Happy Ascension Day!
This holiday is unusual because it seems just yesterday we celebrated Easter and sang “Christ is risen!” Today we sing "Christ has ascended!"
Where did Christ ascend? Where is He?
This must have been a difficult moment for the apostles to be separated from their Teacher and the life that they had experienced. We will always have this test in our limited experience of spiritual life. There is a "Paschal" period when we come to faith and feel God’s presence in everything and everyone. We see that everything around is saturated with the grace of God. Then there comes a moment when the Lord seems to leave us all alone. We must live through this period with dignity, remembering that prior moment of joy and victory over death, time, flesh and blood, over everything earthly and human.
We know that in ten days after the Ascension it will be the Feast of Pentecost, when the Lord descends and unites in the Holy Spirit with the apostles, making them real temples of the Divine. God now lives in them, the Holy Spirit lives in them. They go to fight the whole world and conquer this world, humbling nations with the name of Christ!
We are preparing for this day...
The angelic world is a spiritual world. Christ ascends into it with His most pure flesh, the same as ours, only without sin. We can only imagine the astonishment of the angelic world seeing human flesh, a creature that should be on earth suddenly ascending and sitting on the throne of God! This mystery is incomprehensible to the human mind... Yet it is the reality.
We affirm that human flesh is not simply meat and bones, but a sacred matter. We honour particles of the bodies of saints, knowing that through them we turn to God Himself. We treat our flesh with care, realising that although it will decay in the earth, it will then be restored not only spiritually, but also physically. On the new earth, under the new heaven, we will live in the flesh. This is why my body is my friend and not my enemy. Our war is not against flesh. For example, Hindus view flesh as an obstacle in a person's life. In reality, it is not so.
We need to nourish and heal our body, treating it with care. It should help us create, help others and do good, charitable deeds. We do not view this world as an illusion; we see it as real. The Church is also real. Of course, the Builder of the Church is the Lord, but He builds it with the hands of people. United today as one soul and body, you and I cannot talk disparagingly about the flesh and view it as an obstacle. It is not the flesh that stands in our way, it is sin that constantly pushes us to extremes where we either please the body, or exhaust it until we can no longer do anything. These extremes show that we still lack reason, that we are still in a childish state. It would be good if we kept watch of our flesh, so that it learns to obey the spirit and labour while we still have time for this.
Our task is to sanctify our flesh, to make it capable of participating in God-pleasing life. This is why we always hear at Liturgy the call to lift up our hearts, leave the earth behind and taste that the Lord is good. We look at the sky and see that the Lord blesses us for good deeds today and every day.
May God help and save us all.
The courage of the Holy Royal Martyrs, their mercy, steadfast faith and readiness to entrust their fate to the Lord softened the hearts of many and showed the way of the Lord to the generations to come.
On September 8th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. This wonderworking icon is one of the most venerated in Russia and, according to tradition, dates from the dawn of Christianity.
On the 1st August, we glorify with great spiritual awe and affection the memory of Saint Seraphim of Sarov and pay tribute to his angelic life, which showed to many the path towards salvation.
How do they celebrate Christmas in Poland, Japan, Ethiopia? Customs and traditions may differ, but not the joy of Christmas. Read this and see for yourselves.
This year's Lenten and Paschal periods at our Convent are rich in joyful events. Here is just a brief overview of what’s been happening: monastic tonsures, visits to the National Mental Health Centre, summer camp and more.
God, who gives the sinners and the righteous their dues, is not someone who lies in waiting to punish a wrongdoer after the fact. What gives us fear and trembling is the hurting wound of not responding to the love that He had given to us.
How might we picture our meeting with the Lord? Our hearts will wake up to His presence and infinite love; we will discover the joy of forgiveness and prayer for the whole world.