All posts by GretchenJoanna

About GretchenJoanna

Orthodox Christian, widowed in 2015; mother, grandmother. Love to read, garden, cook, write letters and a hundred other home-making activities.

Blessed is the kingdom…

Pantocrator OW Hagia SophiaIn The Eucharist, Fr. Alexander Schmemann lays before us the glories of the faith, which “manifests and grants that to which it is directed: the presence among us of the approaching kingdom of God and its unfailing light.” The very Kingdom of God seems to shine directly from the pages of Fr. Alexander’s book into my heart; it feels that way because he brings to mind what I have experienced in our services.

Jesus himself referred to the kingdom as something present on earth when He was among his disciples; as something within us; as something for whose coming we ought to pray in The Lord’s Prayer. Truly the Divine Liturgy is where we both experience heaven and anticipate the fullness of the kingdom to come.

The Orthodox Divine Liturgy, the Eucharist, begins with the announcement, “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.”

What does it mean to bless the kingdom? It means that we acknowledge and confess it to be our highest and ultimate value, the object of our desire, our love and our hope. It means that we proclaim it to be the goal of the sacrament — of pilgrimage, ascension, entrance — that now begins. It means that we must focus our attention, our mind, heart and soul, i.e., our whole life, upon that which is the “one thing needful.” Finally, it means that now, already in “this world,” we confirm the possibility of communion with the kingdom, of entrance into its radiance, truth and joy. Each time that Christians “assemble as the Church” they witness before the whole world that Christ is King and Lord, that his kingdom has already been revealed and given to man and that a new and immortal life has begun. This is why the liturgy begins with this solemn confession and doxology of the King who comes now but abides forever and shall reign unto ages of ages.

– Father Alexander Schmemann

What to say about a cookie?

This one is certainly the Cookie of the Year, though I don’t know which year, because I started the dough in 2018 and finished them in 2019. A new recipe, from the current Bon Appétit, which means you can find it on epicurious.com:  Double-Pecan Thumbprints.

The layer of flavor-rich frangipane tops off (even though it’s in the middle) the oh-so-toasty-pecan everything of this thumbprint. It instantly became my favorite cookie of all time. I spent hours over several days browsing recipes and planning this year’s cookies; that brainstorming was the easy part. Shopping, baking, then giving and eating took any remaining energies, leaving little for describing or promoting. But I wish you might try baking these so you can taste for yourself. Now that you’ve seen the picture, take a look at that recipe, and if it calls to you…

(I’m sorry if you recently resolved to eat no more cookies. 😦 )

pecan thumbprints 2018 cookies

 

The glory of wetness and a black mark.

“It is a bleak sort of day, but I’m glad to be out walking.” Something like that was my thought as I set out on my creek path this morning. A white shape caught my eye, silently winging down the creek, and within two seconds it passed by me close enough to see that it was egret. Then, gone behind the trees.

I had read a poem by Wendell Berry about mud in January, and I looked at the muddy creek, stirred up and deep from recent rains. It wasn’t photogenic, but it was briefly captivating. Flowing streams are good to look at for a few minutes, but there is too much busyness there, and I get restless.

When I pulled my eyes away and to other things, I found a unusual depth to even the neutral colors, from all the leaves and bark and needles being entirely wetted. I have walked by these trees for almost 30 years now ! but this is the first time I noticed their massiveness. As I studied the chunky patterns on their trunks of pines, it took me a long time to notice another design style in the spider’s web.

I ran across a wide road to get nearer the fields, and on the faraway other side of those hayfields and pastures whiter clouds hung in drifts on the hillsides, below the gray sky. This is a day between rainy days; those clouds may be forming into bringers of rain by now, but then they were waiting and still…

Wherever redwood trees towered above me on the path, thousands of their little cones littered my path. How many are lying on the ground just in this neighborhood? And each one a wonder. I stuffed my pockets with them.

After my camera battery was spent, I watched fat robins bathing in the creek’s muddy overflow, their wings fluttering and splashing. Today some Orthodox are celebrating the Nativity of Christ, and yesterday was our (new calendar) feast of the Baptism of Christ. Water is the joyous theme, as it is a fundamental substance of our life, and a fitting symbol for all of creation. Christ baptizes the earth with His baptism, sanctifying it, filling it with Himself. The days on this earth can only be bleak inasmuch as I am not noticing the glory. Why do I forget this reality? I can’t remember ever finding a bleak day out of doors; even when my mood is low, the glory lifts it and comforts me.

This evening, water was sprinkled all over my house, as we walked around singing about our Lord’s baptism, by which he revealed Himself and the entire Holy Trinity. At the end, my priest surprised me when he reached up with the snuffed-out candle and painted a waxy cross on the ceiling near the front door. I had never seen this done before! It feels like a resurrectional form of the Israelites marking their lintels with blood. I am in awe.

The day has been a complete blessing.

As a man to that river.

The voice of the Lord cries over the waters, saying:
Come all ye, receive the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding,
the Spirit of the fear of God, even Christ who is made manifest.

Today the nature of water is sanctified.
Jordan is divided in two, and turns back the stream of its waters,
beholding the Master being baptized.

As a man Thou didst come to that river, O Christ our King,
and dost hasten O Good One, to receive the baptism of a servant
at the hands of the Forerunner, because of our sins, O Lover of Man.

-Hymn of the Great Blessing of Waters