His Body a Prayer a Crossbeam

mull seamus1

  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

*

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,

*

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.

*

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

*

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

*

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,

*

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

*
The Spirit Level (1996)

st kevin1

seamus3

seamus6

seamus7

 

*

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)

seamus5

st kevin3

st kevin5

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.

st kevin2

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)

st kevin4

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.

dobri dobrev

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.

dobri
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

    wedding1
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

Wedding-1

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.

Wedding-4

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.

Wedding-2
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.

Wedding-3
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.

wedding6

*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:

wedding7

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

Love Without Limits

burning bush13

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

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

burning bush6

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

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

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

burning bush3

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

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

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

burning bush9

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

Then hear what my Love speaks to you.

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

burning bush8

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

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

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

burning bush11

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

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

burning bush10

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

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

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

burning bush12

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

By A Monk of the Eastern Church

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

burning bush2

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

Solitary and Naked Before God

... If we decide responsibly and seriously to make the Gospel truth the standard for our human souls, we will have no doubts about how to act in any particular case of our lives: we should renounce everything we have, take up our cross, and follow Him. The only thing Christ leaves us is the path that leads after Him, and the cross which we bear on our shoulders, imitating His bearing of the cross to Golgotha.

[And that is all]

It can be generally affirmed that Christ calls us to imitate Him. That is the exhaustive meaning of all Christian morality. And however differently various peoples in various ages understand the meaning of this imitation, all ascetic teachings in Christianity finally boil down to it. Desert dwellers imitate Christ’s forty-day sojourn in the desert. Fasters fast because He fasted. Following His example, the prayerful pray, virgins observe purity, and so on. It is not by chance that Thomas Kempis entitled his book The Imitation of Christ; it is a universal precept of Christian morality, the common title, as it were, of all Christian asceticism.

001 603

El Greco – Christ Embraced the Cross (detail) (1587-96)

I will not try to characterize here the different directions this imitation has taken, and its occasional deviations, perhaps, from what determines the path of the Son of Man in the Gospel. There are as many different interpretations as there are people, and deviations are inevitable, because the human soul is sick with sin and deathly weakness.

What matters is something else. What matters is that in all these various paths Christ Himself made legitimate this solitary standing of the human soul before God, this rejection of all the rest – that is, of the whole world: father and mother, as the Gospel precisely puts it, and not only the living who are close to us, but also the recently dead – everything, in short. Naked, solitary, freed of everything, the soul sees only His image before it, takes the cross on its shoulders, following His example, and goes after him to accept its own dawnless night of Gethsemane, its own terrible Golgotha, and through it to bear its faith in the Resurrection into the undeclining joy of Easter.

[And that is all]

cross8

Here it indeed seems that everything is exhausted by the words “God and my soul.” All the rest is what He called me to renounce, and so there is nothing else: God – and my soul – and nothing.

No, not quite nothing. The human soul does not stand empty-handed before God. The fullness is this: God – and my soul – and the cross that it takes up. There is also the cross.

[And that is all]

el greco

El Greco — Christ Carrying the Cross (1587-96)

The meaning and significance of the cross are inexhaustible. The cross of Christ is the eternal tree of life, the invincible force, the union of heaven and earth, the instrument of a shameful death. But what is the cross in our path of the imitation of Christ? How should our crosses resemble the one cross of the Son of Man? For even on Golgotha there stood not one but three crosses: the cross of the God-man and the crosses of the two thieves. Are these two crosses not symbols, as it were, of all human crosses, and does it not depend on us which one we choose? For us the way of the cross is unavoidable in any case, we can only choose to freely follow either the way of the blaspheming thief and perish, or the way of the one who called upon Christ and be with Him today in paradise. For a certain length of time, the thief who chose perdition shared the destiny of the Son of Man. He was condemned and nailed to a cross in the same way; he suffered torment in the same way. But that does not mean that his cross was the imitation of Christ’s cross, that his path led him in the footsteps of Christ.

cross6

Detail from the Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece, circa 1512-16

… What is most essential, most determining in the image of the cross is the necessity of freely and voluntarily accepting it and taking it up. Christ freely, voluntarily took upon Himself the sins of the world, and raised them up on the cross, and thereby redeemed them and defeated hell and death. To accept the endeavor and the responsibility voluntarily, to freely crucify your sins – that is the meaning of the cross, when we speak of bearing it on our human paths.  … The free path to Golgotha – that is the true imitation of Christ.

[And that is all]

cross5

Crucifixion, by Titian, circa 1555

This would seem to exhaust all the possibilities of the Christian soul, and thus the formula “God and my soul” indeed embraces the whole world. All the rest that was renounced on the way appears only as a sort of obstacle adding weight to my cross. And heavy as it may be, whatever human sufferings it may place on my shoulders, it is all the same my cross, which determines my personal way to God, my personal following in the footsteps of Christ. My illness, my grief, my loss of dear ones, my relations to people, to my vocation, to my work – these are details of my path, not ends in themselves, but a sort of grindstone on which my soul is sharpened, certain – perhaps sometimes burdensome – exercises for my soul, the particularities of my personal path.

[And that is all]

cross1

If that is so, it certainly settles the question. It can only be endlessly varied, depending on the individual particularities of epochs, cultures, and separate persons. But essentially everything is clear. God and my soul, bearing its cross. In this an enormous spiritual freedom, activity, and responsibility are confirmed. And that is all.

cross2

… There are simply millions of people born into the world, some of whom hear Christ’s call to renounce everything, take up their cross, and follow Him, and, as far as their strength, their faith, their personal endeavor allow, they answer that call. They are saved by it, they meet Christ, as if merging their life with His. …

The cross of Golgotha is the cross of the Son of Man, the crosses of the thieves and our personal crosses are precisely personal, and as an immense forest of these personal crosses we are moving along the paths to the Kingdom of Heaven. And that is all.

*

Taking Up The Cross

By St. Maria Skobtsova  

  • The first icon on the left is Cross-bearing Theotokos painted by St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris

cross10

Mother Maria Skobtsova died on Good Friday, 1945, in Ravensbr ck concentration camp near Berlin. Maria’s real life is more incredible than any fiction! The “crime” of this influential painter, poet, social activist, Orthodox nun and Russian refugee was her effort to rescue Jews and others being pursued by the Nazis in her adopted city, Paris, where in 1932 she had founded a house of hospitality. … The essay reprinted here is part of a longer text included in Mother Maria Skobtsova: Essential Writings, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky and published by Orbis Books.

Source: https://incommunion.org/2007/10/27/taking-up-the-cross/

For her life, look at: https://orthodoxcityhermit.com/2015/09/23/mother-maria-of-paris-saint-of-the-open-door/

Like a Russian Novel

st maria

 

A very unlikely nun

For a nun, Maria’s story is more than a little unconventional. At Bishop Anthony Bloom’s first encounter with her, Maria sat at a cafe table with a beer. She was often seen shambling around the Paris market in her tattered habit, cigarette perched on her lip, haggling for deals. And she kept company with the lowest of the low.

“She was a very unusual nun in her behavior and her manners. I was simply staggered when I saw her for the first time in monastic clothes. I was walking along the Boulevard Montparnasse and I saw: in front of a café, on the pavement, there was a table, on the table was a glass of beer and behind the glass was sitting a Russian nun in full monastic robes. I looked at her and decided that I would never go near that woman. I was young then and held extreme views.”

That was her calling. Former-revolutionary, twice-married, twice divorced, cigarette-smoking, poet, painter, theologian, nun and martyr-saint, she knew the meaning of God’s mercy and desired only to share it with as many as she could muster. The number was not small.

maria1

Her backstory is the stuff of Russian novels. Born into a wealthy family in 1891, her father died when she was young, and the shock of the loss drove her to renounce her faith. Mixing with smart and fashionable of St. Petersburg, she published poetry, married a Bolshevik, and distressed over the state of the city’s beleaguered poor. But idealism couldn’t save her marriage, which ended in 1913.

russian1

The following year she moved to her family’s estate on the coast of the Black Sea with her daughter, Gaiana. Headstrong and independent, Maria was politically active and eventually became mayor of the town of Anapa as a single mom! She also rediscovered her faith, which informed her activism. “[T]he Christian,” she said, “is called to social work.”

russian4

The problem for Maria was that she was too conservative for the radicals and too radical for the conservatives. After the start of the Russian Revolution she found herself arrested and tried by the anti-Bolshevik party and only escaped conviction because of a kindly judge, Daniel Skobtsov. The two married within months of her acquittal.

With the Revolution in full swing, life in Anapa became impossible. The family fled, swelling in the sojourn. By the time they settled in Paris in 1923, Yuri and Anastasia had been born.

russian2

And now the obvious question: How did this wife of two men and mother of three children become a nun?

mother6

Not good, but revolutionary

It started when Anastasia succumbed to a wasting illness and died in 1926. The family, already strained, was devastated. Maria and Daniel separated and eventually divorced. But out of the devastation Maria’s calling to help the downtrodden was renewed.

Refugee life was terrible, especially for the Russians. Work was scarce. Despair and alcoholism was rampant. Maria saw herself as uniquely suited to help, to rescue, to comfort these victims and misfits. She would be, she said, “a mother to all.”

jews2

The proposed path was monasticism. Revealing is her conversation with her bishop, Metropolitan Evlogy. “I could never be a good nun,” she protested. “I know,” he said. “But I want you to be a revolutionary nun.”

“[S]he went to the steel foundry in Creusot, where a large number of Russian [refugees] were working. She came there and announced that she was preparing to give a series of lectures on Dostoevsky. She was met with general howling: “We do not need Dostoevsky. We need linen ironed, we need our rooms cleaned, we need our clothes mended — and you bring us Dostoevsky!” And she answered: “Fine, if that is needed, let us leave Dostoevsky alone.” And for several days she cleaned rooms, sewed, mended, ironed, cleaned. When she had finished doing all that, they asked her to talk about Dostoevsky. This made a big impression on me, because she did not say: “I did not come here to iron for you or clean your rooms. Can you not do that yourselves?” She responded immediately and in this way she won the hearts and minds of the people.”

jews4

And so she was. There would be no convent for Maria. Her monastery, as she said, was “the whole world.” Several houses and a chapel were set up to shelter and serve those in need. Maria worked tirelessly, Gaiana and Yuri aiding the effort, Father Lev Gillet serving as the ‘convent’’s chaplain for many years. In addition to painting icons and leading religious discussions, she cooked, counseled, and combed the streets looking for anyone she could help.

maria skobtsova

“[E]ach of us,” she wrote, “is faced with the demand to strain all our forces, not fearing the most difficult endeavor, in ascetic self-restraint, giving our souls for others sacrificially and lovingly, to follow in Christ’s footsteps to our appointed Golgotha.”

Maria’s appointment emerged as World War II began and the Nazis seized control of Paris. The only response was obvious.

jews3

A martyr for our own time

Maria and her associates began working with the French Resistance, hiding Jews, forging records and papers, anything to foul Nazi aims. She was brazen. “If the Germans come looking for the Jews,” she said, “I’ll show them the icon of the Mother of God.”

nazi2

* Two triangles, a star,

The shield of King David, our forefather.

This is election, not offense.

The great path and not an evil.

Once more in a term fulfilled,

Once more roars the trumpet of the end;

And the fate of a great people

Once more is by the prophet proclaimed.

Thou art persecuted again, O Israel,

But what can human malice mean to thee,

who have heard the thunder from Sinai? * 

The Gestapo knew something was afoot, but it took time to foil the plot. When they finally did, the Nazis dragged Maria and her coconspirators—including her son Yuri—off to prison.

mother4

During her two-year confinement in the Ravensbrück concentration camp, she was a beacon, bringing hope to people in utter despair. She led prayers and Bible study, fed people from stores she smuggled away, and radiated hope to any and all.

But while her hope was invincible, her body was not. The trauma of the camp took its toll and she became increasingly frail. “Though she was unable to stand for roll calls, she traded some bread for thread so she could embroider one last icon.” It depicted Mary holding a crucified Christ. Before she could finish, she was taken to the gas chamber where she died on Great and Holy Saturday.

nazi4

MOTHER MARIA OF PARIS: SAINT OF THE OPEN DOOR

*

Sources: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/joeljmiller/maria-skobtsova/

https://incommunion.org/2004/10/18/saint-of-the-open-door/

http://jimandnancyforest.com/2006/08/mothermaria/

*

*Maria’s own poem reflecting on the symbol Jews were required to wear during WWII*

*

* * If you are interested in more details about Maria’s activism, inspiration, grace, heroism, and hope-filled commitment, so needed in our world today, please visit: https://incommunion.org/2004/10/18/saint-of-the-open-door/

*

For ST. MARIA SKOBTSOVA RESOURCES, on her life and writings, please go to: https://incommunion.org/st-maria-skobtsova-resources/

That Sleep of Death

Death scenes from Le Jeune Homme et la Mort ballet & Henry Purcell’s opera, Dido and Aeneas

death10

Both the anonymous young man and Dido, Queen of Carthage, are heartbroken and about to kill themselves. Yet how “ugly” and merciless and “cold” (very Cocteau-esque) is Le Jeune Homme et la Mort for all the exquisite beauty of J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor and Baryshnikov’s and Noureyev’s mesmerising performances.

ophelia

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ptNz8rBk7Y (Noureyev)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er0-aAdC2n4 (Baryshnikov)

* That must have been incredibly hard for Baryshnikov to do – his mother hung herself when he was a small child, and he discovered her hanging from the rafters in their home.

ballet4

Compared to the supremely forgiving and uplifting Dido’s Lament, sung with pure clarity‪ and charity, at Henry Purcell’s opera – Dido and Aeneas:

dido1

“When I am laid, am laid in earth,

May my wrongs create No trouble,

No trouble in thy breast”

* quietly sobs *
Hauntingly Beautiful! True heart breaker! A most precious friend of mine asked me once to forgive him in the exact words of Dido, although there was nothing to forgive, and I promised him to play this song on his funeral, for all the world to know what a most gentle, kind, noble and selfless love he had for everyone. Ever since I cannot listen to this without remembering him and welling up ..

Is it possible to hear this masterpiece by without sobbing? I think emphatically not. Dido’s Lament from Purcell‘s opera Dido and Aeneas is arguably the saddest piece of music ever written. But how exactly does Purcell manipulate our emotions to make sure we well up each and every time we hear it?

Legendary harpsichordist and conductor Trevor Pinnock, explains why  it breaks our heart every single time and exactly how Purcell reduces us to tears every time.

http://www.classicfm.com/composers/purcell/guides/trevor-pinnock-didos-lament/#iKWe3zIsJVq33irX.97

For opera connoisseurs, the great Jessye Norman’s rendition is in my opinion classic for its great depth and superb diction, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R7BYSgz8xY

Elin Manahan Thomas‘ is more ethereal and crystalline

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGQq3HcOB0Y

and Xenia Meijer‘s quite beautiful and moving

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivlUMWUJ-1w (Opera)

death30

For more classic paintings on the theme of Love and Death, go to https://vimeo.com/89692541, which features a recording of the famous Aria, arranged for classical guitar and illustrated by several paintings of Heinrich Füger, Nathaniel Dance-Holland and Joseph Turner.

  • That Sleep of Death

Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.

From Shakespeare, Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 1, Hamlet’s Famous Soliloquy: “To Be or Nor to Be”

Drunken to the Ray of Light

 quote2

Poem of the Atoms

By Rumi

*

O’ day, arise!

shine your light , the atoms are dancing

Thanks to Him the universe is dancing,

overcome with ecstasy , free from body and mind

I’ll whisper in your ear where their dance is leading them.

All the atoms in the air and in the desert are dancing ,

puzzled and drunken to the ray of light,

they seem insane.

All these atoms are not so different than we are,

happy or miserable,

perplexed and bewildered

We are all beings in the ray of LIGHT from The Beloved,

nothing can be said.

Do not miss the exquisite singing adaptation of the poem by Salar Aghili (motion picture . Bab’Aziz – The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul -Armand Armand) at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaNGDrKKasA

st sophrony

“The soul of the Christian needs to be refined and sensitive, to have sensibility and wings, to be constantly in fight and to live in dreams, to fly through infinity, among the stars, amidst the greatness of God, amid silence. Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet” (St Porpyrios, Wounded by Love, 107)

*

We are more truly in heaven than on earth.
— Julian of Norwich

*

God hugs you.
You are encircled by the arms
of the mystery of God.
— Hildegarde of Bingen

quote4