Category Archives: history

The best fast is this.

The best fast is to patiently endure everything that God sends.

-St. Anatoly of Optina

St. Anatoly knew what it was to endure; he was arrested by the Bolsheviks and his monastery was closed in the 1920’s. I only today read about him after seeing the quote above in this calendar I’ve been using lately, at the top of the page for April 1. So many readings for Lent take on new significance this year.

If you want to learn more of his story it is here.

Who might be up to something.

Many children first encounter our Righteous Patriarch Joseph as the one whose father Jacob gave him a “coat of many colors.” My husband was raised by people who knew their Bible stories well, and when as a very young child he was given this striped bathrobe (modeled here by our son 30 years later), they called it his Coat of Many Colors.

Joseph was his father’s favorite because he was the son of his old age. When you read about the actions of the older sons, it makes you wonder if there were other reasons. His story is well summarized here: Righteous Joseph the Patriarch ; but the entire story as recounted in the scriptures, Genesis 37-50, is full of drama and many fascinating details – one of the most gripping true stories of all time, I think, and easy to read.

Some key events: Joseph is given a fancy coat; he has dreams which he tells to his family; the older brothers are jealous, they hate him and plan to kill him, but sell him as a slave into Egypt instead. There he is quickly elevated to overseer of Potiphar’s house, because the Lord makes everything he does to prosper. Potiphar’s wife repeatedly tries to seduce him, and when he doesn’t cooperate she accuses him to her husband of trying to rape her, and Joseph is put into prison.

I heard once that if Potiphar had fully believed his wife, he would have had Joseph killed. The scripture says Potiphar’s “anger was aroused,” but maybe he was angry that he had to give up this most helpful of servants in order to appease his wife.

Joseph was in prison at least two years, but he wasn’t the type to “languish,” and the keeper of the prison in turn makes Joseph his overseer: “The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.”

When Joseph’s “fortunes” begin to change, he gets promoted quickly, becoming the savior of Egypt and of his family, even his brothers who hated and betrayed him. I use the word savior because Joseph is a type of Christ. Many years ago I heard a long lesson about all the aspects of his life that point to the Savior of the World, which you can read about on this page, Joseph: A Type of Christ, where the writer has posted a helpful chart.

She even tells us that the name Pharaoh gave Joseph when he exalted him, Zaphnath-Paaneah, means “Savior of the World,” but elsewhere I read that it is “probably Egyptian for God Speaks and He Lives.” Even that reminds me of Christ The Living Word. By the way, I only ran across this site when researching this topic, and I can’t recommend it generally.

But one thing I found refreshing there was this point: “There is no record of Joseph sinning,” which corresponds to how Christ was fully human but without sin. The scriptures at least do not tell us about Joseph’s sins, unlike many people I have heard who love to find fault with him, and almost make excuse for his brothers’ jealousy. They accuse him of pride, and reveal their own arrogance in presuming to judge a holy man through whom God wants to reveal Christ to us. One even criticized him for wearing his special coat too much…? As to his brother’s hatred, isn’t it more likely that the situation is explained by John 3: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

Joseph was the one to whom God revealed His plans, and whose work He blessed everywhere he went. He was a true prophet, and filled with the Spirit. If he had sinned against his brothers when younger I think he would have admitted it, especially when eventually his brothers meet him again and are feeling guilty for their own actions. He might have said, “It’s okay, I was the one who was at fault for thinking I was so great. It must have been hard to see me wearing that nice coat all the time! Please forgive me.”

But no, he is matter-of-fact about their motives: “You meant it for evil…” He doesn’t excuse their behavior, which at the time he knew was for envy. Being the man of God he was, if he had been at fault at all, he would have asked forgiveness right then. Still, he loves them and comforts them, because he knows that it doesn’t matter, as he goes on to testify, “…but God meant it for good.”

Joseph is remembered three times in the Orthodox liturgical year, and today is one of the days. The last time I blogged about him was during Holy Week one year. When I saw him on the calendar this morning I immediately wanted to share a much shorter post about him. But I get carried away when I start thinking about Joseph, he is so wonderful!

He is a good example to remember this week, because I know that a lot of people are trying to figure out who is to blame for the coronavirus pandemic. Or they think they already know that it is part of a world conspiracy that is going to bring worse effects still. It doesn’t matter. Our job, whatever difficult circumstances we are living through, is to be the best human beings we can be, to go on doing our work as Joseph did, thanking God for everything. Let’s not get distracted by speculations about things we can never get to the bottom of.

As Father Stephen Freeman said recently, “Are the leaders of the world up to something? Maybe – but don’t worry. Terrible things will happen no matter what we do. Fear not, little flock. Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.”

Everything depends upon that moment.

Today is the beginning of our salvation;
the revelation of the eternal Mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
as Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
“Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”

I had wanted to continue my ruminations on The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air by further considering The Moment that Søren Kierkegaard refers to when, after waiting in silence, “…the silent lily understands that now is the moment, and makes use of it.”

I don’t know what that moment consists of for you, for me, for us as a world community, or in our cities or church communities or families. No doubt there are overlapping times and seasons containing infinite instants, and only by quiet listening can we make any sense of them. But this passage in particular I wanted to pass on, in which the writer discusses what is missed when we fail to make the proper, standing-before-God kind of preparation:

“Even though it is pregnant with rich significance, the moment does not send forth any herald in advance to announce its arrival; it comes too swiftly for that; indeed, there is not a moment’s time beforehand…. But of course everything depends upon “the moment.” And this is surely the misfortune in the lives of many, of far the greater part of humanity: that they never perceived ‘the moment,’ that in their lives the eternal and the temporal were exclusively separated.”

So many thoughts swirl in my own noisy mind and heart that I could not imagine how I might find a way to share even these few gleanings with you. Then, in God’s providence and the church calendar, appeared someone who is the supreme example for us of being ready for the moment, that time in history and that time in her life, in a particular moment of a day, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. Today we remember that event, when Mary listened, and responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

The Word became flesh and came to live with us, taking on all our human experience, its weakness and suffering and  death. He defeated death, and opened the gates of Paradise. The Incarnation, the beginning of our salvation, is The Moment of history; our own “Yes” to God, echoing Mary’s willingness, can be the essence of our every prayer as well, as we wait on Him.

Kierkegaard exhorts us, in words that seem especially fitting for this time of uncertainty and change: “Would that in the silence you might forget yourself, forget what you yourself are called, your own name, the famous name, the lowly name, the insignificant name, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Hallowed be your name!’ Would that in silence you might forget yourself, your plans, the great, all-encompassing plans, or the limited plans concerning your life and its future, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Your kingdom come!’ Would that you might in silence forget your will, your willfulness, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Your will be done.'”

We know that God’s will for us is good, now as ever. Our inability to see or understand that is due to our weakness or sin, or His hiding of His works. May He give us grace to wait and to pray, and eventually we will see the full salvation of the LORD.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11

See the colors till the end.

It’s been a big week for me so far, because I took down and put away all of my Christmas decorations all by myself, including the faux tree. I feel incredibly lightened up by having that task out of the way. For several weeks the tree and its lights burning all day and night cheered me up as I was recovering from sickness and deep winter, but one day the top third was not lit anymore. I unplugged it, and after that, it became a chore needing to be done, which is possibly the opposite of cheery, until one gets into it, at which point it might become energizing and satisfying.

When the family was together at Christmas, evidently someone added a most natural ornament without asking me, because I was surprised to find among the branches a dried pansy, and it was a welcome late gift, bringing as it did memories of that rich couple of weeks.

I paid a man to level my fountain and clean it, and I watched as he lifted off the top and emptied the pipes of so much green stuff! I realize now that every time over the last four years that I have let the algae get away from me, by not putting the drops in every week, all the cleaning out I have done trying to remedy the situation has been woefully superficial, even if it did take a long time. I must become more diligent. When he finished he asked me how fast I wanted the flow to be. I said “low” and he set it so, but it seems fuller and faster than ever.

This year when I renew my driver’s license I have to take the written test. I started on that too late to get an appointment at the DMV, so I need to pick a day and wait in line. I’ve decided this will be the week for that as well. I got the handbook and have been taking practice tests online, and I’ll be ready. But I’m very annoyed by all the questions about the penalties for breaking laws. It doesn’t say anything about my driving skills if I can’t remember how many months or years I might be jailed for evading the police or for drunk driving, first or second offense, etc.

A few days ago when I was musing about my lack of yellow clothing, I did remember a scarf that I inherited that has some yellow in it. Have you ever seen anything like this?

It shows a hundred years of American soldiers and sub-groups of armies, starting with George Washington at top left. I can’t think of a proper occasion to which I might wear it, even if I were a militaristic woman.

 

 

 

Maybe Glad ancestors were among the American fighting men in that century, I don’t know. But I do know that one branch of my late husband’s people came from Ryegate, Vermont, and are mentioned in this book, first published in 1913. This morning my eldest, Pearl, asked me if I had a copy, and what do you know, I had two on a high shelf. I packed them up and sent them to Wisconsin so she can explore further what are her people, too.

This is turning out to be a gathering of historic tidbits; here is an article about the word till. Did you think maybe it should be ’til? Not at all. ’til is a modern invention. I was oddly happy to know this fact. You can learn about the history of till here at Daily Writing Tips.

THE COLOR BLUE has always been my favorite, so when Leila shared this link about its history on her blog Like Mother, Like Daughter I went straight there and drank in all the blues – and I feel so rich, not being colorblind. How could there be new blues being invented? Of course, there are infinite blues, but whether we can find a dye or an ink that paints them must be the question. Here is just one recent blue, from the article, named International Klein Blue:As much as I love blue, I’ll leave you with a picture of one of my otherwise tinted Iceland poppies in the front garden. They have been waving to the neighbors who walk past, and to me when I come home from my errands. And most of them are the color that I love in my garden especially: orange.

Oh, but thinking about the garden reminds me that I have learned enough Spanish that I was able to text to my gardener this week: “Puede trabajar aquí este fin de semana?” (Can you work here this weekend?) And he came even sooner. 🙂