Saturday, November 1, 2014

Holy Trinity Family


         The Holy Trinity Family in Douma, a village in the district of Batroun - Lebanon, is a monastic community founded with the blessing of Metropolitan Georges Khodr of the Antiochian Roum Orthodox Archdiocese of Mount Lebanon, and under the auspices of Father Sophrony Sakharov (+1993), of blessed memory, and the late Father Elias Morkos (Higoumene of Saint Georges Monastery – Deir el Harf +2011).

The Community with His Eminence Metropolitan Georges Khodr.
         The community follows the coenobitic rule of monastic life, and is formed of two monasteries: Saint John the Baptist monastery for nuns and Saint Silouan the Athonite monastery for monks. The family has one economos, Archimandrite Touma (Bitar), who is also the abbot of Saint Silouan monastery. Saint John the Baptist monastery is under the spiritual guidance of Higoumene (Abbess) Mother Mariam (Zakka). Both Father Touma and Mother Mariam were tonsured into the monastic order by Father Sophrony at the monastery he established in Essex, England. While Mother Mariam knew Father Sophrony as of the year 1986, after visiting the monastery at Essex to take permission to translate his book "His Life is mine". She started translating all his books to Arabic and became his spiritual daughter.

Father Thomas and Mother Mariam with Father Sophrony in Essex.
         It is on October 30th 1990 that the first members of this community set foot in the monastery. So it is in commemoration of this blessed day, that the Holy Trinity Family is launching this blog.

Saint John the Baptist Monastery

         Saint John the Baptist Monastery is an ancient monastery situated between Douma and Beit-Chlela villages in Lebanon. 

Saint John The Baptist Monastery
        In the monastery’s site, there was a pagan temple in the second century A.C., where a church or probably a monastery was built above its ruins in the 5th century. Remains were found in the area, from the Byzantine and Crusaders Era. The oldest visible traces of history are the Byzantine crosses carved on the top and both sides of the northern entrance which is now closed, as well as a carved cross on the top of the western entrance. The same cross is found in the old churches and monasteries in the "Quannubin Valley" as well as on the buildings of the Martyrs in Northern Syria, or the cross of Saint Symeon the Stylite.

Saint John The Baptist Monastery
         The Oldest written reference about the monastery is found in a manuscript from the 16th century. In those former days, the monastery’s abbot was named “Isaiah”. Most of the information collected about the monastery and its abbots goes back to the 18th century onwards. Following some changes both politically and militarily the monastery was reopened in 1760. A group of monks headed by father “Aftimios Faysal” came from the monastery of Saint Elias Shouwaya to revive the monastic life therein. The monastery remained open, with monks until the year 1942, when the last abbot died. His name was “Archimandrite Bassilios El Aam”. From then on the monastery was neglected until 1990, when the current monastic community of nuns came and settled in.

Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God
        In terms of Architecture, each wing of the monastery is built in a different period in time ranging from the second century until the twentieth century.

Church of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
         The monastery owns vast territory of land, some are cultivated and others are still forested. Main crops include: Olives and grapes, in addition to some fruits and few vegetables. Some new lands have been recently cultivated where more vineyard and olive trees are grown.

Holy Trinity Church
          The prayer rule set in the monastery consists of the personal prayers of its members in their respective cells and during their tasks, in addition to the communal prayers in church which are the midnight, matins, first, third, sixth and ninth hour services followed by vespers and small compline. At noon time, on Wednesdays the service of the Paraklisis to the Mother of God is chanted and on Friday the community members gather for a one hour Jesus Prayer. Commonly, Divine Liturgy is celebrated four times a week on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This prayer rule is amended depending on feast days and special occasions. Furthermore, the monastery holds night vigils around once per month depending on church’s feasts.

Internal view of Saint John the Baptist monastery

Who is Saint John the Baptist?!...

         Saint John the Baptist is the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth who are mentioned in Saint Luke’s Gospel (1:5). He is known as the “Baptist” because he baptized the Lord Jesus in the River Jordan. He is also known as the “Forerunner” because he preceded Him to prepare His people for His coming. And he did this by preaching to people that they turn away from their sins because the Kingdom of Heaven is near!.

Saint Silouan Monastery

Saint Silouan Monastery
         Saint Silouan Monastery was established with the coming of the current Family. It is a monastery for monks. The original building was small and the community enlarged it. It is now composed of two wings, one for monks and the other for guests.

Who is Saint Silouan the Athonite?.

       He is Russian by birth. He was born in 1866 as Simeon Ivanovich Antonov, to a peasant family. A simple person with a strong constitution. He indulged for some time in earthly pleasures, but once, Simeon saw in a dream that a snake had slid through his mouth inside him. He felt disgusted and awoke. At the same time he heard these words, "You swallowed a snake in your sleep and you are disgusted. That is how unpleasant it is for me to see your actions." There was no one in the room. He heard only a voice that spoke those words, a voice that was extraordinary in its kindness and beauty. In his life, Saint Silouan was deeply and undoubtedly convinced that this was the voice of the Mother of God. This call came not long before he joined the army, and had a decisive influence on his choice of life. So when he was released from military service, he joined Saint Panteleimon’s monastery in Mount Athos in the fall of 1892. Brother Simeon was patient, mild, and obedient; in the monastery he was held in high regard as a good worker of fine temperament. At night he prayed for long hours reciting the Jesus Prayer, and he fought demons which tried restlessly to hinder his ascent to God, and the Lord appeared to him in the Uncreated Light. Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov, his spiritual son, has written his biography and gathered his sayings, and took care of revealing his sainthood. Saint Silouan’s life was unknown to many. In his sainthood protocol (in 1987) it is said that he excelled in virtue and reached a high level of spiritual maturity thus becoming a vessel of the Holy Spirit. Therefore God has endowed him with the gift of curing people illnesses and pains in addition to an extraordinary intuition. From his sayings: “to pray for all people is to shed blood for them” and “keep your mind in hell and despair not”, and “love of enemies is the greatest gift”. He fell asleep in the Lord peacefully on September 24, 1938 (His official feast day). He was glorified as a Saint in November 1987.

Saint Nicolas Church