Monday, June 15, 2015

Welcome to Saint Aidan's Orthodox Mission!


We are a community of Orthodox Christians dedicated to proclaiming and living the Orthodox faith in the East Kootenay region. Feel free to explore our web site. Contact information is in the sidebar.

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 28th Reading

St Aidan Story: Gifts Shared

Gifts poured into the monastery, not only money but horses, cattle, land, ploughs, boats, gifts for the church, and for the building of other churches. Aidan did not mind this as long as the brothers did not set their heart on these things. They were simply tools for furthering the kingdom of God. . . Nothing was hoarded, all was meant to be shared and held in common.

If Aidan was given more than he felt they could use, he gave it away. As God had freely given, so he gave it away. There was no loss in this but a great gain. All the countryside around was talking of the generosity of the monks of the island. Many came for help and no one really in need went away empty. What amazed some of the visitors was that the monks kept so little for themselves and ate so frugally. These men lived like the early disciples and their lives showed the power of the gospel. Truly they lived what they taught.

Aidan would go to the local market where slaves were being sold. [He set them free, and some remained with the community.] People were talking about this school where members of the royal family and slaves shared in the learning. In the schooling there was no distinction . . . Aidan himself lived as the poorest of the brothers. He continued to follow the teachings of Columba: ‘Follow almsgiving above all things. Take no food until you are hungry. Sleep not until you are weary. Speak not except you are on business. Every increase which comes to you in lawful meals, or in wearing apparel, give it for pity to the brethren that want it, or to the poor in like manner.’ Time and time again Aidan’s heart sang for joy as he gave away what had been given to him. He thrilled to see the pleasure that others showed from receiving gifts that he did not need. He remembered the story of St. Lawrence, [who was ordered to produce the treasures of his church. He gave everything to the poor, then declared the great crowd of poor and disabled people ‘the treasures of the church’.]

St. Lawrence Giving Alms, Fra Angelico, 1449


Aidan was sure that the more you poured out for God, the more you were fuilled with well-being. The more you gave away, the more room there was for God to enter. . . If you give of things you give but little, but if you give of yourself you give all that you have.


This extract is taken from 'Flame of the Heart' by David Adam and is reproduced by kind permission of SPCK." You can find the book here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flame-Heart-St-Aidan-Today/dp/0281050333.





Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 21 Reading

St Aidan Story: Oswald's Generosity

Oswald . . . had given the monastery much and had ensured that they survived the early days. The same open hands often gave away to the poor. He had appointed one of his servants to attend to the poor and make sure they were not ignored or sent away empty. He had often been told that Christ said, ‘As you do it to the least of these, you do it to me.’ He tried to remember this when confronted with the poor. Whilst at Iona he had heard the story of another soldier called Martin. He could almost remember the voice that told him the story.

St. Martin and the Beggar, 1836 by Alfred Rethel

  At a certain time when Martin had nothing except his sword and his military uniform, he went out on a cold winter’s night when the weather was severe. At the gates of the city of Amiens he met a poor man begging. All were passing by and taking no notice. There were plenty of of beggars about. Martin decided that if all the others were ignoring this man, he must come to his aid. Yet what could he do? He had already given away many of the things he once had. He had no money and nothing he could easily give the man. Then, taking his sword, he divided his cloak into two equal parts. He gave one part to the beggar and wrapped himself in the other. People passing by and fellow-soldiers laughed at Martin, though some felt ashamed that they had not helped. Some of them could easily have clothed the beggar without exposing themselves to the cold, or to ridicule. Martin’s act was one of true generosity and love. It was that night that Martin had a vision of Christ. The Saviour was arrayed in half a cloak and saying to the angels, ‘Martin, who is still a catechumen, clothed me with this robe. ‘ Oswald had seen the beautiful book that contained this story in the library on Iona, and it had been an elderly monk who had related it to him.

  Oswald the soldier tried to live by this high ideal. He could not be a monk, that was not his calling. But he could be open-handed. There was a certain Easter when Aidan had gone to Bamburgh to dine at the palace. Normally when he went he still ate frugally and escaped from the feasting hall as soon as was possible. He and his brothers would seek to get away from the noise to pray in quiet. On this occasion, being a special festival, the best of food was served up, on a silver dish. As the meal was about to begin, and a blessing was being asked upon it, a nervous-looking servant appeared in the doorway. He told the king that there was a great company of poor people gathering outside. The winter had been hard and they were starving. The meagre resources that they lived on had not lasted through the lean times. Oswald stood up immediately, pointing to the silver dish in front of him, which was laden with food. ‘Take this out to them, and see that they all get something to eat.’ He paused slightly and then continued, ‘And give them the silver dish that the food is on. See that it is divided up among them so that they all have something for another day.'

www.britannia.com


The servant did not know what to say. He bowed low and then walked out with the great silver dish and its contents being carried by two other serving men. Aidan was deeply moved by such generosity. Taking hold of the open hand of Oswald he said, ‘May this hand never wither with age.’ Here was a king who was generous indeed. Aidan prayed that many others would follow his noble example.

This extract is taken from 'Flame of the Heart' by David Adam and is reproduced by kind permission of SPCK." You can find the book here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flame-Heart-St-Aidan-Today/dp/0281050333.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

September Newsletter

Sorry its a little late!!!! It has just been sent out to our church members this week :)

CHURCH SERVICES

September 7 – Typika service. 10:30am. Potluck lunch to follow.
September 14  – Typika service. 10:30am. Potluck lunch to follow.
September 21 – Typika service. 10:30am. Potluck lunch to follow.
September 27 – Vespers at Moyie Lake. 6pm. Soup supper to follow.

September 28 – Hours. 10:10am. Liturgy 10:30am. Potluck lunch to follow.

CHURCH SCHOOL

  Children have a variety of activities to play with both inside and outside. These activities are available both during church, if your kids need a break, and after church. Please have adult supervision.

Readings:
Sept 7 – Nativity of the Theotokos (Sept. 8)
Sept 14 – Feast of the Holy Cross
Sept 21 – St. Aidan story: Oswald’s Generosity.
Sept 28 – St. Aidan story: Sharing their Gifts.

SAINT OF THE MONTH



St Euphrosynus the Cook

September 11

 


Saint Euphrosynus the Cook was from one of the Palestinian monasteries, and his obedience was to work in the kitchen as a cook. Toiling away for the brethren, St Euphrosynus did not absent himself from thought about God, but rather dwelt in prayer and fasting. He remembered always that obedience is the first duty of a monk, and therefore he was obedient to the elder brethren. The patience of the saint was amazing: they often reproached him, but he made no complaint and endured every unpleasantness. . . One of the priests of the monastery saw in a dream what Paradise is like. He also saw there Euphrosynus. The cook picked three apples and gave them to his companion. When he awoke in the early morning, the priest thought the vision a dream, but suddenly he noticed next to him the fruit of Paradise. The priest found Euphrosynus in church and asked him under oath where he was the night before. The saint answered that he was where the priest also was. Excerpts from http://oca.org/saints/lives
Our Year of St. Aidan

We are midway through our church school reading series on our patron saint, St. Aidan. The readings are taken from a book lent to us by Ellen – Flame in my Heart by David Adams.  We are now posting the readings on the website with the kind permission of the publisher, SPCK. You can find this book here:
If you have any suggestions for the next series of readings or discussions, please let us know.




Believe in yourself, your neighbors, your work, your ultimate attainment of more complete happiness. It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in Autumn. 
- B. C. Forbes


The Nativity of the Theotokos

  The record of the birth of Mary is not found in the Bible. The traditional account of the event is taken from the apocryphal writings which are not part of the New Testament scriptures. The traditional teaching which is celebrated in the hymns and verses of the festal liturgy is that Joachim and Anna were a pious Jewish couple who were among the small and faithful remnant-“the poor and the needy”-who were awaiting the promised messiah. The couple was old and childless. They prayed earnestly to the Lord for a child, since among the Jews barrenness was a sign of God’s disfavor. In answer to their prayers, and as the reward of their unwavering fidelity to God, the elderly couple was blessed with the child who was destined, because of her own personal goodness and holiness, to become the Mother of the Messiah-Christ.
http://oca.org/


Camping Retreat

  Most summers, the families of St Aidans get together at Moyie Lake Campground for a weekend of fun, fellowship, and relaxation.
This year, we will be camping the weekend of September 27/28. Please contact Joanna to book a night or just drop in to visit for a few hours. Price will be approximately $28/night, depending on the number of vehicles and people on the site.
You are responsible for your own food, except for the pancake lunch on Saturday and the potluck dinner Saturday night.  
 Saturday evening Vespers will be held in the campground at 6pm. Potluck dinner to follow.
We will be driving into Cranbrook on Sunday for Liturgy and the potluck lunch. The campground is only 20 minutes from Cranbrook, so it is a nice easy commute!



A hidden fire burns perpetually upon the hearth of the world.... In autumn this great conflagration becomes especially manifest. Then the flame that is slowly and mysteriously consuming every green thing bursts into vivid radiance. Every blade of grass and every leaf in the woodlands is cast into the great oven of Nature; and the bright colours of their fading are literally the flames of their consuming. The golden harvest-fields are glowing in the heart of the furnace.... By this autumn fire God every year purges the floor of nature. All effete substances that have served their purpose in the old form are burnt up. Everywhere God makes sweet and clean the earth with fire. ~Hugh Macmillan


The Elevation of the Cross, celebrated on the fourteenth of September, commemorates the finding of Christ’s Cross by Saint Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century; and, after it was taken by the Persians, of its recovery by the Emperor Heraclius in the seventh century at which time it was “elevated” in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. From this latter event the “universal elevation” of the Cross was celebrated annually in all of the churches of the Christian Empire.
The day of the Elevation of the Cross became, as it were, the national holiday of the Eastern Christian Empire similar to the Fourth of July in the United States. The Cross, the official emblem of the Empire which was placed on all public buildings and uniforms, was officially elevated on this day by the bishops and priests. They blessed the four directions of the universe with the Cross, while the faithful repeated the chanting of “Lord have mercy.” This ritual is still done in the churches today after the solemn presentation and elevation of the Cross at the end of the Vigil service of the holy day following the Great Doxology of Matins.
The troparion of the feast which was, one might say, the “national anthem” sung on all public occasions in the Christian Empires of Byzantium and Russia, originally petitioned God to save the people, to grant victory in war and to preserve the empire “by the virtue of the Cross.” Today the troparion, and all the hymns of the day, are “spiritualized” as the “adversaries” become the spiritually wicked and sinful including the devil and his armies, and “Orthodox Christians” replace the names of ruling officials of the Empire.  http://oca.org/


The Nativity (birth) of the Holy Theotokos (Mother of God)          Fr. Andrew
We have just finished off last month celebrating St. Aidan’s feast day with a bang. Those who were at the glorious feast day celebration which Ellen and Pat so generously hosted will know that with Pat’s full effect Grizzly encounter story we did this quite literally. Thanks to Ellen and Pat and to everyone who helped!

Sept.1 first marks the beginning of the Church year, and also exactly 1 year since I first came to St. Aidan as your Priest. I have been greatly blessed to be able to come and serve and get to know our wonderful St. Aidan family, thank you for all of your love and patience with me. You have made Matushka Sonia and myself feel very welcome!

Sept. 8 is the feast of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos, when we celebrate her birth to our righteous ancestors in Christ, Joachim and Anna. We always hear the familiar Gospel from Luke 10 and 11 on the feasts of the Theotokos. Mary the sister of Lazarus, sitting at the feet of Jesus doing the one thing needful – keeping her eyes and attention on Christ; and Martha working away serving, and feeling sorry for herself. Serving is not the problem here, it is Martha’s attitude. Serving with joy and being grateful for the opportunity, for the privilege of serving Christ, is always a blessing. Serving with frustration and an overdeveloped sense of duty, complaining and judging those not measuring up or pulling their weight - in our misguided opinion - is the problem. Mary the Mother of God always kept her eyes and heart fully attuned to her Son and her Lord Jesus Christ and completely fulfilled “the one thing needful”.

In the second part of this familiar scripture we hear: “Blessed is the womb which bore You, and the breasts which nursed You. And Christ replies: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Why was the Blessed Virgin Mary chosen to have the incomprehensible privilege of containing within her womb; Him whom all of heaven could not contain; He who is the very source of life to her and to all of mankind. He who brought us from non-existence into being and pursued us, and made a way for us  when we had fallen, and raised us up and brought us with Him to His Father in heaven. The Creator of all dwelt in Mary’s womb and nursed from her breasts. Yes, blessed indeed is Mary, beyond any who had ever been born before or since. More honourable is she, and beyond compare than even the Cherubim and the Seraphim; she who gave birth to God Himself. There is none born of the human race that are on the same level of honour as the Theotokos. Yet…Christ answers the woman from the crowd with the reason WHY – with the reason. Why the precious ever-virgin Mary, is granted this most privileged of all roles in the plan of human salvation. “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Never in all of human history has anyone more perfectly heard the word of God & kept it. Our pathetic efforts pale under the brilliant illumination and perfection of the sweet humble acceptance of Mary, the Mother of our God.

“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be done to me according to Your word,”  “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary accepted with grace and humility to be the very gate, the portal, to allow her womb to be the throne of God, to allow what all of heaven could not contain, to be contained within her womb. If she had said NO, I’m just not up to it, this is too much to require of me; the entire plan of salvation would have been lost. None have ever more perfectly heard the word of God and kept it, and that is the why - the reason she is more blessed and honoured than any other; and today we rejoice with Joachim and Anna and all of heaven and earth at her birth.


In the nineteenth century, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov made this observation: "When on a clear fall night I gaze upon the clear heavens, illumined by innumerable stars that send out a single light, then I say to myself: thus are the writings of the holy fathers. When on a summer's day I gaze upon the wide sea, covered with a multitude of distinct waves, driven by a single wind to a single end, a single pier, then I say to myself: such are the writings of the fathers. When I hear a well-ordered choir, in which different voices sing a single hymn in shimmering harmony, then I say to myself: such are the writings of the fathers."
http://orthodox.cn/patristics/300sayings_en.htm


THE ORTHODOX NEW YEAR
by Fr. Michael Harper

It can be frustrating to move suddenly from the end, back to the beginning of something. But this is what Orthodox believers do as we move from August 31st — the last day of the old year, to September 1st, the first day of the new year.
It is part of the goodness of God, that He, who has no beginning and no ending, the Eternal Trinity, should take such care to give us a year which begins and ends, and then begins all over again. In our human and finite state we need fresh starts, and this is one of them. From the peaks of Pascha, Ascension, Pentecost, and Transfiguration, we move back to beginnings, the Nativity of the Mother of God, and then in December of the Son of God Himself. We start this wonderful cycle all over again. But the Holy Spirit, as we trust Him, will renew this new year to us, and give us a whole new understanding of it.

"Behold I will do a new thing", God says through the prophet Isaiah (43:19). The new wine will come to us in new wineskins.
The God who has put eternity in our hearts, knows our human frailty. He knows that marriages need their anniversaries, and all of us, especially children, need their birthdays from year to year. We in the Orthodox Church also hold a special place for the anniversaries of those who have died in Christ. We recall every year the glorious deaths of the saints. But the whole of this is held in a solid framework — the Orthodox Calendar. Through the God inspired wisdom of our fathers and mothers, we have a beautifully constructed lectionary, which flows through the year, like the streams of an effortless river, blessing whatever they touch.

It is significant that the last great feast of the old year is that of the Dormition of Mary, the Mother of God. Her human passing was to heaven's glory. And the first great feast of the new year is her Nativity. It is not that Mary is more important that Christ, around which most of the Calendar revolves. Mary is not God. She did not exist from eternity. But she is honoured in this way because she is our supreme example. She lived a life of complete obedience to God.

http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/fasts_feasts/harper_new_year.htm


The first day of the Church New Year is also called the beginning of the Indiction. The term Indiction comes from a Latin word meaning, “to impose.” It was originally applied to the imposition of taxes in Egypt. The first worldwide Indiction was in 312 when the Emperor Constantine (May 21) saw a miraculous vision of the Cross in the sky.
     Before the introduction of the Julian calendar, Rome began the New Year on September 1.
     According to Holy Tradition, Christ entered the synagogue on September 1 to announce His mission to mankind (Luke 4:16-22). Quoting Isaiah 61:1-2), the Savior proclaimed, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord...” This scene is depicted in a Vatican manuscript (Vatican, Biblioteca. Cod. Gr. 1613, p.1).
     Tradition says that the Hebrews entered the Promised Land in September.
From http://oca.org/saints/lives/2013/09/01/501-church-new-year

Monday, September 15, 2014

September 14 Reading

Second Great Feast of the Church Year - The Elevation of the Cross


The Elevation of the Cross, celebrated on the fourteenth of September, commemorates the finding of Christ’s Cross by Saint Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century; and, after it was taken by the Persians, of its recovery by the Emperor Heraclius in the seventh century at which time it was “elevated” in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. From this latter event the “universal elevation” of the Cross was celebrated annually in all of the churches of the Christian Empire.

The day of the Elevation of the Cross became, as it were, the national holiday of the Eastern Christian Empire similar to the Fourth of July in the United States. The Cross, the official emblem of the Empire which was placed on all public buildings and uniforms, was officially elevated on this day by the bishops and priests. They blessed the four directions of the universe with the Cross, while the faithful repeated the chanting of “Lord have mercy.” This ritual is still done in the churches today after the solemn presentation and elevation of the Cross at the end of the Vigil service of the holy day following the Great Doxology of Matins.

The troparion of the feast which was, one might say, the “national anthem” sung on all public occasions in the Christian Empires of Byzantium and Russia, originally petitioned God to save the people, to grant victory in war and to preserve the empire “by the virtue of the Cross.” Today the troparion, and all the hymns of the day, are “spiritualized” as the “adversaries” become the spiritually wicked and sinful including the devil and his armies, and “Orthodox Christians” replace the names of ruling officials of the Empire.

O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries; and by the virtue of Thy Cross, preserve Thy habitation (Troparion).
As Thou was mercifully crucified for our sake, grant mercy to those who are called by Thy name; make all Orthodox Christians glad by Thy power, granting them victories over their adversaries, by bestowing on them the invincible trophy, Thy weapon of peace (Kontakion).

The holy day of the Elevation of the Cross, although it has an obviously “political” origin, has a place of great significance in the Church today. It remains with us as a day of fasting and prayer, a day when we recall that the Cross is the only sign worthy of our total allegiance, and that our salvation comes not by “victories” of any earthly sort but by the only true and lasting victory of the crucifixion of Christ and our crucifixion with him.

When we elevate the Cross and bow down before it in veneration and worship to God, we proclaim that we belong to the Kingdom “not of this world,” and that our only true and enduring citizenship is with the saints in the “city of God” (Eph 2:19; Heb 11:10; Rev 21-22).

The first Old Testamental reading of the Vespers of the day tells of the “tree” which changes the bitter waters into sweetness—the symbol of the Tree of the Cross (Ex 15:22-16:1). The second reading reminds us that the Lord chastens and corrects those whom he loves and that Divine Wisdom is “a Tree of life to those who lay hold upon her and trust in her, as in the Lord” (Prov 3:11-18). Again the reference is to the Cross which is, as the epistle reading of the day proclaims, “to those who are called… the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 18-25).

The third Old Testament reading is from the Prophecy of Isaiah which tells of the “city of the Lord” where both Jews and Gentiles will live together and “shall bow themselves down” at the place of God’s feet and “shall know that I the Lord am Thy Saviour and Thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Israel” (Isaiah 60:11-16). Here we have the direct reference to God’s city where men shall worship at his feet; and together with the psalm line repeated constantly during the services which calls us to “bow before his footstool,” we have once again the reference to the Holy Cross (Ps 99:5, 110:1, et al.).
Before the Cross, we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy resurrection, we glorify (Hymn of Veneration before the Cross).

This central hymn of the Elevation of the Cross which lasts for eight days in the Church is sung many times. It replaces the Thrice-Holy of theDivine Liturgy. The normal antiphons are also replaced by special verses from the psalms which have direct reference to Christ’s crucifixion on the Cross (Ps 22, 74, 99). At the Matins, in the gospel reading from St John, Christ says that when he is elevated on the Cross he will draw all men to himself (Jn 12:28-36). The long gospel reading at the Divine Liturgy is the passion account from this same gospel.

Thus, at the Elevation of the Cross the Christians make their official rededication to the crucified Lord and pledge their undivided allegiance to him by the adoration of his holy feet nailed to the life creating Cross. This is the meaning of this holy day of fasting and repentance in the Church today.

From http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/elevation-of-the-cross


Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 7th Reading

photo from http://www.orthodoxmonasteryicons.com/nativity-of-theotokos-icon-1/

The Nativity of the Theotokos 

September 8th - The First Great Feast of the Year

All of us have met or known about special people, men and women who stand out as being good, loving, useful members of the human race. And if we think about how those people became the way they are, we might say, "They must have had good parents."
So it is with the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. We know that she is a very special person, chosen by God to be the mother of His Son. When we celebrate her nativity, which means birth, we also celebrate her parents, Joachim and Anna. We are grateful to Mary for being so ready to do God's will. We are grateful to her parents, who raised her to be faithful and obedient to God.
The story of Mary's birth does not appear in the Bible. We know the story from other writings which are not part of the New Testament. These writings are still used by the Church, and they tell us about some of God's people and the things that happened to them.
It is in these writings that we meet Joachim and Anna. They were a loving couple, faithful to God and devoted to each other. But the long years of their marriage had never brought them a child. They prayed daily for the blessing of a son or daughter, but the years went by and no child was born.
In the Hebrew society of Joachim and Anna's time, the greatest of all earthly blessings was to have many children. So, as you might guess, not having any children was a very big problem. People looked at a couple with no children as having failed to earn God's favor. In fact, we are told that one day when Joachim went to worship and make an offering to God, he was turned away because he was not a father, and therefore he was not worthy to make an offering. There was nothing Joachim could do but go slowly and sadly back home.
You can imagine how painful it was for Joachim and Anna to live without children. They watched their friends rejoice when babies were born, laughing and playing with them. They saw others have the joy and pride that comes with watching children grow up and start lives of their own.
Yet Joachim and Anna did not blame God. They did not resent their friends' happiness as parents. They patiently waited and prayed, and God did something nobody would expect. When Anna and Joachim were old, He gave them a child. And she was not just any child. She was to have the most wonderful destiny that any human being has ever had: she would be the Theotokos, the Birthgiver, the Mother of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Our loving God is so careful of our freedom that He did not come to us in a flashy and overwhelming miracle. He sought human cooperation, and that came in the person of a young woman who lived in worldly circumstances of poverty and powerlessness. The young woman faced the brutal possibility that she would be stoned to death for fornication.  Her willingness to face that hard reality, to cooperate with God's will, came from her faith.
She had faith that all would be as the angel Gabriel promised her it would. So she said to him, "Let it be." With those words, she consented to God's plan for our salvation. How could we not honor her, above all other saints, when it is her co-operation that puts God's plan into action?
Mary was not forced or obligated to consent to God's plan. She could have said "no." She is our model, born with free will as we all are, of one who chose to say "yes" to God, as we can also do.

Excerpts from OCA’s Focus Unit “The Theotokos” at http://dce.oca.org/focus/theotokos/13-17/

Monday, September 1, 2014

August 31 Reading

St. Aidan Story: The Freedom of Dis-Possession

Aidan often looked back and wondered how his life might have been. He could have been a rich man with all sorts of possessions. Like Columba, he came from a ruling family, and could have owned many things. He could have built up a store of gold and increased his lands. But he had no longing in that direction, no desire for possessions. He had seen rich men fight to keep goods that they must leave one day. He had seen men die for very poor bits of land. He knew some who were afraid to leave their premises in case they were robbed. He knew others who lay awake at night fearing they might lose what they had gained. It would seem that most people believed that the more you have the better off you are. Aidan knew it was not so. He had discovered the great freedom of being dis-possessed. He had also discovered that the most generous of people were often those who had very little. Many times, in the hill country, the poorest of people would offer him far more than an equal portion of their food. He was beginning to learn that it was truly blessed to be poor in spirit, and it is more blessed to give than to receive.

photo from internet

  This learning about poverty had begun when he first entered a monastery. He had to leave so much behind. Not only things, but also his wilfulness and his desire to command. When he left Ireland for Iona, he knew he was leaving his own tribe and people. He was leaving behind a certain security and respect. He had servants who would obey his least command. Now, he knew he had less than some of his former servants. This knowledge was enforced when he heard the Rule of Columba: ‘Be always naked in the imitation of Christ and the Evangelists. Whatsoever, little or much, that you possess of anything, whether clothing, food or drink, let it be at the command of the senior and at his disposal, for it is not befitting for a religious to have any distinction of property with his own free brother.’

  Aidan learned to do without things. He had nothing that he called his own. He would give up, or give away, anything he had, if so required. He would leave where he was at the command of his superior and go wherever he was ordered. Slowly but surely he learned the travel lightly. He discovered that there is very little you really need for journeying. He also knew that the less you had the less you need fear being robbed. The more you carried about with you the more anxious and burdened you became. He came to know that the truly rich were not the ones with the most possessions but the people who were able to give away what they had. The others did not have possessions, they were possessed, captured, by the very things they thought they owned. Time and time again the words of Jesus came to mind, ‘What does it profit a man to win the whole world and lose this own soul?” Too many people were growing rich at the expense of their own well-being. A good way of life was often lost by ever seeking more. So Aidan rejoiced whenever he saw a generous act. Likewise he was sad when he saw a person selling themselves just to acquire more. Contentment is truly a divine gift.

This extract is taken from 'Flame of the Heart' by David Adam and reproduced by kind permission of SPCK. You can find this book here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flame-Heart-St-Aidan-Today/dp/0281050333.

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 24th Reading

A St. Aidan story: Building Begins


After the forty days, it was time to build. The earth bank was made, to show clearly the holy place. It enclosed not just the church but the whole site. Not only would prayer be offered to God. They would offer their labour, their sweat and their tears. They would offer prayer, but in much the same way they would offer the tilling of the ground, the milking of cows, the catching of fish and the teaching of young men. All work was sacred, for all was done in god’s presence and to His glory. The sawing of wood and the fixing of timbers were as much acts of worship as kneeling before the altar. There was no false division into sacred and secular. Hands that were already toughened became calloused with so much hard labour, but it gave them so much joy. The work-worn hands were the same hands that raised the chalice in the Eucharist. . . .

. . . The church building was a simple affair made from oak planks and beams brought in from the mainland. The roof was thatched with bents, wiry grasses from the sand dunes. Following the tradition of Columba, they built their church of oak rather than stone. Perhaps it was to express that we have no abiding city, that building on earth is not eternal. . .

Reconstruction drawing of an early monastery (Image Philip Armstrong ©Northern Ireland Environment Agency)
Photo from http://irisharchaeology.ie/2013/04/dublins-oldest-road/


Huts were soon built as cells. Upright poles of birch were driven into the ground less than two feet apart, and a second line was built in parallel about  foot away from the first, to form the outline of the walling. Pliable Hazel and willow branches were woven into hurdles, and tied to the inner and outer poles. Once this was done, panniers of earth were poured into the gap to make a solid infilling. The inner and outer walls were smeared with clay, or daub. During the waving of the saplings the brethren would pray quietly. Often not a word would be heard for hours, each meditating and weaving into his life the power and the presence of God. How often, again and again, this weaving pattern appeared in Celtic art. It was the basis of their house building, of their clothes, and of their prayers. Heaven and earth, God and each person are interwoven. God made it so, that we are woven together with Him and with each other. God and each individual are interdependent, remove one piece and all are affected. If one piece is missing the whole structure suffers. Often, whilst weaving hurdles, the brethren chanted, a music not so much concerned with words but vibrant with memories of hymns and psalms. The sound of their chanting was very like the rising and falling sound of the sea. They all knew what depths were in this sound, though to a stranger it might have sounded just like the hum of bees. . . 

Once the cells were built, the brothers were ready to take on the first pupils. As there were twelve brothers, there would be twelve pupils to start with. Each pupil would have a teacher, an anamchara, that is one who shared his cell. Not all teaching would be done one-to-one but each needed a personal guide and soul mate. The foundations had been laid, now the work Oswald had called them to do could begin.


This extract is taken from 'Flame of the Heart' by David Adam and reproduced by kind permission of SPCK. You can find this book at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flame-Heart-St-Aidan-Today/dp/0281050333

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17 Reading

Blessing the Island

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10th Reading

The Dormition of the Mother of God - August 15

Tender Love and the Dormition


My mother lives far from me, many states away; it takes me about twelve or thirteen hours to drive there. So I don’t get there that often. I usually fly down about once a month. I didn’t used to go that often, but she had emergency surgery last January, and ever since then she’s been in a nursing home, and her mind is a little fuzzier than it used to be. She’s never quite gotten her strength back, never gotten on her feet again. Eighty-two years old, and it’s hard to foresee what the future holds. At present it looks like she just might continue being in that nursing home. I’m grateful that my two sisters live closer, so they can go there frequently, and one of them goes every day.
But when I go down there, I do see how much care it requires; that her food must be not just cooked, but then put through a blender so it’s soft, and spoon-fed to her; that she has to be picked up bodily in order to be bathed or to have the changes made, or to change the bed, the sheets; it’s hard work, taking care of an older person. I was thinking that, it’s kind of an ominous thing, to realize that. To think about the whole stretch of human history, going back to the beginning of time, how much elder abuse there probably was. And, how many older people probably did not come to a natural end, just because someone was tired of taking care of them. The mess happens after you give them food. If you don’t give them food, you won’t have the same mess. I can sure picture people throughout history making that decision. If you think about it from an aspect of cold calculation, then elder neglect or elder abuse is a sensible crime.
Little children are equally demanding, of course; little children and babies are not productive, they soil their pants. But with children you can expect a return on your labor one day. Elderly parents are every bit as troublesome, and they’re heavier, but they’re not going to get better. They’re larger, they’re more trouble, and sometimes they smell just as bad as the babies do. Interacting with a baby can be fun. It gives mom and dad satisfaction and joy. But the emotions aren’t as sunny, it’s not as unclouded when all the parties involved are older and care is moving in the other direction, from the child to the parent. A son or daughter may feel a complex net of resentments and fears toward the parent they must now take care of, tend, wipe and feed.
I was thinking about this because of the feast of the Dormition, thinking about Mary as an elderly woman, and what the end of her life was like. She must have been quite old by then. We never picture her that way, of course; we picture her like in icons, she’s always young. She’s always holding a baby. But her days of holding Jesus as a baby were at least thirty-three years before the crucifixion, so a lot of time has gone by. She must have been, I’m guessing, at least fifty when she gathered with the rest of the apostles on the day of Pentecost. I assume that she was at that point still pretty strong and healthy, because our tradition says that she took part when everyone drew lots to see what nation they would go to in order to evangelize, as they all went out to spread the Gospel. The tradition says that she drew the lot for the nation of Georgia, but then received word from the Holy Spirit that she was not to go, and that someone else would go in her place, later on of course. That’s St. Nina of Georgia, a couple of hundred years later.
In her old age Mary was living with St. John the Evangelist. That would have been in Jerusalem. I know that there’s a recent tradition that she died in Ephesus, that she was living with John in Ephesus; John ended his life in Ephesus, but apparently she died before he moved there. Her death was actually in Jerusalem, and she was buried in the garden of Gethsemane. There is a church there, the Sepulcher of the Holy Virgin, and down at the lowest level, you keep going down to the very bottom, it is a first century tomb, and that is where Christian memory has always said was the burial place of the Virgin Mary. So in the end she was living with St. John the Evangelist, the same John who was standing next to her at the foot of the cross. We see them like that in icons of the Crucifixion. When Jesus spoke, he said, “Woman, behold your son.” And he said to John, “Behold your mother.” We can’t even imagine what Jesus was thinking about when He was on the cross. That was a period of such intense cosmic spiritual warfare. But whatever else was going through his mind, one thing he was thinking about was his mother. He thought about her, and He wanted her to be taken care of. He wanted John to love her like a son, to love her like He did.
The Gospel of John tells us, the next line is, “From that hour, the disciple took her to his own home.” So this adoption of him taking Mary as his mother was something that began on the day of the crucifixion and continued through the end of her life. As I was saying, if you picture what it’s like to care for an elderly person, this requirement that the Lord laid on John was more than just being hospitable. In taking on the duty of a son to the Virgin Mary, John assumed whatever burdens might come, as well as the blessings. Some cultures have even permitted adult children to abandon or even end the life of an elderly parent. But the tradition in the Hebrew scriptures and of course in the Christian Tradition as well is that the elderly must be treated with respect, they must be respected, they must be care for to the very end.
It takes a strong command to guarantee that kind of care, because eruptions of frustration and disgust and the obvious question, “What am I getting out of this?” are going to push natural inclinations the other way. A grown child, in fact, might get more out of a parent’s death than his continuing life, if the child calculates that lingering, ugly old age is the only thing standing in the way of an inheritance. So when John took Mary to his own home, along with the wonderful blessing of having the light of her life in his own home, he was also accepting anything that might come at the end, any dementia, any physical weaknesses. Whatever it took, he was going to care for her to the end of her life. It’s a solemn obligation.
We don’t know what Mary’s declining years were like. She may have been toothless. She may have had to have her food crushed up small and soft, like my mother does. Her memories might have become dim. Maybe she wasn’t talking much at the end. Picture this: picture St. John feeding her soup from a spoon, settling her head on fresh pillows, turning her, changing her dressings. It’s very hot in the middle east in August. You can imagine a one-room stone house on a hillside. Inside it’s dark and still; yellow flowers are dusting pollen outside the open window. You can hear the children shouting outside as they play in the declining sunlight. A fly is buzzing outside the wooden door. As one day after another succeeded each other in early August, it must have been obvious that her end was drawing near.
I recently received a book from an iconographer who had put together plain, line-drawing examples of all the icons from the life of the Theotokos, from her conception by St. Anna all through her Dormition. I was surprised that there were eight different images, icons, having to do with the Dormition alone. It gave me a little more insight into what the last days of her life were like. The first one showed the Angel Gabriel appearing to the Theotokos to tell her that her end was near, and he gave her a palm branch as a symbol of her victory. In the next image we see her going out to the garden to pray, and carrying the palm branch, and all the trees are bowing down to her. The image of the Dormition itself, of course, is familiar to us; it shows all the apostles gathered around her bedside. I had known that the tradition is that some of them were brought miraculously from far away by the Holy Spirit. But until I was reading about these images, it hadn’t occurred to me that some of these Apostles had already been martyred and were brought back from paradise to stand in attendance at her Dormition. The remaining icons after that, the beautiful one of the apostles grieving and the Lord carrying her soul up to Heaven- the remaining icons show the discovery of her empty tomb, St. Thomas praying and having a vision of the Virgin Mary in Heaven and she drops her sash to him as a sign that she has, indeed, gone up into heaven. And the last of the icons shows St. Thomas showing the sash to the other apostles, the evidence that the body of the Theotokos has been taken up into Paradise.
It’s the icon of the Dormition itself which I think is the most moving. In the icon we see them standing and kneeling around her little body stretched on a bed. Her eyes are closed and her small, thin hands are crossed over her chest. The Apostles are beside themselves, they stare and weep in distress at the departure of their beloved mother. Christ stands in the midst of them unseen, within a shimmering blue halo that surrounds his whole body, holding a tiny, white-swaddled figure in his arms. It reminds us of the familiar images of young Mary clasping her infant child, but this time it is the Son who holds the radiant soul of his mother.
The feast of the Dormition focuses on the departure of the Virgin Mary from this mortal human life. But there is another person in the story, St. John, who cared for her through all her last years, up till her death on that hot August day. In the icon, he is kneeling next to her bed, tear-struck, clutching a bit of her mantle in his hands. He loved her so much.
Many of us care for and worry about elderly parents, and we can use need a patron saint to be a guiding example, to support us through the hard daily toil and through even harder decisions that we face while caring for the elderly. Dear St. John, pray for us. Be our inspiration and out guide. Show us how to be good caregivers to our elderly parents, and to show to them the love and respect that you were so blessed to give to our mother, the Virgin Theotokos.

Frederica Mathews Green, 

http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/frederica/tender_love_and_the_dormition

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 3rd Reading


The Transfiguration of Jesus (August 6)

WHO’S IN THE TRANSFIGURATION ICON?

Photo from http://www.patrickcomerford.com/2010/04/transfiguration-finding-meaning-in.html
The Three Apostles

The Three Apostles were specially chosen to witness the Transfiguration, and did so through ascent of the mountain, prayer, and by keeping watch. Why only three Apostles and not all twelve? St Nikolai of Ohrid explains it was not possible to allow Judas, who would betray Christ, to behold the Transfiguration, and that to bring all Twelve Apostles to the top of Mt Tabor except Judas would justify his resentment. St Nikolai also writes“[God] Himself gave the Law through the mouth of Moses: ‘At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established’ (Deuteronomy 19:15). Therefore, three witnesses are sufficient.” As to why these three in particular – Peter, James, and John – St Nikolai further states:

These three witnesses represent three main virtues: Peter – Faith, for he was the first to confess his faith in Christ as the Son of God; James – Hope, for, with faith in the promise of Christ, he was the first [Apostle] to lay down his life for the Lord, being slain by the Jews; John – Love, for he reclined on the bosom of the Lord and remained beneath the Cross  of the Lord until the end. God is not called the God of many but rather the God of the chosen. “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6).

One thing to note is that in some icons, the Apostles are deliberately depicted without halos. Firstly, this is not to take attention away from the depiction of Christ shining with uncreated light. Secondly, more importantly, the halo represents the glory of God and the sanctity of the Holy Spirit: this was given to the Apostles dramatically at Pentecost, but not before then. This is often shown in icons by omitting the halos from Christ’s Apostles when they are shown before Pentecost.


Photo from http://dominicannunsireland.blogspot.ca/
The Two Old Testament Righteous
Icons of the Transfiguration show Moses and Elijah (Elias) in profile, bowing towards, and focused on, Jesus Christ: Who stares straight ahead at us. This emphasizes the ancient understanding of why Elijah and Moses appeared at the Transfiguration: They symbolized Christ’s sovereignty – being Divine – over both the Prophets (Elijah) and the Law (Moses) of the Old Testament. It also emphasizes how the Old Testament laws and prophecies all point toward Jesus Christ, just as Elijah and Moses now bow toward Christ in the flesh. Saint Ephraim the Syrian, in his sermon of the feast, explains the significance of Moses and Elijah (Elias) more fully:

He [Christ] led them up the mountain to show them who the Son is and whose he is. Because when he asked them, ‘Whom do men say the Son of man is?’(Matt. 16:13) They said to him, some Elias, others Jeremias, or one of the Prophets. This is why he leads them up the mountain and shows them that he is not Elias, but the God of Elias; again, that he is not Jeremias, but the one who sanctified Jeremias in his mother’s womb;(Jer 1:5) not one of the Prophets, but the Lord of the Prophets, who also sent them.

And there is more that Moses and Elijah represent. St Ephraim continues:
And he shows them that he is the maker of heaven and earth, and that he is Lord of living and dead. For he gave orders to heaven and brought down Elias, and made a sign to the earth and raised up Moses.
Because Moses died and was buried, and because Elijah was taken up as into heaven in a fiery chariot and did not taste death, St Ephraim and other Holy Fathers also interpreted Elijah and Moses’ presence as representing both the living and dead righteous; of “heaven and earth”. But, it is not an apparition of Moses and Elijah that the Apostles see, but the actual men themselves. Therefore it is believed that Moses really was raised from the dead to be on Mt Tabor, and that Elijah was translated from the heavens for the same reason. Medieval icons, therefore, often contain small scenes of Moses rising from a tomb, and Elijah traveling on a cloud – both accompanied by angels, emphasizing that the two are summoned by Christ, and it is God’s power which brings them to Mt Tabor. These are especially common in later Russian icons, but Theophanes the Greek also paints these two scenes in the top corners of his famous icon of the Transfiguration.





The Holy Trinity
Along with the three Apostles and two Prophets we have, in the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, a manifestation of the Holy Trinity. St Gregory Palamas explains this ancient understanding this way:
There were eight on the mountain, but only six were visible. Three, Peter, James and John, had come up with Jesus, and they saw Moses and Elias standing there and conversing with Him, so altogether there were six of them. However, the Father and the Holy Spirit were invisibly with the Lord: the Father, with His Voice testifying that this was His Beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit shining forth with Him in the radiant cloud. Thus, the six are actually eight, and there is no contradiction regarding the eight.
Depicting the Holy Trinity in Transfiguration Icons when the Father and Holy Spirit were “invisibly present” is a problem overcome by painting three distinct rays of light shining forth from Christ. This is done in many Icons, although other iconographers prefer to paint an eight-pointed star in the mandorla surrounding Christ, the number eight signifying eternity in the Church and in the Old Testament Scriptures alike.
Recognized by the Church as a manifestation of the Holy Trinity, it is for this reason that the Transfiguration is sometimes called a “second Theophany”, the first Theophany being the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. At both events, all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity are present, and at both the Father uses the same words – “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” – further emphasizing the connection. It is perhaps for this reason that Elijah is always shown on the left, slightly bowed, facing Christ. This is similar to the depiction of John the Baptist in icons of the Baptism of Christ. The similarity between Elijah and St John is surely deliberate, as Christ Himself said of John: And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come (Matt 11:14).

This article is from http://iconreader.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/whos-in-the-transfiguration-icon/