Category Archives: Lent

Pruning and flower-arranging.

It felt like a miracle last week that I was able to join with two men to prune grapes in the church vineyard. Yay, I’m not totally decrepit yet! There weren’t enough of us to make much of a dent in the work, but I do believe that every little bit helps. Several planned vineyard work days had been cancelled because of rain; it will be a challenge to get the other fifteen rows done…and more rain is in the forecast 🙂


Even some of the healthy vines had lichens on them.



Inside the church, the altar cloths and vestments have been changed to purple for Lent. You might remember the pink camellia on the church property that I took a picture of last month; we also have red ones that the “flower ladies” used in a brilliant way!

A continuing attitude, to the end of life.

“Correctly understood, repentance is not negative but positive. It means not self-pity or remorse but conversion, the re-centering of our whole life upon the Trinity. It is to look not backward with regret but forward with hope – not downwards at our own shortcomings but upwards at God’s love. It is to see, not what we have failed to be, but what by divine grace we can now become; and it is to act upon what we see. To repent is to open our eyes to the light.

“In this sense, repentance is not just a single act, at initial step, but a continuing state, an attitude of heart and will that needs to be ceaselessly renewed up to the end of life.”

-Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, in The Orthodox Way

Solar Flashback calendula May2016

Lenten love and lettuces.

For the letter “L”, Lent is a natural choice of subject, considering the season we Orthodox are in. This year Pascha or “Greek Easter” is five weeks after Western Easter, so we are still in preparation. Everything that we experience or do is placed in the context of our efforts to draw close to Christ and to be ready for the glorious celebration of His Resurrection. If I don’t see that connection on my own, someone around me is sure to say, upon hearing that I’m sick, or my car broke down, or about any number of news items, failings or challenges, “Ah, well, it’s Lent!”P1030845(2)

Sloughing off the unnecessary, becoming more like Mary than Martha, letting go, focusing on the eternal things and soaking up the encouragement of our mother the Church through the heart-sustaining services of this period of the calendar — these are some of the things we try to work on.

When on April Fool’s Day my computer’s hard drive failed, I lost several months’ worth of data and many hours of work that I have to do over, including hundreds of photos and I don’t know what else, because somehow my backup program had also failed since December. My Computer Guy was more distressed than I was; I realized deep down that this loss was of nothing essential to my life. I said something like that to him, mentioning Lent, and he remarked lightly that my attitude inspired him to consider what sort of sacrifices he himself ought to be making. “Oh, no,” I wanted to say, “It’s not about making sacrifices!” But exactly what it is about, I wasn’t prepared to expound. I do know that I did not choose to give up a big chunk of visual and literary records.Christ washing feet of disciples

What Lent is about can be summed up in this prayer that we pray hundreds of times throughout the weeks and the services. It doesn’t say anything about sacrifice or even about food.

The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian

 O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness,
lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility,
patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother;

for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

And though to be truthful, there is mention of sacrifice when we come together, it’s in the moving hymn we sing on our knees at one of the Lenten services:

Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense,
And the lifting up of my hands

As an evening sacrifice.

I happen to be reading a book that seems very Lenten in its mood and themes. This novel by Eugene Vodolazkin, Laurus, is filling my mind so much the last few weeks, I originally planned to dedicate the whole of “L” to it, even though I’m still in the middle of the book. It’s about the Middle Ages, a holy fool, and kairos. The main character demonstrates the kind of self-emptying that results in making space for God.Image result for laurus

His motivation for asceticism is love for someone for whom he wants to pray, and he does not want to be distracted by being too comfortable. Eventually he comes to feel out of touch with his body, almost insensible to its condition, and free. You might think that such a person would also be oblivious to the natural world around him, but Arseny seems to be more intimate with the creation and appreciative of its beauty than the average person. Perhaps the Holy Spirit allows him to see and interact with things more directly and clearly than we who only have our natural lettuce IMG_2014

Speaking of Nature, I am trying to cooperate with her and grow some vegetables. On Friday I set out some little lettuces and also some kale and leeks. The lettuce is of two varieties of Romaine: Forellenschluss (which I probably bought for its name that is so fun to say) is the speckled kind on the left in the photo; it’s an heirloom variety from Austria. The plain green is a heat-resistant lettuce from Israel and is named Jericho.

That Lenten prayer is useful all through the day, and everywhere we go. I feel the spirit of love in regard to my garden, but I need the spirit of patience. I pray the Lord takes from me the lust of power, but I don’t expect it will happen as quickly as I lost all those digital photos.

Did you know that “the English word Lent is a shortened form of the Old English word len(c)ten, meaning ‘spring season'”? Whatever hemisphere we live in, we can with God’s help tend our hearts, and make this season the springtime of our soul. 

Rejuvenating Feast

In my reading through the Gospel of Mark I came yesterday to the account of the crucifixion of our Lord. I wasn’t thinking at the time of how it was the eve of the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross, because I was soon on my way to yet another birthday party, this time to celebrate Laddie’s turning two.

Later, I thought about how appropriate it was that I contemplate Christ’s being forsaken by his Father, taking that cup of death and thereby conquering and destroying death, so that we can drink from the cup of joy, and have a feast. This is truly a spiritual feast, and not the kind where we delight in earthly food. And for that reason it’s set right here in the middle of the Lenten fast. The following is from our church bulletin.


As they who walk on a long and hard way and are bowed down by fatigue find great relief and strengthening under the cool shade of a  leafy tree, so do we find comfort, refreshment, and rejuvenation under the Life-giving Cross, which our Fathers “planted” on this Sunday.

Thus, we are fortified and enabled to continue our Lenten journey with a light step, rested and encouraged. Or, as before the arrival of the king, his royal standards, trophies, and emblems of victory come in procession and then the king himself appears in a triumphant parade, jubilant and rejoicing in his victory and filling those under him with joy, so does the Feast of the Cross precede the coming of our King, Jesus Christ. It warns us that He is about to proclaim His victory over death and appear to us in the glory of the Resurrection….

The present feast has been placed in the middle of Crucifixion wikimediaGreat Lent for another reason. The Fast can be likened to the spring of Marah whose waters the children of Israel encountered in the wilderness. This water was undrinkable due to its bitterness but became sweet when the Holy Prophet Moses dipped the wood into its depth. Likewise, the wood of the Cross sweetens the days of the Fast, which are bitter and often grievous because of our tears. Yet Christ comforts us…

Moreover, as the Holy Cross is called the Tree of Life, it is placed in the middle of the Fast, as the ancient tree of life was placed in the middle of the garden of Eden. By this, our Holy Fathers wished to remind us of Adam’s gluttony as well as the fact that through this Tree has condemnation been abolished. Therefore, if we bind ourselves to the Holy Cross, we shall never encounter death but shall inherit life eternal.