Archive for the ‘Pilgrimage’ Category

All Saints of North America

(The “mainland” is what Newfoundlanders call the rest of Canada.)

I spent a wonderful week up in Ontario with some old friends and many new ones! It was a busy but very blessed week filled with speaking engagements, church services and loads of good conversations in between.

Unfortunately, I was a little too busy to take any photos so I don’t have a lot of images to share (the ones in this post are borrowed from online). But I do have one video from a talk I did in London for a fundraiser for Holy Trinity Monastery in Michigan (thanks to the technical skills of my fellow Newfie). The theme was Gerontissa Macrina: A Contemporary Mother of the Church. It was the talk I looked most forward to because it was a topic so close to my heart, so inspiring; it was just stories and information from Gerontissa’s book Logia Kardias. It’s linked below if you’re interested. (The first 50 seconds or so are in Greek but the rest is in English).

The three-part talks I gave in Hamilton for All Saints of North America OCA parish will be sold as a DVD set in the parish bookstore (Desert Wisdom) at a later date.

St. George Antiochian Church

And I’d just like to thank everyone who showed me so much love and hospitality while I was in Ontario: Truly, Christians love one another and are known by their love.

To those of you who said you will one day visit us in Newfoundland: we await you. And to those who expressed a desire to correspond with me through e-mail I would gladly answer any questions you have or at least point you in the direction of someone more qualified if need be.

To those on the New Calendar I wish you good strength for the Nativity fast and ask your prayers in return!

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Photo by Nektarios: http://www.pbase.com/tario/image/61850256

Photo of Holy Trinity Monastery by Nektarios: http://www.pbase.com/tario/image/61850256

Just a reminder for those of you wanting to attend one of the speaking engagements I’ve been invited to this week in Ontario. Here is the schedule:

Wednesday, November 6, 6:30PM

(Location) Apostle Paul’s Orthodox Christian Bookstore in Toronto

(Topic) Christian Struggle

A book signing will follow.

Saturday, November 9, 1:00PM-8:30PM

(Event) Ten-year Anniversary Fundraiser for All Saints of North America Orthodox Church

(Location) St. Stephen’s Anglican Parish Hall in Hamilton, Ontario

1:30pm – Registration
2pm – Session One (Topic) Hospitality: Giving More than a Cup of Water
3:15pm – Break
3:30pm – Session Two (Topic) Reverence in All Things
4:45pm – Break
5:00pm – Vespers Service
6:00pm – Lenten Dinner
7:00pm – Session Three (Topic) Obedience: Means to Eternal Salvation 

A book signing will follow.

For more information or to order tickets for the talks in Hamilton see this electronic pamphlet. (At the door registration will not be possible so make sure to purchase your tickets before Saturday.)

Sunday, November 10, 4PM

(Event) Fundraiser for Holy Trinity Monastery (Smith Creek, Michigan)

(Location) Four Seasons Restaurant in London, Ontario

(Topic) The Ever-Memorable Abbess Macrina: Contemporary Mother of the Church

Tickets are available for purchase at Apostle Paul’s Bookstore and, from what I understand, tickets will also be available at the door of Four Seasons on Sunday afternoon.


Fr. John and I at Holy Annunciation Hermitage in Nova Scotia.

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Fort Amherst, St. John’s, Newfoundland photo from here: http://www.stare.ca/fort-amherst-st-johns-newfoundland-017594.php

Well we have much to give thanks to God for this season. We finally arrived in St. John’s, Newfoundland two weeks or so ago now and we are very grateful for our home, our parish and this island in general.

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada for the first time in eight years. The last one we spent in Canada was our wedding day.

You may have noticed that the blog posts have slowed down to about two a week. Unfortunately I just don’t have time to post more often than that. I’m really busy with my studies, keeping up with services at the Mission, and settling into our new home/city.

I will be traveling to Ontario next month for a series of talks I’ll be giving over a span of a few days (Nov. 6-10). Preparing for these talks has been a wonderful opportunity to catch up on some spiritual reading on a variety of topics.

Here is the rough schedule of the talks. (I’m unsure of some of the locations but I will update the information when I have more details):


Wednesday, November 6, 6:30PM

(Location) Apostle Paul’s Bookstore in Toronto

(Topic) Christian Struggle

Thursday, November 7, 11:00AM

(Location) Toronto

(Topic) The Virtue of a Woman

Saturday, November 9, 2:00PM-8:30PM

(Event) Ten-year Anniversary Fundraiser for All Saints of North America Orthodox Church

(Location) St. Stephen’s Anglican Parish Hall in Hamilton, Ontario

1pm – Registration
2pm – Session One – Topic: Hospitality: Giving More than a Cup of Water
3:15pm – Break
3:30pm – Session Two – Topic: Reverence in All Things
4:45pm – Break
5:00pm – Vespers Service
6:00pm – Lenten Dinner
7:00pm – Session Three – Topic: Obedience: Means to Eternal Salvation
A book signing will also take place.

Sunday, November 10

(Event) Fundraiser for Holy Trinity Monastery

(Location) Four Seasons Restaurant in London, Ontario

(Topic) The Ever-Memorable Abbess Macrina: Contemporary Mother of the Church

For more information or to order tickets for the talks in Hamilton see this electronic pamphlet.

allsaintsI hope to see some of you there!

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IMG_0975When we were children we fought a lot – I mean a lot. I’m surprised our mother wasn’t committed on account of how crazy we must have made her. But at the age of 15 my brother found his conscience and stopped being so mean.

With our joyful mother.

With our joyful mother.

I’m sure he’d say I stopped being such a contrary whiner – or perhaps I haven’t stopped but the change in our relationship was brought on solely because he grew kind. In any case, our relationship slowly turned from one of dislike to one of love and my little sister and I began to admire him.

With our proud father.

With our proud father.

From a young age we thought he would one day become a priest because God had spared his life on numerous occasions (from being temporarily blind and paralyzed due to infant-Meningitis; to running into a busy road in his toddler years; to falling through an ice-covered lake in his adolescence – just to name a few). Somehow we had it in our heads that God protected him because one day he would become a priest. Funny, looking back, the only priests I thought existed were Catholic…

IMG_0993Years ago Fr. Matthew borrowed a book from our Nova Scotian friends who had converted to Orthodoxy, and he slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) began to turn the whole family toward the East.

Hip, hip for our Nova Scotian friend, Matthew (on the right)!

Three-cheers for our Nova Scotian friend sub-deacon Matthew on the right! (a prominent person in both Father John’s and Matthew’s ordinations)

Through Fr. Matthew’s fervent priestly prayers, his zeal for Christ, and his gift as a teacher may he turn many more toward Christ and His Church! AXIOS! AXIOS! AXIOS!, dear brother. I hate to say “I told you so,” but I told you so: You were destined to be a priest!


With his matushka, Catherine.

The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way… And into whatsoever city ye enter… heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you (Luke 10: 2-9).


Love you big brother!

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The following is the address given by His Grace Bishop Basil to the parish of St Mary Orthodox Church in Wichita, Kansas regarding the crisis in Syria, on the morning of their patronal feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, September 8, 2013.

This week will be a very important week, an historical week, one way or another–our church, our Patriarchate in particular, and this world in general. This week our elected representatives will be asked to vote either for or against supporting aggression in the Holy Land. As I said it’s important first and foremost for our church. It’s where our spiritual roots are, the roots of all Christians. Not just us, but we as Antiochian Orthodox in particular, as our Father in God (Patriarch John of Antioch) lives there along with a million and a half Orthodox Christians.That’s more than we have total in the US. The Orthodox in Syria and Lebanon is not negligible, it’s 10 percent of the population. In our country, we’re less than 1 percent, our country being the United States.

Syria in particular but Lebanon as well, which is an integral part of greater Syria just by its geography and the majority of its history, is dotted with holy places. Holy places made holy by the presence of our Savior. Remember his conversation with the Canaanite woman, the Syro-Phoenician woman when he visited Tyre and Sidon in south Lebanon. It’s not in Disney World or Never Never Land. Its a real place with real people with real Orthodox Christians living there. You’ve heard of Caesarea Philippi, where our Savior went and had conversation with his 12 apostles saying, “Who do men say that I am?” and then to Peter “Who do you say that I am?” Caesarea Philippi is in Golan Heights, what now is the occupied portion of the Golan Heights. It belongs to our sister archdiocese, the archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran. And the Golan Heights itself is dotted with now empty, they were depocketed by the Israelis, Christian villages, Orthodox villages, whose churches during the occupation have been totally desecrated. Stripped. Not only of the icons and the chandeliers, but of windows, and water faucets. Their dead in Konetra were taken out of their graves, and teeth–gold teeth–taken from their mouths and wedding rings taken from the corpses’ fingers. These are holy places. Our Saviour walked there, the apostles walked there. Sweida, Bosra-Hauran in south Syria is where Timon, one of the original seven deacons as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, one of the original seven deacons was the first bishop. Paul the apostle made his way from Jerusalem up to Damascus, and the road is still there, the spot where he was knocked off his horse by the presence of our Saviour Jesus Christ when he was struck blind. There’s a monastery there, an Orthodox monastery. These are not just places in books, brothers and sisters. These are holy places where Christians, your spiritual ancestors, and for many of you your physical ancestors have lived the Holy Orthodoxy for the past 2,000 years. It’s why what happens this week is important. It’s important.

We ask your prayers first and foremost for our president. That God might speak as we say in the liturgy “good things to his heart. That God might speak reasonableness and peace to the heart of our president. That he might speak peace to the heart of our elected officials, that they indeed become our representatives, that they speak the voice of the people. God speaks through his people, not through a congressman alone, or a president alone. He speaks through his people. May God hear our prayer for our armed forces. Men and women who sit on the edges of their seats to know whether they will be going to war or not. And don’t believe this “no boots on the ground.” It’s impossible. We’ve  heard the promise many times. May God give strength to the parents. The spouses first and foremost of those soldiers, and their children, and their parents and their families, that he might grant them grace during these next coming days to prepare for the tension that must be laid upon them. And God be with the people of Syria. All of them, whether they’re Muslim, they’re Druze, Christians, Orthodox and not. May he be with our Father in God (Patriarch John of Antioch) who has already lost thousands of his people, and priests and deacons and monks and nuns in the war already. Whose monasteries and churches have been occupied and many destroyed by the so-called Free Syrian Army. Whose own brother was kidnapped and still remains kidnapped, Metropolitan Paul along with Archbishop Yohanna, since April 22 by freedom fighters. Freedom fighters–people who rape women, abduct bishops, desecrate churches, open peoples’ chests and pull their beating heart out and eat it in their presence. That’s the Free Syrian Army and their allies, Al Qaeda.

Two days ago I received a call from our Metropolitan Saba Esper, who you know, he has visited here. He is the archbishop of our own Wichita diocese’s sister diocese in south Syria. He spoke by telephone, right before he called me, with Mother Belagia. Mother Belagia is the abbess of the monastery of Saint Thekla in Maalula. It’s only like a 20-30 minute drive north of Damascus. It had been occupied for 3 days (the town). The town is one of three where they still speak Aramaic–Aramaic which our Saviour spoke. The only 3 towns left in the world. The majority of the people in Maaloula are Christians–Orthodox Christians. There’s a smattering of Catholics there, and there’s also some Muslims there, and they live there in peace. The beginning of this week they were occupied by the Free Syrian Army. It turned out to be Al Qaeda, and they turned out to be Chechens–the same ones who abducted our 2 bishops. The nuns took the children there, orphan girls there of St. Thekla, and they and the nuns, many who are aging, into the caves of the village to hide for 4 days. They didn’t even go out to buy bread. The villagers didn’t leave their homes for 4 days. And if you’ve never been to the Middle East, they don’t shop like we do. They go every morning to buy their bread and food for the day. So they were locked in their homes for 4 days. Those who went out were shot, so they knew to stay in their homes. Saba called me on Wednesday. Mother Belagia, and they were ringing all the bells in the town’s churches–the Syrian Army, you know the one that we’re told is so bad. The Syrian Army finally came and drove Al Qaeda out. And what did they find? They found 2 churches in the village completely destroyed. St. Thekla, which is ours, the Orthodox church in the village, and St. Sergius, which is a Catholic church in the village–completely destroyed. On the inside, the icons, the holy books, everything had been desecrated. Not just ripped off the walls, but covered in urine. Real desecration by that wing of the Free Syrian Army. God knows what the people of Syria, and by extension the people of Jordan, the people of Lebanon, the people of Turkey and the people of Iraq–because if there’s a war there’s a regional war–God knows the burden they may have to carry this week. Lighten their burden as you can. And that’s by your prayers. Have a soft heart towards the people. Wrongs were done on both sides–vicious wrongs on both sides. But as we’ve heard from some honest politicians this past week, there’s really no good armed force over there. No one we can trust. None. So the choice is between the evil that we know and that we’ve had for 30-40 years in that part of the world, or another evil we don’t know about except what they’ve shown us in this awful civil war for the past 2 and a half years.

So this week, really pray. Thank God that we live in a country that is safe. Where we can send our children to school, where you can go out and buy your groceries. But realize that that blessed country where we live can also be a disruptive force in other parts of the world, as it has been. Remember Bosnia. Remember Kosovo. Remember what happened in Belgrade, the capital of an Orthodox country, bombed by our armed forces on Pascha night, while people were going to church for the midnight service. God bless America–but a lot of evils have been done in her name. We pray that God will restrain our leaders from being the cause for any more evil and sorrow and hurt in this world. That we might extend a healing hand, to bring enemies together like we’re supposed to. Where we teach people to turn the other cheek, where we teach people to bless those who curse them, to love our enemies. That’s the gospel we preach, the gospel we die for. It’s the gospel which Orthodox Christians have been and I guess will continue to die for. Remember them in your prayers, and as I said, most especially our leaders, who will make the decisions. That God might pour out his Holy Spirit on them, and speak good things to their hearts.

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I’m on my way to a monastery for an one week pilgrimage. Posts are scheduled but I won’t have internet access until the 21st or so. I wish everyone a Happy Feast of the Dormition – may the Most Holy Lady be with us all!

In a letter attributed to St. Jerome, addressed to a Christian woman named Marcella, the Holy Land is defended as a priceless destination of Christian pilgrimage. It would seem that around that time (386 AD) it was a popular belief that the city of Jerusalem and surrounding areas were cursed since the death of Our Lord. St. Jerome expounds on the spiritual treasures of the Holy Land and its appeal to pilgrims, hoping to convince the Christian woman to make a pilgrimage to such holy sites herself:

This is the Holy Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Panorama) which I visited last summer - not the monastery I'm going to now.

The Holy Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Panorama) which I visited last summer – not the monastery I’m going to now.


Will the time never come when a breathless messenger shall bring the news that our dear Marcella has reached the shores of Palestine, and when every band of monks and every troop of virgins shall unite in a song of welcome? In our excitement we are already hurrying to meet you: without waiting for a vehicle, we hasten off at once on foot. We shall clasp you by the hand, we shall look upon your face; and when, after long waiting, we at last embrace you, we shall find it hard to tear ourselves away. Will the day never come when we shall together enter the Saviour’s cave, and together weep in the sepulcher of the Lord with His sister and with His mother? (John 19:25) Then shall we touch with our lips the wood of the cross, and rise in prayer and resolve upon the Mount of Olves with the ascending Lord. (Acts 1:9, 12) We shall see Lazarus come forth bound with grave clothes, (John 11:43-44) we shall look upon the waters of Jordan purified for the washing of the Lord. (Matthew 3:13) Thence we shall pass to the folds of the shepherds, (Luke 2:8) we shall pray together in the mausoleum of David. (1 Kings 2:10) We shall see the prophet, Amos, upon his crag blowing his shepherd’s horn. We shall hasten, if not to the tents, to the monuments of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of their three illustrious wives. We shall see the fountain in which the eunuch was immersed by Philip. (Acts 8:36) We shall make a pilgrimage to Samaria, and side by side venerate the ashes of John the Baptist, of Elisha, (2 Kings 13:21) and of Obadiah. We shall enter the very caves where in the time of persecution and famine the companies of the prophets were fed. (1 Kings 18:3-4)

If only you will come, we shall go to see Nazareth, as its name denotes, the flower of Galiee. Not far off Cana will be visible, where the water was turned into wine. (John 2:1-11) We shall make our way to Tabor, (Matthew 17:1-9) and see the tabernacles there which the Saviour shares, not, as Peter once wished, with Moses and Elijah, but with the Father and with the Holy Ghost. Thence we shall come to the Sea of Gennesaret, and when there we shall see the spots where the five thousand were filled with five loaves, and the four thousand with seven. The town of Nain will meet our eyes, at the gate of which the widow’s son was raised to life. Hermon too will be visible, and the torrent of Endor, at which Sisera was vanquished. Our eyes will look also on Capernaum, the scene of so many of our Lord’s signs— yes, and on all Galiee besides. And when, accompanied by Christ, we shall have made our way back to our cave through Shiloh and Bethel, and those other places where churches are set up like standards to commemorate the Lord’s victories, then we shall sing heartily, we shall weep copiously, we shall pray unceasingly. Wounded with the Saviour’s shaft, we shall say one to another: I have found Him whom my soul loves; I will hold Him and will not let Him go.

I love this last line most: What more than this could a person hope to take away from a pilgrimage? I pray that I might be found worthy to utter the same.

as a pilgrim

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come receiveTruly He is risen!

The coming week will be quiet around here because I’ll be away with my Mum visiting our favourite Canadian monastery (turn your speakers on). I have a couple posts scheduled though.

Fr. John is in Thessaloniki this month and will, God willing, return as Doctor Father John (or whatever the proper title of a priest with a PhD is). Pray for him!

I hope you are all still enjoying this Paschal season. It’s important for us to continue to greet one another with “Christ is risen!” until the leave-taking on June 12.

I’ll a light a candle for you, dear readers, while at the monastery.

May the Mother of God be with you all!

Oh, and Many Years to all the Constantine(a)s and Helens who celebrate their patron saints’ feast today on the Old Calendar!

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agia sophia

Christ is Risen!

This photo is of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople from our pilgrimage there in 2008. I am posting it today as a reminder of the day the City fell. In my book The Scent of Holiness (pp. 128-129) there is a story about the first Patriarch after the fall, St. Gennadios Scholarios II.

Here it is:

After singing Agia Sophia I told them about my trip with my husband to Constantinople earlier that summer, and they told me about Patriarch Gennadios Scholarios. He was the first Patriarch  after the city fell.

After the Turks took over Constantinople, the ruling Sultan Mehmed II, who led the capture of the city, had a recurring dream about a hand with five fingers. Upset that neither he nor any other Muslim could decipher its meaning, the Sultan sent out his men to find the monk Gennadios, who was renowned for his insight into things of a spiritual nature. Once they found him, the men asked monk Gennadios to interpret the Sultan’s dream. Gennadios agreed but said he needed to fast and pray for several days before he would be able to interpret it.

After fasting and praying, he was informed by God what the dream meant. The hand with five fingers the Sultan continually saw in his dream represented five faithful Christians—the five faithful Christians Constantinople did not have living in it at the time of its collapse.

“If there had been only five faithful Christians in Constantinople, God would not have allowed it to be captured by you,” monk Gennadios explained to the Sultan.

Relieved to finally have his dream interpreted, Sultan Mehmed II promised not to persecute the Christians and to make Gennadios the leader of his people. The Sultan honored his wish. Thus, monk Gennadios became the first Ecumenical Patriarch after the fall of The City…

Imagine, I thought to myself, if back then there weren’t even five faithful Christians in Constantinople, how many would God find in our cities today?

It is believed by some that the Sultan converted to Christianity through the prayers and enlightening conversations he had with St. Gennadios.

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Father John when he was a sub-deacon.

Father John when he was a sub-deacon.

God willing tomorrow, April. 21, the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt, my husband will be ordained to the Holy Priesthood at the OCA parish in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We’re nervous and excited, but mostly terrified by the awesome mystery that is to take place. We’re about to embark upon the greatest pilgrimage we’ve ever taken. Please pray for us as we begin this incredible journey! A friend of mine – a nun – whom I spoke with the other day reassured me that the fear I feel is a good thing. She says it means we’re approaching holy things properly. Well, I hope so, I hope my fear isn’t just an indication of my unworthiness to be a priest’s wife… In any case, if it’s God’s will, may it be blessed!

We’ll be spending the coming week in Halifax and then we’ll be off to St. John’s, Newfoundland from Lazuras Saturday until after Thomas Sunday so that Fr. John can serve Holy Week and Bright Week services there on the “Rock” – the literal “land of my fathers” since my dad is from Newfoundland.

I don’t know if I’ll have internet access while in Halifax, but I’ll post photos from the ordination as soon as I can.

St. John Chrysostom On the Priesthood (Book III):

The priestly office is indeed discharged on earth, but it ranks among heavenly ordinances; and very naturally so: for neither man, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any other created power, but the Paraclete Himself, instituted this vocation, and persuaded men while still abiding in the flesh to represent the ministry of angels. Wherefore the consecrated priest ought to be as pure as if he were standing in the heavens themselves in the midst of those powers. Fearful, indeed, and of most awful import, were the things which were used before the dispensation of grace, as the bells, the pomegranates, the stones on the breastplate and on the ephod, the girdle, the mitre, the long robe, the plate of gold, the holy of holies, the deep silence within. But if anyone should examine the things which belong to the dispensation of grace, he will find that, small as they are, yet are they fearful and full of awe, and that what was spoken concerning the law is true in this case also, that what has been made glourious has no glory in this respect by reason of the glory which excels (2 Corinthians 3:10). For when you see the Lord sacrificed, and laid upon the altar, and the priest standing and praying over the victim, and all the worshipers empurpled with that precious blood, can you then think that you are still among men, and standing upon the earth? Are you not, on the contrary, straightway translated to Heaven, and casting out every carnal thought from the soul, do you not with disembodied spirit and pure reason contemplate the things which are in Heaven? Oh! What a marvel! What love of God to man! He who sits on high with the Father is at that hour held in the hands of all, and gives Himself to those who are willing to embrace and grasp Him.

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