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plow-e1579364990485Blizzard update: Yesterday the Province called in the Canadian military to help with snow clearing. The state of emergency is still in effect (that means only emergency vehicles are permitted to use city streets and no businesses are permitted to open). Today they temporarily lifted the ban for pharmacies, gas stations and private snow contractors. Thank God we have plenty of food and have kept power the entire time.

The above picture was shown on the news, it is of snow plows on the highway. It’s the route we take to get from our house (in the town of Paradise) to our Mission church in east end St. John’s.

We managed to clear our driveway today. It was hard-going for almost two hours, but thank God our neighbour helped at the end where a snow plow had driven snow firmly into the hood of Fr. John’s car.

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The total snow accumulation in St. John’s was 77cm. But, it was 93cm (that’s three feet!) in the town Mt. Pearl, closest to us. I haven’t heard the official amount that fell here in Paradise. But we already had 40+cm on the ground before the storm started.

The bad news? 10-25 cm is expected overnight. God have mercy!

 

Day One (January 17)

 

Day Two (January 18)

Our backyard as seen from upstairs:

 

There was so much snow piled up against the front door that we initially dug out with a bucket and dumped the snow in the bathtub:

 

 

The cul de sac across the street was so bad the neighbours in this next photo are actually standing where the road is (check out the street sign to the left for snowbank-height reference)!

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Day Three (January 19)

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After shoveling for over an hour we had managed to get this far:20200119_103737

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We’re tuckered out but thank God it wasn’t worse!

However, God help us tomorrow morning as we try and dig out again. Man, I sure hope my work is canceled!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m a horrible photographer so forgive me for the quality of photos but I wanted to share with you my icon of St. Perpetua.

St. Perpetua is, hands-down, the female saint I feel the closest to, for many reasons. I have written an akathist to her and her companions as well as a historical novella based on the story she herself recorded, what has come to be known as The Passion of Perpetua and Felictias.

novella

Vibia Perpetua was a wealthy, educated Roman living in the ancient city of Carthage in northern Africa. She was 22 years old at the time of her death, which means she was born around the year 181 A.D. She is one of the earliest writers in history whose autobiographical work has been preserved. In fact, her work is one of the oldest Christian texts. It describes the days of her and her companions’ imprisonment, the spiritual visions she received, and contained in the same text is an eyewitness account (believed to be Tertullian) of their martyrdom. They died in 203 A.D. in the arena of Carthage on the birthday of Geta, the son of the Roman Emperor (who was also from North Africa) Septimus Severus.

As far as I know only a handful of images of St. Perpetua exist, apart from a few very modern iconographic depictions. There are a couple mosaics of her (as shown above). I based my icon on the above three mosaics. One is located in Ravenna, Italy, another in Croatia.

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First, I drew a few versions of her. When I finalized the prototype I applied the image to the canvas and began to paint. I started her in the spring, took the summer off, and returned to painting her in the fall. I finished her just before our trip to Arizona in November.

Perpteua gold part

I painted the gold piece she is wearing around her shoulders many, many times (above you can see one of many versions). When I was finally satisfied with the garments I began her face and hands. I only applied what’s called the ”proto fos” (the first light) – usually the first of three-five layers of paint. But I did not feel her expression fit; she looked too melancholic. So, as always, I emailed my brother, Fr. Matthew, and he advised me: her eyes and her chin especially needed correction (he’s not a painter but he’s a great instructor).

With some more work she came to look like this:

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Then all that was left to do was touch-up the gold, paint the halo, write the name, and add a border.

During the whole process I frequently listened to a dramatic narration of the passion of Perpetua. While they use words like “overseer” instead of “bishop” and “teacher” instead of “priest” I really loved hearing her story again and again. (Although the narrators are a bit on the over-dramatic side it is still a great narration).

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Setting out I knew it would be difficult to paint an icon of her because I had to create the prototype based on mosaics, but it was important for me, very important, to have an icon of her for myself. I have painted a good deal of icons, but never one just for me personally. I knew immediately where I would put her: in my office at work. Although I have plenty of icons in my office I placed her in a discrete spot where she is mostly blocked by the computer just so as not to draw unnecessary attention to her since she’s quite a bit larger than the other icons I have.

20191227_102112I love my work and my colleagues but it is important for me to feel connected to my roots as an Orthodox Christian. To be reminded of a brave individual, a fearless woman who had boldness before God, a person who had spiritual “tunnel vision”. She entrusted herself fully to the care of God.

Questioning her choice to be imprisoned as a Christian rather than free as a Pagan, her father begged her to renounce her faith. She pointed to a pitcher in her prison cell and asked him, “Can this pitcher be called by any other name?” He said, “No.” And she responded, “Neither can I be called by any other name than Christian.”

I painted her holding a scroll with this very quotation not simply because I love the saying but because only certain saints hold scrolls, usually hymnographers or writers, of which she is one. It also serves as a reminder for me, in a secular work environment, that I am, first and foremost, a Christian.

Work icon edited

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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!