Lauding the Leading Luminary

Icon of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist, lovingly embellished with vines of periwinkle, and bathed in yestereve’s Gladsome Light.

Today is the Nativity… the Birthday – of St. John the Baptist!

St. John the Baptist is called the voice of the Word, the Lampstand of the Light, the morning star and Forerunner of the Sun of Righteousness. He is the personification of faithfulness to God, righteousness, and asceticism. He is so revered, that each Tuesday, every week of the year is also dedicated to him and there are also other days of the year which, since ancient times, have been devoted to St. John the Baptist!

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. ~ St. John 1:6-9

Christ Himself said: Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. ~ St. Matthew 11:11

As we’re still in the Apostle’s Fast, there’s a lovely plant-based Chocolate “Locust” Cake recipe I’d like to share below, celebrating St. John the Baptist’s birthday, embracing some wilderness foods

John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. ~ St. Matthew 3:4

The Carob Tree is also known as the Locust Bean Tree, for its carob pods resemble the shape of locusts.

Plant-Based Chocolate “Locust” Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 & 1/2 cups sugar
  • 7 Tablespoons of carob powder (OR, if you don’t have any carob powder, then use 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, instead)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable oil (IF using carob powder, increase the vegetable oil by 1 extra teaspoon)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups water

Combine wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and mix for 1 minute on low and then 2 minutes on medium speed. Pour into a greased 9 X 9-inch pan, bake in a pre-heated 350 degrees F oven for 45 minutes. Let cool 12 minutes, remove from pan and serve with honey on the side, or drizzled on your cake slice!

Serves 8-ish… Heavy on the “ish”. 😉

Congratulations on your Saint’s Day, Archpriest John, John P, and John M! May God grant you all many years!

Through the holy prayers of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist of Christ, may we, too, join ranks with all who since times long past, have lauded and continue to praise this amazing, Leading Luminary.

Bread of Life

Greetings on the Apodosis (the leave taking of the afterfeast) of the Ascension!

Prosphora is a leavened bread baked solely for use in the Divine Liturgy and further prepared with prayers during proskomedia, for the Holy Eucharist.

The Bread of Life gives Himself in His Love to all who ask… ~ St. Maximus the Confessor

…Give us this day our daily bread… ~ Lord’s Prayer

Jesus answered, It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ~ Matthew 4:4

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. ~ John 6:35

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. ~ John 6:47-51

Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 5:8

And you shall set the bread of Presence on the table before me regularly. ~ Exodus 25:30

He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. ~ Psalm 104:14-15

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!

The Healing Strength of Tears

On a recent gray day, raindrops on our patio’s Montana Clematis reminded me of tears.

There are tears that burn and there are tears that anoint as oil. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian (Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian)

True tears, flowing from love for God, possess such power. Greater than Baptism itself is the fountain of tears after Baptism. ~ St. John Climacus

When said with pain, the prayer gives birth to mourning. Mourning brings tears. Tears in turn give birth to purer prayer. For tears like a fragrant myrrh wash away the filth, and thus the inbreathing of God is cleansed, which like a dove is confined within four walls, as if made of the four elements… And then, as soon as the walls break down and collapse, the dove immediately flies to the Father whence it came. ~ St. Joseph the Hesychast

You know how troubled I am; you have kept a record of my tears. Aren’t they listed in your book? The day I call to you, my enemies will be turned back. Because I know God is on my side. ~ Psalm 56:8-9

All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. ~ Psalm 38:9

Everyone has heartache. That’s part of life, and there are many kinds of tears. There are tears of sorrow, contrition, and frustration… to name a few. There are also good, and joyful nourishing tears of gratitude that flow from the love of God.

Accept the fountain of my tears, Thou who dost gather the waters of the sea to clouds... ~ Hymn of Kassiani

Standing in front of an holy icon, and looking into the eyes of our Saviour or His Most Pure Mother, or our Patron Saint…. our tears can become prayers when we can’t speak. Tears bring us back to God, closer to God.

A place without sorrows can only be in the heart, when the Lord is within it. ~ St. Nikon of Optina

May we bathe more often in the sweet consolation of prayerful tears and God’s holy, healing, spiritual myrrh. Both now and ever.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ~ St. Matthew 11:28-30

My God, My Confidence

Featured Image shared by Anastasia

Is not your reverence your confidence? And the integrity of your ways your hope? ~ Job 4:6

“A visible thought for today these many years later… from a beautiful card, celebrating my friend’s high school graduation in 1963. The sentiment on the back of the card reads, My God, my Confidence. The girl whose graduation this card announced attended a program sponsored by the saintly Little Sisters of the Poor in Los Angeles, for high school girls interested in joining their Community. Her name was Cecilia and her elder sister was and still is a Little Sister of the Poor. Cecilia died a few years ago. Eternal Memory to her who introduced me to the Little Sisters at their Home For the Aged where we volunteered in high school. Now, I’m the “Aged” referenced in the title!” ~ Anastasia

Memory Eternal Julia and family on the day of Julia’s interment. Julia was a wonderful Sister in Christ, and an amazing alto singer in the church choir, whose warm, rich voice reminded me of a heavenly bird’s. In the past, she raised finches, and I can remember them singing joyfully in her home as they flitted about in their large cages by the bright window. Julia was an accomplished, professional artist and art teacher, who loved to draw and paint many things, including all kinds of birds. Anastasia’s card with the sparrow being held in God’s Hands reminded me of Julia, her love for birds, and that right now, God has Julia’s gentle soul in His Loving Hands.

Even the sparrow has found a home… ~ Psalm 84:3

Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. ~ St. Matthew 10:31

Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. ~ St. Luke 12:6-7

The feature image of the 1963 Graduation Card, reminds me of hope. I pray that some day after completing this School of Life, we may all take flight and Graduate in Heaven! Amen!

In Thy Light…

For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light. ~ Psalm 36:9

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ St.  John 1:5

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ~ St. John 8:12

We are all vessels, sometimes of Light and sometimes of Darkness. ~ St. Gavrilia

O Lord, enlighten my darkness. ~ St. Gregory Palamas

A recent evening walk along the beach was exhilarating. The Light? Perfect. Mysterious. Discovery of tiny mirrors of the great were reflected in the rocky outcroppings of tidal pools.

The phrase “…For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy Light we shall see light; O continue Thy mercy unto them that know Thee…” from the Doxology Hymn, resounded joyfully and encouragingly in my heart. Indeed! Nature is the Secret Gospel!

Ocean of Love

Detail of Shell Mosaic, Angel Wing, by Marie

…whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! ~ Psalm 8:8-9

When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you… the hard trials that come will not hurt you. ~ Isaiah 43:2

The soul cannot get enough of beholding the beauty of nature. Oh, if man would only lift his mind above this earthly realm to the Heavenly Jerusalem, to the inconceivable beauty of Paradise where the finite, earthly mind ceases to operate… There every saved soul will live in an ocean of love, sweetness, joy, amazement, and wonder! ~ Elder Ephraim, Arizona Monastery


Blessings On A Snow Day

Feature Image by Irena

Praise the Lord from the earth… fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! ~ Psalm 148:7-8

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. ~ Psalm 51:7

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ~ Isaiah 59:9-11

Falling snowflakes are beautiful. They swathe our backyard’s bare tree branches with mystique, and envelope everything else in a pure milk-white blanket.

But, to me, a tropical wildflower at heart, I love snow – for maybe all of 10 minutes before vehemently wishing it away.

It’s not my thing. I loathe the cold. Always have. However, it’s part of living in a climate where to every thing, there is a season.

On a recent snow day, I tried to consider the snow as a blessing in disguise. I cranked up my Hawaiian Instrumental “Summer” Music, and fiercely tackled the annual cleaning of a certain Kitchen Drawer of No Return.

Although snow is a love/hate thing for me, I must begrudgingly admit that I do love to go outside, and “listen” to the whispers of falling snowflakes. There’s a peaceful, gentle, and calm stillness… Like the earth is holding her breath, waiting with patient endurance and expectant hope – for there’s always Sonshine above, ready to pierce through those snow clouds… and sweet spring is right around the corner!

…For favourable weather, for an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times, let us pray to the Lord… ~ Litany of Peace

Who Saves Me From the Tempest

Winter Tempest – Rain and 80+ km Winds at Point No Point, Storm Season – Canada

Who will give me wings like a dove? And I will fly and be at rest. Lo, I have fled afar off and have dwelt in the wilderness. I waited for God that saveth me from faintheartedness and from tempest.
~ Psalm 55:6-8

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
~ Psalm 91:4

You cry out to Him: Where art Thou, My God? And He answers: I am present, my child, I am always beside you.
~ St. Joseph the Hesychast

Serenity

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. ~ St. Matthew 7:7-8

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~ Philippians 4:4-8

We know God is with us. Yet, during our daily routines we sometimes forget, perhaps by being caught up in the moment and putting prayer on the back-burner.

Be that as it may, when least expected or deserved, we may catch whiffs of God’s Perfumed Peace – which clearly passes all understanding. This spiritual surprise can come as a warm, fragrant cocoon of inexplicable joy, or as a robe of consolation and quiet calmness.

We may remain tranquilly enveloped for a time, until distracted maybe by wandering thoughts, intrusive imagination, or other mundane, worldly cares – such as the klaxon of an oven-timer beeping that our cake is finally baked.

Regardless, this Magnificent Peace is never, ever, far away. And, when asking God’s help (even with the bread of tears), we can be sincerely thankful during our entreaties, for God knows our heart. He feels our sorrow. He hears our every sigh.

God’s silent, golden, blessings are always close at hand, especially when in simplicity of stillness we open the spiritual eyes of our hearts. And, as with the pure faith of a child – we open the door when our Heavenly Father knocks to let Him in.

Although our efforts may be small and sporadic, sometimes during the quiet of the day or night, our dear Lord gently bestows tantalizing glimpses, by reminding us of how we could always be.

So, as we sprint along the daily, peaceful paths of prayer, may God grant us according to our salvation! Let us yearn each day to become Shiny and New again!

May the rich Abundance of God’s great Mercy continue to direct our ways in the Hopeful Peace from Above – which truly passes all understanding.

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