, and she would always take me with her. My parents were Communists. My father was a militia officer, and my mother was a boss in a project institute. Maybe they did believe in God but they could not practice their faith openly. It turned out that I found myself in jail. I was sentenced to death for stealing extremely large amount of state property. It was a felony in the Soviet times, and now it is considered to be a legal business. My father abandoned me in order to rescue his career, and my mother divorced him because of that. I was only 22, I had finished my army service not long before and had got married.
And then I was sentenced to death. Nowadays priests are allowed to visit prisons and talk with prisoners; they can give presents to the prisoners for the feasts, but in those times they were only allowed to visit those on death row. When a priest entered my cell, I did not care who came to me. “Desperate” is a weak word to describe how I felt. I was simply overwhelmed and numb. I wanted all this nightmare to vanish so that I could go to the different world as soon as possible. It was because the conditions in the death row were inhumane. There were no hygiene facilities in jail altogether. Toilet and refectory were all in one room. One had to sit around in handcuffs all the time, being under permanent control. Usually, there are two prisoners in a cell but in the death row, you are alone in your cell. The priest gave me a pocket-size Bible; or maybe, it was not a Bible, I can't be sure now. And he said,“Read 'Our Father,' 'Hail, Mary,' and the Creed. Ask God to help you.” I made an appeal against the sentence, and my mother wrote to the High Court. I started to pray. It was not because I believed in God: I simply believed that a priest would not lie. This trust was ingrained in me since my childhood: my grandmother had taught me that I could always trust priests. My appeal was allowed in three months. They changed my sentence to fifteen years, and one month thereafter, there was a second hearing of my case, and I was sentenced to nine years in high security. I had spent four years in jail when the construction of churches was finally allowed in prison camps. A room for a church was allocated in our prison camp as well. I went there, lit a candle, thanked the Lord, and that was all. And then, there was prison, prison, and prison… If a person is a believer, he is alone there.
Nowadays one can practise his beliefs openly, and there are priests who visit the prisoners. I do not know how people would react in those times if anyone admitted that he believed in God. That guy would not survive, they would mock him to death. I do not recall being drawn to the church at that time, like I am now. For instance, when I was waiting for a parcel, I would pray, “Lord, help me to receive it soon!” I would also pray for my mother to come and to be protected from evil. “Lord help me!” And I would always say, “Thank You, Lord.” Naturally, I had faith deep inside my soul. When I was released, I attended church services together with my mother. I divorced my wife. I started stealing things. If only one gets jailed once, it is highly likely that he will be jailed again after the first term. You get to know people in jail, you become a part of their community, and there is a very specific community in prison. I was in jail seven times, twenty-five years in total. Each time I was released, I spent a month or two at home, drinking and stealing, and then I went back to prison. I had no time for God. Last time I was released in 2005, I went to a substance abuse treatment centre in order to have my name removed from their register.
I saw the Convent, entered the Convent's yard, and talked with some people there. I thought, “I could stay here for some time.” Besides, local militia officers started to pay too much attention to me. Whenever someone stole anything, they would come to me. I was about to be jailed again. They would arrest me for no reason. At first, everyone comes here in order to save their bodies. Some people hide from the militia, some try to escape cold and hunger, some try to get rid of alcohol addiction. One needs time in order to be able to understand anything. Father Andrew used to say, “If we have no money, God will give it to us.” I thought, “What are you talking about, Father? Who will give money?” And then I saw that a church was built. Where did they get the money from? Then they built the dormitory. It took me three or four years to finally understand that Father Andrew was right. Now everything is fine, I am an acolyte in the church. Sometimes I do not feel like going to church — maybe, it is because of my age, or because of something else. It is hard to stand for one and a half hours. Sometimes I stand during the entire service, murmur the chants to myself along with the choir and do not even notice how time flies. Everything is fine, praise be to God. I do not want to return to my past life. When I feel like drinking, I come to Father Andrew and say, “I need to see my doctor. Please give me a sick leave for three days.” I leave the metochion, drink some wine, and come back. Father Andrew knows, of course, that I lie to him but he allows me to go. Recently, I decided that I do not need those drinking days-off anymore. Again, this might be because of my age…
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- ABOUT THE MINISTRY: THE PATH OF LOVE VIDEO
- ORTHODOX QUOTE OF THE WEEK: St. Seraphim of Sarov
- Stories of the Sisterhood: THE BREATH OF FRESH AIR...
- The Finding of the Icon of our Lady of Kazan
- ON THE FEAST DAY OF THE CONVENT: ONE OF THE LAST L...
- CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: Current status of the Church ...
- Icon of the Mother of God of Three Hands
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- ▼ July (8)