From the Soil of Our Heart

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Greetings on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross!

God does not create a cross for man. No matter how heavy a cross a man may carry in his life, it is still just wood, from which man himself made, and it always grows from the soil of his heart. ~ St. Ambrose of Optina

May your day be imbued with a multitude of sweet-scented blessings!

September Yearnings

Image by brigachtal from Pixabay

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice ~ Psalm 96:11-12

Each September, and like clockwork – I literally ache to travel somewhere… anywhere… if only for a few days.

New destinations are required to be off the beaten track. They must include either deserted peaceful beaches backed by pristine nature, or jaunts to lofty mountains nestled by mysterious woodland streams.

Internal summonings such as these are particularly hard to resist, especially with wild geese flying overhead to distant warmer climes.

Today I’m a bit torn between completing weekend chores or planning an upcoming jaunt. With God’s help, I can do both, and manage to be back in plenty of time to celebrate the wonderful upcoming September Feast Days! [Nativity of the Theotokos (September 21/8) and Exaltation of the Cross (September 27/14)]

We shall see what opportunity God provides. And if not this year, then God willing, maybe a mystery tour next year!

Meanwhile, the end of summer beauty abides close to home. Bees buzz busily on patio flowers, and briny ocean breezes beckon. Joyful birdsong abounds everywhere.

This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118: 23-24

These warm, and hazy September days bring my favourite poem to mind. I hope you enjoy it too!

I Meant to Do My Work Today

I meant to do my work today –
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand –
So what could I do but laugh and go?

~ Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947)

This poem is in the public domain.

Drying the Flowers From the Cross

…the wood of the Cross hath now put for flower, filling her (the church) with strength and steadfastness. ~ Ode 4, Katavasia of the Cross

Flowers (above) from the recent Procession of the Precious Cross were collected and removed from their oasis boards yesterday. All petals were pulled, separated, and spread out onto a large, hanging, mesh-dryer herb rack – purchased through Amazon a few years ago.

This foldable rack is used each summer to dry our organic herbs and edible flowers for teas, sachets and sleep pillows. It takes about 2 + weeks to dry properly and completely, before storing them in a sealed glass jar, or enclosing them in a sachet bag, or cotton pillow case.

I excluded the “inedible” anemones from this particular drying process, and put them in the compost bin.

If possible, one should never toss out flowers used to decorate icons or the Cross. Do try to compost or reuse them.

Old, blessed pussy willows or Palm Leaves from Palm Sunday, should either be composted, buried, or burned and buried.

Every flower is fragrant through the power of the Holy Spirit, in a delicate flow of aroma and tenderness of colour; the beauty of the Great contained in what is small. Praise and honour to God, Who gives life, Who spreads forth the meadows like a flowering carpet, Who crowns the fields with golden ears of wheat and azure basilisks, and the soul – with the joy of contemplation. Let us rejoice and sing to Him: Alleluia. ~ Akathist: Glory to God for All Things, Kontak. 3

May your day be noticeably Fragrant with the Holy Spirit!

The Precious Cross

Basil and garden flowers encompass the Precious Cross, at church.

Greetings on the Beginning of the Dormition Fast, and Procession of the Precious Wood of the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord!

Today is the first of three August Feasts for our Saviour!

In the cross, like light in the sun, is concentrated the Love of God the Almighty for the world and men: in the cross is the whole power of Love. If God, the Father, has given His Son for us, how would He not, with Him, give everything to us… Thus the cross, which we use during prayer, is a token of God’s great mercy to us and an answer to our prayers. The cross is also a weapon for the banishment of spiritual enemies and worldly passions. ~ St. John of Kronstadt

Basil is traditionally used to adorn the Cross, and I try to plant enough each summer. Yesterday, and for the Cross, I gratefully used some of our garden flowers and herbs (Roses, Anemones, Calendula, Fennel, Mint, Basil) as an offering back to the Lord.

God’s flowers are always beautiful, and even more soespecially when they come to praise Him in church!

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad… Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. ~ Psalm 96:11-12

May your Dormition Fast be filled with fragrant, pious petals!

To the Summit of Virtue

The Cross, is wood which lifts us up and makes us great… The Cross uprooted us from the depths of evil and elevated us to the summit of virtue. ~ St. John Chrysostom

For the Christian, the cross gradually becomes lighter and more joyful, while for the nonbeliever it becomes heavier and more burdensome. Why is this so? Because where one carries their cross with faith and devotion to God, the other carries it with grumbling and anger. ~ St. Innocent of Alaska (The Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven)

When you pass beside a hospital make the sign of the cross three times: Once for the patients; once for their relatives; and once for yourself, because you aren’t there. ~ St. Paisios the New of Mt. Athos

Floral Grace

Photo from the Feast Day of the Exaltation of the Cross

A week after celebrating the great Feast Day of the Exaltation of the Cross, I was reminded how amazingly preserved flowers that surround the Cross can be. They are protected from the usual quick wilt and deterioration other bouquets (placed in ordinary locations) can experience within two or three days.

The same holds true with flowers that grace icon corners or icon stands. I remember visiting a convent in the heat of summer, and one of my obediences was to clean and prepare the church for the Sts. Peter and Paul Liturgy. I had picked some wildflowers to put where the festal icon was to be placed, but it appeared someone had already done so. I took my new bunch of flowers back to the main house and was told the hot little church had been locked since Pentecost, as the air conditioned house chapel was being used instead. The last time flowers had been placed in the actual church was nearly 3.5 weeks previously! One “forgotten’ wildflower bouquet had remained at the foot of the analogian where the icon of the Holy Trinity sat. This is the same bouquet I saw when I unlocked the church to clean. It looked as fresh as could be! When I revealed this mini miracle, the nuns nodded their heads, crossed themselves, and stated matter-of-factly, “Oh yes, these kind of things can happen.”

Every flower is indeed fragrant through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the beauty of the Great is contained in the small!

…let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. ~ Psalm 96:12

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. ~ Isaiah 55:12

God does not create a cross for man. No matter how heavy a cross a man may carry in life, it is still just wood, from which man himself made, and it always grows from the soil of his heart. ~ St. Ambrose of Optina

Exaltation of Cross

Greetings on the Great Feast Day of the Exaltation of the Cross!

Magnify, O my soul, the exaltation of the life-creating Cross of the Lord!Let all the trees of the forests rejoice, for their nature hath been sanctified by Him Who planted them in the beginning – Christ Who was stretched out upon the Tree… Let us worship the power of the Cross; for a tree brought about death in paradise, but this Tree hath caused life to blossom forth, for the sinless Lord was nailed to it. …O Thou Who hast abolished death by the Cross and freed us, glory to Thee! ~ Excerpts from Service

Some sweet basil traditions.

Let us exalt the Most Precious Cross of the Lord together, and rejoice in His boundless Love!

Happy Ecclesiastical New Year!

Photo of the Altar, in St. Sophia’s original Mission House Church. Services began there in September of 1991 and continued for 10 years, until the parish could purchase a building and move location of worship. Reminiscent of St. Paul’s dear friends and helpers in Christ, Sts. Priscilla and Aquila who had a church in their house our priest and his matushka’s home was used as a church, and the dining room was set aside as a permanent Altar area, and kept completely separate as such, for a decade.

The entire Liturgical Church Year is a treasury of spiritual wisdom and blessings.

In this busy month of September, there are two Great Feasts, the Nativity of the Theotokos (Sept. 21/8) and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 27/14).

There are also other holy days during this month, such as the Beginning of the Church Liturgical New Year on September 14/1.

The first day of the Church’s Liturgical New Year is called the Beginning of the Indiction. It occurs in September for  both Scriptural and historical reasons.

The Scriptural reason is that God, through Moses, ordained the Old Testament Church to celebrate the New Year at the time of the harvest in the seventh month, that is, September – actually the seventh month according to ancient Hebrew reckoning.

Tradition says the Hebrews entered the Promised Land in September. The Holy Scriptures (Leviticus 23:24-25 and Numbers 29:1-2) confirm the people of Israel celebrating the feast of the Blowing of Trumpets on this day, with the offering of hymns and thanksgiving.

The historical reason is the Roman-Byzantine Emperors and the Eastern Patriarchs of the New Testament Church also decreed the New Year should be in September. According to Holy Tradition, Christ entered the synagogue on September 1/14 to announce His mission to mankind (St. Luke 4:16-22). He was given the book of the Prophet Isaiah to read. He opened it and proclaimed, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…” (Isaiah 61:1-2 )

The Church continues to keep the spiritual significance of the Liturgical New Year, with prayers asking God to grant temperate weather, seasonable rains, and abundance of the fruits of the earth. We are reminded that time is a precious gift.

Let us re-examine our priorities and offer unto the Lord, a New Year… in which we put Him first!

Endure a Bit

The pandemic continues… disrupting worldly life. We grow tired of constraints. Yet, no matter how dire circumstances may seem, there is joy, gratitude, and peace through His Grace. Patience! “This is just for now!”

Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. ~ St. Mark 8:34

Rejoice as you feel the cross upon yourself, for it is a sign that you are following the Lord on the path of salvation which leads to heaven. Endure a bit. The end and the crowns are just around the corner! ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Love is only found on the Cross. ~ Mother Gabrielia Papayannis

Remember that each of us has his own cross. The Golgotha of this cross is our heart: it is being lifted up or implanted through zealous determination to live according to the Spirit of God. Just as the salvation of the world is by the Cross of God, so our salvation is by our own cross. ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Some want to go to the Resurrection without passing by way of Golgotha. ~Mother Gabrielia Papayannis

Patience is the Christian’s coat of arms. What is it to follow Christ? It is to endure all things, looking upon Christ Who suffered. Many wish to be glorified with Christ, but few seek to remain with the suffering Christ. Yet not merely by tribulation, but even in much tribulation does one enter the Kingdom of God.
~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Do not ever succumb to the insane thought that God has abandoned you. God knows exactly how much one can endure and according to that, measures the sufferings and pains of everyone. ~ St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The righteous have no sorrows that are not turned into joy, as sinners have no joy that is not turned into sorrow. ~ St. Dimitri of Rostov

If we always see God in our minds, and always remember Him, everything will appear tolerable to us. ~ St. John Chrysostom

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