Monday, November 24, 2014

On the Fallen World...

..."We must begin with ourselves and not try to change others. The Holy Fathers say that we must correct ourselves -- to work on our salvation and many around us will be saved. We must strive to always be kind, good, and quiet -- at peace so that people will always feel peace and quietness in our presence. We know that we can either attract people with our thoughts or drive them away from us. We need to change so that our faith might be strengthened."
-Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Friday, November 21, 2014

St. Archangel Michael

Today is the feast of St. Archangel Michael.

Here is a snippet about Archangel Michael, taken from the Prologue of Ochrid.

The angels of God have been commemorated by men from the earliest times, but this commemoration often degenerates into the divinization of angels (IV Kings 23:5; A.V. II Kings). Heretics always wove fantasies round the angels. Some of them saw the angels as gods and others, if they did not so regard them, took them to be the creators of the whole visible world. The local Council in Laodicea, that was held in the fourth century, rejected in its 35th Canon the worship of angels as gods, and established the proper veneration of them. In the time of Pope Sylvester of Rome and the Alexandrian Patriarch Alexander, in the fourth century, this Feast of the Archangel Michael and the other heavenly powers was instituted, to be celebrated in November. Why in November? Because November is the ninth month after March, and it is thought that the world was created in the month of March. The ninth month after March was chosen because of the nine orders of angels that were the first created beings. St Dionysius the Areopagite, a disciple of the Apostle Paul (that Apostle who was caught up to the third heaven), writes of these nine orders in his book: 'Celestial Hierarchies'. These orders are as follows: six- winged Seraphim, many-eyed Cherubim, godly Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels. The leader of the whole angelic army is the Archangel Michael. When Satan, Lucifer, fell away from God, and carried half the angels with him to destruction, then Michael arose and cried to the unfallen angels: 'Let us give heed! Let us stand aright; let us stand with fear!', and the whole angelic army sang aloud: 'Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory!' (See on the Archangel Michael: Joshua 5:13-15 and Jude v.9). Among the angels there rules a perfect unity of mind, of soul and of love; of total obedience of the lesser powers to the greater and of all to the holy will of God. Each nation has its guardian angel, as does each individual Christian. We must keep in mind that, whatever we do, openly or in secret, we do in the presence of our guardian angel and that, on the Day of Judgement, a great multitude of the holy angels of heaven will be gathered around the throne of Christ, and the thoughts, words and deeds of every man will be laid bare before them. May God have mercy on us and save us at the prayers of the holy Archangel Michael and all the bodiless powers of heaven. Amen.

Also, here is a very short little video about St. Archangel Michael that I found on YouTube, in Russian. This will buy you about 6 minutes of peace to get ready for church! :)

And here is an Akathist (in Church Slavonic) to the great Archangel Michael.

St. Archangel Michael, Pray to God for Us!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Loneliness in Modern Life...

I read something so wonderful the other day, and it just happened to be written by a fellow priest's wife, but one who has many years of experience, unlike me! Matushka Ann McLellan Lardas wrote an article that was published on Pravmir, entitled, Loneliness in Modern Life: What to Do? I wanted to share this article here because it is just phenomenal.

Loneliness in Modern Life: What to Do?

Source: Taste and See
Matushka Ann McLellan Lardas | 13 November 2014
Loneliness in Modern Life: What to Do?

Recent conversations have led me to think more than usual about loneliness in modern life. I often speak of clergy life as being all of us fighting the same battle, from different foxholes. But loneliness is a factor, a reality, and I think it’s worse for the laity. The closer one stands to the altar, the more one gets that “Christ is in our midst” is not a mindless greeting but the statement of a profound reality. When one lives far from church, both physically and metaphorically, it becomes harder to keep this in mind. What to do?
On a pragmatic level, the best thing is to find other Christians and spend time with them, first and foremost in church, sure, but in the ancient times the Agape meal was considered part of the service. Now it’s too hot, it’s too cold, the Sisterhood doesn’t serve things you can eat, the kids have a ball game or a birthday party — we leave each other in the narthex till next week. And so all of us on some level feel abandoned and alone.
How to fix it? The first thing is to pray for each other, every day. Even if it’s just that you’re walking through Walmart and see something that reminds you of your godson, this is from God, this is your chance to say, “God bless my godchildren and be with them! Mother of God, cover them with your veil! Guardian angels of my godchildren, thank you, protect them, correct their thoughts and keep them from despair!” If we react appropriately to these little flashes, like instant messages from God, we will build the foundation in our hearts, and the people we pray for will on some level know. Somehow they will feel the love, they will have new courage.
Secondly, we need to feed each other. Does someone in your parish live near? Invite them over for supper! Does someone in your parish live alone? When you make too much of something, put that last serving of pasta or last piece of pie in a container and drop it at their house, sharing a word or two in passing.
Thirdly, bring the people whom you miss, in church, to the services with you. Start by bringing them in your heart. Pray for them, light candles, ask God to lead them to come to church with you. Then, call them up, or pick them up, or invite them, or encourage them. When you hear the barrage of reasons why people don’t want to come — the old ladies who criticize or the young people who dress wrong, the priest who speaks too much or too little — all you have to say is this: “Yes, but I love you and I miss you. Who can separate us from the love of God?”
We don’t have to start big. We just have to start. Because in curing the loneliness around us, we will notice, to our surprise, that our own bruised and empty hearts have suddenly become whole and full. Baby steps are fine. We just have to start walking the walk.
Matushka Ann and her husband, Archpriest George Lardas, live in Stratford, CT. Fr. George is the rector of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Stratford and Matushka Ann is the choir director. They have four grown children. Matushka Ann is currently studying writing through Fairfield University’s MFA program, and should graduate in 2016.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

On Love...

"Love is the most powerful means of defense there is. There are no weapons and no power that can measure themselves against love. Everything is defeated before love."
-Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Preparing for Lent...

Slowly, I am starting to take baby steps in preparation for Christmas Lent, because even though the fast is not officially beginning for a few more weeks, with my 3 little distractions, everything takes longer to do.

In past years, I have not been really organized in preparing for the meal planning for Lent, and it has really thrown me off. It was especially difficult for me in the last few years because I was always either pregnant or nursing a baby, during which times I had a blessing not to fast or to partially fast (for example, without meat). It is particularly hard to cook for your husband when he is fasting and you are not! This year though, I'm going to have a new beginning with fasting because I am no longer nursing, nor am I pregnant. I am excited to try a new, organized way of meal planning. Today I sat down and began perusing my cookbooks for Lenten recipes (anything that includes NO dairy, meat, or eggs), and made a huge list of them all. I have to add, that the idea of doing this "list" has been in my head for a long time, but I found Orthodox Mom's handy "Lenten Meal Planning" section of her blog to be helpful, too. In fact, I have printed out the meal planning pages (which she has linked to) to record my meals onto later. For now though, I am just listing recipes, followed by the cookbook they are coming from, and the page number. Once I have them all in one place, I will be able to make actual meal plans from there.

I have grouped my recipes into various sections. They are:

Lenten Soups
Lenten Appetizers & Salads
Lenten Lunch or Dinner (because for me, they are interchangeable, though for some, you may see the need to split these two up)
Lenten Desserts

I wanted to share one of my new cookbooks. I ordered it last year after a raving review from a friend. I have always struggled in finding fasting recipes that do not include tofu, seitan or anything funky like that. I'm a plain kind of girl when it comes to food, and I really am not into anything unusual. I'm into fruits, veggies and grains, and dessert during Lent. So I was thrilled to find out that the Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen cookbook has no "weird" ingredients in it that I will not enjoy cooking. It's all about the fruits, veggies, pastas and grains! I love that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Psalter Groups

I haven't been feeling well for a while now, thus the lack of posts.

I did want to take a minute tonight though and share something I'm going to be a part of starting next week. Orthodox Mom (aka Sylvia), has a really lovely and very informative blog. Every fasting period, she makes a Psalter Group sign-up for her readers, open to anyone who would like to join. The point of these groups is to read the entire Psalter during the fasting period, and also pray for others who are in the same group as you. I think it's a lovely tradition and I love having a goal for each fasting period which makes me pick up a spiritual book each day. I only recently started reading the Psalter (usually in a difficult moment, I'd pick it up and read a psalm to calm down), and I love that Sylvia has this going on.

If you'd like to join in, go to her blog, and sign up below in your own comment.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrows....

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow. I love that there is an icon like that!!

Join me in learning a bit of the history of this depiction of the Mother of God.

The following was taken from the OCA website.

The wonderworking “Joy of All Who Sorrow” Icon of the Mother of God was glorified in the year 1688. Euphymia, the sister of Patriarch Joachim (1674-1690), lived at Moscow and suffered from an incurable illness for a long time. One morning during a time of prayer she heard a voice say, “Euphymia! Go to the temple of the Transfiguration of My Son; there you will find an icon called the “Joy of All Who Sorrow.” Have the priest celebrate a Molieben with the blessing of water, and you will receive healing from sickness.” Euphymia did as she was directed by the Most Holy Theotokos, and she was healed. This occurred on October 24, 1688.

The icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” (with coins fused to it by a bolt of lightning), was manifested at St Petersburg in 1888. See July 23.

And from July 23, about the origin of this icon: 

The Icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” (With Coins) was glorified in the year 1888 in Petersburg, when during the time of a terrible thunderstorm lightning struck in a chapel. All was burned or singed, except for this icon of the Queen of Heaven. It was knocked to the floor, and the poor box broke open at the same time. Somehow, twelve small coins (half-kopeck pieces), became attached to the icon. A church was built in 1898 on the site of the chapel.

Here is the version of the Akathist (in Church Slavonic) that the kids and I will be listening to today, once everyone has started their day. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Kazan Icon of the Mother of God

Today we celebrate the feast day of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. Here is a description of the history of this icon, taken from the OCA website.

The Commemoration of the Deliverance of Moscow From the Poles by the Kazan Icon was established in gratitude for the deliverance of Moscow and all Russia from the incursion of the Polish in 1612. The end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries is known in Russian history as “the Time of Troubles.” The country suffered the onslaught of Polish armies, which scoffed at the Orthodox Faith, plundering and burning churches, cities and villages. Through deceit they succeeded in taking Moscow. In response to the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Hermogenes (May 12), the Russian people rose up in defense of its native land. From Kazan, the wonderworking icon of the Mother of God was sent to the army headed by Prince Demetrius Pozharsky.

St Demetrius of Rostov (September 21), in his Discourse on the Day of Appearance of the Icon of the Mother of God at Kazan (July 8), said:

“The Mother of God delivered from misfortune and woe not only the righteous, but also sinners, but which sinners? those who turn themselves to the Heavenly Father like the Prodigal Son, they make lamentation beating their bosom, like the Publican, they weep at the feet of Christ, like the Sinful Woman washing His feet with her tears, and they offer forth confession of Him, like the Thief upon the Cross. It is such sinners whom the All-Pure Mother of God heeds and hastens to aid, delivering them from great misfortunes and woe.”

Knowing that they suffered such misfortunes for their sins, the whole nation and the militia imposed upon themselves a three-day fast. With prayer, they turned to the Lord and His All-Pure Mother for help. The prayer was heard. St Sergius of Radonezh appeared to St Arsenius (afterwards Bishop of Suzdal) and said that if Moscow were to be saved, then people must pray to the Most Holy Virgin. Emboldened by the news, Russian forces on October 22, 1612 liberated Moscow from the Polish usurpers. A celebration in honor of the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos was established in 1649. Even in own day this icon is especially revered by the Russian Orthodox nation.

The Kazan Icon is also commemorated on July 8.

One of my new traditions in our home has been to start playing the Akathist of the saint or icon of the day first thing in the morning. It helps me get a good start to the day and stay focused on what is important. I have also noticed that it makes the kids a lot more peaceful. They are quieter and I have found them commenting about the singing, like by saying "Mama, this choir is really beautiful!" I love that! I want them to be accustomed to church music and know that it is important in their lives to always think about God first.

Here is the Akathist to the Kazan Icon that we listened to this morning. It is sung by a choir of nuns. Enjoy!