Choice

freedom-a-choice-anila-ayilliath

“Freedom, A Choice”,  a painting by Anila Ayilliath

 

Choice (*)

 

-Lord, let me come and join you in that land which beckons me, in those fields that I love.

-No, it is in this town that you must meet me.

-Lord, I long for the sun and the wilde flowers over there.

-I only have this black sky and these thorns to give you.

-But Lord, there is only noise and smoke here.

-There is something else as well; there is sin.

-Lord, I would so like to see again the blue water that you knew!

-Here, hearts are sick and souls are dying in darkness.

Lord, I could perhaps stay if you entered into my heart, if you took my hand. But when I see these streets […] my whole being revolts and escapes in thought over there. Must I therefore still stay here, with my sadness and my loneliness?

-My child, is it so difficult to decide? And to walk where I walk?”

(“Sunday Letters”, Lev Gillet, ‘A Monk of the Eastern Church’ by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, p23)

*

* Dedicated to my spiritual father 

This dedication, initially made on 10/6/2017, holds true of course, only yesterday, when I re-discovered these letters last night, I thought every single iota of these verses was written for me! Piercing my heart … Each time, returning here is becoming increasingly difficult … 

Advertisements

Living Waters

 

desert3

 

 

Isaiah 43:19

19 Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert.

 

John 4:10

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

 

John 7:38

38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

 

John 19:34

34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

*

Listen!

 

A person’s response to God’s offer of salvation is a matter of engaging the will, faith and action.

Without the will there is no movement,

Without faith there is no direction,

Without action there is no reward.

 

To discover Living Water requires us knowing:

Whose open Hand provides this blessing and treasure

What is it’s measure

and

Where to find it flowing?

 

We must start by digging for water in the caverns of the heart.

If the ground is rocky, we must dig in silence with the sharp adze of patience.

 

 

Listen carefully!

Do your hear something?

 

If our ground is hard, we must soften it with mercy and repentance:

For the soil of pride can only be removed through meek dependence

On God.

 

Listen!

Do you hear the drip of water on stone?

 

We must not simply remove the weeds which are the fruits of the passions,

we must excavate each day with persistence

since familiar habits possess a stubborn resistance;

whereas the humus of humility is the place to locate compassion.

 

In this way, we may even lead in order to serve.

Leading the way to build a viaduct for the King of Glory

Order our service to others by constructing a conduit for Christ.

 

Dig therefore with wisdom,

Dig with discernment,

Dig with love,

Whilst guarding the heart at all times with diligence.

 

Listen!

Do you hear water flowing?

 

Because at the time appointed,

At the opportune moment,

We who are disjointed

are healed and

Sealed with the Holy Spirit.

 

God opens the flood gates of our hearts

With His own master key of humility,

To become a channel of His grace.

 

Just listen to that sound!

 

The sound of Living waters;

an ocean wave, a mighty river in flood, a cascading waterfall

a fountain of benediction;

heard by earth’s sons and daughters

To become for all a Life- Giving spring, welling up to Eternity.

 

Work hard then each day and dig!

Listen, work, dig deep

head bowed with sweat and tears,

extinguishing fears of death, awakening life from sleep,

exchanging salt waters for sweet

to greet Living waters.

 

Many rich and powerful men would pay dearly to see the Lord or His Most Pure Mother, but God does not appear in riches, but in the humble heart… Every one of the poorest men can be humbled and come to know God. It needs neither money nor reputation to come to know God, but only humility.

(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, I.11,21)

 

By Fr. Jonathan Hemmings

 

desert9

 

 

Suzana Monastery Retreat I

 

SONY DSC

 

Part A: How the little city hermit became a bird, a fountain, a tree and a pearl!

 

Deep peace of Christ, silence, hesychia, these are the words that come to my mind when I remember Suzana monastery and my three-day retreat there this summer. Also, self-emptying, kenosis. But above all, silence!

 

Only through poetry can such silence be conveyed, so I will paraphrase a favourite poet of mine, Rumi, to convey to you what I experienced here.

 

I had begged the Wise One to tell me
 the secret of my existence, my calling in this world.
 Gently, gently, He whispered at Suzana monastery “Be quiet,
the secret cannot be spoken,
 It is wrapped in silence.”

 

I ground myself, strip myself down, to this overpowering Silence. I feel spiraling into a void of silence where a hundred voices thundered messages I longed to hear.

 

At its unfathomable bottom I encounter a vast fullness, the Spark of LIFE and LOVE, a secret passage to the WAY which wandering talk blocks, a dimension where HE was waiting for me, for my soul to shake.

 

I was carrying so much baggage while seeking the signs of the Way.

 

But at Suzana* monastery, I am ‘forced’ to stop, open up, surrender to this thundering silence, be invaded by ‘It’, and 
stay there until I Saw, until I looked at this blinding Light 
with infinite eyes.

 

This overpowering Silence kidnaps me to the core of Life. There is a sacredness in it. Silence is indeed the language of God, and all else is poor translation.

 

This is exactly what I experience when I am trying to write a poem, how I feel especially when I finish a poem. A great silence overcomes me and I wonder why I ever thought to use language.

suzana6

Silence is indeed the sea, and speech is like the river. The sea is seeking you: don’t seek or walk into the river. Don’t turn your head away from the signs offered by the sea. Listen to the ocean.

 

The sound of Waters and the sound of Silence is a motif in Suzana monastery. At least for me. Everywhere the sound of waters reaches you, so overwhelmingly that I often feel the need to stay in my ‘cell’ and not even venture out.

 

Just listening to that sound was so overwhelming! The very moment I set my foot on this monastery, the sound of Living waters immobilized me, an ocean wave, a mighty river in flood, a cascading waterfall, a fountain of benediction, a Life- Giving spring, welling up to Eternity.

 

Isaiah 43:19

19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

 

John 7:38

38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

 

 

 

Kenosis is also another state I suffered there:

“And they shall build the old wastes,

they shall raise up the former desolations,

and they shall repair the waste cities,

the desolations of many generations.” (Isaiah 61:4)

 

I needed so desperately such ‘Decluttering’ in my life, a Relentless Focus, a Subtraction, Becoming ‘poor’, an Unburdening, a Curtail, a Reduction and Emptying, Until my rebellious bones sore.

 

 

suzana1

This silence, this moment, every moment, this silence brought all what I needed. I sat quietly, and listened for a voice which told me ‘Be more silent.’ ‘Die’ and be quiet. Maybe quietness is the surest sign that you’ve ‘died’. My old life was such a frantic running from silence. Suzana monastery moved me, even for a little, outside the tangle of fear-thinking.

 

In the end, I became a pearl!

 

“And since I have wandered in thee, pearl,

I will gather up my mind

And by having contemplated thee,

Would become like thee,

In that thou art all gathered up into thyself;

And as thou in all times art one,

One let me become by thee!” (St Ephraim, The Pearl)

 

This very old, poor, secluded, fairy-tale monastery, surrounded by forests, mountains and springs, and steeped in holiness, is most certainly God’s special Providence for my tired, exhausted self.

 

I feels like coiling in a virginal womb, unwinding time, beholding

 

“The memory of the glory that I had when I was entirely with You and entirely in You, before time and temporal illusions.

 

When I, too, was a harmonious trinity in holy unity, just as You are from eternity to eternity.

 

When the soul within me was also in friendship with consciousness and life.

 

When my soul also was a virginal womb, and my consciousness was wisdom in virginity, and my life was spiritual power and holiness.

 

 

When I, too, was all light, and when there was no darkness within me.

 

When I, too, was bliss and peace, and when there were no torments of imbalance within me.

 

When I also knew You, even as You know me, and when I was not mingled with darkness.

 

When I, too, had no boundaries, no neighbors, no partitions between “me” and “you.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Memories – Prayers By the Lake XXX)

 

Even the very fact that I cannot not speak Romanian, just barely understand it, is an added blessing, an extra ‘precaution’, a ‘just in case’ … Speaking all too often impoverishes, drenches us. As St. Seraphim of Sarov wisely urges us, “Keep away from the spilling of speech”.

 

Hesychia, Deep peace of Christ wrapped me in green leaves like a tree;

I breathed like a tree in the quiet light!

 

* Suzana Monastery is a Romanian monastery about 5.5 to 6 hours away from Rasca monastery in Bucovine, North Moldavia, where Fr. Seraphim Aldea was tonsured as a monk in 2005. After my retreat here I have a slightly better, more ‘intimate’ understanding of ‘Romanian’ Orthodoxy and Fr. Seraphim’s calling to found the first Orthodox monastery, Mull monastery, in the Hebrides in over a millennium. In a sense only a Romanian hieromonk would be really equipped, spiritually, emotionally, as well as intellectually, to undertake such a huge task! Glory to God for everything!

 

 

 

 

 

Continue to Part II

Confession of the Blind Woman

 

Mother Xeni’s poetry

Today I discovered a new member of my spiritual family, a blind, prescient Amma and a gifted poetess, who happens to be my own spiritual great-grandmother!  Mother Xeni served as  the Abbess of St. Nectarios’ (spelled also: St.Nektarios) newly-founded Monastery in Aegina (Greece) for nuns, and was the spiritual grandmother of my own spiritual mother, Sister Angeliki, who was tonsured a novice there and was ringing the bells upon St. Nektarios’ glorification! 

Glory to God! The circle of Grace expands like ripples in the pool!

 

mother xenia orthodox city hermit spiritual grandmother

 

 

To God

 

A soul, of lamentations worthy, and sorrows, is sighing,

and with a loud and fervent voice, the name of God crying,

and saying, my God save me now, my God, have mercy on me,

O God, You’ve seen my darkness now, so shed Your light upon me,

my God, don’t turn away from me, but quickly hear my pleading,

enlighten my soul’s eyes, O God, spiritually leading;

because they have been blinded from the sins within my depths.

O wretched self, I cannot see; my God, I lose my steps.

Miserable me, I cannot see, my God, where I am going,

or where I stand, or that I am a stranger, past my knowing.

Many clouds and mists my soul in darkness shroud and cover,

and without measure I embitter You, my sweetest Savior.
O wretch, within I feel upheaval, mourning pierced my side,

for Your All-Holy Spirit, Lord, to me must be denied;

my soul must weep eternally her poverty of grace,

and without ceasing to lament in tears that woeful place.

I must avenge myself for all the pain sin makes me suffer,

and with the rivers of my tears, my deep repentance offer;

the tender earth to which I will return, with weeping drench,

to cleanse and flood away the traces of my sins’ foul stench.

I am no longer worthy, Lord, to hope in Your compassion,

I’m worthy only of hell-fire, and suffering, damnation.

But you, my refuge is in You, my God and my Salvation…

(transl. from Greek Fr Demetrios Serfes)

 

GerontissaXeni

Confession of the Blind Woman

 

People, hear and pity me, for this, my situation,

and pray to God to spare me, my wretched soul to give salvation.

Believe me, all of you, my brethren, truly I’ll explain,

in me is found abundantly the name of works I now will make plain.

If you would like to know which virtues I have called my own,

I’ll tell you: naked is my soul of good in every form.

Utterly devoid of virtue, sentenced to be damned,

and by every purity most utterly abandoned.

Poverty past bounds is mine, and wounds and ill diseases,

and being lost forever in the folds of death’s deep creases.

Severe insentitivity and stupor overcome me,

anger, pride, hard-heartedness and evil have undone me.

To virtue I am cold as ice, but warm to wickedness,

always ready for laughter’s lure and for talkativeness.

Instead of being compassionate, I’m totally unfeeling,

instead of weeping constantly, I laugh, the wretched worldling!

But there is something yet, that hides so perfectly these evils.

How long will I so fool the world, though I am like the devils,

with my false piety, fake virtue and hypocrisy?

When the world regards me highly, I rejoice and boast,

but when they criticise me, even kindly, I am sad, and mope.

Whomever of you knows me, I exhort you to feel piety,

and when reminded of me, weep for my iniguity.

Beg our God that someday He enlightenment will send me;

and by your prayers, my brethren, I hope that He will save me,

and from my somber wickedness and evil, He will free me.

(transl. from Greek Fr Demetrios Serfes)

 

Go here for an interview with a nun who knew Saint Nektarios and who lived with Mother Xeni

 


A SWEET AND BLESSED REPOSE,GERONDISSA XENI ! HUMBLY CRY OUT FOR OUR SALVATION TO OUR LORD GOD! 


 

“Gerondissa (Greek for Abbess) Xeni, was born in 1867, and reposed in the Lord 1923. Mother Xeni, was chosen to become an Abbess of St. Nectarios (spelled also: St.Nektarios) newly-founded Monastery in Aegina for nuns. This beloved handmaiden of our Lord was blind from the age of 9 months, and although physically blind, she was not spiritually blind. She lived under the spiritual guidance of St. Nectarios, and sincerely developed great Christian virtue, discernment and love. Even before the holy Saint Nectarios officially named her to preside over the Community of nuns in Aegina all the girls and women considered her to be their leader due to her piety, compassion and the great grace which dwelt in her sweet soul. This holy, pure, and chosen woman, though she fully realized the scope of her blessedness, did not “consider salvation a thing to be grasped” (Phil.3:13).

Gerondissa Xeni is mentioned in the “Life of St. Nectarios of Aegina“.

During the life of Gerondissa Xeni, she wrote her poetry, which is now becomming more and more well known. We truly discover the secret of her blessed familiarity and closeness both to the Saint, and to our God in Trinity: humility. Gerondissa Xeni poetry is spiritually remarkable, and full of love for God! Her poetry serves to help us, her readers, to be able to reflect on our own path to salvation.”

By Father Demetrios Serfes

 

Source: Orthodox Poetry Of Gerondissa (Abbess) Xeni Of Aegina, Greece (1867-1923), Compiled by Father Demetrios Serfes, Boise, Idaho, USA, Introduction by Father Demetrios Serfes

Cosmic Dawn

 cosmic_dawn_by_harrietta

Cosmic Dawn: The Real Moment of Creation

Horizon reveals the real moment of creation – the Cosmic Dawn, the moment of first light. This is the scientific version of the story of Genesis.

Re-Creation

Beyond all things was God the Word

From the void of eternity

Time and space in creation heard

The Voice speaking infinitely.

cosmic dawn

Spirit of God on the waters

Divine Word of life in the night

“Creatio ex nihilo”

Father said “Let there be light!”

cosmic2

You divided light from darkness

You split the first atom to say

How we should separate evil

And distinguish the night from day.

CosmicTrinityDivineStarCosmicDawnWEB

Lord, you brought chaos to order

Your great Wisdom cushioned the deep

Recording a holy cosmos

Awakening formless sleep.

cosmic3

You placed the orbits and quasars

Winding the clock into time

The coherence behind the laser

The reason within the rhyme.

From ground-based telescopes, this cosmic object - the glowing remains of a dying, sun-like star - resembles the head and thorax of a garden-variety ant. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, released on February 1, 2001, of the so-called

You bring pure joy out of sadness

You still bring life out of breath

Sanity in human madness

Gladdening sorrowing death.

cosmic4

The real hub in revolution

The one who planted the Tree

Adam and Eve-lution

The One who caused things to be.

sunrise cosmic 1920x1080 wallpaper_www.knowledgehi.com_61

The Great Mover pushed the button

Silence before seraphim sang

Infinite God formed the finite

The Big One made the Big Bang.

*

By Father Jonathan Hemmings

Art of Being — Being of Art

rumi2

My Symphony

To live content with small means.
To seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion.
To be worthy not respectable,
and wealthy not rich.
To study hard, think quietly, talk gently,
act frankly, to listen to stars, birds, babes,
and sages with open heart, to bear all cheerfully,
do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual,
unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.
By William Ellery Channing

Soaring on Eagles’ Wings

“And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1)

)yann26

yann25

“Exceedingly sad is the blindness of the sons of men, who do not see the power and glory of the Lord.

There is too much of You, O Lord, my breath, therefore people do not see You. You are too obvious, O Lord, my sighing …”

yann24

yann23

“A bird lives in the forest, and does not see the forest. A fish swims in the water, and does not see the water. A mole lives in the earth, and does not see the earth … “ Velimirovic (1880 – 1956), Prayers by the Lake,  VII

yann22

yann21

“… … The world is a mirror of infinite beauty, yet no man sees it. It is a Temple of Majesty, yet no man regards it. It is a region of Light and Peace, did not men disquiet it.”

yann20

yann19

“You never enjoy the world aright, …. till every morning you awake in Heaven; see yourself in your Father’s Palace; and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as Celestial Joys … “

yann18

yann15

“It is the Paradise of God. It is more to man since he is fallen than it was before. It is the place of Angels and the Gate of Heaven. …”

 yann14

yann13

“You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.”

yann12

yann11

“You never enjoy the world aright …Till your spirit filleth the whole world, and the stars are your jewels …”

Thomas Traherne (1636 or 1637 – ca.1674) English metaphysical poet, ecstatic theologian and clergyman — Centuries of Meditation, ‘almost the most beautiful book in the English language’, according to CS. Lewis

Discovered at https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2015/09/13/you-never-enjoy-the-world-aright/

yann8

yann2

“The Earth is Art, The Photographer is only a Witness”

Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Earth from Above

For more information go go to Yann Arthus-Bertrand official website at http://www.yannarthusbertrand.org/en AND to a captivating image-filled Ted talk, where Yann Arthus-Bertrand displays his three most recent projects on humanity and our habitat — his stunning aerial photographs in his series “The Earth From Above,” personal interviews from around the globe featured in his web project “6 billion Others,” and his soon-to-be-released movie, “Home,” which documents human impact on the environment through breathtaking video.  https://www.ted.com/talks/yann_arthus_bertrand_captures_fragile_earth_in_wide_angle?language=en

For Yann Arthus-Bertrand stunning latest opus Human, for promo material and trailers go to https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/u/0/collection/human-the-movie, for excerpts to https://www.youtube.com/user/HUMANthemovie2015  and for the whole movie to http://www.human-themovie.org