A Trip to the Monastery


3/16/10 A trip to the monastery of Saint Herman of Alaska in Platina CA……

     In this world there are many things that are less beautiful than a candle lit church. It is heaven here at the monastery, as I have expected. In church the aching in my leg was nothing in comparison to the grace of God that I felt. Here on this piece of land that is dedicated to prayer and the worship of God. I find myself at peace. To me being here at the monastery among other things, is drawing close to God and knowing His heart more intimately as well as knowing yourself in your limitations and weaknesses. I see God in the intimacy and beauty of the services. While at the same time my mind is distracted and my body complains. I also notice how a dirty sinner as myself watches and judges the behavior of those around me. I cant think of any other place on earth where the soul is so educated and the only graduation is blessed repose. The fathers (monks) in all there differences are to me a wonderful picture of the many ways in which God can work. Also the many ways in which He can use his servants to His glory. I must rest now…. See you after the morning services..

     I awoke a little late and arrived at the monastery church around 4:45 am. The cold and sleepiness nagged at me much of the time. Though there is much mental struggle I am encouraged that it is time well spent. As opposed to watching a movie or sleeping away the day. I am here in this place because I need healing. I need the grace of God to lift up my broken soul. My soul that I have wrecked with the indulgence of my many passions, that I dare not list. I am not afraid of the judgment of men but only do not wish to trouble your soul with my demons. I do not believe that these many things will leave me without a fight. So here at the monastery I hope to gain some measure of spiritual strength with which to fight this battle. Although I wish that I was much more advanced in the path of Christianity, I am thankful to God that I am here.

     In the early services just as at night, the church having no electricity is lit only by candle light. The candles glow upon the service books, the icons and the faces of the monks. I am reminded that they pray always for us and that the angels with our forefathers in heaven ceaselessly worship before God and pray on our behalf. I can see barely through the cobwebs of my mind that I am, for a moment, safe. Just as light began to touch the sky I left the service to rest and warm my leg. I woke soon though and returned for the end of service. Some of the fathers who had not seen me arrive, greeted me warmly after the service was over. I wait in silence for the next service to begin at 9:30. During this service there will be a Presanctified Liturgy.

     Now I have not received Holy Communion in quite some time and I was bracing myself for a much longer wait until I would be allowed to receive. But after confessing my many sins to the Lord before Fr. Damascene he immediately following blessed me to receive Holy Communion today. I am having many emotions. Among them fear and excitement are chief. If I am not struck dead, by Gods grace I will be strengthened. See you after….

     So from 9:30 until about 1 o’clock we had the Hours I think, followed by the Presanctified Liturgy. By the mercy and grace of God I received Holy Communion! I can feel the grace of God at work in me and my only anxiety is that I will throw it all away when I go home. Maybe in conformation of this Fr. Moses the 2nd told me to be careful when I left the monastery. Now I am sitting at the grave of Fr. Seraphim Rose. He is the blessed man that brought this Orthodoxy to my part of Northern California. A man of great intelligence and intensity whose journey to the Orthodox faith took him first to hell and then back again. He tried to teach us many practical ways in which to make our lives truly Orthodox. I though, am a rebellious outlaw mostly concerned with how people respect or disrespect me. Even here in this place I can feel the pull of the streets even of death on my weak soul. I am very weary of this life and were it not for my little princess Elliana I think I would hasten its ending. I think that maybe Fr. Seraphim would be very frustrated with me and might turn away. Most of the time my love of sin seems much bigger than the faith that I posses. Being tired of this despair I have some hope that God will give me grace to overcome these many sins.

      After another rest I called home to my mother and hearing what she had to say about what was going on at home, my peace was shattered… Man I really wanted to give up. Anger, fear and aggression filled my soul again in an instant. I spent many emotions on judging and condemning my ex-wife. Oh, and there was a taste of self pity in there also. As the next service started at 6:30 I struggled immensely and my mind was torn with anger and despondency. I started to say the Jesus prayer (Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy on me a sinner) and pray blessing on my ex-wife and daughter. Only then did my anger subside and I again was at peace. Thanks to the grace of God and the physical exertion of the service. I finished and rested well…..

      I awoke the next day, attended a brief service and was on my way home

     For a passionate person like myself full of weakness and folly, this life can be very difficult. For now I hope in God and am thankful for the love and kindness of the monks. I can die now, it makes no difference to me, but my daughter is my hope and I pray to the Lord God of all creation that He will vouchsafe the crown of Orthodoxy and entrance into His Kingdom to Elliana and the wife of my youth Charity.  May He bless us all and have mercy upon our souls.  Your friend and co-sufferer in this world..

 jt

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