Founded in the year 2000 and set amidst the towering evergreens of the Pacific Northwest in Olympia, Washington, Holy Theophany Monastery is a community of Catholic women under the auspices of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Eparchy (Diocese) of Canton.
What is a Monastery?
Monasteries have been variously called both havens and battlegrounds, places of refuge and places of combat, schools of Christian living and "the beating heart of Christ's Holy Church."
Monasteries are havens inasmuch as they serve as places of solitude and quiet wherein the soul may revel in the presence of the Living God.
Yet, at the same time, monasteries are indeed battlegrounds and places of combat where one is forced to confront the demons that may lie even within ourselves. Far from being a place to hide away from the world, a monastery is the parapet from where one is able to see the whole world from God's perspective - a world intrinsically good, but at the same time "Beset by demonic powers who seek to devour her."
It is said that without monasticism one cannot fully and truly understand the Church. What is true for the Church as a whole is even more so for the Eastern Christian Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox. In his apostolic letter Orientale Lumen, Saint John Paul II exhorted the Eastern Catholic Churches to fully restore authentic Orthodox monasticism: "With regard to monasticism, we desire it to flourish once more in the Eastern Catholic Churches, and that all support be given to those called to work for its revitalization."
Who are the Eastern Catholic Churches?
Not all members of the Catholic Church are Roman Catholics. The communion of the Catholic Church is actually akin to a federation of over twenty equal Churches of which the Roman Church, although the largest, is only one. Most of the non-Roman Churches that comprise the Catholic Church are generically referred to as the Eastern Catholic Churches because of their origins in the ancient apostolic Churches of the Christian East. The largest grouping of these Eastern Catholic Churches, are those known as Greek-Catholic. In common, all the various Greek-Catholic Churches follow the Byzantine rite in their worship and are frequently, although quite erroneously, referred to as Eastern Rite or Byzantine Catholics.
Unique Ecumenical Vocation
At His Mystical Supper on the night before His Crucifixion, knowing full well that he was about to die, Jesus prayed for His Holy Church:
"Father, that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, and that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me."
Sadly, the unity for which Christ so fervently prayed is far from reality. The greatest tragedy of the Church is our selfish fragmentation, and there is no more basic divide than which separates Christian East and Christian West, the Orthodox East from the Catholic West.
As Eastern Catholic monastics, however, we refuse to accept this sad fragmentation as fact. We attempt to live an authentic Orthodox monastic life within the unity of the Catholic Church, hopefully serving as a bridge of love and understanding between East and West. To our fellow Catholics we say: "Step out of your self-centeredness and behold the rich fullness of Christ's Holy Church, and what it means to be fully Catholic." At the same time, we say to our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters: "See what it means to live in the rich diversity of an undivided Church."
A Vocation of Prayer
Like all Christians, monastics are called to be "partakers of the divine nature" -II Peter 1:4. We take seriously the Lord's invitation to theosis and divinization. "For it is through a life of reflection, contemplation, and prayer that a person is renewed and unified so completely with God that he becomes by grace what God is by nature."
This life in the monastery of intensified prayer is found, not only in the constant daily round of our daily liturgical offices but also in the intimacy of deepened personal prayer.
Additionally, the role of intercessory prayer is never forgotten. It is a stated purpose of our monastic life especially to pray "for those who have no one to pray for them."