Tag Archives: Theotokos

Visions of holiness in the garden.

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” -Psalm 96:9

Back when my new garden was in its immaturity, and gave the impression of rolling hills of orangey mulch, with lonely plant starts like trees on the prairie, I knew that I wanted an icon there, to honor the presence of Christ and his saints. I invited artistic Christian guests to sit over dinner in the garden and discuss the eventual placement of the stand for the icon that I didn’t own yet; I didn’t know at that point whose iconic image I wanted.

Years went by after I had decided on the spot, and a thousand decisions about other things crowded out any research I might do on this question, other than browsing pictures of such displays online, by which I developed a vague idea of what sort of frame and post I wanted. And I knew the icon must be of a material that wouldn’t be damaged by the weather.

Then one day, I think it was in 2019, I happened to see on Facebook this stone icon of the mother of Christ, carved by Jonathan Pageau, and it was available. I hadn’t been looking, and it wasn’t up very long; now I wonder if God didn’t arrange the whole thing, knowing that I would never finish my project if He didn’t put her right in front of me. Later I thought how natural it is that she would be the subject of sacramental art in my garden, she who was certainly in that historic garden 2,000 years ago — the place where her Son revealed Himself to have conquered death, and where women first discovered the empty tomb.

Eventually I asked my dear woodworking friend Aaron if he would build the stand, in his spare time – ha! What diligent husband and father of four has spare time? But he really wanted to do it, and he and I conferred over the last few months about the design and what wood he would use. The pandemic and resulting quarantine recently gave him the extra time he needed.

It was nearly on the eve of Myrrhbearers’ Sunday that he let me know he was ready, and he came with his older son to install it. Their appreciative sharing of my natural paradise for an hour was added joy for all of us. O glorious day! And now, though the beautiful plants will bloom and fade, come and go with the seasons and years, this reminder of permanent and heavenly realities is finally here, and I feel that my garden is complete.

“Through icons the Orthodox Christian receives a vision
of the spiritual world.”
-Timothy Ware

Everything depends upon that moment.

Today is the beginning of our salvation;
the revelation of the eternal Mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
as Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
“Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”

I had wanted to continue my ruminations on The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air by further considering The Moment that Søren Kierkegaard refers to when, after waiting in silence, “…the silent lily understands that now is the moment, and makes use of it.”

I don’t know what that moment consists of for you, for me, for us as a world community, or in our cities or church communities or families. No doubt there are overlapping times and seasons containing infinite instants, and only by quiet listening can we make any sense of them. But this passage in particular I wanted to pass on, in which the writer discusses what is missed when we fail to make the proper, standing-before-God kind of preparation:

“Even though it is pregnant with rich significance, the moment does not send forth any herald in advance to announce its arrival; it comes too swiftly for that; indeed, there is not a moment’s time beforehand…. But of course everything depends upon “the moment.” And this is surely the misfortune in the lives of many, of far the greater part of humanity: that they never perceived ‘the moment,’ that in their lives the eternal and the temporal were exclusively separated.”

So many thoughts swirl in my own noisy mind and heart that I could not imagine how I might find a way to share even these few gleanings with you. Then, in God’s providence and the church calendar, appeared someone who is the supreme example for us of being ready for the moment, that time in history and that time in her life, in a particular moment of a day, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. Today we remember that event, when Mary listened, and responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

The Word became flesh and came to live with us, taking on all our human experience, its weakness and suffering and  death. He defeated death, and opened the gates of Paradise. The Incarnation, the beginning of our salvation, is The Moment of history; our own “Yes” to God, echoing Mary’s willingness, can be the essence of our every prayer as well, as we wait on Him.

Kierkegaard exhorts us, in words that seem especially fitting for this time of uncertainty and change: “Would that in the silence you might forget yourself, forget what you yourself are called, your own name, the famous name, the lowly name, the insignificant name, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Hallowed be your name!’ Would that in silence you might forget yourself, your plans, the great, all-encompassing plans, or the limited plans concerning your life and its future, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Your kingdom come!’ Would that you might in silence forget your will, your willfulness, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Your will be done.'”

We know that God’s will for us is good, now as ever. Our inability to see or understand that is due to our weakness or sin, or His hiding of His works. May He give us grace to wait and to pray, and eventually we will see the full salvation of the LORD.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11

The Forerunner bows.


This 14th-century wall painting in Timios Stavros Church in Cyprus
shows the Forerunner John bowing before Jesus while yet in the womb.

Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

-Luke 1:39-45

 

From the archives – 2013

A young girl stopped to see.

ANNUNCIATION

We see so little, stayed on surfaces,
We calculate the outsides of all things,
Preoccupied with our own purposes
We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings,
They coruscate around us in their joy
A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled,
They guard the good we purpose to destroy,
A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.
But on this day a young girl stopped to see
With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice;
The promise of His glory yet to be,
As time stood still for her to make a choice;
Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred,
The Word himself was waiting on her word.

-Malcolm Guite

You can hear the poet read his sonnet.