That Still Small Voice Actually Shouts

Image by Maria Saveleva from Pixabay

Do not treat your conscience with contempt; for it always advises you to do what’s best. It sets before you the will of God and the angels; it frees you from secret defilements of the heart; and when you depart from this life it grants you the gift of intimacy with God. ~ St. Maximos the Confessor

Always be guided by your heart rather than by your head, and your life will be transformed. Happiness does not consist in living in a palace or enjoying a large fortune; these can be lost. True happiness is something that neither men nor events can take from you. You will find it in Faith, in Hope and in Charity. Try to make those around you happy, and you will be happy yourself. ~ Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia

From the Letters of Grand Duchess St. Elizabeth (Granddaughter of Queen Victoria)

Happy Saint’s Day to my parish friends Elizabeth, both named after this amazing Saint! May God grant you many years!

Hail the Blest Morn!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Happy Second Day of Nativity!

Sharing our parish choir’s women’s (a cappella) recording of this beautiful carol – Star of the East. ⭐️

Parish Recording 2014

Hail the blest morn, see the great Mediator,
Down from the regions of glory descend.
Shepherds, go worship the Babe in the manger,
Lo, for His guard the bright angels attend.

Refrain:
Brightest and best, of the stars of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid.
Star in the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our Infant Redeemer was laid.

Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining,
Low lies His bed, with the beasts of the stall.
Angels adore Him, in slumbers reclining,
Wise men and shepherds before Him do fall.

Say, shall we yield Him in costly devotion
Odours of Eden and offerings divine,
Gems from the mountain and pearls from the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine.

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gold, we His favour secure,
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Nearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Text by Reginald Heber (1783-1826)
Musical Arrangement by John H. Hickok (1832
)

Meriġe Crīstesmæsse
Blessed Christmastide!

Angelic Efforts

Progress on Altar Angel by Parish Mosaicists based on detail from background angels of a 6th century icon at the ancient St. Catherine’s Monastery of Mt. Sinai.

When we once begin to form good resolutions, God gives us every opportunity of carrying them out. ~ St. John Chrysostom

You can set up an altar to God in your minds by means of prayer. And so it is fitting to pray at your trade, on a journey, standing at a counter or sitting at your handicraft. ~ St. John Chrysostom

Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you will honour your patience. ~ St. John Chrysostom

We all do nearly nothing – some a little more, some a little less. When Christ sees our little effort, He gives us an analogous [matching] token; and so our “nearly nothing” becomes valuable, and we can see a little progress. For this reason we must not despair, but hope in God. ~ Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

Truly He is Risen

Image by jplenio from Pixabay 

Truly He is risen!

and were He not, 

we should not have met

like cells of an enormous, incomprehensible fabric

our eyes are slowly opened 

to the miracle which binds us together

May the Lord continue to bless us

~ by an Anonymous Friend

I initially posted this with my friend’s permission and name, but he has since requested that “anon would do nicely” and gave me this humble reason…

The words that I write 
Are rarely my own 
But are more seeds of light  
That some Angel has sown 
They take root and flower 
And raising their heads 
By some mystical power 
They rise in their beds 
And sing the praise of their Sower. 

Little Suns on Stems

Be like a dandelion, whenever they fall apart, they start again. Have hope. ~ Anonymous

Love all creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand within it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.~ Starets Zosima, in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

Dandelions make me smile. They were the first backyard flowers I ever picked, and seemed like beautiful, brilliant, little suns on stems. My mom lovingly placed many bedraggled bouquets into vases all around our home.

I picked daisies too, and was delighted that when turned upside down, they became tiny white tutus tinged with rosy pink edges. It was the first thing in my young life that I ever coveted… a daisypetal ballerina skirt. Yes, the “clothing thing” starts pretty young for some of us gals.

Fast-forward 50 years to church (this has absolutely nothing to do with dandelions)… where I helped my very young granddaughter venerate an icon. There happened to be an angel in it… an angel with… red shoes. My granddaughter, stood in deep contemplation (which I assumed to be a pious moment), until she whispered fiercely, “Baba, I want those shoes!” But, I digress, and since there wasn’t (to my knowledge), a local Byzantine Payless Shoes Store on this side of the Bosphorus, we can at least agree the gal “clothing/shoe thing” indeed seems inherent. Let us return again to the topic of dandelions.

I remember being around 4, and handing a fistful of crumpled suns to a visiting, elderly relative. Expecting to hear a grateful thank you, she instead recoiled in horror and hissed, “Weeds!”

What on earth were weeds? They sound terrible… horrible! Determined to defend, I stubbornly objected. “But, God made flowers! How can they be bad?” Of course that didn’t fly well with the visiting relative, and although the incident ended in a stalemate between her and I – God won that round.

Later, as a teen mowing our lawn (under duress), I observed how prolific and tenacious those blessed dandelions could be. They even pop up through cement cracks! Wow. Now that’s perseverance! Oh, that I could be just a little like that!

Whether by chance or design, and through a “herby” friend (who’d scoop up chickweed for a chew), I stumbled upon how healthy and nutritious dandelions are (unsprayed of course)! They’re literally everywhere! God created them, and they’re filled with His goodness. Who knows what other exciting benefits they hold? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, a young grandchild recently wove two dandelion-chain crowns, and solemnly placed one of the diadems on my head. We took a regal selfie together… oblivious to the sticky, white, sap dripping onto our bangs.

I thank God, Who, in His Wisdom and compassion, created the noble, persistent, dandelion – and grandchildren.

Here is a super video on “how to” choose and eat dandelion greens! If you pick them yourself, do make sure they’re unsprayed, and not too big. Otherwise they may be bitter, tough and furry! But when you time it just right, they’re amazing!

May your Lenten Journey be peaceful, fruitful, and green.

Let Us Go Forth in Peace

Angel Wall Mosaic Before Completion – St. Sophia Orthodox Church in Canada, 2012

“Let us go forth on peace” is the last commandment of the Liturgy. What does it mean? It means, surely, that the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy is not an end but a beginning. Those words, “Let us go forth in peace,” are not merely a comforting epilogue. They are a call to serve and bear witness. In effect, those words, “Let us go forth in peace,” mean the Liturgy is over, the liturgy after the Liturgy is about to begin. This, then, is the aim of the Liturgy: that we should return to the world with the doors of our perceptions cleansed. We should return to the world after the Liturgy, seeing Christ in every human person, especially in those who suffer. In the words of Father Alexander Schememann, the Christian is the one who wherever he or she looks, sees Christ everywhere, and rejoices in him. We are to go out, then, from the Liturgy and see Christ everywhere. ~ Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia

5th Day of Nativity – the Holy Innocents

Image by mamkaklass from Pixabay

Christ is Born!

January 11 / December 29

Today we commemorate the 14,000 Infants slain by Herod at Bethlehem, and its surroundings. The relics of these little saints rest in the Grotto of the 4th Century Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem.

It was shocking to hear and understand the “Christmas” Coventry Carol for first time, when I was but a child.

Why on earth would people want to sing this, when all the other Christmas carols were warm, cozy, pockets of peace and joy? “Why? It’s ugly! Terrible!”

Mom agreed. “It is. But, they’re in heaven now, and we sing to remember this was part of what happened at Jesus’ birth.”

Even as an older youth it was painful to ponder, and still is… especially hearing the Carol now, with a grandmother’s ear. It’s a lullaby of lament… a dissonant dirge of restrained anguish. How could it not be?

Although there is great beauty in the world, this is also a world with warts and all. Earth isn’t heaven, and that’s why Christ is born… to reunite the created with the Creator.

The Coventry Carol was also my godmother’s favourite Christmas piece. She was an exceptional, amazing woman, Memory Eternal Eve! Through her, I learned to embrace the deep significance and bright sadness of this carol.

Below is a recording from a public Nativity Concert in 2014, at St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada.

St. Matthew 2: 16 – 18 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

St. Matthew 2: 13-14 …describes how St. Joseph was warned in a dream by an angel to flee Bethlehem and go to Egypt.

I came across this moving YouTube Video Tour: Grotto of the Holy Innocents at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

The doves in Bethlehem murmured since the serpent destroyed their offspring. The eagle fled to Egypt to go down to receive the promises. ~ St. Ephraim the Syrian

Glorify Him!

Prelude of God’s Good Will

Lily on Blue Background, by Josch13 from Pixabay 

The Lily symbolizes the unfading flower of virginity and purity of the Mother of God. The six anthers with amber pollen splaying out from the flower’s centre, represent the golden radiance of her soul.

Happy Feast Day on the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple!

Today let heaven above greatly rejoice and let the clouds pour down gladness at the mighty acts, exceeding marvellous, of our God. For behold, the gate that looks toward the east, born according to the promise from a fruitless and barren womb, and dedicated to God as His dwelling, is led today into the temple as an offering without blemish. Let David greatly rejoice, striking his harp. ‘Virgins’ said he, ‘shall be brought to the King after her, her companions shall be brought unto Thee. Within the tabernacle of God, within His place of propitiation, she shall be brought up, to become of the dwelling place of Him who was begotten of the Father without change before all ages, for the salvation of our souls. Today the Theotokos, the Temple that is to hold God, is led into the temple of the Lord, and Zacharias receives her. Today the Holy of Holies rejoices greatly, and the choir of angels mystically keeps feast. With them let us also celebrate the festival today, and let us cry aloud with Gabriel: Hail, thou who art full of grace: the Lord is with thee, He who has great mercy. ~ St. George of Nicomedia

The Father is Light, His Son is Light, and the Spirit, the Comforter, is Light: for, shining forth as from one sun, the Trinity divinely illuminates and preserves our souls… The prophets proclaimed thee in ages past, speaking of thee as the ark of holiness, golden censer, candlestick, and table; and we sing thy praises as the Tabernacle that held God. ~ Second Canon at the Festal Matins

The Theotokos is sometimes referred to as the Golden Candlestick; for within her, she contained the Light that Illumines the whole world.

With joy in spirit, let us go before her today, bearing the bright lamps of faith… into the temple of our hearts!

Festal Troparion, Tone 4
Today is the prelude of God’s good will / and the heralding of the salvation of mankind. / In the temple of God, the Virgin is presented openly, / and she proclaimeth Christ unto all. / To her, then, with a great voice let us cry aloud: / Rejoice, O thou fulfillment // of the Creator’s dispensation.

Festal Kontakion, Tone 4
The most pure temple of the Saviour, / the most precious bridal-chamber and Virgin, / the sacred treasury of the glory of God, / is on this day brought into the house of the Lord, / bringing with her the grace that is in the Divine Spirit. / And the angels of God chant praise unto her: // she is the heavenly tabernacle.

May your day be filled with the Peace from Above!

The Gate of Mercy

Children’s Backyard Secret Garden

Repentance is the gate of mercy which is opened to all who seek it. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian

Repentance raises the fallen, mourning knocks at the gate of Heaven, and holy humility opens it… Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you will honour your patience… Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract with God for a second life… Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair… Repentance is purification of conscience… Repentance is a striking of the soul into vigorous awareness.~ St. John Climacus

Prayer does not consist merely in standing and bowing your body or in reading written prayers… it is possible to pray at all times, in all places, with mind and spirit. You can lift up your mind and heart to God while walking, sitting, working, in a crowd and in solitude. His door is always open, unlike man’s. We can always say to Him in our hearts; Lord, Lord have mercy. ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

I recall an old-time Protestant hymn my grandmother would belt out occasionally… whether pushing a buggy down a grocery store aisle, or washing dishes in the kitchen. I can’t remember the verses, but sure loved its sweet refrain!

🎵 Mercy there was great and grace was free, Pardon there was multiplied to me, There my burdened soul found liberty, At Calvary! 🎵

So Thankful

When I was seven, I received my first King James Bible at Christmas. It had beautiful illustrations, including Christ blessing the children on its front cover. I felt very grown up and would often read for pleasure from this Bible. It was such a joy and wonder seeing our Lord Jesus Christ’s words set in red ink.

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. ~ St. Matthew 18: 2-6; 10

While growing up, I often wondered what ever happened to that little boy mentioned in the Gospel, whom Jesus called unto Him?

Neither my Baptist Sunday School teachers, nor my pastor, could answer this question.

However, in my early 20’s the Orthodox Church called me “home” and I did find out!

Holy Tradition describes St. Ignatius as the little boy. The saint was also called St. Ignatius the God-Bearer (Theophoros), because he was held in the arms of Christ the Incarnate Son of God, and because he in turn bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him. Many of St. Ignatius’ writings are available, to this very day!

Take heed often to come together to give thanks to God and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, in heaven and earth, is brought to an end. ~ St. Ignatius of Antioch

I’m so thankful for the Love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit… the Holy Trinity One in Essence and Undivided.

I’m thankful for the One Holy Catholic, Apostolic, Orthodox Church.

I’m thankful for the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, as she hears all our supplications… and with a mother’s boldness, takes them to her Son – praying to God for us.

I’m thankful for the protective intercessions of my saint, Great-Martyr Barbara and my Holy Guardian Angel.

I’m thankful for my many blessings, and for my family and friends.

For if God does not for a moment tire of giving us good things, how can we tire of thanking Him for these good things? ~ St. Nikolai Velimirovic

I’m thankful that you visit Blisswood, which in turn lets me write and share.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

error: Content is protected !!