An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Tomorrow we celebrate the feast day of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr, our Mission's Patroness. There is always a bit of confusion as it seems many parishes celebrate this feast on July 5th, but in fact she was martyred on July 5th according to the OLD calender and therefore, according to the new calender, July 18th is when she actually left this earthly life. It is my understanding that the OCA is recommending that we celebrate her feast along with our brothers and sisters in Russia and on the date of her actual passing. I'm really not sure how we got stuck in the July 5th practice and why no one thought to originally have it on the 18th.
Anyway, St. Elizabeth's life is an amazing story for many reasons. Not the least of which is that she was a convert from the Lutheran faith and we have ample records of her struggle with that process of conversion - something many of us are familiar with, albeit from differing backgrounds. Within her writings we see a woman who truly came to embrace the Orthodox faith with intelligence, devotion, self-will, and a pure conscience. Not wishing to simply and blindly join the faith of her new husband, she took her time and learned to the point where she was able to defend her ultimate decision to skeptical and disagreeing family.
Today at her convent a memorial to her has been set up. I'm told there is an inscription which reads: "To the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna: With Repentance." A powerful testimony (confession?) from a land coming to grips with its difficult past.
Tropar Tone 5 O God-wise Elizabeth, with humility thou didst hide thy nobility and honor Christ especially by imitating the labors of Martha and Mary. As a sacrifice to God, thou didst arm thyself with works of mercy, patience, and love. Seeing thy life of good works and suffering, we sincerly beseech thee, our true teacher. O Venerable Martyr, Grand Duchess Elizabeth, entreat Christ our God to enlighten and save our souls.
Kontakion Tone 2 Who can tell of thy great acts of faith, O long suffering Grand Duchess Elizabeth, while enduring death in the depths of the earth, thou didst radiate the brightness of Paradise. Rejoicing in psalms and hymns, thou didst pray with the angels for thy torturers, "O Lord forgive them for they know not what they do." O Christ our God, through her prayers, have mercy, and save our souls.
For those who are interested, on Ancient Faith Radio, the show Under the Grapevine has the reading of Ella's Story. It starts on May 2nd and goes for several days as she reads 1-2 chapters at a time. What a great time to listen to this story with your children or even just you, as I have found it VERY good. I have learned so much about her. All of our children (6 y.o.-11 y.o.) have thoroughly enjoyed it. It starts here: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine/P10/