Tag Archives: prayer

We must feel great sorrow for him.

 

Every person who insults us… slanders us… wrongs us in any way, is a brother who fell into the hands of the worker of evil, the devil… We must feel great sorrow for him, sympathize with him, and beseech God fervently and quietly to strengthen us during the hour of our trial and to have mercy on our brother who became a victim of the devil. God will help us as well as him.

+Saint Porphyrios

His house smells heavenly, too.

In the Orthodox Church, near the end of Divine Liturgy, there is a prayer to God to “Sanctify those that love the beauty of Thy House.”  Especially in my first months and years in the Orthodox Church I clung to that prayer, thinking, “Lord, there is a lot I don’t understand, and there are many ways in which I fail to live for You, fail to enter fully into the services; but one thing I know is that I do love the beauty of Your House.”

One aspect of that beauty that contributes to the worship I offer is incense. It is one of those elements that is left out whenever I post a picture taken in a church service. In those visual images you get, of course, only the visual.

When I shoot the photograph, it is in the midst of a lavish sensual experience: hymns and prayers being sung almost constantly, deacons and priests frequently censing everything and everyone in the temple, the smell of beeswax candles, and the touch of fellow worshipers as we bump past one another or when we arrange ourselves on the floor to hear the homily. Later when I look at the picture in my home, it so noticeably does not convey half of the sensations that were pressing upon my mind at the time. It is literally flat, and as a testimony of what went on, very lacking.

We believe that the heavenly Kingdom comes to us in the liturgy, so I can’t hope to give an inkling of what that is like to someone who has never been present, or whose heart is not ready to receive the Lord in these material ways. You really have to be there.

But I will include yet another image in this post, just to add visual interest, conceding to the limitations of this medium. This pic shows the people singing. Someone has said that the liturgy is like one continuous song.

I’ll let Wikipedia tell more about the tradition of censing: “As part of the legacy handed down from its Judaic roots, incense is used during all services in the Orthodox Church as an offering of worship to God as it was done in the Jewish First and Second Temples in Jerusalem (Exodus chapter 30). Traditionally, the base of the incense used is the resin of Boswellia thurifera, also known as frankincense, but the resin of fir trees has been used as well. It is usually mixed with various floral essential oils giving it a sweet smell. Incense represents the sweetness of the prayers of the saints rising up to God.”

From The Lament of Eve by Johanna Manley:

The fragrance of love! When we burn incense, we think of the fragrant heavenly aroma of love. The Holy Spirit, like a heavenly fire, brings the warmth of love into the human heart, and like a fresh wind, chases away the stench of sin and spreads the aroma of Christ to the world. That savor all the saints have borne within themselves. People have sensed it in living saints and in their relics. The Apostle speaks of this: “We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ,” the sweet perfume of recognition of the truth and the sweetness of love (cf. 2 Cor. 2:14-16).

the familiar watering

Not only did I see a rainbow this afternoon, but egrets, and a flower that looks like a sea anemone. A hawk on the power line, and a feast of rosemary blossoms.

When I returned from my extended trip — eight weeks away — I was flattened not only by jet lag but by various other ailments that kept me from even thinking of the creek path until the last couple of days. Today I had taken care of enough business that I could envision and plan for some walking in my afternoon.

At first, I thought I had waited too long, and that the rain would catch and soak me. My first few pictures I took through some falling drops, and at one point I turned around to come home early, but then I turned around again and had a proper long meander. I didn’t dare go faster on my legs that are much underused these last many weeks.

Neither strolling around the garden or worshiping in church had made me feel so fully “back” as walking my usual route along the now-muddy stream and singing “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” in the proper setting. Somehow, when I get out there I get quickly in touch with my contingency, and that puts me in my proper setting.

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17:28) Being alone in my room does not so strongly impress upon me my aloneness with God and my utter dependence on Him for life itself. For Life itself. My familiar walk is like a familiar prayer that lets me forget the particular words or interface, and go straight to the heart of the matter.

Years ago a man named David Dickens was writing a poem almost every day which he published on a blog. I saved some of them because whether or not their form was polished, their spirit called to my spirit. Like this one, which because it includes images of rain and paths and walking, in the context of exuberance, seems about right for today. Thank you, again, David!

His Path

Praise him who rains scorn upon the scornful, and
Let him who gives grace to the humble be praised.
Extol the one who shames crafty men in their schemes
And seeds the garden of those without guile.
Listen to the word, the father’s instruction;
Be attentive, the mother exhibits a watchful heart.
Beautiful are the paths of the maker,
Keep to them and live.

Shout for joy, you who know the one you speak of,
In the house preserved eat a feast with hearts glad.
First in all the spheres of heaven is love
The second is wisdom which uphold the third, peace
Fourth is faithfulness made perfect in suffering
Fifth the gift of tears with her sixth sister, joy
The seventh and last humility, the fortress of all goodness

Great is he who walks unhindered, and to
The one who makes fleet your steps, give glory.
The sky is always clear to shine as no branches cloud his path.
Refreshing waters flow beside and the fawn drinks deep the cool water.
Fear not the wicked forest though it encroaches,
But praise him who keeps the wolves from the camp at night.
Lord and master grant us safe passage,
And rest in your home.

– David Dickens

Days of the Holy Spirit

P1000268I started writing this post two years ago, but I’ve now kept only the photo, which is almost identical to one I took yesterday on the Feast of Pentecost. Today as I write is the continuing of the feast, with Holy Spirit Day. Now after 50 days of “waiting” for the Holy Spirit after Pascha, we once again pray in this way at the beginning of every service:

O Heavenly King, the Comforter,
The Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere present and filleth all things,
Treasury of blessings, and Giver of Life,
Come and abide in us,
And cleanse us from every impurity,
And save our souls, O Good One.

Two baptisms were held yesterday, too, which were a glorious part of our celebrations. The church was full of trees and greenery. The sun was shining, the faces were shining… I am very glad.