Nativity Season 2019 Newsletter and Special Donation Appeal

Icon of the Nativity of the Lord (Rublev) – F41
Icon of the Nativity of the Lord – F41

Our Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    Bless! The Lord!

Each year we look so forward to this special season of the celebration of Christ coming to earth to be born as a babe, a full human being with all of our nature
except sin.  He is also in His Divine Nature always fully God, and these two Natures exist within this Divine Person since He came to be with us. Jesus Christ is just what His name means, for Jesus comes to us from the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word Yehoshua, which means “God saves.”  Christ comes to us from the transliteration of the Greek word Christos from the Hebrew word meshiyach which means Messiah or the anointed. So Jesus is the anointed of God and our Saviour.  God is here, God is now, God is close and real and immediate, and most importantly, “God is with us!”  Both small and vulnerable, yet great and Almighty, for truly He is with us.  Let us turn to Him in love today!

This Year at the Skete

This year has been a most challenging one here at the Skete, although we have had many blessings.  Our main work is prayer in church, and by extension our work to help others to facilitate their prayerful life with God.  Our offering of icons for sale is at once the most direct and immediate way to begin to relate to God more visually and more personally.  The use of icons even predates the written Gospels.  Our icon reproductions are quite beautiful, and mostly historic. We now have over 2,500 unique icons already up on our new website and available in many sizes.  We have the largest collection of icons from any icon reproduction manufacturer than we know of anywhere.  2,400 more are already in process of being added online.  We are honored to be a part of this wonderful missionary outreach to enliven souls.

Our inward work of a life of prayer is also a real blessing each day.  We try to pray through the use of the Jesus Prayer all of the time, besides the many church services prayed daily in St. Nicholas Church.  To be with Christ is to be with everyone for He with the Holy Spirit is “everywhere present and fillest all things.” as all Persons of the Holy Trinity are united.

Winter View of Monastic Cell in Skete Back Valley
Winter View of Monastic Cell in Skete Back Valley

Our Challenges

We have been greatly challenged this year by floods and by the results of those floods.  Just about two and a half years ago a very destructive windstorm and rainstorm came through our valley, and we still are feeling directly this financial and physical disaster that it has left in its wake.  This has greatly stretched our means to live, and eat, and stay warm since then.  We have been living since then more just day to day trying to make ends meet when there aren’t even enough resources to do so.

Just about two months ago another terrible storm came through our little valley with flood waters so high (over six feet in one area) that it washed our footbridge off its supports, and the bridge still hasn’t been put back in place to this day.  Many buildings lost their skirting, and the water came up right near the doors of several of them.  Our road to the back valley was washed out several times this year, and this last washing out was the worse.  This made the back valley inaccessible for many months until just two weeks ago when a first temporary repair opened it up.  We are not sure, however, that the road will last through this winter.

Our utility bills have been hard to meet for several years.  Even the bill for our propane to heat the front valley buildings was in arrears last month for over $3,500 from last year.  Just a week ago our tanks were at only 3% full on one tank and only 7% full on another.  In order to place an order for more propane we had to agree to pay a sixth of last year’s bill each two weeks, and to pay in advance for all new propane as needed until it is all paid.  It was a real emergency as the weather has changed here to cold.  Given this, we found an unexpected blessing in this hard circumstance.

We were wonderfully inspired this year on the feast of St. Martin the Merciful of Tours, an early saint that was born in what is now Hungary in 316, and later became the bishop of Tours in present day France.    He is greatly beloved especially in the West.  When St. Martin was a young soldier and just a catechumen he met one night while riding on his horse a beggar shivering in the cold.  Seeing the beggar’s need, St. Martin cut his military cloak in two and gave half to the beggar to warm him.  Later that night Christ Himself appeared in a dream to St. Martin and told the angels that were with Him, “”Martin is only a catechumen, but he has clothed Me with this garment.”  This story touched us very much.

Faced with several of the buildings losing their heat, and then having their water pipes freeze and break, we agreed to order some emergency propane and write two checks to cover it although we didn’t have the money at that moment in our accounts. Then, just that afternoon, a donor not even knowing our predicament sent enough to cover most of the $1,200 needed to cover those checks, We almost cried in gratitude.  It was a true miracle at just the last moment.

Now our propane tanks which were just filled enough to last for two weeks are almost empty again and Wisconsin is cold just now.  This is just one of the many great demands on our resources so needful right now and as we are coming into the cold of the Winter season.

Bridge Off Its Supports & Damage to the Road to the Back
Bridge Off Its Supports & Damage to the Road to the Back

The Footbridge When It Was First Set Up
The Footbridge When It Was First Set Up

Our Present Urgent Needs

We really need your help.  Please pray for us and, if possible, send us some generous means now to help us continue our life here, and our icon service to the church at large and to you.  Our sales were extra slow this last Summer through Fall so far, which puts a strain on just keeping up with daily expenses.  Give us the means for warmth, give us your solidarity for our strength, and then give us the encouragement to continue our prayers and outreach each day and give thanks to God while dong this.  Give from the heart, an open heart of mercy like St. Martin gave to Christ, so He will reward you.  Let your mercy shine brightly towards us, and may His mercy shine brightly back towards you.

Together you have helped us, and together we can work together to bring Christ’s love manifest in this Nativity season to each and every person that comes our way.

Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The monastics of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the Convent of St. Silouan,
and the community at St. Nicholas Church

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