Category Archives: church

His ministers a flame of fire.

This morning I prayed at home and participated as much as possible in the streamed service of Divine Liturgy; I could see the wind blowing the vestments and the hair of the servers, and I knew that those worshipers who stood outdoors and out of the picture were bundled up against the elements. At least the sun was shining weakly.

It is November 8, when we commemorate the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers. Father James in his homily shared this verse that he still prays daily.

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.

I had never heard it before, because I never knew about guardian angels when I was a child. I wonder if that prayer rhyme is ever sung to a tune? I would like to sing it every day myself.

The Gospel and the Epistle for the day also gave me a lot to think about here as I write, but I will just mention the angels after all. I looked through my blog posts to see what I’ve shared before, so that I don’t just repeat myself. What I came away with is great comfort and encouragement from the fact of the countless bodiless powers that God sends around, to accomplish His holy will. Our women‘s quartet brought bright images to our minds as they sang:

He makes His angels spirits,
and His ministers a flame of fire.

(Psalm 104)

If you could use a little bolstering as we go into the dark time of the year and you are still not able to be with the people you love as much as you would like, or at all; or if for any number of reasons you are not at the peak of positivity, you might browse all the things I have shared about angels. If you click on the tag “angels” in the header, it will take you to previous posts that include links to articles from people who know more; for example, this page tells about how the date was chosen in the early fourth century, and about the nine ranks of angels and their services.

“When you are praying alone, and your spirit is dejected, and you are wearied and oppressed by your loneliness, remember then, as always, that God the Trinity looks upon you with eyes brighter than the sun; also all the angels, your own Guardian Angel, and all the Saints of God. Truly they do; for they are all one in God, and where God is, there are they also. Where the sun is, thither also are directed all its rays. Try to understand what this means.”

-St. John of Kronstadt

This morning, as the distribution of the Holy Mysteries of Communion began, the view for us watching remotely was turned upward, so that we could see the dome of the cathedral. There was our Savior, surrounded by the seraphim and the cherubim who cry,

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!”

Little Church Planner

I wanted to share this organizing tool in January, but I never got around to it; now that I’ve used it for most of the year I am even more pleased and thankful that a couple of homeschooling mothers designed such a resource for the Orthodox homemaker.

It is a large spiral calendar/planner with plenty of space for writing in each day’s box, plus sidebar spaces for menus, intercessions, and notes. The creators have a more specialized homeschool planner as well.

Each week, month, and fasting period has a double-page spread, as does Holy Week. Even the whole year, with the Twelve Great Feasts on the sidebar, has its two-page spread, “2020 at a Glance.” Fasting days are listed, many saints’ days, readings according to the new calendar, and quotes pertaining to the Christian life.

I remember when the first planners like Day Runner were popular — was that in the 90’s? I had seven people to organize, feed, and keep track of, and I tried to use various systems, all of which required shrinking my handwriting down to fit on small pages. In those years I eventually learned about myself that I can’t think if I am writing small. One thing I love about this planner is the size, and the way I can get a wide analog view of a week or a larger period of time.

In the last year or two I’ve also used my phone to help me remember things, and I will often type things into one or another app when I am away from home, but then I have to copy the name or date, etc on to paper soon, if it is going to do me any good.

This planner will perhaps appeal to very few of my readers, and probably those have already seen it. But to the theoretical Someone: The publisher is Parousia, and this would be a good time to consider it for 2021. You can see pictures of the creators of this resource on the website. A big THANK YOU! to Natalia and Maria!

Send a healthful wind to blow…

Another “wildfire season,” another unexpected blessing. Often when there is hardship, stress, or suffering, there is an opportunity for people to come together in new ways, helping each other to navigate the interruptions and obstacles, to weather the storm, to walk the strange path that may present itself. During three of the last four dry, warm and windy autumn seasons of evacuations, I have had friends here briefly. Each time they were escaping from a different area and situation. But this fall no one needed me during the first wave of fires, and I was busy with family anyway.

Then, the wind changed, and what had been a fire for some other valley skipped a few miles in a different direction, and local people needed to leave their homes and get out of the way, in case. Two women who are both friends of mine evacuated here for two nights. Juliana has been close to our whole family for at least 40 years, but we hadn’t talked much for quite a while, and it was the greatest joy to have her in the house for what turned into an extended slumber party of chatter, catching up, and thanking God. I had loved her parents as well; they were dear to our children in a multitude of ways, and her presence made me long for them, too. But even that was somehow sweet.

The wind changed again, and they have departed. As soon as they left, I made another apple run, having used up my last box in various ways. This time I got Winter Bananas and Pippins. They say the “Bananas” are a dry variety to start with, and have long been a favorite for dehydrating, so I will surely preserve some of them that way. It took the fruit only a few hours in my garage to fill that space with a warm and harvesty aroma.

Then it was time to head to church for Vigil for our parish feast. I was able to be inside the church last night and this morning. Just splendid. Heaven came down, as always.

This morning when I arrived the sun was rising into the sky in that eerie, smoky way. The wind has started blowing the other direction and our area is in less danger, so I don’t understand why the smoke is so bad today.

At the end of the beautiful, beautiful service we prayed this prayer that has been on our lips many times in the last weeks:

A Prayer in Time of Wildfires

O Lord of all the earth, Who dost touch the mountains, and they smoke; Who dost send thine angels back and forth over the earth as ministers of thy providence and messengers of thy will; and Who dost thyself traverse thy creation on a throne of living creatures, while being thyself everywhere present in heaven, earth, and the lower regions: send now thy swift angels to minister to us who are afflicted by terrible wildfires, which threaten men’s lives and property, and also the lives of beasts and the well-being of the land. Through thy ministers who govern the elements, cause rains to fall to quench these flames. Then by thine angels who command the airs, send a healthful wind to blow, driving away the smog. Through the prayers of thy saints guard human life and well-being, and with thine own Right Hand bless and guide those who fight against this blaze, and preserve all in health from the smoke it sends up. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we beseech thee, O Father of worlds, Who dost reign eternally over all creation, together with Him and thine All-holy Spirit, the Life-giver and Paraclete. Amen.

The darkness has not overcome it.

And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19

Today is the commemoration of the Beheading of John the Baptist, which we Orthodox Christians who use the Gregorian Calendar remember on August 29 every year.

John was the Forerunner of Christ, and his preaching of repentance prepared many hearts to receive Christ.  You might say that John intruded into (family) politics when he spoke up about the governor Herod’s unlawful relationship with his brother’s wife Herodias. It doesn’t appear that they had asked for his opinion, but Herodias was angry enough about it that she asked Herod, via her dancing daughter Salome, for John’s head on a platter, which was granted. In the Gospel of Mark is one passage that recounts these events.

The hymns lament that Herod and Herodias missed their opportunity to repent and gain eternal life, but rejoice that God was glorified by the prophet’s death as well as by his life, and speak of John continuing to preach repentance even to the souls in Hades.

Icon Reader tells in depth about the iconography of John the Baptist, who is often pictured with wings. These symbolize the fact that he was a prophet or messenger from God. He is also called an “angel of the desert,” because like angels he was not involved in normal mundane things. John is holding his own head on the platter; some Orthodox do not eat anything from a plate, or from anything round, on this day, and we all keep a fast in St. John’s honor.

I have a particular interest in the Glorious Forerunner’s beheading because the saint whose name I bear, Joanna, was married to Chuza, Herod’s steward, and used her connections to retrieve the head so that it could be given an honorable burial.

This is a repeat of most of my post from five years ago. This morning I attended Divine Liturgy for the feast and was more awed than ever by the life of Jesus’s cousin John who was imprisoned for speaking the truth. Then he was killed because, though Herod was “sorrowful” about this unexpected outcome, he was a coward and wanted what he wanted, no matter that he seemed to like talking with John about spiritual things. As we heard in today’s homily, the rulers of this world always operate on the terms of their power above all.

But The Forerunner went joyfully to his reward, as do all martyrs; what they want more than anything is to be with Christ. That’s why we celebrate their deaths, which are glorious as the Cross of Christ is glorious. On this feast day we also fast, because it is to us a sort of Holy Friday; and to help our prayers for strength to have courage ourselves, to live and die in the spirit of the martyrs, in bright contrast to whatever darkness is currently trying in vain to extinguish the inextinguishable Kingdom of God.

In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:4-5