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A message of consolation and hope in difficult times
Message by the Eldress Thekla, Abbess of the Holy Monastery of Panagia the Comforter of Canada. It is the first Greek Orthodox monastery founded by the blessed Elder Ephraim Philotheitis and Arizonite in Quebec, Canada. (Holy Monastery of Virgin Mary the Consolatory).
April 14, 2020
The church of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Parigoritissa.
Being in the fourth week of quarantine and in view of the Holy Days of Easter, pressured by the stress and fear they are trying to impose on us, the pressure created by the administration of the monastery under these conditions and the deep sorrow which it imposes, my heart aches and sorrows for the people around us for the deprivation of certain basic needs and especially the deprivation of the greatest consolation and source of strength which is the church and the strongest medicine that is Holy Communion, I resorted to withdrawal in 'alone' prayer and I begged and constantly asked God to spread His infinite mercy on His world, to heal the sick, to strengthen them and to console and comfort the elderly, and those who are plagued by loneliness and suffer all kinds of difficulties.
I felt guilty because we here have this consolation of the sacramental life, while our brothers are deprived of it and I was trying to find a way to comfort them. Then I heard a voice say to me, 'Remember what you experienced in the past?' Then, as if my mind was opened, I saw it inside me and believe me, I lived 'consciously' those unique moments again.
When I went to the monastery in 1975 (45 years ago) it was the time when the retinue of the monastery of Philotheos was still small in the number of monks and the priests were few. Thus, there were no priests available to serve the related chapels. Because our monastery was part of the monastery of Philotheos, for years we did not have a priest. Whenever they could (it was rarely) they came, but they could never be absent from the monastery for the days of great feasts. For Christmas, Easter, Annunciation, Dormition, Pentecost, etc. we were always without a priest.
Of course, if this had happened in a parish, people would protest, shout, say indecent words, maybe even curse, and the only one who would be enjoying it would be the devil with his angels.
The opposite was true for us. We fasted, we prepared for Holy Communion, we gathered in our small chapel, which was the extension of a corridor, (from our church here in the Monastery), we read our prayers and in the end our holy Eldress Makrina, gave us "Communion" - our great blessing and reward - and she always told us that, if we are "the way we should be", then it is possible for the Holy Angels to invisibly serve Holy Communion, as we often read in the lives of Saints.
Believe me, during that time, we experienced many heavenly situations that we never experienced again, after we had acquired a permanent priest, 40-day supplications, etc.
Now I understand, that because of the deprivation but also for our sincere desire and patience, God graciously gave us a martyrdom.
The church was scented as if it had been anointed with myrrh. Our eyes were in tears incessantly. Our hearts skipped a beat with God's grace.
On the days when we "Communed", without even thinking about it, we instinctively spoke in soft whispers, because we felt that we were living in a mystagogy. In our mouth when saying the Prayer we felt the taste of an aromatic sweet. We could feel Holy Communion, even though we had not received the actual Communion, and all day we were very careful not to spit or chew gum and then throw it away. So intense was the sense of having received Holy Communion.
Regardless of what I write, it is not possible to describe the sensation of the grace of Christ that we experienced in those days of deprivation, because it cannot be described in words.
After a few years the priests in the monastery of Filotheou increased and we no longer had a problem. Everything had entered into a regular rhythm.
Nineteen years later, when our obedience along with Sister Ephraim brought us here to Canada, we faced the same problem again. Lack of priests! Our monastery did not have a priest for seven years. But now things were not so hard because our priests, on the orders of the Metropolitan, came every day and served for Communion. But again on weekends and holidays we did not have a priest. Priests had to serve in their own parishes. We performed the services alone, we decorated the icons, we decorated the Cross on the day of the Ascension and the Crucifixion, we made the procession of the Cross on Holy Thursday, etc. And we tried to preserve the morale and mood of the young people who were completely inexperienced.
These, along with many others, are now a wealth of experiences that exist within us and whenever it is necessary, we open the treasury of experience and choose what we need, depending on the circumstances.
Suddenly, as if my mind was opened, I re-lived all this spiritual state very intensely, as if it was an answer to my prayer, and the message was that, if we prepare ourselves with humility, without complaining and objections, with a lot of praying and faith in God’s providence, and then receive the holy water and the Antidoron bread instead of Holy Communion, and keep in mind that God did not allow us to receive Communion because we are unworthy and unprepared, then we will receive God’s Grace with the grace of martyrdom, for which Saint Luke the Physician had said: “I loved very much the grace of martyrdom, which so miraculously cleanses the soul”.
The wicked one wanted us to shut down our churches. Well, let us make our homes churches. He shut down eleven churches, let us open eleven thousand. Let every home become a church. Let our prayer rise up to heaven like fire. Let the incense spread its fragrance throughout every neighborhood.
Let the lamp and the candle burn constantly. Let us watch the Services on the Media, praying, and not lying in bed or eating or smoking etc.. If we do thus, then instead of churches closing, they will increase, they will be spread everywhere and entire cities will become churches. Then God will give His blessing. Seeing our repentance He will chastise the sickness and will grant us freedom along with the churches, and extra years to labour for God.
I wish you a blessed Holy Week, spiritual ascension, health to both spirit and soul, patience with infinite confidence in God's providence and the light of the Resurrection to shine in our hearts and fill them with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
WISHES FOR A GREAT AND LIGHT-BRINGING RESURRECTION!'
With infinite love in Christ
The least in Christ,
Eldress Thekla and sisters
Article published in English on: 15-04-2020.
Last update: 15-04-2020.