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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Today’s Two Great Feasts!

From Vigil Service for Veneration of the Holy Cross and The Annunciation

Greetings on the Feasts!

Today we’ve reached the halfway point of Great Lent, and this year there are also two large Feast Days which unusually fall together! It’s quite exciting!

We celebrate the (movable) Sunday of the Holy Cross, also known as the Veneration of the Precious Cross and the (set) Great Feast of The Annunciationthe Announcement of Glad Tidings! (Apr. 7/Mar.25)

The troparia (hymn) for the Feast of the Annunciation is: Today is the fountainhead of our salvation, and the manifestation of the mystery which was from eternity. The Son of God becometh the Virgin’s Son, and Gabriel proclaimeth the good tidings of grace, wherefore, we also cry to the Theotokos with him: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

During her life, the Virgin Mary (with discernment), actively participated and consistently said “yes” to God, and in St. Luke 1:26-38 we hear her humble response to the Archangel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her.”

There’s an old custom on the Annunciation, of rising at dawn in order to watch the sun dance with joy. The only other time it does this, is at the Great Feast of Holy Pascha, the Resurrection of Christ! An old English name for the Feast of the Annunciation, was Lady Day, and nine months from today, is the Nativity of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

On the Third Sunday of Great Lent, the Holy Cross comes out for veneration by the faithful, and the kontakion (hymn) is sung during the service: No longer doth the flaming sword guard the gate of Eden, for a strange extinction has come upon it, even the Tree of the Cross. The sting hath been taken from death, and the victory from hades. And Thou, my Saviour, didst appear unto those in hades, saying: Enter ye again into Paradise.

The Cross is a fountain of holiness and strength, reminding us that our Lenten journey is one of repentance and preparation to receive the Joy of the Resurrection. When we see an icon of Christ stretched out upon the Cross… His Arms are opened wide – embracing the whole world with His Divine Love.

Let us hold firm to the remainder of the course set before us, as we sail across the Great Sea of the Fast. Four weeks from today, we’ll arrive at our destination… that beautiful shore of the Bright Resurrection of Christ, at Pascha.

A Touch of Green on Forgiveness Sunday

Image by Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay

Today there are many celebrations!

It is Forgiveness Sunday and tomorrow is the first day of Great Lent (Orthodox Style).

Pascha (Easter) comes late this year. (May 5th)

Today is also St. Owen’s Day (March 17/4)!

On the new style calendar, today is also St. Patrick of Ireland. (The equivalent Julian calendar date for March 17th is 13 days later – on March 30th)

Here are some fascinating historical documents about St. Patrick, written by the 7th century monk Muirchú from the Royal Irish Academy.

Icons of St. Patrick often show him holding a three-leafed shamrock growing on a single stem, he used this to illustrate the Holy Trinity – our One God in Three Persons.

St. Patrick wrote many hymns. Here is an excerpt from a beautiful, longer hymn, the Lorica (Breastplate) of St. Patrick. “I bind unto myself today, the Strong Name of the Trinity! By Invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three!”   ~ St. Patrick

Abbreviated Lorica Hymn of St. Patrick’s Prayer, recorded and sung below, by our Youth Choir in 2019.

As today is Forgiveness Sunday, I’ll conclude with sincerely asking your forgiveness… For any offense I may have given to any of my readers/subscribers, at any time.

God Forgives!

May our Lenten Journey ahead, be Peaceful and Fruitful!

Another (very short) recording of St. Patrick’s Prayer sung outside, by my GG’s a few years ago. The precious robin chirping at the end… was totally unrehearsed!

Let Us Rejoice!

Crow Rejoicing in Sakura Blossoms~ Photo shared by Veronika S.

Christ is Risen! Happy Bright Saturday!

2023 MP3 of Parish Youth Choir Singing Paschal Tropar:
Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs, bestowing Life!

2017Parish Youth and Adults Sing Christ is Risen


More Musical Easter Eggs!

Paschal Poem by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
(As Serbian Orthodox Song YouTube)

Rejoice O ye people, all nations listen:
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
Dance all ye stars, O sing hills and mountains:
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
Whisper ye forests and blow all ye breezes:
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
Roar all ye beasts, proclaim all ye oceans:
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
Buzz all ye bees, sing all ye birds:
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
O little lambs, exult and be merry!
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
Nightingales joyous, singeth their praises:
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
Ring O ye church bells, everyone listen:
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
All angels join us, singing this chorus:
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
Come down O ye heavens sing with us on earth:
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
Glory to Thee, O Lord God, Almighty!
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!
Glory, to Thee O God in the Highest:
Christ God is Risen, let us rejoice!

Hristros Voskrese Radost Donese

Palcici Hristos Voskrese

For God is With Us (Appalachian)

Paschal Stichera (Virtual recording during pandemic)

Let God Arise

Christ is Risen! Happy Pascha!

Christ’s Descent into Hades Icon

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

May you have a glorious, and joyous, Bright Week!

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Truly He is Risen!

Born For Resurrection

Greetings on Great and Holy Saturday!

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

Branches of Inner Stillness

Photo shared by Irena

Silence fosters stillness; it is indispensable for stillness. Inner stillness, however, goes beyond silence insofar as its aim is to purify the heart and issue in pure prayer. That purification involves the body in its entirety, because body and soul, like mind and heart, are ultimately inseparable. In the words of St. Mark the Ascetic, “The intellect cannot be still unless the body is still also; and the wall between them cannot be demolished without stillness and prayer.” Silence is the prerequisite for inner stillness, and only inner stillness enables us truly to listen to God, to hear His voice, and to commune with Him in the depths of our being. Yet silence and stillness are, like prayer itself, gifts that God can and wants to bestow upon us. The greatest truth about us is that God has created us with a profound longing, a burning thirst for communion with Himself. We can easily pervert that longing into an idolatrous quest for something other than God. Yet God remains faithful even in our times of apostasy. Like the father of the Prodigal Son, He always awaits our return. Once we begin that journey homeward, through repentance and an ongoing struggle against our most destructive passions, God reaches out to embrace, to forgive and to heal all that is broken, wounded and wasted. He reaches into the very fabric of our life, to restore within us the sublime image in which we were made… ~ Fr. John Breck

It’s coming to that amazing time again of recharging our spiritual batteries together. With purpose, we prepare our own humble journeys home to the Greatest Christian Feast of Feasts, Holy Pascha (Easter), the Resurrection of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Travelling the quiet routes of the Great Lenten roads ahead, we choose to make bright efforts in good faith, and to the best of our abilities. Our dear Lord desires us to come to Him and fill us with good things… now and forever!

Tomorrow is an invitation of God’s Grace.

Tomorrow is Forgiveness Sunday.

However, today, I bow to you in spirit, bending the knees of my heart, and ask you to please forgive me.

God forgives!

Isn’t that beyond wonderful? God FORGIVES!

May your upcoming Lenten Journey be Peaceful… and may your Branches of Inner Stillness bear Good Fruit.

With Love in Christ.

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