Living Waters

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“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14)

“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)”

What beautiful imagery! Indeed, the teachings of Our Lord came to the thirsting human race like living water, like a river of grace cooling the face of the earth. Christ is the fount of grace ‘of the water that will gush up to eternal life’, which slakes and waters people’s souls which are parched with raging thirst. Which transforms those who drink into springs: ‘Rivers of living water shall flow from their bellies’. And He said to the Samaritan woman’. The water that I shall give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life’. Which transformed the desert of the world into a paradise of evergreen trees planted by God, planted as the edge of the waters by the Holy Spirit.

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THE FEAST OF MID-PENTECOST AND THE PENTECOSTARION

The fifty days following Pascha until the Feast of Pentecost are known as the period of the Pentecostarion in the Orthodox Church. At the mid-point between these great feasts of Pascha and Pentecost, on the twenty-fifth day which is always a Wedneday, is one of the most beloved feasts for the most devout Orthodox Christians known quit simply as Mid-Pentecost. Mid-Pentecost is to the Pentecostarion what the Third Sunday of Great Lent which honors the Holy Cross is to the period of Great Lent. It is a day which helps us focus on the central theme of the entire period. Whereas the mid-point of Great Lent reminds us to bear up the Cross of Christ bravely so that we may daily die with Christ in order to experience the Resurrection of our Lord, so also the mid-point of the Pentecostarion enlightens us regarding the theme of the fifty days following Pascha – which is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit poured out as a gift upon all the faithful who partake of the living water which is Christ Himself.

The central theme woven throughout the period of the Pentecostarion therefore is water. This becomes the central theme of the period because it is the central theme of the Gospel of John which we read in its entirety during the Pentecostarion and which naturally flows into the Acts of the Apostles which is also read during this period in its entirety. This theme appears for the first time on Pascha itself in the joyous Canon of the Feast of Feasts written by Saint John the Damascene when he invites us to “drink a new drink,” not “brought forth from a barren rock,” as in the Old Testament under Moses, but which rather “springeth forth from the grave of Christ.” Then during the Paschal Divine Liturgy the priest processes with the Gospel and chants loudly from Psalm 67:27 saying: “In the congregations bless ye God, the Lord from the well-springs of Israel.”

When Renewal or Bright Week is over the Church wisely sets up two Sundays in which to abolish all doubts concerning the Resurrection of Christ, that of the Sunday of Saint Thomas and the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women. This is done in order to ensure that we all partake of the living water that only the risen Lord can give. The following three Sundays, as we approach Pentecost, the theme of water becomes more and more central in the hymns of the Church. Thus we are found one Sunday at the Sheep’s Pool with the Paralytic, then at the Well of Jacob with the Samaritan Woman, and finally at the Pool of Siloam with the Blind Man. During this festive period we hear concerning the “living water” which if one partakes of “he will never thirst”. We are taught that it is our Savior Himself who is this living water, and we partake of Him through the baptismal waters and the Cup of Life which issued forth from His side at His crucifixion unto remission of sins and life everlasting. Then on Pentecost we have grace rained upon our parched souls and bodies so that we may be fruitful and have a great harvest as we hear from the holy Gospel on that day: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink”. Finally the Pentecostarion concludes with the Feast of All Saints, that is those who partook of the “waters of piety”, which is the harvest of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The Fathers teach us that the feast of Mid-Pentecost stands in the middle of the fifty-day period from Pascha to Pentecost as a mighty flowing river of divine grace which have these two great feasts as its source. Pascha and Pentecost are united in Mid-Pentecost. Without Pascha there is no Pentecost and without Pentecost there is no purpose to Pascha.

We read the following entry in The Great Horologion that further explains the details of the feast:

“After the Saviour had miraculously healed the paralytic, the Jews, especially the Pharisees and Scribes, were moved to envy and persecuted Him, and sought to slay Him, using the excuse that He did not keep the Sabbath, since He worked miracles on that day. Jesus then departed to Galilee. About the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles, He went up again to the Temple and taught. The Jews, marveling at the wisdom of His words, said, ‘how knoweth this man letters, having never learned?’ But Christ first reproached their unbelief and lawlessness, then proved to them by the Law that they sought to slay Him unjustly, supposedly as a despiser of the Law, since He had healed the paralytic on the Sabbath.

“Therefore, since the things spoken of by Christ in the middle of the Feast of the Tabernacles are related to the Sunday of the Paralytic that is just passed, and since we have already reached the midpoint of the fifty days between Pascha and Pentecost, the Church has appointed this present feast as a bond between the two great Feasts, thereby uniting, as it were, the two into one, and partaking of the grace of them both. Therefore today’s feast is called Mid‐Pentecost, and the Gospel Reading, ‘At Mid‐feast’—though it refers to the Feast of the Tabernacles—is used.

“It should be noted that there were three great Jewish feasts: the Passover, the Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Passover was celebrated on the 15th of Nissan, the first month of the Jewish calendar, which roughly coincides with our March. This feast commemorated that day on which the Hebrews were commanded to eat the lamb in the evening and anoint the doors of its houses with its blood. Then, having escaped bondage and death at the hands of the Egyptians, they passed through the Red Sea to come to the Promised Land. It is called ‘the feast of Unleavened Bread,’ because they ate unleavened bread for seven days. Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after Passover, first of all, because the Hebrew tribes had reached Mount Sinai after leaving Egypt, and there received the Law from God; secondly, it was celebrated to commemorate their entry into the Promised Land, where also they ate bread, after having been fed with manna forty years in the desert. Therefore, on this day they offered to God a sacrifice of bread prepared with new wheat. Finally, they also celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles from the 15th to the 22nd of ‘the seventh month,’ which corresponds roughly to our September. During this time, they lived in booths made of branches in commemoration of the forty years they spent in the desert, living in tabernacles, that is, in tents (Ex. 12:10‐20; Lev. 23 LXX). “

The Feast of Mid-Pentecost is celebrated for an entire week until the following Wednesday, making it an eight day feast. During this entire time the hymns of Mid-Pentecost are joined with that of Pascha. Because of the theme of water, traditionally the Church celebrates the Lesser Blessing of the Waters on this day, preferably with a procession with the Holy Cross to a water spring.

The theme of the feast not only invokes water, but even more central to the Gospel chronology it honors Christ as Teacher and Wisdom as He reveals Himself between the stories of the Paralytic and that of the Blind Man. During this time we are told: “Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught…Jesus answered them, and said, ‘My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself'” (John 7:14-30). The icon for this feast depicts the young Jesus teaching the elders in the Temple (Luke 2:46, 47) at which time Jesus first revealed Himself as a teacher or rabbi. Traditional Orthodox icons will depict Jesus as larger than the elders, showing his superior spiritual status.

Since the hymns of the Church invoke and praise our Lord as the Wisdom of God spoken of in the Book of Proverbs, it is traditional that all churches named after Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia celebrate their feast on this day. In fact, Greek scholar Constantine Kalokyre has written a study titled “The Churches of the Wisdom of God and the Date of their Celebration”, which appeared in the periodical Saint Gregory Palamas, no. 71 (723) (1988), pp. 538-617. In this study he comes to the conclusion that the Great Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople celebrated its feast day on Mid-Pentecost.

From Mystagogy

Also cf Pemptousia

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Troparion, tone 8: Having come to the middle of the Feast, refresh my thirsty soul with the streams of piety; for Thou, O Saviour, didst cry to all: Let him who thirsts come to Me and drink. O Christ our God, Source of Life, glory to Thee.

Kontakion, tone 4: When the Feast of the law was half over, O Lord and Creator of all, Thou didst say to the bystanders, O Christ our God: Come and draw the water of immortality. Therefore we fall down before Thee and cry with faith: Grant us Thy bounties, for Thou art the Source of our Life.

 

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Tending the Garden …

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… Of our Hearts

Reflections by two spiritual sisters who started gardening this summer and dedicated their allotments to Sts. Hilda and Melangell

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In every fruitful garden, there is a collab­oration between the Creator, Maker of all seeds, plants, soils and the gardener who has a specific role.  Genesis  2:15; “Then the Lord God took the man He formed and put him in the garden to tend and keep it”. Whether the gardener has the wisdom and awareness to understand or not, every little happening in his garden is the fruit of this blessed cooperation, in which all aspects are mystically interconnected giving life and purpose to each other.

Together, we have embarked on vari­ous gardening projects, and as we have learnt about the life of plants, through re­flection on many wonders and failures in nature, a clear parallel emerged between the life of a garden and spiritual life. Be­low, are just a few fruits born from these conversations.

The soil

The journey of growth begins in winter, with the preparation of the soil, which needs to be “made ready” to receive the seed, just as our souls need to be made ready to receive the Lord by weeding out, digging and enriching. It is a most sober­ing reflection that if you weed a patch of land with the greatest care and dig it over making it thus perfect for planting, but delay planting, the land will become overgrown with weeds in the blink of an eye. Similarly, if you ready yourself for the Lord by uprooting all your passions and destroying all evil propensities (if such a thing were possible), but delay in placing Christ therein, in planting the seed of the Holy Spirit, your soil will only become fertile ground for new, over­ grown passions. Secondly, as soon as you stop tending and watering your heavenly garden, it will begin to wither, giving space to weeds. Therefore, it is necessary to watch over the garden of our hearts carefully and to cultivate the good seed of virtue, letting it multiply on the prepared soil.

It is also a matter of wonder that the soil is enriched by adding into it decayed matter, like rotten leaves, discarded cut­ tings, manure. All things dead and rejec­ ted transform into nourishment for the soil. May we find the wisdom and know­ ledge to transform all of our rejected, failed plans and endeavours into a matter which will enrich the soil of our hearts. This reminds me of the first lesson in Physics and its heading: Matter does not appear nor disappear, it only transforms –as Christians we are called to transform by the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:3; “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.

 

The wonder of the seed

 

Germination is without a doubt the most wondrous stage (and my favourite) in gardening. It is similar to the birth of a child. From an infinitesimal seed, life bursts forth. The miracle of Creation is encompassed in the Parable of the mus­tard seed “which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs” (Matthew 13:31­32). We can only marvel at the fact that every tree was once a tiny seed, which you can hold between two fingers. Every germination is a small miracle because life itself is encased in a tiny, inconspicuous looking ball or speck, in this sense the Lord has made us par­takers and co­-creators of Creation.

If we look at our own lives, we can sometimes pinpoint the moment of germination. The seed of faith was planted in us at different times and in ways spe­cific to each of us: by a friend, a parent, a book or an experience. But often, it lies dormant in the soil of our being, until all elements are right for germination: tem­perature, light, humidity. And then, sud­denly, the tree of faith bursts forth out of the tiny seed. It is sadly too true that some seeds never germinate, but there is always hope. Take the case of the Mathu­ selah palm tree. During an archaeological excavation of a fortress in Masada, some seeds were found. After spending some years in a researcher’s drawer, one of the 2000-year-old seeds of a palm tree was germinated in 2005. This species of palm tree had been extinct in the area for hun­ dreds of years. Life had slept inside the tiny seed for 2000 years! The tree is now over 3 metres tall and produces dates.

Like all new life, germination holds the promise of beauty and perfection. Every time a new plant emerges from the soil, you can picture in your mind’s eye the beauty of its maturity.

 

The battle for growth

 

The stage of growth or the journey from newborn to maturity is the hardest part of gardening. It requires immense energy of the gardener to combat all threats to the plant (pests, disease,  competition  from weeds), to water, feed and protect

It is a matter of relentless watchful­ ness. It demands patience (in short sup­ ply in our garden) to watch the plant grow and also wisdom and faith in equal measure. The wisdom to accept the loss of plants to disease and pests, but the faith to carry on tending to the few little plants left. We see thus that gardening is a spiritual school. How many seeds of the Spirit have germinated in our souls only to die, prey to our bad habits, laziness or forgetfulness? Accepting the loss, rather than mourning over it, going to confes­sion and starting germination afresh in faith is an essential lesson for spiritual growth.

Some gardening techniques, which strengthen the plants and give them a better chance to survive are startlingly useful in our spiritual life. It all starts with grading, which involves discarding the seedlings which appear weak or dis­ eased and only leaving the strong,  healthy ones. We sometimes need to choose the best seedlings in our lives, and when they are old enough, we sometimes need to pinch the ends out. This pain in­ inflicted on young plants makes them grow stronger, with healthier roots, so that when the time comes to bring them out­ side into the cold and the wind, they can survive and reach maturity.

 

Bearing fruit

 

Finally, most people’s favourite part is when the crop is ready – the fruit of God’s labour through us. We can feast on the fruit of love and patience, gift it to others and give thanks to the Lord for the completion of our endeavours.

 

By Mary and Martha of gardening

God and the Geese

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There was once a man who didn’t believe in God, and he didn’t hesitate to let  oth­ers know how he felt about religion and religious holidays. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments. One  snowy eve, his wife was taking their children to service in the farm community in which they lived. They were to talk about Jesus’ birth. She asked him to come, but he re­ fused. “That story is nonsense!” he said. “Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That’s ridiculous!”

So she and the children left, and he stayed home. A while later, the  winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the win­ dow, all he saw was a  blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the win­ dow. He looked out, but  couldn’t see more than a few feet. When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside  to  see what could have been beating on his win­ dow. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn’t go on. They were lost and stran­ded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help  them. The  barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It’s warm and safe; surely they  could spend the night and wait out  the  storm. So he walked over to the  barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the  open barn and go inside.

But the geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn’t seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. The man tried to get their atten­tion, but that just seemed to scare them, and they moved further away. He went into the house and came  with some  bread, broke it up, and made a bread crumb trail leading to the barn. They still didn’t catch on.

Now he was getting  frustrated.  He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe. “Why don’t they follow me?” he exclaimed. “Can’t they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?”

He thought for a moment and real­ised that they just wouldn’t follow a hu­man. “If only I were a goose, then I could save them”, he said out loud. Then he had an idea. He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as  he circled around behind the flock of wild geese.

He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn; and one­by ­one, the other geese followed it to safety.

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes  earlier replayed in his mind: “If only I  were a goose, then I could save  them!”  Then he thought about what he had said  to his wife earlier.  “Why  would God want to be like us? That’s ridiculous!”

Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese blind, lost, perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us.

 

Story from the website of the Antio­chian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines

My cave

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— “Elder, I want to flee to the mountains, far away from the world, and find a cave to hide so that neither I tire anybody nor I get worn out”.

— “Try, my dear child, to enter Jesus’ cave, and once inside there, everything will be put right.”

St Amphilochios of Patmos (Makris)

* This recently canonised Saint awaited the little city hermit, ‘called’ him through his spiritual father and eventually ‘adopted’ him during his recent trip to Patmos. Glory to God for all things!!! “I think he would not have called you to visit him if it was not for this blessing” [Abouna].  Yet the Saint’s reassurance was sobering: “You should be glad. Jesus holds an artist’s chisel in His hands. He wants to prepare you a statue for the Heavenly Palace.” May St. Amphilochios teach the little city hermit to submit, like all the saints, to whatever God sends him, with childlike simplicity: “That’s the way You want it. Let Your will be done.”

 

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“Worldly people tire you, because whatever is stored up inside them comes at you like waves of electricity. We must be people of grace so much so that whoever comes to us may find rest.”

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-“How do you manage to have such patience and perseverance in everything?”

– “The grace of God helps. I always believe in the power of God, my child, Who alters and adjusts everything for the benefit of our soul.”

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“When I see a person who is irritated, I don’t listen to what he is saying, but pray for God to pacify him. That’s why I don’t get distressed. When they calm down, when the time is right, I talk to them because they are then in a position to comprehend their foolishness.”

Musings from a Bright Week Pilgrimage (I)

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Gerondas Theoklitos, Monastery of St. Arsenios the Cappadocian

 

Paschal Holy Dances in Attica, Aegina and Euboia

Everybody in our mixed company on the bus was exhausted even before starting out! Doctors, reeling after long shifts, having barely slept for more than 3-4 hours in 3-4 days in a row; parents struggling with noisy, boisterous,excited young children; senior high-school and university students in distress, studying for their final exams … on the bus! … while all were desperately trying to get some sleep… But the most exhausted of us all was our accompanying priest, Hieromonk Synesios, St. Arsenios Monastery, after a rigorous monastic Great Lent and Holy Week, on top of all his other duties. St Arsenios himself, as in all past pilgrimages, was at the front seat of the bus. His relics were reverently carried by all pilgrims at every stop of our pilgrimage. The pilgrimage was brief but packed and hectic, so let me simply offer a few Paschal, mostly ‘leaping/ dancing” vignettes which made the greatest impression to me.

 

But let me start with the beginning.This Bright [1]Week pilgrimage was appropriately the brightest I have ever participated in! It felt like the fulfilment of St. John’s of Damascus Mystical Pascha captured in his Paschal Canon! To be sure, any trip to Greece in springtime straight from a foggy, misty, rainy England is bound to feel full of light! Especially if to Athens and the islands!

 

Still, the Light which nearly blinded all of us during this Bright Week pilgrimage must have contained a tiny ray of Christ’s Light [2]! A palpable, tangible Transfiguration Light dancing in all pilgrims’ eyes, on the bus and in all the monasteries we visited. The atmosphere felt so light as if were all to collectively Ascend to Heavens. The sheer exuberance of “Christ is Risen” chanted 99 times every single day during Resurrection Day and All Bright Week made our hearts leap with joy! And our Lord’s greeting “Rejoice!” in all the 11 Resurrectional Matins (Eothina) Gospels reverberated in our hearts. And as we were soon to find out, we were about to meet lots of literally dancing and leaping holy men and women.

 

Morning Holy Liturgy at the Holy Monastery of Saint Dionysios of Mount Olympus (3) on Bright Tuesday

 

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That was another discovery of that week: how many Paschal verses indeed contain this image of “leaping”:

 

THE PASCHAL CANON

 

Ode 4.

David, the forefather of our divine Lord, leapt and dancedbefore the symbolical Ark of the Covenant.

 

ode 5

“When they who were held by the chains of hell beheld Thy boundless compassion, O Christ, they hastened to the Light with joyful feet, exalting the eternal Pascha.

 

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We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hell, the beginning of eternal life. And leaping for joy, we celebrate the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.

 

THE PASCHAL STICHERA IN TONE FIVE

Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and leap for joy, in that thou beholdest Christ the King like a bridegroom come forth from the grave.

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Everybody in our mixed company on the bus was exhausted even before starting out! Doctors, reeling after long shifts, having barely slept for more than 3-4 hours in 3-4 days in a row; parents struggling with noisy, boisterous,excited young children; senior high-school and university students in distress, studying for their final exams … on the bus! … while all were desperately trying to get some sleep… But the most exhausted of us all was our accompanying priest, Hieromonk Synesios, St. Arsenios Monastery, after a rigorous monastic Great Lent and Holy Week, on top of all his other duties. St Arsenios himself, as in all past pilgrimages, was at the front seat of the bus. His relics were reverently carried by all pilgrims at every stop of our pilgrimage. The pilgrimage was brief but packed and hectic, so let me simply offer a few Paschal, mostly “leaping/ dancing” vignettes which made the greatest impression to me:

 

To Be Continued …

 

Footnotes

 [1] Bright week begins with the Sunday of Pascha, and comes to a close on Bright Saturday, at Vespers. One may actually argue that Bright week comes to a close before the ninth hour (which precedes vespers), since the royal doors and deacons’ doors, which have been wide open all week, are closed. This is a sad and significant moment. Just like our forefathers Adam and Eve, we cannot remain in paradise in this life, because of our sins. Ours is a life of struggle against our passions, which hold us back from full realization of paradise in this life.
‘How many days are in Bright week?’ There are TWO correct answers! According to the sun’s rising and setting, Bright week is seven days, (Sunday through Saturday) but to the church, liturgically, it is one day – the “eighth day”.

[2]Cf. Lev Gillet’s notes on the theme of light in the Byzantine liturgical year: ‘Come, take light from the Light that has no evening, and glorify Christ, risen from the dead.’ On the Sunday Pascha, the celebrant stands at the royal doors of the iconostasion and holds a lighted candle in his hand. “Once more, the eastern Church represents the Christian mystery in terms of the mystery of light; this Light, whose birth was marked by the star of Bethlehem, has been shining among us with growing intensity; the darkness of Golgotha could not extinguish it. Now it reappears among us, and all the candles which the congregation hold in their hands, and that they now light, proclaim its triumph. In this way, the deeply spiritual meaning of Easter is indicated. The physical Resurrection of Jesus would be without value to us if the divine light did not shine at the same time among us, within us. We cannot worthily celebrate the Resurrection of Christ if, in our soul, the light brought by the Saviour has not completely overcome the darkness of our sins.”[The Uncreated Light] on Easter night triumphs over the darkness; at Pentecost it reaches its full zenith. Pentecost is the ‘midday flame’. (The Year of Grace of the Lord: A Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church, p177, p215 respectively)

[3]: For information and a documentary in Greek about our first stop, the beautiful Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Saint Dionysios of Olympus, go herehere and here.

God’s little flowers

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ὁδὸς ἄνω κάτω μία καὶ ὡυτή

Herakleitos  I. p. 89 Fr. 60.

“the way upward and the way downward is one and the same”

 

I like this time of the year, February- the cusp of spring- the stirring from hibernation, the orientation of the earth tilting on its axis towards a warmer inclination. The cold, frozen earth in the Northern Hemisphere which has lain dormant over the winter, starts to come alive. The snowdrops are sending up their green shoots once again; peeping through the surface, these bold, hardy flowers, with heads bowed in humility are drawn by the sun. They are the front line of nature’s offspring in the march towards life, silent heralds and signalmen of the resurrection to come. The stretching of their sensitive, sinuous roots ever downward and the upward struggle of their shoots ever upward require equal grace filled effort. The breaking open of the bulb, the flourishing of the epiderm, the nodding of the head before the movement of the wind ( the spirit), and finally, the full glory of this tiny flower stands before the Creator of the Cosmos.

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The Liturgical cycle is a movement in God’s time, in which we glance brief moments of eternity. Our inclination and disposition towards God, our prostrations and metanias, are the means to spiritual growth. We must put down roots of stability and at the same time reach with our arms towards the heavens. We flourish at the presence of Christ; we say “yes” to the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and at the last we are embraced as sons and daughters of Light in the arms of our heavenly Father.

 

The great fast of winter leads to the feasts of the Nativity and beyond to Theophany and the great fast of Lent leads to the Cross of Pascha and beyond to the Resurrection. The cold heart is indeed called, broken, drawn and imperiously captured by the warmth and light of our loving God. We are God’s little flowers. Renewed in vigour and faith from sensing the power from above, the season and the time, we become again brave Christians who break out of stricken conformity, that dark place we inhabit, into the beautiful freedom of Christ’s Kingdom.

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Ecclesiastes 3:1

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

By Father Jonathan Hemmings

 

 

 

 

The Prince of Peace

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A Christmas Story

The Golden Gate shut behind them. At the same time a terrible roaring shattered the silence of the green valley. A majestic figure sat on the towering rock at the plateau in the middle of the forest. The silhouette of the Lion stood out against the starlit sky.

The Lion made a huge leap and stood at their midst. For the first time no animal dared to approach. The young couple and all the other animals stumblingly stepped back. They turned back to escape. But the Gate was shut. A many-eyed guard with a fiery sharp sword was blocking their way.

Then the Lion attacked the antelope. Immediately the panther charged at the goat. Then the big bear tore apart the tender calf. And the wolf the meek lamb. It had started. A war had begun. A cruel, relentless, and above all, prolonged, infinitely prolonged, war. The whole Creation would henceforth “groan as in the pains of childbirth”. (Romans 8:22) This night was the darkest of all.

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… The Lion sat on the towering rock. His eyes gazed intently at the abysses of the night skyline. Something unusual was taking place up there, this darkest night of the year. A new star seemed to dawn and eclipse all the rest. The whole forest was in commotion. This night was hiding a mystery.

Further in the horizon a small company appeared. A humble little donkey was slowly climbing up towards the clearing. Sat on his back, a young woman, a tender daughter still, was gently clutching on her bosom a newborn baby. A white-haired old man was walking by their side. And this unusual, new Star was guiding their footsteps in the darkness. The tree tops were bowing humbly to the ground at their passage, venerating those unknown travelers.

Suddenly, before the night travelers made it to the clearing, a loud thundering shattered the silence of the dark forest. A horseback column was galloping towards them.

–  “We found them!” shouted the captain.

But as the column thrust menacingly forward, a terrible roaring shattered the silence of the dark forest. The Lion made a huge leap and stood between the night travelers and the soldiers on horseback showing his terrible teeth to the soldiers. Stunned, the animals of the forest followed immediately their king. The scared horses would tear from their reins and got up on their hind legs. The captain went wild.

–  “Archers!” He screamed out of his mind.

In vain. All bows fell immediately to the ground when they touched the animals’ bodies. Like hitting steel. The horses grew uncontrollable. Any minute and they would flee back to the high land in a wild stampede.

The leader dismounted in a frenzy. Blind in his fury he hurled himself down in a bold leap and thrust himself to the baby. Menacingly he raised his sword to slaughter it, but the sword froze in mid air. To his horror and shock he saw before him the sweet face of his own wife, holding his own baby in her bosom!

His knees bent, his body collapsed to the ground. Sitting on the humble donkey the Daughter was looking in his eyes with infinite compassion. A bright, otherworldly halo was opalescing in rays around Her face! The soldier felt small, powerless before this Godly Babe, who seemed so vulnerable and helpless in the arms of his fragile mother, yet everything seemed to bow before Him.

Quietly all the animals surrounded in worship the human synodeia. The nod of the little child, invisible, yet omnipotent, was gently leading the lion and the calf together, the bull and the bear, the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the goat. Under the spell of this otherworldly Mystery, the soldiers dismounted in awe and knelt side by the side with the wild animals.

 

Time had stopped. The Golden Gate was open again. No longer does the fiery sharp sword guard the gate of Eden. The Babe mystically summoned all back to Paradise. A prophecy of old took flesh:

“The wolf will live with the lamb,

    the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;

    and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,

    their young will lie down together,

    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,

    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy

    on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord

    as the waters cover the sea.

… (Isaiah 11:6-9)

 

The Babe raised His Hand, a tiny, soft hand, yet capable to govern the whole Universe. The Babe blessed them with the Sign of the Cross. The Prince of Peace had been born on earth. The ancient, cosmic warfare would soon come to an end. Maran Atha!

 

Ad. & Transl. Kleio Kechagia

Χριστούγεννα 2016

π. Δημητρίου Μπόκου

https://antexoume.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/ο-αρχοντασ-τησ-ειρηνησ-χριστουγεννιά/