Holy Apostles Convent was founded in 1986 by Hieromonk Gregory of Dormition Skete and Mother Mariam, with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. The Convent, near Trout Creek, is located in the conifer-studded national forest of San Isabel, nestled at 9,600-feet in the 14,000-foot Collegiate Peaks range of the Rockies. The surrounding prominent and steep volcanic rock formations, loom out of the earth to a starry height. We are also in the midst of a spruce and pinion trees and a coarse grass range with a creek and streams, reminiscent of the stone forest at Meteora in Kalambaka, Greece. By the grace of God, a number of publications and periodicals were produced on the Scriptures and the Lives of the Saints (The Great Synaxaristes). This translating work, as well as the iconographic studio, continues to the present day, with the Convent now under Archbishop Gregory of Denver, President of the Synod of Bishops of the Genuine Orthodox Church of America. We continue to use the patristic calendar of the Orthodox Church for our liturgical cycle, together with traditional Byzantine chant.
“It is by God’s favor that there appeared upon earth the holy coenobitic life,” said Saint Pachomios the Great. Monasticism is the quest for union with God through prayer, repentance, and separation from the world, pursued by women sharing a communal life.
The energy generated by this conduct of life produces effects within the individual member, within the community, and upon the world at large. The primary goal is union with God. The monastic is fiercely single-minded, seeking only the glory of God and union with Him. Hence, we should bring all our talents and every resource of our person to bear upon its accomplishment. The material results of our work are less important than the growth in virtue that accompany them. We are undistracted by desire for visible success and fear of failure, and free from the enticements and terrors of the world and its values and from our own passions for our desire for God.
The monastic rule serves to free the ascetic, not to stifle her—that is, to free one from the anxieties, fears, and dangers found in solitude, so she may pursue perfection and union with God. It simply establishes for us an ancient and traditional godly rhythm for living together in which each one can become progressively transformed into the image and similitude of Christ. Saint Basil believes that the coenobitic life is an excellent place in which the true ideal of Christian perfection might be realized.
By God’s grace and help, the insistent needs of the body and soul may be met. Members are provided with an opportunity of ceaselessly exercising sisterly charity and humble self-sacrifice—so the soul is freed from the tyranny of selfishness and passions. Within the community comprising of diverse gifts of body and spirit, the Holy Spirit can transform and bring them into their fullness. All exercise their talents to the service of the sisterhood, while each shares in the effects of her own. We strive to say and do these words: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second is like this: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these [Mk. 12:30, 31].”
We should zealously and ardently depart from vice. Let us accept each other’s frailties and bear one another’s burdens. Let us try to outdo each other in obedience. Let none do what is best for herself, but rather what is best for another. Let them expend the charity of sisterhood in chaste love. Let us love the superioress with sincerity and humility. Let us fear God and think of nothing before Christ, Who can lead us into eternal life.
Mothers and sisters, as along as you have breath in your bodies, strive for your salvation. Before the hour comes in which we shall weep for ourselves, let us practice virtue eagerly. For if you knew what good things are in heaven, what promise is laid up for the saints—then you would endure every pain in order to be made perfect in the virtue which is according to Christ. Therefore, let us strive with all our heart, bearing death before our eyes every hour, and every moment imagining the fearful punishment. By these things the mind comes to perception and the soul is weighed down with weeping, but it is also made contemplative and predisposed to be turned toward God, undistracted by earthly things.
Let us not allow this age, which is short and contemptible and passes as a shadow, to rob us of that blessed and immortal life. What does Saint Paul claim in these words? “We have the mind of Christ [1 Cor. 2:16].” For the mind of the carnal mind will not have the knowledge of God, so “God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do things which are not fitting [Rom. 1:28].” The mind of the flesh [Rom. 8:7] and those who have had their minds defiled [Tit. 1:15] are characterized as those who “walk, in the vanity of their mind, who have been darkened in thought and alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance which is in them, because of the hardness of their heart [Eph. 4:17, 18].” So “cease being fashioned according to this age, but be transfigured by the renewing of your mind, in order for you to put to the test what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God [Rom. 12:2].” Indeed, seek to conform to the mind of Christ in every attitude and every decision, even if it means to become “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Phil. 2:8].” So if you are called to the monastic life, be prepared to serve “the Lord with all humble-mindedness and many tears and trials [Acts 20:19].”
Let each of you live in a manner worthy of the promises you have made, also being mindful that “ye were bought with a price; glorify then God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s [1 Cor. 6:20],” and “cease making yourselves slaves of men [1 Cor. 7:23].” Let us not allow this age, which is short and contemptible, and which passes like a shadow, steal that blessed and immortal life away from us. Those in the sisterhood pray to the Lord God Almighty and our most holy Theotokos that we are granted the grace to carry through this service in a God-pleasing manner. We ask that He may dwell in our bodies and souls and spirits, and abide in perfect love walking before Him. We entreat that we may not sin against Him. We ought to be ever mindful of loving the sisterhood, and to be fearing God [cf. 1 Pe. 2:17]. Let each regard her cell as paradise, and trust her spiritual sisters as her family with whom she expects to find herself partaking of glory. We are told in the Psalms: “Behold, now! what is good or what is delightful except for brethren to go on dwelling together in unity [Ps. 132:1].” Harmony and pleasantness must be maintained in proper order in the sisterhood.
Our efforts and exertions are of no use without God’s help, “so then it is not of the one who willeth, nor of the one who runneth, but of God Who showeth mercy [Rom. 9:16].” The beginning of our good will is given to us by the inspiration of our Lord Jesus Christ, when He draws us toward the way of salvation either by His own act or by the exhortations of someone else, or even by compulsion. We ask for zeal and strength from Him in order to follow His will and the good works He intends for us.