Thomas Sunday & Mothers’ Day Greetings!

Happy Thomas Sunday and (coincidentally) Mother’s Day!

Today is also St. Basil of Ostrog’s day!

The feature image is our Pascha Basket. ☺️ We had so much fun decorating the iced Kulich with old-fashioned candied Pansies and Violets from our window boxes (done a few weeks before, to allow them time to cure). Evidently, one can also candy rose petals, carnations, borage and other edible flowers! The red eggs are made from a natural onion skin dye.

There are so many amazing traditions taking place today. This is also when the Artos Bread (which represents Jesus Christ, our Bread of Life, and always Invisibly Present with His Church) which stood all week in front of the opened Royal Doors, is blessed and distributed amongst the faithful. Like holy water, Artos possesses mystical properties. Eating the blessed Artos during the year, replenishes physical and spiritual energies of the Orthodox faithful. Like all other sacred objects, Artos is to be treated with respect and piety. For proper storage, Artos is cut into smaller pieces, dried, and put in a glass container and kept in one’s icon corner. A small piece of dried Artos may be eaten when needed for spiritual strength and consolation, preferably taken on an empty stomach, with a bit of holy water and prayer.

Today is also Radonitsa (Day of Rejoicing)… When we visit the cemetery to have the graves of loved ones blessed, and to sing Christ is Risen to them!

The first Sunday after Pascha, is dedicated to the Apostle Thomas who finally believed, when he was invited by the Risen Christ to touch Him. When we seek God, we touch Him, and we are touched by Him. He passes through the closed doors of our hearts and minds, and directs us towards the light of faith and understanding.

Jesus saith … blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. – St. John 20:29

That’s a direct message from our Risen Lord, to all Christians, throughout the ages! Christ bestows this verbal blessing and acknowledgment upon each of one us. Then. Now. Today. Saying… “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” That’s us!

Special, loving greetings and gratitude to all mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and matushki! Whether our own mothers are still with us, or have already passed on… there is always the joyous consolation that our Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is always close by!

We are never alone! God loves us more than father, mother, friend, or any else could love, and even more than we are able to love ourselves. ~ St. John Chrysostom

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 of mankind. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitnovica

The Angel Cried to the Lady
(Special Hymn to the Theotokos, sung at Pascha and during Pascha-tide)

Rejoice!

Exalt!

Be Radiant!

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! 🎵

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.

Reflecting the Refulgent

Orans Icon

The fasting season is a period of spiritual illumination and of adorning the soul with the sanctifying presence of God. ~ Patriarch Daniel of Romania

Fasting supports the prayer of a believer who considers his connection with God as the centre, the Light, and the nourishment of his soul. ~ Patriarch Daniel of Romania

Today is also one of the feast days for the ancient, Miraculous Kursk Root Icon: Theotokos of the Sign (Orans). It’s a Holy Consolation which many of us have been blessed to venerate in person.

May we try to emulate our Most Holy Theotokos by always saying “yes” to God, for in doing so… we shall thrive and shine – reflecting the True and Illuminating Light of Christ!

May your Lenten Journey be Peaceful and Fruitful!


6th century Akathist (Hymn) to the Theotokos chanted in English

Surfing the Chunder

Dawn Patrol on Kauai Beach – 2023
Chunder is a surfing term which means totally unsurfable waves.
Mullering means wiping out.

You don’t need to be polite with God, simply pour out your heart before Him. ~ Elder Sophrony of Essex

Never expect anyone to understand you, only God.
~ St. Gavrilia

I pray like this: “Father in heaven forgive me, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, Holy Spirit enlighten me.”
~ Gerontissa (Eldress) Galaktia

Let us remember
that pray’r is the first resort –
not the last resort!

🏄🏽‍♀️

Thank You God

Sunrise on the Reef ~ Kauai 2023

Thank you God, for giving me this morning!

Each Dawn’s a Blessing!

Sing unto the Lord a new song and His praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea and all that is therein… ~ Isaiah 42:10

Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever… ~ Psalm 146:6

Every morning open a new page and put your signature on the blank. Whatever God wants, let Him write. ~ Gerontissa Gavrilia

May we grant Jesus – the Author of Life, to direct our day.

Let us Focus Forward!

Alleluia and Amen!

Image by Laila from Pixabay

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. ~ Hebrews 13:8

What a joyful consolation … especially with the constant change in our lives!

I love you, O Lord, my strength. ~ Psalm 18:1

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. ~ Psalm 100:1-2

Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light… ~ Psalm 148

Let every thing that has breath Praise the Lord! ~ Psalm 150

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” ~ St. John 20:29 (This blessing includes ustoday!)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:13

…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Ephesians 5:18-20

Alleluia and Amen!

If you ever have the chance to watch the classic 1963 movie: Lilies of the Fielddo! It’s a heart-warming story starring Sidney Poitier as Homer Smith – a staunch Baptist, who winds up in Arizona, crossing paths with a convent of destitute nuns who emigrated from Eastern Europe.

The simple, contagiously joyful song Amen featured in the movie is an easy warm up I sometimes use at Youth Choir rehearsal, before turning it into a three-part “round”. The effect is amazing. We sing the repeated “one-word-prayer” Amen (just the part which the nuns sing in the movie) but use the softer sounding Awh-men pronunciation.

Over the years, the youth choir share they’ve often found themselves singing or humming this happy little piece (along with other psalmody of course) at unexpected times. Including… getting up for a glass of water in the middle of the night, or doing daily house chores, or driving in the family car on long, long, road trips!

Happy Summer! Amen!

Before praising God in private, before psalmody is truly prayerful, the song of the lips must first become the song of the soul. ~ Anonymous

Born For Resurrection

Greetings on Great and Holy Saturday!

Jesus Christ has taken the world of our sins upon Himself.

For this cause He came into the world…

For this New Beginning!

Do not lament Me, O Mother,
Seeing Me in the tomb,
The Son conceived in the womb without seed,
For I shall arise,
And be glorified with eternal glory as God.
I shall exalt all who magnify thee in faith and in love.
~ Ode 9, Holy Saturday Canon

Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross? Because of God’s great Love, He did something so special for each one of us. It‘s almost too amazing to even try and think about it! When we love someone very much, we help them as much as we can – without thinking how hard it might be for ourselves to do this. Through Adam and Eve, the first created man and woman, sin entered the world, and now we all sin. There are big sins and little sins, but everyone sins, and any sin separates us from God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, willingly took all the sins of everyone ever born, which means, you, me, the whole world, and took all these sins upon Himself; because sin separates us from God. When Jesus died and was buried, all our sins died and were buried too. We also remember this at our Baptism. We are now forgiven because of what Jesus did for us on the cross! Jesus loves us so much! And, even if you were the ONLY person living in the whole world, Jesus still would have done this – just for you! Just for one person, because He knows each one of us and loves us all so much! And, because He is the Son of God- He arose victorious, from the dead! “Trampling down death, by death!” This is why we no longer fear death, for death is a new beginning, a new and Eternal Life with God. ~ The Ark Youth Quarterly – St. Sophia Orthodox Church

Patient Endurance

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Patient endurance kills the despair that kills the soul; it teaches the soul to take comfort and not to grow listless in the face of its many battles and afflictions. ~ St. Peter of Damaskos; Philokalia

He who endures distress, will be granted joys; and he who bears with unpleasant things, will not be deprived of the pleasant. ~ St. Nilus of Sinai

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. ~ James 5:11

Don’t let anything deprive you of hope. ~ St. Nektarios of Aegina

God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them. We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive. What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. ~ C.S. Lewis

We are all broken,
Regardless of sufferings
Or disappointments.

God knows our sorrows,
He is our refuge and strength
And the Remedy.

It is Christ Who heals,
Whom we are called to follow…
Throughout life’s trials.

The Lord strengthens us
To find meaning and purpose
In painful struggles –

Patiently He waits
For us to open the door
Of our hearts for help…

To live, thrive, and soar
High above
heedless failures…
Of world, body, soul.

Patient Endurance is not simply placid acceptance of waiting around and just hoping things get better on their own. No! Patient Endurance is our Cross. Patient Endurance is ACTION and EFFORT. Patient Endurance requires taking one small step and then another, and then another… Patient Endurance keeps moving forward, and involves personal, consistent reaching out to God for help. It involves prayer… us talking to Him, sharing our ups and downs… thanking Him for our banes and blessings… thanking Him for hearing us, for His Love, and that we know and accept He will answer us in His Good and Perfect Time – with what is best for us. Patient Endurance keeps the Spiritual Communication Lines open!

He waits patiently.

Greeting you with Hope and Love in Christ.

Keep looking up! There’s Sonshine above those stormy clouds!








A Blessed Christmas! Meriġe Crīstesmæsse!

Detail of the Nativity Icon brings to mind the Nativity Kontakion (Short Hymn of a Feast): Today a Virgin giveth birth unto the Supersubstantial, and earth offereth a cavern to the Unapproachable, angels together with shepherds sing praises, the Wise Men journey on with the Star. For, for our sakes, God Who is before all the ages, is born a little Child. ~ 5th Century St. Romanus the Melodist

Christ is Born! Happy First Day of the Nativity!

Meriġe Crīstesmæsse is an ancient salutation from pre-12th century Old English, which meant a Blessed Christ’s Mass.” Today Meriġe Crīstesmæsse has morphed into the joyful Seasonal Greeting of Merry Christmas, or Happy Christmas!

Thy Nativity O Christ our God, hath arisen upon the world as the Light of Wisdom. For at it, those who worshipped the stars, were, by a Star, taught to adore Thee. The Sun of Righteousness and to know Thee, the Orient from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee! ~ Nativity Tropar (Longer Hymn of the Feast) Composed by 5th century St. Romanus the Melodist

Christ is Born! Give ye glory! Christ comes from heaven meet ye Him! Christ is on earth be ye exalted, O all the earth sing unto the Lord, and sing praises in gladness O ye people, for He hath been glorified. ~ Ode 1 of the Nativity Canon

In keeping with the situation… Here is a beautiful, a cappella Nativity Folk Carol, “Heaven and Earth” as recorded by our parish in 2014.

Heaven & Earth
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