Warts and All

Nestled in a bed of sweet woodruff, a damaged hosta disregards harmful beetle bites and perseveres growing, to thrive anew.

There are days and times in the life of a spiritual person when he feels an emptiness within himself, a weakness of soul something is missing. Something within him has left, and he does not quite know how to come to himself how to bring back the initial strength and Grace, which his soul had. He does not know how to bring back the fullness which he lost. In this case the Holy Fathers teach us: resume the prayer; begin prayer again either with the mouth, with the mind or with the heart and this lost fullness will return. You will find it again. Provided that you force yourself to Pray.  ~ Elder Ephraim in Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Every choice we make has a consequence. Each day affects the next… but, the past is the past. Although we can’t go back to change the past, sometimes we are trapped within a particular groove that exists in the past. Or, perhaps occasionally, an incident from the past slips in and raises its ugly head to create turmoil in the heart. We know where these temptations come from, so we must be vigilant. Lord have mercy!

It is with Hope’s Patient Persistence, His Infinite and Unconditional Love, and Forgiveness, that we are given strength to proceed beyond the past… Moving Forward with Hope, because…

We can only meet God in the present moment. This is an area where God chooses to place limits on His own power. We choose whether or not to live in the present moment. Because we can encounter God only in that present moment, whenever we live in the past or in the future, we place ourselves beyond His reach. ~ Archimandrite Meletios (Webber) 

I cannot reflect on what is past, because I live in the present moment… Yesterday does not exist. Tomorrow belongs to God, as yesterday did… So I keep quiet in God’s Eternal Present!... ….By living in yesterday we delay tomorrow’s march. We cannot live in the past which does not exist, and so give it existence it does not have… ~ St. Gavrilia (Gerontissa Gavrilia)

What has happened has happened, it is in the past. Just keep on going, all the while asking for help from God. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

May we wrap ourselves today in the Eternal Present of God and Focus Forward, warts and all – notwithstanding!

Lord, help.

Here I am.

Now.

Greeting you From Earth to Heaven on tomorrow’s beautiful Feast of Christ’s Ascension… where we joyfully exclaim one to another Christ Has Ascended! Let us climb the Mount of Olives in our hearts and declare… Glory to Thy Ascension, O Most Greatly Merciful One!

Praise From the Heart

Let your mind wonder, but keep your heart with God. ~ St. John Chrysostom

Blessed is God who uses corporeal objects continually to draw us in a symbolic way to a knowledge of God’s invisible nature. O name of Jesus, key to all gifts, open for me the great door to your treasure-house, that I may enter and praise you with the praise that comes from the heart. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian

A Royal Visitation

We work, pray and hope every day to experience God’s mercy. Every day we experience a continuous miracle. Others begin to feel this and come to our church in order to give their souls a rest. ~ St. Elizabeth, Grand Duchess

She was a rare combination of exalted Christian spirit, moral nobility, enlightened mind, gentle heart, and refined taste. She possessed an extremely delicate and multifaceted spiritual composition and her outward appearance reflected the beauty and greatness of her spirit. Upon her brow lay the seal of an inborn, elevated dignity which set her apart from those around her. Under the cover of modesty, she often strove – though in vain, to conceal herself from the gaze of others, but one could not mistake her for another. Wherever she appeared, one would always ask: “Who is she who looketh forth as the morning, clear as the sun” (Song of Solomon 6:10)? Wherever she would go she emanated the pure fragrance of the lily. Perhaps it was for this reason that she loved the colour white – it was the reflection of her heart. All of her spiritual qualities were strictly balanced, one against another, never giving an impression of one-sidedness. Femininity was joined in her to a courageous character; her goodness never led to weakness and blind, unconditional trust of people. Even in her finest heartfelt inspirations she exhibited that gift of discernment which has always been so highly esteemed by Christian ascetics… ~ Metropolitan Anastassy + (1965)

This week our parish was blessed with an amazing 24 hours… the visitation of the Holy Relics of New-martyr Grand Duchess, St. Elizabeth and Nun Barbara. 

St. Elizabeth the Grand Duchess was the granddaughter of England’s Queen Victoria, (so was St. Elizabeth’s sister, the Tsarina Empress and Royal Martyr St. Alexandra). As Canadians, these are warm connections to our own country’s history.

The holy relics were carried to the church entrance over a welcoming walkway (see above feature image), strewn with hundreds of petals and herbs from parishioners’ gardens. The brisk afternoon breeze continuously swept the flowers in vibrant kaleidoscopes of colour.

The Saints’ Reliquary was venerated by the faithful and visitors to our parish… where many detected the relics emitting a gentle, heavenly fragrance of roses.

It was an extra blessing for those present, who have the New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth as their Patron Saint.

Before and during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy a new Reader was tonsured (Axios!), and our priest was awarded the right to wear the kamilavka (Axios!). The kamilavka is a special hat which reminds us of our Saviour’s Crown of Thorns.

After Divine Liturgy, a Molieben to St. Elizabeth was served, culminating with a joyful Procession around the church… where both the building and the congregation were blessed with refreshing and copious showers of Holy Water!

Holy New-Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Nun Barbara, pray to God for us!

Beautiful 6 minute Folk Hymn/Ballad about the life of St. Elizabeth, by Katina, (Memory Eternal)

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

A Timeless Covenant

A second rainbow on the far right had mostly faded by the time I fumbled for my cell to take this picture. But, if you squint, you might see the remnants?

Look upon the rainbow, and praise him who made it, exceedingly beautiful in its brightness. It encircles the heaven with its glorious arc; the hands of the Most High have stretched it out. ~ Sirach 43:11-12

And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. ~ Genesis 9:12-16

Taking the scenic seaside route home last night after choir practice, I ruminated briefly on wise words heard yestereve on Faith and Prayer before my thoughts slid ahead into next week’s hectic schedule. Although I’m sure there’ll be blessings in there too, I began to feel overwhelmed. Suddenly, staring me in the face was this double rainbow shining through stormy clouds over a choppy ocean, and we pulled the car over to be in the moment. While life’s tempests all manifest differently, it’s a divine consolation remembering that each new rainbow is a Vibrant Sign of Hope and a Timeless Covenant of – God’s Beautiful Promise in the Sky!

Riding the Thermals

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31

Yestereve I watched an eagle ride the thermals over local sea cliffs. Ignoring the inclement weather and taunting gulls, it persevered, soaring higher and higher, searching a broader scope and clearer vision of the tumultuous ocean below. It was hungry. It needed sustenance. It gently reminded me that when spiritually peckish or famished, we need to remember to unfurl our own little soul-wings… and seek to ride the Life-Giving Thermals of the Holy Spirit… Who uplifts us to sweet, incomprehensible heights, which our own little wings are much too fragile to attain, solely by their own power.

The cause of all preservation lieth in the Holy Spirit. If He think it fit to blow upon a man, He taketh him up above the things of the earth, maketh him grow, and settleth him on high. ~ Matins, Sixth Tone

Happy Feast Day! Today is also the Translation of the Relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker from Myra to Bari, Italy in 1087 AD. St. Nicholas’ other feast day is December 19/6.

Thomas Sunday & Mothers’ Day Greetings!

Happy Thomas Sunday and (coincidentally) Mother’s Day!

Today is also St. Basil of Ostrog’s day!

The feature image is our Pascha Basket. ☺️ We had so much fun decorating the iced Kulich with old-fashioned candied Pansies and Violets from our window boxes (done a few weeks before, to allow them time to cure). Evidently, one can also candy rose petals, carnations, borage and other edible flowers! The red eggs are made from a natural onion skin dye.

There are so many amazing traditions taking place today. This is also when the Artos Bread (which represents Jesus Christ, our Bread of Life, and always Invisibly Present with His Church) which stood all week in front of the opened Royal Doors, is blessed and distributed amongst the faithful. Like holy water, Artos possesses mystical properties. Eating the blessed Artos during the year, replenishes physical and spiritual energies of the Orthodox faithful. Like all other sacred objects, Artos is to be treated with respect and piety. For proper storage, Artos is cut into smaller pieces, dried, and put in a glass container and kept in one’s icon corner. A small piece of dried Artos may be eaten when needed for spiritual strength and consolation, preferably taken on an empty stomach, with a bit of holy water and prayer.

Today is also Radonitsa (Day of Rejoicing)… When we visit the cemetery to have the graves of loved ones blessed, and to sing Christ is Risen to them!

The first Sunday after Pascha, is dedicated to the Apostle Thomas who finally believed, when he was invited by the Risen Christ to touch Him. When we seek God, we touch Him, and we are touched by Him. He passes through the closed doors of our hearts and minds, and directs us towards the light of faith and understanding.

Jesus saith … blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. – St. John 20:29

That’s a direct message from our Risen Lord, to all Christians, throughout the ages! Christ bestows this verbal blessing and acknowledgment upon each of one us. Then. Now. Today. Saying… “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” That’s us!

Special, loving greetings and gratitude to all mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and matushki! Whether our own mothers are still with us, or have already passed on… there is always the joyous consolation that our Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is always close by!

We are never alone! God loves us more than father, mother, friend, or any else could love, and even more than we are able to love ourselves. ~ St. John Chrysostom

The Most Holy Mother of God prays for us ceaselessly. She is always visiting us. Whenever we turn to her in our heart, she is there. After the Lord, she is the greatest protection of mankind. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitnovica

The Angel Cried to the Lady
(Special Hymn to the Theotokos, sung at Pascha and during Pascha-tide)

Rejoice!

Exalt!

Be Radiant!

Christ is Risen!

About the Iconshowing 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!

…Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. ~ St. John 18:37

For our Orthodox Pascha is not just a festival, but the Festival of all festivals, an event for exceeding all the events of this world. Pascha shakes the whole cosmos: the sun, by our faith, dances and becomes iridescent with every colour of the rainbow, and all of creation rejoices. Some observe a magnificent silence, lacking the strength to express the inexpressible feeling of Paschal joy which fills their souls. Others hasten to share their feeling of the Paschal triumph. All people and all things begin to move, the tedious vanities of this world are cast aside, and all are transfigured. Pascha is, first of all, in us ourselves, in our hearts. God’s gift of the feeling of love penetrates our whole being, and we love each person and all things. This relates not just to the animal kingdom, but to the whole of creation, extending to the smallest blade of grass and the smallest flower. Nothing escapes our loving attention. May the Lord help us all to keep ourselves like this, for as such did the Lord create us… ~ Paschal Epistle excerpt of Metropolitan Vitaly – May, 2000; The Two Thousandth Pascha of Christ.

🎵 Paschal Tropar English sung by Parish 2024 (1:17)

🎵 Paschal Tropar Greek sung by Parish 2024 (2:15)

🎵 Paschal Tropar Slavonic sung by Parish 2024 (0:35)

Numinous Milestones of Holy Week

The Winding Sheet from Great and Holy Friday, 2023

On Holy Week: I remember that when my nephew Andrew was seventeen years old, he said to me: “Ah!… Why don’t we have Holy Week four or five times a year? So that we may all get that into our head and assimilate everything!” Truly, Holy Week makes us meditate for hours and days… even permanently. It is something beyond this world… ~ St. Gavrilia (Ascetic of Love)

Holy Week

Lovely to Listen To: St. Matthew’s Passion Music composed by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, takes us through the services in Holy Week, as recorded through the Gospel of St. Matthew. Music and Scripture are poignantly entwined.

Presanctified Liturgy: This service is partly like the service on Saturday evenings and partly like the usual Liturgy. At the Presanctified Liturgy, the Holy Communion is already consecrated from a previous usual Divine Liturgy.

Great and Holy Monday

Let My Prayer Arise

Services of the Bridegroom


Great and Holy Tuesday

Hymn of St. Kassiani
The Woman Who Had Fallen Into Many Sins

On Holy Tuesday: Listening to the Hymn of Kassiani, (sung on Holy Tuesday evening and Holy Wednesday morning): O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins… Have we not all fallen into many sins? But how else could we have felt the Miracle of His Pardon and Love? This is why all of us, who worship the Lord, are aware that without His help, His intervention, we would be wallowing in the mud permanently. O my God, I thank You! I thank You day and night, with my eyes open or closed, with or without words, alive or dead… ~ St. Gavrilia (The Ascetic of Love)

Great and Holy Wednesday

Great and Holy Thursday

Natural Onion Skin Brick- Red Dye for Pascha Eggs and Banquet of Faith

Great and Holy Friday

Do Not Lament Me O Mother One of my favourite hymns by St. Kassiani

Great and Holy Saturday

Let us open our arms and throw ourselves in Christ’s embrace. When Christ comes, we will have gained everything. Christ will alter everything within us. He will bring peace, joy, humility, love, prayer and the uplifting of our soul. The grace of Christ will renew us. ~ Elder Porphyrios, Wounded By Love

May your cup overflow with Holy Week’s multitude of blessings!

Looking forward to greeting you again on the other side of Great and Holy Pascha! May your Bright Week be radiant!

Paschal Sermon by St. John Chrysostom (347-407) Archbishop of Constantinople

…Orthodox Pascha is not just a festival, but the Festival of all festivals, an event for exceeding all the events of this world. Pascha shakes the whole cosmos: the sun, by our faith, dances and becomes iridescent with every colour of the rainbow, and all of creation rejoices. Some observe a magnificent silence, lacking the strength to express the inexpressible feeling of Paschal joy which fills their souls. Others hasten to share their feeling of the Paschal triumph. All people and all things begin to move, the tedious vanities of this world are cast aside, and all are transfigured. Pascha is, first of all, in us ourselves, in our hearts. God’s gift of the feeling of love penetrates our whole being, and we love each person and all things. This relates not just to the animal kingdom, but to the whole of creation, extending to the smallest blade of grass and the smallest flower. Nothing escapes our loving attention. May the Lord help us all to keep ourselves like this, for as such did the Lord create us. ~ Excerpt Paschal Epistle from Metropolitan Vitaly, May, 2000; The Two Thousandth Pascha of Christ

Thank you for visiting Blisswood!

Happy Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday Pussy Willows await blessing at last evening’s Vigil Service.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. ~ Zechariah 9:9

God is the Lord, and hath appeared unto us; make ye a feast, and with gladness, come, let us magnify Christ with palms and branches, with hymns crying aloud: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord our Saviour. ~ Ode 9 of the Feast

We celebrate Palm Sunday today with festive joy. Yesterday’s Lazarus Saturday and today’s Palm (and Flowers) Sunday are a bridge we cross over from Great Lent, into Holy Week.

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel! ~ St. John 12:13

Hosanna in the highest! Means: O be favourably inclined – in the highest heaven! O Lord, save! While Hosanna in the Highest initially seems like an enthusiastic cheer of welcome and joy, it’s also a deep invocation for protection and salvation from tribulations.

Tomorrow, we begin to wend our way throughout Holy Week’s poignant thoroughfares, until we reach the bright and shining shores of Holy Pascha. The Greatest Feast of all. Pascha… the dawn of the new and unending day… the Holy Resurrection of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

…the Lord is always sitting at the gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem waiting for us to allow Him to enter. He is patiently standing at the door of our heart… waiting for us to open it. ~ Unknown

May your Holy Week be Blessed, Glorious, Peaceful and Fruitful!

Practical Tip: Treat your blessed palm branches and pussy willows respectfully, because they have been blessed. Keep them carefully in your icon corner. If you currently have any old palms or willows that are deteriorating, either compost, bury or burn them, but never put them in the garbage.

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