Today’s Two Great Feasts!

From Vigil Service for Veneration of the Holy Cross and The Annunciation

Greetings on the Feasts!

Today we’ve reached the halfway point of Great Lent, and this year there are also two large Feast Days which unusually fall together! It’s quite exciting!

We celebrate the (movable) Sunday of the Holy Cross, also known as the Veneration of the Precious Cross and the (set) Great Feast of The Annunciationthe Announcement of Glad Tidings! (Apr. 7/Mar.25)

The troparia (hymn) for the Feast of the Annunciation is: Today is the fountainhead of our salvation, and the manifestation of the mystery which was from eternity. The Son of God becometh the Virgin’s Son, and Gabriel proclaimeth the good tidings of grace, wherefore, we also cry to the Theotokos with him: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

During her life, the Virgin Mary (with discernment), actively participated and consistently said “yes” to God, and in St. Luke 1:26-38 we hear her humble response to the Archangel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her.”

There’s an old custom on the Annunciation, of rising at dawn in order to watch the sun dance with joy. The only other time it does this, is at the Great Feast of Holy Pascha, the Resurrection of Christ! An old English name for the Feast of the Annunciation, was Lady Day, and nine months from today, is the Nativity of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

On the Third Sunday of Great Lent, the Holy Cross comes out for veneration by the faithful, and the kontakion (hymn) is sung during the service: No longer doth the flaming sword guard the gate of Eden, for a strange extinction has come upon it, even the Tree of the Cross. The sting hath been taken from death, and the victory from hades. And Thou, my Saviour, didst appear unto those in hades, saying: Enter ye again into Paradise.

The Cross is a fountain of holiness and strength, reminding us that our Lenten journey is one of repentance and preparation to receive the Joy of the Resurrection. When we see an icon of Christ stretched out upon the Cross… His Arms are opened wide – embracing the whole world with His Divine Love.

Let us hold firm to the remainder of the course set before us, as we sail across the Great Sea of the Fast. Four weeks from today, we’ll arrive at our destination… that beautiful shore of the Bright Resurrection of Christ, at Pascha.

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.

Spiritual Fragrance

Roses of Spiritual Friendship from Olga

Today is the Feast Day of St. Xenia! (A very special Saint who has greatly helped our family) Congratulations also, to goddaughter Xenia on your Saint’s Day. May God grant you many years!

Yesterday, after service, our youth choir rehearsed It is Truly Meet to Bless Thee, O Theotokos… a hymn they’ll be singing for an upcoming liturgy. Sung from the heart, their pure, prayerful voices filled the air with spiritual fragrance – and arose like incense.

It is Truly Meet – Parish Youth Choir 2023

It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos,
Ever blessed and most pure,
And the Mother of our God.
More honourable than the cherubim,
And more glorious beyond compare
Than the seraphim,
Who without corruption gavest birth
To God the Word,
True Theotokos we magnify thee.

May the Mother of God keep you and your family.

In God’s Garden

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

“...Our place in God’s garden may be a very humble and sheltered spot; but, like the saints, we may keep our faces ever turned upward, and learn to grow, as they grew, like their Master, pure and straight and strong – fit flowers to blossom in the Garden of God...

Saints are like roses when they flush rarest,
Saints are like lilies when they bloom fairest,
Saints are like violets, sweetest of their kind.”

~ In God’s Garden Original Copyright 1907 by Amy Steedman; distributed by Heritage History 2009

Today is the special feast commemorating the 10th Century Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (Axion Estin) and its Ancient Hymn, that’s so special.

Congratulations on your Saint’s Day Nathaniel… Remembering how you were baptised in a beautiful garden, beneath the warm summer sky! May God grant you many years!

In Old English, the word sky was heofan, from which we get the modern word heaven.

It is Truly Meet

A Monastery Wall – Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay 

Towards the end of evening vigil services, and after the Anaphora at Divine Liturgy, we sing a short, compelling, ancient hymn. Its history is amazing, for it was revealed by the Archangel Gabriel himself, posing as a monk while visiting a monastery on Mt. Athos during the 10th century!

When he began to sing before the Panagia Eleousa (Merciful) Icon of the Virgin Mary, it shone brilliantly. He then was asked by the brethren to write down this unknown beautiful hymn, but there was no paper available. Taking a piece of slate, and inscribing the words on it with his finger, as if the rock was as soft as wax, he vanished. The phrase it it truly meet (meet is old English), meaning it is truly fitting, proper and suitable.

This miracle is celebrated on June 24/11.

Ancient Hymn to the Theotokos
It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word. True Theotokos we magnify thee! ~ Axion Esti

There are many melodies to this hymn, and below are two English tunes from Youtube. The first part has women singing and the second part has men singing another melody of this hymn.

Listen time total – a short 2 minutes, 21 seconds.

Congratulations on your Saint’s Day,
Helena and Eleanor!
May God grant you many years!

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!

Blossom Abundantly

The beauty of today’s Feast of the Annunciation, surpasses these Fawn Lilies blooming in a local woodland.

It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God. ~ Isaiah 35:2

Venerable Bede (7th century), likened the Virgin Mary to a white lily… symbolizing her purity, innocence and virginity. The floral centre of yellow anthers, are as the golden radiance of her soul.

The Archangel Gabriel is often depicted in scenes of the Annunciation as giving the Virgin Mary a lily. In August, around the time of the Dormition, blooming hostas are called Assumption Lilies.

Lilies, were also called the white-robed apostles of hope. Their colour symbolizes the sinless Christ. The shape of the Easter lily represents a trumpet, resounding the message that Christ is risen. The nature in which lilies grow is also symbolic of the Resurrection.

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