Saints Mary & Martha Orthodox Monastery
Orthodox Church in America
Diocese of the South
65 Spinner Lane
Wagener, SC 29164 - USA
ONE THING NEEDFUL
As we compose this newsletter, it seems like it is one that is full of notices. Our 2006 Women Saints Calendar: Women Who Have Lost Children is still available. Like our 2005 Women Saints Calendar, it is full of information on many women saints and, in part, shows us how God works in all places at all times with all of His children. At the end of this newsletter, you will find a notice regarding the IRS letters for 2005 donations that we mailed recently. So if you have not received an IRS letter from us, please contact us. Prices have gone up on candle-making supplies; therefore, starting March 1, 2006, our beeswax candles will be $8 per pound. Last, but definitely not least, the last quarter showed a marked increase in the Monastery Building Fund, for which we are very grateful.
Turning to something more spiritual, the wonderworking icon, Our Lady of Sitka, Alaska, was taken from church to church in the lower forty-eight. One stop was Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in West Columbia, South Carolina, on October 26th. Along with many people from the surrounding area, we were greatly blessed to be able to attend the Akathist Service and to venerate this incredibly beautiful icon through which so many miracles have been and continue to be wrought. Most evident in this icon is the purity of her love and compassion for all of us which, in turn, gives us a primary example of the love and compassion we should have for each other and for Christ, her son.
On October 22nd, we made our biannual trip to the Barnyard Flea Market in West Columbia. Due to the generous donations of many, we had much to sell and were able to realize $411 for the building fund, most of which was earned in $1 or less increments. Since we had so much left over, a few weeks later, we decided to rent two tables at the Springfield Flea Market, the oldest flea market in South Carolina. That day brought in $65 which also went into our building fund.
As part of being in the Master Gardener Program in Aiken County, Mother Thecla was able to participate in a field trip to Carter and Holmes Orchids near Newberry, South Carolina on November 9th. We were given a tour of some of their many greenhouses. Two of these greenhouses were crowded with specimen plants from many parts of the world. There were orchids in many shapes and color combinations that were both familiar and exotic. It was a true feast for the eyes and food for the soul. At the end of the tour, we were given a box to hold the plants that we wanted to purchase. Having never grown an orchid, Mother Thecla found one orchid in a two-inch pot that she really wanted to try her hand at growing. Other Master Gardeners kept asking her how many orchids she had. With a glint in her eye, Mother Thecla responded, "Counting the one in the box, one." After purchasing this orchid and some fir bark (yes, orchids know the difference between bark and soil), she returned to the monastery and planted it in an orchid pot (a terra cotta pot with open slits in the side). It is still living and growing.
After giving thanks to God at Liturgy on Thanksgiving morning served by Hieromonk Joshua Anna, we celebrated this holiday in which our nation takes time to turn their minds and hearts toward God and say "Thank you." We enjoyed celebrating the remembrance of God and His many blessings to us with the company of a number of friends. One of the main elements of our daily prayers is to thank God for His great bounty to us in His immeasurable love for us, as we do not perceive how much He has truly bestowed on us.
This is the third year that we have participated in the St. Nicholas Festival held by Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in West Columbia, South Carolina. We brought our beeswax candles, gift and Christmas items, and jewelry to sell. Throughout the day, people kept noticing the jewelry, saying that we had some really nice pieces and wanting to know why nuns were selling jewelry. Well, a few years ago, a friend of the monastery wanted to help us raise money for our building fund, so she donated and continues to donate jewelry and even display items. She has been teaching Mother Thecla what to look for and how to price the different pieces of jewelry that we receive. Since then, many other women who have very different tastes have donated jewelry for us to sell and the proceeds go to the building fund. This was the first year that we brought jewelry to sell, and it did very well. It wasn't anything that we ever expected or requested, it simply grew out of the talent of a friend.
Like November, December was a month full of visitors which culminated in the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. As always, the joy of celebrating the Incarnation of God through Royal Hours, Vesperal Liturgy, Matins and Compline, and then Liturgy on Christmas Day was spiritually filling. Added to this joy were the many friends who joined us for Christmas dinner and fellowship. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas remind us that there is always room at God's table for all of His children. Somehow, He always makes it so.
On the Wednesday of the week of Theophany, we enjoyed being visited by the monks of The Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos Monastery located in Weaverville, North Carolina. After some conversation over lunch, Mother Helena took them on a tour of our monastery. The first picture is at the back of our doublewide, and the second is at Saint Joseph's Candle Shop. We shared our knowledge of wine making, general gardening, and building ideas and simply got acquainted as fellow monastics. Before they left, we prayed Vespers together. Someday soon, we hope to visit their monastery.
Each year between Theophany (the Feastday celebrating the Baptism of Christ) and the beginning of Lent, Orthodox priests visit their parishioners and bless their homes. This year, Hieromonk James Bohlman, our spiritual father, blessed our monastery home on January 10th. All of us had a good laugh as Fr. James successfully deployed a shower of holy water on sleeping Arnora (AKA Fraulein Schnitte), our grey and white cat.
Before we could write this newsletter, our monitor started going out on us. That's when the screen looks like little dots moving about, thus giving the viewer a mega headache. Thinking that something could be done to fix it, we called one of our computer savvy friends who informed us that the monitor was on its way out. Now, we have a new monitor and, as you can see, completed writing this newsletter. At the time of this printing, we are also preparing for the Young Adult Retreat at the end of January, which you will read about in our next newsletter.
Please continue to pray for us that God will give us the strength and wisdom and love to continue the work that He gives us and that it will bear good fruit as one of the branches of the True Vine, Jesus the Christ.
WHAT WAS/IS IT REALLY ALL ABOUT?
We have celebrated another feast of the Nativity of Christ, another civil new year and are we any different? What was/is it really all about? Did it bring us, as intended, to the feast of Theophany, the epiphany, the manifestation of our Triune God, more open to a deeper experience of our God?
From a matins service for the Forefeast of Theophany we hear, "The voice of the Father beareth witness from on high to Thee the consubstantial Son Who entereth the waters and thereby sendest forth Thy blessing, O blessed Christ; and the Holy Spirit proclaimeth Thee to all as God incarnate. Dance, O creation, beholding the holy epiphany of God! . . . Christ hath shone forth, illumining you with blessings."
We are illumined but do we see Christ God in ourselves and in each of our brothers and sisters? May we truly share God with each other in cooperation not competition. Only He can judge rightly. May His light be visible in us so that as another matins prayer states, "Let us sing in laudation to the Lord Who hath appeared in the waters, thereby mending our broken state and crushing the heads of the invisible foes and let us cry aloud: "Hymn the Lord and exalt Him supremely for all ages."
WONDERWORKER OF GHEEL
The story of St. Dymphna has been preserved in a thirteenth century life written by a canon of the Church of St. Aubert at Cambrai and commissioned by the Bishop of Cambrai, Guy I (1238-1247). The author expressly states that his work is based upon oral tradition and a persuasive history of inexplicable and miraculous healings. On the surface, the life of St. Dymphna appears to be a variation on a common motif, i.e., the popular legend of a father (in this case, a king) who decides to marry his own daughter; however, centuries of miraculous healings prove that the story is certainly not fictitious. In point of fact, more is known about St. Dymphna after her martyrdom than is known about her earthly life.
According to tradition, St. Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan (possibly Irish) king named Damon and an unnamed Christian princess of stunning beauty. Although her mother died probably when she was approaching adolescence, she made certain to have her daughter secretly baptized a Christian and left her in the competent hands of her priest-confessor, St. Gerebern. Damon was inconsolable after the death of his beautiful wife and became very despondent. His counselors advised that he seek a second wife of noble rank; however, he was not able to find anyone as beautiful as his beloved spouse. As St. Dymphna matured, she so resembled her beautiful mother that the unnatural passions of her father were stirred and he decided that he would marry his own daughter.
Horrified at what her father proposed, St. Dymphna, together with St. Gerebern and a few attendants, fled to the continent, boarding a ship which brought them to the city of Antwerp. One tradition states that they settled in the town of Gheel near an oratory dedicated to St. Martin of Tours where they lived as hermits. Another tradition elaborates the "hermit" theory and claims that once settled in Gheel, St. Dymphna built a hospice for the poor and sick of the region. Since she was a wealthy young maiden, it is not improbable to suppose that she could have used her wealth to secure her new life in the village and its environs. God may have bestowed the gift of healing upon her since by her very courageous stance against her father, it is clear she was not a lukewarm Christian, but took her faith to heart. Her financial resources would have enabled her to easily obtain poultices and powders for healing, and this would have added to her reputation as a healer. Ironically, it is through the use of her wealth that her father would eventually ascertain her whereabouts.
After learning of their flight, Damon and his guards pursued St. Dymphna and her companions to the continent. Scouts who had been sent out ahead found a lead to their whereabouts when an innkeeper refused to accept the king's money, claiming that it was too difficult to exchange. Damon thought it very coincidental that a village innkeeper would know about foreign currency and deduced that such knowledge meant that these coins had recently passed through the innkeeper's hands. The king astutely narrowed his search to the area and eventually found St. Dymphna and her priest-confessor near the chapel of St. Martin.
Again, Damon tried to force his daughter into marriage. When St. Gerebern rebuked him for his unholy behavior, the king, careful not to kill the elderly priest with his own hands, had his guards behead him. Hoping that his daughter would come to her senses, he again ordered her to return to his kingdom and prepare for their wedding, but she adamantly refused. Furious, he pulled out his sword and beheaded her on the spot. Thus, St. Dymphna received the crown of martyrdom in defense of her chastity some time between 620 and 640 A.D. at the age of fifteen or sixteen.
The bodies of the two saints remained at the site of their martyrdom for quite some time until the inhabitants of Gheel placed the corpses in sarcophagi and entombed them in a cave. From the spot where they were martyred, healings began to occur, especially healings involving mental illness, epilepsy and demonic possession. The fame of Gheel began to spread. So astounding were the rumors of the miracles that in the thirteenth century, the saints' relics were unearthed. Fragments of two ancient sarcophagi purported to have held the bodies of the saints were found, as well as a quadrangular red tile bearing the inscription: "Here lies the holy virgin and martyr, Dymphna." The remains of St. Dymphna were placed in a small church dedicated to her at Gheel which was destroyed by fire in 1489. In 1532, another church was erected on the site, much more magnificent than the previous one, which still stands today. The relics of St. Dymphna are kept within this church in an ornate silver reliquary (pictured below). Her veneration rapidly spread all over Europe, and she became the patroness of the mentally ill, of epileptics and of abused children.
Whatever spiritual legacy of healing St. Dymphna might have pioneered in Gheel would now be powerfully resumed by her from the heavenly Kingdom. The light and love of the Holy Trinity through the intercessions of St. Dymphna would gently forge a special community where the Gospel teachings of charity and Christlike love would be exercised, evidencing the continued presence of the saint and her care and concern for both the patients and the caregivers. In fact, after the discovery of her relics in the thirteenth century, a whole settlement would develop around the veneration of St. Dymphna, taking as its model the traditional concept of the church as "spiritual hospital".
Initially, the pilgrims in need of healing were lodged in a small annex or infirmary built onto the Church of St. Dymphna. Upon their discharge, they were placed in the homes of families living in the village. From this small beginning and under St. Dymphna's patronage, the inhabitants of Gheel became known for the care they gave to those with mental illness. The town boasts of a first-class sanitarium, one of the largest and most efficient establishments for the mentally ill in the world. Gheel was the first to initiate a program of hope where the mentally ill, once released from institutional care, could realistically lead normal and productive lives in the homes of farmers and local residents. The patients, who are valued members of these "foster families", help with the chores and work to the extent of their ability. The power of St. Dymphna's intercessions is evidenced by the incredibly compassionate work of the people of Gheel for the mentally ill, as well as by the patients' progress and ability to live fully and effectively. This collaboration can only have been brought about through heavenly means, in this case, the loving patronage of St. Dymphna.
2006 WALL CALENDAR OF
ORTHODOX WOMEN SAINTS
February 4th at 9am
March 4th at 9am
April 1st at 9am
May 6th at 9am Pilgrimage
STS. MOSES & MIRIAM YOUTH RETREAT
for 12-14 years olds
June 14-17, 2006
STS. NIKETAS & ELENI YOUTH RETREAT
for 15-17 year olds
June 21-24, 2006
Contact Monastery: 803-564-6894
CLERGY WIVES' RETREAT
September 21-24, 2006
Contact Kyra Moore: 803-926-7591
FROM MARTHA'S KITCHEN
FRESH PEAR CAKE
Chip pears and mix with sugar, nuts and raisins. Let stand 1 hour. Stir often.