“Hey, Jude, don’t be afraid…”

“Beloved, although I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel a need to write to encourage you to contend for the faith that was once for all handed down to the holy ones. For there have been some intruders, who long ago were designated for the condemnation, godless persons, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”  Jude 3-4.

This was the reading for today.  It actually calls for Jude 1-10, but these two verses really struck me today.  Whenever I think of Jude, who was the brother of James and not the same person as Judas or Jude the Apostle, but who was a man in the background, an obscure person of the early Church (as the bible tells us in the introduction to the book of Jude) I think of the Beatles’ song, “Hey Jude.”  One of the verses to that song is:

“And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder
Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah”

And I often wonder if one of the Beatles actually knew of Jude, what his life was like, and was familiar to his very short book in the Bible, nestled between 2John and Revelations.  What a place to be nestled!!  And I thought about Jude’s warning to the early Church, his statements about intruders and godless persons and how he was trying to warn the early Church of people coming among them who long ago were destined for this condemnation, trying to thwart the teachings of Christ.  Jude was not a well known person in that he was not an Apostle, but the brother of the Apostle James, and many attribute the book of James to Jude.  He is here, warning against people who come among us, trying to pull us away from the faith we have.  In verses 24-25, Jude says, “To the one who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you unblemished and exultant, in the presence of his glory to the only God, our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority from ages past, now, and for ages to come. Amen.”  What a contrasting statement he makes.  The others who would tear us away from our faith he destines to condemnation, whereas those who keep us from stumbling are given glory, majesty, power, and authority! Wow. He was definitely not “playing the fool,” by “keeping it cool.”

800px-Anastasis-chora1024The last few days on the internet have been pretty wild.  We’ve had what they call “trolls” on many of the sites.  People are designated a troll when they deliberately join a group that they disagree with, to plant inflammatory statements or, in other words, to inflame the group until it degenerates into stone throwing at one another, which makes everyone look bad.  And that is what the troll wants.  He/she wants to disrupt anything good a particular group is accomplishing.  As you become familiar with various groups online, a troll is fairly easy to spot.  And from their first post people are usually calling on the administrator of the site to block them or pull their statements, often asking the troll be blocked from the group.  There have been lively discussions, to be sure!

One person lamented about people setting the bar high for lenten practices, especially when the discussion turned to fasting.  I think some people felt that ideas and examples being shared were somehow meant to be instructions in the vein of “I am so holy, and I do it this way, so follow me” and Pharisaical, at best.  But I do take umbrage with that view.  Partly because I am one of the people who innocently gave fasting ideas, even things that have worked for me.  Lent in the East can be rough, I can assure you!  It is hard to go from our basically hedonistic diets and practices (we are a gluttonous group in the USA) to the lean diet and strict practices of the Eastern Churches during Lent.  I thought the Melkites were the tough guys, abstaining from what they do, and having all the many services they have during each week of Lent, but after reading up on it, the Ukrainian Catholics also have a strict Lenten fast and practices, as do many of the other Eastern Churches.  There are some that have taken more of a western approach and fast only on Wednesdays and Fridays, and not adding more services during the week.  And that is laudable, and often difficult, living where we do (the USA).  We are certainly not outwardly encouraged in this culture to go without…to do without anything…let alone attend more services during the week at Church.

We began to see, as our children aged, a practice that was so frustrating as a parent.  The kids would sign up for soccer, or baseball, or ice hockey, even rugby, and for our fee we got a t-shirt, a team photo, and a trophy.  For our fee.  Not because our children had earned it by winning a tournament or working hard in play-offs, a trophy was a part of the fee we paid to have our sons participate.  Just by paying and showing up, you were guaranteed a trophy.  What lesson in competition, in showing up, in trying your best, was learned? Well, it wasn’t!  And it seems like if we just show up nowadays, we get the trophy.  What is wrong with setting the bar a little higher?

I think that in regards to fasting, we should all consult our priest (or our spiritual director, or both) and discuss Lent and the practices common to our particular Church.  And after that, we will see what we can accomplish during this special time of year.  If others are trying the suggested fasting practices, and can share how they were able to do so, I do not think that sharing that is a bad thing. It is something to strive for.  Our pastor used to tell us, “Hey, I’ve been at this for years. I keep the strict fast. I have worked hard to get to where I can do that.  To begin, try to keep the fast for all of the 40 days; try fasting from just meat for 40 days.  Then next year, add something else to take out of your diet, like cheese or dairy.  Each year, make your own progress to a place where you can feel the accomplishment of your efforts. No one does it the same.  But just take the first step: try.”  And I think that is encouraging.  I try to lead my family (as the main cook and meal-provider) to keep the fast, but it is difficult. Today, as we discussed our dinner menu, my teenaged son said, “Mom, are you sure?  It seems like Jesus was just born!  Are you sure it’s time for us to talk about His death already? Are you sure we have to fast now?”  And I reminded him about Meat Fare Sunday and the readings, and that this Sunday was Cheese Fare, which is why we are gorging on Macaroni and Cheese from scratch tonight (and why I did not want him making himself the boxed stuff for lunch).  Groaning, he just shook his head at the thought of the next 40 days…but we try; we really try.

I have a friend who is a public school teacher.  She once remarked that the bar has been lowered so many times, that most of the kids who graduate high school cannot pass English or Math tests when they get to college.  The tests the districts require each year to fund the schools makes it difficult to do anything else but teach to pass the tests.  And the tests have been dumbed-down over and over again.  It is sad.  Why should we not strive to the highest, rather than settle for lessor accomplishments?  Nowadays colleges require remedial English and Math for most freshmen.

Again, I think this is sad; changing our traditional practices, dumbing-down Lent, so to speak.  We now take the lofty ideal of abstaining…from all meat, dairy, olive oil, and wine…for the entire fasting period of 40 days, and instead ask people to just eat fish sticks on Wednesday and Friday.  Why can we not strive to do better? Why can we not deny ourselves our cushy sustenance and lavish lifestyles, and give things a rest for just 40 days?  Why is talking about that such a bad thing?  A gentleman chastised me in a comment about our legislators who vote for and promote abortion.  I said they should be called out by their Bishops and they should anathematize themselves out of pure guilt.  Pro life is the stance of the Church.  I suggested that we just, as voters, say “no.”  He felt that our faith cannot influence our government, or our legislation, or legislators.  I completely disagree.  We are slip-sliding down that slope, the one we’ve been warned about.  Jude tells us there are those among us who are there to “pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness.”  Does this not apply to everything to do with our belief in Christ Jesus?  Even our government?  Even fasting?

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Fasting is not supposed to be easy.  The Cross was not easy:  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me, still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).  Today’s readings also took us to the betrayal of Christ in the book of Luke.  The apostles could not even stay awake to pray with Him, but were overcome with and were “sleeping from grief.”  Peter denies Him three times “before the cock crows.”  He was alone to face his detractors, those who come among us, “long ago designated for this condemnation, godless persons who pervert the grace of our God…”  And I cannot help but think these readings were selected for us, on Cheese-fare Tuesday, the feast day of Tarasius, Archbishop of Constantinople, who was known as the opener of the 2nd Nicene Council and was called the “father of the poor,” to encourage us to stay the course.  To show by example that there will always be those who try to whisper in our ear, and lead us astray.  It’s like having a commercial from Satan himself, playing in our ear, telling us that if we just “show up” we’ll get our trophy.  Christ paid for our admission, right?  We get the spoils – the t-shirt and the group photo opportunity.  But isn’t it much better to cross the line, to make it to the play-offs, and to win through our own efforts?  To know that we have given it our best and if we fall down, well, Lent is 40 days.  We have the chance to get back in it tomorrow.  If my family grumbles enough, we may sneak in a burger here and there, but for the most part, we will abstain from meat.  As for cheese, well, we are definitely dairy people (lived on them for 20 years) and giving up all dairy is a huge struggle.  My kids really hate tofu, regardless of what I try to disguise it as, but we try to go without dairy.  If we fail, we may attend an extra Vespers or go without TV for a longer period.  The point is to always try.  To be in the game, and not on the side lines.  To put forth our best because Christ was nailed to that cross for each one of us.  He’s paid our admission price.

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear…” Jude 17-23

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“In the name of the Father…”

Cross sunlight rocksIn making the sign of the cross, believe and constantly remember that your sins are nailed to the cross.+ St. John of Kronstadt +

I was attending the Crowning (blessing their civil marriage of some 9 years) of some friends, who had invited lots of different friends to witness their committment. I ended up sitting behind the groom’s mom (as I was asked to do), in order to help corral some of the kids, and next to a friend of hers I had met at a birthday party earlier in the year.  In addition, her friend had her two children with her; her son was about 10 and her daughter was 4 years old.  Her daughter ended up on my lap most of the ceremony, and I spent most of the time leaning over, explaining a Byzantine Crowning Ceremony to these Protestant guests.  And the kids had so many questions about what they were seeing and hearing for the first time.  I loved every moment of it.

One of the things I noticed, especially when I began explaining it to someone who had no previous experience in a Byzantine Church, was how often we make the Sign of the Cross in any Byzantine or Eastern Rite Liturgy.  The young boy sitting next to his mom, leaning over her towards me, kept asking me what I was doing.  I had to explain that we believe that whenever we hear the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we make the Sign of the Cross. Whenever we hear the word, “Trinity,” we also make the same Sign of the Cross.  He asked me why.  And I thought about it, realizing mom and daughter were also listening, and I replied that I did it to remind myself of Christ’s sacrifice for me, and that He had died on the Cross for me, taking my sins upon Himself. And to remind me also that God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Spirit – Three in One – the Holy Trinity.  He saw my husband, who was assisting at the Crowning as a deacon, make the Sign of the Cross across his lips once or twice, and asked me why he “did it then.” I explained that he had made a mistake in the words he was saying, or the prayer he was praying, and signing his lips with the Cross was a way to ask for forgiveness for the mistake, and to seek a blessing from Christ for his efforts, and to protect him from making the mistake again.  The little boy asked me, “You can do that?”  I was surprised and answered, “We do it as often as we feel the need to do it.”  I also told him that God appreciates us turning to Him on the Cross and seeking His aid in everything we do.  We also make the Sign of the Cross as a protection against any evil, or bad things, we see or feel around us.  Sometimes we do it to remind ourselves that God is ever and always present around us.

My husband signs the cross on my forehead before he leaves for work, as I groggily kiss him goodbye and tell him I love him. I don’t think my day starts as well without his loving blessing.  We bless our homes this time of year in the Eastern Churches.  The priest comes, and in times past, he pokes into every nook and cranny, praying and sprinkling holy water, carrying incense.  (Talk about deep cleaning before someone comes to visit!!). I think it is wonderful that our parish priests come to the home of each and every parishioner, at least once a year, to bless our homes.  I love knowing my house is blessed.  I sleep better in a house that has been blessed.  Our priest has not blessed our home yet, but I have.  I always have Holy Water on hand!  There’s also candles and incense in our home, accompanying our icons, statues, and Holy artwork.  This past Sunday we celebrated the Presentation in the Temple of Christ, and the meeting of St. Simeon and the Prophetess, Anna.  As part of the celebration, we were all given lit candles, to remind us that Christ is our light.  We light candles at home, to keep the light of Christ in our homes. We light candles and burn incense when we pray, when we need comfort, when we need to know Christ is here with us. It gives us comfort, as well as reminds us that He is with us always, in all things.

Icon Corner.candlesAnd I thought a lot about making the Sign of the Cross.  I do it all the time, without even thinking about it. I bless my day, cooking, my kids, any project I propose to do. It especially helps me when the chores I dislike are due to be completed (the dreaded laundry or bathroom cleaning!!). It comes as easily as breath.  And I wear a holy object every day.  A Byzantine cross, usually, but I have a selection.  My favorite is a beat-up silver St. Olga cross I bought for myself in Los Angeles, years ago.  It used to have blue inlay, but that has long since worn off.  I love the feel of it around my neck, and reach for it often, when in distress. Most days I also wear a prayer rope, to remind myself to keep praying, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  I say it over and over again.

IncensorThe little girl on my lap was pointing away to the area behind the Holy Doors.  She kept asking me, “What’s that? What’s that?”  I was naming off all sorts of things (icon, altar, fans, cross, Holy Bible…) but nothing was the right thing.  Then I noticed the incensor swinging its way back and forth, occasionally visible from the right side, behind the Holy Doors.  “Are you asking me about the smoke?”  “Yes! Are we on fire?”  Ha-Ha!  “No,” I assured her, we are not on fire.  That is called an incensor.”  She looked so confused. I asked her to close her eyes and to breathe in deeply.  She was so cute, as she squished her eyes shut and took quite a loud, deep breath. “Oooo, what is that smell?”  I asked her if it smelled good to her and she told me she loved that smell.  I then told her to watch the smoke, as it rose above the altar and made its way to the Icon of Christ above us.  She was so adorable as she moved her head and strained to watch the incense.  I told her we love to cleanse the Church of the everyday smells (she, of course, asked about what smells.  That lead to a whole other discussion about hot dogs and coffee – her questions – and lead to her question of, “How much longer is this? I’m starving!!” Kids!). But back to the incense. I explained that incense reminds us that there are angels all around us, that our prayers rise with theirs to God, and that our prayers smell sweet to God.  She loved that explanation.  And I loved that a little child, stopping me long enough to notice all those little details of our worship, caused me to not forget the whys of what we do.

There were lots of other questions about altar boys, what they were carrying, why we hold the Bible up and why we decorate it, why we bow our heads, why we pray the Lord’s Prayer more than one time, and what the priest and deacon were up to (consecration).  The young boy was especially impressed that women don’t go up there, but just boys and men.  He smiled pretty big to his mom!  I explained about communion and the mom quietly asked her daughter, “Remember when we get the little cups at Church? What is that for?”  She answered, “Jesus’ blood.” And then she asked her daughter, “And what are the little wafers we eat for, that we take out of the plate?” “Hmmm”….as she squished up her face and looked dramatically to the ceiling…”I know this. I know this….”  Her mom said, “Jesus’ bod…” And she smiled and yelled, “It’s Jesus’ body!!!”  The little one was so happy she remembered.  I told them they could come with me and receive a blessing if they wanted to, that the priest would place his hand on their heads and say a prayer for them. Well, that little child was not letting go of my hand for anything!  It was so beautiful…their entire family went up with me and received a blessing from our priest during communion and it felt so nice to have them walk with me, holding that little 4-year-old’s hand!

Holy Gifts up closeWhy do we keep all these symbols around us?  What is the purpose?  Why should we?  I think I have shared above some of the reasons, but like the family I sat with at the Crowning of our friends, there are always lots of questions of whys and wherefores, even among all of us who are of one of the many Eastern Churches, or Catholic, or Orthodox.  None of our Churches does it the same way; they just don’t.  I have been at enough of a variety of liturgies that I can attest to it.  And the Protestants are different than any of us!  There was a comment on a Facebook wall that said something to the effect of “Why don’t we all just become one, Eastern Church, then unite with Rome?”  And it is just so hard for me to even fathom that. Yes, we all want to be united in our faith, but our ways of doing things are just a tad different.  My son commented yesterday that automated driving, where you get into a car and give it your destination and it takes you where you want to go, will never happen.  He said it won’t because we are too independent and don’t want to give up our freedom that much.  I tend to agree with him.  It’s why carpooling is just not what it could be.  Or why more people don’t support mass-transit.  We are a group of individuals…and keeping our sense of self is so important to us.  God granted us free will.  We express ourselves to our God in our own ways…that’s why there are so many Churches “in communion with Rome,” and it’s also why there are so many denominations of Protestants around the world…that darned old free will.  We hate being told what to do, or worse, how to do it! Ha-Ha!

Personally, having been on a wild journey of faith my whole life, I appreciate the differences.  I love the differences. I respect the differences.  I think God loves variety; He created variety.  Not all the earth looks the same; plants come in an infinite variety, as do the species of animals, and mankind is an endless spectrum of varieties.  I think it makes God smile.  I would not expect a Latin Rite Catholic from say, Iowa or Arizona, to understand the worship of the little Ukrainian Catholic parish we found in Washington, where the Liturgy is only in Ukrainian.  Nor would I expect a little babushka from the heart of Orthodox Russia to understand the Liturgy of the Melkites, who hail from the Middle East and celebrate most of their Liturgy in Arabic.  And I would not expect a Protestant from a mega-Church in SoCal to understand the Byzantine Liturgy we celebrate up in Alaska.  We can all appreciate the differences, but we can also look to our sameness.  We all worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  The Roman Catholic may make the Sign of the Cross backwards to the rest of the Eastern world, but we still see it is the Sign of the Cross, and we can argue which side to start on, or we can just smile that we all make the Sign of the Cross.  Although, our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ do not practice making the Sign of the Cross (or most of the other examples from our worship I cited in this post) we can still pray for them and they for us.

light in monastery windowThe little boy and girl I shared a slice of Byzantine faith with, I tried to leave with positive memories of an afternoon at a Byzantine Church where they saw a Bible decorated with gems in a golden case, held up for all to see and venerate, explaining how we love the Word of God; that the wonderful “holy smoke” they smelled will be a warm memory of the enticing smells of an Eastern Church; that the fans emblazoned with images of angels with six wings will remain with them; the stories in the many icons will warm them some day; the kindness of our community and the blessing of our priest will one day be an impetus to join us again, or at the very least, to pray for us.  Perhaps if we all share our love of our traditions, the differences will be swallowed up by the warmth of the love of them, and only the things we have in common will be remembered.  And as I made the Sign of the Cross with those children, it renewed within me my own dedication to sharing what I believe with others.  I also have some more children to pray to God for…to help entice their guardian angels into keeping that loving memory of an afternoon encircled by “holy smoke” and crowns on the heads of their friends alive for them as they make their way in the world.

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“… displayed it to all…”

Holy Cross VerifiedI love miracle stories.  And this is one of my favorites, the finding of the True Cross of Christ.  It is not really necessary to believe in miracles, or to believe in visions or visionaries.  We rush to these things because once in awhile we need to be reminded that what we believe is honest and true.  Sometimes people travel great distances to visit the Holy Land, to walk on the Via Dolorosa, or the Way of Grief and participate in the Stations of the Cross, walking where Christ walked and touching places in history.  Many people make a regular occurrence of visiting monasteries or other places where they feel the presence of God more fully than in their favorite easy chair.  I have many friends who love to just visit the Eucharist daily, to just sit in the presence of God, before starting their day.  There are also lots of people who wear things to remind them of their faith, like prayer ropes or crosses.  I was lucky enough to purchase a plain, Byzantine cross at a monastery many years ago, that had been made by an artist, to help support the monastery. I wear it pretty much all the time, and it reminds me of my walk with God and as I touch it off and on during the day, it also comforts me.

390px-OrthodoxCross(black,contoured).svgBecause it is a cross normally associated with Byzantines or Eastern Rite Catholics and the Orthodox, most people do not readily recognize it.  I am often asked if I am wearing some sort of language symbol and most people suppose it to be an Asian-language word or symbol…like something you would get tattooed on yourself.  I usually chuckle at that, but it also gives me an opportunity to share my faith.

When my husband and I were choosing our wedding rings about 30 years ago, he really liked simple bands and the one he loved was a gold band that had a cross inset on it, with tiny diamond chips. (Very tiny chips! Ha-Ha!! We were young and pretty poor, as most newlyweds are!)  He wanted me to wear the matching band, but I had my heart set on another design.  And I realized that I did not want to wear a cross on my finger, because I was not quite ready to proclaim to the world that I was a Christian.  I look back on that now, and I am rather ashamed, but also treasure the growth God allowed to take place in me.  Wearing a cross around your neck or on your finger says something about who you are as a person.  Putting a sticker of a cross on your car, or hanging one from your rear-view mirror also makes a statement.  Having a religious symbol on your home or in your yard makes a big statement about the people who live there. Some people now tattoo religious symbols or sayings on their flesh…a permanent reminder of what they believe and a permanent statement to whomever they are in contact with, on a daily basis. And sometimes I think we all forget what statement we are making.  How often have we been run over by someone trying to exit the Church parking lot on Sundays, or cut off in traffic by a driver with a WWJD sticker on the back of their car?  How often, while wearing a cross, do we get nasty with someone at a store or while driving?  How often are we uncharitable to our neighbors, while flying a flag with a statement of our faith from our rooftops?  We often forget that we have forged a relationship with God and that we have chosen to wear or display that relationship on our person, our vehicles, or on our homes.

We attended this wonderful parish picnic at a Melkite parish out of town one summer.  It was a nice drive, the weather was wonderful, and we arrived early enough to be able to check out all the booths and sample some of the wonderful food being sold, before it got overly crowded.  In the Melkite Church, we were spoiled because everyone appreciates those who serve on the altar so much.  We were given little gifts of food and some wonderful coffee, as we strolled the picnic.  We had parishioners coming up to us, explaining what they were selling, and the aromas of the shawarma booths were making me salivate!  (Shawarma‎ is a Levantine  Arab meat preparation, where lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, veal or mixed meats are placed on a spit (commonly a vertical spit), and may be grilled for as long as a day. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating spit. Although it can be served in shavings on a plate (generally with accompaniments), shawarma also refers to a sandwich or wrap made with shawarma meat. Shawarma is eaten with tabbouleh, fattoush, tabboon bread, tomato, and cucumber. Toppings include tahini, hummus, pickled turnips and amba. It is now a fast-food staple worldwide. We are blessed to have a great Arabic food restaurant nearby where we can buy gyros with our choice of beef, chicken, or lamb shawarma!  So blessed!). There was a booth that caught my eye, and it wasn’t even food-oriented!  This booth had these great flags to put in front of your house. They are what are called garden flags in that you hang them on a stake in your yard.  And there were flags for almost all the Holy Days, as well as some of my favorite feast days.  I bought one of each and promptly went home and replaced my pretty flowered flag with a flag for the season of our faith. I loved being able to do that!  When we relocated up here, one of the first things I did was hang my flag by the front door.  I did not think a thing about it.  In about 60 days or so, I had a letter from the HOA telling me I had to remove the flag or pay $50 fines for each month it was not removed.  Apparently, nothing religious is allowed to be on your home, visible by anyone else.  I was flabbergasted.  I replaced my religious flag with a flowery-spring thing.  I was so irritated.  I could not believe there would be an ordinance about flags like this.  In addition, we were not allowed to place religious artwork in our gardens or front areas of our home. The list was specific and long.  Because we just lease and are not owners, I did not make a fuss.  About a month after that, the President of the HOA drove up to our house to chat, as we were working in the yard.  She told us that we could once again fly our flag because people complained about the fines and they got another company to represent the HOA.  She told me, “Please fly those flags. I love seeing them.”  Wow!  Was I shocked and happy. I walked into the house and grabbed a flag, and proudly re-hung it by our front door.  With packing up for our move, I brought the flag inside and I must say, I miss it being there.  It sort of grounds me.  And I also think our neighbors all appreciated our wanting to share a little of who we are in a quiet way.

Gerontissa GabrieliaI think that when we visibly demonstrate our faith before others, we become, perhaps, the only Jesus they may ever see or become acquainted with.  We need to pray when we place a cross around our neck, on our fingers, tattooed on our person, or placed on our cars, or on our homes.  We are a visible sign to others that God is present and that we are His followers.  St. Helen was determined to bring the True Cross to her son, the Emperor Constantine, and she traveled great distances and endured much hardship to do so.  She was a determined woman of faith and her faith never wavered in her quest to find the Cross of Christ, raise it out of obscurity, and bring it to where generations of Christians would worship the instrument of their salvation. It is a powerful thing and an incredible statement to and for others.  I love wearing my Byzantine Cross around my neck and the ring my husband presented to me, matching his, with the simple Cross on it.  The different styles of crosses confuse people, too, and it has started many conversations about what I believe.  It is also a reminder to be the Christian I am declaring to the world when I drive, when I shop, when I am with anyone else.  But more importantly, it is there for me, to remind me of the wonderful gift of faith Our Lord has given to me, and blessed my life with.

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