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Christmas Eve at Holy Lady of Vladimir Mission

While I sit in my living room seeing nothing but white outside, snow piling up against my windows, I thought I might as well share some recent photos of life in Newfoundland. We’re in the middle of a blizzard. In fact a state of emergency has been declared to keep people off the roads. They say we may get up to 75cm of snow in this single snowfall – that’s more than ever before. By God’s grace we still have power. Right now shoveling snow is tomorrow’s problem.

Here are pictures of our Christmas. My mum visited from New Brunswick which made it extra special.

(In case you’re wondering what book Fr. John is holding with a smile on his face, it is Cicero’s “How to Win an Argument” – he picked it out himself. The inscription, however, was all me. It says, “Good luck! -Your wife”.)

Here are some other photos taken during Mum’s visit:

The following set of photos are from the storm we had on the feast of the Theophany, January 6. As you can see by the photos, we couldn’t get out to church that morning due to the snowfall and so we held the divine services at home. We no longer have a full chapel set up downstairs (all the liturgical furniture was taken to the Mission) so we made do with what we had. There are also a few pics of our recent walks after that snowfall included below.

Here’s hoping everyone on the Avalon Peninsula stays safe and can dig out of the snow when this blizzard finally moves along.

St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, AZ is live streaming Great Vespers, blessing of the loaves, and Matins for the feast of St. Anthony the Great.

You should be able to view it at this link:

Αυγουστίνος

by Fr. John Palmer

Every second Thursday evening, with an open invitation to the public, members of our community meet in a public venue – a coffee shop – where we read aloud and then discuss a section of St Augustine’s beautiful work, the Confessions.  This initiative, which I have aptly dubbed ‘Coffee House Theology’, has been one of the greatest joys and consolations in my work as a mission priest.

On the one hand, joy springs from the fact that our sessions have been relatively well attended and met with enthusiasm.  Indeed, every priest rejoices to see the flame of holy learning kindled in the faithful committed to his charge.  Moreover, I rejoice that in an age where Christ has been pushed into the background – both in broader society and in the lives of individual Christians – this remnant, this two or three gathered in his name, offers a small confession, setting our Lord before men without any regard for strange, disapproving looks.

On the other hand, joy has come from my re-discovery of the absolutely Orthodox heart of St Augustine.  Yes, it is true, in places Augustine was tempted by his truly staggering intellect and fell; yes, on occasion he exchanged the revelation of God acquired by a pure heart for his own speculations, choosing a lowly, created light over the uncreated; yes, he seriously errs on occasions. Consequently, he needs to be read with a degree of discernment, plucking the rose from among the thorns, just as we see him approached by his strongest advocates within the Patristic Tradition.  However, despite all this, when it comes to the vigilant attention to God’s Providence; when it comes to the struggle with the passions; when it comes to repentance; when it comes to Christian living, I continually stand in awe of him.

In the last section we read together this past Thursday, what particularly struck me was the witness he bears to the Orthodox tradition of Eldership in the Pre-Schism West.  In Book VIII, Augustine is faced with a question with no obvious correct answer, at least in the abstract.  He is torn between marriage and monasticism.  “The voice of truth had told me that there are some who have made themselves eunuchs for love of the Kingdom of Heaven.  But he also said, let only those take this in whose hearts are large enough for it.” (VIII.[1])  Unsure of what to do with respect to one of the fundamental question of life, he uneasily spun his tires, succumbing to listlessness.

Faced with this quandary, what does the Saint do?  Addressing God he writes, “By your inspiration it seemed to me a good plan to go and see Simplicianus…” (VIII.[1]),  the spiritual father of St Ambrose of Milan.  And listen to how he describes this man:  Simplicianus, “…I could see for myself,” he says, “was a good servant of yours [of Christ]”; “…the light of grace plainly shone in him…”; “…from boyhood he had always led a most devout life…”; and, “…in all the long years he had spent to such a good purpose in following your way he must have gained great experience and much knowledge”.  And so Augustine hoped that if he put his problem to him, “…he would draw upon his experience and his knowledge to show me how best a man in my state of mind might walk upon your way.” (VIII.[1])  Simplicianus was deeply experienced in the spiritual life, had served Christ well, and had obviously acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit which shone in him.  Is there any better definition of an Elder?

Augustine, in the midst of a dilemma which required the grace of discernment and insight and not just the reiteration of general principles, might have simply gone to the local parish priest, but he didn’t.  Clearly, in his inherited Orthodox consciousness he knew that ordination itself does not render one an infallible guide in such matters; only experience and grace will suffice.  And so he – often criticized as the ‘least orthodox’ of Holy Fathers – does something very Orthodox: he goes to an Elder.

And what is the result?  The Elder recounts a story for Augustine which itself is a monument to his discernment, and not surprisingly his discerning words hit their mark, stirring the Saint from his listlessness.  “When your servant told me the story of Victorinus, I began to glow with fervor to imitate him.  This, of course, is why Simplicianus had told it to me.”  (VIII.[5])  Words spoken in the spirit of discernment are the words of eternal life for an individual.

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Troparion — Tone 1

Your proclamation has gone out into all the earth / Which was divinely taught by hearing your voice / Expounding the nature of creatures, / Ennobling the manners of men. / O holy father of a royal priesthood, / Entreat Christ God that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion — Tone 4

You were revealed as the sure foundation of the Church, / granting all mankind a lordship which cannot be taken away, / sealing it with your precepts, / venerable Basil, revealer of heaven.

Kontakion — Tone 4

You were revealed as the sure foundation of the Church, / Granting all men a lordship which cannot be taken away, / Sealing it with your precepts, / O Venerable and Heavenly Father Basil.

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The icon of St. Basil in this post is one of four icons I finished painting last year of the four Hierarchs (St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Gregory and St. John Chrysostom) for the back wall of our chapel. I took the photo that appears first in this post before I painted the saint’s name and apparently never remembered to take another photo with good lighting. I’m really a very poor photographer but I included the only other up-close photo I have of St. Basil’s finished icon (ie. depicting his name). Here are a few of all four icons together:

Happy 2020!

Blessed Nativity

Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou (in Greece) recounts a pious couple’s vision of Geronda Ephraim and his advice regarding how we should respond to the current problems in Church life.