A Sacrifice of Praise

An abundance of sweet-scented wisteria spill over the pergola, upheld and supported by its rough, wooden beams.

Let us lift up our hearts! We lift them up unto the Lord! ~Anaphora

From every cut springs new growth. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all in gardening, or life.

To encourage a profusion of fragrant blossoms and to thrive – shrubs, trees, and vines require careful tending to transform into ultimate splendor. They must first be reduced, in order to become more.

By deadheading and pruning our own spiritual debris, we are refreshed and ready for new growth! We are able to lightly and joyfully lift up our hearts unto the Lord!

Through God’s Mercy of Peace we thrive, and our hearts are transformed by being in God.

In the words of an anonymous saint (whose name escapes me at the moment), may we remember more often to: Prune wisely and clip with discernment.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. ~ St. John 15:1-2

Prayer is the flower of gentleness and the fruit of joy. ~ Evagrios the Solitary, 4th century

The Sheep of His Pasture

This Icon of Christ the Good Shepherd is used with Fr. Serafim’s kind permission (Mull Monastery).

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. ~ Psalm 100

Parish Youth Choir recently making a joyful noise unto the Lord, and singing praises!

Good Shepherd – Parish Altar Mosaic

Through His Tender Mercy

An October Dawn

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ~ Psalm 23:6

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. ~ Psalm 52:8

Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. ~ Psalm 85:10

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. ~ St. Matthew 5:7

Repentance is the gate of mercy which is opened to those who seek it. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian

Lord, as You will, and as You know, have mercy! ~ Abba Macarius

In my life, two questions have especially occupied my attention. First, the exploration of the ways of God’s mercy which I found first in nature. Then I began to observe human life, and even where free will was leaning towards evil, I always found God’s mercy. Then I decided to turn to that which is most sinful, most evil, and I turned to my inward life. It seemed that here there was no place for God’s mercy, because there was nothing good in it; but even here I discovered God’s mercy, and I remembered the words of the Psalmist: ‘Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there.’ Then I finally became convinced that the mercy of God towards man is limitless and boundless. ~ Archbishop Iosaph Skorodumov

The Dawning Dayspring connects all Creation through the Created! The Dayspring… the Orient from on High, refers to our merciful Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

May we all make Good Choices today… and be swathed in the Tender Mercy of His Redeeming, Healing, Peaceful, Love.

Parish Youth Choir Sing ~ 2023
🎵 Lord Have Mercy 🎵

Privilege of Prayer

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

No matter what misfortune might befall you, no matter what unpleasantness might occur, say ‘I will endure this for Jesus Christ’s sake!’ Just say that, and you will feel better, for the Name of Jesus Christ is powerful… Before It, all difficulties abate, and demons disappear. Your annoyance and faintness of heart will abate when you repeat His most sweet Name… ~ St. Anthony of Optina

When life hurls kitchen sinks our way; duck, cover, carry on, and ask God for help!

Or, we can choose to sit like a bump on a log, waiting for help to be doled out like a grand prize, as if it’s our due… because why should we have to ask for help? Doesn’t God know everything, anyway?

We are indeed given free will. God wants us as collaborators, and it’s up to us to decide whether to ask, or not ask for help. Even if we’ve never asked for help before! God loves us, truly loves us, and waits patiently for us to come to Him.

I’d like to re-share these short, powerful, (tried and true) prayers, to use when sucker-punched with anxiety over any (or constant) painful situation that rears its ugly head, or even if we’re not quite sure of what to pray for someone:

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on (fill in the blank)!

Or… Lord, help!

Or…

O Lord, You love (name) more than I,
And You can help (name) better than I,
And You know better than I, what is profitable for (him)(her).
So do for (name) what is best- only save (him)(her).

The short prayer above “O Lord, You love” is so very helpful, and positively over-rides useless, worrisome thoughts that may otherwise spin those windmills of our mind out of control. It also helps teach how to pray for someone when we’re not sure of how to pray. Feel free to add on your concerns in your own words. Unselfish, heartfelt prayer is prayer.

Prayer helps us to Faithfully endure uncertainties.

The Powerful and Sweetest Name of Jesus imbues us with Strength.

St. Gavrilia, the newly canonized saint (Oct. 3, 2023) whom I deeply revere, says in The Ascetic of Love (page 246):

When we… think of those for whom we wish to pray, we are induced to so by love. “Lord, You are the Source of Love. It is from this Source of Love that I draw too, and I offer you this person. Lord, I pray to You, grant him [her] Your Light, grant him Your Mercy, grant him Strength, grant him Faith, grant him all the abundant Blessings that You grant. All I can offer is my humble love.” After this introduction, you take a knot of the Komboskini [Prayer Rope] and say: “I pray for so and so… and for so and so…” visualizing each of these persons at the Feet of Christ, praying on their knees before Him – themselves in person, as the anonymous author of the Way of a Pilgrim says. I have long years of experience that with this prayer God works many miracles. Because God wants us as <<collaborators>>, no matter how worthless we may be. For we are His Creatures, and it is with these Creatures of His that He has to work…

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

There’s nothing is quite so precious as our praising God, even in adversity, and to humbly show gratitude thanking Him for all His Blessings… and for hearing us (even if the situation currently seems unresolved)! Because He HAS heard us, and WILL DO what’s best, according to His Plan.

What a privilege to carry what weighs upon our hearts to the Lord in prayer!

Through the prayers and intercessions of our most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, our Guardian Angels, St. Gavrilia, and all the saints… thank you dear Lord, for hearing our prayers!

Amen!

A Shining New Saint!

Mother Gavrilia (Gabriela) Public Domain Photo from OrthodoxWiki

It gave me the greatest joy to learn yesterday (October 3, 2023), that Eldress (Gerontissa) Mother Gavrilia was canonized a saint!

Her Feast Day is the date of her Heavenly Birthday, March 28th.

Our Venerable and God-bearing Mother Gavrilia the New Ascetic of Love has been added to the Synaxarion.

While it’s “official” now… I’m thrilled, as she has helped me and so many others “unofficially” – for quite some time.

Her inspiring, joyful quotes are salt and peppered throughout Blisswood, flavouring the various postings. (View by the “Gerontissa Gavrilia quote” tag in other posts)

Although this amazing, inspiring, book is currently and sadly out of print, I highly recommended it at a recent parish sisterhood meeting.

Given that Mother Gavrilia was just canonized, God-Willing, there may well be new publication(s) of this book!

Added new note November 29, 2023: Yes you may order the new editions here through Not of This World Icons and Books at Holy Dormition Orthodox Church!


It was a delight reading this conglomerate of practical, encouraging letters to laypeople and friends over the decades, including priceless, pearls of wisdom to her fellow nuns, when she later became a monastic in her 60’s.

Mother Gavrilia saw Christ in everyone, and was imbued with sincere, simple, Christian love… a verdant, precious example to other Orthodox Christians and to those of different faiths.

She LIVED her Faith in Pure Love.

Now the worker of love the revered ascetic Gabriela, who is our aid in misfortune and succour in mortal hardship, the missionary of Christ, let us be wakeful in offering her impressionable hymns, that she may entreat the Creator on our behalf who bless her. ~ Apolytikion in Plagal of the Fifth Tone

Fervent love joined with humility, you lived in the world but lived outside the world, praying and offering herself as a sacrifice to Christ, to her we ardently sing hymns, the divinely luminous Gabriela, the ascetic, crying out with longing: Rejoice, mother inspired by God. ~ Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone

A bright lamp and ray of missionaries, a new boast of ascetics, for your fiery love towards your neighbour, we cry out to you with longing, Gabriela. ~ Megalynarion

She is now closer than ever!

Reach out to her and she will come quickly and lovingly to your aid… leaving the Peace from Above and Joy in her wake.

Through the holy intercessions of our Venerable and God-bearing Mother Gavrilia the New Ascetic of Love, O Christ our God, have mercy on us, and save us!

Amen.

Happy Sts. Peter & Paul Day!

July 12/June 29

Icon of Saints Peter (left) and Paul (right).

The long Apostles’ Fast is over!

Greetings on this ancient, joyful feast day, commemorating the Holy Apostles Saints Peter and Paul. They are celebrated together because of their great roles in the Church as fathers and guides to all Christians.

O first-enthroned among the apostles and teachers of the whole world: Entreat the Master of all, that He grant peace to the world: and great mercy to our souls. ~ Troparion of Apostles Peter & Paul (Tone 4)

With hymns of praise let us honour the true preachers of piety, the all-radiant stars of the Church: Peter, the rock of Faith, and Paul, the teacher of the truth and initiate of the mysteries of Christ. For both of them having sown the word of truth in the ears of the faithful beseech Christ God Who giveth fruitfulness unto all, that our souls be saved. ~ Stichera for Apostles Peter & Paul (Tone 6)

Remembering the Old English Poem associated with the tradition of harvesting lavender on (or around) this particular Feast Day, we added a small, fresh bouquet of Provence Lavender at the festal icon of Saints Peter and Paul. “If you wish lavender bushy and tall, then tend on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

We have 4 lavender bushes that need “tending”. Their harvested stems are bundled securely into individual bouquets, (but not too tightly, and making sure they’re not damp) then hung upside down (flowers at bottom) to dry in the house, avoiding direct sunlight. It can take about 3 weeks for the stems and flowers to dry. Meanwhile, the house smells amazing! Lavender can easily be made into drawer/closet/car sachets, sleep pillows, or kept/shared as a dried floral wall decoration. If they dry straight enough, you can pop them into a dry vase to keep. I also strip some buds off several stems and put them in a lidded glass jar and stored in a dark kitchen cupboard- for use in… tea, lemonade, vinaigrettes, or baking. During winter use, it’s a joy to remember they were picked on a sunny summer Saints’ Day! Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, pray to God for us!

Culinary Lavender Summer Recipes…
Lavender-Rose Vegan Mini Mochi
Lavender Dream Cookies

Happy Saint’s Day – Reader Peter H.! May God grant you many years!

Memory Eternal – J. Paul T. 🐓 and Paul G.!

For the Peace From Above

Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

Greetings on the Feast Day of St. Geneviève of Paris!

In peace, let us pray to the Lord. For the peace from above and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord. For the peace of the whole world, for the welfare of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord. That we may live out our lives in peace and repentance, let us pray to the Lord… ~ From the Great Litany

Virtues of Hope

Image by Igor Schubin from Pixabay

The Virtues of Hope
rejoice in tribulation
for God is with us.

Expectancy rests…
trusting, patiently faithful,
in the unseen Good.

Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee. ~ Psalm 33:20-22

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. ~ Psalm 46:1

A Little is a Lot

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

If you can help a person – help, if you cannot help – pray, if you do not know how to pray – think about the person in a good way! And this will already be a help, because godly thoughts [towards others] are also alms! ~ St. Nikolai Velimirovich

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites [very small copper coins]  So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” ~ St. Luke 21:1-4

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. ~ 2 Corinthians 9:7

It often seems those who possess the least (materially), are the most generous with others. Digging deeply into the pockets of their hearts, they’ll happily give away their own last “widow’s mite” to someone else… who, to them, appear to be in greater need.

God’s blessings abound, when we (without judging what others may do with what we give them, and without expecting anything in return) give from our needs, and not from our surplus.

It’s doubly blessed to give alms in memory of someone by saying, “Please accept this in memory of (Name).”

If we have no material alms available to give, we can always share the Gladsome Light and Love of Christ – through a warm smile, a kind word, and heartfelt prayer offered to God, on their behalf.

…And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ~ Acts 20:35

 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. ~ St. Matthew 25:35-40

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. ~ St. Matthew 5:7

Let Us Make a Joyful Noise!

Image by mokca from Pixabay

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. ~Psalm 100:1-5

…but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… ~ Ephesians 5:18-20

Nothing elevates the soul, nothing gives it wings as a liturgical hymn does… We should offer up doxologies to God with fear and a contrite heart, in order that they may be accepted like fragrant incense… Nothing so arouses the soul, gives it wing, sets it free from the earth, releases it from the prison of the body, teaches it to love wisdom… as concordant melody and sacred song composed in rhythm. ~ St. John Chrysostom

Pray gently and calmly, sing with understanding and rhythm; then you will soar like a young eagle high in the heavens. Psalmody calms the passions and curbs the uncontrolled impulses in the body. ~ Evagrios the Solitary

To sing is to pray twice. ~ St. Augustine

Wherever there are spiritual melodies, there does the grace of the Spirit come, sanctifying the mouth and the soul. ~ St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

Sing to God in love and humility of spirit, for the Lord rejoiceth therein. ~ St. Silouan the Athonite 

Only ecclesiastical music can express the secret movements of the heart, which are completely different than what worldly music expresses. For this reason the two kinds of music are totally different, just as shown by the words: “sing” and “chant.” ~Photios Kontoglou

In case you haven’t yet discovered this wonderful site of hymnody (in multiple languages), please enjoy: The Rudder Internet Radio Station Streaming Orthodox Music 24/7

May your day be harmoniously tuned with the Spirit… in holy, heartfelt psalmody!

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