We Need Two Wings to Fly!

Parish Mosaic in Progress: The Dormition of the Theotokos

Prayer is one wing, faith the other, that lifts us heavenward. With only one wing no one can fly: prayer without faith is as meaningless as faith without prayer. But if your faith is very weak, you can profitably cry: Lord, give me faith! Such a prayer seldom goes unheard. The grain of mustard seed, says the Lord, grows into a great tree. ~ Tito Colliander (Way of the Ascetics)

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

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

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

Broken Glass

These empty ceramic vessels were used to obtain certain colours in the molten silica and glass mixtures at the Orsoni Mosaic Studio Venice, Italy. – 2009

We are like broken glass that reflects reality in small fragments until the power of God makes us whole again. ~ Elder Thaddeus

Ribbons of Blessings

Ancient Mosaic from Museum – Turkey, 2004

Just as the blessings of God are unutterably great, so their acquisition requires much hardship and toil undertaken with hope and faith. ~ St. Macarius the Great

If God is slow in answering your request, or if you ask but do not promptly receive anything, do not be upset, for you are not wiser than God. ~ St. Isaac of Syria

Crystalline Cantatas

Beautiful Star Mosaic by Melania

If we could hear stars sing their crystalline cantatas of praise to the Creator, our hearts would be so effused with such Divine sweetness and yearning; it would be unbearably impossible to not join in chorus of jubilation with them.

What sort of praise can I give Thee? I have never heard the song of the Cherubim, a joy reserved for the spirits above. But I know the praises that nature sings to Thee. In winter, I have beheld how silently in the moonlight the whole earth offers Thee prayer, clad in its white mantle of snow, sparkling like diamonds. I have seen how the rising sun rejoices in Thee, how the song of the birds is a chorus of praise to Thee. I have heard the mysterious mutterings of the forests about Thee, and the winds singing Thy praise as they stir the waters. I have understood how the choirs of stars proclaim Thy glory as they move forever in the depths of infinite space. What is my poor worship! All nature obeys Thee, I do not. Yet while I live, I see Thy love, I long to thank Thee, and call upon Thy name. ~ Ikos 12, (The Akathist Hymn: Glory to God for All Things)

The firmament has the stars for its beauty, and dispassion has the virtues for its adornments. ~ St. John of the Ladder

Mosaicked Paths of Life

The feature photo is a detail of one of our Church’s outdoor mosaic pathways. Its many individual shapes, and patterns point and intersect in different directions… yet as a whole, it forms a unique and beautiful design.

Such a heavenly morning! There was golden peach of a sunrise to the east, infusing all with a Gladsome light. To the west, a robin egg blue sky was backdrop to a full and splendid rainbow… God’s Beautiful Promise in the sky. Even the gentle raindrops seemed joyful!

Today is a reflection on childhood paths and dreams.

The first Sunday School Scripture I learned as a child was, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. ~ Psalm 119:105

Accompanying this verse was a delightful felt-board illustration, with a glowing Lantern illuminating a winding path with golden Light. My younger self imagined the many future adventures along life’s byways, while keeping close within the Lantern’s safe circumference.

It was around this same age (of 8), I decided that when I was all grown up, one of my paths would be to lead a scientific expedition to rediscover the location of the Garden of Eden.

Having studied Eden’s bearings in the book of Genesis, and after researching the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in my World Atlas… I was pretty pumped at the possibility of meeting the Cherubim Sentries, who wielded a flaming sword, and guarded the Tree of Life.

Preparing for all contingencies, and in a youthful, journalistic haze, I remember drafting vague questions one might ask of Cherubim. However, Backup Plan “B” was also set, as they might just kinda stand there sternly, and silently, doing angel-stuff. It was possible they might even not want to talk to me at all! In that case, the quest would be deemed solely a photoshoot… equipped with my beloved new Polaroid Instant Camera (pictures ready in 60 seconds) for official documentation, and as proof, to some of my friends who didn’t believe in angels.

Logic set my sights on funding needed for Eden, and my paltry allowance of 5 cents per week was futile. It had taken 5 whole months to save up for a 99 cent Troll Doll with fuzzy pink hair, and another whole 5 minutes for it to be stolen during school recess. But…. maybe I could flip our family’s backyard garage into an eatery, and call it the Spaghetti and Garlic Bread Only Restaurant?

Although its only existing entrance was a small crawl space, the redeeming structural solution of course, would be distracting decor. Pretty red and white checkered tablecloths were to be draped over splintered, wooden crate tables, to which the patrons could drag themselves. It was a no brainer, as they would be sitting on the floor anyway at their reserved crates. I made a mental note it might be good to pay attention to the dirt, broken glass, and rusty nails littering the floors.

At the venerable age of 9, I abruptly abandoned becoming a restauranteur, and strategized instead on becoming a secret agent.

It was absolutely crucial to acquire an ivory trench coat, and my enabling mother somehow found a child-sized one at the local Kmart – but not of the coveted colour. I stoically wore the khaki, while my best friend (the analyst) wore a bright kerchief (tied tightly at the nape of her neck) like some Hollywood diva. We spoke in clipped gibberish code to each other. Together, we practiced how to walk surreptitiously – as spies do – when accompanied with the blaring strains of the Pink Panther Theme. Annoyingly, the old record skipped sometimes, which compromised any graceful serpentining around front room furniture. A clandestine drop off (of a copper penny) transpired, and our brilliant asset successfully weighed down the stylus’ needle enough to arrest further hiccups.

Although I never led that wild child’s expedition to re-discover Eden’s geographical location, the interior of our church dome does contain the Tigris, Euphrates, Pison, and Gihon Rivers… depicted as water mosaics! They’re conveniently located above the mosaic lettering from Isaiah 25:9 (in English, ancient Greek, and Slavonic) Behold our God in Whom we hope and rejoice in our Salvation. That He may grant rest to this House.

We make our path by travelling it, and in hindsight, the paths worth travelling are bathed in the golden glow of the Great Artificer’s Light.

All treks and correctional detours have led me right here. Right now. Right where I should be.

Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. ~Psalm 25:4

The soul that loves God has its rest in God and in God alone. In all the paths that men walk in in the world, they do not attain peace until they draw nigh to hope in God. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian (Homily 56, 89)

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

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