Angelic Pearls

Feature photo from yesterday’s beautiful Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (September 21/8). Such a Light and Happy Celebration! Even the bright church flowers seem to point joyfully to the Altar’s Angel Doors.

Liturgically, everything’s connected, and I love how the day after the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, we also remember her parents, Sts. Joachim and Anna (September 22/9). St. Anna (Ann or Anne, from Hebrew Hannah – meaning favour or grace) is descended from the lineage of King David, and the mother of the Virgin Mary, and grandmother of Jesus Christ. 

Congratulations on your Saint’s Day today, goddaughter Anna! God grant you many years!

So many blessings! Each church also has its own Guardian Angel that always remains in the Altar. After a service, when the candles are snuffed and the congregation has left for home… if one sits quietly with their physical eyes closed, the eyes of the soul may catch a glimpse of comprehension – regarding that profound, peaceful silence steeped in holiness.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4: 7

After the Divine Liturgy we should linger in church as long as we can. For the Angels. …If we are interrupted while speaking, we must not continue. It means that what we were about to say should not be heard. The Angels do this. …Talk with your Guardian Angel all the time, about everything. Especially when you are in trouble and when you cannot get along with other people. He always helps. … In my evening prayer I tell my Angel: “Take my soul this evening too and place her by the feet of Christ, to be perfected all night through, so that I may find her improved in the morning!” ~ Gerontissa Gavrilia

Memory Eternal Grandma Faith!

With love in Christ.

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!

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. 

Path of God

Ancient pathway Mystras, Greece – 2017

The path of God is a daily cross. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian

Make your one aim in life the doing of the will of Jesus in every circumstance, however important or trifling it may seem. ~ St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

Continue your path with courage, with much courage. Let your heart rejoice in the Lord, and He will grant it all nourishment and all energy that is needed so that it does not seem to collapse. Nothing should seem difficult to you. ~St. Luke of Simferopol

We travel many paths in life. With God’s help we make our way along the right one. Sometimes distracting side trails appear, but if we aim to do God’s Will, we discern that most navigational “shortcuts” may trip us up. Meanwhile, God protects us, and our guardian angel is always present.

Speaking of paths, don’t forget to have a trip blessing before starting a new adventure… It’s the best travel insurance! I particularly remember a certain vacation of hiking with my family in the wilds (of B.C.). As I plodded along, my husband and children cavorted far ahead, chatting and laughing. Pretty soon they rounded a bend in the trail, and vanished from sight and sound.

I thirstily drank in the beauty and wonder of God’s nature amid tall fragrant forest firs and birdsong. Beside the path, leaf mould and damp mosses covered ancient nursing stumps sprouting new life… And I realized it was high time to catch up with my family, so I broke into a jog.

About 100 feet into my run, I “was stopped”.

I simply couldn’t move, and literally stood still. Frozen.

Within two seconds of wondering what was going on(?!?), a sudden great crack resounded, and a giant limb of a tree, fell directly across the path, about 10 feet in front of me! It was massive, and fell exactly where I would have been jogging, had my Guardian Angel not stopped me.

Able to move freely again, I was shaken with amazement and gratitude for a few minutes. Crossing myself, I thanked God and my Guardian Angel profusely. (I also remember waving an additional thumbs-up, air greeting of hello – to my Guardian Angel.)

Raucous ravens shook my reverie and I sighed, “Okay, okay, I get it, I’m going!” Adrenaline fuelled an easy straddle of the downed limb as I tore off to catch up to my family.

Grace and Protection abounded on that path… with God’s help ever before me, and my Guardian Angel always beside me. Amen!

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. ~ St. Matthew 10:30

Do not say, “this happened by chance, while this came to be of itself.” In all that exists there is nothing disorderly, nothing indefinite, nothing without purpose, nothing by chance … How many hairs are on your head? God will not forget one of them. Do you see how nothing, even the smallest thing, escapes the gaze of God? ~ St. Basil the Great

When Snowed Under…

Read Psalm 91!

(Also known as Psalm 90 in some translations)

He that dwelleth in the help of the Most High shall abide in the shelter of the God of heaven. He shall say unto the Lord: Thou art my helper and my refuge. He is my God, and I will hope in him. For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunters and from every troubling word. With his shoulders shall he overshadow thee, and under his wings shalt thou have hope. With a shield will his truth encompass thee; thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day. Nor for the thing that walketh in darkness, nor for the mishap and demon of noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but unto thee shall it not come nigh. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold, and thou shalt see the rewards of sinners. For Thou, O Lord, art my hope. Thou madest the Most High thy refuge; No evils shall come nigh unto thee, and no scourge shall draw nigh unto thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. On their hands shall they bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Upon the asp and basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and dragon. For he hath set his hope on me, and I will deliver him; I will shelter him because he hath known my name. He shall cry unto me, and I will hearken unto him. I am with him in affliction, and I will rescue him and glorify him. With length of days will I satisfy him, and I will show him my salvation.

Thanks for reminding us of this wonderful Psalm, Vera!

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!

They Dance for Joy

Detail of Mosaic Panel of Creation – St. Sophia Orthodox Church – Canada

angels… are always being filled full of light, becoming ever more radiant and making blessed use of their natural ability to change. They dance for joy around the First Light, look continuously towards Him and are enlightened directly by Him, as they tirelessly sing the praises of the Fount of Light and, being ministers of light, transmit illuminating grace to those lower beings who are being enlightened. ~ St. Gregory Palamas

Christ, the Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2), is without beginning and pre-eternal. He is both immutable and unchangeable, as with Him there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning (James 1:17). He is without end, never-setting, beaming out the true and heavenly light of day without evening, in which the spirits of the righteousness live with the good angels. When this present age reaches its end, the righteous shall also have their bodies with them, as heirs of the light and sons of the true day. That day continues forever without evening, and neither has, nor ever did have, a morning, since it has no beginning. ~ St. Gregory Palamas

On occasion, I’ve orchestrated group observation with my youth choir to demonstrate how we, as created beings, are unable to fully comprehend the concept of Eternity or Pre-eternal.

After first discussing general definitions of the two words, we’d continue with the next part of the exercise. For just a few minutes, (it’s too difficult to try longer) we silently contemplate the concept of what Eternal means. How God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are Pre-Eternal (beyond time and space)… and have always “been” even before anything else existed. No beginning, no end.

The attempts to try and wrap our mortal minds around the notion of eternal and pre-eternal is humbling and revealing.

Spontaneous laughter and amazement conclude these experiments. Exclamations from the youth range from “Wow, that’s impossible!” to “My brain exploded!”

God is simultaneously everywhere. (Yet another wondrous point to ponder!) He is the beginning, the continuation, the Life and Light of everything that exists. In His great and loving goodness, the Way to salvation is revealed through His Only-Begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ… the Sun of Righteousness, the Dawn and Dayspring from on high.

And so, like the angels, let our souls rejoice and dance with joy; radiantly infused with the Pre-eternal Divine Light, and Peace… which surpasses understanding.

✠ Excellent Post Script from Anastasia, who shares: “A priest once said in my high school religion class: “Eternity is not a “line”. It is a “point”, and we are standing in it.” As he said that, he drew a line and then a dot on the board. I’ve remembered it these 50+ years it impressed me so.

Lampstand of the Light

Dome Mosaic of St. John the Baptist – St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada

St. John the Baptist is called the voice of the Word, the lampstand of the the Light, the morning star and Forerunner of the Sun of Righteousness.

He is named Forerunner, as he preceded Christ… being sent as a Messenger to prepare the people for Christ’s ministry. Angel in Greek means messenger, and some icons of St. John the Baptist depict him with angelic wings, on account of Malachi’s prophecy from the Old Testament.

Several dates during the Liturgical year specifically celebrate the birth, life and death of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist of Christ.

On September 11 (August 29, Julian calendar) we remember St. John the Baptist’s heavenly birthday and martyrdom. In honour of the greatest of all prophets who have ever lived, and since ancient times, the Church has celebrated this leading luminary by establishing this day as a fast.

St. John the Baptist is the personification of faithfulness to God, righteousness, and asceticism. He is so revered, that each Tuesday, every week of the year is also dedicated to him.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. ~ St. John 1:6-9

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St. John the Baptist – St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada

St. John the Baptist Resource Page

700 years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah foretold the preaching of John the Baptist. Isaiah called St. John  “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness”  (Isaiah 40:3); who was to “prepare  the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” 

Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, who lived more than 400 years before the birth of Christ foretold the coming of St. John the Baptist, and refers to him as an angel. Behold I will send My Angel, and he shall prepare the way before Me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Angel of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. ~ Malachi 3:1-2

St. Luke 1:5-80

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. ~ St. John 1:6-9

St. Matthew 3:1-12

St. Matthew 3:13-17

St. Mark 6:17-29

Christ Himself said: Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. ~ St. Matthew 11:11

Through the holy prayers of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist of Christ, may we, too, stand as steadfast shining candles before the Lord; radiating His Effulgent and Gladsome Light!

O Gladsome Light is an ancient Christian hymn originally written in Greek around the 3rd or 4th century. It is the earliest known hymn recorded outside the Bible still in use today, and is still sung in Orthodox Christian Vespers services daily. St. Basil the Great (329-379 AD) referred to this hymn (already considered old in his time) as a cherished church tradition. It is also called the Lamp-lighting Hymn, for at that time in Jerusalem, a lamp was kept perpetually burning at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the empty tomb of Christ. As Christians gathered there to worship, this hymn was sung, and a candle lit from the lamp was brought forth from the tomb, its bright solitary flame reminding all of the Risen Lord. ~ Wikipedia

At the Lord’s Feet

Part of the Creation Mosaic, St. Sophia Orthodox Church – Canada

Keep your mouth shut in the hour of crisis, when a problem is acute. Do not say anything, because you may regret it a thousand times. Instead, tell it to the Angels so that they may place it at the Lord’s Feet, and pray the Lord for an Angel of Peace to calm your soul. ~ Gerontissa Gavrielia

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