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!

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!

The Light of Life

Warm Wintery Walk in the Sonshine

When diamonds dance
Upon the shining waters
We glimpse the Gladsome.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. ~ St. John 8:12

Much Fruit

Image by Michael Strobel from Pixabay 

Much effort and labour is needed, for a man to be changed and to be the good tree that brings forth fruit. Strive then, for nothing else but to change, renew, and correct yourself. And pray for this… ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

An unfulfilled promise is like a tree without fruit. ~ St. Ambrose of Optina

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship; and he who sows kindness, gathers love. ~ St. Basil the Great

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. ~ St. John 12:24

5th Day of Nativity – the Holy Innocents

Image by mamkaklass from Pixabay

Christ is Born!

January 11 / December 29

Today we commemorate the 14,000 Infants slain by Herod at Bethlehem, and its surroundings. The relics of these little saints rest in the Grotto of the 4th Century Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem.

It was shocking to hear and understand the “Christmas” Coventry Carol for first time, when I was but a child.

Why on earth would people want to sing this, when all the other Christmas carols were warm, cozy, pockets of peace and joy? “Why? It’s ugly! Terrible!”

Mom agreed. “It is. But, they’re in heaven now, and we sing to remember this was part of what happened at Jesus’ birth.”

Even as an older youth it was painful to ponder, and still is… especially hearing the Carol now, with a grandmother’s ear. It’s a lullaby of lament… a dissonant dirge of restrained anguish. How could it not be?

Although there is great beauty in the world, this is also a world with warts and all. Earth isn’t heaven, and that’s why Christ is born… to reunite the created with the Creator.

The Coventry Carol was also my godmother’s favourite Christmas piece. She was an exceptional, amazing woman, Memory Eternal Eve! Through her, I learned to embrace the deep significance and bright sadness of this carol.

Below is a recording from a public Nativity Concert in 2014, at St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada.

St. Matthew 2: 16 – 18 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

St. Matthew 2: 13-14 …describes how St. Joseph was warned in a dream by an angel to flee Bethlehem and go to Egypt.

I came across this moving YouTube Video Tour: Grotto of the Holy Innocents at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

The doves in Bethlehem murmured since the serpent destroyed their offspring. The eagle fled to Egypt to go down to receive the promises. ~ St. Ephraim the Syrian

Glorify Him!

Budding Promises

Rose from Pixabay ~SchneeKnirschen

Rosebuds contain mysterious layers of hidden beauty. Immature buds have no perfume until they mature and bloom. Upon fruition, they radiate a myriad of fragrances which correspond to their various transformations. All buds promise the possibility of flowers, and fill us with joy, hope, and reflections of Sonshine.

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; ~ 2 Corinthians 2:15

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. ~Ephesians 5:1-2

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend. ~ Proverbs 27:9

Your mind is the garden, your thoughts are the seeds, the harvest can either be flowers or weeds. ~ William Wordsworth

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


Pentecost Greetings

Icon of the Holy Trinity St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada

Greetings on Great and Holy Pentecost!

Fifty days after Great and Holy Pascha, we celebrate the wonderful, joyful Great Feast of Pentecost. This important day commemorates the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to his disciples and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them, and later…. on us. This day is often called the birthday of the Church. The disciples were gathered in prayer at Jerusalem, waiting as Christ had commanded… when a mighty wind was heard, and tongues of fire appeared over their heads. A multilingual crowd heard the disciples preaching about Christ… miraculously speaking to the multitudes in their various native languages.

Preparing for Pentecost, people clean and decorate their homes and icon corners with herbs and green tree branches, that symbolize rebirth of all life through the Holy Spirit.

Today Churches are decorated with flowers, and greenery. Fresh grasses and herbs are strewn on the floors. Everything is vibrant. Small floral bouquets are often held by the faithful at the Liturgy. Sometimes people take the flowers they held at church and afterwards place them in their home’s icon corner, or to the grave of a loved one, or give them to someone who is sick, or elderly.

The Holy Spirit is is the Giver of Life, and clergy wear green vestments in honour of the Holy Spirit. Parishioners also wear green or white in celebration.

It is also said to be traditionally (with a small “t”) windy at Pentecost, to remind us of Holy Spirit.

Today is the first of the Three Days of the Holy Spirit.

May you find and enjoy a delightful, refreshing breeze today!

The Holy Spirit is life and life, the noetic Source of life – the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding, good upright, noetic, possessing dominion, cleansing transgressions: God and deifying, Fire and transcending fire, speaking, acting, distributing gifts, by Whom all the prophets and divine apostles and martyrs have been crowned. Strange is the report, strange is the sight – fire distributed in the bestowal of gifts. 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. ~ Matins at Pentecost Vigil

…The closer we approach God, the closer we approach each other, just as the closer rays of light are to each other, the closer they are to the Sun. In the coming Kingdom of God there will be unity, mutual love and concord. The Holy Trinity remains eternally unchanging, all-perfect, united in essence and indivisible... The One, Indivisible Trinity ever remains the Trinity. The Father always remains the Father, the Son remains the Son, the Holy Spirit remains the Holy Spirit. Besides Their personal Properties, They all share all in common and in Unity. That is why the Holy Trinity is One God. ~ St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco

Fullness of Blessing

Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of al “fullness of blessing,” both in this world and in the world to come, of all good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment. ~ St. Basil the Great, on the Holy Spirit

Because of Our Intentions

Christ is Risen!

In the spiritual life we can do nothing worthy without repentance, but the Lord has much mercy on us because of our intentions. He who compels himself and holds on to repentance until the end, even if he sins, is saved because he compelled himself, for the Lord promised this in the Gospel. ~ St. Mark the Ascetic

Truly He is Risen!

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