In the Womb of Our Soul

Illuminated behind an olive oil lampada, is detail from the icon of St. John the Baptist and Forerunner, with his hands pointing us in the direction to find Christ, the Light of the World.

Jesus the Christ who was born in the flesh once for all of us, desires to be born again in the spirit in those who desire Him. In each of us, He again becomes a child in the womb of our soul and forms Himself from the virtues. He reveals as much of Himself as He knows each of us can accept. Let us contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation and in simplicity praise Him who became man for us. Faith alone can embrace these mysteries, for it is faith that makes real for us things that are beyond intellect and reason. ~ St. Maximus the Confessor (Philokalia, Vol. 2)

From One Lamp to Another

Lantern Lights Exterior of Greek Church in Chios -2006

If from one burning lamp someone lights another, then another from that one, and so on in succession, he has light continuously. In the same way, through the Apostles ordaining their successors, and these successors ordaining others, and so on, the grace of the Holy Spirit is handed down through all generations and enlightens all who obey their shepherds and teachers. ~ St. Gregory Palamas

In the measure that we pay attention and take care to carry out what we hear, God will always enlighten us and make us understand His will. ~ St. Dorotheus of Gaza

Prelude of God’s Good Will

Lily on Blue Background, by Josch13 from Pixabay 

The Lily symbolizes the unfading flower of virginity and purity of the Mother of God. The six anthers with amber pollen splaying out from the flower’s centre, represent the golden radiance of her soul.

Happy Feast Day on the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple!

Today let heaven above greatly rejoice and let the clouds pour down gladness at the mighty acts, exceeding marvellous, of our God. For behold, the gate that looks toward the east, born according to the promise from a fruitless and barren womb, and dedicated to God as His dwelling, is led today into the temple as an offering without blemish. Let David greatly rejoice, striking his harp. ‘Virgins’ said he, ‘shall be brought to the King after her, her companions shall be brought unto Thee. Within the tabernacle of God, within His place of propitiation, she shall be brought up, to become of the dwelling place of Him who was begotten of the Father without change before all ages, for the salvation of our souls. Today the Theotokos, the Temple that is to hold God, is led into the temple of the Lord, and Zacharias receives her. Today the Holy of Holies rejoices greatly, and the choir of angels mystically keeps feast. With them let us also celebrate the festival today, and let us cry aloud with Gabriel: Hail, thou who art full of grace: the Lord is with thee, He who has great mercy. ~ St. George of Nicomedia

The Father is Light, His Son is Light, and the Spirit, the Comforter, is Light: for, shining forth as from one sun, the Trinity divinely illuminates and preserves our souls… The prophets proclaimed thee in ages past, speaking of thee as the ark of holiness, golden censer, candlestick, and table; and we sing thy praises as the Tabernacle that held God. ~ Second Canon at the Festal Matins

The Theotokos is sometimes referred to as the Golden Candlestick; for within her, she contained the Light that Illumines the whole world.

With joy in spirit, let us go before her today, bearing the bright lamps of faith… into the temple of our hearts!

Festal Troparion, Tone 4
Today is the prelude of God’s good will / and the heralding of the salvation of mankind. / In the temple of God, the Virgin is presented openly, / and she proclaimeth Christ unto all. / To her, then, with a great voice let us cry aloud: / Rejoice, O thou fulfillment // of the Creator’s dispensation.

Festal Kontakion, Tone 4
The most pure temple of the Saviour, / the most precious bridal-chamber and Virgin, / the sacred treasury of the glory of God, / is on this day brought into the house of the Lord, / bringing with her the grace that is in the Divine Spirit. / And the angels of God chant praise unto her: // she is the heavenly tabernacle.

May your day be filled with the Peace from Above!

Sowing the Divine Seed

Holy Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul on Epistle Book cover

The Holy Gospels are from Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Most of the other New Testament Books are Epistles – Letters from Sts. Peter and Paul to the early Christians located in different cities.

Each day of the liturgical year has specific Gospel and Epistle readings. These pertain to the church calendar, and spiritually nourish millions of Orthodox Christians daily. If prayer is where we speak to God, the Scriptures are how we listen to Him.

Reading Scriptures and understanding them through the teachings of the Church is paramount.

As of 2021, private interpretations and individualistic opinions of Holy Scripture have globally birthed a staggering 45,000 separate Christian denominations.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:15

How to Read the Bible

If from one burning lamp someone lights another, then another from that one, and so on in succession, he has light continuously. In the same way, through the Apostles ordaining their successors, and those successors ordaining others, and so on, the grace of the Holy Spirit is handed down through all generations and enlightens all who obey their spiritual shepherds and teachers. ~ St. Gregory Palamas

… we commemorate each of the saints with hymns and appropriate songs of praise, how much more should we celebrate the memory of Peter and Paul, the supreme Leaders of the pre-eminent company of the Apostles? They are the fathers and guides of all Christians: Apostles, martyrs, holy ascetics, priests, hierarchs, pastors and teachers. As chief shepherds and master builders of our common godliness and virtue, they tend and teach us all, like lights in the world, holding forth the word of life. ~ St. Gregory Palamas

… the Apostle Peter declared that the Church was built by the Holy Spirit. For you read that he said: ‘God, Who knows the hearts of men, bore witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as was given to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith’ Acts 15:8-9. In which is to be considered, that as Christ is the Cornerstone, Who joined together both peoples into one, so, too, the Holy Spirit made no distinction between the hearts of each people, but united them. ~ St. Ambrose of Milan

… the light that illumined St. Paul on the road to Damascus, the light through which he was raised to the third heaven where he heard unutterable mysteries, was not merely enlightenment of conceptual images or of spiritual knowledge. It was the effulgence of the power of the Holy Spirit shining in our Lord’s own person. Such was its brilliance that corporeal eyes were not able to bear it and were blinded; and through it all spiritual knowledge is revealed and God is truly known by the worthy and loving soul. ~ St. Makarios of Egypt

According to St. Paul you minister the Gospel only when, having yourself participated in the light of Christ, you can pass it on actively to others. Then you sow the Logos like a divine seed in the fields of your listeners’ souls... Elsewhere St. Paul, calls the teachers tillers and their pupils the field they till wisely, presents the former as ploughers and sowers of the divine Logos and the latter as fertile soil, yielding a rich crop of virtues. True ministry is not simply a celebration of sacred rites; it also involves participation in divine blessings and the communication of these blessings to others. ~ St. Gregory of Sinai

There’s a Daily Orthodox Church Calendar on Blisswood, located at the very bottom of each page and post; where one can easily access links for daily Gospel and Epistle readings.

I prefer to hold and read from an actual King James Bible, but when travel or convenience calls, there’s also a free, simple app, great for ipads or cells. It’s called Orthodox Calendar and contains lives of saints, fasting regulations, Scripture Readings, Troparion and Kontakion (Little Hymns pertaining to the day).

May your day and and all your spiritual endeavours be blessed!

Lampstand of the Light

Dome Mosaic of St. John the Baptist – St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada

St. John the Baptist is called the voice of the Word, the lampstand of the the Light, the morning star and Forerunner of the Sun of Righteousness.

He is named Forerunner, as he preceded Christ… being sent as a Messenger to prepare the people for Christ’s ministry. Angel in Greek means messenger, and some icons of St. John the Baptist depict him with angelic wings, on account of Malachi’s prophecy from the Old Testament.

Several dates during the Liturgical year specifically celebrate the birth, life and death of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist of Christ.

On September 11 (August 29, Julian calendar) we remember St. John the Baptist’s heavenly birthday and martyrdom. In honour of the greatest of all prophets who have ever lived, and since ancient times, the Church has celebrated this leading luminary by establishing this day as a fast.

St. John the Baptist is the personification of faithfulness to God, righteousness, and asceticism. He is so revered, that each Tuesday, every week of the year is also dedicated to him.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. ~ St. John 1:6-9

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St. John the Baptist – St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada

St. John the Baptist Resource Page

700 years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah foretold the preaching of John the Baptist. Isaiah called St. John  “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness”  (Isaiah 40:3); who was to “prepare  the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” 

Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, who lived more than 400 years before the birth of Christ foretold the coming of St. John the Baptist, and refers to him as an angel. Behold I will send My Angel, and he shall prepare the way before Me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Angel of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. ~ Malachi 3:1-2

St. Luke 1:5-80

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. ~ St. John 1:6-9

St. Matthew 3:1-12

St. Matthew 3:13-17

St. Mark 6:17-29

Christ Himself said: Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. ~ St. Matthew 11:11

Through the holy prayers of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist of Christ, may we, too, stand as steadfast shining candles before the Lord; radiating His Effulgent and Gladsome Light!

O Gladsome Light is an ancient Christian hymn originally written in Greek around the 3rd or 4th century. It is the earliest known hymn recorded outside the Bible still in use today, and is still sung in Orthodox Christian Vespers services daily. St. Basil the Great (329-379 AD) referred to this hymn (already considered old in his time) as a cherished church tradition. It is also called the Lamp-lighting Hymn, for at that time in Jerusalem, a lamp was kept perpetually burning at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the empty tomb of Christ. As Christians gathered there to worship, this hymn was sung, and a candle lit from the lamp was brought forth from the tomb, its bright solitary flame reminding all of the Risen Lord. ~ Wikipedia

Our Time to Shine

Radiant Candles beside the Transfiguration Feast Day Icon, from August 19/6.

A sweet custom when placing a candle in the sand after Crossing oneself, is to also make the sign of the Cross in the sand with the bottom of your candle, then place the candle in the centre of the Cross you have just traced.

If but ten among us lead a holy life, we shall kindle a fire which shall light up the entire city. ~ St. John Chrysostom

If from one burning lamp someone lights another, then another from that one, and so on in succession, he has light continuously. In the same way, through the Apostles ordaining their successors, and these successors ordaining others, and so on, the grace of the Holy Spirit is handed down through all generations and enlightens all who obey their shepherds and teachers. ~ St. Gregory Palamas

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

When you look at the candles and lamps burning in church, rise in thought from the material fire to the immaterial fire of the Holy Ghost, ‘for our God is a consuming fire.’ When you see and smell the fragrant incense, rise in thought to the spiritual fragrance of the Holy Ghost, ‘for we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ.’ ~ St. John of Kronstadt

The candle you place before the Lord is a metaphor of the fire and light within your soul. Your whole life’s purpose is to intensify its warmth and illumination. ~ Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky

Because our faith is light.  Christ said: I am the light of the world (John 8:12).  The light of the vigil lamp reminds us of that light by which Christ illumines our souls. Just as the oil and wick burn in the vigil lamp, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God’s will. In order to teach us that just as the vigil lamp cannot be lit without our hand, so too, our heart, our inward vigil lamp, cannot be lit without the holy fire of God’s grace, even if it were to be filled with all the virtues. All these virtues of ours are, after all, like combustible material, but the fire which ignites them proceeds from God. In order to remind us that before anything else the Creator of the world created light, and after that everything else in order: And God said, let there be light: and there was light (Genesis 1:3).  And it must be so also at the beginning of our spiritual life, so that before anything else the light of Christ’s truth would shine within us.  From this light of Christ’s truth subsequently every good is created, springs up and grows in us. ~ St. Nikolai Velimirovic

Day of the Holy Spirit

Altar Mosaic Hospitality of Abraham in St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada (Based on the mosaic from 6th century church St. Vitale, in Ravenna, Italy)

On the day after every Great Feast, the post-feast honours the one through whom the Feast Day is made possible. Today is called Day of the Holy Spirit. It is the 2nd of the three days in a row dedicated to the Holy Spirit, with Pentecost beginning the three-day run. This whole week is fast-free.

When you look at the candles and lamps burning in church, rise in thought from the material fire to the immaterial fire of the Holy Spirit, for our God is a consuming fire. When you see and smell the fragrant incense, rise in thought to the spiritual fragrance of the Holy Spirit, ‘for we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ’… ‘Every soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit.’ Recognize that the Holy Spirit stands in the same relation to your soul as air stands in relation to your body… The Holy Spirit comforts the believing soul, as a mother comforts her child. ~ St. John of Kronstadt

The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptized acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less. Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more fire wood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him. ~ St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain


Fountain of Life

Hawaiian Beach Sunrise over Lava Rocks, 2014

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. ~Genesis 1:3

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. ~ Genesis 1:4

From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised. ~ Psalm 113:3

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. ~ Psalm 119:105

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. ~Lamentations 3:22-23

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. ~ St. John 8:12

It seems that we do not understand one thing: it is not good when we return the love of those who love us, yet hate those who hate us. We are not on the right path if we do this. We are the sons of light and love, the sons of God, his children. As such we must have His qualities and His attributes of love, peace, and kindness towards all. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Thy bridal chamber I see adorned, O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and save me. ~Exapostilarion of Bridegroom Matins

Light

After Theophany, the days grow longer. Chirping robins return. Silver, furry catkins adorn bare branches. Fair Maids of Février poke up through cold earth. Everything is fresh and young again.

Each day, the Author of Life opens a blank new page for us to write on.

Isn’t is marvellous the unwritten pages of our daily deeds are already seen by Him as accomplished? Isn’t it amazing we retain the gift of free will to do as we choose on said pages? Isn’t it miraculous He loves us; regardless!?

Opening our self to God is Life. Allowing God to robe Himself within us suffuses our soul with Love and Light.

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? ~Psalm 27:1

Thy word is a lamp for my feet, a light unto my path. ~ Psalm 119:105

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. ~ Isaiah 60:1

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ~ St. Matthew 5:14 – 16

No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you. ~ St. Luke 11:33-36

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ St.  John 1:5

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ~ St. John 8:12

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