There was so much to say and to tell. The big sitting room had never looked so beautiful. The walls were dark brown now; every year the pine boards grew darker. The table was covered with the red-checked cloth, and the braided rag rugs were gay on the floor. The rocking chairs stood by the white-curtained window; Mary's boughten chair, and the willow chair that Pa had made for Ma so long ago in the Indian territory. The patchwork cushions were in them, and there was Ma's workbasket and her knitting with the needles thrust into the ball of yarn. Kitty lazily stretched and yawned, and came to curve purring against Laura's ankles. There on Pa's desk was the blue-bead basket that Mary had made."
There is not much going on here other than the usual things... I started working on knitting a Milo Vest for Button and have found that it is a pretty ambitious project for my beginner skills. I have made a few mistakes that need to be corrected before I can move on, so I am hoping to have a chance to meet with my knitting teacher soon so that I can make some progress before our next class next Thursday.
We went to visit our families last weekend and also had a chance to be there for the crown removal of some friends of ours who just got married! It was a wonderful trip and I brought home some lots of little treats: beeswax candles, some pretty dishes (on sale!!) , and chocolate that I am saving for one-of-those-days.
It started when I read a few posts on Orangette last week. Then another post on As Cozy as the Spring. And today, I knew that we had to make a batch of granola for our breakfasts. Since I didn't have everything that was required (for either version), I slightly altered the recipe that I found on As Cozy as the Spring. Here's what I did:
5 c. rolled oats
2 c. coconut flakes
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3 T. wheat germ
4 oz. apple sauce
1/2 c. maple syrup
3 T. butter
Method Mix the dry
ingredients in one bowl. Mix the wet in another bowl. Combine
until the oats are coated. Bake on a cookie sheet for 40 minutes at 300 degrees and stir every 10 minutes.Store in a jar and enjoy!
own little cot-bed with the green coverlet on, just inside. And the
little square window with the green curtains blowing in the wind, And a
yellow pot of nasturtiums on the sill. And the little green chest of
drawers with the robin cloth on it. And the little green mirror hanging
on the primrose wall, with Milly-Molly-Mandy's own face reflected in
And then Milly-Molly-Mandy knew that the little storeroom was
to be her very own little bedroom, and she said, "Oh-h-h-h!" in a very
hushed voice, as she looked all round her room."
I grew up in the New York City area. We would often take our little
trips into “The City” to visit museums, sporting events, etc. As we
drove through Midtown, I always noticed that the street corners had
people on boxes with signs around their necks announcing to the world
their belief in Jesus Christ (and usually accompanied by a warning of
repentance and the end of the world.) Was this evangelizing?
now live in another interesting city . . . Las Vegas. Different yet the
same if you walk down “The Strip.” In addition, many people don’t know
this but Las Vegas is a strong Mormon city with strong Mormon roots.
This means that we get the missionaries at our door. They usually flee
after I let them know I am an Orthodox priest and would like to talk to
them about Christ. I have even seen them (unbeknownst to them) gathering
under the bell tower of our church and praying, I can only assume, for
the conversion of myself and my parish. Hmm . . . was this evangelizing?
the answer to both of these examples is a loud and resounding NO! This
is not evangelizing but rather self-promotion and proselytism. There is a
great difference. Evangelism pure and simple is to “preach the good
news of the Gospel.” We are called to live out this good news in our
daily lives. And by this way of life, we become witnesses to the truth
and power of Jesus Christ. We do not and should not be standing on a
street corner nor should we be knocking on doors. What we should be
doing is living a life of prayer, fasting and repentance. These are the
most powerful witnesses to Christ and His Church.
Living the Life
today’s world, we are constantly being bombarded by a host of secular
and religious pressures. They seek our souls and the souls of our
children. But this is nothing new. The faithful of the Church have
ALWAYS been bombarded by these. Just peruse the Epistles and the Church
Fathers and it will become clear that we face the same problems as any
Christian did throughout the ages. (The only difference is that the
medium has changed . . . , i.e., the internet and mass communication)
Yet despite all of these challenges (and some of them are quite great)
the Church has always been able to grow and evangelize all nations as a
witness to the Great Commission in Matthew. “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 things
that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end
of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)
So what did they do and
how did they do it? Very simply, they lived the life of an Orthodox
Christian. Let us take the example of the great missionary saint, St.
Herman of Alaska. Read his life and see how he affected the lives of
those around him. He did not proselytize but rather lived the life he
was called to live. He didn’t stand on a stump and announce that he is
an Orthodox Christian and everyone ought to be the same . . . or else.
He prayed, he helped, he loved, he became a part of the community in
which God had placed him. And through this witness of what a Christian
is and how a Christian should act, he brought generations of people to
the Faith. There was no great secret but rather hard work and difficult
times as he (literally) carried the Cross to the people and brought the
Good News of Jesus Christ. And this can be repeated in the many examples
of all of our great missionary saints. From the Apostle Paul to the
latest holy men and women who work throughout the world, they all lived
the life of an Orthodox Christian.
So to begin with, our actions
must speak louder than words. Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann wrote
on missions that, “one is first sent to oneself, then to the family and
then to the world.” In other words we are no good if we are not seeking
our own salvation first. And that is a lifetime of work right there. We
must live the life of an Orthodox Christian. Do we pray? Do we attend
the services? Do we fast? Do we go to the sacraments? Do we give of our
time, talent and treasure? Do we live a life of repentance? Do we raise
our families in the Church? When in public do we bless ourselves with
the Sign of the Cross? Do we have an icon in our offices and homes? Do
we read the Gospels daily? Do we read the lives and writings of the
Church Fathers? Do we educate ourselves in the Church? In short, do we
live as an Orthodox Christian?
If we do that, then we find that
we are walking on a path that we are called to be on and that path has
been well trod by the great evangelists before us. We might want to get
into great polemical arguments with the non-Orthodox on an internet chat
room, but are we ready for that? I have been a priest for some years
and still do not feel I am ready, despite giving talks and sermons
around the country and in my own community. And in the end the only
witness that is truly powerful is that I live as best as I can as an
Orthodox Christian (and often fall far short). I remember one bishop’s
statement that the most powerful sermon we can give is to do the sign of
the Cross . . . this sums it all up!
But What Else?
the point of this paper goes a little beyond this since people want to
have some practical advice (though I believe that what is put forth in
the last section is eminently practical). What can I do to reach out?
How can I let people know about my valued Orthodox Faith?
begin with start with the home. The home is our refuge but also the
place of gathering. People come and in and out. Do we have icons
throughout the home? Every room should have an icon on the east wall.
These are our witnesses and will bring more conversation from someone
who is non-Orthodox than we can ever imagine. Do we wear our baptismal
cross around our neck? My wife is an operating room nurse and more
conversations (and connections with Orthodox) have happened from that
simple witness. When we are in public, do we prayer quietly and humbly
before meals? Not as a show that we are Christians but because we prayer
before we eat. Do we do the same in our workplace? Because this is
where we spend much of our time yet it is the place where we feel
ashamed to express our Faith.
But we are also in constant contact
with people around us. We must have the courage and conviction to stand
for our Faith. Very often, if the conversation turns to religion a lull
would descend. We do not want to offend nor do we want to seem like
some religious fanatic. But we can speak of our Faith without being
either. We need simply say that “I am an Orthodox Christian and this is
what we believe . . . ” Be willing to express the basic tenets of Faith
through a thorough understanding of what we believe. And that means The
Creed. So the question we should ask ourselves is “, do I understand what
The Creed says and means?” We would be surprised that so many of us
recite The Creed every Sunday yet really don’t understand what is being
said. We need to understand the words of the Church because it is
through those words that the Church expresses itself. Many of us learned
The Creed in Church School or through catechism and then . . . stopped
seeking to understand it. The Church formulated The Creed so that it
could express what, as a minimum, a Christian must believe in order to
be a Christian. There are some wonderful books which can help us in
educating ourselves on The Creed. For example, Fr. Alexander
Schmemann’s, Celebration fo Faith series (Book 1 is I Believe). It has a
wonderful set of writings on just this subject. Likewise, Fr. Thomas
Hopko’s “Rainbow” series also has a section on this subject. There are,
of course, a host of selections from our Seminaries’ Press, Conciliar
Press and Regina Press which also deal with just this subject. We don’t
need complicated explanations but rather a simple exposition of the
One of the elements of the Faith that I have come to
understand as a priest and dealing with a wide variety of people is that
our own people don’t know their own Faith. And furthermore there are
many, many people out there who do not even know who or what God the
Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is as well as what the
Church mean. Basic articles of Faith such as the Trinity, Baptism, etc.
are expressed in The Creed and we need to be able to articulate these
beliefs. Perhaps years ago, many Christians still held certain basic
beliefs but this is no longer the case and we need to get back to the
heart of what a Christian is and what we believe. So be willing to speak
about this . . . not just saying “I am a Christian” but rather, “I am a
Christian and this is what I believe.” We would be surprised at this
simple witness. A simple suggestion is to read. Borrow books from the
parish library, talk to your priest and get his suggestion on good
books. Have an adult class or small group session where together with
others you can read. The great gift that the modern Orthodox Church in
America has is that we have so much material available to us in English
so take advantage of this.
Come and See
of the truisms that I have discovered is that families bring in
families. People are looking for a place to raise their children. They
want a place where their children can learn about Jesus Christ and the
Good News. They want a place where they can find eternal truths and true
worship. This is especially evident in a mobile society where families
no longer grow up where they were born and job changes move people all
over the country and away from the roots. We used to rely on the
extended family to help raise our children in the Church since a grandma
or aunts or whoever would be going to Church and could bring their
extended family with them. This creates a void in which families are
trying to find a new “extended” family.
So often we come in daily
contact through school, community activities, neighborhood events with a
host of people looking for a church home. Yet we never invite them to
our own church home. Their children play with our children and yet we
don’t even ask if they would like to come to church. It used to be very
common for that to happen. We need to do this in a respectful and kind
way. Invite the families when they, through the course of conversation,
say they are looking for a church home. Help them to understand the
Church and the Faith. Live your own life as a Christian and they also
will want to have a part of that in their life.
Of course, our
own parish must be open to them. We must be in order so that we can
receive visitors. We must be patient and understand that they do not
know the tenants of our Faith. But we must open the doors for them, make
them feel welcome and take an interest in them. Not jumping all over a
visiting family but rather be kind and gentle. Families are looking for
this and when they find it, they want to know more. They want their own
children to be raised in that way. And they will learn and grow in the
Faith. So be open to visitors and invite families. Our own extended
relationships are the most fertile ground for evangelization. And when
they come, explain the services and make them feel welcome.
final note is that we need to be a part of our surrounding community. Be
an active participant in the life of the community. Encourage events to
be held at our parish and facilities that benefit those who live around
it. Be in the organizations which promote our values and life. Very
often, people come tho these events or come into contact with Orthodox
at these events. They see and want to know more. We no longer become
that church over there, but rather the church that is here. So the more
we are involved, the more contact people have with us.
Be The Church
The life of
a parish is often filled with major events. Baptisms, wedding, funerals
are all part of the life of a normal parish. And these are often
incredible times to reach out to people. Our services are so filled with
meanings and ritual that are totally unlike anything else. People are
constantly amazed at the depth and beauty of something we take for
granted. They are powerful witnesses for the Faith and one in which we
should not take lightly. They are sometimes the best evangelism tools we
have. People will come and ask questions. They want to know why we do
this or very often the simple statement, “I have never seen anything
like this.” They have opened the door for a conversation about the
Faith. Learn the meaning of the services, especially the Sacraments, so
that you can explain what they just saw. It is simple but effective
because they see the Church in action, at our very best.
are simply amazed by what we do. Sometimes they may consider it quaint
but very often they are seeing something that has been lost in the West.
Baptisms became perfunctory family gathering, weddings became
contracts, funerals became memorials. All of them lost the sacramental
meaning and hence the beauty of what they are meant to do. And when we
do it in its fullness, the meaning is brought back to people who have
never understood or forgotten them. The services, the priest’s sermon,
the ritual, and the gathering all form part of a witness to what the
Church is and should always be.
The other aspect to this and one
that should not be forgotten ever is that these events bring back the
lapsed Orthodox. They have a chance to come back to Church in a
nonthreatening way. And there is something about being an Orthodox that
never leaves you. When they see and experience the Church again, it is
as if they are looking at it for the first time. It touches a place in
their soul and reignites a passion for the Faith that may have been
lost. And we must be open to them and embrace them as a prodigal. Not to
judge them as to where they have been but rather rejoice. Sometimes
they come to a Church where the services are in English and for the
first time they actually understand what is being said. Meaning is put
to words and they then realize the depth and beauty of those words. And
as always, our services are the greatest witnesses to what we believe.
So how do we
Orthodox evangelize? Really on three levels. First and foremost we
evangelize ourselves. We learn and live the Faith. We raise our families
in the Church and make it central to our life. We become witnesses to
the Church by living the life of the Church.
Second we reach out
to the community. We speak of our Faith with love and attention. We
express it without shame. We invite those around us to share in that
Faith. And we keep our doors open to the community and all seekers.
finally, we evangelize our Faith through the life of the Church. We use
the wonderful gift of God’s Church and the services to lead others to
experience worship . . . real worship. And our own knowledge is
invaluable and helping people process that. We invite and welcome people
through our own doors.
There is a wonderful story from Russia
which tells of an old and young monk. The older monk told the young monk
that they were going down into the village to evangelize. They went
down, shopped, talked to the people and showed their presence. As they
were walking back the young monk asked when they were going to
evangelize. The elder monk simply replied, “we just did!” So may we also
follow their path.
On Thursday nights at about 7 we have a Knit Along to get to! I scurry around to tidy up the house, get dinner on the table, and two little boys all jammied up. Sugar Plum and I slip out with our knitting baskets in hand. It seems so strange to go somewhere with one little one in the car (and at bedtime, no less!). She really turns into a chatterbox!
Once we arrive, we pull out our current projects and knit and visit. The shop is small and cozy and though it is obviously a place of business, it feels a little like home. We work until about 8:15 and then dash to the car. Sugar Plum asks whether she can stay up just a little bit longer to knit and I always regretfully say no. As we open the front door, we are greeted by two little boys and one tired papa who are so happy to see us!
Our little weekly date only lasts a short time, but it is just what we need! We are already planning years ahead of ourselves and all of the things that we'd like to learn how to do: use a swift and ball winder, spin yarn, weave, etc. I am so glad that we were able to learn how to knit. I am hopeful that there will be many happy dates for the two of us!
I saw the light streaming into our playroom onto the Noah's Ark just right yesterday afternoon and ran for the camera to capture it. Except for this little scene, the room was in a shambles with dress-up clothes strewn everywhere, blocks and vehicles dumped out, and baskets upended. However, it was the first day since school has started that everyone was happily engaged in their activities. Button was entertaining himself (and not screaming!) and Sugar Plum and Little Man were working on homemade books (Sugar Plum's was one of our wedding and Little Man's was on Saint George). We were listening to My Name is Handel (Thanks, Ginny!!) and it was just a perfect moment.
Sugar Plum has a lot of stress over learning how to read (she is doing well, she just doesn't like it), and I think that we've finally found a solution that is working for us. We do our written work (Math, Phonics, Language Arts, etc.) in the morning and then Read-Alouds frequently throughout the day. Once dinner is done, we put on a television show for Little Man and Button and Sugar Plum and I retreat to the big bed and snuggle in for some reading practice. Separating the work that she finds easy and exciting from the difficulty of reading has done wonders for her willingness to learn and even her attitude towards me as her mother and teacher. I wish that I had thought of it sooner! Hopefully she'll develop some fluency soon and want to read.
I spent some time a few nights ago updating our lesson plans and thinking over some things that we want to tweak a little bit starting in October. Fortunately, it is nothing earth-shattering. I think that I will talk about some of those changes in another post soon. I am really thankful that this year has started off so well and that our little family is settling back into the groove of learning. It is also so nice to have Papa all to ourselves again!
This week was all about new skills! I finished up my stockinette scarf and gave blocking a try. It was easy to learn how to block after checking out a few YouTube videos. However, apparently things made up of the stockinette stitch like to roll up on themselves and refuse to flatten. So.
Onto Scarf No. 2. I decided that I would try to learn the Seed Stitch. I love it! It is easy and though I have to really concentrate, the result is so beautiful! I started working on the scarf in the french blue and realized that I was going to use up all of the french blue yarn that I have before the scarf would be completed. I decided to dip into a navy blue of the same type of yarn that I was planning to use for the third scarf. I learned how to switch colors (which I swore that I would never learn how to do a month ago) by watching a video. The color changes are really not very professional looking and I don't know how much I actually like the stripes, but I will continue to persevere.
We are reading through the Kaya stories for school and are going to start to reread Milly Molly Mandy today. I bought the October issue of Martha Stewart Living yesterday and am enjoying all of the articles on autumn delights... hopefully the weather will start to cooperate!
I really don't wear much make-up, but when I recently had to replace everything in my make-up bag (my handbag was stolen from our car along with our car's radio and GPS while it was parked in the church parking lot), I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to purchase and what I would actually use on a daily basis. I really wanted to keep things simple, so I chose a concealer, one eye shadow, mascara, and two lip balms.
Here are the contents of my make-up bag:
Lancome Maquicomplet Concealer in Ivoire
Clinique Eye Shadow in Frosted Blossom
L'Oreal Voluminous Mascara in Black Brown
Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Pink Blossom
Burt's Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil
I was also able to replace my three leather zippered pouches (Just in time! They are nowhere on the internet since I bought them!) and I am hoping to be able to purchase another bottle of my favorite peony perfume in the next few weeks or so. I also remembered the other day that I usually keep a small bottle of Visine to brighten my eyes when I am tired and a travel sized lotion.
There were little new potatoes for dinner, creamed with green peas, and there were string beans and green onions. And by every plate was a saucer full of sliced tomatoes, to be eaten with sugar and cream.
"Well, we've got good things to eat, and plenty of them." said Pa, taking a second helping of potatoes and peas.
"Yes," said Ma happily; 'nowadays we can all eat enough to make up for what we couldn't have last winter."
She was proud of the garden; it was growing so well.
"I shall begin salting down cucumbers tomorrow, little ones are thick under all those vines. And the potato tops are thriving so, I can hardly find the hills underneath them, to scrabble."
The oldest prayer we know dedicated to the Virgin Mary is known as “Beneath Thy Compassion.” The earliest text of this hymn was found in a Coptic Vespers for Christmas of the 3rd century. It is written in Greek and dates to approximately 250 AD. It is used in the Coptic Liturgy to this day, as well as in the Orthodox Compline service, it being the last hymn to be sung. The ancient date of the hymn tells us that the early Christians had an established devotion to the Theotokos and called upon her intercession. Long before the usage of the term “Theotokos” in the 5th century, the Church already knew the Virgin Mary as “Mother of God”.
Beneath thy compassion, We take refuge, Virgin Theotokos. Despise not our prayers in our necessity But deliver us from harm O only pure, only blessed one.
Father John and I sing this hymn with our little ones before we kiss them goodnight each evening at bedtime. It is one of my favorite hymns of the Church and when sung in four part harmony is magnificent!
I have cast aside the washcloths for the week and begun work on a trio of scarves for my little peeps. I basically just cast on 30 stitches and then followed the pattern for the Petite French Farmhouse Dishcloth Pattern No.1. Once it is long enough (and I think that will be when there is only a wee bit of yarn left), I will knit two rows and cast off and it will be done! I found the yarn that I am using at our little yarn shop. It was in the sale bin ($4 for each skein and I bought two). It is Elsebeth Lavold Angora in Lavender. I will have to learn how to block these scarves when I am finished knitting them, which should be interesting!
Thy Nativity, O Virgin,
Hast proclaimed joy to the whole universe!
The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God,
Has shone from Thee, O Theotokos!
By annulling the curse,
He bestowed a blessing.
By destroying death, He hast granted us eternal Life.
The Learning Basket for The Nativity of the Mother of God can be found HERE.