Saturday, November 16, 2019

(83) Just to be Clear

My long time and gracious blog friend Gretchen-Joanna alerted me
to a fairly significant typo I made on Thursday.
I had written (mistake highlighted by Gretchen-Joanna):

I can't imagine *now* believing in God who I believe is in relationship with me
as one of the many Christians living now and that I have experienced, 
in actual experience, God's love and presence. 

I had, I hope everyone realizes, meant to write:

I can't imagine not believing in God who I believe is in relationship with me
as one of the many Christians living now and that I have experienced, 
in actual experience, God's love and presence.

 I have fixed this post now but wanted to be sure
it was clear that I miss-typed...! 

If I did not have the hope of Christ in my life, well,
I shudder to even think!

Blessed Advent and Nativity Fast to all who have begun!
Our calendar is 13 days later than the Western one, so our Christmas is 
January 7th and we begin the fast on November 28th, 
which is US Thanksgiving this year...
I will be making fish DV this year... 

God bless us and have mercy on us!

Friday, November 15, 2019

(82) A quiet Friday

Mr Husband worked from home;
had meetings all morning after breakfast;
I baked Koek and was happy...
two big loaves, 3 small, one small for us, the other 4 for the freezer... 
We took a walk in late afternoon...
I ended up needing a nap after lunch and then worked on 
another Romania blog post....
dinner was the last of the roasted vegetables and a spinach salad...
am enjoying lots of hot tea and kombucha... 
our friend C. who is now in the police force dropped by for a 
quick minute and it was so nice to see her...
and that was today...
I thank God for this day...

Thursday, November 14, 2019

(81) 3 double batches of cookies baked does make one's day better

I baked 3 double batches of cookies, 
1 of cranberry chocolate chip
and 2 of just straight glorious chocolate chip.
I saved 4 for Mr Husband and I to eat hot out of the oven;
they were so hot the top of my mouth is still burnt but it was worth it. 
I spent the day in solitude, reading the second of Abigail Thomas' recent memoirs
and baking, and thinking about things, including loneliness. 
I did get more sleep last night and I did feel a lot better for it. 
Nothing about my situation itself has changed; 
sometimes I feel encouraged sometimes discouraged; I am seeing that it is a very
long road to do anything good or build anything in one's life. 
But that is reality and the reality of the situation is that
I have a Husband who is my best friend, a home that I am very happy in,
family that loves me, church family (though spread out and not like I had in Ottawa
because of where we live and because you can't replicate anything or anyone)... 
I still miss my Cleo Cat.  I was thinking today about how this year
when I, God willing, put up the Christmas tree Cleo won't be there to jump in 
the box the minute it is empty and the tree is up... or in the process of being 
put up... I miss her.  She's just not around; her constant comforting presence,
her demands, the routine of having a cat; it's just gone.  I am mostly
OK but if I think of her death and the actual saying goodbye, 
I almost reel over, feeling like I was just punched in the gut. 
I am trying to do my Christmas baking way early this year
and need to get going on St Nicholas baking.
I made a mistake and bought a margarine that still has dairy in it
so my vegan cookie baking progress took a hit. 
(vegan for fasting periods including the Advent/Nativity fast). 
Maybe tomorrow I can bake more Koek.
That is something I can make. 
And I love it. 
So Abigail Thomas and her books.  Granny Marigold mentioned
her book Three Dog Life and I looked it up and emailed myself
(and snoozed it until I was back from our trip) to get it from my library.
Which I did do on Tuesday.
Three Dog Life is a well written book chronicling 
how she has to make a new life for herself 
after her Husband has a terrible accident and
 is locked, mentally, basically, in a suspended present 
with no short term memory and lessening ling term memory.... 
he was a reporter newly retired...they were living in NYC....
I found it worth reading, sad but in a way that makes you think.
Her latest book, What Comes Next and How to Love It 
was in some ways a follow on to this book but in a lot of ways not at all,
showing how narrative focus is one her strengths as a memoirist. 
It's more gritty, with family heartache, tragedy and mess.
I thought it was well written.  Sad in ways the other book was not;
I can't imagine not believing in God who I believe is in relationship with me
as one of the many Christians living now and that I have experienced, 
in actual experience, God's love and presence. 
To be like this writer, and think that we cease to exist when no one can remember us,
well it's so sad but a common belief today.
One that is dealt with by the very popular YA book the fault in our stars 
the question of meaning and memory - will anyone remember us past our
living right now family and if not, what meaning does our life have?
I was struck then and am struck again how different my life is
because I am a Christian and an Orthodox Christian at that.
Simply put, when someone dies what one says in sympathy is:
Memory Eternal.
It's part of the prayer service for the departed, it's KEY to the funeral
and it's because of Christ's Resurrection and the belief that
God will remember us forever and that He will bring us all back
on that last day, or perhaps the first of new days,
when Christ returns and all will be made new.
Elder Sophrony writes that one of the biggest most significant days of our lives
is the day we die, as it is the beginning of our eternal life.
The meaning of our life is found linked to our death.
This is profoundly different than what Abigail Thomas seems to believe
and I can understand why without such hope, that I and all Orthodox Christians have,
one would struggle with depression and even alcoholism like she discusses.
I found her book well written.  
I also feel like there is such a chasm between what people who don't believe
in anything beyond the material of this world and those who are Christians
and believe in eternal life and in salvation.
How to speak to those on the other side of this and who are struggling so much
with a deep loss of meaning in their lives.  It's a question I have...
I think about this a lot especially as I see so many in this situation. 
I think music maybe one of the last things that can communicate hope.
I feel that this song does.

I do wish that I can write and give others hope that my life can
be lived in a way that gives courage to others and points them to 
the hope that is so deeply found in Christ and in the Church.
Thanks to those who commented on my last post and who emailed me.
I truly appreciate this and was encouraged! Thank you!
Means so much!
May God help us!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

(80) Well, that's how it is

All day I have felt this struggle with a sense of sadness.
I think to be honest, I should have tried taking a nap, sometimes that is all
it takes to feel better!
I did make a new to me cookie recipe, Tahini cookies and I think they are going to 
taste quite good! I was going to tweak the recipe and make them fasting
and then realized that the main margarine I had for baking had dairy 
inside it and I did not realize (Thanks I can't believe it's not butter!) ... 
And I just found that plain discouraging!
That and I burned some of the cookies I did bake. Boo. 
Nap, clearly needed.

 The cookies that did turn out though promised to be surprisingly 
delicious and I can't wait to try them tomorrow! 

I roasted vegetables for us for the rest of the week after the cookie saga.
And earlier I we (my Husband being home) took a walk in gloriously cold
sunshine filled day and that was great...
I think I am just missing my Romanian friends
(and my Serbian friend too!) and just feeling like all of my 
efforts to try to make local friends (or near local) is just 
crumpling up in a heap and I just want to howl about it. 
I promise you though, as I know these things, that I will feel better tomorrow.
And next week as far as I know I have an outing with friends from my 
far-away church and I will keep working on things...
I really hope to bake more and FAST.  I want to get my St Nicholas baking and
Christmas baking underway.  I had some baking-fails which means I am 
behind schedule. And to be honest my email inbox with a zillion calendar reminders
is just stressing me out. 
Enough of all that. Suffice it to say, it will all get done one way or another
and those cookies I made today, I hope to make more tomorrow 
and will keep working on my life and all that it has.... 

Monday, November 11, 2019

St Demetrios the New festival and liturgy + Manuc's Inn + a delightful dinner party: Sunday October 27, 2019

We woke up to this beautiful music from the Patriarchal church bells...
it was the Patron Saint of Bucharest -- St Demetrios the New's -- day.

We went to liturgy and it was so very beautiful. 
We were late actually, being told the wrong time for liturgy to begin.
When we arrived, the Gospel was being read.
What was impressive about this is that the crowds, by which we means thousands,
were all standing still.  Deeply attentive and respectful. 
The minute the Gospel reading was over, everything started moving again...
we were, for a while, in the back of the front 
but there were so many people moving to try to get 
closer, that we moved away... it was a cold morning... 
I don't get as cold as others or as quickly, so I end up giving my Husband 
my coats and was funny but at least he was warm! :)
And I was fine... a bit cold but not cold inside my marrow, as it were.... 

This is the Patriarch giving the sermon...of course being in Romania the sermon
was in Romanian...I still remember how clearly and slowly he spoke...
looking up this even afterwards, I can tell you now a little of what he said:
"Offering his reflections on the gospel reading from Luke 8:41-56, Patriarch Daniel said that the woman with a blood issue and Jairus ‘become for us teachers of humility, faith and merciful love.’
The patriarch pointed to St Demetrios the New, ‘a humble man with a strong faith and merciful love,’ to Saint Philothea of Arges, ‘who was 12, the same age Jairus’ daughter had, and was devout, compassionate, patient and humble,’ and to Saint Dionysius of Cetatea Alba, ‘a humble, merciful hierarch with a strong faith in troubled times.’
‘Faith and humility bring healing of sickness and resurrection from the dead,’ the patriarch said as a conclusion for the two miracles related in the bible reading.
Patriarch Daniel stressed that ‘our Saviour Jesus Christ is very sensitive, He feels human suffering and suffers together with people.’
His Beatitude explained that Jesus Christ responded to the calling of Jairus the synagogue leader because He saw three great virtues: humility, when he fell at the feet of Jesus and asked Him to come to heal his daughter; faith, he believed that only Jesus can save his daughter from death; the love of a compassionate father, since Jairus identified himself with the suffering of his daughter.
The Patriarch also highlighted the strong faith and the humility of the woman with an issue of blood who was healed by Jesus on His way to Jairus’ house.
‘This humble and suffering woman receives healing, but she receives two additional gifts from God,’ the patriarch said Oct. 27.
‘Seeing that she was shaking with embarrassment and emotion, Jesus told her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” So He gave her healing, the honour to be called a daughter and a peaceful life.’
At the end of his sermon, Patriarch Daniel offered his prayers to the three Saints whose relics were displayed for veneration, to intercede with Christ for ‘deep humility, strong faith and merciful love.’ "  (from here)

I wish I had a CD of the choirs singing that day!
The men's and women's choirs sang together so very beautifully! 

Later in the liturgy we stood in front of the church...
there was a long line the entire time to go in the church to pray
and venerate the icons, etc... 

The choir here is so beautiful...I wish I had more of it!

This is of everyone reciting the Creed...part of every liturgy in the Orthodox 
church, worldwide for many centuries of worship... 

Another picture of one of the many containers of Holy Water!
We brought some home ourselves, a special blessing of this Pilgrimage weekend!
Because we came during the Gospel, we did not have Holy Communion...
(usually you are to be there for more of the service than this to prepare yourself!)
but I had such joy in just being there, it was a real time of sweetness and beauty...
and I began thinking that Wednesday (when our friend AR was off work) would be a
wonderful day to go to a liturgy in the morning at a local monastery and 
have Holy Communion then... so I was very much at peace...
the liturgy was long, the air was on the cool side and we were standing on 
pavement (mainly cobble stone) so by the time Communion began 
(we think given the crowds it was probably given for 2 hours or more!)
my friend A and I texted and met.  They took us to a beautiful restaurant that I think
by far was my Husband's favourite...I really liked it too... I liked every
one though as each was tied up with memories of our time there....
As our friends were having us over that night for dinner at their place,
and friends of theirs were coming as well... they did not stay to eat with us.... 
We went to Manuc's Inn, called Hanul lui Manuc in Romanian. 
Manuc is pronounced Man-Uk. 

These pictures above just look like a street until you look closer:
See the huge line of people? the day before it was all the way to the corner...
it's people standing in line for hours (easily up to 10 hours) to see the 
relics of St Demetrios the New ... which are usually in the Patriarchal church but 
are put in a portable outdoor shrine for the St Demetrios the New pilgrimage weekend...
My Husband commented that we are seeing as close to the more 
medieval Europe in this weekend of Pilgrimage, as these were very common
centuries ago also in the West of Europe... 

Isn't it beautiful? we ate outside and it was just perfect.
My Husband just LOVED the menu and keeps telling people about it :) 
and the food was very good! 
Nice to have traditional Romanian food :) 

I had wonderful hot tea and this lamb soup - I loved it very much! 
Everywhere had glass bottles of water to enjoy (for a small price of course) and 
it was such a fun meal... 

Mr Husband had fish, I enjoyed his polenta and 
he enjoyed the potatoes and bacon (to the right of 
the picture above) :)  

I also had lamb meatballs.  I liked them but I loved the soup.
And as you can see a little begging cat visited us and Mr Husband,
as he said, amused me by giving the cat some fish... 

This was so see the cats...I still miss my Cleo cat but it is a comfort
also to see other cats... (we still don't plan on having one in our home
anytime soon FYI)... 

My Husband got such a kick out of the joke above about
water having only tadpoles and frogs :) He's still telling people about that one too...
one of the neat things about the menu was that it had the story of the person, 
Hanul lui Manuc...his name was Manuc Mirzaian and he had 
a very full adventurous and daring life...
if you go here and then halfway through, you can see the full menu in 
English... it is really fun reading...

More cat pictures because I loved them so!

Such a beautiful setting! 

So many things to see! We did not do too much of this, as we wanted to 
see churches and monasteries more and we had only a week! 
We would not have been able to see all of the Churches and Monasteries 
in and around Bucharest unless we were there a month! 

This is another very old church, St Anthony's I believe, very near
the the Manuc's Inn... I went in first... now remember, we had just had a 
delightful lunch and before that were at much of the liturgy for St Demetrios
before that... and saw the Patriarch (the head of the Orthodox church in Romania) when, at about 2 PM or so in the afternoon I step in this 
church and see people standing and see a priest speaking joyfully, so very
joyfully, with cameras going off like paparazzi I was confused!
What can be so important that the priest is saying when the Patriarch was 
at liturgy nearby with thousands listening?!?

Then suddenly I saw it!!!
A wedding!!! See the Bride and Groom in the picture above on the right?
the priest was speaking, most likely a homily, full of joy and light,
to the newly married couple and of course the wedding photographers were
taking many pictures!  I will never forget the joy on this priest's face
as he spoke... 
what a wonderful day for a wedding, in the middles of one of the biggest 
church festivals and pilgrimages of all of Bucharest, with 
people coming from all over Romania and the world! 

We saw lots of candles in water and people there cleaning the water with 
a sieve... I liked how these candles were all put together... 

This is the outside of the church where the wedding was taking place... 

This picture is an add for a store/restaurant downtown Bucharest and 
my friend A explained that it is a picture of "typical peasants" of Romania
which we understand are a dwindling population with the many villages
being decimated by Romanian's either moving to the cities or leaving
the country entirely for work elsewhere... regardless, I found this 
black and white picture to be beautiful... 
My Husband and I got a bit turned around (we had been walking around
Bucharest downtown only really Friday night and that day,
as Saturday we were in Sinaia) and we had a bit of a disagreement about how to 
get back to our apartment when we asked a young girl 
(there were so so many people everywhere for the Pilgrimage! there was a really
festive holiday atmosphere!) and then a young man noticed us,
introduced himself and took us home (to be exact until I knew where we were nearby)
and we exchanged phone numbers/whats App and he told us he was staying at the 
Radu Vodă Monastery at the seminary, as he was studying theology. 
We texted that day and later and with AR made plans to go to 
Radu Vodă Monastery on Wednesday morning for liturgy... 
and then we rested, being understandably tired from the standing and walking 
plus jet lag ... both of us had some level of insomnia that first while,
trying to adjust to a new time zone 6 hours ahead of ours!
How exciting it was to be in Europe, in Romania! 
Our friend AR (A's husband remember) picked us up, I think about 6 PM or so,
and we went first to a cake shop and then to their delightful apartment for
dinner with dear friends of theirs who are the godparents to their marriage
(in Orthodox church you have a man and women sponsor of your marriage,
in Romania it is a married couple; different countries do this in different ways).

First bread, cheese, vegetables...

Then a wonderful fish soup! 

Then a wonderful chicken Paprika and rice dish
and the most delicious cakes! 

As you can see, I had the one above... 
the other couple (A and R) had their son with them who was a delight...
he drew us a Captain America drawing and an American flag...
showing the innate Romanian hospitality of being aware of others
and where they are from...
his Dad did the same, asking about Elder Ephraim in America who began the 
Greek Monasteries in the States, including the one in Quebec that my Husband
and I were very close to in terms of big events in our courtship...
(our wedding crowns, candles, icons all being from them)... 
and we discussed this and the raising of children and the hope we have
because of the Church...
it was a really delightful time... and this couple gave us a beautiful gift... 
Romanian Plum Brandy in such a neat box and bottle! 
Here's two pictures of it that I took today to show you...
the bottle and box being already safely put away in our cupboard...
we hope to have it blessed at Pascha and then save it for next year's 
Slava (our feast day of our Patron Saint and wedding anniversary celebration)... 

It's really neat and the wooden piece inside we have never seen 
before, a very special present... I believe R. said it was from the area
where he was from in Romania... 
After A and R left with their son (they had a baby waiting at home to be
put to bed also...) we stayed and my Husband and AR talked while 
A and I talked separately, in part making plans for Tuesday night
which was the night that AR and my Husband would hang out together
and A and I would spend time together... we decided that we would
go to the mall that A shopped at and then come back to her house and eat together...
and AR and my Husband would meet near our Airbnb apartment... 
about 11 PM or after we left via uber for our apartment which was not far away by cab
that late at night, though in rush hour 
it gets very congested and would have taken a lot of time...
and that was our very full, very beautiful Sunday of St Demetrios the New! 
One thing I remember feeling many times was wishing we could return 
to the places we had just eaten at; or seen; as if I wished to hold on to the special time
and somehow keep the memories of walking on the cobblestone roads, 
hearing church bells and being at a festival weekend and just stay there...
but, as St Peter wished to have tents when Christ was Transfigured,
he could not... but of course he never forgot this revelatory day of 
Christ's transfiguration and so I pray we will not forget the many 
beautiful things we saw and the experiences of God's love and life within the church... 
I hope you enjoyed hearing about it as much as I enjoyed remembering it 
by these pictures and my writing here!