Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Week at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery

Greetings, readers! It's very good to be back. A few days ago I returned from a week-long retreat at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio--a new women's monastic community in our Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma. It was a beautiful, life-changing experience--the week was so chock full of reflections and insights that I think it will take me the whole next month to unpack them on this blog!
Since I'm still recovering from the experience, so to speak, this is really a mini-post, a sort of preview of what I read and reflected on over the week. Hopefully I'll write in more detail about at least some of these points in the coming month. (If there's a particular one you'd like to hear about, let me know in the comments!)
Also, in gratitude to the sisters of Christ the Bridegroom for welcoming me into their community for the week, I'd like to share the link to their website and blog, and a few points of their mission.
I did more reading over the past week than I probably have in the past three months. It reminded me again just how much I need Great Books--spiritual and literary--to nourish my mind, heart, and soul. Here are some of the discoveries I delighted in, with mini "teaser" reflections!
"Leisure: The Basis of Culture" and "The Philosophical Act" by Josef Pieper
A pair of essays by a Catholic German professor and philosopher, written after World War II. Full of sound and piercing insights on the nature of true leisure as opposed to the "workaday world", receptivity to the "essence of things", philosophy's relation to poetry and wonder, etc. Fabulous. They've inspired me to pick up my Plato again!
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
A Lewis classic that I'd been wanting to read for a long time and finally got around to. Reading it was a kind of re-conversion experience in itself. If you've never read this book, watch out--it's life-changing.
Song of Songs and Theology of the Body
If there was one book of the Bible I'd avoided for years, it was the Song of Songs. Similarly, I'd long avoided picking up any works on Theology of the Body. It was a topic I simply didn't want to deal with for most of my teenage years--and my misunderstanding of which caused me quite a bit of emotional and spiritual pain. Finally allowing God to open me up and lead me into a truer understanding of both human and divine love, was the climax of this retreat. I feel a new world has opened up before me.
Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, on their website, describes their identity thus:
We are a Byzantine Catholic monastic community of women in the Eparchy of Parma dedicated to a vigilant life of prayer and hospitality according to the traditions of the Christian East. Laying down our lives in imitation of the Bridegroom, we joyfully embrace the monastic virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience. We participate in the dynamic love of the Trinity by sharing a life of prayer, work and recreation at our monastery. Meditating on Scripture, especially the Song of Songs, and immersing ourselves in a life of personal and liturgical prayer, we enter into a spousal relationship with Christ the Bridegroom. Looking to the Theotokos as our model, we open ourselves to the Divine life of the Holy Spirit, bearing forth fruit for the Church and the world. Our monastery provides a spiritual garden and a bridal chamber in which we draw others into this same life-giving relationship with Christ the Bridegroom.
The emphasis on the spousal relationship with Christ was the most significant aspect of the monastery life for me. I had long been familiar with the icon image of Christ the Bridegroom, but had never seriously ventured into having that kind of personal relationship with Jesus. As I've only just begun to discover, it is infinitely beautiful. The sisters elaborate on this unique ethos of their community:
We seek to reclaim the spousal language from the distortions of our culture, showing not only that monastic celibacy points to mankind’s union with God in heaven, but also that human sexuality is designed by God to lead men and women to this same union and to participate in the life of the Trinity.  Being vulnerable to the movement of the Holy Spirit, our monastery aspires to remind all baptized Christians of this personal invitation to union with Christ as their Bridegroom and to renew a healthy, integrated view of the human person, body and soul. 

It certainly reminded me. Honestly, my life is not the same. God bless these nuns for nurturing this crucial aspect of our humanity and our relationship to the Divine Trinity!
Besides this mission, the sisters also provide hospitality to visitors and retreatants, support of priests and seminarians, a witness to youth groups and pro-life events like the March for Life, and a joyful example of Eastern Catholic monastic life. They are small, but already doing wonderful, wonderful work. Check out their blog here:  They also have a presence on Facebook and Youtube, so be sure be take a look at those links as well! And if you happen to live or be passing through the Cleveland, OH area--what are you waiting for? Go down and stop by for an hour--or a day--or a whole week...
All photos and quotes taken from