The church of the Metochion & metochion buildings
A person who had nowhere to live, will have shelter and refuge here; a person who was dying from hunger, will have food to eat; a person who had no clothes, will receive new clothes; but most importantly, a person here begins to think, “Perhaps, I have made some mistakes in my life?”Brother Vitaly.
This place may have various names: a metochion of the Convent, a social facility, a labour camp, an experimental ground... It depends on who and how sees it. The nuns of St Elisabeth Convent are certain that this is the territory where God dwells, a place that He has chosen in order to give shelter to his lost and abandoned children. The nuns accept everyone here on the Lysaya Gora: the hungry, the drunkards, the homeless, and the rejected. Each one of these people has nowhere else to turn to.
The majority of those who come to the metochion used to be criminals in the past: the time each of them spent in jail is 5 to 30 years. Many of the residents of the metochion have spent years as tramps and drunkards. These people have no fear whatsoever. They have drunk the full cup of iniquity and reached its limit. They have lost everything they could possibly lose, except, maybe, their heads.
But still... Each person, deep in his soul, which is soaked and crippled by the sin, has the same vague yet persistent desire to start everything from scratch and to try to live a new life. The metochion gives them a chance to do so.
When one finds himself at the metochion, at first he cannot understand where he is; this is not a correctional facility, although most of the residents here are former criminals, but this is not a monastery, either, although the metochion is supervised by nuns.
Every day on Lysaya Gora begins and ends with prayer. Prayer is something extremely strange for the people who have never called God by name except in vain and who have always been looking for pleasures, quick money, and other material things. Their tongues that once used to utter obscenities are twisted and muted when they attempt to pronounce the holy words that they have never known before. However, gradually, day by day, word by word, God's grace penetrates into the paralysed hearts, revives and enlightens them. And then God becomes real for such people.
A priest comes to the metochion every week. He celebrates the liturgy, hears confessions and gives communion to all who need it. Few of the brothers (everybody is called 'a brother' here) understand why there are such long services and why a priest has to listen to the same confessions like “I have drunk, I have smoked, I have cursed...” again and again for hours. To an uninformed visitor it may appear that nothing changes. However, if we take a picture of any person on their first day at the metochion and after they spent at least a month here, these two photos will show two completely different persons. However, the stamp of sin is like deep scars that do not allow to see the traits of God's image on the faces of these people and in their souls. This image of God cannot be erased, destroyed or ruined by anyone, even by all powers of hell. It may take not just a month or two but decades or even their entire lives for the miracle of transformation of their souls to happen. Vices are like roots of bad weed, like scars that were ruining their souls for many years; therefore, healing is to take as much time.
For instance, how can we teach a man who has never lifted up anything heavier than a glass of vodka in his entire life to work? The brothers honestly admit that they were ready to do anything in order to avoid working. The scheme is simple: as soon as they are in jail, they are provided with meals and a place to stay. As soon as they are released, they go on stealing and drinking heavily, and then they can go back to prison and relax.
It takes a lot of pain and grudge and immense effort for the people who used only to destroy and to exploit others brutally and arrogantly to be involved in creative activity and thus collaborate with God who is the Creator of all things. Even if some of them fall and leave the metochion, their souls still remember and will never forget that they have a place to go to.
Extract from Starting From a Blank Page, a book about to be published by St Elisabeth Convent in 2013.
my source: The convent website
THE CHALICE OF GOD’S LOVE
The first patron saint\'s day was celebrated in the church in honour of the “Inexhaustible Chalice” icon of Mother of God at the metochion of the Convent on May 18, 2010. This event was anticipated for more than ten years: the church was being built, frescoes according to the biblical stories were being painted on the walls, and icons were being painted. Today this church – which is indeed a House of God – cannot leave anyone indifferent.
An Akathist to the Mother of God and a procession with Gospel reading and sprinkling with the holy water were held after the Divine Liturgy. When the service was over, the brothers and the sisters gathered to share the festive meal. One of the first sisters to have been in charge of the metochion, nun Rufina, addressed the brothers wishing them God’s help and strength to serve Him.
Sermon of the spiritual father of St Elisabeth Convent Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok on the patron saint’s day at the metochion:
Congratulations on the feast, dear brothers and sisters of the metochion!
A person is always looking for happiness. However, he cannot find it at the table or in a glass or through something else. Time passes, and the person still doesn’t have the happiness. The life goes on without true meaning. Weeks, months and years go by aimlessly... A person lives semiconsciously trying to find temporary earthly happiness. He sinks deeper into the tragedy of his life where he has nobody to support him. His life means nothing to him, he is absolutely indifferent. He cares about nothing; he does not need anything...
It is so important that a miracle can still happen and a new person may be born at this point: a person who will be delighted with his life, thank God for it and appreciate his life as a precious gift from God. His life will be filled with meaning and purpose, he will be creative. These may not be great things but even small work can please the Lord.
We are glad that many brothers have been rooted down here. Whatever would try to uproot them and take away from here, they will stay!
“Inexhaustible Chalice” is the name of an icon of Mother of God. People who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction as well as from other vices pray for this Chalice of God’s Love to help them to be healed. We know that the Lord prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, Let this chalice pass from me (Matthew 26: 39). As a human, he feared the cup that he had to drink to the bottom dying for us on the cross. The Saviour ended His prayer by saying, “thy will be done.” (cf. Matthew 26: 42). He uttered these words as he voluntarily went to die for the salvation of all people. This is the Chalice that we bring from the sanctuary during Holy Liturgy and call everyone to come and drink from it. For us, it is the hope for our correction, for our salvation and our resurrection from the dead.
Our church is consecrated in honour of the “Inexhaustible Chalice” icon of Mother of God. The brothers read an Akathist before this icon daily. The way of life at the metochion leads a person towards the Light. There are some problems, maybe. We know how many losses there are and how often people fall... However, we witness that God is stronger, God will win, and we hope that each person who has stayed here will keep a drop of the blood of Christ, which is a bail and a hope for the salvation of the immortal soul.
We keep asking God to strengthen our brothers through the prayers of Mother of God and to grow and transform the metochion. The Convent spends a lot of money to develop the workshops and the metochion, so that people could not only feel comfortable here but also work on a professional level, so that they could feed not only themselves but also those who come here for the first time and do not know anything. The brothers seem to have understood a lot.
This first patron saint’s day is a great joy for us! We have waited for a long time to consecrate this church. It is just beautiful! I hope that when people come to this church, they will meet God and learn to live with Him, to overcome their infirmities and vices. May the Lord save all of us!
Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok
For Orthodox Christians, yesterday was Easter..
We do not know if every one followed Christ when He rose from hell. Nor do we know if every one will follow Him to the eschatological Heavenly Kingdom when He will become ‘all in all’. But we do know that since the descent of Christ into Hades the way to resurrection has been opened for ‘all flesh’, salvation has been granted to every human being, and the gates of paradise have been opened for all those who wish to enter through them. This is the faith of the Early Church inherited from the first generation of Christians and cherished by Orthodox Tradition. This is the never-extinguished hope of all those who believe in Christ Who once and for all conquered death, destroyed hell and granted resurrection to the entire human race.
(thanks to Jim Forest)
As my "Blogger Statistics" tells me that a fair number of those who read this blog are Russians - often more Russians than English, actually - here are some videos in Russian to illustrate this post. I shall publish them again when they have English subtitles.
SIX DAYS BEFORE EASTER IN ST ELIZABETH'S
CHRIST HAS RISEN IN ST ELIZABETH'S