Orthodox America

  Joy in Gethsemane - A New Abbess Is Installed 

In June1998, by reason of illness, Abbess Anna (Karipova) retired from her post as superior of the Gethsemane Convent in Jerusalem, and returned home to Australia. This spring the nuns celebrated the appointment of a new abbess from among their midst.

Abbess Elizabeth was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1952, of Russian émigré parents. She and her three younger brothers were raised in the best traditions of Russian Orthodoxy. From an early age they were instructed in the Law of God and often attended church services, helping in their parish as they were able.

While growing up, the future abbess gave no thought to monasticism. After finishing high school, she worked first in a bank, then enrolled in a teachers' college. When after a year and a half she determined that this was not her vocation, she found a job in a government office. Meanwhile, like many young Australians, she travelled extensively, broadening her horizons.

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1983, which coincided with the Feast of Dormition, so uniquely celebrated there in Jerusalem, proved to be a pivotal experience. When, two years later, she returned for the holy days of Pascha, the desire ripened to make this her home. In 1986 she settled in the Mount of Olives Convent, where, as a lay worker, she tested her desire to embrace the monastic life. She became a novice in 1988, fulfilling various obediences: working in the kitchen, in the garden, and in the office. In 1993 she transferred to the Gethsemane Convent where, that same year, she was tonsured to the riassophore and given the name Barbara, in honor of New Martyr Nun Barbara. This year, on the eve of March 4/17, Archbishop Mark tonsured her to the schema, giving her the name Elizabeth, in honor of New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth, whose incorrupt relics rest in the church of Saint Mary Magdalene there in Gethsemane.

On Sunday, March 8/21, Archbishop Mark raised Nun Elizabeth to the rank of abbess. At 7:30 AM, the nuns greeted their designated superior at the abbess's residence and accompanied her to the church, where she was greeted by the senior nun, Mother Magdalena. At the Small Entrance, the head of the Jerusalem Mission, Hegumen Alexis, led Nun Elizabeth onto the solea, where Vladika Mark read the prayer, raising her to the rank of abbess, and bestowed upon her a gold cross, exclaiming "Axios," which was echoed by the nuns. By decree of the Synod of Bishops, Vladika Mark proceded to bestow a gold cross also upon Mother Magdalena. In his sermon, Vladika Mark united the theme of spiritual warfare, described in The Ladder by the monastic instructor Saint John Climacus, commemorated that day, with the appointment of the new abbess and the spiritual life of monastics specifically and all Christians in general. After the dismissal, the archbishop handed the new abbess her staff, and gave her a word concerning its significance in the spiritual care of Christ's rational sheep. After dinner following the Divine Liturgy, the archbishop addressed the entire sisterhood, explaining the tasks of an abbess and the duty of all the sisters to support their new mother.

We ask our readers to join us in praying that God strengthen Abbess Elizabeth in her new responsibilities. May God preserve her for Many Years!


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