A Week of Palms and wildflowers.

This is the week in which I finally got out walking. I guess I had before been doing too much of a more sedentary kind of work — God knows in what realm of my being — that made me too weary for walking, other than around the garden. Evidently I’m in a new stage of dealing with the pandemic and its ramifications.

Herb-Robert

For the first walk, I went on the lower unpaved path next to the creek, and didn’t meet anyone. Pretty quickly I remembered the Seek app on my phone and started pointing it at weeds and other plants, many of which I was already pretty sure I knew… just checking. There was lots of Sow Thistle, Bull Thistle, Bristly Oxtongue and Burr Clover. Those are the less pleasing explosions of springtime, which I won’t show you. Tiny white willow puffs drifted down on to my head, and the sun was shining. I discovered a bay tree on the bank above.

For us Orthodox, it is the last week of Lent; Holy Week is not considered part of Lent proper and our Holy Week and Pascha are a week later than Western Easter this year.

So… one period is ending and the intensity of Holy Week hasn’t begun. It reminds me, this year, of the week before finals in college: a week of transition between the end of classes and the beginning of exams. It was called Dead Week. You were supposed to use the time to study hard, but some friends of mine always had a giant jigsaw puzzle going at their apartment, and anyone was welcome to come over and work on it when they needed a break from studying.

Poison hemlock

It’s not dead by any means in Lent, unless you are talking about Lazarus, who died this week and spent most of it in the tomb. For me, it has been more life-filled than ever. My feeling of renewal began with the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt, whose story I’ve never paid enough attention to before. Technology failed me, the evening that we were going to have a parish reading of her life on Zoom, so I took an hour to read it aloud to myself (with my brothers and sisters not virtually, but in the Holy Spirit). She helped me to get my bearings.

Now our focus shifts, from our journey of repentance to Christ’s journey, having “set His face like a flint,” to Bethany and on to Golgotha. Soon it will be the resurrectional Lazarus Saturday, and Palm Sunday. This whole week is called the Week of Palms, or Week of Branches. I don’t think I knew that before.

aeonium

This year, because we aren’t able to celebrate Pascha in church, with our glorious middle-of-the night Liturgy and festal hymns and countless shouts of “Christ is risen!” in a dozen languages — it also seems that we are having to set our hearts determinedly to receive what God has given us with thanksgiving. The wife of our priest explains our sadness:

“Sundays, which are a dim picture of how we will spend eternity, are meant for us to be praising and worshiping God together for ages of ages.  Every Sunday is a mini Pascha, and we are being kept from celebrating together in completeness.

“The good news is that these feelings tell us that this isn’t right. This isn’t how things are supposed to be. We shouldn’t be content with just doing our own thing. I literally weep every time I think about missing Holy Week and Pascha with you in our spiritual home. But I cling to the hope of the Resurrection. I look forward to the day when we can come together again in person in the church, to partake of holy communion, and to be refreshed.”

Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill

On another level, I especially appreciated the refreshment of some exercise and fresh air yesterday and today. I was happy to see a striped bumblebee in my neighborhood — until this morning I’d only seen black ones around here. My app told me that the buds on this bush below belong to the Eastern Redbud. I thought that strange; why would someone plant an Eastern when we are here in the West? So I looked at pictures of both species in bud, and I can’t see much difference. So I’m just calling this one “redbud.”

redbud

This week was “enlivened” also because Alejandro came to work in the garden, and we had two sunny days and got a lot done. That made it feel more normal.

But as to the abnormal — Father John Parsells, in “The Pascha Nobody Wants,” encourages us that in our present obedience and isolation we have the opportunity to participate in a way that we ourselves would never choose, in the sufferings of Christ.

“His ‘social distancing’ was so complete that He even experienced divine ‘abandonment,’ crying out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken Me?’ The sinless One became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:20) and the One who said, ‘I and My Father are One’ (John 10:30) experienced ‘separation’ from His Father.”

“What we go through now can feel very isolating for faithful Christians, yet we are resolutely encouraged, remembering that the Cross of Christ reveals isolation as the door to communion. In obedience even unto death, we find the life that can never be put to death. Amidst our distress and anguish, we find the ‘man of sorrows, acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3), Christ Himself who says to us what He promised His disciples in their own time of tribulation: ‘I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy!’ (John 16:22).”

15 thoughts on “A Week of Palms and wildflowers.

  1. I am pleased you were able to get out for a walk for that must have stimulated your contemplation. I miss being able to go for walks, yet am enjoying spending time in our garden, where I watch birds and an getting a little weeding and pruning done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How nice to be able to take a lovely walk at this time. I am spending time in my gardens, working in them in the mornings when it is cooler and I have more energy.

    It is sad not being able to fellowship with our church families this Easter, but, we can celebrate in our hearts together.

    Your last paragraph really blessed and encouraged my heart. Thank you for sharing.

    Love, hugs and prayers ~ FlowerLady

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is beautiful to see the rebirth of spring and new life in your world. I’m so glad you were able to get out for a very good walk and see these blooms. I love your app. If I ever get a smart phone, I might have to add that one! I love the redbud. They are my favorite tree. The bloom is short but oh, it’s so gorgeous.

    Your words bring great thought and meditation. This will indeed be a different Easter for us all. Different in celebration and, I believe, different in thought.

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  4. Oh, pretty plants! There is much green here, but only a few early bulbs are blooming. Daffodils, some tulips, hyacinth. The trees are starting to blossom around town, some have the most lovely fragrance! Another week or two and we’ll have blossoms everywhere, I’m guessing.

    I’m very curious about your Seek app. You just point it at a plant and it id’s it? I had not thought to check if such an app existed, but I love the concept. I will have to see if there’s an app for Windows phone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is that simple. It’s not always correct, I’ve found, and sometimes pretty unhelpful, unable to get beyond the family of “Pines” or “Dicots” — but I’ve learned a lot from it. If for some reason I mistrust what it tells me, I can go online later with my search. And it’s saved me a lot of time by satisfying my Need to Know faster – 🙂

      It will try to identify animal species, too. It told me that I was seeing a bumblebee, but would not count it as a species on my list because it couldn’t tell me which species of bumblebee.

      It is from iNature, a joint venture of the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic.

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  5. It’s good to know you’re out walking again and enjoying being in nature. The Seek app sounds like a great tool; now if only I had a phone.

    Yes, Easter will be very different this year. I made Paska today and will make sure the kids and grands each get some but we won’t be eating it together, sadly.

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  6. I’m sorry, but while Fr. Parsells may be good in pointing out the abject “isolation” of Jesus during his Passion, but when he goes on to try to equate refusal to “socially distance” as akin to murder, this is where I take real umbrage. I doubt that there’s anyone in the Church who deliberately wants to make anyone else sick to the point of dying, and by definition, murder is an intentional and unlawful taking of another’s life. Taking another person’s life is never a good thing, but sometimes it’s accidental, and sometimes, while intentional, is still justified. The Commandments order “Thou shalt not murder”. (The “kill” translations really open a whole can of worms, and don’t even make sense even in consideration of the rest of Scripture! ) And yet, he has the audacity to accuse those of not accepting the words of “experts” unquestioningly of being full of malice or too stupid to understand what’s “best”.

    My husband has been reading to me statements and such of various bishops and what have you in different jurisdictions. Of these, one of the letters that really stuck out to me is one that blatantly laid out that one of the greatest considerations here had to do with insurance, that while the insurance companies have been “friends” of the churches, that the bishops, et al, can’t be sure that should *something* happen, that the insurance would be willing to cover it. And so even in places where there is low risk and a priest might not run afoul of the law for holding services, and may want to, they are still not being allowed!

    I am truly fearful for the future of Orthodoxy in the secular west here. In my own experiences over the last year or so, I’ve learned the hard way that there aren’t many in the “hierarchy” who are truly concerned with the flock; they don’t care about evangelization, they don’t care for outreach (other than self-congratulatory accolades they can post in news items to their webpages), and they don’t care about their flocks, other than to try to shield themselves from any personal responsibility or liability. After all this blows over, I see a lot of people not coming back… They’ll couch it in that they’re “afraid” of being around others, etc. But I’m not going to be surprised if the fallout causes a good number of churches to close, and a realignment of the hierarchy here.

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    1. I agree about the use of the word “murder” in this context, and appreciate your articulation of why it’s not appropriate. I was very disappointed to read it more than once coming from clergy.

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  7. I am equally devastated to be missing Holy Week in our glorious cathedral. However, I am finding some consolation in participating in the live-streams offered by the nuns of Holy Assumption Monastery. They chant the entire service and sing the beautiful hymns. Last night, they ended the Matins of Lazarus Saturday with an outstanding Byzantine Chant of Christ going Lazarus’s tomb to raise him from the dead. I posted it on my Facebook page. It is well worth listening to.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I so agree with your first paragraph, for I think I am there too… “Evidently I’m in a new stage of dealing with the pandemic and its ramifications.” I am going now to search for the Seek app. I am a bit envious of your two days with Alejandro. :~)

    Liked by 1 person

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