Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. ~St. John 20:29
I do lovehearing that passage and the Lord Himself saying with timeless inclusiveness… blessed are those who have believed without seeing! He’s also referring to us! Right now!
Today, weather permitting, our parish will visit two cemeteries after Liturgy, and the priest will bless the graves of parishioners who’ve fallen asleep in the Lord. These Radonitsa Prayers are short, beautiful, and concluded with the Bright and Joyous singing of Paschal hymns at each grave site.
Another sweet consolation…
After our death, when we come face to face with Christ, we will understand the why and how of our lives and we will be told everything we went through in this world. Then, with all the power of our existence, we will say to Him, “Thank you my God, for allowing these for me!” ~ St. Paisios the Athonite
This icon is frequently referred to as the Anastasis or Resurrection Icon. It is an icon of Pascha(Easter).
The golden bars by Christ’s feet are the gates of Hades, which He has broken and torn apart. At Pascha, a tradition includes the cracking of our blessed Pascha eggs together. This represents how Christ shattered the gates of Hades.
There are keys floating in the abyss below, which symbolizes that he has entered and conquered both death and Hades. Some icons have a skeletal figure who is chained up: that’s Death. He has been bound and killed by Christ. All throughout Pascha-tide until the Ascension, we greet each other with,“Christ is Risen, Truly He is Risen!”
The two figures whom Christ has grasped and is pulling out of Hades are Adam and Eve, symbolizing that His Victory redeems all mankind, even back to the beginning.
This Resurrection scene is taking place in the past, present, and future.
To His left, we see three Old Testament saints: Kings David and Solomon, two of His ancestors according to his fleshly nature. We also see, closest to him St. John the Baptist, who was his Forerunner in both life and death. On the right, we have the New Testament, including the apostles who are alive. The purpose is to show that Christ’s redemption transcends time and space. This is an act that happened in the past, is happening right now, and will happen in the future. Christ is always in the state of redeeming and setting us free.
The blue shape around Christ is called the Mandorla (which is Italian for almond, which describes its shape). The Mandorla is the Uncreated, Eternal Light of Christ. In the writings of the Eastern Orthodox mystics, God is often prayerfully experienced as Light. This is not simply a beautiful bright light. It is the same Light which filled the apostles with wonder when they witnessed His Transfiguration. It is the Light which Christ Himself described as the power of the Kingdom of God (Mark 9:1, Matt. 16:28, Luke 9:27). It is also the Light that is seen when one purifies their heart and mind (Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God).
Those who seek God will find that the more they know Him, the less they comprehend Him.
To know God, to experience Him, is to walk from the darkness of sin, into His Light, to enter into the mystery of His Presence. ~ The Ark Youth Quarterly– St. Sophia Orthodox Church
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 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.
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 weknowand acceptHe 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!
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
MeriġeCrīstesmæsse is an ancient salutation from pre-12th century Old English, which meant a “BlessedChrist’s Mass.” Today MeriġeCrīstesmæsse has morphed into the joyful Seasonal Greeting of Merry Christmas, or Happy Christmas!
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 NativityCanon
In keeping with the situation… Here is a beautiful, a cappella Nativity Folk Carol, “Heaven and Earth” as recorded by our parish in 2014.
Orthodoxy is a faith that is deep enough to allow her believers to confront the complexities of our human experience, while at the same time recognizing that not all is understood in this life, but viewed as a Mystery. So, the view that believers never doubt, is simply not true. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, but rather the vehicle by which we are challenged to go deeper into the Mystery that is true faith. Nothing keeps we true believers from struggling with uncertainty, for it is this very uncertainty that keeps us from complacency. Complacency is the true enemy of faith, and the inhibitor of spiritual growth. It is complacency that keeps us from the Kingdom of God, and the joy that comes when we are in Communion with Christ. It is not a question of choosing sides, but of surrendering to Divine Wisdom. ~ Abbot Tryphon
In the mystical theology of the Orthodox Church, Wisdom is understood as the Divine Logos (God the Word), Who became Incarnate as Jesus Christ. In Greek, Ἁγία Σοφία (Hagia Sophia) is defined “Holy Wisdom” meaning “Jesus Christ”…The Wisdom and Power of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 1: 24,30; 1 Corinthians 2:7
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth… No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him. ~ First chapter of 1 John
Shared by a friend… Some Aspects of Surrendering to Divine Wisdom
Surrender = Conscious, Willing, Choice. Surrender = Unconditional Seeking Refuge within the Divine. Surrender = Faith. Surrender = Effort. Surrender = Hope. Surrender = Love. Surrender = Trust. Surrender = Strength. Surrender = Recognizing Blessings. Surrender = Gratitude, Thankfulness. Surrender = Action with Consistent Prayer. Surrender = Communication. Surrender = Understanding that Christ Knows What’s Best For Us.
Accepting God’s Will = Learning to let go, andlet God!
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)