Showing posts with label Eastern Christian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eastern Christian. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pascha 2014

Another year, another Pascha celebration.
Easter never gets old, when celebrated rightly.
Fasting, prayer, loss
and then Resurrection!

Lately, whenever I feel that great void,
as though God were very far way, 
or not there at all,
 I have been reminding myself,
"You are never so far away as you think you are."
 Then I feel myself rush back into His presence.
There it is like a hot, breathless, summer day
--warm and encompassing.
When breathing swarms back,
Tears of joy fall.
Though I feel not worthy,
I almost feel as though I could be one of His saints

Monday, March 3, 2014

Great Fast: Everyone Wants to Know What's For Dinner

We begin Great Lent again.   As usual I am feeling very unworthy.  There are many bad habits which need correcting.  I am looking forward to living a life with more humility.  I'm ready.  I'm ready for my purification.  

Aside from deeper spiritual wants, I have entered upon this fast with apprehension.  I have been in the habit for the past year of eating too many sweets.  I never give up all sweets for Lent, because in the past I have viewed myself as having enough moderation in this respect.  

Last Great Lent I gave up fancy coffee creamer.  I drank my coffee with only honey, and kept it up for 7 more months after Lent.  But, as my sweets intake increased so did my intake of honey.  Eventually, I began drinking creamer again.  I was worried this morning that I would not be able to get through without sweets.  But, I think the grace of God has helped me through.  I pray that He will help me to the end of Lent.  This little experience of grace has helped me to see how deeply I am dependent upon God's grace for the small things as well as the great. 

The children colored the Last Judgement Icon this morning.  I have wanted to make a big poster for the kids to paint, but I have not found the time, so I figured that we had better get on with the Lenten lessons.  

I think Kristiana really captured the spirit of the icon. 


Alex added lighting bolts of death. Eek!


Tonight we are having something interesting for dinner.  I have never made anything like it before.  It is completing my original recipe.  But, it has lots of flavor and beautiful color.  In case you want to try something new, interesting and Lenten friendly, here's my recipe (and I will also be able to remember how I made it if I post it here):


Spicey Clam Stew

2 cans (6.50 oz) of clams

1/3 cup of celery, diced

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced 

1 potato, peeled and diced

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced

2 T cilantro

1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes

Open cans of clams and pour the juices into a 3 qt. pot.  Bring juices to a boil and add the raw veggies.  Let simmer until the veggies appear softened.  Add cilantro, tomatoes and clams and let simmer for 15-30 minutes.  Optional: omit jalapeño if you don't like the heat.  I did not add salt as the canned food already had enough sodium. 

The children are very picky.  Therefore they will be having slices of cheese, strawberries, carrots and likely they will drag out the goldfish crackers before dinner is over. 


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Icon Writing With Kids - Holy Archangels



Oh how I wanted to do a large icon of the angels and paint it with the kids. But, the fact is that I just cannot seem to pull it off at the moment.  I cannot find energy enough to invest in such a project.  However, I am still happy that I have made the effort to continue the coloring book project.  October left me with little time and little inspiration.  This icon is really beautiful and inspiring.  Christ is held by three Archangels showing that their work is for Him.  They serve Him and uphold Him.

Let us pray to the nine Archangels to defend us against sin.

Bless the Lord, All you His Angels, You who are Mighty in strength
And do His Will.
Intercede for me At the throne of God,
And by your unceasing watchfulness
Protect me in every danger Of soul and body.
Bless the Lord, All you His Angels,
You who are Mighty in strength 
And do His Will. 

Intercede for me At the throne of God,
And by your unceasing watchfulness
Protect me in every danger Of soul and body.
Obtain for me The grace of final perseverance,
So that after this life I may be admitted
To your glorious company
And may sing with you
The praises of God For all eternity.
O all you holy Angels And Archangels,
Thrones and Dominations, Principalities and Powers
And Virtues of heaven, Cherubim and Seraphim
And especially you, My dear Guardian Angel,
Intercede for me And obtain for me The special favor I now ask
(State your intention here...).
Say 9 Our Father...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Icon Writing With Kids - Moses and the Ten Commandments

In this week's home school lesson we learned about the Ten Commandments.  Therefore, we wrote the Ten Commandments icon.  What is there to be said about the Ten Commandments?  There is a lot to teach a child about what constitutes a violation of these commandments.  But, I think the most important lesson of this week is "The Lord spoke these words," (Ex 20:1).  It is important for a child to know that not only are these the rules, but that they are given to us from God.   This is the conduct the Lord, God, expects of him.  This is what it takes to obey God.

Kristiana has become my little icon protege.  While Alex participates here and there.  She is eager to study.  She request page after page of coloring, lessons and worksheets.  She is so proud of herself.  I would have had her paint this one, but Annie, our two year old was not napping and I did not want to get out paints while she was around.  Alex was sick with strep throat (ick).

Here are the girls working on this week's icon:


Moses of the Rainbow Robes - Kristiana was pretty proud of the many color robe



Sunday, September 30, 2012

Icon Writing with Kids - Adam and Eve

Since I have decided to put together a coloring book for my kids, I am drawing the cartoon of whatever icons go along with our weekly religion lessons.  I then scan it, clean it up a little and print one for each child including the two year old. I truly believe that these holy images are a large part of helping the children to understand our faith.  

I need to perhaps be more patient and spend more time getting it to look more graceful and precise.  I pushed myself to draw two this week amidst my other duties and it would have been better to slow down.  I do not foresee any large icon painting sessions any time soon.  

Here are this week's icon.  I could not convince the kids to color the last two because I did not set aside appropriate time for them to work on it.  But we talked about them.



Adam and Eve Fall

Michael the Archangel

Monday, September 17, 2012

Icon Writing With Kids - Exaltation of the Most Holy Cross (2012)

"As You were voluntarily raised upon the cross for our sake,
Grant mercy to those who are called by Your Name, O Christ God;
Make all Orthodox Christians glad by Your power,
Granting them victories over their adversaries,
By bestowing on them the Invincible trophy, Your weapon of Peace."

I have been trying to post our work since Friday afternoon.  We have been very busy.  
I do not understand how other families can do some many activities with the children, allowing each child to have an activity.

I drew the cartoon for this icon last year, took a picture and saved it.  Alex and Kristiana worked on the large version of this icon last year and went a little crazy, mixed all the colors and turned it to mud.  They can be so silly together--giggling and doing silly things.  Anyhow, this year, each person got their own and painted it as they pleased.

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Kristiana's attempt - She is very artistic and patient.  But, she got tired here. 

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Alex peaked at 4 years old in icon writing.  I think this is part of his perfectionism.  If he cannot do it perfectly, he will smear it all together.  It's going to be a year of this.  I can tell.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Icon Writing With (Lots of) Kids - The Nativity of Blessed Theotokos

Today we celebrated the birth of the Mother of God with home school friends.  We painted icons and I shared some of my favorite facts about icons.  Then the kids had cupcakes.  It was a birthday party after all.  

I really need to get back to copying the icons by hand onto large paper for Kristiana's year of icons with mummy.  I am more than pleased to be enjoying a life of overactivity again. Whereas last year we tried to experience a life of over activity, but did not necessarily enjoy it, or achieve it due to the misery of, but blessed, pregnancy. 

Troparian – Your birth, O Virgin Mother of God, heralded joy to the universe; for from you rose the Sun of Justice, Christ our God. He took away the curse, He gave the blessing, and by trampling Death, He gave us everlasting life.

“And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it. “(Luke 11:27-28)





Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Love Letters

Love Letters to God 

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Love Letters to My Spouse

I never knew true friendship until I met him.  It all began when he asked me in an email what were my views on Love.  He said he had recently had a conversation with a friend about it and he wanted to know what I thought.  I returned an essay on the topic.  I recall I wrote something like the agape notion of love even though at the time I am sure I had no understanding of the term.  I would have to find the email again, which I saved of course, to quote it.  But it said something to the effect: to love for the sake of love, in which there is something to love, a good, in everything.  I stated that everything which God has made is meant to be loved. Everything that is created, everyone, is worthy of love, and I loved all things because God created them. Then I concluded by saying that I loved him based on my previous premise.  I hardly knew him when I declared my love for him.  But, the moment I did, we were bound.

 Andrew and renee

Love Letters to My Kids

[I made a photo book for Alex after a year of writing icons and at the end of it I wrote this.]

"Dear Alex,

'Permit the children to come to me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them' (Mark 10:14,16). It all began when you asked me to copy an Icon of Christ with all the children. But instead of drawing the children from the icon, I drew you and Kristiana so that you might know that you are children of God, the Son, Christ Jesus. Through this sacred window into Heaven I hoped that you would recognize and feel God's love, and in return, I hoped that you would love God.

Alex, I am so proud of you and this year we have spent writing icons together. We have learned so much about faith. You have helped me to grow closer to God and love Him more by giving me the opportunity to look through these windows into Heaven more often and more seriously. I pray for you constantly that you will grow to be a good and holy man. I pray that you will not turn your back on God. I pray that you will love God all the days of your life and you will know His love as well. Remember that God is "Everywhere present and fills all things." You can take God in with all your senses and with your whole body. You can even see Heaven everyday in ordinary things. You can see God on a painted, wooden plank. You only need to have faith. Thank you for this special time together, Alex. I will cherish it always. Love, Mommy"

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Love Letters to Friends

To those who have inspired me, loved me, prayed for me. To those who stand by me in the hard times and the good.  Thank you.  May God bless you all the days of your life. (P.S. Don't be sad if you don't see your picture. I just don't have pictures of all the wonderful people I love).

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Firstwives BU


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Christ is in Our Midst" - Retreat Part 2

Continued from Retreat Part 1

Fr Daniel Forsythe, from St. Basil the Great, Byzantine Catholic Church in Irving, Texas was our first speaker of the day.  Fr. Daniel expounded upon the Schmemman reading briefly and then turned to his favorite Bible passage, The Samaritan Woman, St. Photini, (John 4:1-45).

Samaritan womanChrist and his disciples came to "Jacob's Well," outside of Samaria at noon.  The disciples traveled on farther into the city to find food.  Jesus, sat by the well and asked a woman to give him a drink.  The woman was shocked Jesus would talk to her.  Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.  Further men and women do not normally talk with each other in public.  Jesus asks for a drink of water, after some banter about the water and well Christ offers, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14).

Jesus and the Samaritan woman discuss her life and worship all alluding to the worship of the Samaritans as well as her personal life.  Finally, Christ reveals to her that He is the Messiah and she believes Him and runs to the town to tell everyone.  They believe and come to the well to meet the Messiah.  St. Photini, the Samaritan woman, is known as the Mother of the Church in Samaria.

Following the meeting with the Samaritan woman, the disciples returned and offered Christ food, but He said that He had food they did not know about.  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor” (Jn 4:34-38).

Fr. Daniel explained, we encounter Jesus as we are, as Photini did.  She was not perfect.  She was a sinner who had had five husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband.  But encountering Christ is life giving.  The woman is elevated from being a lowly Samaritan and a woman of ill-repute to becoming the leader of conversion for her people in this life-giving encounter with Christ.

In summary, in the Gospels we never are given Doctrine from Jesus, which is what the Samaritan woman and disciples sought from Christ.  What we get from Jesus is Jesus.  Jesus is Truth.  Jesus is living and moving in our midst, giving us Truth throughout His ministry on Earth.

The Eucharist is not a Doctrine laid out in the Gospels.  Jesus gives Himself to us--sacrificing Himself for our sake out of Love.  The Eucharist is our gift of ourselves back to Christ.  We come to be in communion with God out of our love as He always has offered His communion with us from the beginning of time.  From the Greek word eukaristo meaning grateful, with gratitude, grace.  It is not saving in Its transformation--we are transformed in our partaking.  It is a mystery in which our communion is our saving.  We must recognize Christ in each other and come to the table together as brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is our communion with God as the Church, not individually.   Therefore, it is costly to turn Liturgy into a hyper-spiritual experience in which it is your expectation, need and desire that every moment be engaged in an individual, lofty, spirituality.  Communion is not an individual experience.  It is the Church coming to the table.  Christ does not cease to be present in life's experiences and distractions.  We do not need to have an ultra-awareness of Christ's presence to actually be in Christ's presence.   A toddler is tugging at your clothing, or babbling away during consecration--Christ does not cease to be present.  While lighting a candle in prayer and your mind suddenly questions whether you turned off the oven before leaving the house--this does not negate your prayer.  "Christ is in our midst!"

Liturgy is our coming together as Christ's Church.  The Holy Spirit has gathered us proving we have a relationship with Christ--whether there is heightened awareness of Christ or not.  When we eat our Eucharistic meal, when we come and have a place at the table as son's and daughter's of Christ, that is our saving.

***I am sure I have not done Fr. Daniel's talk or Fr. Schmemman's essay justice, however, I have to add my own reflection as a mother.

When Fr. Daniel spoke the words, "Christ is in our midst," a blessing I have heard many times in the Byzantine Church, I burst into tears.  I hoped that no one around me would notice.  How could I explain my sudden emotion at that moment.  I could have bawled and still I get teary-eyed when I think about it.  These words were my undoing.

As a mother of three pre-school aged children, it has been years since I have attended a Liturgy or uttered a prayer uninterrupted.  There have been so many times in which I felt hopeless, because I would go to the gathering of the Liturgy and had hardly participated at all as I spent the entire time disciplining or attending to children.  In the past, I felt strained emotionally, and in my spirit, that I could not focus on a tangible relationship with God--with Christ.  Yet, I persevered, and over time, I felt I came to a place of peace about it all--that is until this day came.

Through all the noise and busy-ness of my days with these beautiful blessings--my children, my work--Christ is in our midst.  Through all the Liturgies in which the children were the central focus as opposed to the worship--Christ is in our midst.  Through all the days in which my attention was on my duties and on doing good work--Christ is in our midst.  Through all my worst and best moments--Christ is in our midst.  How many times I had heard this phrase before, and this was the first time I knew it was not only true, but it released me from my own bondage in some strange way.  We do not need to hunger or thirst for Christ.  He is in our midst now.  This gave me comfort and peace (like a warm hug).  His grace is there.  I had been receiving it all along.  I have been in His midst--my every prayer has proved it, my every effort has proved it, and my presence at His table has proved it.  And He has blessed me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Everywhere Present and Fills All Things" - Retreat Part 1

A couple of weekends ago we held a mother's retreat for a Catholic moms group of which I am a part.  For the second year I was the organizer of the retreat (I hope I am doing a good job).  I wanted to share what I learned at the retreat.  I will do a few posts in parts containing a summary of the speakers.

The retreat was called, "Come to the Table."  We advertised it as a Eucharist centered retreat.  We had two speakers in person, a Scott Hahn audio, an hour of Eucharistic Adoration and an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation; and lots of good food and conversation.

It all began last spring when I read For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemman.  I was so inspired.  I wanted to bring this to the retreat.  Most of all, what I wanted to bring to life was the part of the Eastern prayer to the Holy Spirit that says, "O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere present and fills all things..."  I wanted those attending the retreat to be given an opportunity to be present with the Lord and then remind them that He does not leave us.  It is we who leave Him.  So by the end of the retreat the ladies would be prepared to be present with the Lord always and take this home to their families.  As moms our days are full of children's, household and wifely demands.  It's easy to lose God's presence amidst the noise and busy-ness of daily life, or is it?

I offered the first chapter of For the Life of the World as an optional reading.  The chapter introduces man, "'Man is what he eats.' With this statement the German materialistic philosopher Feuerbach thought he had put an end to all 'idealistic; speculations about human nature. In fact, however, he was expressing without knowing it, the most religious idea of man" (Pg. 11). To paraphrase further, man, first,  is a hungry being; man must eat in order to live; take the world into himself and transform it into his flesh and blood.

Schmemman's mission was to end the fallacies of religiosity.  He wanted to end notions that our physical life and spiritual life were separate entities and in order to have a spiritual life one had to leave himself and this world behind.  He wanted to end notions that the material was in opposition to the spiritual--that because man eats and consumes to live and has appetites, this is his profane side. However, Christ unites all things in Himself.  Everything Christ did as a human becomes of God.  "In the Bible the food that man eats, the world of which he must partake in order to live, is given to him by God, and it is given as communion with God…All that exists is God's gift to man and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man's life communion with God.  It is divine love made food, made life for man" (Pg. 14).'

"The world is a fallen world because it has fallen away from the awareness that God is all in all" (Pg. 16).  Man uses the world for its own sake and not because God made it and not for the love of God.  "Man's dependence on the world was intended to be transformed into communion with God."  It is only when the divine gifts are received by man in communion with God, received for the sake of God, that we are granted life.

If this is whet your spirit and intellect, I recommend you follow the link above and read the entire chapter.  What Schmemman offers so clearly, what Christ Himself offered, is that communion with God is meant to be unending and filled with His love.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Icon Writing With Kids: Christ’s Entrance Into Jerusalem–Palm Sunday

Here is a coloring page for you to share with your kids.  If you get a chance to write this one with your kids, let me know how it went. 

Instructions: Go slowly.  Tell them the story.  Talk about the image.  Notice how the branches of the tree form a cross.  Christ is always pictured with red inner garments, symbolizing His humanity and sacrifice, and blue outer garments, symbolizing His divinity. We always paint the background sky and halos golden yellow symbolizing this is a Heavenly image.  It is a doorway from Heaven to you.  Notice that Christ holds a scroll.  He was going to Jerusalem to teach.  Christ entered Jerusalem as a King—the Word Incarnate. (Email me if you want the pdf version: renee dot clayton82 at gmail dot com).

Christ's Entrance into Jerusalem

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
   ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
   and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

   “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

   “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

   “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”  Matthew 21:1-11

Entrance into Jerusalem

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Icon Writing with Kids–Veneration of St. Peter in Chains

Whilst evangelizing the Church of Christ, St. Peter was imprisoned by King Herod Agrippa who was against this new religion.  St. Peter was released from his chains by an angel of the Lord and led to safety (Acts 12:1-19).

We did a few new things in writing this icon.  This was our first small scale icon (9”X12”).  We also used crayons instead of paint.  Finally, this is my first totally original composition.  There are some things I could have done better, however, I am still learning and I am pleased with the result. 

Alex was much more patient with the crayons than with the paints.  I attribute his patience to the paper.  It was the right level coarseness to prevent slipping and going out of the lines.  Although, I think we both prefer large scale painting, because it is fun and challenging.



In this icon, I placed the Angel on top of a cross shape showing that the Angel was sent from the Lord and that Christ is his Savior both in being freed from sin and from his captivity.  There is a scroll by St. Peter showing that he brings the Word of God.


After creating our icon we made chains of hope.