An Ancient Symbol of Prayer

Photo by Andriy Tod on Unsplash

Let my prayer be set forth as incense before thee. ~ Psalm 141:2

Recently, at an evening service, and through the golden glow of candlelight… smokey tendrils of incense swirled as wreaths of living halos about the holy icons, before wafting upwards as billowing clouds – the noetic breath of our prayers… and the setting sun’s beams pierced through the church windows to ignite the mosaics’ gold tessera like fiery embers. Immersed in all this spiritual beauty, my cup overflowed. It took my breath away.

I’d love to share these beautiful reminders listed from St. Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church – of the rich symbolism and significance of Church incense and the Censer.

What is the Censer?
The censer is a covered dish suspended on four chains. It is used to convey the fragrant smoke of the incense to holy objects. It’s parts represent all of God’s creation.

What does it represent?

  • The ring (symbol of eternity) represents GOD.
  • The top represents ‘Alpha’ (A) the beginning.
  • The four chains represent the Four Evangelists.
  • The twelve bells represent the Twelve Apostles, and their teaching.
  • The Cross reminds us of the cross of our Lord.
  • The top of the bowl represents the Heavens.
  • The firepot (where the incense and charcoal go) is the earth, and the charcoal is man who requires the fire of the Holy Spirit to give him light and life. We blow on the charcoal to set it afire just as God put life in man by breathing on him.
  • The bottom of the cup is the universe of which the earth is a part.
  • The base of the censer is the ‘Omega’ (Ω), the end.

May we continually blow breath to spark our own noetic charcoal – keeping it afire with the Love, Zeal, and the Fragrance of Christ.

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

Beauty of the Lord

Gold Tesserae Awaiting Placement in Parish Mosaic

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in his temple. ~ Psalm 27:4

Sanctify those that love the beauty of Thy house. Glorify them in return by Thy divine power. ~ Prayer behind the Ambo

…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ~ Philippians 4:8

Numinous beauty is found in the physical and spiritual splendour surrounding us!

We perceive God’s grace through the noetic beauty of nature. Our souls sense it when we throw open the doors of our heart and gaze upon the holy icons at Church. We smell it in the sweet fragrance of pure beeswax candles, the bouquets of flowers, and the clouds of billowing incense. We hear it in the joyful voices singing hymns and psalms of praise. We taste it in the Holy Mysteries, the antidoron and prosphora. We experience His Mercy of Peace through the powerful permeation of communal prayer at Divine Liturgy.

Fyodor Dostoevsky once wrote: Beauty will save the world.

True Beauty points to God… Who exudes and transcends Inexpressible Beauty in everything, through the Glorious, Gladsome Light of His Divinity!

Angelic Efforts

Progress on Altar Angel by Parish Mosaicists based on detail from background angels of a 6th century icon at the ancient St. Catherine’s Monastery of Mt. Sinai.

When we once begin to form good resolutions, God gives us every opportunity of carrying them out. ~ St. John Chrysostom

You can set up an altar to God in your minds by means of prayer. And so it is fitting to pray at your trade, on a journey, standing at a counter or sitting at your handicraft. ~ St. John Chrysostom

Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you will honour your patience. ~ St. John Chrysostom

We all do nearly nothing – some a little more, some a little less. When Christ sees our little effort, He gives us an analogous [matching] token; and so our “nearly nothing” becomes valuable, and we can see a little progress. For this reason we must not despair, but hope in God. ~ Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

Let Us Go Forth in Peace

Angel Wall Mosaic Before Completion – St. Sophia Orthodox Church in Canada, 2012

“Let us go forth on peace” is the last commandment of the Liturgy. What does it mean? It means, surely, that the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy is not an end but a beginning. Those words, “Let us go forth in peace,” are not merely a comforting epilogue. They are a call to serve and bear witness. In effect, those words, “Let us go forth in peace,” mean the Liturgy is over, the liturgy after the Liturgy is about to begin. This, then, is the aim of the Liturgy: that we should return to the world with the doors of our perceptions cleansed. We should return to the world after the Liturgy, seeing Christ in every human person, especially in those who suffer. In the words of Father Alexander Schememann, the Christian is the one who wherever he or she looks, sees Christ everywhere, and rejoices in him. We are to go out, then, from the Liturgy and see Christ everywhere. ~ Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia

Finding the Beauty

Parish Mosaic Before Completion

We are but the small shards of Creation’s Grand and Beautiful Mosaic!

Christ manifested Himself to the world; He filled it with light and joy; He sanctified the waters and diffused His light in the souls of men. ~ St. Proclus

Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute, at the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty nonetheless, and what he did was to call out this beauty. ~ Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Every one of us is in the image of God, and every one of us is like a damaged icon. But if we were given an icon damaged by time, damaged by circumstances, or desecrated by human hatred, we would treat it with reverence, with tenderness, with broken-heartedness. We would not pay attention primarily to the fact that it is damaged, but to the tragedy of its being damaged. We would concentrate on what is left of its beauty, and not on what is lost of its beauty. And this is what we must learn to do with regard to each person as an individual, but also – and this is not always as easy – with regard to groups of people, whether it be a parish or a denomination, or a nation. We must learn to look, and look until we have seen the underlying beauty of this group of people. Only then can we even begin to do something to call out all the beauty that is there. Listen to other people, and whenever you discern something which sounds true, which is a revelation of harmony and beauty, emphasize it and help it to flower. Strengthen it and encourage it to live. ~ Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Faith, Hope and Love

Beautiful (almost life size) ambo-iconostas mosaic of St. Sophia and her three daughters, Faith, Hope and Love.

These saints from the second century AD are the epitome of their virtuous names: Sophia (Wisdom), Faith, Hope and Love, and they continue to shine forth as steadfast beacons of spiritual strength!

Today is our parish sisterhood’s feast day, and some cherished friends’ Saint’s Day as well! Congratulations on your Name’s Day, Vera, Sophie, Lu and Esperanza! May God grant you many years and blessings!

Memory Eternal Nadezhda, Faith, and Michael!

The purpose of a parish sisterhood is to engage Christ’s loving kindness, in service to our parish, our Church, each other, and our local community. We strive to emulate the great faith reflected in the life or lives of our name’s-sake(s).

Faith, hope, and love are interconnected. There can’t be one without the other two. In this life we have three great lasting qualities – faith, hope and love. And the greatest of them is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Our soul is a Divine Breath. Our body is His Creation. In the whole of us we are the icon of God… Three things are needful. First Love, second Love, third Love… How beautiful is the Mystery of Tomorrow! ~ Gerontissa Gavrielia

Greeting you with Faith, Hope and Love.

Holy Mandylion

Outdoor Mosaic of Christ the Holy Wisdom and Power of GodFestal Icon and Feast Day of St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada.

Greetings on today’s wonderful Feast! (Sometimes this Feast Day is transferred to the nearest Sunday after the Feast of the Dormition)

On this day (August 29/16) we celebrate the first century Icon of our Lord Jesus Christ Not-Made-by-Hands’ later transference from the city of Edessa to Constantinople, in the year 944.

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. ~ St. John 21:25

Mandylion is the Byzantine Greek word for small towel or cloth (pronounced man-dee-lee-o).

The Holy Mandylion is the miraculous Image known as the first icon, which our Lord Himself, produced .

In the mystical theology of the Orthodox Church, Wisdom is understood as the Divine Logos (God the Word), Who became Incarnate as Jesus Christ. The name St. Sophia comes from the Greek Ἁγία Σοφία (Hagia Sophia) and signifies “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

Troparion Tone 2 Melody, of Today’s Feast

(A troparion and kontakion are short sung hymns which teach about a special saint, prophet or Feast Day)

We bow down, before Thine all pure Image O Good One, Asking forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ God; for Thou wast well pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh of Thine own will, that Thou mightest save what Thou hadst created from slavery to the enemy. Wherefore, we cry out to Thee in thanksgiving: Thou hast filled all things with joy, O our Saviour, Who hast come to save the world.

Kontakion in Tone 2 Melody, of Today’s Feast

O Uncircumscribable Word of the Father, knowing the victorious image, uninscribed and divinely wrought, of Thine ineffable and divine dispensation towards man, of Thy true Incarnation, we honour it with veneration.

Almsgiving

Widow with the Two Mites – Mosaic, St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow putting in two mites *. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on. ~ St. Luke 21: 1-4. [* Mites, from the Greek lepta, meaning very small copper coins]

Almsgiving above all else requires money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when the alms are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all. ~ St. John Chrysostom

Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead. ~ St. John Chrysostom

He who gives alms in imitation of God does not discriminate between the wicked and the virtuous, the just and the unjust, when providing for men’s bodily needs. ~ St. Maximos the Confessor 

Love the poor, and through them you will find mercy... If you give something to one in need, let the cheerfulness of your face precede your gift, and comfort his sorrow with kind words. When you do this, by your gift the gladness of his mind surpasses even the needs of his body. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian

The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are the injustices you commit. ~ St. Basil the Great

At the Lord’s Feet

Part of the Creation Mosaic, St. Sophia Orthodox Church – Canada

Keep your mouth shut in the hour of crisis, when a problem is acute. Do not say anything, because you may regret it a thousand times. Instead, tell it to the Angels so that they may place it at the Lord’s Feet, and pray the Lord for an Angel of Peace to calm your soul. ~ Gerontissa Gavrielia

error: Content is protected !!