Praise From the Heart

Let your mind wonder, but keep your heart with God. ~ St. John Chrysostom

Blessed is God who uses corporeal objects continually to draw us in a symbolic way to a knowledge of God’s invisible nature. O name of Jesus, key to all gifts, open for me the great door to your treasure-house, that I may enter and praise you with the praise that comes from the heart. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian

A Royal Visitation

We work, pray and hope every day to experience God’s mercy. Every day we experience a continuous miracle. Others begin to feel this and come to our church in order to give their souls a rest. ~ St. Elizabeth, Grand Duchess

She was a rare combination of exalted Christian spirit, moral nobility, enlightened mind, gentle heart, and refined taste. She possessed an extremely delicate and multifaceted spiritual composition and her outward appearance reflected the beauty and greatness of her spirit. Upon her brow lay the seal of an inborn, elevated dignity which set her apart from those around her. Under the cover of modesty, she often strove – though in vain, to conceal herself from the gaze of others, but one could not mistake her for another. Wherever she appeared, one would always ask: “Who is she who looketh forth as the morning, clear as the sun” (Song of Solomon 6:10)? Wherever she would go she emanated the pure fragrance of the lily. Perhaps it was for this reason that she loved the colour white – it was the reflection of her heart. All of her spiritual qualities were strictly balanced, one against another, never giving an impression of one-sidedness. Femininity was joined in her to a courageous character; her goodness never led to weakness and blind, unconditional trust of people. Even in her finest heartfelt inspirations she exhibited that gift of discernment which has always been so highly esteemed by Christian ascetics… ~ Metropolitan Anastassy + (1965)

This week our parish was blessed with an amazing 24 hours… the visitation of the Holy Relics of New-martyr Grand Duchess, St. Elizabeth and Nun Barbara. 

St. Elizabeth the Grand Duchess was the granddaughter of England’s Queen Victoria, (so was St. Elizabeth’s sister, the Tsarina Empress and Royal Martyr St. Alexandra). As Canadians, these are warm connections to our own country’s history.

The holy relics were carried to the church entrance over a welcoming walkway (see above feature image), strewn with hundreds of petals and herbs from parishioners’ gardens. The brisk afternoon breeze continuously swept the flowers in vibrant kaleidoscopes of colour.

The Saints’ Reliquary was venerated by the faithful and visitors to our parish… where many detected the relics emitting a gentle, heavenly fragrance of roses.

It was an extra blessing for those present, who have the New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth as their Patron Saint.

Before and during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy a new Reader was tonsured (Axios!), and our priest was awarded the right to wear the kamilavka (Axios!). The kamilavka is a special hat which reminds us of our Saviour’s Crown of Thorns.

After Divine Liturgy, a Molieben to St. Elizabeth was served, culminating with a joyful Procession around the church… where both the building and the congregation were blessed with refreshing and copious showers of Holy Water!

Holy New-Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Nun Barbara, pray to God for us!

Beautiful 6 minute Folk Hymn/Ballad about the life of St. Elizabeth, by Katina, (Memory Eternal)

Happy Lazarus Saturday

Pussy Willows wait to be blessed for Palm Sunday

Lazarus Saturday is a special day in the Orthodox Church, and celebrates the final, great miracle of Jesus Christ before His Resurrection. Today prefigures His own death and demonstrates His Authority over death.

Seeing that His good friend is already four days dead, Jesus sheds tears at the tomb where is friend is buried, and cries out: “Lazarus, come forth!” St. Lazarus (the Four Days Dead of Bethany) – was 30 years old when he first reposed and was raised again by Christ (St. John 11:1-45).

Tour of St. Lazarus’ Tomb in Bethany

After the Resurrection of Christ, St. Lazarus lived for another 30 years and became the first Bishop of Kition in Cyprus. An ancient tradition records that because of what St. Lazarus had seen in Hades before Christ raised him, St. Lazarus never smiled again – except once… when he saw someone stealing a clay pot. With an amused expression, he observed, “The clay steals the clay.”

In Orthodox countries, on Lazarus Saturday, children go house to house with decorated hand baskets, singing Lazarus Carols, and sharing Lazarakia. Sometimes coins are popped into the children’s baskets by parishioners, as a donation for the church. Some folks slip lenten treats to the children, which they take home and share with their families. It is also customary to collect wildflowers, palms, and branches on this day to adorn homes, as tomorrow is the feast of Palm Sunday, the Day commemorating the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem.

Following His glorious miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, the people went out to meet the Lord with palms and branches. They welcomed Him with honour and shouts of praise.

It is with bittersweet joy that we anticipate the events to come, during Holy Week as we near the end of our own Journeys to Pascha.

Lazarus was raised from the dead. Christ is risen from the dead. The difference is everything. Our hope is not in being resuscitated to our present form, but a true transformation into the Life of Resurrection. ~ Father Stephen Freeman

Troparion (Hymn) in Tone 1 for Lazarus Saturday

🎵 O Christ God, when You raised Lazarus from the dead before the time of your Passion, you confirmed the future resurrection of all. We too, like the children of old, carry before You the symbols of victory, and cry out to You, O Conqueror of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! 🎵

Festal Blessings of the Heart

Veneration of the Cross, Third Sunday in Great Lent, coincided this year with the set Feast of the Annunciation, on April 7th. The Precious Cross was decorated in traditional red colours… using roses and carnations. However, and alas, even after scouring the grocery store, there was no fresh basil (also traditional to use when decorating the Cross) to be found. So, from our garden, fragrant pink pieris japonica and white viburnum were added.

Yesterday, the morning sun danced and blazed brightly on my face. I closed my eyes to bask in its warmth.

Antiphonal chirps and trills of birdsong resounded. At the raucous cry of a seagull overhead, I opened my eyes and smiled at the added ambience.

Not to be outdone, budding catkins nodded vehemently over the top of the pergola, each fuzzy leaflet highlighted with a tiny halo of luminous, Gladsome Light. I desperately wanted to run and grab my phone camera to catch this breathtaking beauty… but knew the special light would change in a second or two, and I would forever lose the moment – without being in the moment. I took a picture instead… with my mind’s eye, and can see this sight even now as I type. I hope to remember it forever.

From the porch roof, remnants of raindrops stubbornly clung as lustrous, pearly, stalactites, until they chose to let go. Their occasional drips echoed as muffled percussion on the patio flagstones below, perfectly complimenting the surrounding avian symphony.

And the trees! With branches lifted skyward as if in supplication, they swayed and danced with expressive abandon (as only trees can in a festal morning wind)… kicking up their rooty heels with joy!

Stop. Look. Listen with your heart. Let it dance with the trees, in joy and gratitude at God’s Creation!

Let all the trees of the forest dance and sing, as they behold their fellow-tree, the Cross, today receiving veneration: for Christ, as holy David prophesied, has exalted it on high. I died through a tree, but I have found in thee a Tree of Life, O Cross of Christ. ~ Sunday of the Cross, 8th Ode

God is everywhere present and fills all things! The Three-Branched Cross of Christ is Life!

Alleluia and Amen!

Bouquets of Our Labour

Late blooming Michaelmas Daisies evoke joy in a past January Garden!

Flowers are indeed the Echoes of Eden, and there are over 250 species of the perennial Michaelmas Daisies which belong to the Aster family. They are a gardener’s delight!

Like the protecting miracles of Archangel Michael whom this flower is named after, it blooms brightly in the early fall upon Archangel Michael’s feast days… as if to battle the coming winter’s gloom.

In ancient Scotland, an old verse about Michaelmas Daisies says: Michaelmas Daisies, among the dede weed, bloom for St. Michael’s valorous deeds!

…each of us… resembles a flower, be it modest or lush, that makes a composition or adds unique fragrance. Altogether, we create a bouquet of our labours, talents, and most importantly, love of God and people – in short, the Church of Christ. ~ Marina Schmeleva

Flowers speak to us of the Love of God. ~ St. Porphyrios

Cultivate
those Petals of Paradise
in our hearts.

Let us bring
Bouquets of Labours to our
Saviour’s Feet.

Spiritual Springtime

Velvet Pansies and Shy Violets Peep Out From Our Window Box
How to Make Old-fashioned Candied Violets

…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. ~ 2 Peter 3:18

Lent is a spiritual springtime… The world of nature is coming alive round us during the Lenten season. And this should be a symbol of what is to happen in our own hearts. The dawning of springtime… We shouldn’t just have a negative idea of repentance, as feeling sorry, gloomy and somber about our failings. But repentance, rather, is new hope. An opening flower. How our lives can, by God’s grace, be changed. ~ Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

As the field is adorned by a multitude of flowers, so should the field of my own soul be adorned by all the flowers of virtue ~ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

If you do not shatter and empty your Ego, how will you make room for God?… God’s gifts to us blossom only if watered with the water of Love… Those who love can do only beautiful things. ~ St. Gavrilia

Heading towards the end of the second week of Great Lent, I’m hunkering down and holding fast (with God’s help), hoping to cultivate the spiritual springtime’s fragrant flowers of virtue, and to Blossom Forth!

Perceiving Divine Simplicity

Boulevard Snowdrop Flowers Signal the Nascence of Spring

Love all creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand within it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. ~ Staretz Zosima; The Brothers Karamazov – by Fyodor Dostoevsky

…See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. ~ St. Matthew 6:28-29

All created things are marked with the seal of the Trinity... The contemplation of nature has two correlative aspects. First, it means appreciating the “thusness” or “thisness” of particular things, persons and moments. We are to see each stone, each leaf, each blade of grass, each frog, each human face, for what it truly is, in all the distinctness and intensity of its specific being. As the prophet Zechariah warns us, we are not to “despise the day of small things” (4:10). “True mysticism”, says Olivier Clément, “is to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.” ~ Metropolitan  Kallistos Ware; The Orthodox Way

Even during a simple walk, it’s a mystery how easily the Great can be seen in the Small. Whether it be stoic flowers bursting through cement cracks, or a cheery family of four snowdrops, popping up like unexpected company – on a grassy boulevard.

God’s beautiful gift of nature is all around us.

All we have to do is to see what we’re looking at.

Happy Saint’s Day Zoe! God grant you many years!

Fragrance of Life

Fragrant Plumeria flower, upheld aloft by neighbouring Heliconia Rostrata leaf. ~ Kauai 2023

Whatever in us that truly lives, exuding the fragrance of life like the blossoms in springtime will never know an autumn of decomposition and death. Those alive in Christ experience an everlasting seedtime of continual growth in faith, trust, hope, confidence, understanding, compassion, awareness, optimism, love, and joy. For them this world is a mere cocoon destined to release the true self on radiant, pure, glorious wings to a world alive with the fragrance of the Holy Trinity. ~ Very Rev. Vladimir Berzonsky 

Struggle my children, the angels are weaving crowns with flowers of paradise. ~ Elder Ephraim

Lent is spiritual springtime. Not winter, but spring. The world of nature is coming alive round us during the Lenten season. And this should be a symbol of what is to happen in our own hearts. The dawning of springtime… We shouldn’t just have a negative idea of repentance, as feeling sorry, gloomy and somber about our failings. But repentance, rather, is new hope. An opening flower. How our lives can, by God’s grace, be changed. ~ Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

Petals of Whispered Wisdom

As a perpetual student of flowers, I find their enlightening fragrant grace, simply awe-inspiring!

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? ~ St. Matthew 6:28-29

As the field is adorned by a multitude of flowers, so should the field of my own soul be adorned by all the flowers of virtue; as the trees bring forth flowers and afterwards fruit, so must my soul bring forth the fruits of faith and good works. ~ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

The rose does not speak, but puts forth a strong fragrance. We too, should put forth fragrance, pour forth spiritual fragrance, the fragrance of Christ. The fragrance of our deeds should be heard from far around: good, pure and righteous deeds, full of love. Only thus can the Kingdom of God appear within our hearts, appearing not through words, but with power. ~ St. Luke of Simferopol

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. ~ Akathist Glory to God for All Things, Kontakion 3

Take delight in all things that surround us. All things teach us and lead us to God. All things around us are droplets of the love of God – both things animate and inanimate, the plants and the animals, the birds and the mountains, the sea and the sunset and the starry sky. They are little loves through which we attain to the great Love that is Christ. Flowers, for example, have their own grace; they teach us with their fragrance and with their magnificence. They speak to us of the love of God. They scatter their fragrance and their beauty on sinners and on the righteous. ~ St. Porphyrios

Whatever in us that truly lives, exuding the fragrance of life like the blossoms in springtime will never know an autumn of decomposition and death. Those alive in Christ experience an everlasting seedtime of continual growth in faith, trust, hope, confidence, understanding, awareness, optimism, love, and joy. For them this world is a mere cocoon destined to release its true self on radiant, pure and glorious wings to a world alive with the fragrance of the Holy Trinity. ~ Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky

Bee That As It May

Image by Erik Karits from Pixabay

For me, writing is usually a joy. But during these troubled times it’s a simple fact that on a global scale, this war physically and spiritually affects everyone – everywhere.

It’s been some time now, that I’ve not been able to write for sheer pleasure, but instead, write solely to help me make sense of the world.

Along with countless other people here in North America, the far-reaching ripples of war have profoundly, painfully, and spiritually impacted my personal life… the least of which, leaves me completely uninspired to write much of anything.

But yesterday something extraordinary happened, something that rekindled a bright little light in my heart! And amazingly, the seemingly smallness of this event is what actually makes it Truly Great.

Playing outside, enjoying nature, my grandchildren encountered a bumblebee in distress. Usually a distressed bee when carefully cupped in (un-allergic) hands, and carried to a quiet place to rest – recovers. It can also be revived if needed with a bit of sugar water. After letting the bee rest awhile, most of the time it’s able to fly away and continue its search for flowers.

But, the bumblebee didn’t make it, and one grandchild said with the simplistic wisdom of an ancient sage, “We tried to help, but it was just its time.”

They buried the bumblebee beneath some ferns in their tiny, treasured Fairy Garden. Digging their fingers into the soil, they gently placed the bee into a shallow well, and tenderly tucked vibrant green moss over it. They thanked the bumblebee for all its hard work, and while brushing the bits of dirt off their hands, they considered how many thousands of flowers and all the places that bumblebee must have visited during its life. They pondered how precious and busy ALL bees are. They deliberated on what great examples bees are to us. “Because bees just do what they need to do- for the good of the hive.” Regardless of what’s happening outside the hive.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings! Their wise words, a sudden source for a new story – bubbled up from within, just aching to be shared! It’s the first one that’s come to me in a long, long, time. It sprang up from the simple Faith of children, along with their refreshing pureness of Hope, and Love of God’s creatures.

God’s Gift of Nature is a Healing, Secret Gospel and to everything there is a season! May I keep noticing the sweet “little” things that the Good Lord sends to help nourish the rekindled warmth in my writer’s heart!

Interview with a young Bee Whisperer: “To help exhausted bees, I use 1 tsp. of water and 1 tsp. of sugar. Scoop mixed sugar water into a large eating spoon, and place onto level ground, for bees don’t like to climb while they’re tired. Stand back and let it enjoy the sugar water. It may take awhile, but that’s okay. They like to have their sugar water spoon placed in the sun, not shade, (uncomfortable shade reminds them of the rain) and bees like to keep warm. Sometimes if a bee is tired, and just sitting still on the ground, you can place it on a flower, as they like to be in high places where they feel safe and can easily fly off from. Bees are so important to us humans. They are one of reasons we can actually live, because they pollinate the flowers and we can grow and eat food like fruits and vegetables from the flowers. Bees are one of the animals people are scared of (especially if allergic to bees, because that would be really scary) But, bees are harmless creatures, and seem to know if you’re trying to help. They don’t bite or don’t sting. But, if you squash them they’ll sting. They can’t help it then. I’ve only been stung by a bee when I accidentally walked on clover with bare feet. It’s good to help bees and anything that needs help.”

…the person who has good thoughts, no matter what he sees, no matter what you tell him, maintains a positive and good thought. ~ St. Paisios of Mt. Athos

Praying for the Peace From Above.

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