By the grace of God, and through the prayers of many holy souls, our simple life in St. John’s, Newfoundland is progressing. Just after Fr. John and I returned from a pilgrimage to a monastery in September significant changes began to occur. First, we moved out of our one bedroom apartment and into a house (with a yard and a deck and a front porch!) and second, I got a permanent, full-time job. So, it looks as though God wills for us to continue our feeble attempts to firmly establish Orthodoxy on this island.
The best part about our new home is that the downstairs is a walk-out basement with an external exit/ entrance and so we are finally able to have a chapel in our home (I had already painted the icons for our future home-chapel while living in Greece). Thus, instead of bothering Queen’s College (where our Mission Station is) and trying to get them to change their schedule to suit us, we do all weekday services in the domestic chapel with weekend services taking place, as always, on campus at the College. The very first service we had in our domestic chapel was for the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God – very appropriate. She has been protecting and guiding our community and we hope and pray she continues to do so. While many icons adorn the walls – as you can see from the photos – an iconostasis has yet to be built/ installed.
Because the domestic is named in honour of St. Nektarios we held Great Vespers for his feast day and had a get-together upstairs in our home afterwards. The photos that are included in this post are mostly of that evening.
In addition to serving Matins and Vespers daily, Fr. John offers ‘Adult Sunday School’ the first Sunday of every month. This year’s theme is the Divine Liturgy. I love hearing Fr. John’s lesson as well as the great questions/ discussions that are generated as a result.
On the second and fourth Sunday of the month I teach Sunday School to the children. This year we are focusing on The Life and Person of Jesus Christ. The children (ages 4-10) are so brilliant and so attentive that if you were to ask them whether we believe in One God or three Gods they would tell you we believe in One God and Three Persons. They know that Jesus Christ is perfect God and perfect Man, and that when we cross ourselves the three fingers we hold together represent the Holy Trinity and the two fingers we keep together represent the two natures of Christ.
In order to instill in the children the firm understanding that knowledge of God is not attained through study and reading but rather through lived experience of Him, drawing closer to Him in prayer, we begin and end each class with the Jesus Prayer. I made small, 12-knot (finger) prayer ropes for the children and each child takes a turn saying the Jesus Prayer on their little prayer ropes. It’s so beautiful and so moving to hear them pray aloud. They have no inhibitions, no embarrassment, from the moment they begin to say, “Lord Jesus Christ…” they pray with such attention and their voices sound so sincere that you are moved and you say to yourself: “This is why Christ said ‘Unless you become as this little child'” because they pray with a kind of innocent purity that is so far removed from the hardened hearts of most of us adults…
And as the parish’s Sunday School teacher I was very pleased to hear that when Fr. John went downstairs to check on the children who were playing in the sitting area around the corner from our domestic chapel he heard the 9 and 10 year old boys debating whether everything that happens in the world is the will of God, haha!
Although with everything there is temptation we try and take courage, fight despondency, and cling to the hope that someday there will be a beautiful Orthodox church, built in a traditional style, full of faithful… and by full I am not referring to quantity but quality: replete with struggling Orthodox Christians. Amen. So be it!
“The Lord God make steadfast the holy and blameless Faith of the pious and Orthodox Christians, with His holy Church and this island, unto ages of ages. Amen.”
Please continue to pray for us, the Holy Lady of Vladimir Orthodox Mission!
(And if you’re interested in Orthodox adventures in Newfoundland you won’t want to miss out on Martin’s adventures in the awesome novel Voyage to the Rock!)