Tag Archives: St. Basil the Great

Wings or the woodworm.

“An offspring of [the sin of] pride is censure, which is unfortunately also a habit of many Christians, who tend to concern themselves more with others than themselves. This is a phenomenon of our time and of a society that pushes people into a continuous observation of others, and not of the self.

“Modern man’s myriad occupations and activities do not want him to ever remain alone to study, to contemplate, to pray, to attain self-awareness, self critique, self-control and to be reminded of death. The so-called Mass Media are incessantly preoccupied with scandal-seeking, persistently and at length, with human passions, with sins, with others’ misdemeanors. These kinds of things provoke, impress, and, even if they do not scandalize, they nevertheless burden the soul and the mind with filth and ugliness and they actually reassure us, by making us believe that ‘we are better’ than those advertised.

“Thus, a person becomes accustomed to the mediocrity, the tepidity and the transience of superficial day-to-day life, never comparing himself to saints and heroes. This is how censure prevails in our time – by giving man the impression that he is justly imposing a kind of cleansing, by mud-slinging at others, albeit contaminating himself by generating malice, hatred, hostility, resentfulness, envy and frigidity. Saint Maximos the Confessor in fact states that the one who constantly scrutinizes others’ sins, or judges his brothers based on suspicion only, has not even begun to repent, nor has he begun any research into discovering his own sins.”

-Monk Moses of Holy Mount Athos

I thought I would re-publish a few posts from the early days of my blog, say ten years ago, such as the quote above from Monk Moses, also known as Elder Moses the Athonite. I ran across a video of him talking about humility, and noticed that I’d also commented on it back then, about how helpful it was. I followed my own recommendation and listened once more. Oh, yes. The elder seems to emanate the joy and meekness that he talks about; I’m so glad I watched again, and got reacquainted. His words come alive through the sweetness of his countenance, especially when he is quoting Scripture or a saint, which he does quite a bit for such a short video.

In it he warns us that pride “like a woodworm eats away at the whole trunk” of our life, but humility begets “joy that has to do with internal calm, sobriety and serenity, that gives the sweetness and redemption of Christ.”

“Humility’s the guard dog of all the other virtues, and humility, says St. Basil the Great, is the raiment of the Godhead. Out of His extreme humility Christ came down, abandoned the glory of the heavens, and became the least of all people.”

“Humility and love, as St. Kosmas Aitolos says, are the two wings that fly us straight to heaven.”

I hope you will watch this video and through it meet Father Moses yourself:

“Humility, the Foundation of all Virtues.”

Hovering over the meadow.

Our Orthodox commemoration of the Three Holy Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers was instituted as a result of 11th-century debates about which of them was the greatest. They themselves had to intervene by means of a vision given to St. John Bishop of Euchaita, who chose January 30 for their feast.

These three gifts to the Church are Basil the Great (330-379), Gregory the Theologian (329-389), and John Chrysostom (347-407). Each has his own feast day, but they are held in such esteem that it isn’t too much for us to remember them again together, they who in the words of a hymn, “have enlightened the world with the rays of their divine doctrines. They are sweetly-flowing rivers of wisdom filling all creation with springs of heavenly knowledge.”

A hymn of Matins on their feast day echoes a theme that runs through hagiography generally; it is the sweetness of true theology and and God’s Word imparted to us.

Like bees hovering over the meadow of scriptures,
You embraced the wonderful pollen of their flowers.
Together you have produced for all the faithful
The honey of your teachings for their complete delight.
Therefore as we each enjoy this,
We cry out with gladness:
Blessed ones, even after death,
Be advocates for us who praise you!

Ironing and baking through the calendar.

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After the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, we change from red to gold altar cloths. Earlier in the week I helped to iron the gold ones that had gotten creases being in storage bins, a task that is done right there in the temple.

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Three of us ironed, and draped the smoothed gold cloths over chairs. The fourth walked around the church making the exchange on icon stands and tables.

The cloths that belong in the altar itself were laid over the choir stands temporarily, where our rector could later switch them out for the red ones in the altar at his convenience, sometime before the next service.

The red ones were put away in bins, where they will stay at least until next September, if I read the rubrics correctly.

 

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Leavetaking of Nativity was yesterday, so this icon of the Christmas feast has been removed; today was another great feast, The Circumcision of Christ. Born a Jew, our Lord was circumcised eight days after birth according to the law.

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icon & basil breadIn addition to being one of the twelve great feasts of the church year, today is the day we remember St. Basil the Great, and after Liturgy this morning we gathered in the fellowship hall to eat some St. Basil bread, of which we had four loaves, including one gluten-free. The Greek word for this is Vasilopita, and many traditions have grown up around it over the centuries. I like this telling of the story linking it to St. Basil: Vasilopita.

We sang and ate the blessed bread after it had been cut in several symbolic ways, first into quarters by the sign of the cross made with the knife. Various chunks were swiftly and ceremonially removed for Christ, for the poor, and I can’t remember who all, because I was too focused on taking pictures!IMG_1452 chunk

A coin was baked into each loaf, as is the custom, so we were warned to bite our cake gently.  Our parishioner who bears the name of Basil was blessed to find the first coin in his slice.

I stood around drinking coffee, eating the sweet bread, and chatting for a good while before I came home and changed into walking clothes so that I could get out in the sunshine with friend Elsie for the better part of an hour. We timed our walk to be in the warmest part of the day, and it was almost 50° by then.

I’ve been burning a lot of wood, and the stack that was “temporarily” in my driveway for five months has been whittled down to almost nothing. Now my new utility yard is ready to receive the firewood again, but I’m not going to bother moving this little bit of old wood back there. I’ll stack the new supply of wood I’ve ordered there next week.

Tomorrow is the first day of winter that we have been forbidden to burn wood, because of the deteriorating air quality. It often happens like this: when you most want a good fire is when the inversion layer keeps the cold and the pollutants close to the earth. I’m glad I have a good furnace but it’s disturbing to hear it coming on all day and night when we don’t have a fire in the stove. Next week we are expecting the El Niño system to bring us rain, so that will clear up and warm up the air.

This week between Christmas and New Year’s has been a struggle for me, trying to accept my new life that is evolving, or that I am creating; I’ll be glad to be slightly less cold next week and to lay in some fresh fuel-wood. Since I can’t have a fire tomorrow I am thinking of baking bread, which would help to warm up the house and make it homey. Theophany is just around the corner, and for about ten days now the days have been getting longer — have you noticed? Here comes the sun!

Happy New Year to all my dear blogging friends and readers!

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It is no mean contest.

Each one of these quotes contains some truth about our humanity and this way we have of creating strong predispositions  in ourselves. If we have any good habits, of course we don’t worry about them being too strong, or try to fight against them. But most of the thoughts I’ve collected seem only to apply to the habits we feel are “bad,” or at least not promoting our goals. From what I’ve seen, the majority of us fallen humans are all too prone to lay aside what appear to be the bonds of good character in what is known as The Moment of Weakness. Don’t trust in these habits! Pray and seek God, and live.

Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables.  – Spanish proverb

Every grown-up man consists wholly of habits, although he is often unaware of it and even denies having any habits at all.  – Georges Gurdjieff

The strength of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts. – Blaise Pascal

The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.
– Samuel Johnson

It is no mean contest to overcome one’s bad habits, for custom, strengthened by enduring a long time, takes on the force of [second] nature.
– St. Basil the Great

Man is not imprisoned by habit. Great changes in him can be wrought by crisis – once that crisis can be recognized and understood.  – Norman Cousins

Lord, have mercy on us!