Called to Be Saints

Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

Greetings on All Saints’ Day!

In the New Testament we are called to be saints, and the Orthodox Church gives the title of saint to those who throughout history, have lived and died in Christ.

While Canonized (Glorified) Saints have their own feast days, there are countless multitudes of saints who don’t have a feast day… and some of these are even nameless Saints – known only to God!

Since the 4th century in Eastern Christendom, on the first Sunday after Pentecost, the Church continues to commemorate All the Saints (both past/present, known/unknown)! As all are alive in Christ, the saints are our friends and alive in Heaven. They are venerated, but not worshipped.

Today is a joint celebration honouring the Holy Apostles who spread the Gospel to the four corners of the earth, as well as All the Saints who’ve shone forth great love of Christ… whether by living a God-pleasing, righteous life, or by receiving a martyric crown. 

[During the 8th century in Western Christendom, the Sunday of All Saints was transferred to the first Sunday in November – and even more recently was moved again to November 1st.]

Previous *All Saints’ Day* Blisswood Posts
God’s Garden ~ Posted June 14, 2020
Sunday of All Saints ~ Posted June 27, 2021
God Giveth the Increase ~ Posted June 19, 2022

Every one of us is the painter of his own life. Our soul is like the canvas, and the virtues are the paint. Jesus Christ is the image we should copy. ~ St. Gregory of Nyssa

To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Romans 1:7

Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s: ~ 1 Corinthians 1:2

We live together with them (the Saints in heaven), in the house of the Heavenly Father, only in different parts of it. We live in the earthly, they in the heavenly half; but we can converse with them, and they with us. ~ St. John of Kronstadt

In God and in His Church there is no division between the living and the departed, but all are one in the love of the Father. Whether we are alive or whether we are dead, as members of the Church we still belong to the same family, and still have a duty to bear one another’s burdens. Therefore just as Orthodox Christians here on earth pray for one another and ask for one another’s prayers, so they pray for the faithful departed and ask the faithful departed to pray for them. Death cannot sever the bond of mutual love which links the members of the Church together. ~ Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

May you have a blessed All Saints’ Feast Day!

Happy 3rd Day of the Holy Spirit!

Image by Joe from Pixabay

As Children of Light, may we (with purpose and gratitude) strive to reflect the Holy Trinity’s Joyous, Gladsome Light- on all whom we meet today – and every day… The Three in One and One in Three!

The Holy Spirit has always been, is now and ever shall be, having neither beginning nor end, but one with the Father and the Son: life and life giving; goodness itself and source of goodness, through Whom the Father is made known and the Son is glorified, and is known by all: one power, one unity, one worship, of the Holy Trinity. ~ Pentecost Vespers

I praise the Godhead, unity in three persons, for the Father is light, the Son is light, and the Spirit is light; but the light remains undivided, shining forth in oneness of nature; yet in the three rays of the persons! ~ Matins, Sunday of the Cross

Come, O ye people, let us worship the Godhead in Three Hypostasis: the Son in the Father, with the Holy Spirit; for the Father timelessly begat the Son Who is Co-eternal and Equal in Majesty, and the Holy Spirit was in the Father, glorified together with the Son; One Might, One Essence, One Godhead. In worshipping Whom let us all say: O Holy God, Who madest all things by the Son, through the cooperation of the Holy Spirit; Holy Mighty, through Whom we have known the Father, and through Whom the Holy Spirit came into the world; Holy Immortal, the Comforting Spirit, Who proceedest from the Father, and restest in the Son: O Holy Trinity, glory be to Thee. ~ Dogmaticon of Great Vespers of Pentecost

Sung by the GG’s

When asked to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity in a simple manner, 5th century St. Patrick of Ireland used a tiny shamrock (a low growing plant of the clover family) with its three lobed leaves on a single stem, to demonstrate how God the Father- God the Son- and God the Holy Spirit are the Holy Trinity; Three in One, One in Three… Undivided. St. Patrick wrote many hymns. Above is an excerpt from a beautiful, longer hymn. “I bind unto myself today, the Strong Name of the Trinity! By Invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three!” 

May your fast-free week of the Afterfeast be peaceful and fruitful!

Pentecost! The Earth’s Name’s Day!

Image by Anja from Pixabay

The Great Feast of Pentecost ~ Holy Trinity Sunday!

Greeting you with resplendent joy! Happy Feast Day!

Today is the Church’s Birthday and we also celebrate that at our own baptisms, we received the Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Chrismation, and have become participants in the Church’s Life of Grace!

Previous Blisswood Pentecost Posts:
Pentecost Greetings (Preparing for Pentecost)
Pentecost Rose and Traditions (Associated colours, making a Braided Grass Cross, creating a simple floral bouquet to bring/hold at Church)
Greetings on Pentecost (Troparion of Pentecost and excerpts from the beautiful Pentecost Vespers Kneeling Prayers )
Mosaic of Life
Day of the Holy Spirit
Happy Holy Spirit Day
I Believe

Virtual Tour of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church (Vancouver BC) decorated with nature’s greenery for Pentecost.

Greetings on the Feast, and Happy Whitsuntide during the Afterfeast & Fast-Free Week until next Saturday!

Pentecost – Also known as Whitsun means literally “White Sunday” from the fact that many were baptized on this feast and thus dressed in white baptismal gowns, but perhaps also from the white light of the Holy Spirit. In Somerset, “God’s Land”, it was customary for women to wear white ribbons in their shoes, or at least carry a white flower, perhaps a daisy. It was a great feast and bells which were rung on this day were decorated with red ribbons to remind the faithful of the tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit. The main dish this day was veal, in other words, the Biblical “fatted calf”, with gooseberry pie… Indeed an old rhyme says: “For gooseberry tart at Whitsuntide, trim old wood out ‘ere Christmastide”. ~ Old English Pentecost Traditions

A little chapel at Pentecost 2004

The Earth’s Name’s Day
~ Vasily Nikiforov-Volgin
(1900-1941)
The birch trees under our window murmured of the coming of the Holy Trinity. Sitting under their canopy, merging with the waves of their glittering leaves, I close my eyes tightly and imagined a path of shimmering light, just like on a river at sunrise; and along this path, in the form of three angels in white raiment, walks the Holy Trinity.
On the eve of the holiday my mother said, “Tomorrow is the earth’s name’s day!”
“How is that?” I asked.

“Because tomorrow, my son, is Holy Trinity Day. Tomorrow, the Holy Spirit walks upon the earth, and decorates the earth with the most beautiful field flowers and thick green grass. That is why on Trinity Day the earth always looks so bedecked and merry, like a name’s day celebrant!”
“The earth’s name’s day!” These extraordinary words sounded so wonderful, that my whole heart was illumined…
In the early morning, the arrival of the Holy Trinity at our village came in the form of the rising sun’s rays, which filled our little room with a delicate radiance. Mother lit the lampada in front of the icons murmuring, “O most Holy Trinity, save us….” Over the earth, which was celebrating its name’s day, the sun spilled its rays in thick and fragrant waves. The church crowned the earth’s name’s day with wondrous words, hymns and long mysterious prayers, during which we stood on our knees, and the floor was covered with flowers and fresh grass. I picked up blades of grass from the floor, rubbed them between my palms and, breathing in their fragrant smell, I sensed with all my heart: how wonderful it is to be alive on the earth’s name’s day!

The Lord grant thee according to thy heart, and all thy purposes fulfill.
~ From 2nd Antiphon at Pentecost

She Who is Quick to Hear

For the health of a dear friend, family prayers were recently said in front of this special Icon, She Who is Quick to Hear.

The original wonderworking icon resides on Holy Mount Athos at the Dokhiareia monastery. There are many copies of it throughout the world. Tradition states the icon was written in the tenth century when the head of this monastery was St. Neophytes – who is also commemorated on the Icon’s Feast Day November 22/9. At its first miracle in 1664 AD, our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary promised, “From this time on, my icon shalt be named Quick-Hearing, and for all hastening to it, shalt there quickly appear, mercy and fulfillment of entreaties.”

To this day, the Most Holy Mother of God continues to fulfill Her promise and quickly offers help and consolation for all, who with faith, hasten to her. She hears every prayer!

This icon, a copy of She Who is Quick to Hear, belonged to my grandmother and given upon her baptism at 89 years of age, by a venerable matushka (the same age as she), who became her godmother, by proxy.

I’ll always remember my grandmother’s first visit to the church after her baptism. It was an arduous journey, for at that time we had no Orthodox church in our city and had to travel by car and ferry, a trip (3-4 hours each way) to church.

Her godmother – an aged matushka, could only speak Russian, and my grandmother could only speak English. However, upon greeting each other joyfully for the first time (before the church service began – and what would be their last time to ever see one another upon this earth), they embraced and chatted non-stop with each other… Matushka Eudocia in Russian, and my grandmother in English! I stood perplexed at this exchange. Then one of them apparently said something amusing to the other, and they both glanced over at me, giggled simultaneously over the anecdote… and happily continued their conversation until the service began.

Journeying home after church, I was bursting to know what my grandma and matushka Eudocia were chatting about? She responded matter-of-factly, “Surely you heard, my dear? You were standing there right beside us… and now Eudocia and I know each other better – before one of us heads off to Glory!”

I asked my grandma how could she understand matushka Eudocia, because matushka was speaking Russian?!

My grandmother smiled serenely, looked out the car window at the passing scenery and said, “We understood each other perfectly, my dear”.

And that was that!

Little Miracles occur everyday!

Memory Eternal dear Faith, and matushka Eudocia, who through the Power and Mystery of the Holy Spirit… transcended the barrier of language! Amen!

April in July

Image by NatureFriend from Pixabay

Even on cloudy days the sunflower continues to follow the sun in its focused love, even though it cannot see the sun. The Sun that illumines our life’s path is the will of God. It does not always shine on us without clouds, often, clear days are followed by overcast days when rains, winds, and storms arise, No Christian is safe from these phenomena, these changes in spiritual weather. May our love for the Sun, the will of God, be as strong as the sunflower’s, so that even in days of hardship and sorrow, we will continue to sail unerringly along the sea of life, following the directions of the barometer and compass of God’s will that leads us to the safe haven of eternity. ~ St. John of Tobolsk from The Sunflower

Greetings on the 3rd Sunday since the Great Feast of Pentecost! Today all English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish Orthodox Saints who’ve shone forth from the British Isles and Ireland are commemorated! Their separate Liturgical Dates and Services are listed here.

Of course, what we know, admire, and aspire to in the lives of the Saints are their examples of faith, perseverance, and endurance… How they struggled to rise above challenges and afflictions, showing us how Christ can be imitated in everyone’s life, including our own. 

I would like to share a continuing story (combo allegory) on the trials, tribulations and triumphs of April… who’s not a Saint, but a saintly sunflower.

Once upon a recent time, a certain girl, on her way home from school, spied and rescued a sprouting sunflower. It sat forlornly in a glass jam jar, on top of a brightly painted Garden Seed Exchange Mailbox.

Being such a cold spring, it was too risky to plant seedling directly into the soil. But, by the end of May, it became warm enough to transplant April the Sunflower (as she was duly dubbed), into our garden.

April’s young human tended her daily. Concerned over her bent, spindly, stem, we gently staked the wee sunflower to a tiny support and hoped for more sun.

Two days later, it was like a crime scene. April had been ravaged by a gang of rogue beetles or slugs. Her crown was viciously chomped off, her stem gashed, and only one remaining sliver of a leaf remained.

We transplanted April into her very own pot away from the garden, and a few days later heaved sighs of relief upon seeing new side growth sprouting… until alas, she was targeted again! Things looked bleak indeed, and it seemed the compost bin might be the valiant sunflower’s next stop… but the young gardener remained hopeful.

For April’s moral support we solemnly popped in a sunflower “sister” seed beside her. (I secretly thought that if April succumbed, the new seed growing alongside her would help soften the blow.)

Nevertheless, and after sprinkling used coffee grounds on top of April’s soil, further gnawings ceased, and we joked that perhaps the java’s success was because the nasty bugs were simply hard-core tea grannies.

Each morning April was thoroughly inspected, watered as needed, and praised with encouraging words. Her young caregiver is the epitome of stalwart optimism. 

April’s “sister” sprouted in sympathetic solidarity. And although April remains bent and scarred, each day gifts us with seeing tiny new leaves emerge and grow. Even her bent, weakened, stalk tries to straighten.

April is teaching us how to persevere by example – no matter how hard things seem, and how to flourish by “looking up”. April continues to thrive, and her youthful gardener knows that while April may never fully recover enough to flower, she’s living vibrantly... in the moment, uplifting up her little leafy arms as if in supplication to the sunshine, regardless.

The young gardener is away on a summer holiday, and I was bequeathed the noble task of attending April. I transplanted April’s sister (and dubbed her “June”) into another pot a couple of days ago. They both needed more space… as sisters sometimes do.

I’m sure that long after April’s sunflowery life passes into God’s Eternal Garden, she’ll be fondly remembered for her inspirational examples of fortitude.

Meanwhile, the young gardener texts me, “How’s April?” and I’ve sent her pictures of April and June in their new, separate digs – much her great relief and satisfaction.

When a certain girl comes home from holiday, I’m pretty sure the first place she’ll zoom to is our patio, to see how April fares… Quite possibly before she seeks to greet or pat her beloved, and much pined-for kitty!

Do stay tuned for the possible, future adventures of – April in August… And keep looking up. There’s Sonshine above those clouds! 🌻

Pentecost Rose & Traditions

Image by Stux from Pixabay

Tree Peony Flower

The Peony is known and called the Pentecost Rose, as it always blooms around this great Feast!

Joyous Holy Pentecost greetings!

Today is the Church’s Birthday!

Over the years I’ve noticed that Trinity Sunday may seem breezier than usual! The trees, flowers and grasses sway and dance in the gentle winds. The Breath of the Holy Spirit encompasses all. Today the sun shines brighter. More golden. Birdsong is sweeter. Beauty is everywhere, rejoicing vibrantly.

Previous Bisswood Pentecost Posts
Pentecost Greetings
Greetings on Pentecost
Mosaic of Life
Day of the Holy Spirit
Like so Many Thorns
Happy Holy Spirit Day
I Believe

Pentecost Traditions
Today green vestments are worn by the clergy. Parishioners also wear a bit of white or green if they wish. Churches are decorated with greenery and flowers reflecting the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life. People bring small floral bouquets to church with them and hold them during the Divine Liturgy, to be later placed in their icon corners, or on a loved one’s grave.

Long grasses strewn on the floor may be collected after Liturgy, taken home and braided into a Grass Cross for one’s icon corner. (Loosely form two individual braided pieces and wrap/tie them together with a long grass blade.) Kids love to do this.

How to Make a Simple Floral Pentecost Bouquet
(to bring and hold at church) Materials Needed: Tin Foil, Plastic Wrap, Paper Towel, Elastic Band

1

To make a small floral bouquet that won’t wilt, have at least 3 flowers with some greenery (herbs or leaves).

2

Remove extra leaves from bottom of stems. Tie a thin elastic band up towards the top of the bouquet. Cut the bottom of stems so they are even at bottom, and they can be held easily in your hand.

3

Lightly dampen (shouldn’t drip) 1 or 2 squares of paper towel and wrap around the bottom, and up the stems.

4

Next, wrap the paper towel and stems tightly in an approximate 11 x 14 inch piece of plastic wrap. It can go up as high as you wish, but make sure it’s enclosed securely under the stems, so as not to leak.

5

Now tear an approximately 11 x 14 inch piece of tin foil and lay the paper-towelled/plastic wrapped bouquet on top of it. Doesn’t matter if it’s on the shiny or dull side of the foil.

6

7

Fold up the foiled bottom, making sure to enclose the the stems.

8

Roll the foil tightly over and over, keeping the bottom sealed. Once completely closed, scrunch the foil to tighten more if needed.

9

My husband holds this finished garden bouquet of foxglove, nepeta catmint, valerian, hosta leaf, lemon balm, and maiden’s hair fern. The foil looks too loose for my liking, and will be scrunched and gently twisted more tightly.

Now you have a fresh Pentecost Bouquet for church. If you make two bouquets, you can share one with someone who may not have access to garden flowers.

With love in Christ.


And Ascended Into the Heavens…

Icon of The Ascension of our Lord was written by a parish founder, of eternal memory

Christ has Ascended!

From Earth to Heaven, in Glory!

Some Ascension Day Traditions

And on the third day He arose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into the Heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father...~ The Creed

Today is the fulfillment of Pascha, and the joyful revelation of our destiny in Christ. On the fortieth day after His glorious Resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven to be glorified on the right hand of God ~ Acts 1:9-11; Mark 16:19

… and lifting his hands he blessed them. While blessing them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. ~ Luke 24:51-52

Happy Ascension Day of our Lord… and there’s more jubilation coming! Ten days from now is the Great Feast of Pentecost!

How beautiful is the Mystery of Today. And Everyday.

Sunday of All Saints

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2

Since the 4th century All Saints’ Day is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Great Feast of Pentecost. Today we commemorate all saints from everywhere… from the time of Adam until the end of the world. We honour the known and unknown… Whether they be men, women or children… these shining clouds of witnesses have lived to the fruition of Holiness.

All the Saints are like fragrant flowers in God’s Heavenly Garden.

Kontakion (a little hymn) of All Saints: The universe offers to Thee, O Lord, as the Planter of Creation, the God-bearing martyrs as the first-fruits of nature. By their prayers, O Most Merciful One, through the Mother of God keep Thy Church, Thy estate, in deep peace.

Sermon on Sunday of All Saints ~ Igumen Zacchaeus Wood

Alleluia!

Alleluia was inherited by the first Christians from Hebrew worship. It means Praise God.

The Polyeleos is the most festive part of the Matins service. The word comes from the Greek polys (much), and eleos (mercy). The Polyeleos Hymn consists of parts from Psalms 134 (Praise the name of the Lord, Alleluia) and Psalm 135 (Give thanks to the Lord, Alleluia) The Polyeleos singing is accompanied by multiple repetitions of For His mercy endures forever. During this part of service all the vigil lamps in the church are lit and blaze joyously.

Polyeleos (Much Mercy)

Mosaic of Life

Mosaic from 5th century church – Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy

Today is the Third Day of Holy Trinity.

The Lord grant thee according to thy heart, and all thy purposes fulfill. ~ Excerpt from Second Antiphon at Pentecost

Sometimes life may resemble a mosaic… with seemingly random bits of broken, snaggy shards, that cut and wound – like painful memories. When the Holy Spirit speaks to our heart, the Healing Balm of Forgiveness lovingly smooths residual roughness… transforming chaos to harmony. Through the Holy Spirit, we are strengthened and renewed. There is peace. Clarification. Understanding. We joyfully begin work on becoming a small part of the larger picture… the beautiful, tangible, and divinely designed mosaic of creation -As we were meant to.

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

Day of the Holy Spirit

Altar Mosaic Hospitality of Abraham in St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada (Based on the mosaic from 6th century church St. Vitale, in Ravenna, Italy)

On the day after every Great Feast, the post-feast honours the one through whom the Feast Day is made possible. Today is called Day of the Holy Spirit. It is the 2nd of the three days in a row dedicated to the Holy Spirit, with Pentecost beginning the three-day run. This whole week is fast-free.

When you look at the candles and lamps burning in church, rise in thought from the material fire to the immaterial fire of the Holy Spirit, for our God is a consuming fire. When you see and smell the fragrant incense, rise in thought to the spiritual fragrance of the Holy Spirit, ‘for we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ’… ‘Every soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit.’ Recognize that the Holy Spirit stands in the same relation to your soul as air stands in relation to your body… The Holy Spirit comforts the believing soul, as a mother comforts her child. ~ St. John of Kronstadt

The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptized acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less. Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more fire wood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him. ~ St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain


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