Choice

sad1

“Lord, let me come and join you in that land which beckons me, in those fields that I love.”

“No, it is in this town that you must meet me.”

“Lord, I long for the sun and the wilde flowers over there.”

“I only have this black sky and these thorns to give you.”

“But Lord, there is only noise and smoke here.”

“There is something else as well; there is sin.”

“Lord, I would so like to see again the blue water that you knew!”

“Here, hearts are sick and souls are dying in darkness.”

“Lord, I could perhaps stay if you entered into my heart, if you took my hand. But when I see these streets […] my whole being revolts and escapes in thought over there. Must I therefore still stay here, with my sadness and my solitude?”

“My child, is it so difficult to decide? And to walk where I walk?”

*

Lev Gillet, ‘A Monk of the Eastern Church’, “Sunday Letters”, Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, p231

* Specially dedicated to my spiritual father

Embracing the Burning Coal

meeting2

Lev Gillet’s Reflections on the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, the famous Byzantine ‘waltz’, Ormylia Women’s Monastery choir, Byzantine icons and hymns with lyrics

Symeon receiving Our Lord is of course an Icon in the true sense of the word of how we too receive Christ 

* The Russian icon above emphasizes the meeting aspect. Pay attention to the way Jesus and Simeon are so face to face.

Lyrics for the famous Orthodox ‘waltz’, the Megalynarion, the “Magnification”; also called Velichaniye in Church Slavonic), the special Byzantine hymn for Panagia and the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple by Ormylia convent.

What glorious Hope, what tenderness amidst weariness, old age, frailty and shadows, what consolation especially when ‘dealing’ with end of life care, as I currently am, what a wonderful ending to our life, should we accept Lord’s offered Love! Rejoicing with Symeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God and say: “Let me depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your compassion and Your holy Salvation.”

-That which is fulfilled in you is beyond the understanding both of Angels and of mortals, O pure Virgin Mother.

-Symeon the Elder embraces in his arms the Maker of the Law and Master of all.

-The Creator, wishing to save Adam, took up his dwelling in your virgin womb.

-The whole race of mortals calls you blessed, pure Virgin, and glorifies you with faith as Mother of God.

[Come and see Christ, the Master of all, whom Symeon carries today in the temple.]

-You look upon the earth and make it tremble how then can I, aged and weary, hold you in my arms?

-Mary, you are the mystic tongs who conceived in your womb Christ, the burning coal.

[Symeon had lived for many years when he saw Christ, and cried aloud to him, ‘Now I seek my release.’]

[O God, who are before all things, of your own will you became man, and are carried in the temple as a child of forty days.]

-Symeon the priest received the Master of all, come down from heaven.

– Make bright my soul and the Light of my senses, that I may see you in purity, and I will proclaim that you are God.

– Pure Virgin Mother, why do you bring into the temple a new-born babe and commit him to Symeon’s hands?

From you, the Creator, I now seek release, for I have seen you, O Christ, my salvation and my light.

‘In the shadow and letter of the Law, Let us the faithful discern a figure. ‘Every male child that opens the womb shall be holy to God.’ Therefore the firstborn Word, Son of a Father who has no beginning, the firstborn child of a Mother who had not known man, we magnify.’ [Irmos]

Him whom the Ministers at the Liturgy on High entreat with trembling, here below Symeon now takes in his arms.

For those of old there was a pair of doves and two young pigeons In their place the godly Elder and Anna the sober prophetess, ministering to the One born from a Virgin and only offspring of the Father as he enters the temple, magnify him. [Irmos]

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

In nature Unity, but in Persons Trinity, watch over your servants who put their faith in you.

‘You have granted me, O Christ, the joy of your salvation’, cried Symeon, ‘Take your servant, wearied by the shadow, as a new initiate and preacher of grace, as with praise he magnifies you.’ [Irmos]

Both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amin.

Mother of God, hope of all Christians, protect, watch over, guard all those who put their hope in you.

Reverently holy Anna, sober and aged, openly confessed the Master, announcing him clearly in the temple. While as she proclaimed the Mother of God to all those present, she magnified her. [Irmos]

meeting of the lord.jpg

In accordance with the law of Moses, forty days after the birth of a male child, its mother had to present it in the tabernacle and to offer as a sacrifice either a lamb or a pair of doves or pigeons for purification ‘from the issue of her blood’. The presentation of a first-born creatures, whether animal or human, were considered to belong to God. Mary and Joseph obeyed this precept of the law. They brought Jesus to the Temple where he was blessed by the aged Simeon, and recognized as Saviour by the prophetess Anna, It is this event which we celebrate at the feast of February 2nd.

Meeting-c1000MenologiumBasilPresentation.jpg

“Let us also go to meet Christ and let us receive him … Adorn thy bridal chamber … and welcome Christ the King; salute Mary, the heavenly gate.” These texts from the feast of the Presentation can also be applied to our souls. Each soul ought to be a Temple of God, to which Mary brings Jesus. And each one of us should, like Symeon, take the child in his arms and say to the Father: “My eyes have seen thy salvation.” The prayer of Symeon, “now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace” does not simply mean that someone who has seen Jesus and has held in his arms can now leave this life and die in peace: it also means for us, having seen and touched the Saviour, we are released from the hold that sin has on us, and, in peace, can leave the realm of evil. (The Year of Grace of the Lord by A Monk of the Eastern Church)

icon.jpg

For 43 DIFFERENT ICONS, FRESCOES AND PAINTINGS: THE MEETING OF OUR LORD, go to http://catalogueofstelisabethconvent.blogspot.com.by/2016/02/icons-frescoes-and-paintings-meeting-of.html

Thin Places, Where Heaven Reveals Its Violence

Christ_Pantocrator_Sinai

Christ Pantocrator 6th St. Catherine’s Monastery Mount Sinai Egypt 

Two weeks of no posting … Please forgive me for this ‘break’ but things have been so hectic here, with my father seriously ill, in hospital. Taking the wrong medication can cause serious side effects and even result in death, especially if the patient is 86 years old! Thanks be to God, the doctors saved my father’s life the very last minute! It was such a heart-rending experience watching him collapse …

This whole experience, as was to be expected, shook us deeply and intensified our prayer life. We were literally (and figuratively) all the time on our knees before Him.This is why I have decided to resume my posts with Father Seraphim Aldea‘s,  Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, and Lev Gillet‘s reflections on Meeting the Living God, Entering Into a  Relationship With Him in Prayer.

These meditations strangely match a recent experience of mine with an Icon of the Saviour I was offered as a blessing. What an icon! I cannot even begin to stare at His Eyes! As if the icon ‘itself’ ought to be “tamed” … Just staring at this ‘Icon’ feels like a Meeting face to face with Him, a moment of Judgment for me … to be either saved or condemned …

praying

“People are right, Iona truly is ‘a thin place’, a great Celtic expression, describing special places where Heaven and earth are drawn together. What I didn’t know before I came for this week (and perhaps, what many of us do not feel) is how dreadfully frightening Heaven is. Perhaps frightening is not the right word: awe-some, full of awe, entirely alien to us and frightening because of its alien nature – these are all weak descriptions, but they are as good as I’m able to make.

Iona is a thin place, but through the thin veil one can see a frightening revelation. It is precisely because these are thin places that they are frightening, too. What we see through them, what we see through their transparence is the real Face of God: not a tame God, a domesticated God; not a God taken to pieces and rebuilt to fit our sinfulness and weakness; not a God shaped against our emotions and cheap piety; not a God of human traditions and cult; not a God of political correctness or incorrectness – but the LIVING God. The Being beyond being, the Uncreated Creator of everything that is, the untouchable One, indescribable by any of our created words, philosophies and concepts. The frightening God, the crushing God, the God Who utters His voice and the earth melts; the God Who commands: Be still, and know that I am God.

To be in a thin place like Iona is frightening because of the Frightening Being Who suddenly becomes visible and Whom you must now face. I’ve learnt that to face God is frightening, because every meeting with God is a moment of total exposure and Judgement: exposure and judgement of ourselves, of our carefully assembled idols and our horrid manipulations of the Divine realities. God is an alien Being to us, because we have turned ourselves in alien beings to Him. Thin places are dangerous places; approach them with fear, as you approach the Face of God. You are in a moment of Judgement.”

Monk-at-Lake.jpg

 

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh adds to a similar vein: “a Meeting face to face with God is always a moment of Judgment for us. We cannot meet God in prayer or in meditation or in contemplation and not be either saved or condemned. I do not mean this in major terms of eternal damnation or eternal salvation already given and received, but it is always a critical moment, a crisis. ‘Crisis’ comes from the Greek and means ‘judgment.’ To meet God face to face in prayer is a critical moment in our lives, and thanks be to Him that He does not always present Himself to us when we wish to meet Him, because we might not be able to endure such a meeting. Remember the many passages in Scripture in which we are told how bad it is to find oneself face to face with God, because God is power, God is truth, God is purity.”

vladimir

Turn to me,
In your good favor, all praise-worthy Theotokos;

Yet, Lev Gillet adds a different dimension, encouraging if I may add, to this discussion: “What does this manifestation [the solemn manifestation of Christ in His baptism in the Jordan] consist of? It is made up of two aspects. On the one hand, there is the aspect of humility represented by the baptism to which our Lord submits: on the other hand, there is the aspect of glory represented by the human witness that the Precursor bears to Jesus, and, on an infinitely higher plane, the divine witness which the Father and the Spirit bear to the Son. We shall look at these aspects more closely. But first of all, let us bear this in mind: every manifestation of Jesus Christ, both in history and in the inner life of each man, is simultaneously a manifestation of humility and of glory.Whoever tries to separate these two aspects of Christ commits an error which falsifies the whole of spiritual life. I cannot approach the glorified Christ without, at the same time, approaching the humiliated Christ, nor the humiliated Christ without approaching the glorified Christ. If I desire Christ to be manifested in me, in my life, this cannot come about except through embracing Him whom Augustine delighted to call Christus humilis, and, in the same upsurge, worshipping Him who is also God, King, and Conqueror.

*

13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13 (KJV)

 

  • Thin Places: “Thin Places,” comes from a Celtic Christian concept. The Celts believed that physical locations existed in which God’s presence was more accessible than elsewhere, places where heaven and earth seemed to touch, where the line between holy and human met for a moment, “the places in the world where the walls are weak”, “those rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses”, as Eric Weiner puts it in his spirituality travelogue, Man Seeks God. For such a ‘thin place’ for me visit my blog post on the Holy and Life-Giving Cross Orthodox parish at Lancaster.

 

 

 

 

 

Meditation on Epiphany

Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost

Or Meditation on Light(s), Baptism(s) and Conversions in our inner life

theophany.jpg

Epiphany is not only the feast of the waters. Ancient Greek tradition calls it ‘the feast of lights’. This feast brings us, not only the grace of purification, but also the grace of illumination (in fact baptism itself was formerly called ‘illumination’). The light of Christ at Christmas was but a star in the dark night; at Epiphany it appears to us as the rising sun; it will grow and, after the eclipse of Holy Friday, burst forth yet more splendid, on the morning of Easter; and finally, at Pentecost, it will reach its full zenith. It is not only the divine light, manifested objectively in the person of Jesus Christ and in the pentecostal flame that we are concerned with; it is also the inner light, for, without absolute faithfulness to this, spiritual life wold be nothing but illusion and falsehood.

God, who had sent the Precursor to baptise with water, had said to him: “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptiseth with the Holy Ghost”. The baptism by water is but one aspect of total baptism. Jesus himself says to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”. The baptism of the Spirit is superior to the baptism by water. It constitutes an objective gift and a different inner experience. …

 

One could say that Epiphany — the first public manifestation of Jesus to men — corresponds in our inner life to the ‘first conversion‘ (or ‘purification’). This must be understood as the first conscious meeting of the human soul with its Saviour, the moment when we accept Jesus as Master and as friend, and at which we take the decision to follow him. Easter (both the death and the resurrection of the Lord) corresponds to a ‘second conversion‘ (or ‘illumination‘) in which, confronted with the mystery of the cross, we discover what kind of death and what kind of new life this implies, and we consecrate ourselves more more deeply to Jesus Christ, through a radical change in ourselves. Pentecost is the time of the ‘third conversion‘ (or ‘union‘), which is the baptism and fire of the Spirit, the entry into a life of transforming union with God. It is not given to every Christian to follow this itinerary. Nonetheless, these are the stages which the liturgical year sets out for our endeavour.

 

By a Monk of the Eastern Church

The Year of Grace of the Lord

Love Without Limits

burning bush13

“Whoever you are, whatever you may be, says the Lord of Love, my hand is resting upon you at this very moment. By this gesture, I am letting you know that I love you and that I call you for my own.

I have never ceased loving you, speaking to you, or calling you. Sometimes it was in silence and solitude. Sometimes it was there, where others were gathered in my name.

burning bush6

Often you did not hear this call, because you were not listening. At other times you perceived it, but in a way that was vague and confused. Occasionally you were at the point of responding with acceptance. And sometimes you gave me that response without any lasting commitment. You were deeply moved to hear me. You recoiled from the decision to follow me.

Never thereafter did you finally submit, totally and exclusively, to the calling of Love.

Yet now, once again, I come to you. I want to speak to you once more. I want you wholly for myself. Let me repeat: Love desires you, totally and exclusively.

burning bush3

I will speak to you in secret, confidentially, intimately. I will place my mouth close to your ear. Hear, then, what my lips want to speak to you in hushed tones—what they want to murmur to you.

I am your Lord, the Lord of Love. Do you want to enter into the life of Love?

This is not an invitation to some realm of tepid tenderness. It is a calling to enter into the burning flame of Love. There alone is true conversion: conversion to incandescent Love.

burning bush9

Do you wish to become someone other than you have been, someone other than you are? Do you wish to be someone who lives for others, and first of all for that Other and with that Other who calls all things into being? Do you wish to be a brother to all, a brother to the entire world?

Then hear what my Love speaks to you.

My child, you have never known who you really are. You do not yet know yourself. I mean, you have never really known yourself to be the object of my Love. As a result, you have never known who you are in me, or all the potential within yourself.

burning bush8

Awake from this sleep and its bad dreams! In certain moments of truth, you see nothing in yourself but failures and defeats, set-backs, corruption, and perhaps even crimes. But none of that is really of you. It is not your true “me,” the most profound expression of your true self.

Beneath and behind all that, deeper than all your sin, transgressions and lacks, my eyes are upon you. I see you, and I love you. It is you that I love. It’s not the evil you do—the evil that we can neither ignore nor deny nor lessen (is black actually white?). But underneath it all, at a greater depth, I see something else that is still very much alive.

The masks you wear, the disguises you adopt might well hide you from the eyes of others—and even from your own eyes. But they cannot hide you from me. I pursue you even there where no one has ever pursued you before.

burning bush11

Your deceptive expression, your feverish quest for excitement, your hard and avaricious heart—all of that I separate from you. I cut it away and cast it far off from you.

Hear me. No one truly understands you. But I understand you. I can speak about you such wonderful, marvelous things! I can say these things about you. Not about the “you” that the powers of darkness have so often led astray, but about the “you” who is as I desire you to be, the “you” who dwells in my thoughts as the object of my love. I can say these things about the “you” who can still be what I want you to be, and to be so visibly.

burning bush10

Become visibly, then, what you already are in my mind. Be the ultimate reality of yourself. Realize all the potential I have placed within you.

No man or woman is capable of realizing any inner beauty that is not equally present within you. There is no divine gift toward which you cannot aspire. Indeed, you will receive all those gifts together, if you truly love, with me and in me.

Whatever you may have done in the past, I will set you free, I will loose your bonds. And if I loose your bonds, who can prevent you from rising up and walking?

burning bush12

Love Without Limits (orig. Amour Sans Limites), 1971

By A Monk of the Eastern Church

Archimandrite Lev Gillet, who signed many of his books “A Monk of the Eastern Church,” was one of the great Orthodox spiritual guides of the last century. It is difficult to render Fr Lev’s lyrical French into English, but we hope that these efforts will provide readers with something of the spiritual richness and profound theological insight that characterized this humble monk, who was truly a modern Father of the Church.

burning bush2

Source: http://oca.org/reflections/archimandrite-lev-gillet/love-without-limits

Dawn

freshstart1

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (Luke 4:16-21)


renewal2

A Prayer at the Dawn of the Liturgical Year (2)

Today

*

Today, my Lord, You stood in my soul,

Stood in my soul, so much amiss.

A fresh opportunity to offer,

A hand to raise me from the abyss.

*

Who can be poorer than me, my Master?

Broken? Captive? More wounded, or blind?

O, whose footsteps stray faster?

In egoism and in sin?

*

Many a time have I heard  Thy promise,

Many a time Your grace missed.

And, all the time, You stood there,

My offence in the midst.


*

Today, my Lord, You stood in my soul,

You stood there, in front of me,

Ransom to offer to your Bride,

 Too Costly a price to pay Thee.

*

May I acquiesce long-suffering Jesus,

In Consecration my pledge renew.

Might my ears mystically hear,

“This scripture today to you came true”

*

Insp. from The Year of Grace of the Lord, by A Monk of the Eastern Church (Lev Gillet)