Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Mother of God Willed It

That is what he kept saying, "the Mother of God willed it." It was not the way we planned it. It was not the way any of us envisioned it. But it was the way the Mother of God willed it.

The monks accompanying the icon assured us it was the first time the Akathist to the Kursk Root Icon had been prayed in an Embassy Suites hotel. I can only imagine what was going through the mind of the family that happened to be on the elevator with them, no concept of the glorious miracle of riding an elevator with the icon that has survived over 700 years of attempts to destroy it.
It can be nothing less than a miracle that these men were able to travel 15 hours through horrendous storms, sleet and ice to arrive in our city at 1:30 am. It was Her hand that guided them as they said the prayers of the Akathist while they drove, even as they passed hundreds of accidents on their journey. It was Her hand that guided hundreds of us along roads and interstates this morning, roads that were nothing but solid ice.

All the beautiful food laid out at the church, the flowers and candles prepared, the place made ready to welcome Her, the roads impassable. No, it was not the way we planned it, as we all packed into a tiny conference room, the only room in the inn.
No candles were here, no iconostasis, no beautiful temple to welcome her. Just a small, very hot room in the inn. The soft flicker of candles replaced by the harsh flicker of fluorescent lighting. A makeshift cloth for the stand, a scarf taken from a parishioner.
Greek, Russian, Antiochian, we were all here together, all Orthodox together.

Why we all were so blessed, I do not know. So, no, it was not the way we planned it.

But it WAS, and it was just as the Mother of God willed it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

prayers please

Late tonight the Wonderworking Kursk Root Icon is making its way to our parish. At the same time our small southern town is bracing for a forecast which includes freezing rain, sleet and snow. Our parish is out in the country with access only from a single winding road full of hills and 90 degree curves. If ever I hoped that weathermen were incompetent, it would be now. Please pray for the safety of the monks travelling with the icon, and I selfishly ask for prayers that the icon makes it to our city and does not have to change routes. Many in our parish could use the blessing of healing which Christ has sometimes provided through this veneration of his Mother.

ht to Fr. Stephen Freeman for the image of the icon in this post

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Update: Letters of Grace expected launch

Mary, Emily and I have been working through the Letters of Grace curriculum over the past few weeks, while still continuing to write. After many questions from readers and discussion between us, we are excited to let you know we hope to launch the Letters of Grace website during Bright Week. This will allow us to be far ahead in the planning, testing and writing, but also give those of you who are interested the chance to begin using it. We look forward to sharing all of our work, and I have to tell you, as each piece comes together, it is very exciting to see! We ask for your prayers, and will continue to post photo updates of our journeys at home, and look forward to launching the website in April! Also, look for another book give-away the second week of February over at evlogia.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January Give Away

Another great give-away! Be sure to go leave a comment at Mary's blog to be entered for the January giveaway for Letters of Grace. This month you can win a set of BOB books to use in teaching your little ones to read.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

An Experiment

III Kingdoms 19:11-12
...and behold, the Lord will pass by, and before the Lord, a great and powerful wind will be rending the mountains and shattering the rocks; but the Lord will not be in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord will not be in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there will be a fire, but the Lord will not be in the fire. After the fire, there will be a sound of a gentle breeze, and the Lord will be there.

Many of you are probably familiar with the Nie Nie Dialogues, if not, you really need to go check her out. If you are, then you have probably seen Nie's latest project, based on this really amazing book. Mary and I have decided to do a similar project, taking one photo a day and posting our Days of Grace here. Our twist, a look at God in daily life. As we leave the great feast of Theophany, God's revelation of His Son to the world, Mary and I will attempt to capture in images the ways in which He is revealed to all of us in the everyday. The focus of our photos will be the daily moments we see and experience God, some of them more obvious than others. We will not communicate with each other about the subject of our photos before posting, but will simply take a picture each day that chronicles living in the year of grace of our Lord. Through these images we hope to capture a taste of the rhythm found within the Orthodox life, and inspire ourselves and others to seek the Lord in the sound of the gentle breeze.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Theophany 2010

Midnight last night I was ironing these, hoping the temperature was going to warm up for this morning.
We arrived at the river at 10 am. The thermometer read 22 degrees.
We were told the water was "only" 45 degrees, though, so not too bad, right?
As an added incentive, a generous parishioner offered to donate $100 for every kid that went in (and fully submerged himself) to go toward our teens trip to Project Mexico this summer. That at least explains why the teens were willing, not sure what excuse the grown men had for going in :)
sure, he's smiling now, he's still dry!
Father says the prayers for the blessing of the waters

Getting ready to take the plunge!

It doesn't look like it from this, but the water is actually four feet deep behind them, so they could all go under fully to earn their $100 donations!

time to dry off! The little princess is in the red coat, and rather upset that I would not allow her to go in with them this year

2010 Cross Divers

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Theophany blessings, a church lit by hundreds of candles, a Vesperal divine liturgy, a new year, and freshly filled bottles of holy water carefully brought home.


This will be the first year our priest is going down to the local river for a blessing of the waters, and the young boys of our parish are preparing to dive for the cross in record cold temperatures. Apparently some of the parents had their doubts as to whether this was truly an Orthodox tradition :) For those of you who doubt - enjoy the following images from Russia, New York and Florida.

And here is a link to the most beautiful Theophany pictures I have ever seen, I posted them last year, but they are worth a second look :)
Special Report: Epiphany • St. Petersburg Times

One more: I just received this via email - a great video on Epiphany from St. Nicholas Cathedral in Tarpon Springs (where the above photos were taken)

Letters of Grace

If you have questions about the upcoming Letters of Grace curriculum, pop over to Mary's site where she is answering some of the most frequently asked questions. Also, stay tuned for a look at our week as we begin using the program at home.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bringing Church Home: Preparing to be a Godparent

As we approach Theophany and turn our minds to the baptism of our Lord, I thought I would share another of our retreat topics from this past year. The following was compiled from the notes and outline from our speaker, the wife of a priest who has many godchildren of her own and much experience on the topic.
"Let my beseeching on behalf of these people be wholly acceptable, so that my transgressions may not prevent the descent here of the Holy Spirit." from the Great Blessing of the Waters at Theophany.
In our society, there is a huge emphasis on preparing for a wedding. We spend many months and thousands of dollars in planning the perfect day. Yet few couples invest time in preparing for marriage. Often, the same occurs in baptism. When most find they are asked to be a godparent, much emphasis is put on the actual day of baptism, finding the perfect gown, monogramming a towel, picking out the perfect cross, selecting or making the perfect candle. Yet few are prepared for the lifelong commitment they are making to that child. So, what is important to consider? First, as the parent of a new baby, it is important to consult with your priest before asking someone to become your child's godparent. Your priest may be aware of a situation that would make a person unsuitable as a godparent, or perhaps might just have some wise advice in suggesting a godparent for your child. The decision should not be made on the basis of being friends with someone or because you want to honor someone, rather you should prayerfully look for someone who will serve as a lifelong example of Christ. If you have been asked to become a godparent, take time before making the commitment. Don't feel pressured to answer right away, take time to pray about the decision and make sure you are ready to take on the responsibility of praying for this child's soul. For the parents who are asking, don't be offended if a prospective godparent asks for time to consider the request. This is not a personal affront to you. You want your child's godparents to be totally committed to your child, to prayerfully consider what is being asked of them. You also want to communicate clearly about expectations. If one person looks at a godparent as a substitute grandparent while another thinks a godparent means only praying for a child, misunderstandings will occur and feelings may be hurt. If you come to the decision of accepting this great honor and burden, here is some advice on how to serve the child that has been put in your care.
"Go to church, say your prayers, remember God," and your godchild.
First, go to church. As a godparent, you are taking on the role of instructor, serving as an example to your godchild. You want to maintain the sacramental life, participating in regular confession, communion and fasting. You should be at church at least as often as your godchild! Remember that you are teaching without words: your behavior, dress and actions are being observed by your godchild. When you fail, ask forgiveness.

Second, say your prayers. Pray for your godchild daily, and as needed. Let your godchild know you are praying for him, and ask him if there are things he would like you to pray about specifically. If your godchild has a specific prayer request, follow up with that later and see how his needs were met. Keeping a photo of your godchild or an icon of his patron saint is a wonderful way to remind you to keep the child in your prayers.

Third, remember God and your godchild. Remember you are entering a lifelong relationship. Be the kind of person your godchild would want to talk to, now and in the future. Remember birthdays, namedays, special feasts with a small gift, card or phone call. Small gifts that are spiritual in nature are a wonderful way to encourage your godchild in the faith. Remember that you are there for positive guidance, but not as a disciplinarian or "police" of your godchild. Give your godchild time. Make an effort to spend some occasional one on one time with your child, even if that is just a special moment at church. If your godchild lives far away, make the effort to occasionally visit. This is where phone calls and letters are important, keeping a bond long distance is difficult. Finally, just love them.

One of the hardest things to deal with as a godparent is when a family or child leaves the church. Here your role as a godparent becomes even more crucial. It is easy to be a godparent to a child with faithful parents who bring their child to church and are themselves involved in the sacramental life of the church. It is much harder to be an example for those who have rejected the church. Do not abandon your godchild, pray, remain in contact, continue to keep that line of communication open as you do not know what little moment God will use to bring that child or family back into communion.

Now, back to those immediate things. All that is needed for a baptism is a candle, a cross and a gown. Normally parents will provide the gown, so again, communicate clearly with your godchild's parents, ask them what they are expecting. A towel, bib and icon are additional gifts that are sometimes given by godparents at a baptism, but they are by no means necessary. Your local parish probably has many of these items in stock and there are many online resources as well. A candle can be easily made by gluing an icon to a plain candle, or painting a cross on it, or simply tying a ribbon around it. If you have been asked to sponsor an adult, it is important to communicate as well on these things, as most adults will want to have input concerning their cross or may perhaps already have one they wish to use.

Resources for "the stuff"
Galleria Byzantium

Friday, January 1, 2010

Looking for Sweet Dresses on a Budget?

April Cornell is having their semi-annual sale - everything is 40% off, and worth checking out! My personal favorite is the trademark petticoats (which my girls would wear all the time, not to mention love sleeping in them). They are the perfect dress for Christmas and Pascha liturgy too - comfortable, pretty, bleachable! I even found something for me this time.