Tag Archives: decorating

He thirsted, and drank deeply.

When I arrived on the church property this morning on St. Justin’s day, I saw three trees in pots sitting by the front porch, waiting to go in and become part of the decoration for Pentecost Sunday. I walked around and took pictures of the landscape with its ever changing color display. Throughout the morning people were coming and going, for the service and for other activities connected to the upcoming feast. A crew was cooking in the kitchen, and out on the patio women arranged flowers.

Four of us were in the temple ironing green altar cloths and replacing the white ones that have been the theme since Pascha, almost fifty days ago. A few of the icons are so heavy, it takes two of us to lift the big box frame from its stand, while the third set of hands slides off the white satin hanging and arranges the fresh green cloth as straight as possible; then the saint’s image is laid down to rest again.

Before any of that, the Liturgy in honor of St. Justin was served in our little church; one of our group who bears the name of Justin was directing the minimal choir. It may be that I never before attended a Divine Liturgy for St. Justin, though I have mentioned him on my blog. In any case, I didn’t remember the hymns of the feast, which draw attention to his title as Philosopher, and his ability to defend the faith in words, and to witness to it by his death. I was moved by their poetry.

You emptied the cup of the wisdom of the Greeks,
but you thirsted again,
until you came to the well where you found
water springing unto eternal life.
And having drunk deeply,
you also drank from the cup
which Christ gave to His disciples.
Therefore, O Justin,
we praise you as a Philosopher
and Martyr of Christ.

O Justin, teacher of divine knowledge,
you shone with the radiance of true philosophy.
You were wisely armed against the Enemy.
Confessing the truth, you contested with the Martyrs,
with them, O Justin, always entreat Christ to save our souls.

On this page, you can read the life of the saint: St. Justin the Philosopher.

He lived in the second century, and wrote his second Apology, addressed to the Roman Senate, in 161, soon after Marcus Aurelius became emperor. He had been able to persuade the previous emperor, Antoninus Pius, to stop persecuting Christians, at least for a time. The Cynic philosopher Crescentius, who reportedly always lost debates against Justin, had a part in his death, as out of envy he denounced him to the Roman court, after which Justin and six friends were imprisoned, tried and beheaded. The following is considered to be the court record of the trial (Wikipedia):

The Prefect Rusticus says: Approach and sacrifice, all of you, to the gods. Justin says: No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety. The Prefect Rusticus says: If you do not obey, you will be tortured without mercy. Justin replies: That is our desire, to be tortured for Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and so to be saved, for that will give us salvation and firm confidence at the more terrible universal tribunal of Our Lord and Saviour. And all the martyrs said: Do as you wish; for we are Christians, and we do not sacrifice to idols. The Prefect Rusticus read the sentence: Those who do not wish to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the emperor will be scourged and beheaded according to the laws. The holy martyrs glorifying God betook themselves to the customary place, where they were beheaded and consummated their martyrdom confessing their Saviour.

I admire this saint’s search for the truth, and am glad that it didn’t take his whole life to try out, in turn, the Stoics, the Peripatetics, the Pythagoreans and the Platonists, until he at last found Christ. Even more inspiring is his resolve, once he knew the Truth —  the way he clung firmly to Christ who is the true Logos, the Word of God. I want to follow St. Justin’s example in drinking deeply of True Philosophy.

As a breath from Paradise,
the dew descending upon Hermon,
Christ the Power and the Peace and Wisdom of God the Father,
came upon your thirsting spirit, O Martyr Justin,
making you a Fount of Knowledge for all the faithful,
when with true valor you endured death as a Martyr,
to live forever in Christ.

Decorating for Palm Sunday.

This morning, right after Divine Liturgy for Lazarus Saturday, lots of people immediately got to work decorating for Palm Sunday, which for Orthodox Christians is tomorrow. Others of us stood around in the divine sunshine chatting before we went home to get ready for the next of our string of services, 16 between now and Pascha night. (No, no one can go to all of them.)

(In the photos above, the triangle of white in the lower right is some papers that I was holding in front of my phone without realizing it.)

One friend took my arm and steered me to her car where she had a basket of spicy buns she had specially designed and baked for the celebration. They were in the shape of a body with two cloves for eyes, and bands wrapped around his middle (I immediately thought back to the Gospel reading we had just heard, in Lazarus comes out of the tomb still bound up with graveclothes), and they were still warm from the oven. Yum. The sun shone on us, divinely. The welcome, welcome sun.

I didn’t get a picture of the little Lazarus buns, but I did get close to these trees that I had no memory of seeing before. The rose-like blooms hang down large and lovely, like clusters of bells. My Seek app says they are Japanese Cherry Trees. And no wonder the flowers look like roses, as the trees are, like so many fruit trees and bushes, in the Rose family.

Then, it was time for me to go, fortified by holy bread and Lazarus bread, to a tax appointment. Well, the woman who helps me is very nice, and likes to hear about my church. So even that part of the day was blessed.

When I was finally home and adding water to the fountain, I marveled at the sun-infused pomegranate bushes… and the Dutchman’s Pipe flowers… and the way so many plants have grown taller than usual with the very wet winter they’ve enjoyed, and their flower stalks are majestic, even the ones that haven’t opened their blooms yet.

My particular Dutchman’s Pipe is a California native. This evening when I sniffed at the flowers again, I still could not detect any scent; I’ve been waiting for them to live up to their reputation of being stinky. So I did a little research and some people say that the North American species do not have a scent. Hmm… I wonder how the butterflies and pollinating gnats will find them?

I don’t remember what this flower is, but about fifty plants self-seeded into this pot and now are brightening the patio enthusiastically. It appears to be a spring day all around.

Twelve Days wrapped up.

web photo

This evening I was reminded of one snowy night last week up at my daughter’s: I walked outdoors and crunched through the snow, far enough from the house that the fairy lights were hidden behind a tall spruce tree, and I looked up – oh my! The stars were brilliant, and I immediately saw two constellations I hadn’t noticed the last time I was in the mountains, in October. It is evidently the season for Orion and the Pleiades. I always think of the Pleiades as the Seven Sisters, because when I first met that group I was in Turkey, and my friends there called them that.

Tonight I took a bowl of kitchen scraps out to the trash, and saw those same constellations shining right above my house in lowland suburbia. A cloudless sky seems strange, after days and days of clouds and rain. But there it was. I was carrying out all the rind and seeds of this giant Rouge vif D’Etampes pumpkin, which I bought in the fall and which has been sitting on my front walk until today, when a black spot revealed a bit of rot setting in.

I cut out that bit of flesh and then roasted the two halves one at a time, because they were too large to do otherwise… unless I had cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces, but I wasn’t smart enough to think of that idea until later…

(Those are Asian yams baking at the same time.)

…maybe because I brought a cold home with me from the northlands, and my brain may still be affected, though I feel very well today. Another more pleasant gift was a jar of our Glad-type of peppernuts ! that Pippin baked for Christmas. I took this picture in my car before I had eaten too many, and I’m proud to say I have continued with restraint. They are the sort of treat we can’t seem to produce every year. Maybe next year I will bake some myself; on the way home I bought one of the ingredients that is often not easily found except at truck stops.

I didn’t bake half of the cookies I’d planned this Christmas. Instead of baking, I had my little road trip, and then a couple of days of lying around under the weather. I figure if I haven’t done my baking by the Twelfth Day it will have to wait until next year.

Speaking of the Twelfth Day, here is one last image of Theophany, from my dear friend May’s parish, and her arrangement of the festal surround.

My red berries from the bike path cotoneaster bushes dried out before Theophany, and I had to wander the garden a bit to find something to extend the season for my kitchen windowsill. In January it’s succulents and olives.

I’m slowly putting away the decorations and burning down some of the candles, beginning to settle into what looks to be a quiet month of guilt-free homebodiness. I have a good stack of firewood, and enough housework and reading to keep me busy for a year of Januarys. And more than five quarts of pumpkin now in the freezer to make sustaining soups and puddings for the rest of winter and beyond.

Live your life while you have it. Life is a splendid gift.
There is nothing small in it.

-Florence Nightingale

Days and bags full of children.

Last week I laid out these sleeping bags in my new guest room, for the use of my grandchildren whom I was expecting along with their parents, flying in from Colorado.

Night after night I’ve started a little blog report on the fun we’ve been having, but night after night I’ve had to crash before I could complete a paragraph. This afternoon has been a little pause, wherein I drank tea and will try again.

One of the first tasks I set the children to was shelling my Painted Lady beans. They were fascinated with how the giant speckled beans fell out of their crisp pods with the slightest squeeze and crunch from their small hands. After we had disposed of the pods, and the remaining several pounds of beans were sitting in a stainless steel bowl on the table, with children and adults frequently stopping by to run our fingers through the sea of them, each of the kids asked if they might have a bean to keep, and I completely understand why. They are so smooth and large, it’s nice to have one in a pocket as a friendly pet.

The weather has been br-r-r-r-cold, and a week of rain is in the forecast, but has twice been pushed into the future. One non-rainy morning we took advantage of that delay and drove out to the coast, while my town lay under a disheartening blanket of fog. By the time we reached the beach, the sun was shining and it was a very pleasant day for a picnic and even playing games in the surf.

I pulled my Seanna doll out of my backpack to show Clara, three years old. This is the doll that I’d found washed up on the beach last winter.

Several gifts of the to-be-opened-early sort have arrived from Aunt Kate, such as a reindeer ring toss game, and a fir scented candle. We dutifully and gleefully opened them!

It has been much easier to make progress on decorating, now that my elf helpers have arrived. I’ve begun to realize that in this era, Christmas decorations have to go up gradually. When there were seven of us in the old days, we’d do the tree and everything in one day and evening, and take it down similarly. But now, with just me to care and to do it, that style and method does not fit. I bought several strings of led lights this year and I plan to keep them up at least until February.

There are dozens and dozens of dolls and stuffies in my house, and Clara is making sure that they are all taken into her care and concern. She lets me know every time one or a group of them is going upstairs to bed, and when they wake up again; also, whatever names she might have given them. I guess it’s always nice to know one more woman who likes to talk about babies! A large teddy bear has been bedded down near the woodstove for a couple of days, and when I walk past and see him out of the corner of my eye, I repeatedly think he is a sleeping toddler.

The children spent hours doing cut and paste one afternoon, and Brodie made this starry paper box. The family brought several of their own essential toys and books, of course, such as the best Tin Tin books for Dad to read to the boys. I’ve been reading the same Letters from Father Christmas to them that I read last year to Pippin’s children.

Soldier and Joy and all will be with me through Christmas Day, which means more good times, and scenes to illustrate my happy days. Most or all of the children take a stuffie into their sleeping bags with them each night; Clara may have several bears, rabbits and sheep at the bottom of hers by now.

I made a big pot of chili using a cup of the Painted Ladies we’d shelled, plus all of the jarful I brought home from shelling  with Cathy a year ago, and lots of vegetables. It was fantastic; the fat beans came out creamy yummy.

And I asked the children to pose with their personal beans as a remembrance.