Tag Archives: Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

In the fourth week of Lent…

Lithodora

…in the fourth week of Lent I was busy:

1) I cooked seedy crackers, vegan tapioca pudding, and pans and pans of roasted vegetables, including my own asparagus. I boiled a few quarts of ginger tea and tried out another vegan lemon cake recipe that I probably won’t make again. I’m done with cakes for a while. It makes sense to make cakes when one can use eggs and butter.

2) I baked communion bread at church. For a year we haven’t been using the little prosphora loaves that get sent into the altar along with our prayer requests, but we are starting that tradition again; four of us made 200 prosphora. What we call lambs, the larger loaves that we didn’t bake this week, are cut up and consecrated along with wine for Holy Communion. This photo is from the past.

3) I worked in the garden and the greenhouse. Most days now, when the sun shines, I open the door and vent of the greenhouse so that the seedlings don’t swelter. Then I close them up at night to shut out the cold marine breeze. Soon I’ll need to put a shade cloth on one side of the roof as well. The first butternut squash seed took an entire month to sprout; the next several were even later. Nothing like the pumpkins which were the first of all to emerge. I’ve moved most of the plants to larger pots so they can spread their roots in the next few weeks.

4) I shopped at a farmers market with Bella. We ate breakfast there and bought a few vegetables. How long had it been since I’d been to one of those? The sun shone and everyone was cheery. Then we went across town to her community garden plot, because she had a few potatoes that really needed to get into the dirt. I wandered around dreamily while she dug. Besides us, only a very quiet father and little daughter were working their plot, in which they had strawberries in process.

Bella sent me home with some horsetail which she told me to make tea out of, but it is still waiting in the refrigerator.

5) I went to church several times, and did a little housework, and got my taxes paid. I prepared for my church school class by reading more of The Screwtape Letters, and for the women’s book group by reading some of First Fruits of Prayer, which we discussed on ZOOM this afternoon. I ended up not enjoying that book very much. The Canon was not “itself,” plucked out of its normal context of Compline, extracted as a text to read, with explanatory notes but without the usual accompanying music, prostrations, and other tactile and sensory aspects, not to mention the fellow worshipers in the services in which we pray it, divided into four parts for the first week of Lent. This week we will do the whole Canon again, all in one morning.

6) I attended a doubly belated birthday party with my friends with whom I have celebrated for 36 years now, ever since we learned that we were born in the same week of the same year. At that time we lived on the same block of our “village.” Last spring we couldn’t manage it, so this was our 35th luncheon. We ate on the patio at S.’s house and the sun was just warm enough to make it easy to sit and chat for several hours.

7) I found these eggs that my daughter-in-law Joy knitted for me a few years ago, but which were stashed away in a box during the remodel. I posed them among the flowers but then brought them in to brighten up the living room.

This will be another full week. It’s such a blessing to have many different things to do, but — can you tell how worn out I am? It’s a great gift that God gives us rest, too. It’s the 5th Week of Lent – Pascha is coming!

Eating food that is not dead.

“Prepare yourself, my soul! Be courageous like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that acquiring diligence and wisdom you too may meet your God. Through contemplation may you reach the awesome depths in which He dwells and in so doing become a good steward of the Lord.”

-Canon of St. Andrew

For the Orthodox, it is the first week of Great Lent, which is called Clean Week. We began the fast on Monday, after the Vespers of Forgiveness on Sunday. This year in my parish we were thankful for good weather that day, as our long line of people bowing to each other in their masks, and mostly not hugging, stretched in a long loop that went out the side door of the church and wrapped loosely around the front. We were saying, “Forgive me,” to each one, and replying “God forgives.” Many of us had not seen each other in person for months or even the whole year.

Two new frescoes had been completed just in time to take down the scaffolding and make room for Lenten services. As I took pictures of them on Sunday I realized how each of them draws me into an aspect of the season.

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha in Bethany (on the other side of the arch, not pictured, is Martha scowling) makes me want to imitate Mary and sit at Jesus’s feet. And The Feeding of the Five Thousand reminds me of various levels of meaning in the lines of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” As we are going without physical food in various ways during this season, that part of our prayer is extra meaningful. The most striking words I ever read on the relation of earthly and heavenly food were in For the Life of the World by Fr. Alexander Schmemann:

“The natural dependence of man upon the world was intended to be transformed constantly into communion with God in whom is all life. …He still loves, he is still hungry. He knows he is dependent on that which is beyond him. But his love and his dependence refer only to the world in itself. He does not know that breathing can be communion with God. He does not realize that to eat can be to receive life from God in more than its physical sense. He forgets that the world, its air or its food cannot by themselves bring life, but only as they are received and accepted for God’s sake, in God and as bearers of the divine gift of life. By themselves they can produce only the appearance of life.

“…Things treated merely as things in themselves destroy themselves because only in God have they any life. The world of nature, cut off from the source of life, is a dying world. For one who thinks food in itself is the source of life, eating is communion with the dying world, it is communion with death. Food itself is dead, it is a life that has died and it must be kept in refrigerators like a corpse.”

The most prominent reading during the first week of Lent is The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, which is typically divided into four parts sung during services of that week. This year our women’s book group also chose a book on the Canon to read during this season.

I’ve noticed that during the Compline service when the Canon is being read, year by year, there are so many Scripture passages and characters referred to, that I can’t absorb half of it in my mind. Being at the service and participating with my whole body, soul and spirit is way to do it — we humans are so much more than our thoughts! This week the Compline hymns have been the sweetest part for me, and as usual, a phrase or two from the Canon about a particular sin or person in the Bible will also grab my mind and stick. I seem to have the opportunity for more contemplation generally these days, which is why the lines at top made their impression.

Psalm 69/70 is part of Compline, also, and a few lines from it will help me end this ramble.

“Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.

“But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.”

What to eat during Lent.

gl P1030688During the Vespers of Forgiveness last Sunday, the vestments were changed to purple. We began this season of the year — approximately a tithe? — that seems to convey the heart of Orthodoxy, because it calls us back to our First Love and to real Real Life. As someone reminded me this week, Normal Life is what Adam and Eve had in Paradise, when they walked and talked with God in the garden. It can take a lot of effort to put aside the usual cares and concerns for a season, and to do whatever is necessary to reach an awareness of our great need for Christ, and to receive His love and forgiveness, which is the healing of our souls.

My heart has been full-to-bursting, or to weeping, especially in the extra services that we have during Lent, and extra-extra during this first week. I’m learning more about kairos, that time that is timeless, and that gives us a taste of Heaven. This is my view when I look up. I can read, in the circle around the icon of the Savior, “He hath looked out from His holy height. The Lord from Heaven hath looked upon the earth to hear the groaning of them that be in fetters.”gl dome clean week

I’ve never been able to attend the services of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete as much as this year, and it has been the greatest blessing. On Thursday evening I arrived early enough to get a picture before the service began, and then another toward the end, during Great Compline. I wish you could hear the choir, who sang like angels.gl P1030689gl P1030693

Along with my heart, but in the chronos kind of time that won’t stop ! my to-do list is full-to-bursting as well. The garden is ready for me to plant some spring vegetables, and every day is a new scene out there. I’m behind as usual, and glad that the flowers and sprouts don’t wait for me, but they go on springing.  New miniature Dutch irises emerged in the pouring rain, because they didn’t want to be late in showing their own Lenten vestments.P1030674

Three of the children and their families are coming a various times in the next week, starting this very morning. I can’t wait to see the grandchildren, and I hope they can play in the garden without having to play in the rain.

I made about twelve quarts of satisfying soup yesterday, and next weekend I’ll be preparing an agape meal for 100 as a memorial to my husband. I’ve never done that kind of event before, and I’m glad I’ll have some helpers.gl soup 3-16

So there is much to ponder and write about, but not much time (chronos), it seems, for the writing part.

I will post some links from my files to a few Lenten recipes, at the bottom of the post, but first I want to share something that has been going around for a couple of weeks, but bears repeating, a message from Abbot Tryphon reminding us about the kind of feasting we can enjoy during Lent:

FAST from self-concern and FEAST on compassion for others.
FAST from discouragement and FEAST on hope.
FAST from lethargy and FEAST on enthusiasm.
FAST from suspicion and FEAST on truth.
FAST from thoughts that weaken and FEAST on promises that inspire.
FAST from shadows of sorrow and FEAST on the sunlight of serenity.
FAST from idle gossip and FEAST on purposeful silence.
FAST from problems that overwhelm you and FEAST on prayer that sustains.
FAST from criticism and FEAST on praise.
FAST from self-pity and FEAST on joy.
FAST from ill-temper and FEAST on peace.
FAST from resentment and FEAST on contentment.
FAST from jealousy and FEAST on love.
FAST from pride and FEAST on humility.
FAST from selfishness and FEAST on service.

Thank you, Father Tryphon! Now, as to earthly food, some recipes I have posted in the past that are suitable for Orthodox fasts are these:

Italian Flag Soup

Indian Chickpea and Spinach Stew

Vegetable Bean Soup

Turkish Green Beans

Korean Kale Salad

Yams Roasted with Coconut and Curry

Gingerbread Pear Bundt Cake

Pat-in Pie Crust

God bless you all, my Dear Readers. And to those of you who may be celebrating Western Easter soon, may you have much grace during Holy Week.