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Archive for the ‘God’ Category

Most of us do at least some looking back (retrospecting) around the end of the year. What went wrong, what went right, what do we want to change in the new year, and will we really carry through with those changes?

We mostly don’t do that unless there were some real BIG disasters. Generally, the Ol’ Curmudgeon and I make our analyses and resolutions at the time of the disaster.

Today we received in the mail a Christmas present from some very, very dear friends. It is a CD, and we opened it to be sure that’s what it was because they were asking if we had received it.

It is a beautifully packaged CD of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir doing Orthodox chants of the 17th and 18th centuries. Had to put it on. Shouldn’t have done that, or, perhaps it is a good thing we did. The first band was “Let my Prayer Arise” (in Old Church Slavonic). On about the second Refrain, I burst into tears. First, I cried out to God to forgive me. Then I rushed (well, “cripped my way”) downstairs to throw myself in the Ol’ Curmudgeon’s arms and beg his forgiveness! We are still in the Lenten period before the Nativity, and I was, and am, filled with remorse for all the things left undone, and all the wrong things done – both externally and internally.

We all are lax and don’t discipline ourselves sufficiently both in our spiritual lives and in our secular lives. In fact, we artificially divide our spiritual and secular lives as if they were two different things. But they are not. They are both our LIFE. Not both PARTS of our life, but both ARE our life. They should be intricately intermeshed so that they are indistinguishable. Yet, even we, the Orthodox, who, of all, should know better, separate our lives into the spiritual and secular.

God should be at the center of our lives, and all that we do should glorify Him. I was overwhelmed by my sin – by missing that mark for which I am aiming. I was overwhelmed by how far I miss the mark – every minute of every day. As an example, I read medical records and decipher whether someone “missed the mark” in caring for the patient. It is frequently my judgment that determines if a case is to be brought against the providers. Yet, all too frequently, I don’t pray about it before, during and after I read the records and write my report. It is these kinds of sins that overwhelmed me. Not making God the center of my life, not “integrating” my life into God.

So, like an Orthodox Christian, I shall get up once more, start anew, and try to “get it right” this time. Despite my trying, however, most likely I will fail because of my own shortcomings. But we are not called upon to do the impossible, simply to keep trying to do that which is “right” – which leads us closer to God.

May God have mercy upon us all.

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Giving Thanks

One of the interesting things about Orthodoxy is the richness and depth of each day. For instance, on this day, in the Russian typicon (book that determines what celebrations are for each day), today is the day we commemorate:

Eve of the Nativity Fast.
Holy and All-praised Apostle Philip (1st c.).
New Hieromartyrs Demetrius, Alexander, Victor, Alexis, Michael, Michael, Theodore, Peter, Alexis, Sergius, Nicholas, Basil, Alexander, Nicholas, Demetrius, Demetrius, Porphirius, Basil, George, Basil, Sergius priests, Nicholas deacon, New Hieromartyr Aristrah, Martyr Gabriel and Virgin-martyr Anna (1937).
New Hieromartyr Theodore priest (1940).
New Hieromartyr Sergius priest (1941).
St. Philip, abbot of Irap near Novgorod (1527).
St. Justinian the Emperor of Byzantium (565) and his wife St. Theodora (548).
St. Gregory Palamas, archbishop of Thessalonica (1360).
New Martyr Constantine of Hydra (Mt. Athos) (1800) (Greek).
St. Dyfrig (Dubricius), bishop in Hereford and Gwent, hermit of Bardsey Island (ca. 550) (Celtic & British).
St. Malo (Machulus) of Brittany (7th c.) (Celtic & British).
New Martyr Panteleimon the Youth of Asia Minor (Greek).
St. Alberik, bishop of Utrecht (784) (Neth.).
Repose of St. Alexander Nevsky (Alexis in monasticism) (1263).

Wow. So many people! So many different years in so many different centuries!

And our Thanksgiving isn’t even listed.

We don’t substitute, we ADD – always ADD. Never forgetting all the other commemorations.

So, today, to the commemorations listed above, we will add the US Thanksgiving Day.

This is the perfect day to say the Akathist – Glory to God for All Things.

It is also a great day to remember that all things come from God.

I see Thy heavens glittering with stars. O how rich Thou art, how much light Thou hast! Eternity looks at me through the rays of distant worlds; I am so small and inconsequential, but the Lord is with me, His loving hand is everywhere protecting me:

Glory to Thee, for Thy constant care of me,
Glory to Thee, for providential encounters with people,
Glory to Thee, for the love of relatives, the devotion of friends,
Glory to Thee, for the gentleness of animals who serve me,
Glory to Thee, for the luminous moments of my life,
Glory to Thee, for the bright joys of my heart,
Glory to Thee, for the happiness of living, of moving and contemplating,
Glory to Thee, O God, unto the ages of ages.
Ikos V from the Akathist – Glory to God for All Things

KONTAKION 1
Incorruptible King of all ages, holding in Thy hand every path of human life through the power of Thy saving Providence. We thank Thee for all the good things Thou doest, those we know and those we don’t know, for earthly life and for the heavenly joy of Thy Kingdom to come. Hold us in Thy mercy now and ever we who sing: Glory to Thee, O God, unto the ages of ages.

From the Akathist – Glory to God for All Things

Know and remember always, no matter where you are, That whatsoever hurts will be dulled as soon as you learn In all things, to look at Me. Everything has been sent to you by Me, for the perfection of your soul.

All these things were from Me.
from “This Was From Me”

May you remember all the things God has given you on this Thanksgiving Day and to thank Him from Whom they come!

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HYMN TO CHRIST ON EASTER DAY
(AFTER LONG SILENCE),

Cristi anax, se prvton, epei logon heri dvka,
dhnaion katecwn, fqegxom apo stomatwn,
(Dactylic hexameter, and pentameter.)

O Christ the King! since breath pent up so long
I have outpoured, Thou first shalt be my song;
May this my word, the current of my mind,
If lawful thus to speak, acceptance find,
And unto Thee as holy incense rise
Of holiest priest, a grateful sacrifice!
The Father’s Brightness, Word of the Great Mind,
Who cannot be by power of speech defined,
High Light of highest Light, the Only Son,
Image and Seal of the Immortal One,
Without beginning; from same Fount of Light
With the Great Spirit; infinite in might:
All-glorious Thou, and Author of all good:
From age to age Thy truth hath firmly stood.
Enthroned Thou reignest high in heaven above,
Almighty Breath of Mind and Lord of Love.
Throughout this framed universe Divine
Whatever is, or shall be, all is Thine:
Thou madest all, to all Thou givest life,
And all Thou guidest: nowhere fault or strife,
Nor error in Thy workmanship is found:
The whole in willing chain to Thee is bound.
Thou laid’st the world’s foundation: and Thy nod
All things obey, and own their Sovereign God.
For Thee the lofty sun, the king of day,
Quenching the stars, holds on his fiery way.
For Thee, for so Thou bidst, the eye of night,
The moon, waxes and wanes, full orb of light.
For Thee the belt of heaven, all-dancing ring,
And seasons kindly mingling, laugh and sing.
For Thee the fixed stars and planets shine
In course, and speak Thy wisdom all divine.
Thy light they are, the heavenly minds that be,
All sing on high the glorious Trinity.
Man is Thy glory too, angel below,
Here placed to sing, O Light, Thy beauteous glow.
Immortal, fleshless, glory’s highest ray,
Who mortal flesh yet took’st, man’s woes to stay,
For Thee I live, for Thee my songs arise,
For Thee I am a breathing sacrifice;
For this, of all things once possessed by me,
Alone remains, and this I give to Thee.

I tie my tongue, and loose it at Thy will;
In either, what Thou wouldst may I fulfil,
Speak what is right, nor think aught else beside:
From mire select the pearl, with Thee my Guide;
Gold from the sand, the rose from thorny brake,
From straw-encumbered ears the pure grain take.
To Thee, O Christ, this wreath of uttered praise,
As firstfruits of my loving toil, I raise.

For from the dead, with whom He mingled lay,
Great Christ arose, upon this gladsome day;
Gates of grim Hades He did open fling;
And broke death’s power, and robbed him of his sting;
Rushed from the tomb, appeared to speaking men,
For whom, once born, He died and rose again;
That we new-born might rise, from death set free,
And ever live, ascending Lord, with Thee.
This day glad Heaven with acclamation rings,
And choir angelic crowning anthem sings.
This day my closed lips I loose in song
To Thee, to whom my lute and breath belong.

Of mind to Mind, of word to the true Word,
I here have offered what I could afford:
Hereafter, if He will, I hope to bring
To the Great Spirit worthier offering.

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. . . From Sermon LIX, given in Wednesday of Holy Week.

St Leo the Great (pope of Rome from 440-461, reposed in the Lord AD 461) was bishop in one of the more controversy-ridden periods of Church history. He was engaged in the Christological controversy that consumed the fifth century, and his great Tome was to be of substantial influence in the events leading to the Ecumenical Council of Ephesis in 451.

In this sermon, St Leo explores the Passion of Our Lord and its meaning in the Christian Life.

[…]

IV. Christ Bearing His Own Cross is an Eternal Lesson to the Church.

And so the Lord was handed over to their savage wishes, and in mockery of His kingly state, ordered to be the bearer of His own instrument of death, that what Isaiah the prophet foresaw might be fulfilled, saying, “Behold a Child is born, and a Son is given to us whose government is upon His shoulders.” When, therefore, the Lord carried the wood of the cross which should turn for Him into the sceptre of power, it was indeed in the eyes of the wicked a mighty mockery, but to the faithful a mighty mystery was set forth, seeing that He, the glorious vanquisher of the Devil, and the strong defeater of the powers that were against Him, was carrying in noble sort the trophy of His triumph, and on the shoulders of His unconquered patience bore into all realms the adorable sign of salvation: as if even then to confirm all His followers by this mere symbol of His work, and say, “He that taketh not his cross and followeth Me, is not worthy of Me.”

V. The Transference of the Cross from the Lord To Simon of Cyrene Signifies the Participation of the Gentiles in His Sufferings.

But as the multitudes went with Jesus to the place of punishment, a certain Simon of Cyrene was found on whom to lay the wood of the cross instead of the Lord; that even by this act might be pre-signified the Gentiles’ faith, to whom the cross of Christ was to be not shame but glory. It was not accidental, therefore, but symbolical and mystical, that while the Jews were raging against Christ, a foreigner was found to share His sufferings, as the Apostle says, “if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him”; so that no Hebrew nor Israelite, but a stranger, was substituted for the Saviour in His most holy degradation. For by this transference the propitiation of the spotless Lamb and the fulfilment of all mysteries passed from the circumcision to the uncircumcision, from the sons according to the flesh to the sons according to the spirit: since as the Apostle says, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us,” Who offering Himself to the Father a new and true sacrifice of reconciliation, was crucified not in the temple, whose worship was now at an end, and not within the confines of the city which for its sin was doomed to be destroyed, but outside, “without the camp,” that, on the cessation of the old symbolic victims, a new Victim might be placed on a new altar, and the cross of Christ might be the altar not of the temple but of the world.

VI. We are to See Not Only the Cross But the Meaning of It.

Accordingly, dearly-beloved, Christ being lifted up upon the cross, let the eyes of your mind not dwell only on that sight which those wicked sinners saw, to whom it was said by the mouth of Moses, “And thy life shall be hanging before thine eyes, and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt not be assured of thy life.” For in the crucified Lord they could think of nothing but their wicked deed, having not the fear, by which true faith is justified, but that by which an evil conscience is racked. But let our understandings, illumined by the Spirit of Truth, foster with pure and free heart the glory of the cross which irradiates heaven and earth, and see with the inner sight what the Lord meant when He spoke of His coming Passion: “The hour is come that the Son of man may be glorified”; and below He says, “Now is My spirit troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour, but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy Son.” And when the Father’s voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again,” Jesus in reply said to those that stood by, “This voice came not for Me but for you. Now is the world’s judgment, now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto Me.”

VII. The Power of the Cross is Universally Attractive.

O wondrous power of the Cross! O in effable glory of the Passion, in which is contained the Lord’s tribunal, the world’s judgment, and the power of the Crucified! For thou didst draw all things unto Thee, Lord and when Thou hadst stretched out Thy hands all the day, long to an unbelieving people that gainsaid Thee, the whole world at last was brought to confess Thy majesty. Thou didst draw all things unto Thee, Lord, when all the elements combined to pronounce judgment in execration of the Jews’ crime, when the lights of heaven were darkened, and the day turned into night, and the earth also was shaken with unwonted shocks, and all creation refused to serve those wicked men. Thou didst draw all things unto Thee, Lord. for the veil of the temple was rent, and the Holy of Holies existed no more for those unworthy high-priests: so that type was turned into Truth, prophecy into Revelation law into Gospel. Thou didst draw all things unto Thee, Lord, so that what before was done in the one temple of the Jews in dark signs, was now to be celebrated everywhere by the piety of all the nations in full and open rite. For now there is a nobler rank of Levites, there are elders of greater dignity and priests of holier anointing: because Thy cross is the fount of all blessings, the source of all graces, and through it the believers receive strength for weakness, glory for shame, life for death. Now, too, the variety of fleshly sacrifices has ceased, and the one offering of Thy Body and Blood fulfils all those different victims: for Thou art the true “Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,” and in Thyself so accomplishest all mysteries, that as there is but one sacrifice instead of many victims, so there is but one kingdom instead of many nations.

[–MORE–]

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A HYMN AT NIGHT, AFTER FAILURE TO KEEP VOW.

eyeusamhn se thn alhqeian, loge,
(Iambic trimeter.)

O Thou, the Word of truth divine!
All light I have not been,
Nor kept the day as wholly Thine;
For Thou dark spots hast seen.

The day is down: night hath prevailed:
My Lord I have belied;
I vowed, and thought to do, but failed;
My steps did somewhere slide.

There came a darkness from below
Obscuring safety’s way.
Thy light, O Christ, again bestow;
Turn darkness into day.

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What follows is a selection of Psalms by St. Ephraim the Syrian. They can be found in the book A Spiritual Psalter, published by St. John of Kronstadt Press. This little book is very edifying and uplifting, and is highly recommended.

How to Relieve the Conscience of Inner Anxiety

O Lord and Master! O God of heaven and earth! Show Your favor and open to me the door of repentance, I pray You with my afflicted soul.

Regard me according to Your great mercy; incline Your ear to my prayer and forgive me, who am guilty of falling into many sins; forgive me all of the wretched things I have done, for I have been conquered by my own evil will.

I seek peace and do not find it, for my conscience is stained; there is no tranquility in me due to the multitude of my iniquities.

Hearken, O Lord, to a heart which cries out to You with affliction. Do not pay attention to my deeds, but to the affliction of my soul, and hasten to heal me who am cruelly wounded. Grant that I may soon come to my senses according to the grace of Your love for humanity.

Take from me the burden of my sins and grant me not that which my deeds merit, that I may not perish in the end, and that I may not be altogether deprived of thought and concern for my restoration.

I fall down before Your compassion; have mercy on me who am cast into the dust by the judgement of my deeds.

O Master, summon me, a captive who is held and bound by his deeds as with chains, for You alone know how to free those who are bound and how to heal the invisible sores that are known only to You Who know all mysteries.

Show Your favor and stretch out Your hand to me. Draw me out of the mire of my iniquities, O You Who does not rejoice at the destruction of man, and Who does not turn Your face from those who cry to You with tears.

Hearken, O Lord, unto the voice of Your servant, who cries to You; show Your face to me, for I am beclouded; enlighten me with the coming of Your Holy Spirit.

Grant me, O Lord, diligence, for I have become defiled, and turn my labor into joy.

Tear up my slackness and gird me with gladness; may the door of Your kingdom open to me that, having entered therein, I may glorify Your all-holy name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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TO HIS OWN SOUL.

ti soi qeleiV genesqai;
(Iambic dimeter catalectic.)

1.
O soul of mine, repining,
What wouldst have done for thee?
Speak, great or small defining:
Granted thy wish shall be.

2.
Of all bright things, prized highest,
Beneath the rolling sun,
Tell that for which thou sighest;
For thee it shall be done.

3.
Wouldst thou assume the measure
Of Gyges, Lydia’s king,
To hide or show at pleasure
By power of magic ring?

4.
Wouldst thou rich Midas follow?
“All gold I touch,” he cried:
‘Tis given! e’en gold to swallow:
So all of gold he died.

5.
Wouldst shine in brilliant trammels,
With pearls and jewels grand?
Have flocks, and herds, and camels,
And acres of fat land?

6.
Such things we will not barter:
To thee they were a snare:
They are not in our charter,
Nor would I have them there.

7.
For since to God advancing
I came at His own call,
Such cares the soul entrancing,
I have abandoned all.

8.
Wouldst have the nations bending
Beneath thy yoke to day,
To-morrow thyself lending
To grace another’s sway?

9.
The sway of one, once marching,
It might be, at thy side;
Or menial base, now arching
His neck in lofty pride?

10.
Wouldst thou in Love’s sweet anguish,
In indolence and ease,
Let truth and honour languish,
And change with changing breeze?

11.
Wouldst wed a fair Heth’s daughter,
Fair progeny to see?
Ah me! of woes and slaughter
Progenitor to be!

12.
Wouldst have the commons sounding
The greatness of thy fame,
And theatres rebounding
With echoes of thy name?

13.
Wouldst thou in courts o’erflowing
With legal mockery,
Justice and truth o’erthrowing,
Pillage, and pillaged be?

14.
Wouldst take a martial bearing,
And sport with blood and gore?
Or, Pythian garlands wearing,
Defy the lion’s roar?

15.
Wouldst have the town applauding,
And statues reared to thee?
The world thy merits lauding,
Wouldst thou its idol be?

16.
Vain wish! a shadowy dreaming,
A moan of wind hence bound,
Whiz of an arrow gleaming,
A hand-clap’s dying sound.

17.
Such things will fade to-morrow,
However bright to-day:
And he must sleep in sorrow
Who makes them his heart’s stay.

18.
Toys common! bad men’s heaven!
And ah! when hence they go,
To none is it then given
To carry aught below.

19.
What then, O soul repining,
Since these things nothing be,
Substantial good defining,
Wouldst thou have done for thee?

20.
Wouldst be a god, presiding
At God’s own side most high,
Angelic chorus guiding,
All radiant o’er the sky?

21.
Go thou, on pinions gliding
Of vehement desire,
On rapid whirlwind riding
Whither thou dost aspire.

22.
To plume thy wing I’m trying,
Nor spare the friendly goad:
Mount upward, bird-like flying
On thine ethereal road.

23.
But earth’s own child on crutches,
Since, I am yoked to thee,
As queen in butchers’ clutches,
Just tell how this must be;

24.
Whom wilt thou have abettor,
To be upheld in breath?
For I’m no more thy debtor,
Nor heed vain threats of death.

25.
Or wouldst thou perfumed table,
With dainties covered o’er,
So art cuisine be able
To stimulate thee more?

26.
And lyre, and whirl so maddening
Of rapid foot and hand,
And things to tell too saddening,
Known to the revelling band?

27.
Art thou for such things wrangling?
Have thy desire!–but wait:
Such things, not life, but strangling,
To friends insatiate!

28.
For thee, a house abideth,
A rock with self-formed dome;
Nature herself provideth:
We give thee such a home!

29.
Or if thy fancy leadeth
To build thyself a cell,
But little toil it needeth,
Where thou mayst safely dwell,

30.
The body claims small payment,
Ere it returns to dust:
Skins, camel’s hair, for raiment
Sufficed of old the just.

31.
And grass, or straw, as chances,
Make thou thy humble bed:
And purple heath, or branches,
Thy coverlet be spread.

32.
Such for my guests is meetest:
No fear to great or small:
Plain table: odours sweetest,
Kind earth’s free gifts to all.

33.
Thus housed, we will thee nourish,
As best we can afford:
Wouldst eat? take bread and flourish:
Take meal, if on the board.

34.
Here’s salt: and thyme we scant not:
Such source no toil requires:
More luxuries we want not,
Whate’er the world desires.

35.
Or drink wouldst thou? there springeth
An everflowing bowl:
No bane the fountain bringeth,
Bright cheerer of the soul.

36.
But wouldst unbend in season,
And not, o’erstrained, repine?
We grant in this is reason,
Nor grudge the rough-made wine.

37.
But thou dost spurn all measure,
And wouldst the vessel bore,
And take huge draughts of pleasure
Till thou couldst hold no more.

38.
Then seek another helot,
All lengths with thee to go,
No idler I, nor zealot,
To nurse domestic foe.

39.
A frozen reptile taken,
And with fond warmth caressed:
See! it to life doth waken,
And wound me in the breast.

40.
Wouldst boundless gold-roofed mansions,
Gemmed paragons of art,
And master-piece expansions,
To life which almost start?

41.
Colours with colours blending
In opposite array;
Rare tablets, softness lending,
Or shining bright as day?

42.
Dost long for robes wide-flowing,
Pride of the untouched great;
And wealth on fingers glowing,
Incredible to state?

43.
Art thou at beauty aiming?
The wise would scorn to win:
More I than all, proclaiming
That beauty is within.

44.
Thus I to men benighted,
of earth the creatures fond,
For time alone quick-sighted,
With not a thought beyond.

45.
But ye who soar up higher,
A noble life to live;
Who would to heaven be nigher,
Behold what God doth give!

46.
In poorest clay there dwelleth
That which can never die:
With this my bosom swelleth:
For this I food supply!

47.
God-minded, thyself harden!
Meet calm the flashing sword!
Plant trees for God’s own garden!
Be worker, with the Lord!

48.
Up! living words be building,
In God’s blest truth secure.
Not robbed by foe’s false gilding
Through pleasure’s baneful lure!

49.
Again of life eternal,
Approach the blessed tree
The way, O Thou Supernal,
I’ve found in knowing Thee.

50.
Past, present, never-ending,
The One great Light in Three;
To whom all things are tending:
To Thee, all glory be!

EPILOGUE.
51.
To self the wise thus speaketh,
Turning his eyes within;
And eager there he seeketh
To find out lurking sin.

52.
But who to speak refuseth,
Will pass his days in vain:
Nay, more! the ease he chooseth,
May end in greatest pain.

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