“…nor any other created thing…”

addiction

I am seeing more and more addictions, of many types. And I read something yesterday that brought it home. It was in a novel by Victoria Dannon and the character replies to a demon that he is not an addict and this demon, who is trying to extract payment on a debt says to him, as he laughs at him, that basically, he does not care what you are addicted to, addiction is addiction, whether it is to alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, plastic surgery…you get the idea. And the demon laughs as the man realizes that his addiction is just that, an addiction. He actually had no idea he was living his life around his addiction. In the storyline, his particular poison was horse racing. And he was willing to risk even his life, to continue betting.

I have seen comments from addicts who say they are not addicted to a particular thing (alcohol, drugs, porn) but rather are running from, or trying to turn off from, life. And that, to me, is sad. We are repressing our inner thoughts by an activity. I know many of us have developed an addictive relationship to social media…Facebook is worth billions of dollars. How? They do not give me a product, but they allow me to communicate with people I would not normally see. I joined to stay in touch with my kids all over the world (literally) and some friends who had moved away. It has become a life-line to many relationships and I have made wonderful friends through Facebook. But what is social media costing us all? Have you actually looked around at restaurants recently? Everyone is on their phones! People are not communicating with that warm body sitting next to them. They are preferring that alternate reality of social media. People text to break up. Don’t even bother to see the person in real life, real time, but send a text. People declare they are “in a relationship” and yet they never see one another. It is totally online. It is just one of the ways we are losing our humanity to technology.

restaurant-cell-phones

There are many other addictions and some of them are far more costly. Do we surround ourselves with stuff to cushion us from the world? What is it about accumulating each thing we collect? I have seen women who have more shoes than I thought possible. I have seen men with tools that take over their garages so they cannot park in them. I have seen women collect cooking utensils – how many strainers do we need? (Okay, I have 3…) But why do we spend money on all this stuff, until we are busting out of our homes, when we complain about being broke? How can we spend on stuff and have no savings? How can we wear all those shoes? Ugh. How much make-up or plastic surgery does one woman need? How many cars are enough for some men? Collecting is one thing, whereas hoarding is quite another. And many of these addictions/obsessions are shielding us from a host of other things.

It is not the stuff itself that people need. It reminds me of a scene from a cartoon movie my kids used to watch (they watched it so much I knew the dialogue by heart!) where this bug cannot stop heading into one of those zappers that has a bright light to attract them. One character says, “Don’t go into the light” and the other responds, “But it’s so beautiful!” And that bug is then zapped. We always laugh at that and have used that line (“But it is so beautiful”) often to express our concern for people who go toward something that is not good for them. In the movie, “Percy Jackson, The Lightning Thief” they find themselves in Las Vegas at this “Lotus” hotel. They lose days in this hotel, because there are no windows or clocks (typical for casinos) and they are fed these Lotus Flowers, which drug them. They finally snap out of it and leave. How many days have I gone through, not remembering what I accomplish? Do I numb my mind with thoughtless activities like cruising social  media or watching endless TV programs or movies? Do I thoughtlessly eat? Do I mindlessly read junk? How do we “snap out of it”????

comeletusworship

We are an inherently spiritual being. Each of us. We are created in the image and likeness of our Creator. We long for that intimate love relationship with the God of all Creation. And we all have this “God Hole” that we try to fill with things. Sometimes the world is a cruel place and humans are cruel to one another, creating individuals who are damaged and seek relief through drugs, alcohol, overeating, shopping, and other behaviors. All the while, people are trying to fill this gaping hole inside each of us. You cannot own enough shoes to fill that. You cannot buy enough leggings or tools or toys for yourself or your children, and expect to find fulfillment and contentment. You cannot drink enough alcohol to fill this wound, this hole, that only God can fill. And it saddens me greatly. Because I am just as guilty as many, in that I acquire things and have behaviors that are not, arguably, the things and behaviors of a Godly woman, wife, and mother. Because quite often, I lack the fortitude to persevere in my faith walk. It is much easier to plop on the couch with a cup of coffee and an Oreo in my hand, and check Facebook, than it is to accomplish something meaningful, like prayer. Or comforting a friend or loved one. Or doing the duties I have acquired from my station in life – a housewife and homeschooling mother. Being lazy is much easier than being accomplished, but the rewards are definitely not the same.

I read an article this morning about why millennials don’t go to Church and how the American Church is losing people faster than they are gaining them. The article spoke to all the ways the American Church could act, to attract these young people. And as I read the article, several things struck me. It was not about any of the mainstream Churches in America. It certainly was not about the Eastern Catholic or Orthodox Churches. Much of what they were proposing Churches do, most of the mainstream Churches offer already. One of the complaints is that the American Churches need to adapt to the world around them. I took great offense at that. I love my Church specifically because it has NOT changed. I see lots of young people in there every week. I am seeing more women dress more modestly and even wear veils. They prefer that their faith remains steadfast, strong, and unchangeable. It offers them comfort in a crazy world. It helps them fight their addictions by remaining the same – unmovable, unchangeable, and steadfast. “And on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 This is where millennials, and whoever is hurting in this world, needs to come to be filled with God. It is a place for the broken, the hurting, the sinners.

22the-church-is-a-hospital-and-not-a-courtroom-for-souls-she-does-not-condemn-on-behalf-of-sins-but-grants-remission-of-sins22-st-john-chrysostom

It is not easy to fight addictions. At all. There are attractions, tempting us almost 24/7 into sin and deviant behavior. We make almost hourly choices towards good or towards evil. And with Great Lent soon upon us, it is the perfect time to slow down and focus on these many addictions, and to seek God’s Grace to help us fight them. To help us overcome them by filling our empty lives and hearts with Him, instead of stuff.

One great suggestion given to me was to do the “40 bags over 40 days” purging project. Definitely doing that this year. The timing is perfect for our family. Another suggestion I saw was to spend 1 day per week with no electricity in the evenings. Instead you light candles and read, pray, play games together. But nothing you do can be supplied by electricity. The author of the blog about it noticed some immediate benefits.

(Here is the link to the article:

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jennifer-fulwiler/8-reasons-to-turn-out-the-lights-during-lent#.WK3C5oWG7FI.facebook)

shabbat

Here in the wintry north, sunset comes early. But I still think this could be a valuable Lenten aid, in that it quiets our lives. It calms us down. It helps set a mood, a tone, in our home of quiet reflection. As one who reads by Kindle at night, going to bed without reading will be weird, but maybe it is time I took a break from that habit. We would have to turn off our phones (agh! We’d have to talk to one another!). And there would be no TV or computer. My son does his Spanish totally online, so I would have to be sure he’s on top of his lessons before we unplug! My Instant Pot dinners would have to be completed on time. No late night laundry panics. We would just sit in the candle light and be together as a family. I think this may assist us with some of our addictive behaviors.

Please consider slowing down and coming more into the Presence of God. Rededicate yourself to becoming closer to He Who created the world. Closer to He Who commands the seas and sets the sun on its rounds every day; Who holds the stars in His hands. He is so much greater than anything we try to substitute for Him.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

romans8-39

 

Advertisements

“…spiritual experience…”

As you read this, please remember the emotions I present it with. I do not, nor have I, sit in judgement on anyone. Rather, I poke away at the differences. I look under the rocks strewn around this world we live in, rather than accept the standard landscape. In this post, I am exploring my own experiences and exposures to the differences in life, as I have been exposed to them. I offer this post in that vein, and with love.

St. Nikolai

This summer has provided me with opportunities to worship with family, friends, and fellow parishioners, in a variety of circumstances. Certainly the environment we find ourselves in colors our world. It colors how we view so much, including the Divine. The old adage about nature/nurture comes to mind. As an Anthropology major in college, I feel I was blessed to learn about a variety of cultures, cultural norms, and expectations. The USA is a unique blending (remember being taught how we were a “melting pot” back in the old days?) of cultures, languages, and traditions. Quite often we want everyone to be the same because it is so much easier that way. I am often teased by family members and have a rejoinder I use regularly and it is, “You’re right! I wish everyone was like me because life would be so much easier that way.” Of course, in my life, I live variety on a daily basis. We are a mixed race family. When young, my son asked me why he was “chocolate” and I was “peach.” My response to him was (and I still believe this) is that God loves variety. He loves colors. Look at birds, dogs, cats, people – there are very few exactly the same. (Even when you buy your dog from a reputable breeder, there is no guarantee they will be the breed standard. Trust me. I know this from experience and Chet is now over 11 years old and still not the standard for his breed! HaHa!). The rainbow is God’s promise to us that He will not destroy the earth – and He gave us that promise in a glorious array of colors.  God appreciates the different, the “off the beaten path,” the “oddball,” the “square peg” that doesn’t quite fit. And I love that about life.  I love that saying, “Viva la difference!” And I am different, as well.

upside-down-bird_18378_990x742

In life, we are given a set of circumstances and environments where we grow. We have a certain set of parents, we live in a certain house, in a certain town, etc. Every sibling is unique. Our life experiences are unique. I am saying all of this because I noticed so many unique qualities to the varying worship services I attended this summer.  I was blessed to be exposed to many faiths before I was married. I have attended some Reform Jewish ceremonies, as well as some Orthodox Jewish ceremonies. I even attended what I lovingly referred to as “Let’s Be Jewish” classes with a rabbi many years ago. I studied Mormonism in junior and high school.  I studied various sects of Protestantism growing up, being baptized seven (7) times. Yes, 7! I attended Greek Orthodox marriage prep courses with a college roommate. I’ve explored options within Catholicism, going from a more modern, post-Vatican II experience, to a Tridentine sort of environment, to evangelical Catholicism and even some of the very expressive masses with Liturgical Dancing. I gravitated to the more traditional experiences within the Church and eschewed many of the modern changes to mass and to the interior of Catholic churches, as well as devotional changes and architecture changes. Our eldest son introduced us to an amazing Melkite priest who invited us to “Come and See” and we have never looked back.  We were blessed to be involved with a very strict/orthodox (as in right thinking) liturgical/spiritual instructional period before formally becoming Melkite Greek Catholic. And all of that has colored how I view my faith, and the way in which I choose to worship.

AfricanMigrantsBoatEuropeAerial-500x333As the news of this past week or so hit my internet newsfeeds, I cringed at the photos of people escaping Syria and ISIS.  I cringed because, in so many respects, this should not be happening. When Our Lord instructed His Disciples to go into all the nations, He meant what he said. And they were obedient, even unto death. My son took the confirmation name of John. When I asked which John, he told me, “The Apostle.” When I asked him why he chose him, his response was, “Because he was the only one who died of old age.”  And we all need to remember that the Apostles died for their faith. They went into a world of paganism and evil, preaching the Word of God. And they died to do it; being obedient to Christ cost them their very lives. Today in our world, Christians are once again giving their lives to live within their faith. ISIS is trying to undo a millennia of Christianity. And they are doing it by the sword.

Some Muslims are also escaping, along with Christians, from the Holy Lands. In the news this week, there have been stories that many trying to get into Germany are converting to Christianity in order to be welcomed. I don’t think it is a conversion of the heart, but rather a conversion of the head. They don’t want to live under ISIS, be they Christian or Muslim. And the world is watching. Many do not want to get involved, nor do they want more Syrians in their country. As a Melkite Greek Catholic, I have been blessed to meet, befriend, and worship alongside some amazing Arab Christians. People who brought just the clothes on their backs, to escape Sadam Hussein, among others. But the reason for this post is that I have read where so many countries are turning these refugees away. They are different. They dress differently. They speak a different language, eat different foods, and their worship (even if Christian) seems foreign as well. Different is often scary. But God celebrates the different! He loves the different.  As His Apostles converted people and established Christianity around the world (in the form of Catholicism) they did so where the people were. They did not change their culture, but adapted the worship of the faith to the country/culture they were in. Roman Catholicism reflects Roman culture when Peter arrived. The Roman Catholic practices evolved around the stricture/structure of Roman culture. The Melkite Church grew up in the Middle East and the Liturgies, while Greek in nature, use lots of Arabic terminology (the whys and wherefores are for another post) and call God, “Allah.” It is the Arabic word for God – it is not a strictly Muslim term. Many Americans wig out when they hear “Allah” from a person like me, especially when used in context about our Christian God. It is a shame more people are not open to, nor even exposed to, the history and truth about how our faith came to be. Christianity is a big tent – there is room for all sorts of diversity.

jordan_2660789b

The above photo is of the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan. This circulated on Facebook yesterday, but was featured in an article by the UK publication, the Telegraph, today. This is a refugee camp that has been there for YEARS; for GENERATIONS. One of the most precious things these refugees hold are keys they wear around their necks. The keys belong to the homes they were forced to leave. The keys are passed down to each generation – that is how long these refugees have been forced to live in these camps. This is not a new problem, but it is a growing one. Yes, they are different. Yes, it is something that is “across the ocean” from the USA. But this is in the Land of Christ. Thanks be to God for the magnanimity and generosity of the Jordanian Royal Family, who has extended refugee status all these years. There is less than 3% of Christians remaining in the Holy Land, the land of our faith.

I was blessed to worship at our Melkite parish on our vacation. It had been 5 1/2 years since we attended Divine Liturgy there. We missed it so much. We attended Mass at our son’s Roman Catholic parish, also while on vacation. It was nice to sit with my granddaughters and worship. So much has changed in the Roman liturgy, it was hard to know what to respond with, but the priest had a wonderful homily. We came home to our Ruthenian parish, where our priest is Ukrainian Greek Catholic, my husband (the deacon) is Melkite, and many of the parishioners are Eastern European (Polish, Russian, and Slavic in general). And I thought about my experiences and was in awe of how truly universal our church is. I mean, I prayed in Arabic, Latin, English, and listened to our priest speak Ukrainian, all within a 3 week period of time – and all within the Catholic Church. How awesome is that?

Different color skin, same souls.

I’ve posted about this issue of differences before. This recent sadness about the Syrian refugees brought it back into the forefront.  Why do we focus on how we are different? All this ugliness toward those who protect and serve our communities. The selling of baby parts by Planned Parenthood; the experimentation on not-dead-yet-babies. The atrocities around this country, and in our world are mounting.  Why? Because of the differences.  Because Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood because she was a follower of Hitler and a white supremacist, who believed anyone not white was less in some way. There are Protestants who believe we Catholics do not even worship the same God, for heaven’s sake, when the Catholic Church is who brought the faith to the world. There are more than 30,000 Protestant denominations around the world, most of which began in the USA. Why? Every time someone had a disagreement (or “protested”) against the Church, they started their own Church. Why? Why do people think because you are black, you think/behave a certain way? Why do people think because you are white, or brown, or tan, or whatever color, you will behave/believe a certain way? And that those differences are inherently wrong? Different is sometimes just different; not wrong.

apple colors

Did you know there are more than 7,500 varieties of apples grown worldwide, each with its own colors? Green? A little tart for me to bite into; I prefer a nice, red, Washington apple. But I like green ones to cook with! They make incredible apple pies. The secret, I discovered, to making the best homemade apple sauce was to cook a variety of apples all at once. The mixture gave the applesauce a lovely, complex flavor that my kids preferred over store-bought. We have variety all around us. We need to put the differences into the context of a reason to learn, to explore, to grow and embrace, rather than something that is set apart, set aside, ignored, and avoided. The Syrians will keep fleeing ISIS. If we are lucky, all our police and firemen will keep protecting us. People will keep intermarrying and having mixed race families. Languages will come to us and we can learn those, as well as new traditions. I love that my heritage is British, but I have learned to cook Russian dishes via my husband’s family, Arabic foods via my Melkite faith, and now I am embracing Polish and Ukrainian foods from my fellow Ruthenian parishioners.  I grew up eating traditional British fare as a child. I was exposed to Greek food growing up and attended Greek festivals as a child. I love learning new traditions and foods.  Why can we not all enjoy these differences, especially the ones in worship, without judging it to be less than what we are familiar with? When we will extend our hands in welcome and embrace something we are unfamiliar with?

Icons.lamp

Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

“…If the world hates you…”

ON Pillars of LentI must be emotional or something, because from yesterday to today, I’m in a totally different frame of mind! Maybe it’s my age, or the fact that it is supposed to snow today and is all dark and cloudy outside. But it is just day #2 of the Fast for Great Lent, and for my Roman Catholic friends, it is Fat Tuesday, with tomorrow being Ash Wednesday.  So their Lent is beginning tomorrow.  But today, they can eat as they like, whereas those of us on the eastern side of the aisle are already deeply into Clean Week, with it being Clean Tuesday.  And that is where I have come to post on my blog…the “Fast.”

Wow, I really did not think that fasting would cause such a myriad of responses.  There have been angry posts, people knit-picking on whether soy is fast-approved or if tofu should be allowed, or if you can have beer but not wine…is fake meat (tofu products) really okay during the fast because you are getting the (almost) same enjoyment from a meat-like substance, so doesn’t that defeat the whole “fasting from meat” thingy?  One remark on a wall post was from a young man who once dated a “Catholic” and during Lent she wanted to give up sex – he said, “It was the longest month of my life. WTF?”  Wow.  Completely insane remarks floating around out there.  And all sorts of emotional roller-coaster responses, too.  But it was noticeable.  This Lent feels different, from almost all my other Lenten experiences.

Some people are going to try fasting for the first time, and some are even Protestant, and this is the milieus we want to invite them to join?  From my perspective, Lent is such a different time – for me; I am not pretending to comment or judge anyone else’s journey.  During Lent, I sort of “batten down the hatches” and subdue the wildness that can be life. I eat less and have a concern over what I do eat; I pray and read the Bible much more (I am following along in the “Theosis” magazine this Lent for readings and prayers for all the specified hours – awesome resource for me); and I am keeping a guard over my behavior – my words, my actions, my thoughts. Today I read a great article talking about how Lent is a special time each year to renew our relationship to God, or to perhaps discover it, for the reality that it is, for the first time.  And we are called to this project of discovery every year – every year.  God and His Church, in wisdom, gave us liturgical seasons and they help us to enter in to the worship of God more deeply. It happens to coincide with the physical seasons we experience around us, too.  And I think that is wonderful. Some dates, some days, are borrowed from pagan worship; yes, they are. Don’t be scandalized. It is one of the beautiful things about the Church.  The Apostles came to all the corners of the earth, preaching Christ to people as they were, where they were.  And because of that, we have a kaleidoscope of color, sound, and smell within the Church, reflective of all the many and varied cultures to which the Faith of Christ was extended.

gateLent is the same all over the world, in all cultures.  Dates may be off a little here and there; practices may vary from country to country.  But the basics are that we need to give up more of ourselves, for more of Him.  In our inner core of who we are (the nous in Orthodoxy) we allow Christ to nestle in and become a complete part of us, in a spiritual union with our God.  How well He fits in, and how comfortable He is with what we offer Him, is totally our doing.  He stands at the door and waits for us.  It is completely up to us, our free-will part of the journey of faith, to let Him fully reside in us, or to just allow Him brief visits now and then (as in attending Church on what my son calls “incense days” in the Latin Church – Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Easter…you know, the days they haul out the incense) or perhaps at a special event we want God’s blessings on – Marriages, Baptisms, and Burials.

Abbot NazariusBut truly, and most especially during Lent, we need to immerse ourselves in our faith. We are given this opportunity to pick ourselves up and start again, in a real way.  The world spins, our culture keeps going its own way – a way of hedonism, lack of compassion for our fellow man, greed and the “need to succeed,” and a very large lack of respect towards our being and that of others.  The Church led us to Lent through some amazing Scriptures read at Liturgy.  One of them was the story of the Last Judgement – the sheep and the goat story.  And one of most incredible icons is the icons of the Divine Ascent, or “Stairway to Heaven,” as the song says.  I love this icon.  Before I had discovered my Catholicism (and then my love of the Eastern churches) and its deep impact on my life, I recall a friend in college who had the singular, most unique poster in his bathroom that I had ever seen. It was a modern version of this self-same icon. I used to go into his bathroom and just sit there and stare at that poster. It struck me so deeply, as it was quite graphic. I felt bad for all those people falling into the hands of the demons and all that fire.  I liked the “golden staircase” and how those at the top were welcomed and embraced, and walked off into the clouds of heaven.  And it had no effect, whatsoever, on the choices I was making in my life; it did not change who I was, nor did it register with me that that particular poster was speaking to me, years before I was ready to hear.  It was only later in life when I saw the icon that I knew what it was.Ladder_of_Divine_AscentThere are many depictions of this famous icon, but the message is the same.  We are on a journey, all of us.  We are climbing our way to our eternity.  Each choice we make, each decision we make, every person we meet along the way, are all a part of our journey.  We are either taking a step towards God or we are sliding back down, away from Him.  This Lent is an opportunity to gain a rung or two in the right direction.  We can slough it off as something only Monks do, or only clergy are obliged to participate in, or we can choose to join in.  We can become a part of the collective work of the Church.  We can join our brothers and sisters, in the best way we are able, in this prayer to God.  Lent is a prayer.  We are all doing what we can, for our own salvation, in the light of God’s love. And during Lent, most particularly, the Church is telling us, “Less is more” where food is concerned, but prayer and a conscious effort towards God is even “more” than fasting from food.  We need to keep it in its proper perspective in our lives, especially during Lent.

St.Maximus the Confessor.foodThere is a great saying regarding the entire concept of all this complaining and knit-picking, and it is, “Keep an eye on your own plate.” We are all struggling. There is only one person at a time on that ladder up there!  We cannot approach heaven belittling the efforts of others as they make their way up the ladder.  We cannot hold anger and bitterness towards others if we are going to have a firm grasp on that upward rung.  It just doesn’t work.  All the snarkiness and negativity towards people of faith is, however,  something to be expected, and it was even foretold!

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matthew 10:21-22).

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” (John 15:18-21)

Our Lord knew the way would not be easy.  He knew the world would deride us for our efforts.  He also knew it would tear families and churches apart, when we try to truly live a life of faith.  But once again, it is up to us to stand firm and not waiver in our determination to see this through, each in his own way, remaining faithful to our relationship to God.  And it is up to me, to you, to each of us, to remain faithful in spite of comments, of family and friends who don’t get it.  We lead by example. We are called to be that stick in the river, that does not bend to the flow around it. I am working on not being mad or reactionary to comments; it is something God has thrown my way, for my growth.  And by sharing my way of dealing with it, I hope you who read this will gain strength to stay the course over these 40 days.

O Lord and Master of my life,
Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
of discouragement,
of lust for power,
and of vain speaking.

 But bestow upon me, Thy servant,
the spirit of chastity,
of meekness,
of patience,
and of love.

Yea, O Lord and King,
grant that I may perceive
my own transgressions,
and judge not my brother,
for blessed art Thou
unto ages of ages.
Amen.

“…God and man are one…”

“…in such moments God and man are one, and God’s Spirit works in him…”                                                                                                                      Elder Thaddeus

PathwayWe are all searching for peace.  It is elusive, especially in our noisy world.  We have become, in this country, a people of “instant.”  We want what we want, and we want it now.  “If it feels good, do it.”  “Just do it.”  There are so many slogans bandied about that encourage us to live to our hedonistic worst selves.  I listened to a brief piece by Mark Hart, the Bible Geek this morning, which he had posted on his Facebook wall. It was from a presentation he had made. In it, he lamented at how we want all these things from God and we keep talking incessantly and praying “without ceasing,” but for so many of us it has become more “noise” and not true prayer.  We need to be still and allow God to envelope us in His “whisper.”

Elder Thaddeus’ book, “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives” pretty much changed me, my outlook on life, and how I try to deal with life.  God will interact with us.  God will give us that elusive peace we are all searching for, but He is more likely to wait for us to “be still and know I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).  I have tried so many different things in my lifetime.  I have attended the Ritual Baths in downtown LA at a major Jewish Temple.  I attended what I lovingly called, “Let’s be Jewish Classes” for the better part of a year when I was foolishly engaged as a young woman to a Jewish man whose parents really disliked me because I was not Jewish, but who did invite me to witness many Jewish holidays, services, and traditions. I love Judaism.  The wonderful Rabbi who was trying to instruct me became a life-long friend and I very sadly attended his funeral many years ago.  He often told me, “I love how you think, but you will never be a Jewess.”  Ha-Ha!  The old Anthropologist in me just could not let go of all the evidence of a Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ.  But it made for delightful conversations!  I also explored Mormonism as a teen.  Even gave a testimony and talk my parents attended at a Stake meeting.  I attended many different Protestant denominations. I even went to the Chrystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA with my youngest step sister. What an experience! Ironically enough, the Diocese of Orange County purchased that property and is in the process of making it a Catholic church and educational center.  When I was a young adult and was initially dating my husband, I was a declared Geneva Presbyterian and loved my Church in El Toro, CA.  The one big thing about that Church was the architecture (it spoke to me) and oddly enough, the smell.  The walls reminded me of a castle and I loved touching and smelling them – they had a sense of history to them, even though it was relatively new construction.  (I am a history nut, in case you have not figured that out and majored in Forensic Anthropology/Physiology in college, with a minor in Biblical Archeology). My heritage is British and that Church was British and Scottish in culture, Geneva Presbyterian in theology.  I have heard some great preachers, and some very poor examples of Christians as preachers.  Through it all, my sense of history drew me into the Catholic Church, and kept pulling me east, as I found the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

Through my formation in the Melkite Church, I was led to read some great, formidable, and amazing early Church Fathers; I have read the Desert Fathers, as well.  Not in completion, by no means, but words they have left us, which have touched me deeply.  The Philokalia is something all Byzantine Catholics should own and refer to often, as a source of spiritual nourishment.  (I think everyone, regardless of Church affiliation, would benefit from reading it).  In the four-volume set is found words that will take you a lifetime to digest.  And when, in formation, our pastor and our spiritual director suggested some further reading, some of the books truly impacted my life. “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” is one, and Elder Thaddeus’ book is the other.  Some people shy away from Orthodox writers and I believe that is a shame.  It is a loss for them and it does not acknowledge the bond we share, theologically and spiritually, with our Orthodox brethren. I think that Elder Thaddeus really had his finger on the pulse of our emerging cultures.  Even though he wrote long before our lives and in a far different environment, his advice still holds true.  When we truly connect with God, “in such moments God and man are one, and God’s Spirit works in him.”  It is something you never forget, those moments when you really are touched by God.

I have experienced the touch of God through his Saints and his vessels on earth, in some profound ways during my lifetime.  God allows us to experience His love when we renew our determination to rid ourselves of the dross we accumulate in this life and focus on the life we will have with Him in eternity. There are some funny sayings that relate to this, that show where our culture is heading.  One that always tickles me is, “The man who dies with the most toys wins.”  I have seen that bumper sticker on trucks that require step ladders to get into!  I always imagine boys holding on to their Tonka Trucks and GI Joes well into adulthood, adding cars, off-road vehicles, and other toys to their piles of “things.”  I have heard of some weird funerals wherein people are buried in their favorite car or dressed as their favorite sports team.  And even though imagining it makes me giggle (I know people who fit into this category!!) I am also very sad that their view of eternity is limited to what they can see out of their rear-view mirrors.  God is so far beyond what we can see and touch in this life.  There are sublime moments when we touch Him in this life, yes, and it makes it real!  Holding a newborn baby; holding the hand of a loved one as they pass from this life – these moments touch us and give us a glimpse into the life of God. Why do you see so many older people in Church?  I believe it is because we all wake up one day and realize that we do not have that many more days to wake up.  Each day becomes precious.  It is a shame we don’t start, as a general rule, much younger to strive for God every day.  I know some people who never think of God or Christ, except when they buy the latest Easter dress for their children, Easter Baskets with all sorts of bunnies in them, or start their Christmas shopping and put up their decorations.  They go most of the year never giving a thought to God.  But boy, do they complain about this and that, always sighing at not having peace in their lives.

Easter Bunny....This past week has been stressful.  We live near a military base that has been having a week-long “exercise” wherein they shoot off mortars, 50 Cal guns, have Chinooks flying over head, and paratroopers jumping out of C-17s.  Our little house is older and every time a mortar is fired, the windows rattle, the cat runs and hides, and my nerves are rattled to the migraine point!  I feel, so much, for those who live every day in a war zone.  I feel, so deeply, for our PTSD vets, who lived through bombardments like this, on a daily basis, for real.  And I am grateful our troops are being trained to protect us and to keep us safe.  But I am so over it!  My nerves are frayed, our skittish cat may never resurface, and we are operating in a holding pattern, waiting for the next blast!  And so I thought to write about peace.

Ukrainian priest.warSometimes our peace is taken from us, as recent events in Ukraine demonstrate.  But the Ukrainian priests and monks there showed the world that they are clinging to the presence of Christ in their lives.  That freedom from oppression is important, even with guns on your back.  In this country, we pretty much have lived in peace in our land…we’ve had a couple of attacks on our land, but we have been blessed.  We have not had to fight for our right to believe and attend the Church we do.  We have not been rounded-up like the nuns in Syria, kidnapped and held because we live what we believe.  The world struggles for freedom to worship, and we struggle to obtain more toys.  I know that not everyone does.  There are good and bad everywhere.  But what is pervasive in our culture?  Our media barely touched on the unrest in Ukraine.  Many of my friends knew nothing about it, and many still do not.  But they know who won the Super Bowl.  They know what channel the “real housewives of….” is on.  Their DVRs are set to record so they don’t miss a moment.  And we are surrounded by and bombarded by sound.  By noise.  By the dross (The term dross derives from the Old English word dros, meaning the scum produced when smelting metals. By the 15th century it had come to refer to rubbish in general. Metallurgical dross is referenced as a metaphor for worthless material in the Bible and in other religious texts) of this world, floating around us and clogging up our lives.

Simple and humble, simple and humble…that has become our motto.  It was our motto when we relocated up here.  We got rid of so much that we truly did not need (well, I wish I had been a little less generous because I do miss quite a number of things I gave away in my haste to relocate!!).  We live smaller, simpler, and much more humble lives that we ever have.  And we have far more quiet than we ever have.  We can go an entire day, and night, with never turning the TV on.  And we are all fine with that. I spend time ruminating on the readings of the day, articles of religious import, or Scripture.  I think, I ponder, and I pray.  And I experience more peace than I have ever known.  And I feel that peace ebbing, or it being pulled from me, I am more aware of it and struggle to cling to it.  Quite often, I retreat and symbolically fill the moat with water and pull up the drawbridge, to regain my sense and center of peace in Christ.  My wish for my family and friends is more time with God, in contemplation of Him in their lives, and to know “such moments [when] God and man are one, and God’s Spirit works in him…” 

Man before clouds

“…a whisper of the Divine….”

Warriors of Christ fite best on kneesI love this photo.  Roughly translated it means that the “Warriors of Christ fight best on their knees.”  What a thought!  Someone commented that there is a lot of black in their vestments.  Yes, there is.  But it is worn as a sign of mourning or sadness, during Lent.  And I love how beautiful the entire thing looks.  I long to be there…instead of….

My house!  I am decidedly going crazy right now, with the hectic pace of our moving looming over everything.  My husband has 5 or so days left on his job, then we seriously pack up and move.  We have one room upstairs almost totally empty; our poor son has no dresser or night stand in his room, and his bed is going soon, too.  We have odds and ends to be rid of and we are all about cleaning out to the bare bones.  The hectic, chaotic mess of a house torn apart, well, it really gets to me. I did not realize how much I like having everything in its place. Not necessarily white-glove clean, but neat.  Having to step around and over things is getting to me.  Right now, all my dishes (and I mean all) are on our counter top, waiting to be packed or sold.  I cannot move in my kitchen.  The bathrooms are great, so that is a place to hide away! Ha-Ha!  My office is in total chaos and I still have to either pack or burn all the papers in there.  We are trying to get rid of a large oak roll-top desk, so I need to empty it.  So much in process; much done, but oh so much left to do!

And I find myself looking for solace and peace.  The opening post photo is exemplary of what I need to be doing…fighting this battle on my knees.  All of this is in God’s hands and I need to stop taking it back from him. Surrendering in prayer is what I need more of, not struggling with these things I need to pack, choices I need to make, and space bags to fill and flatten.  I am not disposing myself to complete surrender, to just sit and wiggle my nose like Jeannie on the old TV show, and expect that everything will magically be packed and we will be on our way.  It is more of a surrender to the Will of God in all things.  This move included.  All things.

Elder Sophrony1Spending a few moments in prayer is worth all the chaos that may arise because of being absent to the chronos of life, and spending some kairos time with God.   And those moments when you hear “a whisper of the Divine is glory beyond compare to all the content of a life lived apart from God.” This momentary interruption to having things in their place, and the quiet and contentment of living in your home where you feel like it is your place of solace, are all worth living in the light of God’s Will for us.  Life is not about those years we engrave on our tombstones, but rather about the life in between those dates.  A little chaos now and then makes the peace that much more sublime and rich.  And as my kids keep reminding me, “Keep your eye on the prize.”  Today, I am living that…God’s truly got this!

“…let him become a fool…”

Zosimas_and_Mary_of_EgyptSts. Zosimas and Mary of Egypt (April 1st)

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He takes the wise in their own craftiness.” (1Corinthians 3: 18-19)

Today is April 1st, also known as April Fool’s Day. I find it interesting that it falls just after Easter Sunday this year.  As if to make light of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ; that it never took place.  There are so many theories out there about the whole process. Historians often find things that happened just too uncomfortable to deal with, so they explain them away.  In recent history, the Muslims have said the Holocaust never took place – it’s all faked by the western countries; an elaborate hoax to woo favor for the emerging powerhouse of Israel. I personally know some Holocaust survivors, have spoken with them, have seen their tattoos, and have listened to their gruesome stories.  I believe.  But I believed before I met them; I saw pictorial evidence; I listened to eyewitness accounts from soldiers who rescued those left in the Concentration Camps. I believe.  There are other instances where people are taken in by hoaxes.  Stories abound of people whose life savings were taken by hucksters, selling them the dream of getting rich, quick.  To me, there is no scheme worth my savings.  Hard work and the sweat of one’s own brow!  Even after being taken in and feeling used or stupid, there is always a way to look at things with a positive faith, with trust.  Our faith is the same way.

There are so many detractors to Christianity.  There are even more detractors from under the masthead of Christianity who believe that organized religion is the “Bride of Satan,” most especially the most visible Church, the Catholic Church.  I find it humorous that the Church is the first one to be picked on by so many, especially the liberal media and Hollywood!  But when they need a religious expert, or some sort of icon to portray the religiosity of a scene in a movie, they trot out a priest in Roman collar, or show an iconic view of a Roman Catholic Church.  Why? Because it is the most visible faith; almost everyone has had some sort of interaction sometime in their life with something Catholic.  It is a visible, tangible symbol of Christianity.  And because it is all of that and more, it has the most detractors.  Being a Byzantine Catholic is an entirely different kettle of fish.  We are perhaps the most misunderstood part of the Christian, Catholic picture.  Many of our Catholic friends assumed we’d left the Church altogether, upon our switch to Byzantine worship.  So many people only know that visible Church; they do no realize the true ethnic and religious diversity of the Church they belong to.  So really, how could we of the Byzantine tradition ever hope that anyone would understand us, other than ourselves?  The Orthodox aren’t sure what to do with us, either!  We have the same Divine Liturgy, but we are aligned with Rome; they are not.  And I am sorry for that, because I identify much more with Orthodoxy than I do with Romanism in theological outlook and religious practice.  We Melkites have been laughingly referred to as the Orthodox of the West on more than one occasion, because we seem the most Orthodox of the Byzantine rites; perhaps we are.  Up here in the Pacific Northwest, there are more people from Northern climates across Europe, and the rites that geographically and socially come with them.  There are lots of Ruthenian and Ukrainian parishes, and many, many Russian churches.  Some of the Russian churches are Orthodox, some are Byzantine.  We even have a Romanian monastery nearby, who keep the Orthodox calendar, but are also in union with Rome.  All of this diversity, for me, is heaven-sent.  It gives me such joy to know the many manifestations of the Church around the world.  Wherever the Apostles and Disciples went, they established Christ’s Church on the earth, as He had mandated to them (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19)  One of the unique things about our faith is that these Apostles and Disciples reached the people where they were; they incorporated local custom, tradition, folklore, dress, music, and food into the formalized worship of Christ.  (And yes, the Church also incorporated common festivals, seasons, and dates, to further ease people into practicing their new-found Christian faith).  And because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, they did it without diluting Christ’s message, or changing a single word He told them.  We  believe the age of revelation died with the last Apostle.  God’s message was complete in the Apostles He sent forth. There is nothing new to be revealed to man.  That is a sticking point with Protestants and other sects that have branched off from Catholicism.  They believe their pastors and other mystics have been given prophetic powers, that there is still much God wishes to share with humanity, that is new and revelatory.  One of my favorite scriptures is the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. In Chapter 23, he pretty much lays it on the line insofar as false prophets go.  There are so many memorable quotes in that chapter and one of them is: ‘“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.’ That is how the chapter opens and it goes from there.

The point here is that we believe. Period. We are believers because we heard the Good News of Christ’s love for us and we believe it all.  (eg. John 6: 48-59)  We received this message from those who heard it from Christ Himself, through Apostolic succession.  That means that once the Word was given to the Apostles, as they went around the world establishing the Church, they passed this Word onto their successors.  They passed this on directly to their successors through the laying on of hands, which was first described in the book of Acts:  “Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17, ESV)  

Priests hands aloft incenseThis act of laying hands on an apostle so they could receive the Holy Spirit has continued since, unbroken.  For someone like me, who loves history, pomp and circumstance, and all-things old, it comforts my heart and my spirit to know my faith is an unbroken line or connection, back to the Apostles themselves, who learned at the knee of Christ, God made Man, on earth.  There can be no April Fool’s joke played on me when it comes to my faith. No false prophets can assuage me away from my God, my worship, my love of the Lord. It is a basic relationship that I wish others could experience, or see, or recognize.  So many get caught up in the externals that they do see.  The world wants a representation of religion and they trot out a priest….not a pastor, not a minister from an obscure off-shoot of Catholicism….they want a priest.  Because there is universal recognition in the person of the priest, that Christ is present with us, visibly, in His Church.  When a Byzantine or Orthodox priest walks about in his rason or tunic, people notice.  It does not look like a Roman collar, worn with a black shirt and normal slacks; it is a long, black robe, reminiscent of days gone by.  The visible sign of our faith is in our Priest.  And it is different; it stands apart from a Roman collar, and it is symbolic of the Church that is in the world.  We are diverse and we worship in a divergent manner from the Roman Church, but we share the same faith.  No April Fool’s joke, no manner of ill-speaking of our practices will make it untrue or non-existent.  The Muslims want the Holocaust to go away; they want Christianity to go away.  It is not happening.  “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20)  Christ left us His Church, the Word of God, intact in His Church and He will be with us until the end of the age.  Thanks be to God. And there is nothing foolish about that.

Sunlight divine liturgy

“…for the egg you hold to turn red…”

Ukrainain Egg Wraps 3So much of what we think we know when we are young, is completely dashed on the rocks when we get older.  My middle son, when a freshman in High School, put us in an awkward position.  He was barely in high school and we had our youngest son, who was 4 or 5 at the time, and in kindergarten. It was nearing the Christmas holiday season.  To give some background, our family always celebrates the Feast of St. Nicolas by putting our shoes in the hallway, and in the morning, gold-foil-covered coins would be in our shoes.  (Our middle son and youngest son also share their same birth date with the feast day of St. Sabbas, December 5th, the day before St. Nicolas). The story of St. Nicolas of Myra and his generosity always brought such joy to my husband and I, and we shared that with our children.  We often also shared that there were many years that Christmas should not have happened, and that we believed St. Nicolas interceded for us.  St. Nicolas always made an appearance at our parish, bringing chocolate treats to the kids dressed in traditional Bishop’s clothing.  When we were asked by our children if “Santa Claus” was real, we sort of side-stepped it by telling them that we definitely believe in St. Nicolas of Myra. In his memory, through the centuries, Santa Claus was developed, in keeping his sainted memory alive for each generation. We reminded them that we also believe that the Saints are with us always, in the Church Triumphant.  Those are the words we used, but our children heard, “Yes, of course, Santa is real!”  As I said at the beginning, our middle son was in that space between boy-man, and a very naive high school freshman.  (We homeschooled him until he entered a local, Catholic High School).  We asked him to help us hide some Christmas gifts for our youngest son in his closet, and he was devastated.  We had no idea he still believed in the mystery of Christmas morning; he totally bought the whole “Santa” idea and he was crushed.  He then questioned us about the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Guardian Angels.  What a conversation we had with him.  Now in his late 20s, a college graduate (degree in Ancient History – of course!!) and a married, and imminently expectant father, he still remembers this event.  It made us feel like we had perpetrated a hoax on him and ruined his wonderful childhood memories. Our youngest son, we think, has a handle on it.  But we also think he likes to believe in the miraculous, and also uses it to his advantage.  This past Christmas, at the ripe age of 13, he shared with us his lists – birthday and Christmas.  He said what he didn’t get for his birthday (on the 5th of December) he would love to “get from Dad…oh, I mean, Santa, or St. Nicolas,” at Christmas.  I let it slide, but I think he gets it.  This weekend is Easter…and with that comes preparing for the Easter Bunny…goodies, foods, baskets, and all that we celebrate with it..and there has been so much on the internet and Facebook.  One posting that bothers me greatly is the picture below:

Silly RabbitI firmly believe in the Resurrection of Our Lord, for without that, our religion would not exist; without Easter, Christmas is meaningless.  That being said, I think that the traditions that have sprung up around these Holy-Days (aka Holidays) bring an added dimension to them.  Yes, there are those who ONLY know about the Bunny.  They ONLY know about chocolate eggs and dressing up and hunting for candy eggs. Religion does not enter into the equation at all.  I get that.  Perhaps it is because of my education in Anthropology and History, that I love all the traditions (small t) that surround these Holy Days of ours.  (Why do we hunt for eggs at Easter? Hmmm…hint: someone was missing from the Tomb and was being sought).  Some pessimists posted under pictures like the one above statements like, “It is a pagan holiday anyway; the Church stole it.” and “Christ wasn’t born in wintertime; they stole that pagan celebration, as well.”  Yes, the Church stole those dates.  It was easier as the Church was growing, to incorporate the local traditions and cultures and expound on them, using what was in place to further explain our faith.  St. Patrick is famous for using the 3-leaf clover to explain the Trinity, and it became “lucky.”  The Church used holidays for new birth and coming forth in Spring as the perfect time for Christ to emerge from His Tomb, the Risen Lord. It made sense.  Slowly, over the centuries, many traditions (small t) grew around these Holy-Days and only enhanced the wonder and joy of them. Re-birth, spring flowers, sunshine emerging from a dark winter (why do so many Christians gather for “sunrise services” on Easter Sunday?) and empty crosses…all symbolic of the emergence from Hades (for 3 days), from death, from His tomb – of Our Risen Lord.

One of the most profound things I love about the history of our faith is the history of the construction of our Churches. Western, Catholic churches, first and foremost, are in the shape of a Cross.  Also, in European, western culture, very few people could read.  So the builders of our oldest Cathedrals, at the instruction of our Church Fathers, incorporated incredible stained glass windows to tell the story of Christ, the Church, and its Saints.  Statues were made, depicting episodes from the life of Christ.  The Pieta is one of my very favorites.  There is a saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  The early Church builders and Fathers of the Church, knowing the poor education of its people, created a special place where the tenets of the faith could be shown in picture and statue form.  A person would walk into a Church and be in a different realm, a heavenly realm, a place where God would be present in his people, in His temple. And their senses were enveloped by the sights, sounds, colors, and smells of their faith.

In the East, the tradition of the Icon was developed.  The beginnings of iconography are in the Catacombs themselves.  One of the first images shared by Christians is of the Fish, emblazoned on the walls of the Catacombs, guiding believers to the liturgies being held in secret in pagan Rome.  The first Icon by St. Luke is an incredible story.  (http://www.stlukeorthodox.com/html/iconography/iconhistory.cfm) The Byzantine and Orthodox believe that Icons are the window to the soul and tell a story.  Everything in an icon is symbolic; they are not meant to look realistic in the sense of a Raphael painting. We do not paint icons, rather, we write an icon.  The icons fill the Eastern Churches with an other-worldly sense of the sacred.  With the colors on the walls and ceilings, the candles, incense, and icons, you enter into a deeply reverent, heavenly experience while still here, on earth.  Most Orthodox and Byzantine Churches do not have pews.  The meaning behind it is pretty profound.  We do not kneel – we stand in the Presence of God.  For example, when the President or other dignitary enters a room, everyone stands.  How much more should we greet Our Lord, Who is present in His Temple?  The western tradition of kneeling comes from (this is what I love about learning history) the way a knight would kneel in the presence of his lord and master, often for the first time when being knighted.  This is a medieval tradition, carried over into our western liturgies.  In the older, western Cathedrals, there are no pews, either.  The pews came in slowly, for the royals, and were boxed-off from the regular people, to keep the peasants away from royalty, as they worshiped.  Slowly, pews were extended for everyone.  In the Anglican Church (and many Episcopal and Lutheran churches), boxed pews are still reserved for those with higher status in the community.  In the East, the kneeling and sitting aspects of common worship did not wend their way into our liturgical tradition.

Icon wall

These traditions, which surround our Holy Days, are ways the Church, in Her profound Wisdom, has helped us to preserve what we believe.  Songs, hymns, prayers, eggs, and certain foods, drinks, and attire – they are all a part of our celebrations.  I believe that if we destroy them, in a rush to be politically correct, we will loose far more.  It is our job as parents and educators of our children, and evangelists in our own communities, to share where these traditions have their roots; the whys and wherefores can be profoundly moving.

One of my dearest friends and I were talking yesterday and we spoke about friendship.  One of the fallacies that we allow to perpetuate in our children is that concept of “best friends;” or even the term of “friend,” itself.  We truly have very few friends in life. We have fellow Christians (I am grouping all of us together), co-workers, neighbors, relatives, acquaintances; yes. I do not think, any longer, that I have to maintain relationships after their expiration date. God brings people into our lives for a time and a purpose and when that is over, it is okay to let that relationship go.  This is another of those traditions that we carry on, but our Church Fathers tell us that we need not cling to people.  Scripture certainly tells us about keeping others away who do not believe as we do.  An earlier post of mine dealt with this (Avoid Conversation with Him), so I won’t dwell on it here.  But as my friend and I spoke, we shared so many things that unite us as friends.  We have history together (we’ve been friends for more than 20 years) and we have a common faith; a faith we use to hold one another up when we cannot be in the same room, or even the same state!  The traditions of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, those are much the same thing.  They are acting as magnets to a greater truth. My friend stimulates me to be a better woman of faith; acting as a magnet, as it were, to my better self.

A saying keeps popping into my head – “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”  And I cannot help but apply that to our commercialism surrounding Easter (and Christmas).  I always buy my kids summer outfits, water pistols, kites, swim trunks, flip-flops and t-shirts, etc.  They symbolize our walking into a new Season, a Season of Light and Faith…a summertime!  Celebration and fun!  The fast is over! Christ is Risen! Glorify Him!! I rarely buy chocolate Easter bunnies, but usually find a chocolate Cross…my insertion of a visible Christ into these Springtime traditions.  So many things about Easter – baskets, eggs, green grass, hot-cross buns, etc. are rich in tradition and I choose to keep them in, being perhaps not as correct as some of my fellow Christians. For those of us who are steeped in the traditions of our faith, we have tiny reminders all year around, of this faith to which we cling so mightily.  The ones we celebrate with each season only enhance our faith; they do not detract from it.  I love these traditions and I love celebrating Easter and all our other Holy Days, with all the traditional hoopla involved.

We brought a new tradition to a Latin Rite, Roman Catholic parish one year and they absolutely loved it.  We introduced them to red Easter eggs; they also were treated to onion-skin-dyed eggs (an Estonian tradition I learned as a child) as well as intricately designed Ukrainian-wrapped eggs.  It is an amazing thing, to bring our faith to others…and I love everything about it. To share just one of the myriad of traditional Easter celebrations, I will leave you with an interesting insight into the Byzantine and Orthodox tradition of Red Easter Eggs.

Red easter egg.2