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Christ is risen!

Below is an excerpt from my book The Sweetness of Grace: Stories of Christian Trial and Victory, published by Ancient Faith Publishing. Purchase your copy of The Sweetness of Grace through Ancient Faith Store or Amazon.com.

BLESSED ARE THE MEEK

A Holy Monastery: A Silent Teacher, pp. 99-100

ON ONE OF MY FREQUENT TRIPS to a particular women’s monastery in Greece, I couldn’t help but be affected by the lessons a monastery imparts to the human soul. An Orthodox monastery may be a silent teacher, but what it teaches is so rich, so instructive.

As I had done countless times before, when I arrived I immediately went into the catholicon for Vespers. The sisters’ chanting inspired me to chant with my whole soul, to strive to convey with my insignificant voice the spiritual depth of the divinely inspired hymns. Leaving the church I walked down to the monastery’s graveyard, and the piercing silence made me want to be more silent and to communicate holy silence to others. Going into the monastery and observing the sisters interact with love and care and concern for one another, I wanted to be more charitable, more merciful, more helpful, and more sacrificial.

Attending the abbess’s homily and listening to her wisdom impressed upon me the great and important work of reading, truly studying and seriously contemplating the Holy Scriptures, hymnography, and hagiography, and applying those holy words to my daily life.

As I left the monastery and walked down the road past the stone walls covered in vibrant green vines and brightly colored flowers, the evening light shining through the tree tops, the whole place exuded beauty and fragrance. The sweetness of grace hung in the air. I came upon a tortoise on the road. It was skittish and shy when I approached, but even that small, timid tortoise taught me a lesson. I wanted to become humble so that the tortoise wouldn’t be fearful of my presence.

There is a story about a monk who was going along a path and saw a beautiful little flower. He gently touched it with his walking stick, saying, “Don’t shout so loud!” as if its very presence were a loud testament to God’s glory. The holy atmosphere of a monastery is like that. It speaks to the soul in such a way that for once, and possibly only once, the soul sees and perceives the glory of God in all things.

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Revisiting the Exhibition Fair (a childhood favourite!) in 2018

I just wanted to make sure our baby sister, Kate, doesn’t feel left out so I’m dedicating a blog post to her today ;).

Like our older brother, Kate has accomplished much in her life and we are very grateful to God for her successes! May God grant you MANY YEARS, Kate!

Here’s a picture of Kate helping our sister-in-law Pres. Catherine chant at St. Gregory Palamas ROCOR Church in Fredericton, NB (Fr. Matthew’s church):

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In my office… remember when we used to work outside of the home? I miss it!

Cynthia Damaskos from Holistic Christian Life interviewed me for her series My Beautiful Advent. She has now posted it on her podcast series. Listen here.

About The Podcast

Want to worship God with every fiber of your being? The Holistic Christian Life podcast will show you how to be intentional in every area of your life. Cynthia Damaskos, a Certified Holistic Health Coach will guide you with interviews that will educate and inspire. Sometimes focused on the body, sometimes on the mind or emotions, but always linked to our soul. Holistically. As God created!

Episode Info

This week Cynthia is airing one of her favorite interviews with Matushka Constantina Palmer, the author of The Scent of Holiness and The Sweetness of Grace. They talk about how to stay focused on Christ amidst the constant noise that surrounds us. It’s an interview that gets better and better, and even includes some support for the wives of priests.  Don’t miss Mat. Constantina’s 3 main tips to draw you back to God during your day.

Constantina R. Palmer is from New Brunswick, a quaint province on Canada’s Atlantic coast. She lived in Thessaloniki, Greece, for almost six years, during which time she received a Master’s degree in theology from Aristotle University and studied Cretan-style iconography as well as Byzantine chant. She also spent significant time at a number of women’s monasteries throughout northern Greece. Currently, she lives with her husband, an Orthodox priest, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, serving the only Orthodox parish on the island of Newfoundland. She is also a social worker.

The Scent of Holiness:  Lessons from a Woman’s Monastery

https://store.ancientfaith.com/the-scent-of-holiness-lessons-from-a-womens-monastery/

The Sweetness of Grace: Stories of Christian Trial and Victory

https://www.amazon.com/Sweetness-Grace-Stories-Christian-Victory/dp/1944967044/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497096468&sr=1-1&keywords=the+sweetness+of+grace+stories+of+christian+trial+and+victory

Is it time to make some changes in your life? Do you want to stop the madness and get on track with your health? Maybe coaching is right for you. I’ve helped many people gain their health back over the years, and would love to talk with you. Just reach out with the link below to get on my schedule. From time to time I have openings for new clients and accept them on a first come first serve basis.

My big brother:

PHD GRADUATE

Whoop, whoop! I used to just call him Father-brother; now I’ll have to call him DOCTOR Father-brother!

From our hike in Flatrock, NL in 2018:20180723_115415

 

Christ is risen!

For a few more hours you can watch the full documentary of the life of Elder (Saint) Joseph the Hesychast for free!

I meant to include this link in my earlier post as a “treat” to share with you on my name’s day and completely forgot. Forgive me!

 

constantineI’m a touch sad today because it is my name’s day but Covid-19 restrictions prevent me from being able to celebrate it the way I would have liked. Last year I hosted a “coffee break” at my workplace in which I made and offered a variety of Greek desserts and tea and coffee in order to treat my co-workers. I laid out all the sweets on our boardroom table like a banquet table and even had flowers and a small icon of St. Constantine in the center. It was a lot of fun and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. These days I’m working from home so my ability to offer hospitality to my colleagues is very limited.

Unlike birthdays when people buy you presents, it is customary in Greece for the one who celebrates her name’s day to offer treats and gifts to others. This is a beautiful Orthodox custom that honours the Christ-like saint being celebrated with Abrahamic hospitality. I’ll just have to find a creative way to show love and hospitality to those I care about… like ordering pizza for Fr. John for supper :).

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MY SAINT: EMPEROR CONSTANTINE THE GREAT (Originally posted on May 21, 2019)

Christ is risen!

Today is the feast of St. Constantine the Great. St. Constantine is the kind of saint whose name all too often provokes people to say critical things about him and the history surrounding some of the events that transpired in his lifetime.

In the past I have been asked what “response” I would give to his detractors. I’ve just said I would say something about the example of the Prophet and King David who both fell and repented. But truth be told, St. Constantine needs no defense. There may or may not be all sorts of explanations we could give to explain away this or that detail, event, decision, etc., in his life or person. However, I stand by the fact that, “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself judged by no one” (1 Corn. 2:15).

There are two things I think are important for us to keep in mind: St. Constantine did not receive baptism until eight days before his blessed repose, and, it does not benefit our soul to try and appeal to modern man’s sensibility (or lack thereof) in order to offer a defense for the Christian Emperor. Our time, energy, and conviction are better spent trying to emulate all the ways in which he was a noble ruler and a firm Christian believer.

St. Constantine holds the title “Equal to the Apostles” as well as “the Great” but he could have just as easily been given the title “Peacemaker”. His whole reign was focused on unifying both the Empire and the Church. He is an incredible inspiration. He lived a life committed to  Christ even though he was unbaptized; he worked diligently to establish the Christian faith throughout the Empire. His writings are very illuminating, his words very persuasive, and his attention to detail as a conscientious Christian emperor is very impressive. As an example I will offer the following: the historian Eusebius says “Constantine witnessing the excesses of battle and bloodlust, was unwilling to have any of his enemies slain unnecessarily. In order to insure their safety, Constantine put a bounty of gold upon the head of every enemy solider spared.” (Great Synaxarion, May 21, p. 1032). This is simply one of countless examples of how he diligently sought out every opportunity to fulfill the spiritual law. As a result we have his awesome example as an inheritance.

So, I wrote this post to say St. Constantine needs no defense but I sort of tried to give him one and have failed miserably. He is so much greater than I can express with my fumbling words. At the end of the day if by bearing his name I bring even one ounce of the honour he brought to the name ‘Christian’ I will consider myself blessed.

Through the prayers of St. Constantine the Great, Equal to the Apostles, the first Christian Emperor, the “Peacemaker”, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me!

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Below is an excerpt from my book The Sweetness of Grace: Stories of Christian Trial and Victory, published by Ancient Faith Publishing. Purchase your copy of The Sweetness of Grace through Ancient Faith Store or Amazon.com.

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED 

The Yoke of Monasticism, pp. 247-249

IT’S A WELL-KNOWN FACT that monasticism is chock-full of temptations. If one is thinking monasticism will be an escape from the world with its trials and problems, he will soon learn what a grave mistake he made thinking the monastery is a safe haven from spiritual and worldly obstacles.

Some who decide to become monastics encounter vast and extreme temptations. There are those who, even before arriving at the gates of the monastery, are faced with a variety of barriers. The day my friend was to set out for the monastery he planned
to join, he noticed a bush just outside his front door was engulfed in flames. When firefighters responded, they explained that the cause of the fire seemed to be spontaneous combustion in the mulch. To be clear, the city in which this friend lived is well known for fog and drizzle, so you can imagine the surprise of a fire starting all on its own.

Mrs. M traveled as far as the Holy Land to become a nun at the monastery of her choice. When she arrived, she called her daughter to tell her she wouldn’t be returning home because she was entering a monastery. To her shock and dismay, her daughter told her that very morning she had woken up to find half of her body paralyzed. It turned out Mrs. M.’s daughter had multiple sclerosis and needed her mother to return home in order to take care of her newborn granddaughter. After consulting with her spiritual father, Mrs. M did in fact return. Some monastic aspirants I know have encountered minor setbacks, like missing airplane flights, while others have met with parents who—
though never showing signs of being controlling before—suddenly demand complete power over their child’s life choices.

Others, however, experience divine confirmation when they or members of their family leave to become monastics. I know of a family, particularly the mother, who was initially quite devastated the night her daughter left to become a nun at a nearby monastery.
The next day a neighbor told the mother of the family, “That was some party you had last night with all those people in your home!”

The woman responded, “I didn’t have any visitors last night. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The neighbor insisted, “I saw your house from my balcony, and I could see there were tons of people in your home. But what kind of light did you have that was so bright it shone up from the roof of your house into the sky?”

At this point the mother of the family understood that although her daughter had left to become a monastic, God had sent heavenly visitors to her home as a consolation. I suppose God allowed the neighbor to see the invisible spiritual event taking place so she could relay it to the disheartened mother. Hearing the neighbor’s description of the visitors to her home and the pillar of light the night before, she was comforted and no longer opposed her daughter’s choice.

The idea that an angel is sent to minister to the family of a monastic in his or her absence is a story passed down in Orthodox tradition. I read in a Gerontikon about a monk who, on hearing his mother and sisters in the world were going through hardships, decided
to leave his hermitage and return to his village to help them. On his way he met a stranger on the road, and they began talking. The monk revealed that he was leaving his monastery to help his family, while the stranger revealed himself to be an angel, the very angel in fact who had stayed with and protected the monk’s family since the day
he left to become a monastic.

Furthermore, the angel told him, “Since you are returning to your family to protect them and care for them, I will no longer minister to them.” Hearing this, the monk became frightened, understanding that it was more advantageous for his family to have an angel as their guardian than to have him. He returned to his hermitage.

Such is the power of monasticism: it not only affects those monks and nuns who have laid down their life for the Lord, but even their family members benefit from their Christ-centered life in countless ways, seen and unseen.

 

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The plane tree hollow where St. Iakovos often went to pray

Christ is risen!

From The Garden of the Holy Spirit: Elder Iakovos of Evia by S.G. Papadopoulos, p. 141

Halfway down the walk the elder [St. Iakovos Tsalikis] stopped to take a rest. The poor one could not even walk two hundred meters! He sat on the ditch’s bank, bent down his head towards his knees, and prepared himself. He was glorifying God along with the birds, but gradually he turned away from the nature around him and concentrated his mind inside his heart. A huge plane tree with a big hollow was standing a few meters away to the left. The elder approached, looked behind him, but did not see anyone. He grasped carefully the trunk and got inside. He faced eastwards, knelt down, and starts his prayer.”

 

From St. Herman of Alaska Monastery.