Category Archives: church

This is the Wisdom of Man.

“I have stood near the cave of St. Jerome in Bethlehem, and seen the recently excavated graves of the Holy Innocents. There are a mass of infant burials, clearly made in haste, with evidence of violence, all dating to the first century. It is not a Biblical myth but a crime scene as gruesome as any that we could imagine. This is the Wisdom of Man.

“The Wisdom of Man measures strength and power by the ability to administer brute force. Whether a sword or nuclear weapon – power is defined by physics. Were the power that confronted us measured in the same manner, victory could be as simple as a mathematical equation. But the power of God, the Wisdom of God, that confronted King Herod and all the so-called “rulers” of this world, belonged to a realm that is wholly other.”

-Father Stephen Freeman, in this article: “The Wisdom of Man and the Foolishness of God”

Troparion:

As acceptable victims and freshly plucked flowers,
As divine first-fruits and newborn lambs,
You were offered to Christ who was born as a child, Holy Innocents.
You mocked Herod’s wickedness;
Now we beseech you:
“Unceasingly pray for our souls.”

 

Thy favor has appeared on earth.

Last night I attended the service of The Royal Hours of Nativity. It was not even an hour long, but the amount of Scripture in it — and theology in word, song, incense and candlelight — filled me to the brim. Here are a few excerpts:

Brethren, God, Who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, being made so much better than the Angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

For unto which of the Angels did He ever say: “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee”? Or again: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son?”

And again, when He brings the firstborn into the world, He saith: “Let all the Angels of God worship Him.” And of the Angels He saith: “Who makes His Angels spirits, and His ministers a flaming fire.”

But unto the Son He saith: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy Kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness more than Thy companions…”

And: “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands; they shall perish, but Thou shalt remain; and they shall all grow old like a garment; like a cloak shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail…” (Hebrews 1:1-12)

Make ready, O Bethlehem.
Let the manger be prepared.
Let the cave show its welcome.
The Truth comes and the shadow flees.
God is born of a virgin and revealed to men.
He is clothed in our flesh, and makes it divine.
Therefore Adam is renewed, and cries out with Eve,
“Thy favor has appeared on earth, O Lord,
For the salvation of the human race.”

Psalm 86

His foundations are in the holy mountains;
the Lord loveth the gates of Sion
more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.
I will make mention of Raab and Babylon
to them that know me.
And lo, the foreigners and Tyre
and the people of the Ethiopians,
these were born there.
A man will say: Mother Sion;
and: That man was born in her;
and: The Most High Himself hath founded her.
The Lord shall tell it in the writ of the peoples and the princes,
even these that were born in her.
How joyous are all they
that have their habitation in Thee.

I wish you all a blessed, full Twelve Days of Christmas,
and a new year full of the experience of God’s favor and salvation.
Christ is born!

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!