Tag Archives: Bright Week

To feel astonished is to be disturbed.

I only got a face mask last week, and this week I tied a piece of drapery cord to the ear loops, so that I can leave it hanging around my neck when I am not exactly “in public.” Otherwise, I might be fined $1,000 if I am discovered without it covering my face.

On this morning’s walk I never needed it, as I went earlier and on the southern creekside route that is less traveled. In some places honeysuckle escaped from a back yard and has climbed all over the trees along the bank:

I began to think again, as I have done so often throughout my life, about the verse,

The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Every time I muse it is from a new perspective, of course. Today I considered how king and happy are words with many levels and shades of meaning, and in our minds they live in a context that is rich with metaphor and our individual experience.

A child might think he’d like to be a king, and tell people what to do, and order his servants to bring him cookies or pizza whenever he wants. But we older and wiser ones think, How happy can a king be, anyway? What a job, being a king!! Too much work, right? I’m sure some kings (rulers) get into the business because they want to profit from it, but true happiness could never result from that motivation.

“The ‘whole good’ cannot be had, it would seem, without mustering all the strength of our inner life. Even in the sphere of external possessions there are goods which inherently demand, if they are to be truly ours, far more of us than mere acquisition. ‘My garden,’ the rich man said; his gardener smiled.” – Josef Pieper

A king who has nothing but leisure will not long be king. And the thought of leisure made me think on something else that I have returned to again and again, the title of Josef Pieper’s book: Leisure, the Basis of Culture. He presented it as five lectures in 1947. I have never read the book, I say to my shame. Until now, the title alone was evocative enough. I did get another book by Pieper which I have not finished reading, and right now I can’t find it on my shelves, either. But thanks to Goodreads I have been nourished this morning by excerpts from various of his books. (All the quotes in brown here are from him.) And I found a helpful review (I have read many such reviews) in case you’re interested, by James W. Schall: “On Pieper’s Leisure and Living Well.” This short explanation of Pieper’s idea of leisure is good, too: “It is not laziness, but rather an inner silence that enables one to see reality.”

But long before I got home, I continued to think about that book I haven’t read, as I walked up and down the path pictured at top. I didn’t want to continue up to the street and on my usual loop, because I knew there were many people walking on the pavement above; my own newly mown swath by the creek I didn’t have to share with another soul. It was my own little kingdom for a while. So I turned around and came back, and I did that three times altogether, which added up to about two miles.

I’m afraid I had gone back to thinking about work instead of leisure, giving a nod as I passed by, to the idea of culture. What about all the work I need to be doing in my kingdom of my house? We have completed the fast with its spiritual labors, its fitness training for the soul, and are reminded that we can live, especially during this Bright Week, “Renewal Week,” in the glorious light of the Resurrection. I know our priest said something last night or this morning, about what our focus should be, but I forgot already. The sun was shining this morning as is so appropriate on the mornings of Bright Week, so I took another screen shot of the church during the streamed Morning Prayers.

In spite of its being Bright Week, I was thinking about how as a king I could really use a few servants, in order to get my work done — even one servant! I’m sure the construction workers are all wishing they could get over here, too, and finish a few tasks that will liberate me to be a good steward over that part of my realm, and create culture, if you will.

But the kingdom of my soul…. it has servants enough, doesn’t it? My body, with its legs and arms, and mouth and brain. Even when we can’t do our usual kinds of work, we can bear the responsibility for our souls, by “strong activity” that Pieper describes:

“…Enduring comprises a strong activity of the soul, namely, a vigorous grasping of and clinging to the good; and only from this stout-hearted activity can the strength to support the physical and spiritual suffering of injury and death be nourished.”

Enduring, grasping, clinging… those sound sound like the realities of my days.

And he warns us: “Separated from the sphere of divine worship, of the cult of the divine, and from the power it radiates, leisure is as impossible as the celebration of a feast. Cut off from the worship of the divine, leisure becomes laziness and work inhuman.”

Those of us who know how to be thankful have the power to enjoy leisure and to escape boredom: “The vacancy left by absence of worship is filled by mere killing of time and by boredom, which is directly related to inability to enjoy leisure; for one can only be bored if the spiritual power to be leisurely has been lost. There is an entry in Baudelaire’s Journal Intime that is fearful in the precision of its cynicism: ‘One must work, if not from taste then at least from despair. For, to reduce everything to a single truth: work is less boring than pleasure.’”

Oh, poor Beaudelaire! By the gifts of God throughout my life I have eyes (hmm – more servants!) to see the beauty and glory around me and to know to Whom to give thanks. So I was ready when I saw one of these by the creek! It’s a Mourning Cloak. This is not my picture, but mine were good enough for my Seek app to help me identify it:

“Happiness… even the smallest happiness, is like a step out of Time,
and the greatest happiness is sharing in Eternity.”

The plague of coronavirus that seems to cover the earth is not the only plague that afflicts us, or the most ruinous one. That many humans are unable to obtain true leisure or to enjoy it, is a terrible disease. It seems worse to me than the true laziness I surely fall into.

I know that most people I talk to are feeling at loose ends at least occasionally these days, when it might be expected that we would be able to use all this extra time to accomplish more than we do. Are we lazy, or working? Something is going on in our souls, and I think that for me it may be partly attributed to this idea that Pieper sets forth:

“Wonder does not make one industrious, for to feel astonished is to be disturbed.”

I only pray that I will be disturbed in the right direction, toward Him Who fills all in all.

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

Candles and flowers for Pascha.

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs bestowing Life!

The last several days have been kind of a blur. We Orthodox were “in Jerusalem,” our rector kept reminding us, following Christ step by step from the day He was acclaimed and lauded with hosannas, on through His last meal with those men closest to him, His prayer in Gethsemane, betrayal by Judas, a farce of a trial… and on to the cross on which He offered Himself for our sakes. Every day of Holy Week we had at least two holy and liturgically rich services, sometimes three.

This year I was able to participate in these beautiful and moving services more than ever before, and to feel the continuity of them, at the same time seeing afresh how each is unique. This was the first time I thought, after Vespers on Holy Friday, “Oh, I must try to come tonight again, for Matins of Holy Saturday, because there will be the reading from Ezekiel about the dry bones, which in the whole year I can only hear tonight.” And stronger still was the need to be with family whose Beloved was suffering; how could I think of resting at that point?

But we did all occasionally have to go home for sleep or to eat a bite and many people of course must work or attend school. So between my car and my front door I would take a picture, and when I went out in back between rain showers to get some more firewood I took some more. I am in love with the new fig leaves and miniature knobs of fruits.

Saturday we gathered at 11:30, under clear skies; at midnight we streamed slowly out of the church with singing, and came back to the porch to hear, “He is risen! Why seek ye the living among the dead? Christ is a stranger to corruption!” I took some pictures that are blurry, but I guess that’s appropriate. I was so sleepy, my mind was a bit foggy, too, in a happy daze.

Children slept in a jumble of blankets on the floor, or played with the melting beeswax of their candles. Adults like me are often seen playing with their candles, too! Before the service started I sat on a bench along the wall and kept putting my unlit candle to my nose to drink the heady honey scent.

I had an extra friend from church stay here for a few days to reduce her driving time. She brought me pale pink tulips, so lovely. And Trader Joe’s had stock in other perfectly Paschal-Spring colors, from which I made my first stock bouquet ever. In the garden are dozens of calla lilies that I will bring in tomorrow.

We returned for Paschal Vespers on Sunday afternoon (So strange to sleep, and then eat breakfast on a Sunday morning!) and then a BBQ and picnic. And this morning the radiant Bright Monday service, processing with decorated Artos bread. The weather has been perfect for the last two or three days, but more rain is coming. What a blessing all that rain is; and I’m glad I don’t live where it snows at this time. But even there, it would be springtime in our hearts.

By Thy Cross, Thou didst destroy the curse of the tree.
By Thy burial Thou didst slay the dominion of death.
By Thy uprising, Thou didst enlighten the race of man.
O Benefactor, Christ our God, glory to Thee!

Flowery and Bright Week

When I walked up to the open doors of the church this evening of Bright Thursday, the flower scents streamed out and welcomed me to Paschal Vespers. Inside, the altar doors are wide open all this week, and after the service the decorated bread called Artos was placed before them. It stays in the church all through Bright Week, representing our risen Lord, the Bread of Life. This Sunday we will cut it up and eat it together.

Pots of lilies and bouquets are all over the place, and many icons are draped
with flowers carefully and lovingly arranged.

I want to back up and show you some scenes from Pascha, starting with the midnight service and our procession around the property, after which we arrived back inside the church to sing “Christ is risen!” by means of many words and melodies. We did this for a few hours, ate our joyous agape meal, and got to bed about 4:30 in the morning.

I was battling a cough that kept me from many services last week, but I managed to come back for Bright Monday Liturgy. This service always has a lighter and sweeter tone than Pascha, perhaps from the daylight that warms our bodies and reveals the beauty of the church. And of course, we are rested a bit, and not so wired as we were Saturday night.

Tuesday I drove a couple of hours to “Silicon Valley,” to attend the funeral of a dear uncle. I spent that night with an old friend, and we walked in the afternoon along the Guadalupe River Trail, a refreshing green space in the middle of urban and suburban sprawl.

Hummingbird Sage
Flannel Bush

Wednesday I was heartened to spend some time with my husband’s cousins and pray at the grave of a man of prayer. He had included me and my family in his prayers for decades.

Now I am back home, and taking care of my garden again.
Flowers are bright here, too, of course!

Christ is risen!
Indeed He is risen!

Zoë

On Bright Friday, that is, the Friday after Pascha, the Orthodox Church commemorates The Life-Giving Spring of the Most Holy Theotokos. Though I had heard of the monastery by that name, it seems I had never paid attention on Bright Friday before to get the backstory; this year I heard about it twice. The story of a miraculous pool of water and how it was rediscovered is well told here.

I also learned that women with the name Zoë might have been named for this feast of the Theotokos. Zoë means life in Greek. In his Prologue of Ohrid St. Nikolai Velimirovich relates the story of a St. Zoë and her family, who were slaves in the second century. On the same day’s entry St. Nikolai’s homily is on this pertinent scripture from Jeremiah:

Be amazed at this, O heavens, and shudder with sheer horror, says the Lord. Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken Me, the source of living waters. They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water.

From the homily:

The Source of living water is the Lord Himself: inexhaustible, copious and sweet. The cistern is every man’s work which is performed in opposition to God and God’s law, and from which men expect progress, happiness and satisfaction for their hungeTheotokos lifegivingfountr and thirst….

….O Lord, Immortal Source of every good that the heart of man can desire and the mind of man can imagine, have mercy on us sinners and unworthy ones. With Thy powerful right hand, turn us away from our godless and vain works and quench our thirst with Thy sweet and living water.

Whether in her womb, or in a pool of healing waters, or in her example and exhortation to “Do whatever He tells you,” it is the life of the Lord Himself that His mother offers us.

This concludes my alphabetical posts. As in the first I acknowledged that Christ is Alpha and Omega, the first and last — according to the Greek alphabet — so here at “Z”, the last letter of our alphabet, we find that He is Zoë, Life itself.