Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  

Yes, that's right!   This is the beginning of the new ecclesiastical calendar.  We start the cycle of feast and fasts September 1st.   And how?  The first of the twelve major feasts days is the Nativity (Birth)of the Theotokos. 

September 1st isn't her real birthday.   But it's not like she is 8 and has to celebrate her birth on the exact day.  It's more of an honor that the celebration of Christ's incarnation and resurrection begins with her birth because it was her obedience that brought the Light into the world.

So, Happy New Year! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

We All Lost in Mosul

Here is an interview of people from Mosul who have been chased out of their homes.

I have been thinking of the nuances of Orthodoxy that have been lost when so many have died in Mosul.  Little habits, traditions, expressions of faith that have been buried.  Although we are full members of the faith after our baptism, I am referring to how we express our faith. 
I think of the many little habits I've acquired since moving to the south... (or that I am painfully aware that I haven't) dyed hair, painted nails, asking "How's your mom and family?"   And I think that if I can be impressed upon, even at my age, by my environment, what would it have been like to live among Christians who have been Christians since the time of Christ.  How did they express themselves in everyday living?  How did they treat each other?  How did they deal with conflict?  What did they consider to be common sense?  

And I wonder, if the fullest possible expression of Orthodox Christianity were left up to me and my family, what would we be leaving the next generation?   It would only be a grain of sand on a beach, in comparison. 

I weep for what was lost in life and in Christianity when the terrorists attacked Mosul. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

It Transfigures- An Orthodox Comic Strip

My newest endeavor...  It Transfigures... A monthly comic strip about a little altar boy named Yianni who gets into mischief.

Now available:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Today's JAR- Year End Evaluations

Today's JAR     just a reminder

Today is the Dormition of the Virgin Mary and the last major feast of the Orthodox church calendar.  

In birth, you preserved your virginity; in death, you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos.
 As mother of life, you departed to the source of life, delivering our souls from death by your intercessions. 
Apolytikion for the Dormition

The church calendar is cyclical, as any calendar, but ours begins in September with the Nativity (Birth) of the Theotokos and ends with her Dormition.  Tradition teaches that three days after she died her body went into heaven and she didn't have to wait for the Second Coming.
And here we are at the end of summer, waiting to start a new school year, a new church year and new beginning.  It's time for us to take a moment and reflect on our spiritual progress.  Have we been faithful to the teachings of the Orthodox faith?  Have we lived a life that reflects Christ?  Would we be guilty of being Christians if proof were shown?  
Our New Year is coming September 1st.  It's time to start thinking about our New Year Resolutions.  While the earth is preparing for its dormition, let us focus on how we are going to express and reveal the life of Christ in our daily living.  Will we be more devoted to prayer, fasting and almsgiving? 
I hope that you find hope and encouragement in the new year and that it offers you and your family all that your hearts desire. 
On the theme of Dormition, I find it even more interesting that the Church uses the dormant season to celebrate the Virgin's life into the world, when spring would have physically made more sense... but it is in our death to the world that we find life. 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

My Thoughts on Current Events.

I just watched an interview with Sean Hannity and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Interviewed on International Television Networks, including American Fox News, German ZDF and French CANAL+ iTele.  I really wish the Orthodox church (Christians) weren't caught in the middle of all of this... meaning.... we are not the terrorists but we have been caught in their snares.  We don't have missiles but we are now targets.  We aren't aggressive yet we have become a threat.  We don't have boarders to protect but our place was there along side the others in the holy lands where God revealed His Son to humanity. 

We have been caught in the crossfires of this war.  And it isn't the first time. 

I believe what he says about the fanatic Islamists.  Eventually they will want the whole world to be Muslim.  Anyone who has a history intertwined with Constantinople and Greece still hears stories how the Turks took away their land.   The Turks stole their churches.  The saints were martyred and beheaded before and they are again today.

We want to be in peace. We want our holy sites and churches.  The history of Christianity is about to be erased.  2000 years of history will be forgotten and we will be left with our current limitations.  Can you maintain and teach all that Christianity is without the history of the Church?  The Bible is a part of the whole story.  There are still the saints, the relics, the iconography, the sacraments, the teachings... Love?  Love cannot be properly defined without the Church.  (Love is from God and without the Church we can no longer protect how we define God, Love, nor the Scriptures.)

So for me the only comfort I have is prayer.  Nothing else makes sense.  

Friday, August 08, 2014

Allow your children to "suffer" in the pews

It's Friday and I'm sure we all have plans for tonight after a long work week. But it's the season for prayer and fasting for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. (The Falling asleep of the Virgin Mary.)

Christians are being persecuted is the Middle East. They are threatened to convert, pay a tax or die. They are taken into slavery. They have been left to starve to death on a mountain.

We have all the freedoms to worship and our churches are empty during this time of crisis. Please consider changing your Friday plans to attend Paraklesis. Allow your children to "suffer" in the pews for an hour as we gather to pray to the Panagia for the children who are truly suffering persecution and genocide in Iraq.

Just tell them, "There are children in the world who need our prayers tonight.  We are going to go to church and ask the Virgin Mary to protect them and guard them against danger.  We have the freedom and therefore the responsibility to do this for them.  When church is over we can go back to doing what we planned.  But for 45 minutes we will pray for the world." 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Where did the time go?

Did you notice that only a few posts ago I was reflecting on the beginning of summer vacation... and tomorrow I am going to register the boy for school.  The chaos and casual vibe of summer is coming to an end.  Wow the time flew! 

Good thing!  I have a pile of blog posts and recipes waiting to be written.

Until then, the old recipes still work.  Search though my older posts and try one out.  I highly recommend the shrimp and rice or the vegan spanakopita since we are still in the Panagia's Fast (August 1-14.) 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

In Honor of the Feast of Transfiguration

"He revealed Himself as far as they could bear."

I found when returning from seminary, admitting I wasn't the best student, that the faith I was studying was not the expression of faith my mother was practicing.  I had internalized the faith with my new found information and she was physically expressing the faith with prayer, fasting, and those few things that seemed unnecessary.  In return I was justified but she was fulfilled.  

This is one reason I write my blog.  I too want to be fulfilled.  I also want to help others who are struggling in this way.

When we are struggling in our faith and in our lives one of the first bits of advice that is freely given is that prayer can help. Prayer is the answer.  Prayer will reveal what you are missing.   But what is prayer?  And how does it differ from worship? Is the Liturgy prayer or worship?  Is the Paraklesis service prayer or worship?  Is serving the poor prayer or worship? 

It seems to me that both prayer and worship are self emptying and God-filling.  The difference being (simply put) prayer is when we are aware of God's presence and we are in the moment... we communicate, we ask for help and guidance, we are at peace.   But worship is how we respond to the reality that He is God and we are created.

In worship we respond to the structure that was handed down, preserved through the Church by the Holy Spirit, and relate to God in a way that He has instructed.  I have often thought that to worship God in any other way than what had been handed down through the Church has the potential of being offensive to God in the same I way relate with my mother or my father as parent/child and not friends, siblings or equals.  God has made it clear how He wants us to relate with Him, not for His ego but for our limited ability to comprehend God's fullness.   For example, Liturgy, is our training ground to prepare us for Heaven... we practice relating to God through the worship of the Liturgy so that when we are fully aware of His presence we know what to do and we don't fumble around. 

In the Apolytikion of Transfiguration, we sing "He revealed Himself as far as they could bear." 

There is so much about God that we couldn't possible understand.  I hope that we will acknowledge tomorrow's feast day with humility and thanksgiving that God has offered us the Church and the tools of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a means to understand Him as much as we can bear... which naturally implies the fullness of our limitations.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Returning to the Classics with PB&J.

One of the most basic sandwiches around is the classic peanut butter and jelly.   It's a childhood favorite (unless you or a classmate have an allergy to peanuts.)  We used to eat them all the time. Crunchy peanut butter and grape jelly on soft (mushy) white bread.  It was even better when cut into four squares, as opposed to triangles.  I remember getting into trouble for not eating the crusts. 

I had forgotten all about PB&J until I found myself making them for our son. He loves them!  Can eat them everyday if I let him... even the crusts.  And that's when I was reintroduced to the perfect sandwich.  It possesses the balanced combination of creamy, crunchy, sweet and salty.  I just love them now!   And with the Fast for the Panagia, it is an easy go-to for protein and energy.  

I still prefer the classic crunchy peanut butter and grape jelly but I toast my wheat bread and cut the slice in half, diagonally.   Do you have a favorite combination you can suggest? Share it with us below.