August 15/28, 2022
Today marks an important feast in the life of the Church, but it is an important feast for me personally, as it features someone who has helped me so much over the years. This feast of the falling asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary is the foundation of our family life. While the Russian Royal Family serves as our family feast day, this feast was our family feast day before I had a family, or rather when I was praying fervently to have one of my own.
I had come to Boston shortly after graduating from college and becoming an Orthodox Christian. A kind clergy family had taken me in for my first years of living on my own in an unfamiliar city and practicing a new-found faith in Christ. They had taught me some valuable lessons in showing hospitality to strangers and practicing family-like community even before I was married or turned monastic. So I sought how to do just that while still being a bachelor. Their idea was to form a Christian brotherhood house, an intentional community of young men that would live together with a very simple rule of life: common prayer at least once a day (including begging forgiveness of one another at the end of the day), common meals once or twice a week, and (the rule that hung most gentlemen up) no ladies in your bedroom with the door closed. Since I received notification (from the landlord) that I was accepted in this particular house with one other Christian brother on August 28, 1998, we decided to name it after the feast of that day and the Dormition Discipleship House was born!
And so started the journey of many young and sometimes older men living together, praying together, and trying our best (however imperfectly) to obey the Lord’s commandments, while we were praying to either get married and start a family or become tonsured a monastic. For me, I was praying every day the Akathist to the Most Holy Mother of God for direction in this matter. I took heart especially at the 10th Ikos of that hymn:
Rejoice, bridechamber of a virgin marriage:
Rejoice, Thou Who dost wed the faithful to the Lord!
Rejoice, fair mother and nurse of virgins
Rejoice, bethrother of holy souls as for marriage!
While it did not happen for all us, many beautiful families and monastic callings were born out of that intentional community of struggling Christians, and trust me we were struggling (One person joked that we were called the Dormition House because we liked to sleep in). Glory to God for intentional communities and for the intercessions of Our Lord’s Mother who remains to this day a betrother of holy souls!