Tag Archives: icons

In the face of what is going on…

Kiev Caves icon from 11th century.

Sometimes good things can be found on Facebook, like the quote below. (I added the icons and Psalm.) We are at the Sunday of the Last Judgment in the Orthodox calendar, and also in the midst of painful current events. We might acknowledge that the traumas and crises and pain are always with us, and being experienced by countless souls. So the exhortation applies at all times:

“It is often thought: what can we do? When the heart is torn with love for some and sympathy for others, what can we do if we are powerless, hopeless, and suppressed?

“We can stand before the Lord in prayer, in the prayer that Elder Silouan spoke about, that praying for the world is shedding blood.

“Not in that easy prayer that we offer out of our comfort, but in a prayer that rushes to heaven from sleepless nights; in a prayer that does not give rest; in a prayer that is born from the horror of compassion; in a prayer that no longer allows us to continue living our insignificant and empty life. That prayer requires us to finally understand that life is deep and that we are spending it racing about something unworthy and also unworthy of ourselves, unworthy of God, unworthy of sorrow and joy, the torment on the Cross and the Glory of Resurrection, which constantly alternate and intertwine on our earth.

“It is not enough to sympathize a little, and it is not enough to say that ‘we cannot do anything.’ If only we would stand in such a prayer, if only such compassion would exclude from our life everything insignificant in the face of the horror of our existence, then we would become people worthy of Christ. And then, perhaps, our prayer would also ascend like a burning and shining flame. Then, maybe, there would be no more inertia, indifference, or hatred that prospers around us because we do not become an obstacle to every evil in our own life.

“In the face of what is going on in front of the Cross, death, and spiritual agony of people, let us renounce the pettiness and insignificance of our life—and then we will be able to do something: by our prayer, by way of our life, and perhaps even by something braver and more creative.

“But let us remember that Christ did not differentiate between people; Christ died for all—because righteous are persecuted and because sinners perish. In His unity with all the people around us, in this dual unity with a righteous and a sinner, let us pray for the salvation of both. For the mercy of God, that the blind may see, and that truth may be established—not judgment, but the truth. This truth will lead us to love, to the triumph of unity, and the victory of God. Amen.”

-Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, excerpt from a 1968 sermon

P.S. 1968 Events:

-Soviet armed forces invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia, reinstituting hardline Communist rule.

-The U.S. State Department announced the highest U.S. casualty toll of the Vietnam War, with 543 Americans killed in action and 2,547 wounded. U.S. ground troops killed more than 500 Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai massacre in South Vietnam.

-Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

-Students protest all over the world.

-Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.

-Olympic protests.

Our soul shall wait for the Lord, for He is our helper and our defender.
For our heart shall be glad in Him, and in His holy Name have we hoped.
Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in Thee.

-From Psalm 32

 

They become resplendent.

At the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, we bless candles in church. I liked this letter from Abbot Tryphon in which he reminds us that the Light of Christ is what our lamps and candles represent, and what makes the saints shine:

“Vigil lights are placed before the icons of the saints, according to Saint Symeon the New Theologian, as a way of showing that without the Light, Who is Christ, the saints are nothing. It is only as the light of Christ shines on them that they become alive and resplendent.

St. Symeon the New Theologian

“The saints show us what a glorious destiny we have in God, and through the example of their lives, point the way to our becoming “partakers of divine nature.” The saints, as the cloud of witnesses in heaven, are present in the divine services, worshiping the Holy Trinity with us. They, as our friends, intercede before the Throne of God on our behalf, having won the good fight, and we are encouraged by the memory and example of their lives, as we struggle on our own path to God.

“It has been said that there are two kinds of people in the world: sinners who think they are saints, and saints who know they are sinners. A saint is a Christian who lets God’s light shine through, and whose life has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“We venerate the saints as we seek their intercession with God, but we adore and worship only God in Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We venerate the images (icons) as well as the relics of the saints and martyrs. Yet according to the decisions and Canons of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, this veneration relates not to the icons as such, but to their prototypes, or to the persons whom they represent.

“The interior walls of our temples are adorned with the icons and frescoes of the saints as a reminder that we are surrounded by the cloud of witnesses, the saints, and that the Church Militant (here on earth) is not separated from the Church Triumphant (in heaven). In Christ, death does not divide us, for the saints are not dead, but alive in Christ Jesus.

“Glory to Jesus Christ, Who is glorified in His saints.

“With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon”

The joy of St. Porphyrios.

I was blessed to attend Vespers tonight, on the feast day of St. Porphyrios. The service was in our little church with mostly candles for light. That building is 85 years old and the wood is infused with incense from all those decades of its being a house of worship. I love to be in there and soak up the unique atmosphere.

Another good scent associated with our Orthodox worship is beeswax; did you know that St. Porphyrios has been venerated by bees?

“In the region of Kapandriti near Athens, a wonderful thing happens. Ten years ago, a devout beekeeper named Isidoros Ţiminis thought to place in one of his hives an icon of the Crucifixion of the Lord. Soon thereafter, when he opened the hive, he was amazed that the bees showed respect and devotion to the icon, having “embroidered” it in wax, yet leaving uncovered the face and body of the Lord. Since then, every spring, he puts into the hives icons of the Savior, the Virgin Mary and the Saints, and the result is always the same. He placed a photograph of Elder Porphyrios (before he was canonized) in the hive, and the bees showed the same respect and veneration as towards other saints.” [See photo below.] (Mystagogy Resource Center)

I’m focusing here on a few paragraphs from the collection of his sayings in the book Wounded by Love. To me St. Porphyrios is the patron saint of joy, because it flows out of him like a river of Life, and I pray that some of that grace rubs off on me:

“Christ is joy, the true light, happiness. Christ is our hope. Our relation to Christ is love, eros, passion, enthusiasm, longing for the divine. Christ is everything. He is our love. He is the object of our desire. This passionate longing for Christ is a love that cannot be taken away. This is where joy flows from.

“Christ Himself is joy. He is a joy that transforms you into a different person. It is a spiritual madness, but in Christ. This spiritual wine inebriates you like pure unadulterated wine. As David says, ‘Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and Thy cup which filleth me, how excellent it is!’ (Psalm 22:5/23:5) Spiritual wine is unmixed, unadulterated, exceedingly strong, and when you drink it, it makes you drunk. This divine intoxication is a gift of God that is given to the pure in heart.

“Fast as much as you can, make as many prostrations as you can, attend as many vigils as you like, but be joyful. Have Christ’s joy. It is the joy that lasts forever, that brings eternal happiness. It is the joy of our Lord that gives assured serenity, serene delight, and full happiness. All-joyful joy that surpasses every joy. Christ desires and delights in scattering joy, in enriching His faithful with joy. ‘I pray that your joy may be made full.'”

“Let us love Christ, and let our only hope and care be for Him. Let us love Christ for His sake only. Never for our sake. Let Him put us wherever He likes. Let Him give us whatever He wishes. Don’t let’s love Him for His gifts. It’s egotistical to say, ‘Christ will place me in a fine mansion which He has prepared…’ What we should say rather is, ‘My Christ, whatever Your love dictates; it is sufficient for me to live within Your love.’”

 -St. Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia

He set it free.

“According to most philosophers, God in making the world enslaved it. According to Christianity, in making it, He set it free. God had written, not so much a poem, but rather a play; a play He had planned as perfect, but which had necessarily been left to human actors and stage-managers, who had since made a great mess of it.”

G.K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy