Tag Archives: church calendar

Now that the days are growing…

Do you know that the Pre-Festal Hymns begin on the twentieth of December? light palm & xmas tree sf 2012 - CopyThe Church has also wisely set the last day in which the night grows longer. On the twenty-first of the month the day begins to grow longer. The nights and noetic darknesses leave while light and days increase. Let us ask God to take away from us the darkness of our hearts now that the days are growing and they become completely illumined, now that the time of the year is changing. The Church announces this to us with the rising of the true light, the Sun of our souls.

-Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra

Brunch with Sophia and Brigid

ForglP1030339 a long time I’d been hoping to keep St. Brigid’s Day with some kitchen activity; I even programmed the idea into my online calendar and every year toward the end of January the e-mail reminder arrived, “If it’s not a fasting day, make Irish food.” As the day came and went year after year, always on the eve of a major feast of the Orthodox Church, there was never time or energy to enact my plan. Until this year.gl P1030341

I had invited my goddaughter Sophia for a birthday brunch on February 1st, and when I started planning the menu I realized that we could remember St. Brigid at the same time and have an Irish theme to the food.

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St. Brigid’s Oaten Bread would be the center of the spread, and I found many recipes for it online,  all  identical. I added a few more menu items imitating an “Irish Breakfast,” which I know was not perfectly authentic, but we relished the bread and everything else, warmed by a good fire in the stove and drinking Irish Breakfast tea to boot.

Next year I might incorporate more of the Celtic traditions surrounding St. Brigid, including the fact that February 1st is considered Celtic Spring, and the custom of not bringing snowdrop flowers into the house until that day. From Heather’s comment on my snowdrop post, and from other sources, I learned more about the saint and the season just after my party. I didn’t even think to bring snowdrops into the house on that Celtic spring day, because I had so many flowers left from our house blessing the week before.

glP1030347Confession: I actually did alter the bread recipe a bit, partly because I had an egg yolk left over from making these Candied Espresso Walnuts (a food that would have been strange to St. Brigid). I thought she would have thought it natural to use the extra yolk in the bread, because a farm girl like her would not waste it. And she would not blink an eye when she saw me adding an extra tablespoon of butter; I know this because more than one story about her reveals her appreciation of this wonderful food. Sophia and I blessed our Brigid’s bread by spreading extra butter on our thick slices.

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The next day after St. Brigid’s we would commemorate the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, which is also called Candlemas because we bless candles. This year our rector mentioned Groundhog Day and its marking of shadows. He noted that because we came to church, we ourselves saw no shadows, only the Light of Christ shining in the world.

I like what Macrina Lewis wrote recently about these days and others through the church year:

…many of our major Christian feasts hearken back with echoes through prior centuries to pre-Christian religious and cultural celebrations, often tied closely to the earth and to the earthly rhythms of human life: birth, death, harvest, preparation, feasting. In the illuminating glory of the saBrigid2ints’ lives and the liturgical expression of the church, these feasts, these divine seasons, have been revealed in their fullness, elucidated and offered as a way for each of us to personally participate in their mysteries directly. What was formerly in shadow…has been illumined with the knowledge of faith and the fullness of God’s presence.

Thinking about those earthly rhythms, I have to say that the darkness of January did not get me down this year as it has tended to do in recent years, and I wonder why… Is it because I have so much work to do? Just watching the birds through the window as they explore my new garden must elevate my mood. Certainly being part of a worshiping community, right here in my house, keeps the gloom at the level of something “out there” that we don’t have to partake of; we worked joyfully to spiff up the house and cook a meal together for the occasion of our house blessing last week. The skies have featured rain or wind, which is not the kind of weather that leads to a prohibition of wood fires, and now three of us in one house both appreciate and even build fires almost every day.

I’ve continued to sorrow and to grieve the loss of my husband, but in sharper, briefer episodes than the kind of depression that can come from lack of sunlight. The sadness often comes over me when I’m standing in church, as sitting in my Father’s lap, and He soon comforts me by making me feel all the love and loveliness in His house. Into the darkness of a hurting and wintry world, Jesus Christ shines warm and bright.

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You did unite Earth to Heaven.

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When You did fulfill the dispensation for our sake,
And unite earth to Heaven:
You did ascend in glory, O Christ our God,
Not being parted from those who love You,
But remaining with them and crying:
I am with you and no one will be against you.
–Hymn for the Feast of Ascension

It’s something I can’t grasp, with my very earthly mind, how Christ the God-Man is now in Heaven. As we heard in the homily this morning, when Christ ascends, “He takes created flesh to a place Creation has never gone before.” I understand that Heaven is not a place on a map somewhere, but just what or where is it?

In any case, if the heavenly realm is open to the Son of Man, it’s open to us. We were exhorted not to forget that it’s what our life is really about, this journey to the Kingdom. Or put another way, the Kingdom is in us already, if only as a seed. “Divine energies are working in us,” as our priest explained.

And getting back to historical events, Jesus had told his disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Ten days from now we will celebrate that event on The Feast of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit will help us on our heavenly journey!

The angels had something more to tell after Christ was received into a cloud, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, Who is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven.”

I do understand this much: God is with us, and good things are up ahead. All the blessings of this feast to you all!

Know this and let your heart dance for joy.

September 1st marks the beginning of the church calendar, and St. Nikolai in his Prologue of Ohrid explains:

The First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325] decreed that the Church year should begin on September 1. The month of September was, for the Hebrews, the beginning of the civil year (Exodus 23:16), the month of gathering the harvest and of the offering of thanks to God. It was on this feast that the Lord Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21), opened the book of the Prophet Isaiah and read the words:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2).

In the Prologue the first entries for September contain themes of beginnings, including this homily that I find very heartening as I myself start over, as we are exhorted to do, as many million times as necessary. I want to put behind me my past failures, even those of the last few minutes, as distracting weights, and enjoy the liberty our Lord proclaims. It is just one of the rich gifts that Christ brought with his visiting of the earth.

HOMILY
on the Word of God
revealed in the flesh
And the Word was made flesh
(John 1:14).

Here, brethren, is a new, blessed and salvific beginning for us — the beginning of our salvation. Adam was in the flesh when he fell under the authority of sin and death. Now the Creator of Adam has appeared in the flesh, to deliver Adam and Adam’s posterity from the power of sin and death.

The Son of God — the Word, Wisdom, Light and Life — descended among men in human flesh and with a human soul. He was incarnate but not divided from His Divinity. He descended without being separated from His Father. He retained all that He had been and would be for all eternity, and yet He received something new: human nature.

His eternal attributes were not diminished by the Incarnation, neither was His relationship to the Father and the Spirit changed. Lo, the Father testified to this, both on the Jordan and on Mount Tabor: This is my beloved Son! He did not say: “This was my Son,” but “This is my Son.” The Holy Spirit was with Him at His bodily conception and throughout His mission on earth. The divine and human nature were united in Him, but not intermingled.

How? Do not ask, you who do not even know how to explain yourself to yourself, and cannot say how your soul and body are united in you. Only know this: God came to visit the earth, bringing unspeakably rich treasures for mankind — royal gifts, incorruptible, eternal, priceless and irreplaceable gifts.

Know this and let your heart dance for joy. Strive to cleanse your hands, purify your senses, wash your soul, whiten your heart, and set your mind straight, that you may receive the royal gifts. For they are not given to the unclean.

O Lord Jesus Christ, help us to cleanse and wash ourselves by Thy blood and Thy Spirit, that we may be made worthy of Thy royal gifts.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.