Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. ~St. John 20:29
I do lovehearing that passage and the Lord Himself saying with timeless inclusiveness… blessed are those who have believed without seeing! He’s also referring to us! Right now!
Today, weather permitting, our parish will visit two cemeteries after Liturgy, and the priest will bless the graves of parishioners who’ve fallen asleep in the Lord. These Radonitsa Prayers are short, beautiful, and concluded with the Bright and Joyous singing of Paschal hymns at each grave site.
Another sweet consolation…
After our death, when we come face to face with Christ, we will understand the why and how of our lives and we will be told everything we went through in this world. Then, with all the power of our existence, we will say to Him, “Thank you my God, for allowing these for me!” ~ St. Paisios the Athonite
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
Detail of the Nativity Icon brings to mind the Nativity Kontakion (Short Hymn of a Feast): Today a Virgin giveth birth unto the Supersubstantial, and earth offereth a cavern to the Unapproachable, angels together with shepherds sing praises, the Wise Men journey on with the Star. For, for our sakes, God Who is before all the ages, is born a little Child. ~ 5th Century St. Romanus the Melodist
MeriġeCrīstesmæsse is an ancient salutation from pre-12th century Old English, which meant a “BlessedChrist’s Mass.” Today MeriġeCrīstesmæsse has morphed into the joyful Seasonal Greeting of Merry Christmas, or Happy Christmas!
Christ is Born! Give ye glory! Christ comes from heaven meet ye Him! Christ is on earth be ye exalted, O all the earth sing unto the Lord, and sing praises in gladness O ye people, for He hath been glorified. ~ Ode 1 of the NativityCanon
In keeping with the situation… Here is a beautiful, a cappella Nativity Folk Carol, “Heaven and Earth” as recorded by our parish in 2014.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. ~ St. John 12:24
From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us strive to love God above all, and fulfill His holy will. ~ St. Herman of Alaska
There’s a ponderous inscription over the entry gates of St. Paul’s monastery on Mt. Athos saying, If you die before you die, then you won’t die when you die.
We habitually assume there’llbe plenty of time later to tackle our lengthy spiritualto-do lists. But, in turn, each of us will be brought to stand before God and give accountof our life. So nowis the most precious time for efforts. Nownever comes again. Lord, help us to live in Christ – now!
…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:2
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name… ~Psalm 63
A dear subscriber has shared some brilliant reflections that I’ve found helpful.
Sometimes we feel like we’re digging channels, ever waiting for the Lord to fill them. (It takes faith to do that!)
We know God is with us, but sometimes we may struggle to feel His Presence and Love, or even pray.
Yet, there is consolation!
When we carry out our “religious duties” we are like people digging channels in a waterless land, in order that when at last water comes, it may find them ready. ~ C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms
Duringtimes of spiritual dryness, faithful perseverance in prayer is the sweetest of all our prayers to God. By clinging tenaciously to Christ’s love with prayer, regardless of circumstances, we are truly blessed.
May we persevere in ploughing our personal furrows and be ready when the Lord fills them… in God’s Good Time.