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.

Christ is Risen! Happy Pascha!

Christ’s Descent into Hades Icon

This icon is frequently referred to as the Anastasis or Resurrection Icon. It is an icon of Pascha (Easter).

The golden bars by Christ’s feet are the gates of Hades, which He has broken and torn apart. At Pascha, a tradition includes the cracking of our blessed Pascha eggs together. This represents how Christ shattered the gates of Hades.

There are keys floating in the abyss below, which symbolizes that he has entered and conquered both death and Hades. Some icons have a skeletal figure who is chained up: that’s Death. He has been bound and killed by Christ. All throughout Pascha-tide until the Ascension, we greet each other with, “Christ is Risen, Truly He is Risen!”

The two figures whom Christ has grasped and is pulling out of Hades are Adam and Eve, symbolizing that His Victory redeems all mankind, even back to the beginning.

This Resurrection scene is taking place in the past, present, and future.

To His left, we see three Old Testament saints: Kings David and Solomon, two of His ancestors according to his fleshly nature. We also see, closest to him St. John the Baptist, who was his Forerunner in both life and death. On the right, we have the New Testament, including the apostles who are alive. The purpose is to show that Christ’s redemption transcends time and space. This is an act that happened in the past, is happening right now, and will happen in the future. Christ is always in the state of redeeming and setting us free.

The blue shape around Christ is called the Mandorla (which is Italian for almond, which describes its shape). The Mandorla is the Uncreated, Eternal Light of Christ. In the writings of the Eastern Orthodox mystics, God is often prayerfully experienced as Light. This is not simply a beautiful bright light. It is the same Light which filled the apostles with wonder when they witnessed His Transfiguration. It is the Light which Christ Himself described as the power of the Kingdom of God (Mark 9:1, Matt. 16:28, Luke 9:27). It is also the Light that is seen when one purifies their heart and mind (Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God).

Those who seek God will find that the more they know Him, the less they comprehend Him.

To know God, to experience Him, is to walk from the darkness of sin, into His Light, to enter into the mystery of His Presence. ~ The Ark Youth Quarterly St. Sophia Orthodox Church

May you have a glorious, and joyous, Bright Week!

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Truly He is Risen!

In the Form of a Dove

Beautiful Dome Painting on round canvas, by Marie Proe ~ Niagara Falls, New York

January 19/6

Greetings on Holy Theophany!

Christ is Baptised! In the Jordan!

Today’s Great Feast commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist. Today the Heavens are opened. Today the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. Today God the Father’s Voice from heaven declares Jesus Christ is His beloved Son. Today the Illuminating Light and Mystery of the Holy Trinity appears to the inhabited earth!

May blessings abound
With God’s gracious Love,
So let our hearts soar
On wings like a dove!

Good Day and Good Feast to you!

Epiphany Carol from Patmos, Greece.

In the Womb of Our Soul

Illuminated behind an olive oil lampada, is detail from the icon of St. John the Baptist and Forerunner, with his hands pointing us in the direction to find Christ, the Light of the World.

Jesus the Christ who was born in the flesh once for all of us, desires to be born again in the spirit in those who desire Him. In each of us, He again becomes a child in the womb of our soul and forms Himself from the virtues. He reveals as much of Himself as He knows each of us can accept. Let us contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation and in simplicity praise Him who became man for us. Faith alone can embrace these mysteries, for it is faith that makes real for us things that are beyond intellect and reason. ~ St. Maximus the Confessor (Philokalia, Vol. 2)

Droplets of Love

St. John the Baptist and Forerunner Icon behind sunflower bouquet on Transfiguration Feast Day

Take delight in all things that surround us. All things teach us and lead us to God. All things around us are droplets of the love of God – both things animate and inanimate, the plants and the animals, the birds and the mountains, the sea and the sunset and the starry sky. They are little loves through which we attain to the great Love that is Christ. Flowers, for example, have their own grace; they teach us with their fragrance and with their magnificence. They speak to us of the love of God. They scatter their fragrance and their beauty on sinners and on the righteous. ~ Elder Porphyrios

Holy Theophany

Along the River Jordan image by Bcrawford92, English Wikipedia Public Domain

Greeting: Christ is Baptised!

Response: In the Jordan!

January 19/6

Today is the end of Christmastide and we celebrate the ancient, Great Feast of Holy Theophany… the Baptism of our Lord in the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist.

Theophany comes from the Greek word theophania, which means appearance of Godrevealing the manifestation of the Most Holy Trinity to the world through the Baptism of Christ, the Son of God. (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22).

As we joyfully celebrate Holy Theophany, and the additional Great Blessing of the Water service for Holy Water, we are reminded of the Great Sacrament and Mystery of our own baptism.

The Father was revealed to the sense of hearing; the Spirit was revealed to the sense of sight, and in addition to these, the Son was revealed to the sense of touch. The Father uttered His witness about the Son, the Son was baptized in the water, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovered above the water. When John the Baptist witnessed and said about Christ, “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), and when John immersed and baptized the Lord in the Jordan, the mission of Christ in the world and the path of our salvation was shown. That is to say: The Lord took upon Himself the sins of mankind and died under them [immersion] and became alive again [the coming out of the water]; and we must die as the old sinful man and become alive again as cleansed, renewed and regenerated. This is the Saviour and this is the path of salvation. ~ St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Theophany Troparion (Hymn); (Tone 1 Melody)

When Thou, O Lord, was baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness unto Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth as steadfast and sure. O Christ our God, Who hath appeared and enlightened the world, glory to Thee.

Theophany Kontakion (Hymn); (Tone 4 Melody)

Thou hast appeared today to the inhabited world, and Thy light, O Lord, hath been signed upon us, who sing Thy praises and chant with gladness: Thou hast come, Thou hast appeared, O Light unapproachable.

A Sermon on Holy Water by St. John Maximovitch

Christ is Baptised!

In the Jordan!

Protection of the Theotokos

Church of Blachernae in Constantinople, Turkey – 2006 Visit

Greetings on The Protection of the Mother of God a beloved Orthodox feast day, commemorated October 14/1.

The Church of Blachernae was originally built beside a miraculous holy well, by the Emperor Justinian in the latter years of his reign (559-560 AD), and enclosed with remaining construction material from the Cathedral Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

Damaged later by fires and rebuilt twice (in the 11th and 15th century), the present church still contains the holy well. Additional exterior construction seen today was added in 1867.

Blachernae Church’s Holy Well in 2006 Visit

Several of the Theotokos’ relics were kept in this church; her robe, veil, and part of her belt were transferred from Palestine, during the fifth century. 

This feast day celebrates the appearance of the Mother of God at Blachernae (Constantinople, Turkey). In the year 911, the city was threatened by a barbarian invasion. St. Andrew, with his disciple St. Epiphanius, and a group of people in the church, saw the Mother of God, St. John the Baptist, and several other saints and angels during a vigil service in the Church of Blachernae. In tears, the Theotokos approached the centre of the church, knelt down and remained in prayer for a long time. As a sign of her protection, she rose, took her omophorion (scarf-like veil), and held it aloft, thereby covering all the people present in the church. By her miraculous intervention, danger was averted and the city spared from violence and suffering.

Each human soul is precious to the Mother of God!

May the joy, comfort and glory of the Most Holy Theotokos’ Protection, encompass all and shine within our hearts.

Below is an English version of the original 6th century Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, attributed to St. Roman the Melodist . (Today is also his day too!)

Greetings and Congratulations to the dear Nuns at Holy Protection Convent on this, their Special Day!

O Most Holy Theotokos, pray to God for us!

Lampstand of the Light

Dome Mosaic of St. John the Baptist – St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada

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 named Forerunner, as he preceded Christ… being sent as a Messenger to prepare the people for Christ’s ministry. Angel in Greek means messenger, and some icons of St. John the Baptist depict him with angelic wings, on account of Malachi’s prophecy from the Old Testament.

Several dates during the Liturgical year specifically celebrate the birth, life and death of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist of Christ.

On September 11 (August 29, Julian calendar) we remember St. John the Baptist’s heavenly birthday and martyrdom. In honour of the greatest of all prophets who have ever lived, and since ancient times, the Church has celebrated this leading luminary by establishing this day as a fast.

St. John the Baptist 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.

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

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St. John the Baptist – St. Sophia Orthodox Church, Canada

St. John the Baptist Resource Page

700 years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah foretold the preaching of John the Baptist. Isaiah called St. John  “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness”  (Isaiah 40:3); who was to “prepare  the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” 

Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, who lived more than 400 years before the birth of Christ foretold the coming of St. John the Baptist, and refers to him as an angel. Behold I will send My Angel, and he shall prepare the way before Me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Angel of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. ~ Malachi 3:1-2

St. Luke 1:5-80

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

St. Matthew 3:1-12

St. Matthew 3:13-17

St. Mark 6:17-29

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

Through the holy prayers of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist of Christ, our Leading Luminary, may we, too, stand as steadfast shining candles before the Lord; radiating His Effulgent and Gladsome Light!

O Gladsome Light is an ancient Christian hymn originally written in Greek around the 3rd or 4th century. It is the earliest known hymn recorded outside the Bible still in use today, and is still sung in Orthodox Christian Vespers services daily. St. Basil the Great (329-379 AD) referred to this hymn (already considered old in his time) as a cherished church tradition. It is also called the Lamp-lighting Hymn, for at that time in Jerusalem, a lamp was kept perpetually burning at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the empty tomb of Christ. As Christians gathered there to worship, this hymn was sung, and a candle lit from the lamp was brought forth from the tomb, its bright solitary flame reminding all of the Risen Lord. ~ Wikipedia

Theophany Greetings!

The Feast of the Theophany of Our Lord Jesus Christ is celebrated January 19/6. After Pascha and Pentecost, this is the next greatest Feast Day of the Orthodox Church.

Theophany means Manifestation of God, as Jesus Christ is God the Word, Incarnate.

When our Lord Jesus Christ is baptized by John in the River Jordan, Christ comes up from the water, the heavens open, and the Spirit of God descends like a dove upon Him. God’s voice from heaven proclaims, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” The Holy Trinity is revealed. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit shine forth...

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 3, verses 1-6, and 11; and verses 13-17, we stand on the banks of the River Jordan and watch this miracle occur.

In the Gospel of St. John, chapter 1: verses 32-34, we see St. John the Baptist bearing witness that Christ is the Son of God.

Theophany reminds us of our own Baptism, for “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ, Alleluia!” In the waters of Baptism, we are washed clean from our old life, and we put on the new life in Jesus Christ.

Today is also the Blessing of the Waters.

The feature picture reminds me of a family hike around some back lakes, many years ago on Theophany. Music from the service remained with me… in particular… “The Voice of the Lord is upon the waters, the God of Glory thundered, the Lord is upon many waters.” Upon rounding a bend in the trail, we encountered the lake shrouded in a blanket of dense mist. A sudden shaft of sunlight pierced through illuminating everything. The swirling fog dissolved as if blown away by a great breath. This exquisite memory remains close to my heart. Each year when hearing said phrase at service, for a moment, I return to that peaceful place.

I believe all bodies of water are particularly blessed with a special beauty upon this feast day! 

Troparion of the Feast (Tone 1)

When Thou, O Lord, wast baptised in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest! For the voice of the Father bare witness unto Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son! And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed His word as steadfast and sure. O Christ our God, Who hast appeared and enlightened the world, glory to Thee!

Kontakion of the Feast (Tone 4)

Thou hast appeared today to the inhabited earth, and Thy Light, O Lord, hath been signed upon us, who hymn Thee with understanding: Thou hast come, Thou hast appeared, O Light Unapproachable!

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