It is with joy that we write to describe the building of our new monastic quarters and guest center.
On the first day of the new year, back in 2001, the sisters of St. Paisius Monastery awoke to their first day on the newly purchased monastery property. Within days, they were already hosting a group of visitors for the feast of the Nativity, celebrated on January 7th. Even bare necessities were still all boxed up but somehow a meal was prepared and all rejoiced. That background scene of trying to make do, while gracefully fulfilling our desire to offer hospitality to those who come, repeated itself time and again over the following decade. For years, the total living quarters in the monastery consisted of a tight 7,000 square feet. Sisters were living in barns and outbuildings, all the while doing their best to offer hospitality to guests, seeking to hide the labor it required for the most minimal of tasks. Food, drinking water, dirty dishes were hauled up and down the back road day after day. Furniture was switched around in rooms to accommodate the pressing needs of the moment, which changed from one day to the next. Underlying all of the many labors was the pressing reality that the monastery (which still just consisted of a ranch house) was not set up to function properly as a monastic center, so even small tasks took great effort.
In 2003, the second floor was added to the main house, enabling all the sisters to live under the same roof. Meanwhile all services were conducted in the dearly loved (but very small!) Chapel of St. Anastasija. Though we barely fit ourselves, we would at times have up to one hundred guests squeezed in as well. Seeing the priority for a larger church as paramount, arduous work on the catholicon began in 2004. Now the catholicon stands as a joy to all.
From year to year the number of guests continues to increase; this year the monastery opened its doors to about 1500 visitors. As a continued response to the growing influx of faithful visiting the monastery, the sisters (of whom there are now 20) have begun the next phase of the monastery’s development. This includes the construction of a new building, designed to adequately house the Abbess, the nuns and the young students of the monastery’s Holy Protection Home School. Once completed, the original house will become available for a more suitable use as a guest center, including much-needed guest accommodations and an expanded bookstore, with an adjacent room for receiving and greeting visitors. Relocation of the bookstore from its former building will in turn provide more suitable accommodations for the many visiting clergy.
The expansion of our monastic community reflects the will and desire of our ruling hierarch, His Grace Bishop MAXIM, to offer a place of solace and healing for those who visit. We are committed to receiving those who come so as to contribute, in whatever way we can, to the spiritual renewal and healing of those who are seeking it. And this brings us to the main purpose behind the current construction project. The dormitory, designed as a monastic dwelling with separate cells for the sisters, provides an opportunity for the monastic sisterhood to deepen its interior life of sustained prayer—the heart of our monastic calling. Solitude and service—prayerful contemplation and action—might be viewed as mutually exclusive, but in the monastic life, it is quite the opposite. As it is the monastic’s greatest service to pray for the entire world and for all those known and unknown to her, so, it is this prayer, humble as it may be, that we hope is our greatest service and spiritual offering. We remain grateful to those who feel led to labor together with us in the establishment of this monastery as a place dedicated to love for God and neighbor.
To those who have already donated of their time and financial resources to begin this project, we offer our sincerest gratitude and our faithful prayers in the monastery’s liturgical services. In order to complete the project, we again turn to you and to any who feel led to offer the needed financial support. We humbly rely on your generosity.
together with the sisters in Christ with me
If you would like to make a donation through PayPal, please follow this link. To mail in a donation, please make check out to Saint Paisius Monastery and mail to: P.O. Box 1075, Safford, AZ 85548. Or, please feel free to contact us directly.
BEHIND THE VISIBLE LIFE of the monastery is an invisible life of interior prayer that the monastic considers to be her deepest calling. Through such interior prayer, coupled with constant self-denial and ascetic labor, the monastic seeks to become near and like unto Christ. From her isolated cell, in daily prayer and repentance, the monastic seeks to meet Christ, to become united with Him, and to thereby allow her heart to be purified and enlarged with Christ’s all-embracing love. Only then can the monastic love her fellow man as Christ loves us all.
Accepting the fire of holy love, however, is sobering and exacting labor, accompanied by many tears. There are no guarantees (and often no outward indications) of “success.” It requires painful self-transformation to humble oneself and shed the outer shell of our nature (our jealousies, resentments, prideful aspirations, and the like) in order to find our true nature in Christ and become new creations. Indeed, only by allowing one’s heart to be humbled and enkindled by Divine Love can one be overtaken by Christ-like compassion and co-suffer with all who suffer in the world. The humbled heart enlarged by God’s love cannot bear to see any harm come to anyone, and thus it prays for everyone and is prepared, like Moses, to be erased from the book of life or, like the Apostle Paul, to be exiled from the Kingdom of God, even for the most grievous sinner or worst enemy. As St. Silouan said: “The monk is one who prays for the whole world…” That is the monastic calling; and that calling is worked out in the isolation of the monastic’s cell where, apart from the world, the monastic sees herself as she really is, with all her faults and passions and without the mediating factor of friends or family or success or recognition to tell her that she is important or good or righteous. The monastic chooses the life of obscurity and insignificance to crucify the ego. By dying to oneself, the heart is humbled and finds humanity. By withdrawing from the world, one is united with the world by being able to see oneself in all sinners. By crucifying one’s self-love, one finds one’s true self and can see others more clearly.
Strangely, then, it is from the monastic’s isolated cell and withdrawal from the world that she seeks to accomplish unity with the world. As St. Nilus wrote, a monastic is one who, withdrawing from all men, is united with all men. A monastic separates from people in order to learn to love them with complete and true love, which is inextricably bound up with perfect love of God.
The ascetic struggle begins by leaving the world so that the monastic can keep watch over herself more readily—away from the distractions of the world. It is there, in the quiet of solitude, that one can converse undisturbed with Christ, in prayer and contemplation, and can thus press toward complete victory over one’s passions.
With this background of understanding, we humbly pray that we remain worthy of any contribution you may wish to give for the building of our monastic quarters which will provide the very monastic cells — abodes of repentance — that will better enable us to offer our greatest service: prayer.