A Wise Man or a Fool?

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An African fable (UGANDA)

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ONCE upon a time there was a potter and his wife who had one child, a little boy, and as he grew older they were grieved to see that he was different from all other children.

He never played with them, or laughed, or sang; he just sat alone by himself, he hardly ever spoke to his parents, and he never learnt the nice polite manners of the other children in the village. He sat and thought all day, and no one knew what he thought about, and his parents were very sad.

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The other women tried to comfort the potter’s wife. They said: “Perhaps you will have another baby, and it will be like other children.” But she said:

“I don’t want another baby; I want this one to be nice.” And the men of the village tried to cheer the potter. “Queer boys often become great men,” they said. And one old man said: “Leave the boy alone; we shall see whether he is a wise man or a fool.”

The potter went home and told his wife what the men had said, and the boy heard him, and it seemed to wake him up, and he thought it over for a few days, and at last one morning at dawn he took his stick in his hand and went into the forest to think there.

All day he wandered about, and at last he came to a little clearing on the side of a hill from which he could look down over the country. The Sun was setting over the distant blue hills, and everything was touched with a pink and golden light, and deep shadows lay on the banana gardens and forests in the distance, but the boy saw none of these things; he was footsore and weary and miserable, and he sat down on a fallen log, tired out with his long day.

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Suddenly a lion came out on to the clearing.

“What are you doing here all alone?” he said severely.

“I am very miserable,” said the boy, “and I have come into the forest to think, for I do not know whether I am a wise man or a fool.”

“Is that all you think about?” said the lion.

“Yes,” answered the boy, “I think about it night and day.”

“Then you are a fool,” said the lion decidedly. “Wise men think about things that benefit the country.” And he walked away.

Then an antelope came bounding out on the clearing and stopped to stare at the boy.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I am very miserable,” answered the boy; “I don’t know whether I am a wise man or a fool.”

“Do you ever eat anything?” said the antelope.

“Yes,” said the boy, “my mother cooks twice a day, and I eat.”

“Do you ever thank her?” said the antelope.

“No, I have never thought of that,” answered the boy.

“Then you are a fool,” said the antelope. “Wise men are always grateful.” And he bounded off into the forest again.

AM I A WISE MAN OR A FOOL? ASKED THE POTTER'S SON

Then a leopard came up and looked suspiciously at him.

“What are you doing here?” he asked crossly.

“I am very miserable,” answered the boy; “I don’t know if I am a wise man or a fool.”

“Do they love you in your village?” asked the leopard.

“No, I don’t think they do,” said the boy. “I am not like other boys. I don’t know them very well.”

“Then you are a fool,” said the leopard. “All boys are nice; I often wish I were a boy; wise men mix with their fellows and earn their respect.” And he walked on sniffing.

Just then the big grey elephant came shuffling along the forest path, swinging his tail as he walked, and picking a twig here and a leaf there as he passed under the trees.

“What are you doing here all alone in the jungle when the Sun is setting?” he asked. “You should be at home in your village.”

“I am very miserable,” said the boy. “I don’t know if I am a wise man or a fool.”

“What work do you do?” asked the elephant.

“I don’t do any work,” said the boy.

“Then you are a fool,” said the elephant. “All wise men work.” And he swung away down the path which leads to the pool in the forest where the animals go to drink, and the boy put his head down in his hands and cried bitterly, as if his heart would break, for he did not know what to do.

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After a little while he heard a gentle voice by his side: “My little brother, do not cry so; tell me your trouble.” The boy raised his tear-stained face and saw a little hare standing by his side.

“I am very miserable,” he said. “I am not like other people, and nobody loves me. I came into the forest to find out whether I am a wise man or a fool, and all the animals tell me I am a fool.” And he put his head in his hands again and cried more bitterly than ever.

The hare let him cry on for a little while, and then he said: “My little brother, do not cry any more. What the animals have told you is true; they have told you to think great thoughts, to be grateful and kind to others, and, above all, to work. All these things are great and wise. The animals are never idle, and they marvel to see how men, with all their gifts, waste their lives. Think how surprised they are to see a boy like you, well and strong, doing nothing all day, for they know that the world is yours if you will make it so.”

The Sun had set behind the distant hills and the soft darkness was falling quickly over the forest, and the hare said: “Soon it will be chilly here; you are tired and hungry, and far from your village; come and spend the night in my home and we will talk of all these things.”

So they went into the forest again, and the hare brought the boy water in a gourd and wonderful nuts to eat, and made him a soft bed of dry leaves.

And they talked of many things till the boy said: “My father is a potter, and I think I should like to be a potter too.” “If you are, you must never be content with poor work,” said the hare. “Your pottery must be the best in the country; never rest until you can make really beautiful things; no man has any right to send imperfect work out into the world.” “Nobody will believe in me when I go home; they will think I am mad,” said the boy. And the little hare answered: “Man’s life is like a river, which flows always on and on; what is past is gone for ever, but there is clear water behind; no man can say it is too late, and you are only a boy with your life before you.”

“They will laugh at me,” said the boy.

“Wise men don’t mind that,” said the hare; “only fools are discouraged by laughter; you must prove to them that you are not a fool. I will teach you a song to sing at your work; it will encourage you:

“When the shadows have melted in silver dawn,
Farewell to my dreams of play.
The forest is full of a waking throng,
And the tree-tops ring with the birds’ new song,
And the flowers awake from their slumber long,
And the world is mine to-day.”My feet are sure and my hands are strong.
Let me labour and toil while I may.
When the Sun shall set in a sea of light,
And the shadows lengthen far into the night,
I shall take the rest which is mine by right,
For I’ll win the world to-day.”

… So the boy went back to his village, and he found his mother digging in the garden, and he knelt down and greeted her as all nice Baganda children do, and he saw how pleased she was. Then he went to his father, and said: “I want to be a potter; teach me your work and I will try to learn it.” And the potter was very much pleased to think that he would have a son to take on his trade after him, and all the people in the village heard and they rejoiced with the potter and his wife.

And the boy worked hard, and in after years he became a famous potter, and people came from all parts of the country to buy his pottery, for everyone knew that he never sold anything that was not beautiful and well made.

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Source:  THE KING OF THE SNAKES AND OTHER FOLK-LORE STORIES FROM UGANDA

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/baskerville/king/king.html#XXVII

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Thin Places

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  • Thin Places: “Thin Places,” comes from a Celtic Christian concept. The Celts believed that physical locations existed in which God’s presence was more accessible than elsewhere, places where heaven and earth seemed to touch, where the line between holy and human met for a moment, “the places in the world where the walls are weak”, “those rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses”, as Eric Weiner puts it in his spirituality travelogue, Man Seeks GodFor such a ‘thin place’ for me visit my blog post on the Holy and Life-Givng Cross Orthodox parish at Lancaster.

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“This is a difficult post for me to write … I have always believed that Art and Nature are two vital ways to make our  prayer come to life, two ways to lead us ‘into’ knowing God.  And yet, I feel God has offered me such a rare gift at the end of a very tough year that I need to give myself time to allow it to sink in before I fully understand what I was given. … I was on a day-tour of the Grand Canyon.

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The sense of unmanageable Beauty one has before the wilderness of the Grand Canyon is just that: a true revelation of God, a true revelation of the correct relationship we are to have with Him. When I was there, facing this extraordinary demonstration of what authentic creativity is, all I felt was silence: a thick blanket of silence that covered my heart, my brain, my body… Before God’s presence, one goes numb, afraid to even breathe, afraid to approach it or draw near in any way. My eye-sight is not worthy to touch such beauty, my voice is not real, authentic enough to even whisper a prayer; all of one’s senses go silent, paralysed before such overwhelming power.

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And yet, my heart continued to pray in a different way. Deep down, my being seems to hide a different kind of worship, a different kind of relating to Christ. I don’t know when and how I learnt it; it just exists, the way instincts simply exist. Before such beauty, one discovers how different we are from what we’ve learnt to think we are – we are so much deeper, so much more beautiful, so much more able to worship and truly pray. It’s as if we were created with a set of spiritual senses and abilities, which we later – for some painful reason – fail to recognise in ourselves and fail to develop. We waste so much of our own being, we are so removed, so distant from our real selves… We learn to adapt to this world, and we end up replacing our spiritual senses with material ones.

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Then, in moments like these, we find ourselves face to face with His presence, and a sort of engine just starts working again in our hearts – all by itself, with no input, no doing of our own.

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I was simply present; I was in awe at the presence of my true self as much as I rejoiced in God’s presence. There was nothing but silence in me; yet, this silence was as alive, as ‘eloquent’ in its worship as the most grace-filled moments I’ve been blessed with the Holy Altar.”

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Bending in the Archer’s Hand

Poetry, Theology, Videos: Orthodox Worship, Conception and the Personhood of the Unborn 

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Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran – The Prophet

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“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” Jeremiah 1:5

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance” Psalm 139:16

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Orthodox Worship, Conception and the Personhood of the Unborn 

“If we turn to the Festal cycle, the consciousness of the personhood of the unborn is strikingly manifest especially in three important Feasts: The first is the Feast of the Conception of John the Baptist (September 23) in which we sing: “Rejoice, O barren one, who had not given birth; for behold you have clearly conceived the one who was about to illuminate the whole universe, blighted by blindness. Shout in joy, O Zacharias, crying in favor; truly the one to be born is a prophet of the High!” John the Baptist existed as a human being and a part of God’s plan of salvation from the moment of his conception.

The second is the Conception of the Theotokos (December 9). Here the vesperal hymn proclaims: “Behold the promises of the Prophets are realized for the  Holy Mountain is planted in the womb, the Divine Ladder is set up, the great Throne of the King is ready, the place for the passage of the Lord is prepared . . .” It is notable that both Elizabeth and Anna were advanced in years and barren. Thus they were considered “cursed” in the Jewish tradition where children were a sign of God’s blessing. (Consider that mind-set with our own of today and how God’s Plan is being affected by the hundreds of millions who will never participate in it.)

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The quintessential Feast illustrating the Church’s belief of the importance of human beings from the moment of conception is the Annunciation (March 25) which is so important that a Divine Liturgy must be served even when it falls on Great and Holy Friday! The Annunciation Troparion makes a most profound statement:

“Today is the beginning of our salvation, the revelation of the eternal mystery! The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin as Gabriel announces the coming of grace…” 

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  This is a far cry from the “pro-choice” rhetoric of “Who knows when life begins?” or the degradation of the unborn by calling him a “blob of tissue” and a “product of conception.”

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Can any Christian seriously propose that Jesus Christ was ever a “blob” or an appendage of the Theotokos’s body?

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At the Great Compline the hymnography makes this astonishing claim: “…O marvel! God has come among men; He who cannot be contained in a womb; the timeless One enters time…For God empties Himself, takes flesh, and is fashioned as a creature, when the angel tells the pure Virgin of her conception…” This is not sung at the feast of our Lord’s Nativity but at His conception!!! Such concepts as “viability” and “quickening” are utterly withoutmeaning and irrelevant.

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Scripture and the Unborn 

In the New Testament, consciousness of the personhood of the unborn is clearly manifested. The same word – brephos – is used for the child in the womb as out of the womb unlike modern medical and scientific distinctions of “zygote,” “embryo,” “fetus“ etc. used to differentiate among the stages of pre-natal life. The Latin word “fetus” simply means “little one” and was never intended as a means of denying humanity to the child dwelling in his mother’s womb. A similar pattern of language occurs in the Old Testament as in the book of Job 3:16 in which he refers to: “Infants [gohlal] which never saw the light.” 

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In Luke 1:41 we find another astonishing image of the scriptural consciousness of the personhood of the unborn: “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb” Here, the unborn John the Baptist recognizes and rejoices at the unborn Messiah – a “fetus” greeting a “fetus.” This is not just a “literary device” as some would insist. It illustrates the narrator’s consciousness of the already existing personality – and Divine calling – of an unborn human being. We do celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, the Theotokos, and the Lord Jesus Himself, but we also celebrate their conception – their entry into time and the physical world – the “fulness of time” as it is called by St. Paul.

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A more profound point to this all is that these feasts, especially the Annunciation, point to the Incarnation. By Jesus Christ taking on our humanity from the moment of conception, existing in the pre-natal condition in the womb of the Theotokos, experiencing birth, living through infancy to adulthood, and finally physical death, God sanctified every moment of human existence – from conception to death.

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There is more to this – God also completely identifies with us in our fallen suffering nature, and by dying for us on the cross, He expresses His solidarity with us: whether we are a zygote, embryo, fetus, infant, child, adolescent, adult, or elderly: human existence is a continuum from conception, and – yes – beyond death to life eternal in the Lord! Read the rest of the article at “Abortion: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the Sanctity of Human Life” by Rev. Deacon John Protopapas at https://orthodoxword.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/abortion-an-orthodox-christian-perspective-on-the-sanctity-of-human-life/

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“Science Does TOO Know When “Human Life” Begins”. Read more at http://www.nationalreview.com/human-exceptionalism

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Watch a disturbing undercover investigative video by Live Action, “What is Human?”, which  probes America’s late-term abortion industry, and reveals chilling admissions from abortionists on the humanity of children in the womb, at https://www.lifesitenews.com/pulse/this-viral-video-is-changing-countless-minds-about-abortion

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Watch a very disturbing undercover video which catches planned parenthood selling “uterine contents” (ie. one unborn baby plus placenta and amniotic fluid –> aborted baby body parts), while casually sipping wine and eating salad at a ‘business’ lunch: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/80682.htm

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Watch a new, shocking video: Planned Parenthood abortionist–between sips- jokes about harvesting baby’s brains, getting ‘intact’ head at https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/tearing-off-a-babys-head-intact-is-something-to-strive-for-planned-parentho 

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“Hooverized” is a California High School Expression for an abortion

As for “Reproductive Justice”,  there is absolutely nothing ‘just’ about abortion!

Check more Pro-Choice Euphemisms at http://gerardnadal.com/2010/05/31/how-many-pro-choice-euphemisms-can-you-list/

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Abortion: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the Sanctity of Human Life 

 

Reflection:

Each human being is unique creation of God. Each one of us has never been before and will never be again – throughout all eternity each human being who is, has, and will be conceived is unique.

  

By Rev. Deacon John Protopapas, Executive Director,Orthodox Christians for Life 

 

Overview

  The Orthodox Church regards abortion as premeditated murder. As such, She strongly opposes it because God demands the protection of all innocent human life, including that of the unborn child. The humanity (personhood) of that child exists from conception, a scientific fact that has always been recognized and unquestioned in Orthodox theology from the very beginning. Indeed, conception and not birth is the moment of the union of soul and body.

  The Early Church – of which the Orthodox Church is a…

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In and Out of this World 

“One Day in the Life of a Men’s Monastery” is an acclaimed documentary directed by Sergei Yazvinsky featuring a typical day at the Monastery of St Simon in Novy Afon or “New Athos” in the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia. …

Here is a link to the documentary. Enjoy!

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Dawn appears on the horizon at the monastery, which is dedicated to St Simon the Canaanite, one of Christ’s apostles who legendarily preached in Georgia and the surrounding regions. The monastery was built in the 1880s with donations from Russian Emperor Alexander III as a refuge for overflow monks. Russia’s Monastery of St Panteleimon on Mount Athos in Thessaly, Greece was overflowing with monks, so the Tsar assisted in the construction of this beautiful monastery to accommodate them.

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The monastery crowns the eastern edge of the Black Sea near the Abkhazian capital Sukhumi, which was an ancient Greek port in antiquity and a center of the medieval Georgian kingdom (საქართველო Sak’art’velo).

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Local villagers volunteer at the monastery to help the monks sweep the floors and courtyard, cook and prepare meals, and maintain the stunning grounds.

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Early morning: a monk lights the oil lamps which hang before the icons of Christ and the Theotokos on the iconostasis in the monastery chapel.

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A monk holds a Russian-language liturgical book for the chanting of the First Hour (06:00am) dawn prayers.

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A life of prayer: many people are amazed that locals come daily to help the monks cook and clean, but the monks ‘repay’ these services not only with their thanks and loving kindness, but with their constant prayer on behalf of the villagers, their country, and the world. The monk here is reading through names of villagers for whom he will pray in the daily services.

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Dawn breaks at the monastery.

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The Russian-style golden cupolas glimmer in the morning sunlight.

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The monks practice the Athonite discipline of hesychia, a Greek term meaning “stillness” or inner silence which developed most clearly from the writings of St Gregory Palamas. The goal is to cultivate a subconscious dedication to prayer so that one enters into transcendent prayer of the heart, through which one strives to become what St Peter called a “partaker of the divine nature”. Prayer is not “all the monks do”, however. This Russian monk is carving a cross which will be blessed and given to someone outside the monastery.

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A baker monk?: These freshly baked loaves will be consumed by visitors as well as the monks. Prosphora bread used for the Eucharist is baked separately using a simple ancient formula and then it is set apart and blessed (prior to the Liturgy) before its consecration begins during the Liturgy.

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The monastery’s central church dominates the courtyard, which is surrounded by the yellow-painted loggias in which the monks live in sparse cells. This part of Abkhazia, Georgia has a Mediterranean climate. You can see the cypress trees by the Black Sea.

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In the Russian tradition, the monastery’s bell-tower is a separate edifice from the central Neo-Byzantine church.

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Bells sound at different points of the Liturgy, bringing worshipers into a deeper spiritual frame and alerting those not present to specific points in the service. Bells also announce births or deaths and call the monks and the faithful to prayer. Bell-ringing is an ancient art in Russian lands, and the skills of the bell-ringer are highly prized because complicated poly-rhythmic, mechanical rotations are used rather than Western mathematically-determined melodies and “ringing” (turning the bell so that it rotates fully around). Bells serve as “singing icons” and just as people are chrismated into the Church, a unique chrismation ceremony brings new bell towers (kampan, from the Italian ‘campanile’) into the life of the Church.

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The pealing of the bells summons the faithful to prayer as the Divine Liturgy begins. Here is an example of Russian bell-ringing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzGbMWEl0Ys

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The Georgian priest proceeds toward the altar at the east end of the monastery church holding the Gospel aloft. Orthodox Christians consider the books of the Bible inspired of God and an icon of Christ. Only recently in the United States have some Orthodox communities introduced pews into their churches. Traditionally, the faithful consider it disrespectful to sit in a holy place, and so they stand attentively before God.

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All music in Orthodox churches is performed a capella without instrumental accompaniment. Russian chant incorporates polyphonic harmonies and often uses Western musical notation (influenced by sixteenth century Italian composers), whereas Byzantine chant maintains its own distinctive ancient notation.

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Orthodox clergy wear beautiful liturgical vestments which change throughout the seasons of the liturgical year. This tradition evokes the high priests in the Temple of Jerusalem who wore prescribed arrays of garments and vestry when serving in the temple sanctuary. Similar to the ancient Temple, every Orthodox church- especially so at monasteries- diligently tends an ‘eternal flame’ in the sanctuary which burns before the altar. Here the Tabernacle is kept (in which the elements used in the Eucharistic offering are stored) and the Gospel book rests.

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Look carefully and you will notice the sunlight playing across the gold leaf mosaics of the saints’ halos. . . these images took my breath away.

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In the Orthodox tradition, the monastery marks the end of the liturgical day at sunset.

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Source: https://ryanphunter.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/images-from-another-world/