A Sacrifice of Praise

An abundance of sweet-scented wisteria spill over the pergola, upheld and supported by its rough, wooden beams.

Let us lift up our hearts! We lift them up unto the Lord! ~Anaphora

From every cut springs new growth. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all in gardening, or life.

To encourage a profusion of fragrant blossoms and to thrive – shrubs, trees, and vines require careful tending to transform into ultimate splendor. They must first be reduced, in order to become more.

By deadheading and pruning our own spiritual debris, we are refreshed and ready for new growth! We are able to lightly and joyfully lift up our hearts unto the Lord!

Through God’s Mercy of Peace we thrive, and our hearts are transformed by being in God.

In the words of an anonymous saint (whose name escapes me at the moment), may we remember more often to: Prune wisely and clip with discernment.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. ~ St. John 15:1-2

Prayer is the flower of gentleness and the fruit of joy. ~ Evagrios the Solitary, 4th century

Riding the Thermals

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31

Yestereve I watched an eagle ride the thermals over local sea cliffs. Ignoring the inclement weather and taunting gulls, it persevered, soaring higher and higher, searching a broader scope and clearer vision of the tumultuous ocean below. It was hungry. It needed sustenance. It gently reminded me that when spiritually peckish or famished, we need to remember to unfurl our own little soul-wings… and seek to ride the Life-Giving Thermals of the Holy Spirit… Who uplifts us to sweet, incomprehensible heights, which our own little wings are much too fragile to attain, solely by their own power.

The cause of all preservation lieth in the Holy Spirit. If He think it fit to blow upon a man, He taketh him up above the things of the earth, maketh him grow, and settleth him on high. ~ Matins, Sixth Tone

Happy Feast Day! Today is also the Translation of the Relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker from Myra to Bari, Italy in 1087 AD. St. Nicholas’ other feast day is December 19/6.

Thomas Sunday & Mothers’ Day Greetings!

Happy Thomas Sunday and (coincidentally) Mother’s Day!

Today is also St. Basil of Ostrog’s day!

The feature image is our Pascha Basket. ☺️ We had so much fun decorating the iced Kulich with old-fashioned candied Pansies and Violets from our window boxes (done a few weeks before, to allow them time to cure). Evidently, one can also candy rose petals, carnations, borage and other edible flowers! The red eggs are made from a natural onion skin dye.

There are so many amazing traditions taking place today. This is also when the Artos Bread (which represents Jesus Christ, our Bread of Life, and always Invisibly Present with His Church) which stood all week in front of the opened Royal Doors, is blessed and distributed amongst the faithful. Like holy water, Artos possesses mystical properties. Eating the blessed Artos during the year, replenishes physical and spiritual energies of the Orthodox faithful. Like all other sacred objects, Artos is to be treated with respect and piety. For proper storage, Artos is cut into smaller pieces, dried, and put in a glass container and kept in one’s icon corner. A small piece of dried Artos may be eaten when needed for spiritual strength and consolation, preferably taken on an empty stomach, with a bit of holy water and prayer.

Today is also Radonitsa (Day of Rejoicing)… When we visit the cemetery to have the graves of loved ones blessed, and to sing Christ is Risen to them!

The first Sunday after Pascha, is dedicated to the Apostle Thomas who finally believed, when he was invited by the Risen Christ to touch Him. When we seek God, we touch Him, and we are touched by Him. He passes through the closed doors of our hearts and minds, and directs us towards the light of faith and understanding.

Jesus saith … blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. – St. John 20:29

That’s a direct message from our Risen Lord, to all Christians, throughout the ages! Christ bestows this verbal blessing and acknowledgment upon each of one us. Then. Now. Today. Saying… “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” That’s us!

Special, loving greetings and gratitude to all mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and matushki! Whether our own mothers are still with us, or have already passed on… there is always the joyous consolation that our Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is always close by!

We are never alone! God loves us more than father, mother, friend, or any else could love, and even more than we are able to love ourselves. ~ St. John Chrysostom

The Most Holy Mother of God prays for us ceaselessly. She is always visiting us. Whenever we turn to her in our heart, she is there. After the Lord, she is the greatest protection of mankind. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitnovica

The Angel Cried to the Lady
(Special Hymn to the Theotokos, sung at Pascha and during Pascha-tide)

Rejoice!

Exalt!

Be Radiant!

Christ is Risen!

About the Iconshowing that Christ’s redemption transcends time and space. This is an act that happened in the past, is happening right now, and will happen in the future. Christ is always in the state of redeeming and setting us free!

…Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. ~ St. John 18:37

For our Orthodox Pascha is not just a festival, but the Festival of all festivals, an event for exceeding all the events of this world. Pascha shakes the whole cosmos: the sun, by our faith, dances and becomes iridescent with every colour of the rainbow, and all of creation rejoices. Some observe a magnificent silence, lacking the strength to express the inexpressible feeling of Paschal joy which fills their souls. Others hasten to share their feeling of the Paschal triumph. All people and all things begin to move, the tedious vanities of this world are cast aside, and all are transfigured. Pascha is, first of all, in us ourselves, in our hearts. God’s gift of the feeling of love penetrates our whole being, and we love each person and all things. This relates not just to the animal kingdom, but to the whole of creation, extending to the smallest blade of grass and the smallest flower. Nothing escapes our loving attention. May the Lord help us all to keep ourselves like this, for as such did the Lord create us… ~ Paschal Epistle excerpt of Metropolitan Vitaly – May, 2000; The Two Thousandth Pascha of Christ.

🎵 Paschal Tropar English sung by Parish 2024 (1:17)

🎵 Paschal Tropar Greek sung by Parish 2024 (2:15)

🎵 Paschal Tropar Slavonic sung by Parish 2024 (0:35)

Numinous Milestones of Holy Week

The Winding Sheet from Great and Holy Friday, 2023

On Holy Week: I remember that when my nephew Andrew was seventeen years old, he said to me: “Ah!… Why don’t we have Holy Week four or five times a year? So that we may all get that into our head and assimilate everything!” Truly, Holy Week makes us meditate for hours and days… even permanently. It is something beyond this world… ~ St. Gavrilia (Ascetic of Love)

Holy Week

Lovely to Listen To: St. Matthew’s Passion Music composed by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, takes us through the services in Holy Week, as recorded through the Gospel of St. Matthew. Music and Scripture are poignantly entwined.

Presanctified Liturgy: This service is partly like the service on Saturday evenings and partly like the usual Liturgy. At the Presanctified Liturgy, the Holy Communion is already consecrated from a previous usual Divine Liturgy.

Great and Holy Monday

Let My Prayer Arise

Services of the Bridegroom


Great and Holy Tuesday

Hymn of St. Kassiani
The Woman Who Had Fallen Into Many Sins

On Holy Tuesday: Listening to the Hymn of Kassiani, (sung on Holy Tuesday evening and Holy Wednesday morning): O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins… Have we not all fallen into many sins? But how else could we have felt the Miracle of His Pardon and Love? This is why all of us, who worship the Lord, are aware that without His help, His intervention, we would be wallowing in the mud permanently. O my God, I thank You! I thank You day and night, with my eyes open or closed, with or without words, alive or dead… ~ St. Gavrilia (The Ascetic of Love)

Great and Holy Wednesday

Great and Holy Thursday

Natural Onion Skin Brick- Red Dye for Pascha Eggs and Banquet of Faith

Great and Holy Friday

Do Not Lament Me O Mother One of my favourite hymns by St. Kassiani

Great and Holy Saturday

Let us open our arms and throw ourselves in Christ’s embrace. When Christ comes, we will have gained everything. Christ will alter everything within us. He will bring peace, joy, humility, love, prayer and the uplifting of our soul. The grace of Christ will renew us. ~ Elder Porphyrios, Wounded By Love

May your cup overflow with Holy Week’s multitude of blessings!

Looking forward to greeting you again on the other side of Great and Holy Pascha! May your Bright Week be radiant!

Paschal Sermon by St. John Chrysostom (347-407) Archbishop of Constantinople

…Orthodox Pascha is not just a festival, but the Festival of all festivals, an event for exceeding all the events of this world. Pascha shakes the whole cosmos: the sun, by our faith, dances and becomes iridescent with every colour of the rainbow, and all of creation rejoices. Some observe a magnificent silence, lacking the strength to express the inexpressible feeling of Paschal joy which fills their souls. Others hasten to share their feeling of the Paschal triumph. All people and all things begin to move, the tedious vanities of this world are cast aside, and all are transfigured. Pascha is, first of all, in us ourselves, in our hearts. God’s gift of the feeling of love penetrates our whole being, and we love each person and all things. This relates not just to the animal kingdom, but to the whole of creation, extending to the smallest blade of grass and the smallest flower. Nothing escapes our loving attention. May the Lord help us all to keep ourselves like this, for as such did the Lord create us. ~ Excerpt Paschal Epistle from Metropolitan Vitaly, May, 2000; The Two Thousandth Pascha of Christ

Thank you for visiting Blisswood!

Happy Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday Pussy Willows await blessing at last evening’s Vigil Service.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. ~ Zechariah 9:9

God is the Lord, and hath appeared unto us; make ye a feast, and with gladness, come, let us magnify Christ with palms and branches, with hymns crying aloud: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord our Saviour. ~ Ode 9 of the Feast

We celebrate Palm Sunday today with festive joy. Yesterday’s Lazarus Saturday and today’s Palm (and Flowers) Sunday are a bridge we cross over from Great Lent, into Holy Week.

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel! ~ St. John 12:13

Hosanna in the highest! Means: O be favourably inclined – in the highest heaven! O Lord, save! While Hosanna in the Highest initially seems like an enthusiastic cheer of welcome and joy, it’s also a deep invocation for protection and salvation from tribulations.

Tomorrow, we begin to wend our way throughout Holy Week’s poignant thoroughfares, until we reach the bright and shining shores of Holy Pascha. The Greatest Feast of all. Pascha… the dawn of the new and unending day… the Holy Resurrection of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

…the Lord is always sitting at the gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem waiting for us to allow Him to enter. He is patiently standing at the door of our heart… waiting for us to open it. ~ Unknown

May your Holy Week be Blessed, Glorious, Peaceful and Fruitful!

Practical Tip: Treat your blessed palm branches and pussy willows respectfully, because they have been blessed. Keep them carefully in your icon corner. If you currently have any old palms or willows that are deteriorating, either compost, bury or burn them, but never put them in the garbage.

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The Healing Strength of Tears

On a recent gray day, raindrops on our patio’s Montana Clematis reminded me of tears.

There are tears that burn and there are tears that anoint as oil. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian (Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian)

True tears, flowing from love for God, possess such power. Greater than Baptism itself is the fountain of tears after Baptism. ~ St. John Climacus

When said with pain, the prayer gives birth to mourning. Mourning brings tears. Tears in turn give birth to purer prayer. For tears like a fragrant myrrh wash away the filth, and thus the inbreathing of God is cleansed, which like a dove is confined within four walls, as if made of the four elements… And then, as soon as the walls break down and collapse, the dove immediately flies to the Father whence it came. ~ St. Joseph the Hesychast

You know how troubled I am; you have kept a record of my tears. Aren’t they listed in your book? The day I call to you, my enemies will be turned back. Because I know God is on my side. ~ Psalm 56:8-9

All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. ~ Psalm 38:9

Everyone has heartache. That’s part of life, and there are many kinds of tears. There are tears of sorrow, contrition, and frustration… to name a few. There are also good, and joyful nourishing tears of gratitude that flow from the love of God.

Accept the fountain of my tears, Thou who dost gather the waters of the sea to clouds... ~ Hymn of Kassiani

Standing in front of an holy icon, and looking into the eyes of our Saviour or His Most Pure Mother, or our Patron Saint…. our tears can become prayers when we can’t speak. Tears bring us back to God, closer to God.

A place without sorrows can only be in the heart, when the Lord is within it. ~ St. Nikon of Optina

May we bathe more often in the sweet consolation of prayerful tears and God’s holy, healing, spiritual myrrh. Both now and ever.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ~ St. Matthew 11:28-30

Infinity Within

Holy Gospel Book, brass covered, depicts an Icon of the Resurrection of Christ. The Gospel (in Greek “ευαγγέλιο” means “good news”) and is the timeless record of Christ’s life and teaching as written by the four Evangelists, Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, also seen in each of the cover’s four corners.

The Christian journey is not just a journey to theosis [a transformative process whose aim is likeness to or union with God, and the purpose of human life], but also a journey to a greater awareness of the theosis already given us in baptism and chrismation… So, in the light of your baptism, praying for a spirit of repentance will fairly soon show you an absolute infinity within you, and it’s a little terrifying. But one step at a time. ~ Nicholas Kotar

Sacred Alaska Movie

Alaskan Church Image by Simeon_B_Johnson from Pixabay

We are all the same and we all need mercy… Most important is to love one another. Each saint is a real person… The real person who we’re meant to be. ~ Sacred Alaska Film Trailer

Holy Martyr St. Peter the Aleut, pray to God for us!

I’m really looking forward to viewing this soon! However, I can’t seem to find the particulars on the where, when, or how to view the complete documentary.

If possible, would someone please let me know details of availability in Canada?

Thank you!

My God, My Confidence

Featured Image shared by Anastasia

Is not your reverence your confidence? And the integrity of your ways your hope? ~ Job 4:6

“A visible thought for today these many years later… from a beautiful card, celebrating my friend’s high school graduation in 1963. The sentiment on the back of the card reads, My God, my Confidence. The girl whose graduation this card announced attended a program sponsored by the saintly Little Sisters of the Poor in Los Angeles, for high school girls interested in joining their Community. Her name was Cecilia and her elder sister was and still is a Little Sister of the Poor. Cecilia died a few years ago. Eternal Memory to her who introduced me to the Little Sisters at their Home For the Aged where we volunteered in high school. Now, I’m the “Aged” referenced in the title!” ~ Anastasia

Memory Eternal Julia and family on the day of Julia’s interment. Julia was a wonderful Sister in Christ, and an amazing alto singer in the church choir, whose warm, rich voice reminded me of a heavenly bird’s. In the past, she raised finches, and I can remember them singing joyfully in her home as they flitted about in their large cages by the bright window. Julia was an accomplished, professional artist and art teacher, who loved to draw and paint many things, including all kinds of birds. Anastasia’s card with the sparrow being held in God’s Hands reminded me of Julia, her love for birds, and that right now, God has Julia’s gentle soul in His Loving Hands.

Even the sparrow has found a home… ~ Psalm 84:3

Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. ~ St. Matthew 10:31

Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. ~ St. Luke 12:6-7

The feature image of the 1963 Graduation Card, reminds me of hope. I pray that some day after completing this School of Life, we may all take flight and Graduate in Heaven! Amen!

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