Tag Archives: now

Christmas is always today’s gift.

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For Christmas decor, I give you these lighted redwood trees in my town.

Because at my house, there is a wreath on the front door, and one on the playhouse door, and that’s it! I am so busy planning and packing for a long trip, starting with Christmas at Pearl’s in Wisconsin, that I had no room in my mind or schedule for more than that.

I’m not even baking! Soldier and his family were just here for a couple of days and I found a Sugar Plum Cake from last Christmas in the freezer, to eat for breakfast. It’s a stöllen sort of bread, the recipe for which was handed down from my Aunt Bettie; the grandchildren particularly liked the little colored bits in it.

If I were going to be home this year, I’d certainly find a new cookie recipe in this book which was gifted to me by one of the children:

But I’m not, so I’ll share a few cookies and cookie stories from the past:

Two recipes from my cookie tray

A traditional seedy one

I don’t think I love Christmas as much as my late husband did, but I enjoyed all the aspects of preparing and shopping better when he was still around. And his voice leading us in carol-singing! Oh yes.

For almost twenty years I’ve been learning about the riches of the Orthodox Church, which include an appreciation for the Incarnation on a level I never found elsewhere. It’s thrilling to focus on Christ’s Nativity this month, but the story of a baby in a manger would become boring after a few years if it were merely a historic event to think about. The soul requires more than thought, more than history, and this holy feast is an event that we can abide in the way the branch abides in the Vine. It makes possible our participating in that Life, in the ever arriving Today.

What happens in the present is connected in lovely and helpful ways to the past by what we retain and remember. Here are two more articles from the archives, on Christmasy things:

What Christmas trees teach

Reading the Nativity icon

Tradition is a word that comes up a lot during holiday seasons. Some people find great comfort in keeping customs like baking cookies and visiting Santa, but at the same time try to craft their own individual version of fundamental human personhood. I found this little Facebook posting to be thought-provoking:

Every human being born into this world starts as a traditionalist. What we have, what we begin with, is handed down to us from everyone and everything that has gone before. The rejection of that tradition is not only absurd, it is ungrateful. [Tradition is] also inescapable. We cannot become self-created. What we have is a gift. What we are is revealed as we fulfill that gift.

Be thankful. You are God’s gift to the world.

-Father Stephen Freeman

From each Christmas to the next, and every day in between,
“God is with us!”

Staying with the moon.

Thinking back on what happened early this morning, I’m all at once surprised, pleased, and disappointed, that I didn’t take a picture. The fact that the idea did not occur to me shows how the moon was saturating my soul with its bright reality, leaving no entrance for something as intangible as the future with its theoretical possibilities.

A night or two previous, I had caught a brief glimpse through my bedroom window of the moon waxing gibbous. But it was 4:30 a.m., and my eyes soon closed again in sleep. Last night before climbing in to bed, I saw on the Moon Phases app on my phone that the moon was full! Might I see it again, I wondered? Would I wake at the right time, or would clouds hide it from me? Several times I did wake, and saw only the blank, midnight blue sky.

But around six o’clock, I sat up to find the moon shining in on me, hanging bigger and brighter than a streetlight, right in the middle of my big window that faces west. So I lay on my bed to watch it, and wondered if I might stay with it until it sank below the horizon. Could I actually mark its descent? Well, yes, I could very easily do that, because the blinds over my windows were not drawn up all the way; the slats made lines across the picture, by which I could mark the steady movement of the white moon.

I thought, how sweet, how rich a gift, to be awake at just this moment, to be with the moon in its fullest display, loving it. The moon may be full every 28 days, but I certainly don’t see it every month. To not have to crane my neck, or stand in the cold, but to enjoy its presence from the comfort of my bed – well, who knows if I’ll ever have that chance again.  But this is real: I watched the moon last night until it was just one bright spot above the neighbor’s roof, and then it was gone.

This is what that window looked like at close of day when the sun had gone down:

And because it doesn’t seem right to publish this post without a single photo
of our dear moon, here it is as I once saw it in the evening:

I know some of you were also watching that moon
at some point in its course across the sky;
it is surely a wonder, a regular and familiar, beautiful thing in our world.

Glory to God!

Minding our proper burden.

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It has been well said that no man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear. Never load yourselves so, my friends. If you find yourself so loaded, at least remember this: it is your own doing, not God’s. He begs you to leave the future to Him and mind the present.

-George MacDonald (1824-1905)

Death was strangled…

…and other images of atonement are the subject of Fr. Stephen Freeman’s post Knocking Down the Gates of Hell, in which he shares the findings of a research paper he once wrote on Martin Luther’s hymns. Luther’s own atonement theology highly favored the imagery that also dominates that of the early church fathers, in which Christ smashes the gates of Hell and frees all those in chains.

Fr. Stephen shares several verses from various exuberant Orthodox Paschal hymns we are singing this month, such as these I excerpted from his post:

Hell, who had filled all men with fear,
Trembled at the sight of Thee,
And in haste he yielded up his prisoners,
O Immortal Sun of Glory.

Thou hast destroyed the palaces of hell by Thy Burial, O Christ.
Thou hast trampled death down by Thy death, O Lord,
And redeemed earth’s children from corruption.

Though Thou art buried in a grave, O Christ,
Though Thou goest down to hell, O Savior,
Thou hast stripped hell naked, emptying its graves.

Death seized Thee, O Jesus,
And was strangled in Thy trap.
Hell’s gates were smashed, the fallen were set free,
And carried from beneath the earth on high.

Thou didst will, O Savior,
To go beneath the earth.
Thou didst free death’s fallen captives from their chains,
Leading them from earth to heaven.

In the earth’s dark bosom
The Grain of Wheat is laid.
By its death, it shall bring forth abundant fruit:
Adam’s sons, freed from the chains of death.

Wishing to save Adam,
Thou didst come down to earth.
Not finding him on earth, O Master,
Thou didst descend to Hades seeking him.

The Paschal icon shows the resurrected Christ pulling Adam and others out of Hades.

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It’s Bright Monday as I write. This morning’s Divine Liturgy was splendid and full of love and light. We are all giddy with joy and fatigue, and can’t stop greeting one another with kisses and proclamations of “Christ is risen!” In the Paschal Canon where we sing, “Let us embrace each other joyously!” I always hope I will be standing next to someone I can hug at that moment. Today two women I didn’t know were the closest, and I made so bold as to hug them both at once, which they didn’t seem to mind. gl - EB

I realized just in time for the midnight service of Pascha Saturday/Sunday, something I have had to call to mind again and again over the last months, that wherever my late husband is, he lives in the present. The part of me that grieves for his presence the way it used to be, as my earthly lover and companion, can never be satisfied; it is a longing for the past, and God is giving me instead Himself and all His gifts in this present moment. My dear Mr. Glad does not live “back there” in the past, either!

It’s because the various parts of me are not all united that my heart’s faith and love must keep instructing my mind — and other tangled and erratic parts? — that to be here right now with God is the way to stay close to my husband. In the reality of the Resurrection and our Blessed Hope, in the gathering of time and times that is kairos, he and I are more together than we have ever been, and in Love.

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One sweet thing about Pascha coming so late this year is that roses are blooming all over. We have dozens of rosebushes at church that are loaded with flowers (not to mention the white roses that filled bouquets decorating inside the church.) This morning I took a picture of one favorite, to decorate this blog post. Happy Spring! Christ is risen! If you have read this far, I send you my Easter love!