I am back from my overnight pilgrimage
with two friend who are biological sisters and are Serbian.
It was a really special and life-giving time.
I was given conversations and experiences that
were all at once freeing, reassuring, instructive and refreshing,
as if I was literally drenched with God's mercy.
As if I had been in a desert and was suddenly
in an unforeseen oasis full of light, water and all mercies.
I know enough, have been at monasteries enough, to know
that one cannot expect but only receive.
Just like a special experience is experienced by everyone
differently, so each time at a monastery is different.
I do not expect every time to be like the one I just had,
a time out of time that was like a tangible embrace of God's loving mercy.
This weekend was also the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt;
lesson I made for my Sunday School kids that
others taught in my absence is here.
St. Mary of Egypt when she met the priest, St. Zossima,
they both fell to their feet asking the other's blessing,
and that image was with me this weekend...
'bless me' 'bless me'...
It's been a really different Lent for me this year
and I've been at times a little nervous about it -
ironically because this Lent has not been full of either
sickness or continual stress; not that it's always been easy,
not at all. But two Lents ago I had mono,
last Lent we were trying to buy a house with time running out on
where we were living.
This year it's been more peaceful and steady.
But I feel I've even been given a reason for that.
I just started re-reading the book on the Jesus Prayer
and it is so loving, I forgot how gentle, quiet and beautiful
Here's what I read this morning, back at home:
"The process of healing takes a long time. Even as we see
reasons for hope, we simultaneously gain better understanding
of how far down the roots of sin can go. It would be devastating to see the
whole truth about ourselves all at once.
Our compassionate Lord brings us along gently, allowing
some blissful ignorance. Each layer of the onion is shed at the right time;
we encounter the next truth about ourselves when and how we
can bear it, as our loving Lord knows best. "I have many
things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." (Jn. 16:12)."
(bold emphasis mine).
I had read on the monastery website that
I must ask the blessing to take pictures; so I did and
in the end was given the blessing to take as many pictures as I
wished but not to publish them here.
Fair enough. Sorry I cannot show you of course, but
I trust the blessing and instruction I was given.
So here's some pictures of how I am working
on transforming our home for the coming of
Holy Week and Pascha as well as
some special icons I got while
I was on my two-day pilgrimage.
Lenten icons lit for one more week of Great Lent...
New monastery candles in my candle holder...
I talked to the two biological sisters about
how to have a Slava, the feast day of one's family's patron Saint.
Our patron is St. Phanourios, we were married on his day
three years ago this coming September.
I had thought of having this from time to time and
found out that my beloved Mr. Husband was too,
as he asked me to pick their brains about how to have one.
I've also found some links since being back home,
One of the wonderful thing about being Orthodox
and an Orthodox convert like Mr. Husband and I are,
is that we can incorporate various Orthodox traditions
into our personal practice at home.
This is a beautiful icon of the Mother of God
that I was able to get yesterday.
Once it is up and blessed, I will try to show it to you
again, as it is very beautiful but hard to photograph
when it is not hung properly and with a lampada.
I had been reading one of my Orthodox cookbooks on Pascha
and it said that a traditional Pascha basket has an icon of the Resurrection
and the only small one I had was too fragile (and personally irreplaceable)
to be used so I got this lovely one at the monastery.
Once Holy Week starts this coming Sunday night
(we are one week behind the Western Church), I will not have time
to assemble everything for Pascha so I am trying to do this today if possible.
I am reminded of a lesson I was learning and continually being
told in Ottawa a few years ago -
be with God today.
I have a ton of things to do this week and that is what I am going to try to
remember, just be with God today.