Look at the Pussy Willows

Silver, Furry, Catkins, Reach for the Sky

Now we worry about a piece of bread, about a roof over our heads, about our social conditions. And it seems to us that the meaning of life consists of this. But the Church says, Look at the pussy willows: leaves will sprout and later flowers and fruit. So it is even in a Christian soul. ~ Archbishop Andrei Rymarenko (1893- 1978)

A Little Leaven

Detail of Greeting Bread and Salt for the Archbishop – May 2019

Just as a little leaven, according to the Apostle’s words, is mixed with all the dough, so the body that was raised by God to immortality, once it is introduced into our body, wholly changes it and transforms it into his own substance. ~ St. Gregory of Nyssa

Song of Bread

He who asks to receive his daily bread does not automatically receive it in its fullness as it is in itself: he receives it according to his own capacity as recipient. The Bread of Life (cf. St. John 6:35) gives Himself in His love to all who ask, but not in the same way to all; for He gives Himself more fully to those who have performed great acts of righteousness, and in smaller measure to those who have not achieved so much. He gives Himself to each person according to that person’s spiritual ability to receive Him. ~St. Maximos the Confessor

The Lord promised to send the Comforter. (St. John 16:7), Who should join us to God. For as a compacted lump of dough cannot be formed of dry wheat without fluid matter, nor can a loaf possess unity, so, in like manner, neither could we, being many, be made one in Christ Jesus without the water from heaven. And as dry earth does not bring forth unless it receives moisture, in like manner we also, being originally a dry tree, could never have brought forth fruit unto life without the voluntary rain from above. For our bodies have received unity among themselves by means of that laver which leads to incorruption; but our souls, by means of the Spirit. Wherefore, both are necessary, since both contribute towards the life of God. ~ St. Irenaeus of Lyons

Skylark Buns Tradition

Skylark buns are traditionally baked to celebrate the Holy 40 Martyrs of Sebaste.

Sebaste, an ancient Roman town, is now called Ayas in modern-day Turkey. The date of the Holy Forty Martyrs’ “heavenly birthday” falls on March 22/9 (320 AD) and always within Great Lent.

The Holy Forty Martyrs were soldiers in the Roman 12th Legion called Fulminata (the Lightning -Thundering Legion). As Christians, they refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and were brought to trial before the commander. After enduring many sufferings, they attained the joyous reward reserved for those who give their lives for Christ. The unwavering fortitude of the Holy Forty Martyrs exemplifies great faith, and perseverance to the end.

The Holy Fathers of the Church refer to Great Lent as a fasting spring. During this period, the souls of the faithful are sown with seeds of divine grace, to yield a harvest of good deeds, throughout the year that follows. 

Buns shaped like birds (also known as skylarks) are traditionally baked to celebrate the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste’s feast day.  Skylark buns are also shared after church on the first Sunday closest to their feast day, which also occurs near the first day of spring.

The skylark buns remind us of the Forty Martyrs’ steadfastness… inspiring own our souls to soar heavenward like birds, upon the wings of divine love; looking unto Jesus, the Author and finisher of our lives.  

To Make the Larks    

Take a piece of risen yeasted bread dough, about the size of a medium egg, and roll it out into a long ropey piece, about 5 inches long. 

Tie it loosely into a knot, with approximately equal length protruding from both ends. 

Put on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper). With a pair of scissors, cut a “beak” on one end of the knot, and on the other end of the knot, cut a “tail” into about 3 or 4 feathered strands. 

Push 2 peppercorns firmly into the head, as eyes.  

Do not put birds on cookie sheet too closely together, as they spread a bit as they bake. Cover, let rise again for about half an hour. 

Pop into a preheated 370* oven and bake about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

TIP: For tastier buns, use a bit of honey, a dash of cardamon, and lemon or orange zest in the dough. 

Some people prefer to use currants for the eyes, although these can turn gooey. 

Birds freeze very well if baking ahead of time. You may need to secure their eyes again, if they come loose in bag when thawing.

Pray for One Another

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. ~Ephesians 6:18

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. ~ James 5:16

As bread is food for the body and virtue is food for the soul, so spiritual prayer is food for the mind. ~ St. Nilus of Mt. Sinai

No one can heal my disease except He Who knows the depths of the heart. ~ St. Ephraim the Syrian

If you do not feel like praying, you have to force yourself. The Holy Fathers say that prayer with force is higher than prayer unforced. You do not want to, but force yourself. The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force (Matt. 11:12). ~ St. Ambrose of Optina

Abba Macarius was asked, ‘How should one pray?’ The old man said, ‘There is no need at all to make long discourses, it is enough to stretch out one’s hands and say, “Lord, as You will, and as You know, have mercy.” And if the conflict grows fiercer say, “Lord, help!” He knows very well what we need and He shows us His mercy.’ ~ Abba Macarius

For what is prayer? Prayer is the raising of the mind and heart to God- for praise and thanksgiving and beseeching Him for the good things necessary for soul and body. The essence of prayer, then is the mental ascent to God from the heart. The mind stands in the heart consciously before the face of God and, filled with proper and necessary reverence, it begins to pour out its heart before Him. This is prayer of the heart! ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

If you feel sweetness or compunction at some word of your prayer, dwell on it; for then our guardian angel is praying with us. ~ St. John Climacus

Greetings on St. Basil’s Day

St. Basil the Great wall mosaic – St. Sophia Orthodox Church

Greetings on this second feast day which falls during Christmastide, celebrating the wonderful saint… St. Basil the Great!

Many bake the traditional cake in his honour!

Preserve gratitude like a precious deposit within your soul, and from it you will receive a double portion of delight. Remember the apostolic word, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” ~ St. Basil the Great

For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, and no one would be in need. ~ St. Basil the Great

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. ~ St. Basil the Great

A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. ~ St. Basil the Great

When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator. ~ St. Basil the Great

Human life is but of brief duration. ‘All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God shall stand forever’ (Isa. 40:6). Let us hold fast to the commandment that abides, and despise the unreality that passes away. ~ St. Basil the Great

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