This blog has been resurrected as a place for me to post updates and photos during my time here in Russia. I have just arrived at the Holy Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius and will be staying here throughout Great Lent and Pascha. Afterwards I hope to visit Diveyevo monastery and venerate the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov. May God grant the blessing.
Meanwhile here at the Lavra of St. Sergius I am blessed to begin getting to know some of the monastic fathers. There are some 200 monks now in the monastery. With the hundreds of visitors, workers, students, and teachers, it is like living in a small village, but with the most beautiful cathedrals and choirs.
The view from the window in the hallway outside my room
Winter is still with us. There is snow on the ground and there was a light snow in the early morning. Now it is grey, cold, and wet as the snow begins to melt. Whatever the weather, the Lavra is beautiful and full of the grace of God through the prayers of the people and the relics and intercessions of the saints within these walls. It is such a blessing to be able to venerate St. Sergius’ relics on a daily basis. Another gift of grace is found in the relic of the right hand of St. Stephen, the Proto-martyr and Deacon. I feel this very personally as the first church that I planted many years ago (in Cupertino, CA) is dedicated to St. Stephen. May we all have his blessing. — Fr. Seraphim
Those of you who have been so supportive of my mission in Nepal will be happy to know that there is some promising news. A few weeks ago, Dr. Usha Maharjan contacted me and asked me how one becomes an Orthodox nun and whether or not I had a monastery in Nepal. It was a bittersweet email for me since I had been forced to leave Nepal due to poor health. But I rejoiced at her desire to learn more about Orthodoxy. Through friends in Greece, we have arranged for an invitation for her to spend a couple of months at a convent in that country. The Abbess has invited her to stay at the monastery, to study in the library and to speak with the nuns, many of whom speak English, as does Usha. Please pray that the necessary visa is extended to Usha and that The Lord will open the doors for her to go to Greece and to learn about the Orthodox Faith. I will keep you updated as the situation develops. May God give his blessing. -Fr.S.
With regret and sadness I have to inform you that I am leaving Nepal. There are several reasons for my departure and they have had a cumulative effect. It wasn’t until my recent visit to Greece that I realized how empty I had become. I was both physically and spiritually exhausted. Living alone for so long without the grace of the Church, without Orthodox fellowship had exacted a heavy toll. It took several weeks of attendance at services and reception of the eucharist and the lovingkindness of friends in Thessaloniki before I began once again to feel the strength of God’s grace within me.
A second reason has to do with my original motivation for coming to Nepal. The young Hindu priest who wished to become Orthodox and whom I first met in 2006, for reasons known only to himself and God, has refused to meet with me even once in the past 16 months. He no longer even responds to my emails. It is both puzzling and disheartening. I learned while at Vatopaidi that he is even now however seeking the help of the Romanian Orthodox Church to visit Romania and Greece and to have his family received into the Orthodox Church. Imagine having multiple jurisdictions in this small country with only 1 Orthodox family (should he actually succeed in becoming Orthodox) and one Orthodox priest. It is not a situation in which I wish to participate. He has made it clear that he wants to do things on his own and desires no help from me.
Finally, almost as soon as I arrived in Nepal in August 2013, I was once again hit with asthma, something I had been free of for a few years. It grew worse with each passing month. When I went to Greece, however, after a few weeks I was able to be free of symptoms and medicine. However, as soon as I returned to Nepal, the asthma returned and is even worse now than before. I am back on medication and yet struggling to breathe during the day and even more so at night. In fact, I had the first “asthma attack” in years just a few nights ago. In spite of the medication, the asthma attack is getting worse with each passing day and night.
Thus as I wrote at the beginning of this post, I am sad and regretful that I have to leave. I pray that one day someone else, better yet, a team of younger, healthier Orthodox believers will come to Nepal to enter upon longterm mission work here. Nepal is actually very open to the Gospel and the Orthodox Faith is a far better fit to the culture than the American version of Charismatic Protestantism that is being reproduced throughout the country. But as yet, Orthodoxy is virtually unknown here. The fields are ready for the harvest. Please pray that the Lord of the harvest will raise up workers.
To those of you who have been faithful to pray for me and to support me financially, I am so grateful and I thank you. Forgive me for being unable to complete the work that we all helped to begin here. Some small seeds have been planted. My Nepali language teacher says that he wants to meet me in Greece in order to learn more about the Church and the monastic life there. By your prayers and God’s grace may these small seeds yet spring up to bear some fruit.
What to do after I return to America is an open question. I ask your continued prayers that God would go before me and prepare the way and reveal that way to me. Thank you so very much.
Yours in Christ,