THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SPARROWS

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“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” How much Love is hidden in this laconic, “modest” statement in Genesis 1:2! “And suddenly a sound came like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And all began to speak in other tongues, other doctrines, other teachings, of the Holy Spirit.” (Great Vespers of Pentecost). How lofty is the Holy Spirit’s descent in fiery tongues at the foundation of the Church! How different Pentecost is to Creation, and yet, it is the same vital outpouring of the Holy Spirit from the Lord, the Giver of Life.
“Beside them will the birds of the heaven lodge, from the midst of the rocks will they give voice.” (Psalm 103:12) Oh, and what a voice! Our balcony is perched on the 5th floor of a neighbourhood full of plane trees. I am lulled to sleep to the trill of nightingales when all other birds shush; I wake up to the chirping of swallows, warblers, swifts, sobre tits, collared doves, chickadees, tit-mice and crows … even if in a city. Branches reach out to our balcony handrail and literally hug our oleanders, jasmine and honeysuckle. I have always loved birds, any bird really, but I have always had a special fondness for sparrows.
“There will the sparrows make their nests; the house of the heron is chief among them. ” (Psalm 103:17) Recently, while in lockdown, I made up my mind to seek “company” in our neighbourhood. I placed a feeding dish on the floor of our balcony and put seed, grains and rice on its ledge. I also put another dish by its side, full of water, as Greek spring tends to get too hot and dry. A large pot of fully-grown oleander was strategically placed by their side. And I waited …
“All things wait on Thee, to give them their food in due season; when Thou givest it them, they will gather it.” (Psalm 103:27). To my disappointment, the first week or so nothing happened. Absolutely nothing, as if my plates were invisible even to branches that outreached towards them, touched them. But then, soon enough, a first visitor arrived, only to bring another one and another … To my excitement, my visitors were mostly sparrows, as this corner is a bit narrow for any bigger bird really to squeeze in. How moving was it to see the response of the sparrows to my care and how fast did they bring others to the feast! Just like the All-Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to bring others to the Feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, was it not “the Holy Spirit [himself which] descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him”? (Luke 3:22).
“When Thou openest Thy hand, all things shall be filled with goodness”(Psalm 103: 28) Soon, I would work on my laptop but could not resist, now and then, to peep out, across our living room french doors: my tiny feathered friends outside were joyfully eating, jumping from one oleander branch to another, playing and bathing. How much did they enjoy the sunshine, how carefree were they and what a musical noise did they always make! In no less than another week, those tiny creatures, which were too tiny even for the palm of my hand, began to depend on me for their food, and I felt responsible for them. I noticed that whenever absorbed in my papers, I forgot to replenish their food, they would still arrive and sit in the middle of their empty plate and stare at me in disappointment.
“Thou wilt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 103:30) My heart melts with joy just to watch them no doubt sing praises to our Lord. If I, sinful as I am, have such love and com-passion for those tiny creatures, how much more does our Lord care for them? “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Amazing! And what a joy and comfort to hear from our Lord’s infallible lips that “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
“Likewise the Spirit also helps our weakness: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26). I have always felt the Holy Spirit a bit elusive and enigmatic as the third person of the Holy Trinity. So essential, so powerful, and yet so mysterious! St. Seraphim of Sarov revealed to Motovilov that the true aim of our Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done because of Christ, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit.
“Did ye receive the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 19:2) What a question that of Paul to the Ephesian
disciples to answer! Isn’t it really asked of every one of us? Is it enough to answer: I have received the mystery or sacrament of the Spirit after my Baptism, when I was anointed with the Holy Chrism? Or does all this go deeper? Lev Gillet thinks that the real question we have to answer is whether and how this seed of the Spirit has been afterwards developed within the soul.
“Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, … O treasury of every good thing and Bestower of life” Such a vital outpouring of the Holy Spirit from the Lord, the Giver of Life, even for … sparrows. The Holy Spirit is a breath a wind, may this breath direct us where He wills. “Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Good One. Αmen”

“Emerald Lake” – Skra Waterfalls

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A Photo/ Video Blog

 

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Memories of Greek historical moments are mixed with the rare beauty of nature and the turquoise waters of an ancient lake.

These are the emotions one feels and the images that one sees as a visitor of Skra, the waterfalls and the famous “emerald lake”.

Skra is only 4 km away from the borders with FYROM and it spreads on the Northeast slopes of Paiko at an altitude of 520m. Its previous name was Lioumnitsa, while the current one is due to the proximal top Skra di Legken that during the First World War was the place of the homonymous battle field (Skra – Ravine). The battle was a decisive one for the course of the Greek State and the First World War.

With its characteristic proud old plane tree in the center of the village, Skra is considered to be a place of celebration in honor of the homonym battle, while every year on 17th of May a memorial ceremony for the officers and the soldiers of that battles belonging to the so called Greek Division of Crete and Archipelago is held at the Monument to those who died in 1918.

Since May 2002, the Museum of the First World War- Skra Battle has been operating in Skra, housed in a specially constructed area. The Museum exhibition presents relics, photos and historic documents from the Macedonian battles of the First World War, as well as from the victorious Skra battle. The well known victorious battle took place on May 17, 1918.

Near this settlement, the visitor faces a small miracle of nature. Through a wonderful path one can reach an area with rich vegetation, where one meets the first waterfall of Skra, at the root of which there is a small cave with stalactites. A little further on the path, the visitor is stunned by the beauty of the small “Blue Lake” or “Emerald Lake”, which owes its aquamarine emerald color of the water to the calcified and fossilized organisms of its bottom. Continuing on the path, the vegetation thickens and the ground is steeper. Here, one can see the second waterfall of Skra that falls with thunder over the rocks creating a stunning natural landscape.

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The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 38

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AGIA SOFIA’S CAVE, CRETE

Christ is Risen!

The man who lived in a cave

Some years ago, one hot summer day whilst on holiday in Crete, I visited with friends a small Church, high up on the top of a mountain. Near to the Church was a man who lived in a cave. On visiting him he showed us around his “house.” His bed was a smoothed rock shelf and another flat rock for a table. Above the “table” was an oil lamp and Holy Icons of the Saviour and the Mother of God.

Outside, he had two or three goats, a few chickens, a small plot of land with a clear stream of water running through it. I recall that the bees at the time were drinking from the stream.

“Don’t you miss out on things? one of our company enquired of the man.

“No, I have everything I need, I have milk and honey, I have eggs and freshwater to wash and drink and I can always exchange a few eggs for bread in the village.”

“What about the scorpions, aren’t you afraid of the scorpions?” one of our party asked.

“ There are scorpions,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders, “but I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me!”

Example 2

A shabbily dressed man walked into a publisher’s office in Moscow. He took from his greatcoat a rather tattered manuscript and enquired whether it could be published? The publisher glanced dismissively at the manuscript and seeing the man’s dishevelled appearance said that he had no time to read it.

“Really? “said the man “I must have been misinformed, I am told that people like to read what I write.”

“ Indeed” said the publisher, his curiosity being aroused by this response “….and so who are you? What is your name?”

“My name?” as he collected his papers and stuffed them back into his overcoat, “my name is Leo Tolstoy.”

The publisher felt rather foolish and started begging for the privilege to publish. The eccentric genius quietly withdrew making his exit from the publishing office.

 

The wisdom of God

1 Corinthians 1:23

But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,”

1 Corinthians 4:10-11

10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonoured! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.

Who can contain the wisdom of the Wise?

Count loss as gain in faith-filled eyes.

Where is the key to unlock uncreated Light?

In constant prayer of day and night!

What target Heaven’s arrows and guided darts?

The simple minds, the humble hearts!

 

Who brought life to the Virgin womb?

He who emptied a stone-cold tomb!

Wisdom dwells in fools for Christ.

Power of God the Great High Priest

Who came in flesh to save the least.

Brightness of the Father, Pre-existent Word

The natal earth her ears first heard.

Who conceived creation? Wisdom from above!

Holy fools reflect His image… Love.

Who can contain the wisdom of the Wise?

In repentant sighs the one who dies… to self.

When Abba Macarius was into Egypt, he found a man who had brought a beast to his cell and he was stealing his possessions. He went up to the thief as though he were a traveller who did not live there and helped him to load the beast and led him on his way in peace, saying to himself, “We brought nothing into this world; but the Lord gave; as he willed, so is it done; blessed be the Lord in all things.”

My love and prayers

 

Eν Χριστώ

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 37

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Touching Heaven! 

Christ is Risen!

I’m back!

I have all my data and files retrieved and installed on my new laptop. So once more I am able to inflict my poems on you. My “tech savvy” trusted helper patiently guided me through the installation, asking nothing in return. Such love and kindness inculcates a bond of respect.

However, I am going to miss my old keyboard, my new laptop is so sensitive to the touch! Things are different and yet the same- the same files but a new approach, a new style, a new image.

Quite recently, I met a former pupil in the city centre whom I had taught at school. He said:

“Hello sir!”  I haven’t been referred to as sir for some time! I searched my memory for a name, I hardly recognised him, not simply because of his physical maturity but because he had grown in confidence from the rather shy student I began to remember. He had changed and yet he was the same- his voice deeper but with the same inflection, accent and tone. When he began to speak, I knew who he was. What a joy it was to see him and to hear his news.

In the appearances of our Lord after his resurrection, his disciples do not always recognise him. The nature of His glorious resurrected body was so different and yet the same. His resurrected body contain the wounds of the crucifixion and yet it was transformed. His voice, His words, His actions reveal his identity.

2 Corinthians 3:18

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

 

Touching Heaven

John 21:4 “Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”

 

The young monk stood upright head bowed in prayer.

Barefoot, he perched on rocks breathing the fresh spring air

The blue, tranquil lake lapped at his feet.

His eyes closed in mystery towards the setting sun,

Hands held aloft in reverence for the Holy One

Harmony of God and nature’s seat.

His leather holy belt hung at his waist

A sign of his ascetic labour and a taste

Of blessed Communion, Oh so sweet.

The stillness mirrored in his soul

Deep thoughts of Christ to make him whole

His heart in tandem with creation’s beat.

Here where sea and sky converge

This figure and Christ’s image merge

Earth touches heaven and for an instant meet!

To the Glory of God

 

“That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse. But love inebriates the souls of the sons and daughters of heaven by its delectability.”

St. Isaac the Syrian

From Poland With Love

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This morning in the kitchen whilst watching Matins on Skype and baking cookies with children, I had unexpected guests. At the time I was listening to beautiful “Blessed are Thou O God teach me Thy statutes” by Dmitry and Father, when I realised a stag and a doe (?) appeared in front of our window! Roughly twenty meters from our house. After gasping, I thought they have come for Typica! The Stag stayed for the Gospel whilst the female went for a walk. Enjoy the photos! 

Christ is in our midst!

Marta

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 36

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Snowdon Sunrise

The Ascent of Snowdon!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Christ is Risen!

 I hope you are all well and keeping safe.

 Here is my poem-less thought for the day !

 

Love and prayers

Eν Χριστώ

Remember the little things- Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.

I have just completed climbing Mt. Snowdon- the highest mountain in Wales and the second highest in Great Britain (well virtually!) What would normally take five hours has taken me two weeks to complete. I can’t say that the scenery was that good except for my companion St George, who I acknowledged on the way up and on the way down. In these days of lock-down, my staircase has been the mountain. The climb has also involved mental stimulation in mathematical calculation and a certain spiritual exercise (ascesis)- saying “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me,” each syllable spoken of the prayer on each step of the staircase.

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The Ascent of my Snowdon!

When I was young, I went on a camping holiday to Switzerland with some friends where we climbed the Jungfraujoch near Thunersee. It demanded patience, courage, fortitude and perseverance. In the days before formal health and safety, we were simply told by the experienced guide to follow carefully in his footsteps and to look out for one another! The reward for our struggle was amazing. We took rest overnight in a goatherd’s cottage on the way down. In the morning, the view was stunning, we were above the clouds and we saw everything from a new perspective.
In Genesis 28 the patriarch Jacob has a dream in which he sees a ladder going from earth to heaven and on this he sees angels ascending and descending.
The theme of the ladder is found in the teachings of the Church Fathers. I suppose St John Climacus is the most famous with his “Ladder of Divine Ascent.” St Irenaeus in the second century describes the Church as the ladder of ascent to God and St Gregory Nazianzus also sees the of ascent as an ascetic path and each step striving towards excellence.
St John Chrysostom writes:
“And so mounting as it were by steps, let us get to heaven by a Jacob’s ladder. For the ladder seems to me to signify in a riddle by that vision the gradual ascent by means of virtue, by which it is possible for us to ascend from earth to heaven, not using material steps, but improvement and correction of manners.”
Indeed, it is important in the Christian life to cultivate the virtues of patience, fortitude, courage and perseverance; to follow in the steps of the Master who is the Way and to keep our eye open for others who may be struggling. May our holy guardian angels assist us in this ascent.

John 1:50-51
Jesus answered and said to him,“Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”And He said to him,“Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 35

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Remember the little things- lifting the leaves–a Peace Plant and Basil miracles

 

Dear Friends in Christ 

Christ is Risen!

My peace plant that one Parishioner gave to me earlier this year is thriving. I was reading about the care of Peace Lilies and it said in the blog that when they need some water they will tell you as their leaves will begin to droop. Do not overwater! Plants may speak to us but what about us speaking to the plants? Eyebrows were raised some years ago when a prominent person admitted to talking to plants. I did not think this was odd.

 

Whilst not indulging in philosophical debate or tiresome monologue with my plants, I often say “Christ is Risen!” to them and show them a little attention by making sure that they have light, warmth, sustenance and care. Love, it seems, lifts the leaves.

 

I am reminded that God created the plants by speaking and they came into being:

 

Genesis 1:11-13 

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

We have been placed on this earth as stewards of God’s creation.

 Our Lord Jesus Christ told us to behold the lilies of the field and that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28) Indeed!

If speaking kindly words to plants helps them to grow, how much more will speaking encouraging words to our fellow humans help them develop and “lift their leaves”. We humans, it seems, require much the same as plants: love, warmth, sustenance, light and care.

 

I also want to share with you the little miracle that a parishioner witnessed back in 2013 when he transferred his Basil to Holy Water!

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Glory to God

 

Love and prayers

Eν Χριστώ

Father Pustinnyk