Saints Mary & Martha Orthodox Monastery
Orthodox Church in America
Diocese of the South
65 Spinner Lane
Wagener, SC 29164 - USA
telephone: 803-564-6894
email address:

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APRIL 2008


Pilgrimage is on May 10th, the Saturday before Myrrhbearers Sunday. We pray that many of you will be able to join us on this day.

As we prepare for Holy Week and Pascha, we realize how very quickly this Great Lent has come to an end. In addition to the daily services that we pray here, we were blessed to attend Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesdays at Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in West Columbia and on Fridays at Holy Resurrection Mission in Aiken.

Since January’s newsletter we have continued to have visitors of all ages and varied backgrounds who bring God’s presence to us in so many unique ways. Children remind us of Christ’s statement “of such is the kingdom of heaven”. Artists of different disciplines offer their talents to help us lift up our eyes and hearts to God. Manual laborers assist in making this monastery operable, like setting posts, trimming trees, general gardening tasks, fixing things, climbing ladders to store things, and so many other tasks.

During the last three months, three pending items were accomplished. First, we had two shelves, 32’ long and 16” deep built eight and nine foot up along the inside wall of the back room of the Barne Shoppes. The additional storage for periodicals, the goodly number of notebooks containing Liturgical music and research, and numerous articles is great. Yes, these shelves are already full! Secondly, the roof for the duck pen is finished. While the ducks are not fussy about how their pen looks, we want them to be safe from their predators. Thirdly, we also had help setting up our computers to be more functional for our needs.

During February and March, three young couples buried their unborn children here. At this time all three couples do not have any children and pray fervently that God who is the Creator of us all will grant them children. We join our prayers with theirs in asking God to grant them children, to comfort their sorrow, and to know that as Creator all things are in His hands and happen for reasons that are usually beyond our understanding.

As is the custom of Orthodox Christians, Fr. Thomas Moore blessed the gravestones for Avtandil Tetradze and Zora Milasovich after Saturday Liturgy on February 9th.

On March 8th, we were blessed to pray Matins and have Divine Liturgy for all the departed monastics. Being monastics, this is a very special Memorial Saturday for us. The canon of Matins reads like a who’s who in the history of monasticism and reminds us of the many faithful men and women who followed Christ’s calling them to monastic life and remained faithful to the end of their days.

Returning to the month of February, we hosted our first Knitters Retreat which was organized by Maria Floyd of Aiken, South Carolina. The response and results were very positive. Orthodox women who were beginner knitters through advanced knitters came from Aiken and Columbia and enjoyed prayer and fellowship with each other. Throughout the retreat, we kept reminding ourselves that we needed to take a group picture. Well, everybody came and went, and all we had was a picture of Vivaldi, our Manx cat, exploring the bags of yarn, knitting needles, etc. We would like to see this happen again, not only here, but in other parishes and missions.

Thanks to so many of you who have contributed items for us to sell, we went to the flea market early this year, March 1st. We raised $297 for our building fund. As we’ve said before, every amount adds up. When we went to tally the amount in the building fund, we were greatly surprised to see that it had risen by twenty-two thousand. Thanks be to God and His people.

Spring brings wonderful flowers, native and cultivated, and a Master Gardener Symposium in Columbia, South Carolina to expand our gardening knowledge. This year brought a wonderful speaker who raises heirloom tomatoes organically in this state. Yes, we hope to try our hand at growing tomatoes that actually smell and taste like tomatoes.

The vegetable garden is looking really good. We’re eating wonderful asparagus and watching the potatoes, eggplant, squashes, peppers, tomatoes, collards, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, and melons grow. With God’s help, we will have a plentiful harvest. Whatever, we know He cares for us all.

God is so very good and continually blesses us in so many ways, and we thank Him and all of you who have helped us to get to this point.


In our journey through Great Lent to Pascha, during the Matins of the fifth week on Tuesday in Canticle 8 First Canon we pray “Cleansed through fasting let us draw near to the mountain of the virtues and let us clearly hear what God will say within us; for He will speak to us of peace and illumination and the healing of our broken souls.”

Our fasting is to cleanse us so we may become more aware of God within us – hopefully this is our experience of fasting. We feel our brokenness and long for healing – it seems to be a rhythm in our lives. The balance is God’s gift to us if we but accept it. In addition to Great Lent, the church in her wisdom gives us the fasting reminders regularly on Wednesdays and Fridays and in extended periods during the year to help us keep the needed balance.

Isaiah reminds us “Those who wait on God shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not hunger.” (Isaiah 40:31) How long it takes us to believe our good God is within us and so willing to help us and actually sustains us without our thought! How quickly and easily we forget His presence, His love, because we focus on other than Him.

With gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ for His death and resurrection, for the fast and the joy of Pascha, may we continue to listen and hear Him in us with His gift of peace – a peace no one can take from us.

First Christian Convert in Europe
Deaconess at Philippi
March 27th and June 25th
(Acts 16:8-40)

Let us remember that the word “deacon” comes from the Greek word “deaconia” which means “to serve”. The first seven deacons were men of God “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” who were set aside to “serve tables”, that is to care for orphans, widows, the poor, the sick, those in prison, and other social works of the Church (Acts 6:1-7). This was done to allow the twelve Apostles to spend their time spreading the Gospel of Christ.

Lydia, who bore the name of a Roman province in western Asia Minor, hailed from the wealthy town of Thyatira (present day Al-Hissar, Turkey) which was noted for its well-organized trade guilds. The guilds for coppersmiths and dyers were two of the more powerful guilds which were greatly steeped in the pagan religion of their day and whose members were required to worship the patron god/goddess of their trade. As a seller of purple, Lydia and her husband were probably members thereof. It is not known whether they traded in purple dyes or purple fabric or both.

The purple dyes used in the Thyatira area were thought to have been made from the madder-root (genus Rubia) and from a sea snail (Murex brandaris). Each of these sources of dye could be used to produce various shades of purple-red (porphyra) or purple-blue (yakinthos) depending on the process and the raw fiber used. The purple-red was used by emperors, statesmen, and other high government officials, while the purple-blue was used for religious purposes such as priests’ robes or curtains for one of the many temples. This dye was the most expensive of its day and was said to be worth its weight in silver.

At some point, Lydia and her household moved to Philippi, a principal city of Macedonia which is about ten miles north of the harbor city Neapolis (present day Kavalla). This was an excellent business move, as Philippi was a Roman colony whose populace spoke Latin and enjoyed all the privileges and rights of Roman citizens. Philippi was also on the Egnation Highway, a major east-west trade route that connected Rome and Asia. Another possible reason for her move to Philippi could be that Lydia converted to Judaism and would no longer worship in the manner of the Thyatirans. Whatever the reason, suffice it to say that Lydia was a successful business woman who probably spoke several languages and had a great love for the one, true God.

While on his second missionary journey (c. 50 A.D.), Paul (the Apostle to the Gentiles) with Luke (writer of the third Gospel), Silas, and Timothy were traveling through and establishing churches in what is currently western Turkey, they came to Troas, a coastal town on the Aegean Sea. There Paul had a vision in which he beheld a man in Macedonian garb, standing and asking him to “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Taking this vision as direction from God, this band of four boarded a ship for Neapolis, where they disembarked and walked the ten miles to Philippi.

Drawing by Christalyn Barrett Aitken
of Holy Apostles Orthodox Church,
West Columbia, South Carolina

It was Paul’s custom to find the local synagogue and preach to the Jews first. Apparently, Philippi did not have ten Jewish men to hold Sabbath Services and, therefore, had no synagogue either in the city or outside it. When Paul, Luke, Silas, and Timothy did not find a synagogue, they went outside the city and followed the Gangites River (now Angista River) until they came upon a group of women who were praying in the manner of the Jews. (It is the customary practice among the Jews to have living (flowing) water for washing their hands before praying.) Not expecting four men to attend their prayer service, Paul and the others probably greeted them with “The peace of God be with you” (a traditional Jewish greeting) and introduced themselves. Then they sat down and spoke to the women there, sharing the good news of Christ’s salvation and gift of eternal life. Their presence must have been an answer to the many prayers of these women.

It was there that Lydia listened to the words of Paul with great attentiveness, heard the Gospel of Christ, recognized the truthfulness thereof, and received Christ with her whole heart. She and her whole household were baptized in the Gangites River. Thus, Lydia attained the honored place of being the first Christian in Europe.

Although no mention is made of her husband, one may easily presume by her actions that she was widowed and head of her household. By humbly saying to Paul and those with him “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay”, Lydia compelled them to reside at her house while they preached the Gospel in the city. In this way Lydia could learn more about Jesus and His teachings and ask many questions. Her home became the first Christian Church in Europe and a place of Christian hospitality.

Not long afterwards, Paul and Silas were going to prayer when a damsel who was possessed with a spirit of divination met them and began following them saying, “These men are the servants of the most high God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” This she did for many days, until Paul could no longer stand it and in the name of Jesus Christ commanded the spirit to come out of her, which it did. Upon hearing that she could no longer foretell peoples’ fortunes, her masters saw their livelihood gone, seized Paul and Silas in the marketplace, stirred up the multitude therein, dragged them before the magistrates, and accused them of teaching customs unlawful to Romans (i.e., doing anything that might damage the state religion). The magistrates had them stripped, beaten with rods many times, and cast into the inner prison where their feet were fastened in stocks.

At midnight, while Paul and Silas were singing hymns, a great earthquake shook the prison and all the doors were open and their chains were loosened. Awaking from sleep and supposing that the prisoners had escaped, the keeper of the prison drew his sword and was about to kill himself, when Paul yelled, “Do yourself no harm for we are all here.” Trembling, the jailer fell down before Paul and Silas and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” To which they responded, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.” The jailer took them home, tended to their wounds, and he and his family were baptized that same night.

In the morning, the magistrates sent word to release Paul and Silas; however, they would not leave, as they were Roman citizens and had been beaten openly. (Roman citizens were exempt from public beatings.) When the magistrates heard this, they fearfully came to lead them out of the prison and pleaded with them to depart from Philippi.

Surely, Lydia and those gathered in her house spent the night in prayer for the release of Paul and Silas. There must have been great joy when they saw them enter her house, but also great sadness on learning of their immediate departure.

Paul left Luke behind to preach the Gospel and establish the Church in Philippi and other towns round about. Through Paul and Luke, Lydia, the jailor, their households, and many others were taught the Gospel and, in turn taught others.

In addition to her many business connections, Lydia’s ardent faith, sincere prayer, humbleness of heart, willingness to serve (diaconia), generosity, and following God’s will for her life was instrumental in establishing the Christian Faith in Philippi. Only Christ knows what it cost Lydia to follow Him. Lydia did much to set the tone for the Church at Philippi whose members Paul called “my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1) and whom he thanked for their assistance.

Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, called Philippians, holds much spiritual advice for all of us. Being only four chapters long, it is well worth the time to read and take to heart what is said therein.


God is always good.
In the past quarter the building fund
has grown to $169,487.
By God’s grace it grows.

May 10, 2008

June 7that 9am
July 12that 9am
August 9that 9am
Matins starts at 8am

Sts. Moses & Miriam Youth Retreat
For 12-14 year olds
June 11-14, 2008
Sts. Niketas & Elani Youth Retreat
For 15-17 year olds
June 18-21, 2008

Contact Monastery: 803-564-6894
OR Email us at

Clergy Wives' Retreat
September 25-28, 2008
Contact Mother Beth Freeman: 865-660-6438
OR Email her at



Fajata Seasoning Mix
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon(more or less according to taste) chili powder or ground dried chilies
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
2 ½ teaspoons of vegetable bullion
1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin

Mix above ingredients and store in jar.

Fajita Filling
¼ cup corn oil
1 large onion cut into one-inch slices and separated
1 large bell pepper (any color) cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
5 Roma tomatoes cut into eighths lengthwise
1 to 1½ pounds of Portabella mushrooms sliced into ¼ inch
slices and then cut crosswise into halves or thirds depending on size OR 1 to 1½ pounds of shelled shrimp
¾ cup water
2 tablespoons or more to taste of Fajita Seasoning Mix.

Heat oil in a large skillet.* Saute onion and bell pepper until slightly soft. Add tomatoes and mushrooms. Pour water over vegetables and sprinkle Fajita Seasoning Mix on top. Stir gently until mushrooms are soft but still firm.

6” totillas warmed (your choice of corn or flour)
Slices of jalopenos and of fresh avocado make a good addition.

*If you want a roasted taste, heat oven to 400° F.; line a pan with aluminun foil; place all vegetables on pan and pour oil, water, and seasoning over vegetables; stir vegetables until well coated; cook for 10 minutes; stir again and cook until vegetables are soft.