Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Like a butterfly, we struggle to emerge from life’s various transitional states. Sometimes we’re tired. Sometimes we’re stuck. Sometimes there’s no progress whatsoever. Sometimes the chrysalis darkens and dies. But, if we gird up our loins, and punch our way through the cocoon’s tiny hole – to become whole, we begin anew! This challenging exit strategy fortifies our wings, and prepares us for flying. Through perseverance of trials, and with God’s help, we grow stronger!

May God bless our good intentions and efforts!

As Earthen Vessels

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7

We are all containers; sometimes of the Light, sometimes of the Dark. ~ Gerontissa Gabrielia

Sew Good

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Fathers and mothers: Go and lead your child by the hand into the church. ~ St. John Chrysostom

The primary goal in the education of children is to teach, and to give examples of a virtuous life. ~ St. John Chrysostom

The primary lesson for life must be implanted in the soul from the earliest age. The primary lesson for children is to know the eternal God, the One Who gives everlasting life. ~ St. Clement

When your children are still small, you have to help them understand what is good. That is the deepest meaning of life. ~ Elder Paisios

The innocence of young children is an enormous blessing, however… depending upon the child, adults should also be mindful that children’s pure, simplistic understandings and literal perceptions, may on occasion lead to misunderstanding.

I remember being very young – maybe around four, and first hearing the odd expression, You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Already knowing silk was shiny, pigs were pink, and what a purse was… it came to pass, a few days after learning that a sow is a female pig… I watched in horror and fascination as my grandma began to sew (on her treadle of trauma) a shiny, pink satin, triangular pouch – for my toys.

Once upon a breakfast, she presented me with said pouch. I ungratefully took it (pincer-like), between thumb and forefinger, tore off to my bedroom and flung it into the depths of my closet of no return. Fifteen minutes later found me chomping contemplatively on a piece of toast with a couple side strips of bacon (that obviously grew on trees, like spaghetti), as I sat and pondered the demise of the poor, valiant, pig-girl who inadvertently became my toy-bag, now doomed forever to my closet… and silently vowed to never, ever, to use it or her.

Later, upon learning the real meaning of the 15th century silk purse/sow’s ear proverb, I promptly forgave my grandma and felt like a twit.

Children can and do indeed take things quite literally, and may – by adult standards, think the oddest things.

Two examples on “the literalness of kids” shared with me:

  1. How on one Thanksgiving, a three year watched her grandfather brandish the carving knife and fork, and about to slice into the turkey, cheerfully lilted in his thick Scottish brogue, “Well, now lassie, that’s one BIG BIRD!” She inexplicably burst into tears and wept inconsolably into her mashed potatoes, repeatedly sobbing,“Bee-Bee, Bee-Bee!” Finally, someone twigged that Bee-Bee was her pet name for Big Bird from Sesame Street and they all set her straight.
  2. How in a family of three siblings, when a four year old brother first heard that every third child born in the world is Chinese, was crushed to later learn that he wasn’t Asian, and just “child number three” in his family.

Although I learned to hand-sew well enough, and enjoy embroidery, I never mastered my grandma’s treadle sewing machine… nor the ornery electronic counterpart of it in my grade 8 Home Ec class. But, over the years, I’ve come across some really cool and countless allegorical sewing aphorisms.

Regarding tenacity… there’s an old Chinese proverb I love that says, Perseverance can reduce an iron rod to a sewing needle.

What a wonderful reminder that through steadfast efforts (and unexpected gifts of blessings), we may acquire various swatches, patterns, fabric, and other materials as needed… for tailoring, and repairing our spiritual Garments of Grace... Quite Literally, and – in a Good Way!

Garments of Grace

Beautiful Golden Thread Embroidery for Vestments ~ New York Garment District, 2017

A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; ~Ecclesiastes 3:7

The Garments of God and Man ~ Sergei Komarov

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? ~ St. Luke 12: 27-28

As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a person. ~ St. John Chrysostom

And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. ~ Hebrews 1:10-12

…O Christ, who art covered with light as though with a garment, who for my sake stood naked in front of Pilate, clothe me with that might which you caused to overshadow the saints, whereby they conquered this world of struggle. May your Divinity, Lord, take pleasure in me, and lead me above the world to be with you.~St. Isaac the Syrian

If our human nature is not kept pure or else restored to its original purity by the Holy Spirit, it cannot become one body and one spirit in Christ, either in this life or in the harmonious order of the life to come. For the all-embracing and unifying power of the Spirit does not complete the new garment of grace by sewing on to it a patch taken from the old garment of the passions. ~ St. Gregory of Sinai (The Philokalia)

The Spiritual Sustainability of our Garments of Grace, is a Lifetime Labour. We’re all works in progress, and by standing still, go nowhere. As thread follows a needle (African proverb), it’s through good actions and efforts that we move forward and obtain results.

By directing our numinous eyes on the binding of torn seams, the darning of tiny holes before they grow and gape, and reinforcing loose buttons before they fall off – forever lost; it’s only with God’s help, that we mend.

Whether offering a stitch in time to aid a friend or brother in need, or faithfully tempering choices by measuring at least seven times, before cutting once (Russian proverb), these too, are inclusive of the Sewing Circle.

We can’t work it alone.

Let’s try to remember more often, to reach out to the Giver of Light for help to persevere until the end, to enlighten the vesture of our soul… and to save us.

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.

Skylark Buns Tradition

Skylark buns are traditionally baked to celebrate the Holy 40 Martyrs of Sebaste.

Sebaste, an ancient Roman town, is now called Ayas in modern-day Turkey. The date of the Holy Forty Martyrs’ “heavenly birthday” falls on March 22/9 (320 AD) and always within Great Lent.

The Holy Forty Martyrs were soldiers in the Roman 12th Legion called Fulminata (the Lightning -Thundering Legion). As Christians, they refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and were brought to trial before the commander. After enduring many sufferings, they attained the joyous reward reserved for those who give their lives for Christ. The unwavering fortitude of the Holy Forty Martyrs exemplifies great faith, and perseverance to the end.

The Holy Fathers of the Church refer to Great Lent as a fasting spring. During this period, the souls of the faithful are sown with seeds of divine grace, to yield a harvest of good deeds, throughout the year that follows. 

Buns shaped like birds (also known as skylarks) are traditionally baked to celebrate the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste’s feast day.  Skylark buns are also shared after church on the first Sunday closest to their feast day, which also occurs near the first day of spring.

The skylark buns remind us of the Forty Martyrs’ steadfastness… inspiring own our souls to soar heavenward like birds, upon the wings of divine love; looking unto Jesus, the Author and finisher of our lives.  

To Make the Larks    

Take a piece of risen yeasted bread dough, about the size of a medium egg, and roll it out into a long ropey piece, about 5 inches long. 

Tie it loosely into a knot, with approximately equal length protruding from both ends. 

Put on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper). With a pair of scissors, cut a “beak” on one end of the knot, and on the other end of the knot, cut a “tail” into about 3 or 4 feathered strands. 

Push 2 peppercorns firmly into the head, as eyes.  

Do not put birds on cookie sheet too closely together, as they spread a bit as they bake. Cover, let rise again for about half an hour. 

Pop into a preheated 370* oven and bake about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

TIP: For tastier buns, use a bit of honey, a dash of cardamon, and lemon or orange zest in the dough. 

Some people prefer to use currants for the eyes, although these can turn gooey. 

Birds freeze very well if baking ahead of time. You may need to secure their eyes again, if they come loose in bag when thawing.

Dry Spells

Sometimes we are tested by pleasure, sometimes by distress or by physical suffering. By means of His prescriptions the Physician of souls administers the remedy according to the cause of the passions lying hidden in the soul. ~ St. Maximus the Confessor

We know God is with us, but sometimes there may be struggles to feel His Presence and Love, or even pray. Yet, there is a consolation!

During times of spiritual dryness, faithful perseverance in prayer is the sweetest of all our prayers to God. By clinging tenaciously to Christ’s love with prayer, regardless of circumstances, we are blessed.

4th Century St. Macarius the Great reminds: One must force himself to prayer when he has not spiritual prayer, and God, beholding him thus striving, and compelling himself by force, in spite of an unwilling heart, gives him the true prayer of the Spirit.

The Holy Apostle Paul writes the rewards of perseverance in prayer: And we also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces experience, and experience produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. God gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. ~ Romans 5:3-5

Archpriest Nikolai Guryanov encourages: Do not grieve, do not be sad: Again will come a time to be glad; patiently wait, patiently endure, to those who wait will come their reward!

Everything that has a beginning has an end… Except for God, Who is beginningless.

This is just for now!

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