Feeds:
Posts
Comments
p1010212.jpg

The “having fallen asleep” Mother of God was a wonderful gift a friend brought us from Jerusalem

Oikos for the Dormition:

Set a rampart about my mind, O my Saviour, for I make bold to sing the praises of Thy most-pure Mother, the rampart of the world. Establish me firmly within the fortress of my words and make me strong within the defenses of my thoughts: for Thou dost promise to fulfill the petitions of those that entreat Thee with faith. Endue me with a tongue and ready speech, and with thoughts that are without shame; for every gift of enlightenment is sent down from Thee, O guiding Light, Who dwelt within her every-virgin womb.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fr John summarizing St. Theodore Studite’s encomium on the Dormition of the Theotokos

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn contemporary social work practice we are taught not to be the kind of person who always points out the silver-lining in someone else’s dark cloud. We are taught to listen and offer support but refrain from saying, “At least (fill in the blank)” as this may cause individuals to feel that their problem or issue is being minimized.

I am a silver-lining person by nature. I always catch myself saying, “At least”:  “At least you’re feeling better these days,” “At least you have a support network,” etc. While I understand how pointing out the silver-lining to someone who only sees a dark cloud can be imprudent, in my own thoughts I always try to tell myself “at least…”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese days it can feel as though the whole world is living in a dark cloud. The trauma and difficulties in people’s lives, in society in general, has reached unprecedented portions. And yet, there still exists that silver-lining. While many churches (of all denominations) seem to be ever-emptying, at least there are people still finding Christ, still discovering the Holy Orthodox Church and still becoming members of the Body of Christ.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday morning, driving home from work I was thinking over the unfortunate news I learned about a client. I was upset, truly saddened. But then I thought of the adult baptism we would be having in just a few hours and I said to myself, “At least there are still people entering the Ark of Salvation.” It’s the silver-lining of our dark times: People are still being saved, coming to know Christ, and embracing Him in the Church.

At least there are still faithful upon the earth (Lk. 18:8).

paisiosicon

Kontakion 13 from the Akathist Hymn to Our Holy Father Paisios the Athonite:

Thou, O Father, didst say with words enlightened by the Holy Spirit that many saints would have desired to live in our times, in order to strive for salvation. For Thou didst herald to us, who live in darkness, that the time is almost ready and that those that now struggle valiantly to win their salvation will receive a martyr’s reward. For this we thank God, Who with mercy looked on His people, sending His Saint for our enlightenment, and thus with voices of joy we gladly sing to our All-Gracious Master the song: Alleluia!

Zisis_Fathers_Final_Mockup

By the grace of God Following the Holy Fathers: Timeless Guides of Authentic Christianity by Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis, translated by Rev Dr John Palmer, will be soon be available for purchase from Newrome Press.

This volume includes translations of articles taken from a number of Fr. Theodore’s publications.  It is a collection of valuable scholarship covering both a broad range of Patristic figures dating from apostolic times to the present day, as well as a variety of themes.

As soon as it is available for purchase I will provide an update.

From the the Authour’s Prologue:  

It must be clearly established in our minds that the Fathers of the Church, those wise and holy teachers of the Orthodox faith, are not the product of some by-gone age; they are not a thing of the past. This is greatly important since many contemporary Orthodox theologians, having fallen under the influence of non-Orthodox scholars, believe and teach that the mark of antiquity renders an ecclesiastical writer a Father of the Church; in other words, in order to be a Father one must have lived in some ancient era. Consequently, this view divides the Church’s indivisible history according to quality and spiritual depth; it treats the Church as if it were not Christ Himself extended unto the ages of ages, as if during particular eras – such as our own – it had ceased to be guided by the Holy Spirit and to produce saints, teachers and theologians. On the contrary, the Church continues on its course through history ever undiminished in quality, sanctifying through Christ its holy head and through the All-Holy Spirit, who remains eternally and continually within it…

signature

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St. Alexander the Solider of Eygpt

Years ago a family asked me to paint an icon of St. Alexander the Solider of Egypt (4th century). Their son was born around his feast day and so they named him Alexander and chose the saint as his patron. They were never able to find an icon of the saint and so they asked if I could make one. Of course it’s one thing to paint an icon of a saint and it’s quite another to paint an icon of saint with no prototype. I searched high and low for an icon of him, in English, in Greek. I even had a parishioner search in Arabic. But I couldn’t find an icon of the saint to use as my model.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, years passed and in a last ditch effort to have someone more capable than myself come up with an image of the saint I wrote my iconography teacher and asked if he would be willing to draw a prototype. He wrote back and said, “Paint him as a  young soldier.” Lovely. He gave me an answer, but not the one I wanted. Finally with great trepidation I decided I would try to form a likeness for the holy martyr with the help of God.

I first read as many versions of the saint’s life that I could find. Then I referenced Photios Kontaglou’s books “Expressions of Orthodox Iconography” (a two volume set in Greek) on how to paint soldiers and martyrs. I knew to have him wear a red cloak and hold a cross as he was a martyr but I had no idea what he looked like as a person. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI tried to pray a lot and asked St. Alexander’s help. After looking at various icons of soldier saints I began trying to piece his likeness together. I based his torso on an icon I had seen of St. Demetrios and the rest I prayed my way through. I wanted his skin to be darker as he was Egyptian and I decided to make his eyes green, his hair dark, and his nose somewhat large. (In the below photo of me holding the icon you can sort of see the various drawings I did of the saint’s likeness taped to the wall.) Then I painted and prayed, painted and prayed; and finally he came to life.

I now feel very close to St. Alexander and am very happy he can now be venerated through an icon of his likeness. I didn’t tell the family I had finally painted their son’s saint; I just gave it to them once it was finished. Their surprise and joy was a great gift to me. May he intercede for us!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(Source) Saint Alexander suffered with the hosiomartyrs Patermuthius and Copres, during the reign of the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). He was a soldier who witnessed the torture of Saint Copres, and believed in Christ. He was burned alive. St. Alexander’s feast day is July 9.

 

 

 

Happy feast of St. Paisios the Athonite!

A short Prologue: As shown in the photos, I recently finished a canvas I painted to be put on the wooden candle stand that was kindly donated to our community last summer. The monasteries always have beautiful flowers and vines painted on candlesticks with gold backgrounds so I was excited to have an excuse to do likewise. I truly believe art is the one talent God gave me completely for free and it is really important to me to make sure I at least try to pay back the Master with interest. I’m deeply grateful that I get to use my talent to beautify our small, domestic Orthodox temple.

candlestand

Per-canvas

One of the nicest elements of an Orthodox monastery is not only the cultivation of virtue but the opportunity one has to offer her talent for the good of the community and to the glory of God.

When Sister P. first became a novice she was so excited to learn embroidery and iconography – all the beautiful handicrafts one hears about nuns doing. She was a little surprised when her time was occupied with more mundane tasks. Of course this is understandable in the beginning but the nuns taught me that all things done in a monastery are done in honour of the saint and for God’s glory, no matter the task. We ought to offer all the talents we have to the glory of God.

Sister N. told me when she was a child visiting her older sister at the monastery she heard the abbess say that every deed done in the monastery was recorded by the monastery’s saint and shown to Christ on the day of judgment. After this she would rush around looking for things she could do, any scrap of garbage she could dispose of.

We should never underestimate the value of what we can offer to the Lord since He Himself greatly valued the widow’s two mites. I’m happy to say that now when Sister P. writes me letters she even mentions her duties washing the monastery’s vehicles. I often observed how the sisters lent their talent “to the One Who gave it” in a variety of ways.

That is how our parishes should be. One sings, another cleans, and still another figures out how to adhere the canvas Matushka painted to the wooden candle stand for the domestic chapel :).

I would really encourage you to seriously think about all the different talents, great and small, you have to offer and then seek opportunities to “give them to the poor” (ie. to the Church, to your parish community, a nearby monastery) for the glory of God.

Gerontissa M. used to instruct our Byzantine chant class to help out with chanting if we could be of assistance. She would say, “Why should the chanting be done poorly. If you can help and you have a good voice, help.”

So, if you can sing, sing. If you can bake, bake. If you can clean, clean. If you can visit the sick, do so. If you can make prayer ropes, give them out. If you love to pray, commit to saying an extra service (the Paraclesis or an Akathist) once a week for the benefit of your parish. Whatever you have to give, give it. Do anything you can to lend the talent the Lord gave you to Him Who gave it through “spending” it at your parish for the benefit of your church community.

I’m certain the saint of your parish will do as the monastery patron and show Christ your good deeds on the Day of Judgment.

Behold how to you, my soul, the Master has entrusted the talent, with fear accept the gift of the Lord. Lend it to the One Who gave, distribute it to the poor and earn the friendship of the Lord Himself. So that you may stand on His right when He comes in His glory.  (A portion of the Aposticha of Great and Holy Tuesday).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(More to come on the painted candle stick)

The icon stands and Proskimidi table my father made for us last September have finally been sanded, stained, and varnished twice (although my father assures me they need at least one more coat).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the grace of God Fr. John and I spent many, many hours last weekend finishing the church furniture so that they would be ready for the vigil of the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul we held on Wednesday.

I’m very happy with how they turned out. You can see them unfinished here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are still furnishing our home chapel. We have some more ideas of how to make it more beautiful, but we’re taking it one step at a time.

“The Lord loves those who love the splendor of His house and will not leave them without His great mercies and rich generosity.” (Amen; I hope so!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I bought a new pillow the other day, three days ago to be exact. I was excited because I often wake up with headaches and so I was anticipating a great night’s sleep. Three days in row I woke up disappointed and then I remembered: I forgot to put St. John under my new pillow!

See, years ago I had a conversation with a friend about nightmares and bad dreams. She said monastics would often advise placing an icon under one’s pillow in such circumstances. This is done not as a talisman but as a blessing. And so, I began putting paper icons under my pillow.

Not long after that conversation I visited the holy relics of St. John Maximovitch in San Francisco where I met a preistmonk whose great kindness I have never forgotten. This priestmonk invited me to visit St. John’s personal cell, to sit in his armchair that he used as a bed and to venerate his personal icon corner. At the end of this incredible experience he handed me a medallion with an icon of St. John embossed into it along with both the cathedrals he was responsible for in San Francisco and Shanghai. Since that time I kept this icon medallion under my pillow. It was under my pillow when I lived in South Korea, it was under my pillow when I lived in Greece, and now it’s under my pillow in Newfoundland. Even when I travel I try to remember to bring a little paper icon to put under my pillow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last night when I had trouble sleeping it dawned on me I had left the medallion in the other pillow since I actually place it into a zipped pillowcase so it doesn’t fall out during the night. (As you may be able to tell from the photograph, it’s fallen a few times). That’s when it occurred to me it may be a good idea to share this tip with others.

I personally have found it gives me more peace, even if it’s just peace of mind knowing there is a little grace-emitting blessing under my pillow. You may find it a helpful practice for yourself as well, and especially for small children who are afraid of the dark or of sleeping alone. This may give them a little extra courage knowing the saint is protecting them.

I have always found holy monasteries to be banks of spiritual knowledge and really believe their customs and practices are so helpful for us out in the world as well. I think it’s good to share the tips we’ve collected along the way so that together we can arrive safely and successfully at the harbour of the Heavenly Kingdom.