Monthly Archives: April 2013

Joseph preserved his soul.


I often think of the Church as a treasure chest full of precious gems, so overflowing and of such varied hues and designs that I will never even see all of them, or be able to fully appreciate them in my lifetime. That’s because the Church is “the fullness of Him that fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:23) or in other translations “who fills all things everywhere with himself,” or “who fills everything in every way,” or “who everywhere fills the universe with Himself.” Doesn’t that sound like a lot to take in?

Every day on the church calendar is rich with the history of our salvation, and with the memory of people who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. But because I  1) have a finite amount of time, and 2) am overly caught up in the cares of this world or my own selfish concerns, I miss many of those connections as the days fly by. Today is the first I recall noticing two traditions of Monday in Holy Week, stories that are brought to our remembrance every year on this day:

Jesus Cursing the Fig Tree — That I love fig trees and figs is not pertinent to this story, in which a fig tree is symbolic of those who do not bring forth the fruits of repentance. This is an event that “actually occurred on the day of the biblical Holy Monday,” as the Wikipedia article tells us.

The Patriarch Joseph — The story of Joseph the son of Jacob, how his brothers sold him into slavery but God raised him to be a ruler in Egypt, is one of my favorites. It’s such a lesson in how God has His purposes which most of us can’t comprehend, especially when we suffer because of the sins of others.

The theme of the hymn this day is: “Joseph, though enslaved in body, preserved his soul in freedom.” He is the positive counterpart to the unfruitful fig tree, and this Mystagogy post explores how the freedom from passions (sin) compares to the kinds of freedom we typically care about and fight for these days. 

One of the passions that Joseph seems to have avoided is bitterness or resentment. He didn’t want his brothers to feel bad anymore about what they did to him, because he thinks they all should rejoice instead and be grateful for what God has done in preserving their people, God’s chosen nation, in the famine. Years ago I learned in a Bible study all the many, many ways that Joseph is a type of Christ. Just more of those riches that I am inadequate to hold on to.

But this week we also have the theme of Jesus the Bridegroom. In our parish we are able to have Bridegroom Matins at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. What a blessing! And Lord willing, I’ll be there for at least one of those services and feel the warmth emanating from a few diamonds or rubies of the Church’s treasury.


Tonight was the service of Matins for Lazarus Saturday. It made me so happy. About a week before Pascha we experience this foretaste of Paschal joy, witnessing the raising of Lazarus after he had lain in the tomb for four days. But first, picture the scene when Jesus came into town: Lazarus’s sisters were grieving and seemed to blame Jesus for their brother’s death, saying, “If you had been here, he wouldn’t have died.” Jesus wept. The sisters made mention of the fact that their brother’s corpse was at the point of stinking. It was kind of a downer all around.

I know Lent is a time of drawing close to God, and learning of His tender love for us, and looking eagerly toward The Resurrection. But it’s also characterized as a time of bright sadness. This year I have felt the sadness part more than the bright part, as a burden-bearing, until these last few days.

Since December I’d had bright white lights still up around my kitchen window, and for many weeks I left them on night and day, to help my mood. Sometime in March I unplugged the string, but I was still reluctant to untape and untack them. I pondered leaving them all year, unlit but ready to come to my aid with the next dreary day in the Fall, but it was an idea stemming wholly from weariness.

Suddenly one morning during a short spell of sunshine, I knew I needed to wash the window and the sill, so of course the lights could not stay there. I washed and swept and scrubbed all kinds of things around the house and the yard for two or three days, and prepared myself to be resurrected. I took away the candlesticks and put fresh flowers instead on the windowsill.

And the brightness has taken over. Pascha is so late this year, Spring also in many places, but Lent seems to have passed quickly. Perhaps during Holy Week I can finish my housecleaning and make the place look properly freshened up for Christ’s glorious Resurrection.

But first Lazarus will walk — alive! — out of the tomb and be unbound. If he can be raised after his body was rotting, so can I be relieved of my burdens and my stinking sins and put on Christ.  As he said,

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.

I will try to pay attention and learn and find that rest through the next week as we are on our way to Calvary, and I’m really looking forward to being there at the empty tomb!

The beginning of a true newness

I am somewhat apologetically writing already another post on The Hidden Art of Homemaking, because it is the philosophy and theology, the heavenly underpinnings perhaps, that inspire me and give me the energy to carry out the practical details. From looking at the chapter titles it seems that this introductory chapter might be the one about which I have the most musings.

As to the oddness of me taking my inspiration from yet another man, when it is we women who traditionally do the homemaking and who are discussing a woman‘s book, I will just say that, Christ who enables us also was a man, and the Life of The Holy Trinity is something greater than our gender roles. The reality of the Holy Spirit operating in the world through us is our means of living out our humanity. Homemaking is one of the many facets of our calling and our life in God, and this particular pastor always encourages me in the fact of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

The passages from Metropolitan Anthony are from a talk on Genesis given in June, 1986, from the book Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh: Essential Writings by Gillian Crow.

Creativeness, however, is something more complex than the ability to call out new forms, to shape one’s surroundings or even to determine to a certain extent…our destiny. It begins with the ability to change — to change intentionally. Creativeness begins with the ability a being has…to become what he is not yet, to start at the point at which he was created and then grow into a fullness that he did not possess before: from image to likeness, if you will — having begun to be, as it were, a reflection, to become the reality itself; having begun to be in the image of the invisible Creator, to become the image of God incarnate.

…And this process is a creative process. It is not an organic one; it is not something that must develop inevitably; it is something that we must choose and that we must achieve with the grace of God.

Amy mentioned the possibility that we might, contrary to our calling, create ugly or bad things, and even sometimes express not craftsmanship but craftiness. Other and various sinful impulses can also rob us of our creative strength. On the other hand, many times just creating something can give us a boost in the right direction. For example, I am learning not to be discouraged by the disorder of my messy house. Instead I can take joy from the chance to create order and space to replace — or at least reduce! — the chaos that so easily develops. But creating order out of chaos is huge. That seems like a good description of one aspect of the creative work God is always doing in our lives.

Met. Anthony says that the creative work he is primarily talking about is not the art and music and literature that we tend to think of right away,

…both of heart and intelligence, of skill and of hand, but is much more essential and also much more important because all the rest can flow from this basic source of creativeness but cannot derive from anything else.

So that here we are confronted with man, whom God has called and loved into existence, endowed with His image, launched into life, and when on the seventh day the Lord rested from his works, the seventh day will be seen as all the span of time that extends from the last act of creation on the part of God to the last day, the eighth day, the coming of the Lord, when all things will be fulfilled, all things will come to an end, reach their goal, and blossom out in glory. It is within this seventh day, which is the whole span of history, that the creativeness of man is to find its scope and its place.

And this is a wonderful call to us because each of us can be a creator within his own realm, within his mind and his soul, by making them pure and transparent to God, within his actions and life, and become what Christ said we are called to be: a light to the world, a light that dispels darkness, a light that, as in the beginning of creation is the beginning of a new day — that is, the beginning of a true newness and a new unfolding of the potentialities that are within us and around us.

(Cindy was hosting a discussion of Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking, and this post was written as a contribution.)

I can be a jovial sweeper.

For the sake of discussion of the late Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking, which Cindy is hosting at Ordo Amoris, I am re-posting a book review I wrote last year. Paul Johnson mentions the foundation for our creativity as Schaeffer does in her first chapter on The Artist: it is God Himself from whom our creativity derives.

This topic is dear to my heart and one I’ve mulled over year after year, so I’d like to contribute to the discussion even though I am at a very busy time of the year, as you can see on my sidebar. It’s a time of being creative in other ways than writing.

So I’ll start by using this old material, and note that Johnson, though not a homemaker or writing about homemaking, still manages to convey the wide range of activities by which we can express and demonstrate the fact of our being made in God’s image. The last paragraph I quote can easily be applied to our housekeeping duties!

More recently I have been reading transcribed lectures of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom in England, in which he touches on the subject of the creative process in and through us, and I hope to pass on some of his thought-provoking words soon.

Creating Jokes and Clean Streets

I picked up Paul’s Johnson’s book Creators the other day and am enjoying it three years after my first encounter. This is from the opening page:

Creativity, I believe, is inherent in all of us. We are the progeny of almighty God…. He created the universe, and those who inhabit it; and, in creating us, he made us in his own image, so that his personality and capacities, however feebly, are reflected in our minds, bodies, and immortal spirits. So we are, by our nature, creators as well. All of us can, and most of us do, create in one way or another. We are undoubtedly at our happiest when creating, however humbly and inconspicuously. 

Johnson mentions some of the many creations humans produce, such as written works, farms, and businesses. Some of these wonderful works are not lasting, though they are valuable for as short as a season or as long as centuries.

Some forms of creativity, no less important, are immaterial as well as transient. One of the most important is to make people laugh. We live in a vale of tears, which begins with the crying of a babe and does not become any less doleful as we age. Humor, which lifts our spirits for a spell, is one of the most valuable of human solaces, and the gift of inciting it rare and inestimable. Whoever makes a new joke, which circulates, translates, globalizes itself, and lives on through generations, perhaps millennia, is a creative genius, and a benefactor of humankind almost without compare.

I transcribed the above about jokes because that form of creativity is worlds removed from anything I can imagine drumming up. I am fascinated by the art of making or even telling jokes; the chapter in Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood in which she relates how her parents worked their art of joke-telling describes an exotic land to which I could never go.

I’m more familiar — quite familiar — with the type of art Johnson also appreciates in this account:

I sometimes talk to a jovial sweeper, who does my street, and who comes from Isfahan, in Persia, wherein lies the grandest and most beautiful square in the world, the work of many architects and craftsmen over centuries, but chiefly of the sixteenth. I asked him if he felt himself creative, and he said, “Oh, yes. Each day they give me a dirty street, and I make it into a clean one, thanks be to God.”