When we part with a dear friend or our loved one, it is natural for us to feel sad. We feel frustrated to be separated from our family and friends by many thousands of kilometres and multiple time zones. We are dismayed by how quickly the pandemic turned national borders into formidable barriers for visiting. We sometimes despair at the great walls of misunderstanding that tear apart a supposedly lasting relationship.
The apostles must have felt some sadness as they watched Christ rising to the Father in a cloud and realised that Christ's ministry and physical presence on earth had come to an end. They were parting with the incarnate Christ, Who had made them a part of His ministry; Who forgave them and gave them His love; Who accepted death on the cross for the salvation of man. Even after His death, He continued to appear to them to show the reality of His resurrection. Now He was leaving. He had spoken to them of His departure many times before, and every time they did so, they were saddened. The cloud from Heaven was carrying Him away to the skies. He disappeared from their view, but they still stood and watched until the angels called out to them.
Yet, as we know from the Scripture when the Apostles returned to Jerusalem, they were joyful. Their joy represents the whole meaning of the Feast. Jesus, the Son of Man, ascended to His Father in Heaven, making it visible to them and everybody else that the way to heaven was open to every human being. The consequences of Adam and Eve's original sin were finally reversed. As He had said to His apostles, "my Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2). With His ascension, He became invisibly present for everyone on earth. As He was departing, He promised the descent from Heaven of the Holy Spirit to strengthen the spirits of the Apostles and every living person.
The Apostles would live a life full of hardships and sorrows. They would meet much hostility and misunderstanding. Nearly all of them died as martyrs for their faith. The presence of Christ and the power of the spirit gave them the strength to bear them with bravery, dignity and joy. The gift of His presence and the blessing of His spirit are equally essential to help us bear our hardships, keep our spirits pure, and project His love to others and enrich ourselves towards Heaven.
Orthodox Christians celebrate the Ascension of our Lord as a great and joyful feast. An all-night vigil is celebrated in our churches on its eve, followed by the Liturgy of John Chrysostom on the day of the feast. Here at Saint Elisabeth Convent, an ardent prayer will be a key attribute of the celebration. We will pray that we would not lose the feeling of God's presence in our lives for a minute. We pray that we can recognise His presence in the beauty of a rainbow, the love of our families and the smile of a stranger. We pray that we will continue to share our smiles and give our love and care to all our neighbours, assuring them of God's presence. We hope that we would all live in a kinder, juster and more hospitable world as a result.
As Christ was rising on the cloud, he was blessing His disciples. He never stops giving us His blessings. On this joy-filled feast, we wish everyone God's blessings in the good works of their salvation.
Our meeting with Martin Go who came to St Elisabeth Convent as a pilgrim allowed us to learn more about China. His father is a Communist but he has accepted his son’s choice. Martin plans to return to China in the future.
The life of Saint Mary of Egypt is an inspiring example. She shows the way for those who wander and search, who come to the door of the Church but do not enter, and those already at Church.
One of our clergy father Eugene Pavelchuk tells about his childhood, youth, way to the Church and St Elisabeth Convent.
As we are reminded in the hymns of the Church, Christ came to the Jordan not just to renew the fallen nature of man, but also to bless His entire creation by sanctifying the water. With the feast of the Theophany, the Lord shows us a different…
Biblical saints, too, have suffered torment and adversity; but, they sent prayers and pleas to God, and God heard them.
2020 has been a very hard year for so many of us because of the coronavirus. At times, we’ve all felt scared, sad, and maybe even angry. Regardless of all the hardships, we must always remember that God has been with us every day.
Many years have passed since Belarus was freed from fascism. But we hold close the memory of those who did not live to see the Victory. In our fast-paced world everything changes, but the truth. It is therefore important that the memory remains.