Saint Sophrony used to observe that the depth of a tree’s roots is proportional to its height—that is, our visible achievements are nurtured by our humility, our hidden activity of going down. I think, in a small way, an analogy can be made between spiritual work and creative work. We can only create with what we possess, hidden, within ourselves—our virtues and faults, our limitations and inspirations.
A feeling often comes by way of living and working at a monastery that we give, and give, and give. This should come as no surprise, since monastic life—indeed, married life as well and Christian life in general—is essentially one of self-emptying. However, if we put nothing back into the soil in which our roots are planted, we will eventually have no fruit to offer. It is crucial that we seek out sources of inspiration and rejuvenation.
The deepest and most essential source from which all of us at St. Tikhon’s draw our daily nourishment is the Divine Liturgy, which has been served in the holy place, every day for well over a hundred years. Without the Liturgy, our lives would be nothing and we would certainly have nothing to give.
Nonetheless, the Liturgy itself is both something that we are offered and to which we offer. We offer bread and wine, but also a great variety of other things: our voices in music, our handicrafts in icons and artistic adornments, our minds in theology and hymnology; and more broadly, we offer everything that makes us who we are—our culture and language, our sense of beauty and goodness. We have been visibly reminded of this in the recent installation of the beautiful new windows in the monastery church that have poured streams of light into our celebration of the Liturgy.
In June, I had the wonderful opportunity to make a trip to England, spending a week in the south-central town of Salisbury, and three days in London. Walking the medieval streets of Salisbury, standing in the majestic cathedral (13th century), listening to the cathedral’s marvelous choir, visiting the Elizabethan manor house of Bremore and its Saxon abbey, and climbing the ancient ruins of Old Sarum, each seemed to offer fresh wells of inspiration.
While in London, I had the pleasure to visit William Morris’s famed Red House. Words fail to express the vitality of the home—the massive medieval architecture framing the whimsical decorations of its interior, the inviting windows opening onto the surrounding gardens overflowing with roses. The footsteps of Morris’s daughters, Jenny and May, running up the wide stairs still seem to echo through the house; one can almost see Morris himself throwing apples across the kitchen at his friend, Edward Burne-Jones. The house is situated close to the ancient pilgrimage road from London to Canterbury and outside is a remarkable “pilgrim’s well,” and indeed, this pilgrim felt incredibly refreshed after the visit.
Inspired by such masterpieces of artistry—I have also enjoyed visiting this year The Cloisters, the Freer Museum in D.C. and most recently a lovely exhibition at Richmond’s VMFV—work continues at the Press. Mostly this work has involved moving current projects forward instead of undertaking new ones. However, the progress is worth noting:
White Lilies was released in May of this year with a striking cover by Hieromonk Marc of St. Tikhon’s. The process of editing the Sing to Your Soul Series was recently completed and I am confident that we will have all three volumes in print by mid-autumn. This year’s All-American Council in Baltimore occupied much of our attention and we produced two promotional publications to coincide with this event: A 16-page “sampler” for The North American Thebaid, and a chapter from my work on Paul Zaichenko, America’s Russian Craze. We were delighted to meet many of our readers at the AAC and to show them the pilots of these larger projects. We are thankful to all who offered their financial support to Ralph Sidway and the “Thebaid Project.” His publication is very close to being ready.
Slowly but surely, the SVS-STM Psalter is nearing completion. The editors have finished the first round of corrections based on peer reviews and are almost ready to present it for final approval. We are still hopeful to have it in print by Lent of 2023. The text for a companion volume to Orthodox Christian Prayers has been completed and we have begun typesetting. This will be a remarkable and unique publication with no equivalent in the English-speaking Orthodox world. It contains a wide array of canons and prayers little or unknown, many have been newly translated and still more have been newly composed. It is possible that this volume might be available as early as next spring. In addition, the editor, Fr. John Mikitish, is working on several other liturgical and devotional volumes which we hope to publish soon.
Finally, one of the most exciting developments for the press has been the completion of the first set of illustrations for Sergei Arhipov’s translation of Alexei Tolstoy’s John the Damascene. We are very thankful for Paul Anthony Tish for his prayerful offerings and look forward to receiving the remaining illustrations.
Asking that our sacrifices may be acceptable to God,
Through your prayers,
Priest Mikel Hill