The Colour of Love

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                                           Chagall’s wisdom

In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.

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When I am finishing a picture I hold some God-made object up to it / a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand / as a kind of final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there’s a clash between the two, it is bad art.

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If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing. Will God or someone else give me the strength to breathe the breath of prayer and mourning into my paintings, the breath of prayer for redemption and resurrection?

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The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. In this long vigil he often has to vary his methods of stimulation; but in this long vigil he is also himself striving against a continual tendency to sleep.

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Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love. 

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Marc Chagall (July 1887 – March 1985) was a Russian artist of a devout Jewish family, born in Vitebsk.

Source: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2014/05/07/character-of-the-week-marc-chagall/

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Dance The Night Of The Senses Away

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Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet. – St. Pophyrios of Kavsokalyvia

St. Porphyrios made this statement in the context of love and suffering:

That’s what it is! You must suffer. You must love and suffer–suffer for the one you love. Love makes effort for the loved one. She runs all through the night; she stays awake; she stains her feet with blood in order to meet her beloved. She makes sacrifices and disregards all impediments, threats, and difficulties for the sake of the loved one. Love towards Christ is something even higher, infinitely higher.

This is a rich image of the poet – or what can drive us both to poetry as well as theology. In the history of the Church, a number of the greatest theologians have also been poets. St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John of Damascus, St. Isaac of Syria, St. Ephrem of Edessa – the list goes on and on – all joined theology to poetic endeavor. When we include the fact that the bulk of Orthodox theology is to be found in the hymns of the Church, we have to admit that the heart of the poet and the heart of the theologian are much the same thing.  (1)

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Let us now feast on some exquisite food of the spirit, let us receive excess of saints’ poetry, let us all get drunk with the Spirit! (cf. Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1, 1–3). St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory the Theologian, St John Damascene, and above all, St. Symeon the New Theologian will open out to us vistas of “that unseeable beauty, that unapproachable light, that unbearable glory”, such as we had never known before!

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everything that is hurt,

everything
 that seemed to us dark,

harsh, shameful, 
maimed, ugly, irreparably
 damaged,

is in Him transformed

 and recognized as whole,

as lovely, 
and radiant in His light!

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St Gregory of Nyssa

On Virginity

“… What, what is Virtue, but repose of mind?

A pure ethereal calm that knows no storm,

Above the reach of wild ambition’s wind,

Above the passions that this world deform,

And torture man, a proud malignant worm.”

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St. Gregory the Theologian

Prayer

Flee swiftly from my heart, all-crafty one.

Flee from my members and from my life.

Deceiver, serpent, and fire, Belial, sin,

death, abyss, dragon, night, snare, and frenzy,

chaos, manslayer, and ferocious beast!

Thou didst entice into perdition those

first-formed folk, my foreparents, offering them

at the same time the taste of sin and death.

Christ, the Ruler of all commandeth thee to

flee into the billows, to fall upon the rocks,

or to enter the herd of swine, O baleful one,

as once He bade that presumptuous Legion.

Nay, yield forthwith, lest I smite thee with the Cross,

whereat all things tremble;

Oh, flee!

I bear the Cross upon me, in all my members.

I bear the Cross whene’er I journey, whene’er I sleep.

I hold the Cross in my heart. The Cross is my glory.

O mischievous one, wilt thou never cease from

dogging me with traps and laying snares for me?

Wilt thou not dash thyself upon the precipices?

Seest thou not Sodom? Oh, wilt thou not speedily

assail the shameless herds of ungodly heretics,

who, having so recklessly sundered the Almighty

Godhead, have witlessly destroyed and abolished It?

But comest thou against my hoariness? Comest thou

against my lowly heart? Thou ever blackenest me,

O foe, with darksome thoughts, pernicious thoughts.

Thou hast no fear of God, nor of His Priests.

This mind of mine, most evil one, was verily

a mighty and loud-voiced herald of the Trinity.

And now it beholdeth its end, whither it goeth in haste.

Confuse me not, O slimy one, that I might, as pristine,

meet the pure lights of Heaven, that they might

shine like lightning flashes upon my life.

Lo, receive me; lo, I stretch forth my hands.

Farewell, O world! Farewell, thou who bringest woes upon me!

Pity be shown to all that shall live after me.

Dirge

Woe is me! Just now that I press forward

to Heaven, to the place of God, alas!

This body of mine encompasseth me.

Neither is there an end to this much-erring life,

nor yet to loathsome evil, which bindeth me fast

here below, and woundeth me from every side,

smiting me with unexpected cares that consume

the beauty and grace of my soul.

Nonetheless, O my God, King of all,

loose me swiftly from these earthly fetters,

and enroll me henceforth in the celestial choirs. (2)

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St John Damascene

The Funeral Hymns 

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[Icon above: The Astonishment of Sisoes | Contemplating Death, staring over the dead bones of Alexander the Great]

St. Sisoi’s icon (below) is to be found in the Monastery of Varlaam, Meteora (central Greece). It depicts a unique theme, whereby St. Siois is mourning in front of Alexander the Great’s tomb, the most famous Greek king ever to have lived.

“A tomb now suffices him for whom the world was not enough.”  [Alexander’s tombstone epitaph]

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Tone I

Where is the pleasure in life which is unmixed with sorrow? Where the glory which on earth has stood firm and unchanged? All things are weaker than shadow, all more illusive than dreams; comes one fell stroke, and Death in turn, prevails over all these vanities. Wherefore in the Light, O Christ, of Your countenance, the sweetness of Your beauty, to him (her) whom You have chosen grant repose, for You are the Friend of Mankind.

Tone 2

Like a blossom that wastes away, and like a dream that passes and is gone, so is every mortal into dust resolved; but again, when the trumpet sounds its call, as though at a quaking of the earth, all the dead shall arise and go forth to meet You, O Christ our God: on that day, O Lord, for him (her) whom You have withdrawn from among us appoint a place in the tentings of Your Saints;yea, for the spirit of Your servant, O Christ.

Another in Tone 2

Alas! What an agony the soul endures when from the body it is parting; how many are her tears for weeping, but there is none that will show compassion: unto the angels she turns with downcast eyes; useless are her supplications; and unto men she extends her imploring hands, but finds none to bring her rescue. Thus, my beloved brethren, let us all ponder well how brief is the span of our life; and peaceful rest for him (her) that now is gone, let us ask of Christ, and also His abundant mercy for our souls.

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 Tone 3

Vanity are all the works and quests of man, and they have no being after death has come; our wealth is with us no longer. How can our glory go with us? For when death has come all these things are vanished clean away. Wherefore to Christ the Immortal King let us cry, “To him (her) that has departed grant repose where a home is prepared for all those whose hearts You have filled with gladness.”

 Tone 4

Terror truly past compare is by the mystery of death inspired; now the soul and the body part, disjoined by resistless might, and their concord is broken; and the bond of nature which made them live and grow as one, now by the edict of God is rest in twain. Wherefore now we implore Your aid grant that Your servant now gone to rest where the just that are Yours abide, Life-bestower and Friend of Mankind.

 Tone 4

Where is now our affection for earthly things? Where is now the alluring pomp of transient questing? Where is now our gold, and our silver? Where is now the surging crowd of domestics, and their busy cries? All is dust, all is ashes, all is shadow. Wherefore draw near that we may cry to our immortal King, “Lord, Your everlasting blessings vouchsafe unto him (her) that now has gone away. bringing him (her) to repose in that blessedness which never grows old.”

(c) Ferens Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Tone 5

I Called to mind the Prophet who shouted, “I am but earth and ash.” And once again I looked with attention on the tombs, and I saw the bones therein which of flesh were naked; and I said, “Which indeed is he that is king? Or which is soldier? Which is the wealthy, which the needy? Which the righteous, or which the sinner?” But to Your servant, O Lord, grant that with the righteous he (she) may repose.

Tone 6

My beginning and foundation was the form;bestowing Word of Your commandment; for it pleased You to make me by compounding visible and invisible nature into a living thing. out of earth was my body formed and made, but a soul You gave me by the Divine and Life-creating In; breathing. Wherefore, O Christ, to Your servant in the land of the living, in the courts of the righteous, do You grant repose.

 Tone 7

Bring to his (her) rest, O our Savior, You giver of life, our brother (sister) whom You have withdrawn from this transient world, for he (she) lifts up his (her) voice to cry: “Glory to You.”

 Another in Tone 7

When in Your own image and likeness You in the beginning did create and fashion man, You gave him a home in Paradise, and made him the chief of your creation. But by the devil’s envy, alas, beguiled to eat the fruit forbidden, transgressor then of Your commandments he became; wherefore back to earth, from which he first was taken, You did sentence him to return again, O Lord, and to pray You to give him rest.

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[Icon above: The Canon of Pascha, a composition by John of Damascus.]

Plagal of the Fourth Tone

Weep, and with tears lament when with understanding I think on death, and see how in the graves there sleeps the beauty which once for us was fashioned in the image of God, but now is shapeless, ignoble, and bare of all the graces. O how strange a thing; what is this mystery which concerns us humans? Why were we given up to decay? And why to death united in wedlock? Truly, as it is written, these things come to pass by ordinance of God, Who to him (her) now gone gives rest

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

The death which You have endured, O Lord, is become the harbinger of deathlessness; if You had not been laid in Your tomb, then would not the gates of Paradise have been opened;wherefore to him (her) now gone from us give rest, for You are the Friend of Mankind.

 Both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Virgin chaste and holy, Gateway of the Word, Mother of our God, make supplication that his (her) soul find mercy.

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Listen to a selection of these Funeral Hymns chanted in a Mt Athos, Byzantine style by Apostolos Hill (Hymns of Paradise) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSBh6Iabe68 , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vtNuI8Wj3g , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7iXu2yO7Lc

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[Icon above: Cure of Saint John Damascene]

The story behind the texts of the Funeral Service is very moving: St. John was once a powerful and wise member of the royal court. He however abandoned all this and became a monk. “Only once did John disobey the instructions that were his rule of life in the monastery. A fellow monk had lost his brother and could not be consoled. Knowing of John’s ability to compose music and poetry, he begged him to write a funeral hymn for his dead brother. Because his elder had left the monastery for a few days, John refused, for he had agreed to do nothing without the elder’s direction and consent. Finally, however, he felt so sorry for the bereaved monk that he consented, and wrote one of his most beautiful hymns–which has become part of the Orthodox funeral service. The monk was very moved by the lovely hymn and thanked John for helping him in his grief.

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But when the elder returned and heard of John’s deed, he wanted nothing more to do with him for he had disobeyed his rule. John begged the elder to forgive him, but to no avail. The other monks also petitioned the older monk to take him back, even if it meant giving John a penance. The elder finally relented. He gave him the worst job in the monastery, cleaning the lavatories, and also forbid him to write any more hymns. John accepted gratefully and willingly carried out all his duties.

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One night the elder had a vision. The mother of God appeared to him in a dream and said: “Why have you sealed the spring of fresh water for which the whole world is thirsty? Let it pour freely and comfort those in need. Let John praise God through his songs.” The elder then realized that he had dealt wrongly with John and hurried to him, asking forgiveness for his sternness and bluntness. He knelt and bowed low before John to beg his pardon. The talent which had been given to John could now be used to the glory of God.”

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There is also another very moving story about St. John Damascene and the Icon of Theotokos with three Hands! St. John Damascene was the great defender of icons. Because of his defense of the holy images and because of his great ability as a writer, the order was given by the iconoclasts that his right hand be cut off at the wrist. St. John asked for the severed hand and prayed before the icon known as the Hodegetria or She Who Shows the Way. Asking fervently that his hand might be restored, he fell asleep exhausted.

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Virgin Mary came to him in a dream; when awoke his hand was miraculously restored with only a red line showing.  In gratitude, St. John composed the hymn “In thee, O Full of Grace, all creation rejoices” The icon before which St. John prayed exists to this day on Mount Athos in the Hilander Monastery. It is called Tricherousa, or Panagia “Of  Three Hands” due to the silver hand which St. John placed on the icon as a testament to the above miracle.

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St. Symeon the New Theologian

How are You at once the source of fire

How are You at once the source of fire,

how also the fountain of dew?

How at once burning and sweetness,

how a remedy for all disease?

How do You make gods of us men,

how do You make darkness light?

How do You make one reascend from Hell,

how do You make us mortals imperishable?

How do You draw darkness to light,

how do You triumph over night?

How do You illumine the heart?

how do You transform me entirely?

How do You become one with men,

how do You make them sons of God?

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In the midst of that night, in my darkness

by Symeon the New Theologian

In the midst of that night, in my darkness,

I saw the awesome sight of Christ

opening the heavens for me.

And he bent down to me and showed himself to me

with the Father and the Holy Spirit

in the thrice holy light

–
a single light in three,

and a threefold light in one,

for they are altogether light,

and the three are but one light,.

And he illumined my soul

more radiantly than the sun,

and he lit up my mind,

which had until then been in darkness.

Never before had my mind seen such things.

I was blind, you should know it,

and I saw nothing.

That was why this strange wonder

was so astonishing to me,

when Christ, as it were,

opened the eye of my mind,

when he gave me sight, as it were,

and it was him that I saw.

He is Light within Light,

who appears
 to those

who contemplate him,

and contemplatives see him in light

–
see him, that is, in the light of the Spirit…

And now, as if from far off,

I still see that unseeable beauty,

that unapproachable light,

that unbearable glory.

My mind is completely astounded.

I tremble with fear.

Is this a small taste from the abyss,

which like a drop of water

serves to make all water

knowing all its qualities and aspects?…

I found him, the One

whom I had seen from afar,

the one whom Stephen saw

when the heavens opened,

and later whose vision blinded Paul.

Truly, he was as a fire

in the center of my heart.

I was outside myself, broken down, lost to myself,

and unable to bear

the unendurable brightness of that glory.

And so, I turned

and fled into the night of the senses.

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O totally strange and inexpressible marvel!

by Symeon the New Theologian

O totally strange and inexpressible marvel!

Because of my infinite richness I am a needy person

and imagine to have nothing,

when I possess so much,

and I say: “I am thirsty,”

through superabundance of the waters

and “who will give me,”

that which I possess in abundance,

and “where will I find,”

the One whom I see each day.

“How will I lay hold of,”

the One who is within me,

and beyond the world,

since he is completely invisible? (4)

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The fire rises in me

by Symeon the New Theologian

The fire rises in me,

and lights up my heart.

Like the sun!

Like the golden disk!

Opening, expanding, radiant —

Yes!
     a flame!

I say again:

I don’t know

what to say!

I’d fall silent

If only I could

but this marvel

makes my heart leap,

it leaves me open mouthed

like a fool,

urging me

to summon words

from my silence.

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We awaken in Christ’s body

by Symeon the New Theologian

We awaken in Christ’s body

as Christ awakens our bodies,

and my poor hand is Christ,

He enters
 my foot,

and is infinitely me.

I move my hand,

and wonderfully

my hand becomes Christ,

becomes all of Him

(for God is indivisibly 
whole,

seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot,

and at once
He appears

like a flash of lightning.

Do my words seem blasphemous?

Then 
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one

who is opening to you so deeply.

For if we genuinely love Him,

we wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,

every most hidden part of it,

is realized in joy as Him,

and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt,

everything
 that seemed to us dark,

harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
 damaged,

is in Him transformed

 and recognized as whole,

as lovely, 
and radiant in His light

he awakens as the Beloved

in every last part of our body.

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You, oh Christ, are the Kingdom of Heaven

by Symeon the New Theologian

You, oh Christ, are the Kingdom of Heaven;

You, the land promised to the gentle;

You the grazing lands of paradise;

You, the hall of the celestial banquet;

You, the ineffable marriage chamber;

You the table set for all,

You the bread of life;

You, the unheard of drink;

You, both the urn for the water

and the life-giving water;

You, moreover, the inextinguishable lamp

for each one of the saints;

You, the garment and the crown

and the one who distributes crowns;

You, the joy and the rest;

You, the delight and glory;

You the gaiety;

You, the mirth;

and Your grace,

grace of the Spirit of all sanctity,

will shine like the sun in all the saints;

and You, inaccessible sun,

will shine in their midst

and all will shine brightly,

to the degree of their faith,

their asceticism,

their hope

and their love,

their purification

and their illumination

by Your Spirit.

 

Sources:

(1) For the full article “The Poetry of God” by 

(2) Our Father among the Saints Gregory of Nazianzos, the Theologian: Selected verses from his poetry translated metrically into Modern Greek by Alexandros Moraïtides (in Greek) (Athens: Ekdosis I.N. Sideres, n.d.), Vol. II. [The original poems are found in Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXVII, cols. 1399A-1401A (Poem LV); cols. 1384A-1385A (Poem XLIX) — trans.]

(3) The hymns by St. John of Damascus, taken from http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/funeral2

(4) Original Language Greek; English version by George A. Maloney, S.J., Ivan M. Granger, Stephen Mitchell. Source: http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/Poets/S/SymeontheNew/

Remove The Sandals From Your Feet

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Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees.

— Revelation 7:3

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The saints embrace the whole world with their love.

— St. Silouan the Athonite

On the Holy Mountain of Athos, the monks sometimes put up beside the forest paths special signposts, offering encouragement or warning to the pilgrim as he passes. One such notice used to give me particular pleasure. Its message was brief and clear: “Love the trees.”

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Fr. Amphilochios, the geronta or “elder” on the island of Patmos when I first stayed there, would have been in full agreement. “Do you know,” he said, “that God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded in Scripture? It is the commandment “love the trees.” Whoever does not love trees, so he believed, does not love God. “When you plant a tree,” he insisted, “you plant hope, you plant peace, you plant love, and you will receive God’s blessing.” An ecologist long before ecology had become fashionable, when hearing confessions of the local farmers he used to assign to them a penance, the task of planting a tree. During the long summer drought, he himself went round the island watering the young trees. …

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Fr. Amphilochios was by no means the first spiritual teacher in the modern Greek tradition to recognize the importance of trees. Two centuries earlier, the Athonite monk St. Kosmas the Aetolian, martyred in 1779, used to plant trees as he traveled around Greece on his missionary journeys, and in one of his “prophecies” he stated, “People will remain poor, because they have no love for trees.” We can see that prophecy fulfilled today in all too many parts of the world. …

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“Love the trees.” Why should we do so? Is there indeed a connection between love of trees and love of God? How far is it true that a failure to reverence and honor our natural environment — animals, trees, earth, fire, air, and water — is also, in an immediate and soul-destroying way, a failure to reverence and honor the living God?

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Let us begin with two visions of a tree. Edward Carpenter, in Pagan and Christian Creeds [records] a partial vision of a tree. “It was a beech, standing somewhat isolated, and still leafless in quite early Spring. Suddenly, I was aware of its skyward-reaching arms and up-turned finger-tips, as if some vivid life (or electricity) was streaming through them far into the spaces of heaven, and of its roots plunged in the earth and drawing the same energies from below. The day was quite still and there was no movement in the branches, but in that moment the tree was no longer a separate or separable organism, but a vast being ramifying far into space, sharing and uniting the life of Earth and Sky, and full of amazement.”

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… Two things above all are noteworthy in Edward Carpenter’s “partial vision.” First, the tree is alive, vibrant with what he calls “energies” or “electricity”; it is “full of most amazing activity.” Second, the tree is cosmic in its dimensions: it is not “a separate or separable organism” but is “vast” and all-embracing in its scope, “ramifying far into space … uniting the life of Earth and Sky.” Here is a vision of joyful wonder, inspired by an underlying sense of mystery. The tree has become a symbol pointing beyond itself, a sacrament that embodies some deep secret at the heart of the universe. The same sense of wonder and mystery — of the symbolic and sacramental character of the world — is strikingly manifest in Peaks and Llamas , the master-work of that spiritual mountaineer, Marco Pallis.

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Yet there are at the same time certain limitations in Carpenter’s tree-vision. The mystery to which the tree points is not spelt out by him in specifically personal terms. He makes no attempt to ascend through the creation to the Creator. …

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Let us turn to a second tree-vision, which is by contrast explicitly personal and theophanic: “Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”  (Ex 3:1-6)

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Comparing the experience of Moses with that of Carpenter, we observe three things: in the first place, the vision described in Exodus reaches out beyond the realm of the impersonal. The burning bush at Horeb acts as the locus of an interpersonal encounter, of a meeting face-to-face, of a dialogue between two subjects. God calls out to Moses by name, “Moses, Moses!” and Moses responds, “Here I am.” “Through the creation to the Creator”: in and through the tree he beholds, Moses enters into communion with the living God.

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In the second place, God does not only appear to Moses but also issues a practical command to him: “Remove the sandals from your feet.” According to Greek Fathers such as St. Gregory of Nyssa, sandals or shoes — being made from the skins of dead animals — are something lifeless, inert, dead and earthly, and so they symbolize the heaviness, weariness, and mortality that assail our human nature as a result of the Fall.

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“Remove your sandals,” then, may be understood to signify: Strip off from yourself the deadness of familiarity and boredom; free yourself from the lifelessness of the trivial, the mechanical, the repetitive; wake up, open your eyes, cleanse the doors of your perception, look and see! And what, in the third place, happens to us when in this manner we strip off the dead skins of boredom and triviality? At once we realize the truth of God’s next words to Moses: “The place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Set free from spiritual deadness, awakening from sleep, opening our eyes both outwardly and inwardly, we look upon the world around us in a different way.

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So we enter the dimensions of sacred space and sacred time. We discern the great within the small, the extraordinary within the ordinary, “a world in a grain of sand … and eternity in an hour,” to quote Blake once more. This place where I am, this tree, this animal, this person to whom I am speaking, this moment of time through which I am living: each is holy, each is unique and unrepeatable, and each is therefore infinite in value.

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Combining Edward Carpenter’s living tree, uniting earth and heaven and the burning bush of Moses, we can see emerging a precise and distinctive conception of the universe. Nature is sacred. The world is a sacrament of the divine presence, a means of communion with God. The environment consists not in dead matter but in living relationship. The entire cosmos is one vast burning bush, permeated by the fire of divine power and glory. …

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For more Orthodox ecology of Transfiguration, theophanic transparency, pellucid double vision and Zen ‘haeccitas’, read the full article THROUGH CREATION TO THE CREATOR by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia

 at http://incommunion.org/2004/12/11/through-creation-to-the-creator/

His Body a Prayer a Crossbeam

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  heamus2

       

St Kevin and the Blackbird (1996)

By Seamus Heaney

And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

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One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to nest.

*

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

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Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.

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And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

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From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

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Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,

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A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.

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The Spirit Level (1996)

st kevin1

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*

The Irish poet’s and Nobel Laureate’s, Seamus Heaney’s, extract from his Nobel prize speech, drawing a parallel between his labour as a poet in modern society and Saint Kevin’s labour of love, “to labour and not to seek reward”:

“Which is why for years I was bowed to the desk like some monk bowed over his prie-dieu … Then finally and happily, and not in obedience to the dolorous circumstances of my native place but in despite of them, I straightened up.  … I shall try to represent the import of that changed orientation with a story out of Ireland.
*
This is a story about another monk holding himself up valiantly in the posture of endurance. It is said that once upon a time St. Kevin was kneeling with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross in Glendalough, a monastic site not too far from where we lived in Co. Wicklow, a place which to this day is one of the most wooded and watery retreats in the whole of the country. Anyhow, as Kevin knelt and prayed, a blackbird mistook his outstretched hand for some kind of roost and swooped down upon it, laid a clutch of eggs in it and proceeded to nest in it as if it were the branch of a tree. Then, overcome with pity and constrained by his faith to love the life in all creatures great and small, Kevin stayed immobile for hours and days and nights and weeks, holding out his hand until the eggs hatched and the fledglings grew wings, true to life if subversive of common sense, at the intersection of natural process and the glimpsed ideal, at one and the same time a signpost and a reminder. Manifesting that order of poetry where we can at last grow up to that which we stored up as we grew.” (1)

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St Kevin of Glendalough, Wonder-worker of Ireland (also Coemgen, Caoimhghin, Coemgenus, and Kavin) is a Celtic saint, venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion. He was the abbot of Glendalough Monastery. He was born in 498, and fell asleep in the Lord in 618 at the age of 120 years. His feast day is celebrated on June 3. The icons suggest St. Kevin’s preference for the life of solitude, penance and prayer of a hermit, and also his affinity with nature and his love for animals and birds.

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The well known story of the black bird in his hand is a verbal image of his reverence for creation, while the fawn at St. Kevin’s feet is a symbol of his own gentle peaceful nature. … The deer recalls the providence of God who through a doe provided milk for a child Kevin had fostered, and at the same time reminds us of the deer in the psalms, who is the image of the soul that yearns for God – the living water. … The salmon again emphasizes for us the care of the Creator who provided for the monks of the nearby monastery, a salmon sufficient for their daily meal. It also recalls that the fish (ICTHUS) is an ancient symbol of the incarnation of Christ. … The cow highlights God’s providence, since it is recorded that a white cow brought milk each day to feed the infant Kevin.  … There is also the otter that rescued Kevin’s breviary from the lake and retrieved it undamaged and brought him fish also brought fish for his monastery. (2)

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Sources:

(1) Excerpt from Seamus Heaney’s Nobel Lecture. For the full text go to  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1995/heaney-lecture.html

(2) http://www.glendaloughhermitage.ie/hermitage/st-kevins-parish-church/icon-of-st-kevin-caoimhin/ and http://orthodoxwiki.org/Kevin_of_Glendalough

Temet Nosce

know-thyself

Legion

Lord, hear my voice, my present voice I mean,
Not that which may be speaking an hour hence
(For I am Legion) in an opposite sense,
And not by show of hands decide between
The multiple factions which my state has seen
Or will see. Condescend to the pretence
That what speaks now is I; in its defence
Dissolve my parliament and intervene.
*
Thou wilt not, though we asked it, quite recall
Free will once given. Yet to this moment’s choice
Give unfair weight. Hold me to this. Oh strain
A point – use legal fictions; for if all
My quarrelling selves must bear an equal voice,
Farewell, thou has created me in vain.

*

“And He asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.” Mark 5:9 (KJB)

*

*

As the Ruin Falls

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
*
Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love –a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek–
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
*
Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
*
For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

*

“Selfishness cries to Thee: My Father! But Love cries: Our Father!” — St. Nikolai Velimirovic

99 Year-Old ‘Beggar’ Fool-For-Christ

This 99-Year-Old Man Begs Every Day And Gives It All Away To Churches And Orphanages

To the unfamiliar passerby, Dobri Dobrev, 99, may come off as a haggard beggar who depends on the kindness of strangers to get by in life.

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But, for the residents of Sofia, Bulgaria, Dobrev is nothing of the sort. Rather, the area’s fixture has been called a “saint” and a “divine stranger,” according to a website dedicated to Dobrev.

imgur, meet Dobri Dobrev

Dobrev lost most of his hearing during World War II, according to Yahoo News Canada. He lives more than 15 miles outside of Sofia, a distance he used to trek by foot, but he now relies on the bus, according to SaintDobry.com. He spends his days asking people for money, but he doesn’t keep a cent.

The generous guy lives off of his monthly pension of 80 euros (about $100) and gives all his donations to institutions that are most dear to him: churches and orphanages.

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Photo credit: Laura / Panoramio 

Last year, Reddit user Nullvoid123 wrote on the site that he has met Dobrev a number of times and that the beneficent man said he once “did a bad thing,” and is now trying to make up for his past transgressions by helping others.

Dobrev has made a number of generous donations throughout the years to churches, but one of his largest gifts was when he gave 35,700 lev (more than $24,000) to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, according to a video released by the church. He has also been known to give money to orphanages to help them pay their utility bills. “The good will is just and true. Everything in it is good,” Dobrev said in the film “Mite,” which was produced in 2000. “We must not lie, nor steal, nor commit adultery. We must love each other as God loves us.”

Source: Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/27/dobri-dobrev_n_4867974.html

O Isaiah, Dance for Joy

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O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.
Composer: John Tavener

Meant to convey a series of verbal and musical impressions of a village wedding in Greece, Tavener’s music is set to a mix of texts from Angelos Sikelianos’ poem” Village Wedding” interspersed with many repetitions of the line “O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child” taken from the Orthodox wedding service.

Text, by Angelos Sikelianos, translated from Greek by Philip Sherrard and Edmund Keeley

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To my beloved, who breaks my heart.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

Do you listen within your veil, silent, God-quickened heart?
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

O depth and stillness of virginity! Follow your man.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

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Let them throw white rice like a spring shower.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

Like a spring cloud, let her now tenderly spread her bridal veil.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

O the peace of the bridal dawn.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

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And he listens, and he listens.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.And, as in front of a fount of crystal water,
Let the girls pass in front of the bride,
Observing her look from the corner of their eyes,
As though balancing pitchers on their heads.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.O, like Leto giving birth to Apollo,
Do you listen within your veil?
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

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When standing, her hands slight and pale,
(Let them throw white rice…)
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.She clasped the ethereal palm tree on Delos,
Like a spring cloud.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.May you her mystical image…
O the peace of the bridal dawn.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

Held by your husband’s strong heart,
And he listens.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

Bring into the world with a single cry your child,
As the poet brings forth his creation.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

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*The Dance of Isaiah is one of the integral parts of the Wedding/Crowning Service (Sacrament of Holy Matrimony) in the Orthodox Church (Byzantine Rite) and involves a the triple procession around a center table. The priest, holding the Gospel or Blessing Cross and the clasped hands of the groom and bride, and followed by the best man (or woman) who holds the newlyweds’ crowns above their heads, and the bridesmaids holding the lit white candles, walk three counterclockwise turns around the table in a celebratory “dance”. Each of the three turns is accompanied by each of the three hymns, which return once more to the theme of martyrdom and union with Christ. These are the hymns that, since ancient times, the Church has used to emphasize God’s blessings, and the same ones sung at ordinations to ecclesiastical orders. They signify that this couple has been set apart from the mundane world to live a life in Christ:

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Rejoice, O Isaiah! The Virgin is with child,

And shall bear a son Emmanuel,

Who is both God and Man,

And Orient is His Name,

Whom magnifying we call, the Virgin blessed.

O Holy Martyrs,

who fought the good fight and have received your crowns,

Entreat ye the Lord,

That He will have mercy on our souls.

Glory to Thee, O Christ God.

The Apostles boast,

The Martyrs Joy,

whose preaching was the Consubstantial Trinity.

*

To watch how the celebrant actually leads the marriage couple and the witnesses around the wedding table three times at the Orthodox Wedding/Crowning Service (Byzantine Rite), while chanting this religious hymn,  go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyTQnV5W24A

Wedding Photographs: Wedding with Carved Crowns
Source: Orthodox Arts Journal