Warts and All

Nestled in a bed of sweet woodruff, a damaged hosta disregards harmful beetle bites and perseveres growing, to thrive anew.

There are days and times in the life of a spiritual person when he feels an emptiness within himself, a weakness of soul something is missing. Something within him has left, and he does not quite know how to come to himself how to bring back the initial strength and Grace, which his soul had. He does not know how to bring back the fullness which he lost. In this case the Holy Fathers teach us: resume the prayer; begin prayer again either with the mouth, with the mind or with the heart and this lost fullness will return. You will find it again. Provided that you force yourself to Pray.  ~ Elder Ephraim in Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Every choice we make has a consequence. Each day affects the next… but, the past is the past. Although we can’t go back to change the past, sometimes we are trapped within a particular groove that exists in the past. Or, perhaps occasionally, an incident from the past slips in and raises its ugly head to create turmoil in the heart. We know where these temptations come from, so we must be vigilant. Lord have mercy!

It is with Hope’s Patient Persistence, His Infinite and Unconditional Love, and Forgiveness, that we are given strength to proceed beyond the past… Moving Forward with Hope, because…

We can only meet God in the present moment. This is an area where God chooses to place limits on His own power. We choose whether or not to live in the present moment. Because we can encounter God only in that present moment, whenever we live in the past or in the future, we place ourselves beyond His reach. ~ Archimandrite Meletios (Webber) 

I cannot reflect on what is past, because I live in the present moment… Yesterday does not exist. Tomorrow belongs to God, as yesterday did… So I keep quiet in God’s Eternal Present!... ….By living in yesterday we delay tomorrow’s march. We cannot live in the past which does not exist, and so give it existence it does not have… ~ St. Gavrilia (Gerontissa Gavrilia)

What has happened has happened, it is in the past. Just keep on going, all the while asking for help from God. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

May we wrap ourselves today in the Eternal Present of God and Focus Forward, warts and all – notwithstanding!

Lord, help.

Here I am.

Now.

Greeting you From Earth to Heaven on tomorrow’s beautiful Feast of Christ’s Ascension… where we joyfully exclaim one to another Christ Has Ascended! Let us climb the Mount of Olives in our hearts and declare… Glory to Thy Ascension, O Most Greatly Merciful One!

Hope’s Patient Persistence

Behind the Altar, facing Royal Doors’ Curtain

We have within us deeply rooted weaknesses, passions, and defects. This can not all be cut out with one sharp motion, but patience, persistence, care and attention. The path leading to perfection is long. Pray to God so that he will strengthen you. Patiently accept your falls and, having stood up, immediately run to God, not remaining in that place where you have fallen. Don’t let anything deprive you of hope. ~ St Nektarios of Aegina

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. ~ James 4:2-3

All of us sin constantly. We slip and fall… The Holy Fathers and the Saints always tell us, “It is important to get up immediately after a fall and to keep on walking toward God. Even if we fall a hundred times a day, it does not matter; we must get up and go on walking toward God without looking back.” What has happened has happened – it is in the past. Just keep going all the while asking for help from God. ~ Elder Thaddeus Vitovnica

We know God is with us, but sometimes there may be struggles to feel His Presence and Love, or even to pray. During times of spiritual dryness, it is the faithful perseverance in prayer which is the sweetest of all our prayers to God.

We slip.

We fall.

We rise.

We persevere.

We never give up.

We focus forward.

We don’t look back.

Our life is blessed… God’s gift…. We have a treasure in us – our souls…. ~ Elder Nikolay Guryanov

Warming Our Frosty Hearts

Shards of ice crystals cover my windshield, hindering clear vision. With a bit of effort, they can be scraped off and kept off… by keeping the car engine warm.

God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the devil – for the devil is cold – let us call on the Lord. He will come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him but also for our neighbour, and the cold of him who hates the good, will flee before the heat of His countenance. ~ St. Seraphim of Sarov

It is of great significance if there is a person who truly prays in a family. Prayer attracts God’s Grace and all the members of the family feel it, even those whose hearts have grown cold. Pray always. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica (Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives)

If you find that there is no love in you, but you want to have it, then do deeds of love, even though you do them without love in the beginning. The Lord will see your desire and striving, and will put love in your heart. ~ St. Ambrose of Optina

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

The Theotokos of the Passion Icon – also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Help, is a great spiritual consolation.

Holy Tradition says the original icon was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist… who knew her.

Although the Icon’s Feast Day is celebrated April 30 and on the sixth Sunday after Pascha (Sunday of the Blind Man), one can always reach out any time for Our Lady’s help and compassion – especially during topsy-turvy times of heartache, confusion, and disappointment.

About the Icon – approx 2 minutes

Here is the beautiful, ancient 6th century Akathist Hymn of prayer and praise (attributed to St. Romanos the Melodist) to Our Most Holy Theotokos.

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 for mankind. How many churches there are in the world that are dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God! How many healing springs where people are cured of their ailments have sprung up in places where the Most Holy Theotokos appeared and blessed those springs to heal both the sick and the healthy! She is constantly, by our side, and all too often we forget her. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica (From Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives)

Today is also the Synaxis of the Holy Optina Elders, and I congratulate Abbess Amvrosia, and all the nuns of Holy Protection Convent, (including my goddaughter). May your community continue to grow and thrive under the protecting veil of our Most Holy Lady’s Precious Omophorion – and our dear Lord’s salvific love. Happy Feast Day to you all!

Holy Fathers of Optina, pray to God for us!

His Infinite, Unconditional, Love

Hanalei Church windows absorb and reflect the early evening’s Divine, Gladsome Light.

God is everywhere. There is no place God is not…You cry out to Him, ‘Where art Thou, my God?’ And He answers, “I am present, my child! I am always beside you.’ Both inside and outside, above and below, wherever you turn, everything shouts, ‘God!’ In Him we live and move. We breathe God, we eat God, we clothe ourselves with God. Everything praises and blesses God. All of creation shouts His praise. Everything animate and inanimate speaks wondrously and glorifies the Creator. Let every breath praise the Lord! ~ St. Joseph the Hesychast

We can only meet God in the present moment. This is an area where God chooses to place limits on His own power. We choose whether or not to live in the present moment. Because we can encounter God only in that present moment, whenever we live in the past or in the future, we place ourselves beyond His reach. ~ Archimandrite Meletios (Webber) 

I cannot reflect on what is past, because I live in the present moment… Yesterday does not exist. Tomorrow belongs to God, as yesterday did… So I keep quiet in God’s Eternal Present!... ….By living in yesterday we delay tomorrow’s march. We cannot live in the past which does not exist, and so give it existence it does not have… ~ St. Gavrilia (Gerontissa Gavrilia)

What has happened has happened, it is in the past. Just keep on going, all the while asking for help from God. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

We slip.
We fall.
We pull ourselves up again.
We persevere.
We keep walking toward God.
We focus forward.
We don’t look back.

God is right here! Right now!

We are so blessed!

God loves us! Infinitely! Unconditionally!

He loves us SO much that He’s given us free will in every aspect of our life, and won’t interfere at all, unless we choose to ask Him in, and wrap ourselves in the Eternal Present of God.

May your path today be Divinely Inclusive, and imbued with His Illuminating Light!

With love in Christ.

Feathered Foresight

Image by garten-gg Pixabay

Birds form a circle around the earth. Wherever we go, they remind us of the same things. The cuckoo cries: Wake up… wake up… to remind us of saying our morning prayer. The turtle-dove coos: We’re pilgrims… We’re pilgrims… for us to remember that we are just passing pilgrims on His Earth. And the crow crows: Pray… Pray… to remind us of praying all the time. ~Gerontissa Gavrilia

The Lord gave us as an example of unconcern – the birds of the sky – not humans… When the twig on which it is perching breaks, the little bird, without being alarmed, opens its wings and flies away. Likewise, when the support of our feet collapses, Faith and Hope in God give us the strength and joy to fly away. ~Gerontissa Gavrilia

We should follow the example of the birds. They’re always joyful, whereas we’re always bothered by something. ~Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Image by Jon Pauling from Pixabay

We Are Never Alone

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses… ~ Hebrews 12:1

Though the Christian may pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him. ~ St. Clement of Alexandria

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

When you are about to pray to our Lady the Holy Virgin, be firmly assured, before praying, that you will not depart from her without having received mercy. To think thus and to have confidence in her is meet and right. She is, the All-Merciful Mother of the All-Merciful God, the Word, and her mercies, incalculably great and innumerable, have been declared from all ages by all Christian Churches... ~ St. John of Kronstadt

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 for mankind… She is constantly by our side, and all too often we forget her. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

When you are praying alone, and your spirit is dejected, and you are wearied and oppressed by your loneliness, remember then, as always, that God the Trinity looks upon you with eyes brighter than the sun; also all the angels, your own Guardian Angel, and all the Saints of God. Truly they do; for they are all one in God, and where God is, there are they also. Where the sun is, thither also are directed all its rays. Try to understand what this means. ~ Elder Herman of Mt. Athos

A saint is a Christian who lets God’s light shine through. ~ Anonymous quote by a child who looked at a saint in a stained glass window

Vigil lights are placed before the icons of the saints to show that without the Light, Who is Christ, the Saints are nothing. It is only as the light of Christ shines on them that they become alive and resplendent. ~ St. Symeon the New Theologian 

The candles lit before icons of saints reflect their ardent love for God for Whose sake they gave up everything that man prizes in life, including their very lives, as did the holy apostles, martyrs and others. These candles also mean that these saints are lamps burning for us and providing light for us by their own saintly living, their virtues and their ardent intercession for us before God through their constant prayers by day and night. The burning candles also stand for our ardent zeal and the sincere sacrifice we make out of reverence and gratitude to them for their solicitude on our behalf before God. ~ St. John of Kronstadt

In God and in His Church there is no division between the living and the departed, but all are one in the love of the Father. Whether we are alive or whether we are dead, as members of the Church we still belong to the same family, and still have a duty to bear one another’s burdens. Therefore just as Orthodox Christians here on earth pray for one another and ask for one another’s prayers, so they pray for the faithful departed and ask the faithful departed to pray for them. Death cannot sever the bond of mutual love which links the members of the Church together. ~ Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

Noting the small congregation in church one Sunday morning, a cynic said to the priest, “Not many in church this morning, Father. Not many at all.” The old priest replied, “You are wrong, my son. There were thousands at church this morning. Thousands and thousands and tens of thousands.” For, the priest had just read in the prayers of the liturgy: “Therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee. It was the Communion of Saints in action! ~ fatheralexander.org

…Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. ~ St. Matthew 28:20

Blissful Dawn

Sunrise on Recent Vacation

Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility… Even the slightest thought that is not founded on love destroys peace… The thoughts that we give ourselves up to define our life… It is not good to dwell on every thought that comes to us; otherwise we lose our peace. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Moving Forward With Hope

Cave Church Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

All of us sin constantly. We slip and fall… The Holy Fathers and the Saints always tell us, “It is important to get up immediately after a fall and to keep on walking toward God. Even if we fall a hundred times a day, it does not matter; we must get up and go on walking toward God without looking back.” What has happened has happened – it is in the past. Just keep going all the while asking for help from God. ~ Elder Thaddeus Vitovnica

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. While a wound is still fresh and warm it is easy to heal, but old, neglected and festering ones are hard to cure, and require for their care much treatment, cutting, plastering and cauterization. Many from long neglect become incurable. But with God all things are possible ~ St. John of Kronstadt

Greetings on the Dormition

Photo and quote by Juliana

Greetings on the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God!

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 for mankind… She is constantly, by our side, and all too often we forget her. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

The 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.

 As long as they (Christ’s Disciples) were in Palestine, holy Mary spent time with them, helping them confirm themselves in the Saviour’s commandments, encouraging them to all goodness and cheering them. But when the disciples departed from Palestine to distant lands alien and unknown, She remained in John’s house. She did not waste Her time with trifles, but used every minute for the benefit of mankind, the very human race that crucified Her innocent Son! She dedicated her labours and care to visiting the sick and the imprisoned; she comforted, taught, and instructed anyone who needed support or counsel. She lived strictly according to Her Son’s commandments and therefore she could assuage people’s sorrows. She was a source of healing, and shade, and all who drew from that source felt freshness and relief and were fortified by heavenly love. The good works to which she entrusted Herself filled her soul with great blessedness and consolation, which were the reward for the woes and calamities she previously bore. For only after Her Son was resurrected did her eyes open to what had happened, and hope arrived. St. Nikolai Velimirovic  (Excerpt from The Theotokos on Her Deathbed)

An old English name for the Hosta garden plant, is the Assumption Lily, as it blooms close to the Dormition. 

The liturgical colour for feasts honouring the Theotokos is blue. The clergy wear blue vestments, and the faithful sometimes wear a bit of blue too, in her honour. In icons, while her veil is red…the colour of divinity, as she is the Theo(God) tokos(Bearer), her clothes under the veil are green or blue, the colours of humanity. Also, upon her veil, are three stars, which represent her eternal virginity: before, during, and forever after the birth of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, she remained a pure virgin. At weddings it is still traditional to wear “a little something blue” in honour of the Theotokos.

St. Ambrose Bishop of Milan (330-397), wrote:  “Mary’s life, is a rule of life for all.” …It is important that as Orthodox Christians we know and examine the life of the Theotokos who, after Christ Jesus, so influenced every creature, both the bodiless ones and the earthborn, before, during, and after her earthly sojourn. ~ From The Life of  The Virgin Mary, The Theotokos, written and compiled by Holy Apostles Convent

Beautiful Walking Tour inside the Church built over the Virgin Mary’s empty tomb (Thank you for sharing Irena!)

Troparion Tone 1: In giving birth thou didst preserve thy virginity, and in thy falling asleep thou hast not forsaken the world, O Theotokos. Thou hast been translated unto life, for thou art the Mother of Life, and by thy supplications, thou dost deliver our souls from death.

Kontakion Tone 2: The tomb, nor mortality could not hold the Theotokos, who is tireless her prayers and supplications. For, as the Mother of Life, she was translated unto life, by Him Who dwelt within her Ever-Virgin womb.

Hold on tightly as possible to the Robe of our Great Lady the Theotokos, that she might help you. May the Theotokos, the tender and caring Mother of the entire world, protect you and the entire world. ~ St. Paisios


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