Festal Blessings of the Heart

Veneration of the Cross, Third Sunday in Great Lent, coincided this year with the set Feast of the Annunciation, on April 7th. The Precious Cross was decorated in traditional red colours… using roses and carnations. However, and alas, even after scouring the grocery store, there was no fresh basil (also traditional to use when decorating the Cross) to be found. So, from our garden, fragrant pink pieris japonica and white viburnum were added.

Yesterday, the morning sun danced and blazed brightly on my face. I closed my eyes to bask in its warmth.

Antiphonal chirps and trills of birdsong resounded. At the raucous cry of a seagull overhead, I opened my eyes and smiled at the added ambience.

Not to be outdone, budding catkins nodded vehemently over the top of the pergola, each fuzzy leaflet highlighted with a tiny halo of luminous, Gladsome Light. I desperately wanted to run and grab my phone camera to catch this breathtaking beauty… but knew the special light would change in a second or two, and I would forever lose the moment – without being in the moment. I took a picture instead… with my mind’s eye, and can see this sight even now as I type. I hope to remember it forever.

From the porch roof, remnants of raindrops stubbornly clung as lustrous, pearly, stalactites, until they chose to let go. Their occasional drips echoed as muffled percussion on the patio flagstones below, perfectly complimenting the surrounding avian symphony.

And the trees! With branches lifted skyward as if in supplication, they swayed and danced with expressive abandon (as only trees can in a festal morning wind)… kicking up their rooty heels with joy!

Stop. Look. Listen with your heart. Let it dance with the trees, in joy and gratitude at God’s Creation!

Let all the trees of the forest dance and sing, as they behold their fellow-tree, the Cross, today receiving veneration: for Christ, as holy David prophesied, has exalted it on high. I died through a tree, but I have found in thee a Tree of Life, O Cross of Christ. ~ Sunday of the Cross, 8th Ode

God is everywhere present and fills all things! The Three-Branched Cross of Christ is Life!

Alleluia and Amen!

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.

Great Lent/Holy Week/Pascha – Resource

Past Posts Resource

Wishing you all the Bright Joys of the Fast!
May your journey to Pascha be Peaceful and Fruitful!

From the Soil of Our Heart

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Greetings on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross!

God does not create a cross for man. No matter how heavy a cross a man may carry in his life, it is still just wood, from which man himself made, and it always grows from the soil of his heart. ~ St. Ambrose of Optina

May your day be imbued with a multitude of sweet-scented blessings!

The Precious Cross

Basil and garden flowers encompass the Precious Cross, at church.

Greetings on the Beginning of the Dormition Fast, and Procession of the Precious Wood of the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord!

Today is the first of three August Feasts for our Saviour!

In the cross, like light in the sun, is concentrated the Love of God the Almighty for the world and men: in the cross is the whole power of Love. If God, the Father, has given His Son for us, how would He not, with Him, give everything to us… Thus the cross, which we use during prayer, is a token of God’s great mercy to us and an answer to our prayers. The cross is also a weapon for the banishment of spiritual enemies and worldly passions. ~ St. John of Kronstadt

Basil is traditionally used to adorn the Cross, and I try to plant enough each summer. Yesterday, and for the Cross, I gratefully used some of our garden flowers and herbs (Roses, Anemones, Calendula, Fennel, Mint, Basil) as an offering back to the Lord.

God’s flowers are always beautiful, and even more soespecially when they come to praise Him in church!

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad… Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. ~ Psalm 96:11-12

May your Dormition Fast be filled with fragrant, pious petals!

Adoration of the Cross

I praise the Godhead, Unity in three Persons: for the Father is Light, the Son is Light, and the Spirit is Light, but the Light remains undivided, shining forth in oneness of Nature, yet in the three rays of the Persons… Let all the trees of the forest dance and sing, as they beheld their fellow-tree, the Cross, today receive veneration: for Christ, as Holy David prophesied, has exalted it on high… Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. I worship Thee, O holy God, as Trinity of Persons in Unity of Essence, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one Power and Kingdom, sovereign over all. Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. ~ From the Sunday of the Cross, Matins Service

Today is the Third Sunday of Great Lent, and we’ve reached the half-way point! May your Journey continue to be peaceful and fruitful.

Floral Grace

Photo from the Feast Day of the Exaltation of the Cross

A week after celebrating the great Feast Day of the Exaltation of the Cross, I was reminded how amazingly preserved flowers that surround the Cross can be. They are protected from the usual quick wilt and deterioration other bouquets (placed in ordinary locations) can experience within two or three days.

The same holds true with flowers that grace icon corners or icon stands. I remember visiting a convent in the heat of summer, and one of my obediences was to clean and prepare the church for the Sts. Peter and Paul Liturgy. I had picked some wildflowers to put where the festal icon was to be placed, but it appeared someone had already done so. I took my new bunch of flowers back to the main house and was told the hot little church had been locked since Pentecost, as the air conditioned house chapel was being used instead. The last time flowers had been placed in the actual church was nearly 3.5 weeks previously! One “forgotten’ wildflower bouquet had remained at the foot of the analogian where the icon of the Holy Trinity sat. This is the same bouquet I saw when I unlocked the church to clean. It looked as fresh as could be! When I revealed this mini miracle, the nuns nodded their heads, crossed themselves, and stated matter-of-factly, “Oh yes, these kind of things can happen.”

Every flower is indeed fragrant through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the beauty of the Great is contained in the small!

…let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. ~ Psalm 96:12

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. ~ Isaiah 55:12

God does not create a cross for man. No matter how heavy a cross a man may carry in life, it is still just wood, from which man himself made, and it always grows from the soil of his heart. ~ St. Ambrose of Optina

Endure a Bit

The pandemic continues… disrupting worldly life. We grow tired of constraints. Yet, no matter how dire circumstances may seem, there is joy, gratitude, and peace through His Grace. Patience! “This is just for now!”

Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. ~ St. Mark 8:34

Rejoice as you feel the cross upon yourself, for it is a sign that you are following the Lord on the path of salvation which leads to heaven. Endure a bit. The end and the crowns are just around the corner! ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Love is only found on the Cross. ~ Mother Gabrielia Papayannis

Remember that each of us has his own cross. The Golgotha of this cross is our heart: it is being lifted up or implanted through zealous determination to live according to the Spirit of God. Just as the salvation of the world is by the Cross of God, so our salvation is by our own cross. ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Some want to go to the Resurrection without passing by way of Golgotha. ~Mother Gabrielia Papayannis

Patience is the Christian’s coat of arms. What is it to follow Christ? It is to endure all things, looking upon Christ Who suffered. Many wish to be glorified with Christ, but few seek to remain with the suffering Christ. Yet not merely by tribulation, but even in much tribulation does one enter the Kingdom of God.
~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Do not ever succumb to the insane thought that God has abandoned you. God knows exactly how much one can endure and according to that, measures the sufferings and pains of everyone. ~ St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The righteous have no sorrows that are not turned into joy, as sinners have no joy that is not turned into sorrow. ~ St. Dimitri of Rostov

If we always see God in our minds, and always remember Him, everything will appear tolerable to us. ~ St. John Chrysostom

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