A Sacrifice of Praise

An abundance of sweet-scented wisteria spill over the pergola, upheld and supported by its rough, wooden beams.

Let us lift up our hearts! We lift them up unto the Lord! ~Anaphora

From every cut springs new growth. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all in gardening, or life.

To encourage a profusion of fragrant blossoms and to thrive – shrubs, trees, and vines require careful tending to transform into ultimate splendor. They must first be reduced, in order to become more.

By deadheading and pruning our own spiritual debris, we are refreshed and ready for new growth! We are able to lightly and joyfully lift up our hearts unto the Lord!

Through God’s Mercy of Peace we thrive, and our hearts are transformed by being in God.

In the words of an anonymous saint (whose name escapes me at the moment), may we remember more often to: Prune wisely and clip with discernment.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. ~ St. John 15:1-2

Prayer is the flower of gentleness and the fruit of joy. ~ Evagrios the Solitary, 4th century

Spiritual Springtime

Velvet Pansies and Shy Violets Peep Out From Our Window Box
How to Make Old-fashioned Candied Violets

…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. ~ 2 Peter 3:18

Lent is a spiritual springtime… The world of nature is coming alive round us during the Lenten season. And this should be a symbol of what is to happen in our own hearts. The dawning of springtime… We shouldn’t just have a negative idea of repentance, as feeling sorry, gloomy and somber about our failings. But repentance, rather, is new hope. An opening flower. How our lives can, by God’s grace, be changed. ~ Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

As the field is adorned by a multitude of flowers, so should the field of my own soul be adorned by all the flowers of virtue ~ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

If you do not shatter and empty your Ego, how will you make room for God?… God’s gifts to us blossom only if watered with the water of Love… Those who love can do only beautiful things. ~ St. Gavrilia

Heading towards the end of the second week of Great Lent, I’m hunkering down and holding fast (with God’s help), hoping to cultivate the spiritual springtime’s fragrant flowers of virtue, and to Blossom Forth!

The Beauty of the Wilderness

Celebrating the beauteous gift of simplicity!

Detail of Heath and Fir on Moss feature photo by Juliana, and shared along with a lovely verse from the Psalter.

The beauty of the wilderness shall grow lush… ~ 9th Kathisma, Psalter

Pining For the Green

Kilauea, Kauai ~ July 2023

Whoever plants a tree, plants hope, peace, and love and has the blessings of God. ~ Elder Amphilochios of Patmos (Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit)

Let all the trees of the forest dance and sing, let all the trees clap their hands. ~ Sunday of the Cross

It’s that time of year again!

February brings
keen yearnings for the verdant
em’rald greens of spring.

Tiny tentative
tight fuzzy fronds of patience
cling to hopeful vines.

Tired of deciduous difficulties… it’s with faith and hope that we can patiently await the eternal, spiritual springs of God’s help!

Receiving Him Into Our Own Arms

Parish Festal Icon of The Meeting of the Lord in the Temple ~ St. Luke 2:22-40

Greetings on the Feast! (February 15/2)

Today’s bright and beautiful feast day falls 40 days after the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is among the most ancient feasts, and since 450 AD, church candles are also blessed on this day as we remember Christ is our salvation, and the Light of the World.

Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendour of the One who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of His eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ... We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet Him. The Light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through Him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God. The true Light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendour, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the Light whose brilliance is eternal... ~ St. Sophronius of Jerusalem (638 AD)

Detail from Meeting of the Lord in the Temple, parish Icon – St. Joseph the Betrothed holds two turtledoves (pigeons), and the Virgin Mary passes the Christ Child to St. Simeon, and aged St. Anna the Prophetess holds a scroll pertaining to the Babe’s Divinity, “This Child has created heaven and Earth.”

On today’s Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, when the heavens meet the earth, God meets man, history meets eternity, when – as our people beautifully say – spring and winter meet, may we also open our hearts for an encounter with the Lord… Open your hearts, listen to the depths of your thoughts, desires, feelings, anticipations, nostalgias, yearnings, the pursuits of your hearts. For our hearts are created in the image of God and they yearn for God; the truth is often buried in passions, desires, appetites, ambitions, prejudices. Let us free ourselves of them and meet the Lord, for He always comes to meet us. He is the One who came, who is with us, Who always comes to be with us. ~ Bishop Atanasije (Homily on the Meeting of our Lord)

In some places, white snowdrop flowers traditionally decorate churches on this special day. Old English Names for Snowdrops are Christ’s Flowers, Purification Flowers, Candlemas Bells, and Fair Maids of February.

Congratulations on the Feast! Today, spring and winter meet, and like blessed spiritual candles, may our hearts and souls shine and wax brightly… as we open our noetic arms to embrace Christ’s Divine Warmth, and Illumination!

Beautiful Garden of Scripture

European Robin Image by Frauke Riether from Pixabay

All who ask receive, those who seek find, and to those who knock it shall be opened. Therefore, let us knock at the beautiful garden of Scripture. It is fragrant, sweet, and blooming with various sounds of spiritual and divinely inspired birds. They sing all around our ears, capture our hearts, comfort the mourners, pacify the angry, and fill us with everlasting joy. ~ St. John of Damascus

After the ancient feasts of Theophany and the upcoming Meeting of the Lord in the Temple (Candlemas), we notice the days growing longer. Although we know spring is just around the corner, sometimes February tosses us a few surprises. One moment we’re relaxed and relieved to see crocus and snow drop flowers blooming in glorious patches of dappled sunshine, and the next moment – heavy gray overcast skies compete with our weariness of winter and the happiness of blossoming silver catkins. While there’s almost always one last and brief farewell blast of snow or a crisp, cold snap, February has the last laugh! Robins return from their wintery travels to herald hope of the coming spring. Hearing their birdsong comforts and captures my heart anew… making me smile with joy! Thank you dear Lord for creating the saucy robins!

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! 🌻

It’s the New Growth

It’s the new growth… that bears the blooms!

The Lily of the Valley Shrub, also known as Pieris Japonica, is a lovely evergreen shrub and early bloomer, belonging to the Heath family. It’s a joy to see and smell these pendulous, sweet, fragrant bells, especially during Lent.

From of old…. the teardrop shape flowers of both the Lily of the Valley bulb plant, and the Pieris Japonica shrub, are said to poignantly symbolize the tears that Eve shed upon leaving the Garden of Eden, and the Virgin Mary’s tears shed at the cross of Christ.

She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. ~ St. Augustine

Sometimes, a glimpse of Paradise is right outside our back door!

Happy Lenten Spring!

Sakura

Japanese Cherry Blossoms Represent Renewal and Optimism

Happy Saint’s Day Owen! March 4/17

Billowing clouds of pink and white Sakura flowers herald winter’s end… And we are as enriched, and as delighted, as our gardens!

Without winter there would be no spring, and without spring there would be no summer. So it is also in the spiritual life: a little consolation, and then a little grief – and thus little by little we work out our salvation. Let us accept everything from the hand of God. If He comforts us, let us thank Him. And if He doesn’t comfort us – let us thank Him. ~ St. Anatoly of Optina

May your Lenten Journey be peaceful and fruitful.

Splendour of Three

Spring, flowers, and sunshine… Brighter days ahead!

No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illumined by the splendour of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the one. When I think of any one of the three I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that one so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light. ~ St. Gregory the Theologian

How Glorious is God
How great our Lord on high in Zion,
Our mortal tongue cannot convey;
Beneath His throne the stardust flying,
Is one with windswept grasses’ sway.
Throughout the Universe His glory
By day and night is bright and holy.
O Lord, Thy Lamb of golden haloes
Reflects Thy face for our eyes;
With psalter-sounds we send our prayers,
Like smoke from censers, to the skies.
Accept, Lord God, from Thy creation
Incense and songs of adoration.
Thy radiance to us revealing,
Thy love transcends a father’s care;
While feeding us, our ailments healing,
Thou showest us Thy Kingdom fair.
Sweet mercy Thou to sinners sendest –
Their hunger with Thy substance endest.

By M.M Kheraskov (1733-1807); English Translation by Alexander F. Beck

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