Archive for the ‘Hymns and Prayers’ Category



These [first] three days, which the Church calls Great and Holy have within the liturgical development of the Holy Week a very definite purpose. They place all its celebrations in the perspective of End ; they remind us of the eschatological meaning of Pascha. So often Holy Week is considered one of the “beautiful traditions” or “customs,” a self-evident “part” of our calendar. We take it for granted and enjoy it as a cherished annual event which we have “observed” since childhood, we admire the beauty of its services, the pageantry of its rites and, last but not least, we like the fuss about the paschal table. And then, when all this is done we resume our normal life. But do we understand that when the world rejected its Savior, when “Jesus began to be sorrowful and very heavy… and his soul was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death,” when He died on the Cross, “normal life” came to its end and is no longer possible. For there were “normal” men who shouted “Crucify Him” who spat at Him and nailed Him to the Cross. And they hated and killed Him precisely because He was troubling their normal life. It was indeed a perfectly “normal” world which preferred darkness and death to light and life…. By the death of Jesus the “normal” world, and “normal” life were irrevocably condemned. Or rather they revealed their true and abnormal inability to receive the Light, the terrible power of evil in them. “Now is the Judgment of this world” (John 12:31). The Pascha of Jesus signified its end to “this world” and it has been at its end since then. This end can last for hundreds of centuries this does not alter the nature of time in which we live as the “last time.” “The fashion of this world passeth away…” (I Cor. 7:31).

“When the Lord was going to His voluntary Passion,
He said to His Apostles on the way:
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem,
And the Son of Man shall be delivered up
As it is written of Him.
Come, therefore, and let us accompany Him,
With minds purified from the pleasures of this life,
And let us be crucified and die with Him,
That we may live with Him,
And that we may hear Him say to us:
I go now, not to the earthly Jerusalem to suffer,
But unto My Father and your Father
And My God and your God,
And I will gather you up into the heavenly Jerusalem,
Into the Kingdom of Heaven….”
(Monday Matins)

Read Full Post »


The Thief Who Stole Paradise

Every year it seems Great Lent creeps up on me with such speed I find it’s Clean Monday before I’ve even realized it was Prodigal Son Sunday.

The Church, in her wisdom, gives us the Triodion season (three weeks before the beginning of Great Lent) in order to prepare us for the Fast which is itself a preparation for the Feast of Feasts, Pascha. And yet, too many Triodion seasons pass me by before I’ve had the time to look ahead to Great Lent. This year, I want it to be different; I want to be prepared to prepare.

I haven’t fully worked out just how I’m going to fully prepare myself to become prepared for Pascha, but I’m at least forcing myself to think about it. Perhaps that’s a step in the right direction: keeping before me the knowledge of the impending beginning of Great Lent. I guess it’s kind of like the Orthodox practice of memory of death. The idea being that so long as we keep before us the knowledge – the memory – that we will one day, any day, die and face the Just Judge, this memory enables us to live well today.

The Triodion season isn’t just an opportunity to stuff our faces with meat and cheese; it is an opportunity to start narrowing our focus, start quieting our mind. It is an opportunity to plan how we will spend the first week of Great Lent.

Will we abstain from all food and drink until the third day (keep the “Trimero” as we say in Greek)? Will we choose to eat only dry foods (non-cooked meals), and that only after the ninth hour (that is, 3pm)? Will we instead partake of normal fasting meals but make a consorted effort to take the television out of the living room? Will we, on account of poor health or pregnancy, and with a blessing from our spiritual father, eat non-fasting meals but prevent crude, cruel and unnecessary words from passing through our lips? These, I believe, are the thoughts that should be occupying our minds during this predatory period which precedes the Great Fast, the most rigorous preparation period of our liturgical year.

Perhaps it’s because I’m 33 years old this year: the stage of no longer being a “young person” but not yet feeling like a “grown up”. For the first time I’ve notice time is slipping away from me. I’m forgetting things I never did before, feeling like I’m juggling more than I should, and sighing far more often at the speed with which my life is passing me by. Perhaps it’s because of this that I just want one Triodion, one Great Lent, one Pascha in which I feel like I fully participated, fully anticipated and fully experienced the grace of struggle. How many more Paschas might I have? If, God forbid, this were to be my last I would want to have done all that I could to prepare, to arrive and say in earnest, “I have cleansed my senses and purified my heart to the minuscule extent I am able, allow me to behold You, O Christ, shining with the Unapproachable Light of the Resurrection!”

Why wait for Holy Week, the last week of the Fast, to contemplate repentance, to join the sinful woman in her petition, in her “selling all that she had”? Why not start now in the Triodion season? Why not start today?

May God give us a good beginning so that we might find a good end!

Lord, O Lord when the woman, who had fallen into many sins, perceived Your divinity she assumed the role of a myrrh-bearing woman, and lamenting brought ointment to anoint You before Your burial. “Woe is me,” she said “for night is forming a frenzy without restraint.” Very dark and moonless, a passionate love affair with sin. “Accept the fountain of my tears, You who draw out from the clouds the water of the sea, take pity on me and incline to the sighing of my heart, You who bowed the heavens by Your ineffable self-emptying. I shall cover your unstained feet with kisses and wipe them dry again with the locks of my hair. Those feet whose sound at twilight in Paradise of old echoed in Eve’s ears whereupon she hid herself in fear. The countless number of my sins and the depth of Your Judgment, who can fathom? O my life-saving Saviour. Do not despise me Your servant since without measure is your mercy!” -St. Cassiane

Read Full Post »


Blessing of the waters in the domestic chapel of St. Nektarios

A portion of St. Sophronius of Jerasalem’s awesome prayer for the Feast of the Theophany:

We glorify you, the Creator and Fashioner of the universe. We glorify you, only-begotten Son of God, without father from your Mother, without mother from your Father. For in the preceding feast we saw you as a babe, but in the present one we see you full and perfect man, our God, made manifest as perfect God from perfect God.
For today the moment of the feast is here for us and the choir of saints assembles here with us, and Angels keep festival with mortals. Today the grace of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove dwelt upon the waters. Today the Sun that never sets has dawned and the world is made radiant with the light of the Lord. Today the Moon with its radiant beams sheds light on the world. Today the stars formed of light make the inhabited world lovely with the brightness of their splendour. Today the clouds rain down from heaven the shower of justice for mankind. Today the Uncreated by his own will accepts the laying on of hands by his own creature. Today the Prophet and Forerunner draws near, but stands by with fear seeing God’s condescension towards us. Today the streams of Jordan are changed into healing by the presence of the Lord. Today all creation is watered by mystical streams. Today the failings of mankind are being washed away by the waters of Jordan. Today Paradise is opened for mortals and the Sun of justice shines down on us. Today the bitter water as once for Moses’ people is changed to sweetness by the presence of the Lord. Today we have been delivered from the ancient grief, and saved as the new Israel. Today we have been redeemed from darkness and are filled with radiance by the light of the knowledge of God. Today the gloomy fog of the world is cleansed by the manifestation of our God. Today all creation shines with light from on high. Today error has been destroyed and the coming of the Master makes for us a way of salvation. Today things on high keep festival with those below, and those below commune with those on high. Today the sacred and triumphant festal assembly of the Orthodox exults. Today the Master hastens towards baptism, that he may lead humanity to the heights. Today the One who does not bow bows down to his own servant, that he may free us from servitude. Today we have purchased the Kingdom of heaven, for the Kingdom of the Lord will have no end. Today earth and sea share the joy of the world, and the world has been filled with gladness. The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and were afraid. The Jordan turned back when it saw the fire of the godhead descending in bodily form and entering it. The Jordan turned back as it contemplated the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, descending and flying about you. The Jordan turned back as it saw the Invisible made visible, the Creator made flesh, the Master in the form of a servant. The Jordan turned back and the mountains leapt as they saw God in the flesh, and the clouds uttered their voice, marvelling at what had come to pass, seeing Light from Light, true God from true God, the Master’s festival today in Jordan; seeing him drowning the death from disobedience, the goad of error and the bond of Hell in Jordan and granting the Baptism of salvation to the world. Therefore I too, a sinner and your unworthy servant, recount the greatness of your wonders and, seized with fear, in compunction cry out to you:
Great are you, O Lord, and wonderful your works, and no word is adequate to sing the praise of your wonders!

Read Full Post »

Christ is born! Glorify Him!


From the heights our Saviour, Christ, the Dayspring of the East, is come to visit us; and we, who once were in the shadow and the dark, behold, now we have found the truth; for from a holy Virgin, the Lord hath been born today

(Exaposteilarion of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ)

Merry Christmas, readers!

I hope and pray you experience the light of Christ and the dissipation of spiritual darkness in your own hearts this Christmas season:

For Christ is born now, twofold in nature, to fill Heaven with mankind.

(Kathisma of the Nativity)

Christ is born! Glorify Him!


Read Full Post »

Canadian Christmas Carol

webhuron“The Huron Carol” (or “Twas in the Moon of Wintertime”) is Canada’s oldest Christmas carol, written in 1643 by the Roman Catholic missionary Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit. He went to Lake Huron, a place located on the north shore of Lake Ontario where the Huron natives lived. He wrote the lyrics of the carol in the native language of the Huron people – Wyandot language. The song’s original Huron title is “Jesous Ahatonhia” (“Jesus, he is born”).  The well-known English lyrics were written in 1926 by Jessie Edgar Middleton.

Laying aside the fact that St. John Chrysostom discourages the telling of God’s great economy in allegorical forms, I find this carol endearing. Have a listen!

The English lyrics are as follows:

‘Twas in the moon of winter time when all the birds had fled,

that Mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead.

Before their light the stars grew dim,

And wand’ring hunters heard the hymn:

“Jesus, your King, is born; Jesus is born; In Excelsis Gloria!”


Within a lodge of broken bark the tender Babe was found.

A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped His beauty’round.

And as the hunter braves drew nigh,

the angel song rang loud and high:

“Jesus, your King, is born; Jesus is born; In Excelsis Gloria!”


The earliest moon of winter time is not so round and fair

as was the ring of glory on the helpless Infant there.

While Chiefs from far before Him knelt,

with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.

“Jesus, your King, is born; Jesus is born; In Excelsis Gloria!”


O children of the forest free, O sons of Manitou,

The Holy Child of earth and heav’n is born today for you.

Come, kneel before the radiant Boy

who brings you beauty, peace and joy.

“Jesus, your King, is born; Jesus is born; In Excelsis Gloria!”

Read Full Post »

st thomas candle.png

A Paschal candle decorated by my beloved nuns in Greece (it features an icon of St. Thomas placing his hand in Christ’s side).

“Who preserved the Disciple’s hand unconsumed when he drew nigh unto the fiery side of the Lord?  Who gave it the daring and strength to feel the bone that was flaming?  Surely, it was that which was touched.  For if that side had not bestowed might unto that earthen right hand, how could it have touched those wounds which caused both things above and below to quake?  This grace was given to Thomas that he might touch and cry out to Christ: Thou art my Lord and my God.”

Oikos for Thomas Sunday

Christ is risen!

Read Full Post »

Orthodox Women’s Talk: Hymns of Holy Week. This is a recording of a talk I hosted over Skype with a group of Canadian Orthodox Christian women spread out across several Canadian provinces during Great Lent of 2015.

*CORRECTION: You will notice that I continually refer to St. Joseph the All-Comely (the son of Patriarch Jacob) as St. Joseph the Betrothed (who was espoused to the Theotokos). Please forgive my mistake; I didn’t realize this until I heard the recording.

Read Full Post »

(Soure) Valeriu Gafencu was born on the 24th of January* 1921, in the Northern part of Romania, near the Russian border of that time. His parents were both active Orthodox Christians. His father was to be deported to Siberia by the Russians in 1940 for his pro-Romanian activity. When he was in high-school, Valeriu joined an Orthodox youth organization called the Cross Brotherhoods, and, when this became illegal during the second World War, he was arrested and condemned to 25 years of hard labour. He was only 20 and, at his trial, his fellow students and teachers would come and defend him, pointing out his innocence and wonderful human qualities. At first he was sent to a prison called Aiud.

The first years were a time to reflect upon his Christian legacy. He would soon become engaged in a life of prayer, while avidly reading the Fathers of the Church. During the war, although Romania had a dictatorial regime, prison life was not so strict and some fundamental human rights were still considered: the prisoners could go to the prison’s church, confess to a priest and receive the Holy Communion and also meet with each other and read books of their own choice. So Valeriu read a lot: the Holy Bible, the first 4 volumes of the Philokalia (which were then just being translated into Romanian by another holy figure of the church, Father Dumitru Staniloaie, who would also encounter the communist prisons some years later) and other Church Fathers.

Valeriu spent time in Aiud prison, Pitesti prison, and finally died at Tirgu Ocna prison. Much could be said about this holy person, but for the time being we will let his poetry be an example of the great spiritual depth he acquired through suffering.

I offer three excerpts of the saint’s own writings regarding his experiences and expression of Christmas during his years as a prisoner. These are taken from the book The Saint of the Prisons:

Christmas 1945 (A letter from Valeriu)

It is night. I have just finished reading the Akathist to the Lord. Christmas was more beautiful than a fairy tale. Spiritually, I feel better prepared than I have in other situations. Through the weight of the suffering I endureed for the resurrection of my soul, I felt the resposibility that bore down on me for the salvation of my soul, and those of my family, relavtives, friends, enemies, all people.

And the more I climbed up the ladder of ideals, the more I saw my own smallness, my sinfulness, while I saw the ideal ever more lofty, perfect: Christ! And behold, little by little, all ideals of my adolence came tumbling down. My struggle with sin removed the veil that covered my eyes and what remained before me, vivid and serene, was the icon of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Thus we succeeded in establishing peace with all our neighbours, through being trod underfoot, through recognizing our sins, through love. And I felt so much peace on Friday, when I stood before the priest! Many of us received Communion. What a great day, what a beautiful day! I experienced it fully, with all the blessings sent by the Lord!

First Christmas Poem:

O roaming star from the East,

With white rays of gold,

Glides toward the bright blue

Of the heavens vividly blooming.

And the star announces the Child Messiah

Born of the Virgin Mary.

A gentle lamb looks at Him and wants to kiss

The child bathed in light.

A mother with her child at breast,

Pure in love, looks with wonder

At the fulfillment of the Annunciation.

A Holy Child is born in the starry night

Of the Holy Virgin and the Holy Spirit;

The true Word of Father

Comes down today on earth

A beacon forever lit!

Second Christmas Poem:

In the heart of the servant

The Lord makes His manger

On the night of Christmas…

Lilies rain down from heaven

Upon His new manger

And dew drops down from heaven.

May the holy, suffering martyr Valeriu bestow upon us his blessing!

Read Full Post »

Father John and I hope and pray you all have a very Blessed Feast of the Holy Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We thank you all for your continued prayers and encouragement and glorify God for His great goodness in connecting us with so many of you.

Please keep our ministry and our wonderful parishioners in your prayers!

Read Full Post »

0711euphemiaOn this day in the Holy Orthodox Church we commemorate the miracle that occurred at the tomb of the Holy Virgin-Martyr, Euphemia the All-Praised. You can read about the miracle here. Below is a poem written in the virgin-martyr’s honour by St. Nikolai Velimirovich.

O all-praised Euphemia, holy virgin,

an unblemished offering, pure before the Lord.

Neither did she cry out nor sigh, nor did she sorrow,

but gave warm thanks to God for her tortures.

Angels then appeared to her standing in the flame,

and extinguished the embers with refreshing rain.

O such is our golden faith: invincible;

O such is the love for God: unquenchable.

O wise virgin Euphemia, virgin of Christ,

He gave you the Kingdom for your suffering.

You have boldness before the Lord and the Mother of God,

and you help them in their work by your holy prayers.

O all-blessed Euphemia, pray for sinners,

and convert them, O holy one, to repentance.

O all-praised Euphemia, holy virgin,

an unblemished offering, pure before the Lord.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »