A Photo Diary of Little things — 4

Bougainvillea

 Bougainvillaea: most popular especially in Chalkidiki and the islands

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Tendrils! A photo-stroll to the most popular climbers in my suburbs and a few tearful reflections at the end as to why I lately ,often feel like a forlorn tendril …

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Cathedral Bells

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Lately, in my balcony (as sadly I currently live in a big city and have access to only a narrow balcony), and in my long strolls in our suburbs, I have become fascinated with climbers. Especially with tendrils.

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All tendrils reach out, climb over other plants to reach sunlight and twine their stems in particular directions, coiling clockwise and anti-clockwise (no one knows why). Sometimes, tendrils even use tiny grappling hooks on their stems, rather like a mountaineer’s crampons, to get a better grip on their support. 

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Hops

Some tendrils (eg. cathedral bells) have even claws at the end of them that fasten on to objects at the slightest touch; they’ll even hold on to your skin. Such is their need for support, to anchor on to supports. 

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Ivy

Other tendrils climb up steep slopes with ‘instant’ roots, sprouting out of its stems.  Yet others, I read, develop into springs, like a car suspension unit (!), to withstand the elements.

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Jasmin

Some tendrils are slow, but some are fast, like the passionflowers, coiling within about 20-23 seconds after touching. Grapevine tendrils, I am told,  are lined with special, thin-walled cells so they can sense a solid support more easily.

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Beans 🙂

Such Beauty all around me! And yet, sometimes, in so many ways, I feel like a hopeless, forlorn tendril these days, reaching out but unable to be in this tight community mode I have so enjoyed in the past. I am not sure what I miss most.

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Sweet Peas

Is it the Holy Services in the church, the Holy sacraments of which we have been deprived since our Coronavirus lockdown, especially Holy Communion? (How is it possible to celebrate Pascha without receiving Holy Communion? I am no Saint to mystically receive Our Lord in my heart as we read in the synaxaria.) Or is it the immediate fellowship of a spiritual father and brothers, as I have experienced time and again, in monastic and tightly woven parish environments, that I so terribly miss? 

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More Hop climbers

I desperately need to cling to an Elder and senior spiritual brothers. To be sure, the ultimate cling is to God. “My soul hath cleaved unto Thee” (Psalms 63:8) But I do miss obedience for all its struggles. No amount of telephone, mails and emails or digital media can offer the miracle and joy of spiritual osmosis.

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Winegrape; most common in monastery yards in Greece

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

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I have never felt more piercing in my heart these words of Our Lord in John 15, uprooted, separated, cut off, locked down, dejected, as I often, lately feel. Well, this is the closest of a Hell experience I have ever experienced in my life. A most sobering one. If after two months, I feel I can have no more, how scary such an Eternity must be. How many prayers are we to pour out for those departed ones trapped, locked down in ‘this’ Hell… How many tears are we to offer for them and our poor souls, so we do not share their destiny. May we all be saved. Your prayers

 

 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustynnik — 20

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Christ is Risen!

The Light shines in the darkness

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Some of the Epitaphios flowers are still fresh. Holy Water revives them.

 

Our enforced lock-down gives one the opportunity to call others, to send texts and forward emails. It is always lovely to hear from people, especially the ones you haven’t heard from in a long while. Amidst the sad statistics, it is good to hear pieces of good news which bring hope and encouragement as well as to share one another’s burdens. Perhaps God has given us this time to teach us patience and attentiveness; to listen more to His Word and to the words of others, to hear what the other is saying without the busyness of distraction. We should always take care of course what we hear and discern that which is good from that which is evil. The Welsh have a saying, “Gossip, is the devil’s mailbag!”

Messages lie at the very heart of the “good news” of the Gospel. We repeat in this season of Paschal Joy “Christ is Risen!” It has become a greeting as well as a proclamation.

Nettle soup (part 2)

On hearing the message that the Saint (Columba) was to eat only nettle soup, the cook was rather concerned about such a poor diet for his master. He thought to himself; “I will add some milk!” So he hollowed out the stick used for stirring soup and through it he secretly poured the milk. St Columba ate the soup and ordered that all the monks should follow his example and have this tasty soup. (Part three next time!!)

myrrh-bearing women

The Message

 

Luke 24:9 “Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven

and to all the rest.”

 

Early in the morning with the sorrow that they shared

The women set out with the spices that they had prepared.

 

They came to the place where he was laid, the stone was rolled away

Expecting only death, they found an empty tomb at the break of day.

 

Perplexed and troubled at this scene, two angels then appeared

The women bowed their faces to the ground as they were afeared.

 

The angels in bright garments addressed the myrrh bearers and said:

“Why is it so that you seek the living among the dead?”

 

Remember how he spoke to you of how the Son of Man would die

There is no reason for your presence here, nor need for you to cry.

 

Did he not say that this would come to be at the hands of sinful men,

How he would be crucified and on the third day rise again.

 

Go proclaim the good news to the eleven and to others who will listen,

That Jesus Christ who died upon the Cross has today arisen.

 

 Glory be to the Risen Lord!

 

Faith and love which are gifts of the Holy Spirit are such great and powerful means that a person who has them can easily, and with joy and consolation, go the way Jesus Christ went. Besides this,  the Holy Spirit gives man the power to resist the delusions of the world so that although he makes use of earthly good, yet he uses them as a temporary visitor, without attaching his heart to them. But a man who has not got the Holy Spirit, despite all his learning and prudence, is always more or less a slave and worshipper of the world. 

St. Innocent of Irkutsk, Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of  Heaven. 

 

My love and poor prayers

Eν Χριστώ

 

 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustynnik — 19

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Christ is Risen!

 I have in my collection a rare stone- it is from the Island of Iona. It is not precious in terms of monetary value but extremely precious in terms of faith. It comes from the Island where St Columba had his monastery and from where he launched his missionary journeys to Britain in the 6th.century. At the age of eight years of age, I visited the Island and the Monastery with my parents and collected a few of the distinctively green and white mottled pebbles from the beach (which you are not allowed to pick today.) It is rather beautiful how the roaring of the waves and tumbling of the rocks has smoothed the rough edges of the pebbles. Perhaps likewise we too will have our sharp edges smoothed by the storms and tides that beset us in these days.

Nettle soup ( part 1)

There is a story that on one occasion the saint (Columba) was going to the island cemetery to pray over the graves, when he saw an old woman cutting nettles. On enquiring why she was doing this, the old woman informed him that she was waiting for her cow to come into calf so that she could have milk; so until then she was living on nettle soup. St Columba thought that if the woman could have only nettle soup in expectation of a calf, he could have nettle soup in expectation of the Kingdom of Heaven.

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The Mathematical Bridge*

“The stone which the builders rejected

Has become the chief cornerstone.”

Psalm 118:22

 

Mathematical_Bridge_Cambridge

 

Unhewn, estranged, indifferent,

Inactive, confused and alone;

The fire of the Spirit breathes movement

Forms shape into coarse living stone.

 

We will make a bridge together

We will cross the wat’ry divide,

Following Christ the God-man

Mystically at His side.

 

Beholding Mount Zion’s Vision,

Viewed from a Silver street,

Paved in ruby, topaz and beryl,

There, would-be disciples meet.

 

Turquoise, emerald, jacinth

Agate and amethyst glow

Chrysolite, onyx and jasper

Reflect on the pavement below.

 

Hope adds to the seeker’s salvation

Faith multiplies joy in the heart.

Love’s dividend shares the sorrow

Subtracts the self-seeking part.

 

We will break down walls of division

We will tread where saints have trod;

In fellowship as pilgrims

To build the City of God.

 

Holy Triangulation-Cross examination

Points to the One unknown.

The stone which the builders rejected

Has become the chief cornerstone.

 

Circled by thousands of angels

Assembled around and above;

Living Stones brought together

As beautiful bridges of love! 

 

Such is friendship, that through it we love places and seasons; for as bright bodies emit rays to a distance, and flowers drop their sweet leaves on the ground around them, so friends impart favour even to the places where they dwell. With friends even poverty is pleasant. Words cannot express the joy which a friend imparts; they only can know who have experienced. A friend is dearer than the light of Heaven, for it would be better for us that the sun were exhausted than that we should be without friends.  St John Chrysostom

 

*The so-called Bridge crosses the River Cam in Cambridge, England.

 

Eν Χριστώ

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustynnik — 18

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Atgyfododd Crist! Remember the Little things #Day 19 

Like Flowers of the Bible

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The beautiful flowers that I received from the sisters last week are beginning to fade but the phlox are still giving off their natural fragrance in the chapel. However, the bluebells in my back yard are profuse as is the mint and thyme in my little herb garden. Even the Basil bought from the supermarket long before lockdown has taken on a deeper hue of green and more intense aroma. I recall some years ago when one of our Post Graduate Parishioners at University had a Basil plant that grew to over one metre in height because he watered it with Holy Water.  I have also a beautiful Basil Cross that one parishioner gave to me- busuioc romanesc- even dried it has such an amazing distinctive fragrance.

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Each day I feed the plants with a little holy water and ashes from the censer – they respond to this blessing by flourishing. No less should we be like the flowers and flourish with God’s blessings. Like the rich variety of plants, we each have our own distinctive form and beauty in order to give glory to our Creator.

Creation which is usually groaning ( Romans 8:22-24) knows that it is Bright Week and is responding accordingly with effulgent joy.

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Romans 8:22-24

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?

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Like Flowers of the Bible

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand for ever..”

1 Corinthians 15:42

So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.

 

Consider the lilies, how they grow,

They toil not nor spin and yet they sow

Seeds of their own salvation story

 In their Resurrection glory.

Save and Protect us O Lord

 

Rose of Sharon whose most pungent scent

Showers the drought of our discontent,

As blue Iris petal’s waking eye

Sees the Star of Bethlehem die.

Save and Protect us O Lord

 

Crocus and tulip seek the Light.

Cyclamen, Hyacinth both invite

The Holy Guest who with synergy

 Breathes Life upon Anemone.

 Save and Protect us O Lord

 

 Young Narcissus heralds Easter morn.

His bright yellow trumpet greets the dawn

To welcome our Christ and His elect;

“Salute our God!” not self reflect.

 Save and Protect us O Lord

 

The grass it withers, the flower it fades,

Our short lives pass in gladdening shades,

‘Til dust and ashes in the ground

By Love’s great Life-Bestower found.

 Save and Protect us O Lord

 

Like flowers of the Bible, God says “grow!”

Our bodies too through His power will show

That last transfiguring mystery

When raised to immortality.

Save and Protect us O Lord

 

 In love did God bring the world into existence; in love is God going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the One who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised.

St Isaac the Syrian

My prayers and love

Eν Χριστώ

 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Poustynnik — 17

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St John the Russian

 

Release the relics! Christ is Risen! Day #17

I am blessed with many relics of the saints in my Icon Corner so I am never alone: I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).

We heard the Gospel, John 20:19-25 at the Great Vespers of Love last Sunday, the Sunday of the Resurrection, in eight languages!

The opening verse begins” On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the Disciples were”…….

The doors were shut, yet Jesus came and stood among them and said to them , “Peace be with you!”  The doors to our homes are closed, we are shut in, during this pandemic lockdown state, yet Christ comes to us and enters to bring us His Peace.

 However, in a real spiritual sense, we have to open the door of our heart to Christ.

In the Victorian picture by Holman Hunt “Jesus the Light of the World, “our Lord is pictured with a lantern knocking on the door of a cottage, but there is no door handle on the outside- the door has to opened from inside. Once the Holy Spirit enters into our hearts we become infused with grace and peace.

Since our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit we must realise the consequences of this for all the ages, not just for our life here on earth.

‘Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you?’

I Corinthians 3:16.

 Release the relics!

 Ezekiel 37

37 The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.”

 

 Such fragments of dust charged by bliss

 Are containers of the Father’s love;

Buried in the fertile soil discovered,

Absorbing truth, exuding faith

Transforming earth through a heavenly kiss:

 Retrieve the Relics.

 

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St John Maximovich

 

 

Whose is their face, their image, seal?

Where the provenance for holy bones?

Who lie beneath false moons, fake stars and Creation’s groans;

Christ is their home, their being and their source

To sing His grace in symphonic tones.

 Relocate the relics.

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 Those precious few who acquired the Light, hard won;

 “He that has the Son has life” we read.

The blind and lame find their way home, following

The plough, that turns the turf to the Sun;

Revive the seeds, reform the rebellious one.

 Re-illuminate the Relics.

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“Can these bones live?” asked God to his exiled flock

 Lifeless in the war strewn sand, upon a human threshing floor

  Prodigal flesh awakes when ground is dug

“He was lost and is found” in a Father’s hug

Time to rewind the mortal clock!

 Reinstate the Relics.

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Today we seek Elisha’s bones, to find his power,

Iridescent in poor cloth and marrow veiled to

Smell the fragrant odour surfaced;

Share that which imbues a holy residue

Who could resist such a sweet-scented flower?

 Redistribute the Relics.

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St John the Chosevite

A double portion of Elijah’s spirit clings to those who seek

 The Incarnation and the promise of the Christ.

No frame to hold yet by Spirit borne,

These bones yet live

and grant new structures to the weak:

 Restore the Relics.

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St Nektarios Pentapolis

Collect the dust! The Lord it was who shaped us men

Dried up are we, bleached white by the scorching sun

Open the door and let Christ in

And our bones will live again!

Your bones will live again!

 Resurrect the Relics.

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St Dionysios

 Speaking of the miraculous power of holy relics, Saint Ephraim the Syrian relates the following concerning the holy Martyrs:

“Even after death they act as if alive, healing the sick, expelling demons, and by the power of the Lord rejecting every evil influence of the demons. This is because the miraculous grace of the Holy Spirit is always present in the holy relics.”

Eν Χριστώ

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Poustynnik — 16

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Christ is Risen!

Remember the Little things # 16 

 

The Grain of Wheat

 

“The devil is in the detail” is an idiom that is often heard. Omitting to read the small print in a contract may cause you inadvertently to break a contract. Some things may seem simple at first but may take longer than expected. However, one might more properly say that “God is in the detail”, there are mysterious elements hidden within the movements of His Creation. To see the hand of God in the smallest of things takes for a discerning eye. Details,” the small things” have importance because they have intrinsic value at every stage of their growth and application.

I am able, by God’s grace, to leave small fragments of the antidoron for the faithful from the Liturgy celebrated four weeks ago before lockdown!

I remember being at Sambata de Sus Monastery in Romania where there was a wheat field ripe with full grain. One of the pilgrims after the Holy Liturgy took a head of the wheat grains and rubbed them in his hands and blew away the husk and then ate the wheat. The action took my mind back to that occasion in the scriptures when Our Lord’s disciples did the same:

Luke 6

6 Now it happened that on a Sabbath he went through the grain fields, and his disciples were picking and eating the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not permitted on the Sabbath? 3 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you not read this, what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry— 4 how he entered into the house of God and took the bread of the presentation, which it is not permitted to eat (except the priests alone), and ate it and gave it to those with him?” 5 And he said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

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The Grain of Wheat

Matthew 9:38

 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.”

 John 6:48: “I am the bread of life,……”

  

Salvation is held in that egg-shaped frame of life and energy.

No Pythagorean theory could calculate such perfect symmetry.

 No King but God could make such a realm of beauty and simplicity.

 That grain of wheat will be cut, dried and shaken in humility.

 

The miller will grind it into the flour of heaven, a foretaste of eternity.

 A man will earn his daily bread transporting that potential spirit to distillery.

 Another will take that white dusted remnant to the stores for his delivery.

 The mother will knead and bake the prosphora for the proskomede.

 

Then the Holy Spirit will invest within the Lamb the gift of immortality.

 The priest will give that Bread of Life, the One who died to set us free

 From broken hearts, our redemption from sin and earth-bound misery.

 The faithful stand, take and eat of that most precious Mystery.

 In that small grain, the Lord of the Harvest bestows the ultimate utility.

 

It was said of an old man that he dwelt in Syria on the way to the desert. This was his work: whenever a monk came from the desert, he gave him refreshment with all his heart. Now one day a hermit came and he offered him refreshment. The other did not want to accept it, saying he was fasting. Filled with sorrow, the old man said to him, “Do not despise your servant, I beg you, do not despise me, but let us pray together. Look at the tree which is here; we will follow the way of whichever of us causes it to bend when he kneels on the ground and prays.” So the hermit knelt down to pray and nothing happened. Then the hospitable one knelt down and at once the tree bent towards him. Taught by this, they gave thanks to God.

Saying from the Desert Fathers

 

 

Eν Χριστώ

A Photo Diary of Little Things — 3

 

swallows

Christ is risen! All Holy Week and Bright Week so far have been devoted to chanting through Skype and choir rehearsals through Zoom. Even birds in my neighbourhood seemed to respond with effulgent joy! 

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Please listen to this 90 Year-old Greek Grandmother –6 children, 23 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren– Katerina Makarouna, from Palionesos, Kalymnos–chanting the Paschal Doxastikon, “This is the Day of Resurrection”. This lady is 90 years old, though you’d never believe it from the clarity and strength of her voice.

“This is the day of Resurrection, let us be radiant for the festival and let us embrace one another. Let us say, O brethren even to those that hate us; Let us forgive all things on the Resurrection, and thus let us cry: Christ is Risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tomb restoring life.” 

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Two more eager chanters …

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As to the best choir singing, the award certainly goes to …

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… although the protopsaltis [the leading chanter] does not look very happy with the choir!🤨

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinnyk — 15

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Remember the Little things Diary #Day 15

Christ is Risen!

+ St George’s Day

 We remember today those Doctors, Nurses and Carers who work in our hospitals, surgeries and care homes. We thank them for their skill, courage and commitment. We have some of these front line heroes as part of our Parish who daily enter into battle against Coronavirus disease.

 I have two icons of St George at home, one, silver embossed, on the wall next to my staircase which I purchased many years ago whilst on holiday in Rhodes; the other given to me more recently. Every morning, when going downstairs I say, “St George defend me from every evil attack this day.”

 

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Saint George fought against evil with the virtues of valour and strength.

May the Holy and Great Martyr George the Trophy Bearer intercede before Christ for our Doctors, Nurses and Carers.

 

Troparion of St George Tone 4

As the deliverer of captives and defender of the poor, healer of the infirm and champion of kings, victorious great martyr George intercede with Christ our God for our souls’ salvation.

 

Nouns and Verbs

 

Matthew 7:21

 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

and

And Matthew 20:1-16 The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

 

Proper Nouns of holy faith possess a piety:

Bell and Bible, Church and Chalice, Lance and Liturgy;

But holier the Verbs; to love, to save, to heal, to pray,

To feed the hungry, clothe the poor, follow and obey.

 

Working in God’s Vineyard some sweat in the heat of day

But all receive the same reward, all have equal pay.

 O happy servants pruned and fruitful whom His Kingdom gain,

Rejoicing in the Son shine and singing in the Reign.

 

 “A small but always persistent discipline is a great force; for a soft drop falling persistently, hollows out hard rock.” St Isaac the Syrian

 

Love and prayers

Eν Χριστώ