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

Sowing the Divine Seed

Holy Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul on Epistle Book cover

The Holy Gospels are from Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Most of the other New Testament Books are Epistles – Letters from Sts. Peter and Paul to the early Christians located in different cities.

Each day of the liturgical year has specific Gospel and Epistle readings. These pertain to the church calendar, and spiritually nourish millions of Orthodox Christians daily. If prayer is where we speak to God, the Scriptures are how we listen to Him.

Reading Scriptures and understanding them through the teachings of the Church is paramount.

As of 2021, private interpretations and individualistic opinions of Holy Scripture have globally birthed a staggering 45,000 separate Christian denominations.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:15

How to Read the Bible

If from one burning lamp someone lights another, then another from that one, and so on in succession, he has light continuously. In the same way, through the Apostles ordaining their successors, and those successors ordaining others, and so on, the grace of the Holy Spirit is handed down through all generations and enlightens all who obey their spiritual shepherds and teachers. ~ St. Gregory Palamas

… we commemorate each of the saints with hymns and appropriate songs of praise, how much more should we celebrate the memory of Peter and Paul, the supreme Leaders of the pre-eminent company of the Apostles? They are the fathers and guides of all Christians: Apostles, martyrs, holy ascetics, priests, hierarchs, pastors and teachers. As chief shepherds and master builders of our common godliness and virtue, they tend and teach us all, like lights in the world, holding forth the word of life. ~ St. Gregory Palamas

… the Apostle Peter declared that the Church was built by the Holy Spirit. For you read that he said: ‘God, Who knows the hearts of men, bore witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as was given to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith’ Acts 15:8-9. In which is to be considered, that as Christ is the Cornerstone, Who joined together both peoples into one, so, too, the Holy Spirit made no distinction between the hearts of each people, but united them. ~ St. Ambrose of Milan

… the light that illumined St. Paul on the road to Damascus, the light through which he was raised to the third heaven where he heard unutterable mysteries, was not merely enlightenment of conceptual images or of spiritual knowledge. It was the effulgence of the power of the Holy Spirit shining in our Lord’s own person. Such was its brilliance that corporeal eyes were not able to bear it and were blinded; and through it all spiritual knowledge is revealed and God is truly known by the worthy and loving soul. ~ St. Makarios of Egypt

According to St. Paul you minister the Gospel only when, having yourself participated in the light of Christ, you can pass it on actively to others. Then you sow the Logos like a divine seed in the fields of your listeners’ souls... Elsewhere St. Paul, calls the teachers tillers and their pupils the field they till wisely, presents the former as ploughers and sowers of the divine Logos and the latter as fertile soil, yielding a rich crop of virtues. True ministry is not simply a celebration of sacred rites; it also involves participation in divine blessings and the communication of these blessings to others. ~ St. Gregory of Sinai

There’s a Daily Orthodox Church Calendar on Blisswood, located at the very bottom of each page and post; where one can easily access links for daily Gospel and Epistle readings.

I prefer to hold and read from an actual King James Bible, but when travel or convenience calls, there’s also a free, simple app, great for ipads or cells. It’s called Orthodox Calendar and contains lives of saints, fasting regulations, Scripture Readings, Troparion and Kontakion (Little Hymns pertaining to the day).

May your day and and all your spiritual endeavours be blessed!

Growing in Good Soil

It had been planted on good soil by abundant waters, that it might produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble vine. ~ Ezekiel 17:8

And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.’ ~ St. Matthew 13: 3 – 9

And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold. ~ St. Mark 4:8

And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold. As he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ ~ St. Luke 8:8

As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. ~ St. Luke 8:15

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.

Whiter Than Snow

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. ~ Psalm 51: 6-7

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! ~ Psalm 148: 7-8

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. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. ~ Isaiah 55: 10-12

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the soul of his masters. ~ Proverbs 25: 11-13

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