Thomas Sunday & Mothers’ Day Greetings!

Happy Thomas Sunday and (coincidentally) Mother’s Day!

Today is also St. Basil of Ostrog’s day!

The feature image is our Pascha Basket. ☺️ We had so much fun decorating the iced Kulich with old-fashioned candied Pansies and Violets from our window boxes (done a few weeks before, to allow them time to cure). Evidently, one can also candy rose petals, carnations, borage and other edible flowers! The red eggs are made from a natural onion skin dye.

There are so many amazing traditions taking place today. This is also when the Artos Bread (which represents Jesus Christ, our Bread of Life, and always Invisibly Present with His Church) which stood all week in front of the opened Royal Doors, is blessed and distributed amongst the faithful. Like holy water, Artos possesses mystical properties. Eating the blessed Artos during the year, replenishes physical and spiritual energies of the Orthodox faithful. Like all other sacred objects, Artos is to be treated with respect and piety. For proper storage, Artos is cut into smaller pieces, dried, and put in a glass container and kept in one’s icon corner. A small piece of dried Artos may be eaten when needed for spiritual strength and consolation, preferably taken on an empty stomach, with a bit of holy water and prayer.

Today is also Radonitsa (Day of Rejoicing)… When we visit the cemetery to have the graves of loved ones blessed, and to sing Christ is Risen to them!

The first Sunday after Pascha, is dedicated to the Apostle Thomas who finally believed, when he was invited by the Risen Christ to touch Him. When we seek God, we touch Him, and we are touched by Him. He passes through the closed doors of our hearts and minds, and directs us towards the light of faith and understanding.

Jesus saith … blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. – St. John 20:29

That’s a direct message from our Risen Lord, to all Christians, throughout the ages! Christ bestows this verbal blessing and acknowledgment upon each of one us. Then. Now. Today. Saying… “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” That’s us!

Special, loving greetings and gratitude to all mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and matushki! Whether our own mothers are still with us, or have already passed on… there is always the joyous consolation that our Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is always close by!

We are never alone! God loves us more than father, mother, friend, or any else could love, and even more than we are able to love ourselves. ~ St. John Chrysostom

The Most Holy Mother of God prays for us ceaselessly. She is always visiting us. Whenever we turn to her in our heart, she is there. After the Lord, she is the greatest protection of mankind. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitnovica

The Angel Cried to the Lady
(Special Hymn to the Theotokos, sung at Pascha and during Pascha-tide)

Rejoice!

Exalt!

Be Radiant!

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

Today’s Two Great Feasts!

From Vigil Service for Veneration of the Holy Cross and The Annunciation

Greetings on the Feasts!

Today we’ve reached the halfway point of Great Lent, and this year there are also two large Feast Days which unusually fall together! It’s quite exciting!

We celebrate the (movable) Sunday of the Holy Cross, also known as the Veneration of the Precious Cross and the (set) Great Feast of The Annunciationthe Announcement of Glad Tidings! (Apr. 7/Mar.25)

The troparia (hymn) for the Feast of the Annunciation is: Today is the fountainhead of our salvation, and the manifestation of the mystery which was from eternity. The Son of God becometh the Virgin’s Son, and Gabriel proclaimeth the good tidings of grace, wherefore, we also cry to the Theotokos with him: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

During her life, the Virgin Mary (with discernment), actively participated and consistently said “yes” to God, and in St. Luke 1:26-38 we hear her humble response to the Archangel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her.”

There’s an old custom on the Annunciation, of rising at dawn in order to watch the sun dance with joy. The only other time it does this, is at the Great Feast of Holy Pascha, the Resurrection of Christ! An old English name for the Feast of the Annunciation, was Lady Day, and nine months from today, is the Nativity of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

On the Third Sunday of Great Lent, the Holy Cross comes out for veneration by the faithful, and the kontakion (hymn) is sung during the service: No longer doth the flaming sword guard the gate of Eden, for a strange extinction has come upon it, even the Tree of the Cross. The sting hath been taken from death, and the victory from hades. And Thou, my Saviour, didst appear unto those in hades, saying: Enter ye again into Paradise.

The Cross is a fountain of holiness and strength, reminding us that our Lenten journey is one of repentance and preparation to receive the Joy of the Resurrection. When we see an icon of Christ stretched out upon the Cross… His Arms are opened wide – embracing the whole world with His Divine Love.

Let us hold firm to the remainder of the course set before us, as we sail across the Great Sea of the Fast. Four weeks from today, we’ll arrive at our destination… that beautiful shore of the Bright Resurrection of Christ, at Pascha.

Reflecting the Refulgent

Orans Icon

The fasting season is a period of spiritual illumination and of adorning the soul with the sanctifying presence of God. ~ Patriarch Daniel of Romania

Fasting supports the prayer of a believer who considers his connection with God as the centre, the Light, and the nourishment of his soul. ~ Patriarch Daniel of Romania

Today is also one of the feast days for the ancient, Miraculous Kursk Root Icon: Theotokos of the Sign (Orans). It’s a Holy Consolation which many of us have been blessed to venerate in person.

May we try to emulate our Most Holy Theotokos by always saying “yes” to God, for in doing so… we shall thrive and shine – reflecting the True and Illuminating Light of Christ!

May your Lenten Journey be Peaceful and Fruitful!


6th century Akathist (Hymn) to the Theotokos chanted in English

We Need Two Wings to Fly!

Parish Mosaic in Progress: The Dormition of the Theotokos

Prayer is one wing, faith the other, that lifts us heavenward. With only one wing no one can fly: prayer without faith is as meaningless as faith without prayer. But if your faith is very weak, you can profitably cry: Lord, give me faith! Such a prayer seldom goes unheard. The grain of mustard seed, says the Lord, grows into a great tree. ~ Tito Colliander (Way of the Ascetics)

However Difficult It May Seem

At Holy Virgin Cathedral San Francisco, January 7th 2024 – Shared by Anastasia

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Greetings on the 6th Day of Christmas!

There’s nothing more beautiful or sweeter than to love the Lord Jesus. ~ St. Joseph the Hesychast

We don’t pursue hardships but if they come, we face them through steadfastness and prayer. ~ St. Paisios

Lord, I beg you… Do Your own will in me. However difficult it may seem to me, it will be easy because it will be Yours! ~ St. Gavrilia

Congratulations on your Saint’s Day, Anysia! May God grant you many years!

Privilege of Prayer

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

No matter what misfortune might befall you, no matter what unpleasantness might occur, say ‘I will endure this for Jesus Christ’s sake!’ Just say that, and you will feel better, for the Name of Jesus Christ is powerful… Before It, all difficulties abate, and demons disappear. Your annoyance and faintness of heart will abate when you repeat His most sweet Name… ~ St. Anthony of Optina

When life hurls kitchen sinks our way; duck, cover, carry on, and ask God for help!

Or, we can choose to sit like a bump on a log, waiting for help to be doled out like a grand prize, as if it’s our due… because why should we have to ask for help? Doesn’t God know everything, anyway?

We are indeed given free will. God wants us as collaborators, and it’s up to us to decide whether to ask, or not ask for help. Even if we’ve never asked for help before! God loves us, truly loves us, and waits patiently for us to come to Him.

I’d like to re-share these short, powerful, (tried and true) prayers, to use when sucker-punched with anxiety over any (or constant) painful situation that rears its ugly head, or even if we’re not quite sure of what to pray for someone:

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on (fill in the blank)!

Or… Lord, help!

Or…

O Lord, You love (name) more than I,
And You can help (name) better than I,
And You know better than I, what is profitable for (him)(her).
So do for (name) what is best- only save (him)(her).

The short prayer above “O Lord, You love” is so very helpful, and positively over-rides useless, worrisome thoughts that may otherwise spin those windmills of our mind out of control. It also helps teach how to pray for someone when we’re not sure of how to pray. Feel free to add on your concerns in your own words. Unselfish, heartfelt prayer is prayer.

Prayer helps us to Faithfully endure uncertainties.

The Powerful and Sweetest Name of Jesus imbues us with Strength.

St. Gavrilia, the newly canonized saint (Oct. 3, 2023) whom I deeply revere, says in The Ascetic of Love (page 246):

When we… think of those for whom we wish to pray, we are induced to so by love. “Lord, You are the Source of Love. It is from this Source of Love that I draw too, and I offer you this person. Lord, I pray to You, grant him [her] Your Light, grant him Your Mercy, grant him Strength, grant him Faith, grant him all the abundant Blessings that You grant. All I can offer is my humble love.” After this introduction, you take a knot of the Komboskini [Prayer Rope] and say: “I pray for so and so… and for so and so…” visualizing each of these persons at the Feet of Christ, praying on their knees before Him – themselves in person, as the anonymous author of the Way of a Pilgrim says. I have long years of experience that with this prayer God works many miracles. Because God wants us as <<collaborators>>, no matter how worthless we may be. For we are His Creatures, and it is with these Creatures of His that He has to work…

 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:13

There’s nothing is quite so precious as our praising God, even in adversity, and to humbly show gratitude thanking Him for all His Blessings… and for hearing us (even if the situation currently seems unresolved)! Because He HAS heard us, and WILL DO what’s best, according to His Plan.

What a privilege to carry what weighs upon our hearts to the Lord in prayer!

Through the prayers and intercessions of our most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, our Guardian Angels, St. Gavrilia, and all the saints… thank you dear Lord, for hearing our prayers!

Amen!

Thank You God

Sunrise on the Reef ~ Kauai 2023

Thank you God, for giving me this morning!

Each Dawn’s a Blessing!

Sing unto the Lord a new song and His praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea and all that is therein… ~ Isaiah 42:10

Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever… ~ Psalm 146:6

Every morning open a new page and put your signature on the blank. Whatever God wants, let Him write. ~ Gerontissa Gavrilia

May we grant Jesus – the Author of Life, to direct our day.

Let us Focus Forward!

From This Day Forth…

Contemplative Sunrise on Kauai – July 31, 2023

For our good, for our happiness, let us make a vow that from this day forth, from this hour, from this minute, let us strive to love God above all else and seek to do His Holy Will. ~ St. Herman of Alaska

Greetings on the Feast Day celebrating the canonization of Saint Herman of Alaska.

Felicitations also, on today’s Feast of the Holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon! He’s been a helpful blessing for family and friends.

You can read more about these two amazing saints’ lives (including some of today’s other saints) on the Orthodox Calendar, located at the very bottom of each post and page. Daily Scripture readings are listed there too.

Through the prayers and blessed intercessions of our most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, with all the Saints – may God give Help to the residents and tourists on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, struggling today with unprecedented wild fires and evacuations!

Spiritual Blossoms of the Isles

Heath blooming at Lochinver, Scotland – by Ivor Bond from Pixabay

On the third Sunday after Pentecost we honour all the saints who, during the first millennium, have shone forth from England, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Scotland.

Being of Scottish and Irish heritage, this Sunday is very special to me.

Timeline of Orthodoxy in the British Isles

A Brief History of Orthodox England

We magnify thee, O all ye saints who have shone forth in the Isles, and we honour thy holy memory, for ye intercede with Christ our God on our behalf. ~ Saints of the British Isles Magnification

All Ye Saints of the British Isles pray to God for us!

From the ends of the earth, O Lord, the Isles of the Sea offer Thee all the saints who have shone forth therein as the fair fruit of Thy salvific splendour. Through their supplications and through the Theotokos, preserve Thy Church and Thine Isles in the profoundest peace, O most Merciful One. ~ Festal Troparion for All the Saints of the British Isles

Today the choirs of the saints who have pleased God in the Isles, standeth in the Church and invisibly prayeth to God for us. With them the angels give glory; and all the saints of the Church of Christ celebrate with them, and all together they beseech the Pre-Eternal God for us. ~ Kontakion Tone 3

The saints are shown to be fair blossoms of the Garden of Eden, laden with the nectar of good works and the sweet scent of Orthodox teachings, whereby our souls are fed and our spiritual thirst is quenched, Come ye therefore, let us hasten beneath their shade and let us bless them as the delight and adornment of the Isles, and as a model and pattern for our lives, for they have received unfading crowns of glory and all together they beseech the Pre-Eternal God for us. ~ Ikos

Let all the ranks of saints and angels make glad with us, singing in spiritual choir. They have beheld Our Sovereign, the Queen of Heaven and Lady of the Isles, Who is glorified by all the faithful. And the souls of all the righteous celebrate with them, beholding Her most precious hands stretched forth in supplication beseeching peace for the world, renewal of the Orthodox Faith in the Isles and the salvation of our souls. ~ Stichera of the Saints of the British Isles, Tone 8

O Queen of heaven and Lady of the Isles, to pray to God for us!

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