St Elisabeth's Convent, Minsk


Remember everything I told you, my dears. Always be not only my children, but obedient disciples. Keep together and be like one soul - everything for God - and say like St John Chrysostom, as he was sent into exile: "Glory to God for all things!" - St Elisabeth the New Martyr

Some of you will know of the travelling nuns. At least one a year, two of the nuns from St Elisabeth's convent in Minsk, Belarus, travel to Great Britain in a van, and drive across the country, visiting parishes, selling their wares, and taking orders for other things. Usually Mother Maria and Sister Tatiana come to raise funds to enable to the work that the nuns do with children with special needs. Some months ago we watched a DVD at church showing some of the work that they do and it really was tear-jerking. It was actually quite funny to see nuns with painted faces and bee antennae on their heads, dancing around with the children.

Our parish commissioned an icon of our patron Saints, which arrived and was blessed last month. It is truly beautiful. The detail and colour combinations blend so well and it is clear that the nuns take to heart the words of St Elisabeth, which are remarkably similar to the Benedictine dictum ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus, (that in all things God may be glorified). The cost was also a fraction of what it would have been had we ordered something like that in the UK. While it would be good to support our local iconographers, the truth is that many people cannot afford to pay the sort of prices that are charged by people who write icons in order to earn a living. Understandably they must charge for their time and I do not criticise them at all but the nuns produce so many icons for churches and individuals that everything is readily available to them, and, because they live communally and much more simply than most of us do, the costs are kept quite low. It would be good to be able to support them and their work. If I remember, I shall take a photograph of our parish icon and post it here.

Sadly, I don't actually know how to contact them but I'm sure I can find out easily enough if anybody were to want to know.

6 responses:

Mark said...

I know this is probably inappropriate, but I love their "hats". :)

Michael said...

:-D

Not inappropriate at all. I know very little about nuns' habits. The "hats" may be the same thing - though I'm not sure - as the klobuk, which I believe is the headwear of Basilian monks, and in which our bishops can be seen when not in vestments.

I now recognise the nun second from the right on the back row as Mother Maria. :-)

Anonymous said...

Presumably the nuns sitting on the steps are novices as they are not wearing the "hats"?

Is it true that women taking Holy Orders in the Orthodox Church are tonsured?

Aggie

Michael said...

Aggie! Hello! It's so good to see you here again.

I'm not sure that they're novices. The Basilian tradition has a more complex system than that to which you and I are accustomed. I think that there are four levels of monastic life. Sister Tatiana, for example, wears a white head-veil. I think she may be a novice. It's quite confusing and I must admit to not having explored it in any detail. I'm afraid my monastic knowledge is limited to the Benedictines, and even there it isn't very extensive. There is an article here about it.

Yes, Orthodox people are tonsured at Baptism, and then if made a monk, nun, reader, subdeacon, and so forth. For many people, this conjures up the image of the Benedictine male tonsure that you might see on Cadfael but there have always been different means of tonsuring. The Benedictines tonsure by shaving a circle on the top of the head, which they traditionally retain (although not always these days). I think the Celts had a more triangular form, allowing just a fringe at the front of the head. The Byzantine tonsure is done by snipping a small amount of hair from four points of the head in the form of a Cross. You would never guess that a Basilian nun had been tonsured by looking at her head, so don't panic.:-) We don't shave their heads.

I hope that alleviates some fears. ;-)

Pax,
Michael x

Anonymous said...

Actually, I believe Sister Tatiana is part of the lay sisterhood also dedicated to St. Elizabeth. I am pretty certain I met her last year.

Anyway, if you can find out how to contact them, I would be interested. Our Choir sings some of their music, and we would like to ask them a question. ....

I did not see the video you mentioned, but perhaps it is the lay sisters wearing the bee hats, and not the nuns....unless they put the antenna on on-top of their apostleniks. I don't know. I would also say they are wearing Klobuks.

Thanks-
joanna
www.isabelcards.com
www.isabelcards.etsy.com

Michael said...

Dear Joanna,

Thank you for your comment. I don't really maintain this blog anymore but I still get e-mail notifications when people post comments. I think you're right about Sister Tatiana. She was not in the monastic habit but I just didn't know enough at the time.

The convent now has a website, which is here:

http://www.obitel-minsk.by/obitel-minsk_mid381.html

I'm sure the nuns would be happy to help.

In Christ,
Michael

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