Category Archives: church

I just roam.

gl-prodigal-son-paintingWe Orthodox have come to the Sunday of The Prodigal Son, one of the weeks preparing us for Great Lent. Pascha, the Resurrection of our Lord, is so central to the faith that we not only have the 40 days of preparation for the feast which constitute Lent, but we have a month of Sundays preparing us for the preparation. It’s all good.

I loved this poem on the subject by Romanian Fr. Dumitru Ichim. The phrase I took from it for the title of this post, “I just roam,” reminds me of words in an Orthodox prayer: “Always I am fleeing and no consolation have I….”

Lent is our opportunity to repent of running to and fro, “always fleeing” and distracted from our purpose. Sometimes the beginning of the journey back home is made in the pain of darkness and hunger, but “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

THE PRODIGAL SON

“The fog slowly is rising around here:
Father, it’s dark, I’m taken by fear!”
“Why? Can you no longer see the road home?”
“My light and my heart are worn; I just roam;
All bridges are broken, impossible,
Because I love myself… the prodigal.
The fog slowly descends from the mountain
Cunningly, to the mill, to the fountain…
Do I just seem to hear the cranes singing?”
“The clouds deceive you: fog they are bringing…”
“Where are you Father? You are a rock beyond choice
And closer to me than my very own voice.
The silence is painful, but I still shout to you!
I am hungry of you, and I’m very cold, too!”

-Fr. Dumitru Ichim, translated by Octavian Gabor

St. Simeon, St. Bridget, and my sweet flower.

daphne-eve-of-presentation-17Today was the first time that the daphne scent got my attention all on its own, as I came back from errands and was unlocking my front door. Before today, I had to kneel down on the mulch and get my nose right up to it, but now there are more blooms, and they are more fully opened. If the weather warms up a bit that should make them even more noticeable.

This highly aromatic plant was introduced to me my a neighbor when I was in labor of childbirth with my daughter Pippin – Gayle brought me a vase of the flowers that were in bloom then, around Valentine’s Day, and the sweetness in the air highlighted the divine atmosphere that I always feel when we are waiting to meet a new baby.

I always understood that daphne is hard to grow in our area. I don’t remember why that is, but I never attempted it. Then last summer Landscape Lady suggested it for this spot in my front garden, and I was thrilled at the possibility. Originally we thought to have a whole row of them under the living room window, but her fellow designer cautioned against that much investment in a risky business, so I just have the one. And it is healthy and making lots of flowers so far!

I’m posting it here in honor of Saint Bridget of Ireland, whose feast this is, but also for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, which is tonight/tomorrow — and also for dear Saint Simeon who took Jesus in his arms and knew immediately that He was the Christ. The Lord had told Simeon that he would not die until he had seen The Lord’s Anointed, so as he was cradling his infant Savior he said, “Lord, now let Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: a Light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”

It’s one of my favorite feast days.

Through Athanasius wisdom shone.

athanasius_frescoAthanasius of Alexandria has been highly regarded throughout Christian history, East and West. Today is one of his feast days In the Orthodox Church. I first heard of Athanasius when I was a Protestant, because his treatise On the Incarnation was recommended to me many times. I finally read it a few years ago at Christmastime, and found it very encouraging. I notice lots of discussion of Athanasius still going on in the blogosphere in this century.

Athanasius was born about 297 and was present as a deacon at the Council of Nicea in 325. It was he who suggested the word “consubstantial” (homoousion) to describe Christ’s relationship to the Father, in opposition to the Arians who believed Christ to be a creature. The word was immediately adopted and became an important point of sound doctrine from then on.

When Bishop Alexander of Alexandria died, Athanasius reluctantly consented to take the bishopric, and he remained bishop for 43 years, though he spent a total of 17 of those years in exile at the command of four different emperors, and was many times forced to leave the city under threats to his life. These incidents led to the phrase “Athanasius contra mundum” or “Athanasius against the world.”

I don’t need to repeat what I have written before, or tell you things about St. Athanasius that you can easily discover online, but I wanted to remember this important saint here. Here is are some excerpts from St. Nicolai in his Prologue for today:

Only for a while before his death did he live peacefully, as a good shepherd among his good flock, who truly loved him. Few are the saints who were so mercilessly slandered and so criminally persecuted as was St. Athanasius. His great soul patiently endured all for the love of Christ and, in the end, emerged victorious from this entire terrible and long-lasting struggle.

For counsel, for comfort and for moral support, Athanasius often visited St. Anthony the Great, whom he respected as his spiritual father. A man who formulated the greatest truth, Athanasius had much to suffer for that truth–until the Lord gave him repose in His kingdom as His faithful servant, in the year 373 A.D.

Through Athanasius, wisdom shone,
And the truth of God enlightened men.
The people recognized that wisdom is not bitter,
But, to all who drink it to the bottom, it is sweet;
To all who suffer for it, it is dear.

All that shimmers from it…

gl-cross-_4107Today near the beginning of Liturgy I found myself standing close to my dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Bread. Mr. Bread whispered, “I have something for you,” and he put this gift into my hand, a little cross he had carved from abalone shell. I’ve been trying for an hour to take a photograph that shows all the colors that shimmer from it, and this is the best I could do.

It is so much more than a visual thing – I held it for a half hour before I could bring myself to put it away in my bag. So smooth and cool on its face, with gentle contours… I felt the need to keep stroking it with my fingers that were suddenly clumsy and large. I don’t usually have anything in my hands during worship, but its natural beauty and Christian meaning fit right in with the smell of beeswax candles and the chanting of prayers, and of course the icons.

Maybe next week I’ll be wearing it around my neck.  🙂 gl-cross-p1060540