Sunday, May 31, 2015

{Fr. Roman Braga} ~ some of his favourite sayings

"Though tears were shed at losing Fr. Roman’s physical presence, yet there is joy at
gaining an intercessor in heaven. Among his favorite sayings, “Love one another as God loves us.” “Look to see the good in every person.” “Pray without ceasing.” Prayer is not only the words we say from our prayer books or here in church, it is also what we do, living in Christ in every moment of our day, whether at home, work or school.

From Fr. Roman, as a living example of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us learn how to be
humble, how to forgive, how to love one another as Jesus Christ loves each one of us."

~homily from St. Nicholas Church in MI

Saturday, May 30, 2015

{Fr. Roman Braga} ~ in loss of freedom there can still be joy

"And in the last two years Fr. Roman experienced again a loss of freedom and ability as he
became ill. He remarked that dying was difficult. Little by little things were stripped away from him. First, he could no longer serve the Liturgy. Then he could only come to services in a wheelchair. Eventually he couldn’t even do that and had to remain in his monastic cell where he still kept his rule of prayer. When he celebrated his 93rd birthday three weeks before his death, he was asked if it was okay to sing “Many Years” for him. He said, “No. I am only now beginning to learn to die.” So he took joy in the smallest things. When the nuns thought his time was near, he astonished them when he awoke and asked for ice cream. The joy he had at that simple treat made him say that monks are only children with beards. When he could no longer get out of bed and keep his prayer rule he said “God has to take over.” Finally, he could not even speak but wordlessly was able to make the sign of the cross in prayer. Now he added to his voluntary poverty of earthly things the poverty of his physical helplessness and confinement. He fulfilled Jesus’ words in Luke’s gospel, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (6:20)"

~homily from St. Nicholas Church in MI

Friday, May 29, 2015

{Fr. Roman Braga} ~ his life teaches us to forgive

"Where Fr. Roman could have been embittered against those who treated him so
shamefully he prayed for them. When given humiliation, he responded with humility. When
given torture, he responded with a blessing. When exiled from his homeland, he followed God’s will. These things may sound impossible to us. They are not. Humility and love are not
reserved for monks and nuns. There are for all of us. And in them we will find salvation. If I
think about something in the past where someone wronged me, it’s easy to tense up, feeling
blood pressure rise, becoming agitated. What does that serve? Fr. Roman’s example is nothing
other than the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. What freedom there is in forgiveness! How
light the load is when we look to see some good in every person! How we are filled with
Christ’s joy when we pray for those who love us and those who hate us! The humility to forgive is life-giving. It takes what we “want” or the vengeance we may seek out of the equation. That is, forgiveness puts to death our pride. This is how Fr. Roman lived. It is a choice to live like this, a choice to live like Christ. That’s important for us to remember before we make the choice to hold a grudge or seek retribution. "

~homily from St. Nicholas Church in MI

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tea with our local Matuska and lovely ladies

After a Lenten hiatus we had another
tea and stitch with our local Matuska,
where we enjoy tea, goodies, knitting and conversation.

I hosted it again this time
and had such fun getting it all together! 

For the savory part of the tea,
I made the chicken salad that I just love,
recipe here.

I put out Trader Joe's chocolates,
Butter Cookies we had in a lovely tin, 
three pots of tea
(a citrus black from Paris done by Russians, 

Lovely ButterHorn pastries were brought 
by our Matuska, some no bake chocolate cheesecake
bars were delicious but I failed to photograph them... 

And the raspberry lemon cake made it's first

It was a very enjoyable time!!! 
I am so thankful for the community that I am
finding here and each person is a delight to me
and a joy to host. 
We are hoping to do more teas in mid-to late summer!

{Fr. Roman Braga} ~ a priest's words on Fr. Roman's funeral

On Friday the Church, bishops, priests, deacons, nuns, monks and all the baptized buried
God’s faithful servant, Hieromonk Roman (Braga) at Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction.
His funeral was a Paschal light burning brightly, reflecting the Light of the World, our Lord
Jesus Christ who came into the world, took on our flesh, to heal us who are sick with sin, as He healed the paralytic today.

The first striking thing about Fr. Roman’s funeral was not the three bishops, four
deacons, over thirty priests, over twenty monks and nuns and the hundreds of people. It would have been a surprise if there weren’t that many people given his holiness and humanity. It was the timelessness and the other-worldly beauty of his funeral. I quickly gave away my book because I couldn’t balance the candle and the book at the same time without possibly setting myself or someone else on fire. (It was like Joe Goodman was looking over my shoulder). The beauty of the chant, the Psalms that were sung, amid the icons of the church with Fr. Roman’s mortal remains in our midst, bearing the marks of his illness and death. Yet there was in it joy, as Christ is risen was sung again and again, announcing anew to the world as if for the first time that death is now powerless because Christ is risen.

The service was very long. I’m glad I gave away my book because then I wouldn’t look
ahead to see where we were and how much more we had to go. Sure, our backs ached, our feet
hurt, it was warm. But those were minor inconveniences compared to what we were doing,
singing Fr. Roman away to his rest. We notice a rose flower, the thorns not so much, though we know they’re there when we are pricked by them. It is the beauty and the scent of the flower that stays with us. It is the beauty and the perfume of the prayers that we said for Fr. Roman’s repose that remain. Time was not to be reckoned as we prayed for him. We had entered the beauty of the kingdom of God.

Fr. Roman was carried to the grave and placed in the hole in the earth dug for his mortal
body. Everyone, clergy and monastics, laity, adults and children took turns shoveling dirt onto his casket until his grave was full and the cross was placed above his resting place. I sent a picture on my phone to Matushka with the words, “Until the Second Coming.” Fr. Roman’s
grave, like the graves of all our beloved dead, are temporary. They will be emptied when we
hear the Savior’s voice calling us to Himself when He comes in glory to the earth. All will be
raised up, mortal bodies and souls reunited, bodies changed in the resurrection. As Jesus tells us,
those who have lived in evil will rise to the resurrection of judgment but those who have lived in Him on this earth will rise to the resurrection of life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Yarn Along: Slowly there

Almost all three sections
of my blue checkered blanket
have their ends woven in.
Now I just need to finish this, sew them together
and add a border.
My parents have been here for a week and leave tomorrow morning.
It's always hard to have them leave.
I am still reading and enjoying Cather's
What are you reading and creating?
Yarn Along with us!

{Fr. Roman Braga} ~ freedom found in solitary confinement

"....Only then was I able to discover how beautiful the interior life of man is. I liked it very much. A couple of months before I discovered this, I thought that I would go crazy because the solitude was a total break from the world with which I had been so much involved. And you know that our culture is oriented outside ourselves; it is a cosmological knowledge directed toward existence outside ourselves. Now I needed a method to find myself, to liberate myself from the slavery of the books, because there were no books there. It is not an exaggeration to say that in freedom we become slaves of the books; we do not have time even to know who we are because we are made out of quotations...."

~Fr. Roman Braga, 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lemon Curd, Raspberry Citrus Cake

For a recent Ladies Tea I hosted,
I made a new cake...
I knew I wanted lemon and raspberries... 
So I put on FB two choices of recipes...  
I could not choose!

Grace and Elizabeth confirmed my choice of cake to make
for the leftover lemon curd and raspberries that I got on sale.
This one is it!

I used the ingredients called for in the cake:

For the cake

1 ¼ cups sugar
½ cup softened butter
1 medium egg
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon orange zest
⅓ cup orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ tablespoon baking soda

I had lemon curd premade that I got at the 
Chelsea market for another cake.

Recipe calls for this in the topping;
1 cup heavy cream
2 sticks sugar
1 pint raspberries
I did not know what a stick of sugar was
and frantically emailed Elizabeth the night before!
She saved the day, explaining... 
"A stick of sugar is just one of those long thin sugar sachets you can get in coffee shops for sweetening your coffee, just like these...
''you could just use a teaspoon of superfine sugar/caster sugar as a substitute for each "stick" recommended."
I really don't know what I would of done without her speedy
culinary help! I had googled it (sticks of sugar) and 
google would only give me things for 
sticks of butter!
I did not have superfine/caster sugar so I used
icing/powdered sugar and about 3 tbs or so...
Basically until the whipped cream had a noticeable but
not overly sweet taste; I find that 
heavy whipping cream by itself, when whipped, 
tastes a bit 'flat' without something added...
so that worked really well! 

I whipped the cream till stiff as advised...

I gently washed and picked the best
of the raspberries for the top of the cake! 

It turned out really well!

It was a great finale for our tea! 

{Fr. Roman Braga} ~ interior life of man

[Interviewer]:Father [Dimitru] Staniloae confessed that his time in prison was the first time he could pray without ceasing, with the mind in the heart.

I cannot say that I experienced prayer as Father Staniloae, but what I do know is that we will never reach the same spiritual level of life as in Communist imprisonment. There was no pencil, no paper, no T.V., nothing; especially in solitary confinement, you could not even look through a window. There was no exterior horizon, nothing but the four walls of your cell. You had to go somewhere; you had to find an inner perspective, because otherwise you would truly go j crazy. I'm ashamed to say that I was forced to find myself in prison. I had some ideas about prayer because I came from the Burning Bush Movement, but it was mostly theory about what prayer is; but there in those difficult moments I confess that I started to recite the Jesus Prayer and practiced it intensely. Only then was I able to discover how beautiful the interior life of man is.

~Fr. Roman Braga, 

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Long Awaited Dinner Party

I have a long term blog friend, S., who lives
in Australia;
she and I have been emailing since about 2009, she's been
reading my blog I think since about 2008,
so a long time (she does not blog herself but emails
lovely encouraging emails and I treasure our correspondence!)
I sent her our Christmas card and letter this past year
and by January she was emailing me
to say that she and her sister R. were coming my way in May.

I was so excited!!!

So I said of course we must do a dinner party
and began planning...
Appetizers before the meal
were pink-salted cashews and chocolate covered cherries
paired with yogurt cover cherries... 
Here's the menu we had:
First course ~ mushroom soup:

See here for the recipe!

Second Course:
Roast Chicken, Potato, Onion & Goat Cheese Casserole
Roasted Beets, Salad, Fresh Cut Vegetables.
In the far corner, you can see bright orange cut carrots
and a deep maroon , which are raw cut beets.
Mr. Husband loves his vegetables raw....

I roasted a chicken, 
having prepared it the day before,
and trussed it before roasting.
It's a wonderful dinner hosting secret to prepare
the chicken the day before, add more butter if needed
right before roasting and then enjoying the wonderful
scents of herb roasting chicken while
doing the rest of the dinner baking... 
Recipe here.

The lovely bottle of red wine was a gift 
from S and R who came to dinner!
The dishes used were my 
four white China plates, Johnson Brothers from England
with gold rims that I call my Theophany dishes.
Also used were the gold rimmed bowls I got during that time
and the two pretty bowls that Mr. Husband had found
some years before I knew him.
They set such a pretty table...

I roasted beets the way I have for years,
and I had found a clear balsamic vinegar to use again for them,
like years ago ~ see here for the recipe. 

It made such a pretty table!
Of course I used the silver plated cutlery 
when we were first married.... 

A salad with shaved carrots and red peppers...

The thick pillar candle I got in Ottawa for
I wanted everything to be beautiful for it and I thank God
we were able to have it!

The Potato, Onion & Cheese casserole,
it's so creamy and warm and with the
fried onions with thyme,
a real winner!
Recipe here

It was a very satisfying meal.
And even better was all the wonderful dinner conversation...
We talked about so much,
the changes in churches and culture,
concerns about some of these changes,... 
...we talked of how many of these changes lead both my friend
Mr. Husband and myself to Orthodoxy, 
which is a Church Home that continues to feed us... 
We talked about books, Persian culture, traveling to see
culture and cultures, Elizabeth Goudge, Lewis and Tolkien,
Dickens, to mystery novelists including PD James,
the Brother Cadfael books, Amanda Cross and the riots of 1968,
of beauty, solitude, of history...
It was most delightful;
what I would call a real meeting of the minds
and of ones that find themselves more closely aligned on so many levels
that had never even been touched on before...
And for me I felt at home in a different way form them as well,
as they are from a Commonwealth Country like I lived in before
moving here, for me Canada, for them Australia...
Before we had dessert, as in the third course of the evening,
we broke for a tour of our condo that I still think of 
in part more as an apartment, like apartments should be...
We had a great time looking at icons first and last
enjoying our library and discussing various books there in...
And then we went on to dessert...

I made the strawberry lemon cake
for the second time!

It turned out well, recipe here.
It was really fun to decorate! 

We also had our choice of gelatos....
and lastly, 
 the leftover strawberries with cream,
to top off the end to a lovely evening and 
dinner party.
It was a dinner party and visit that I would of loved to have
again and again!

{Fr. Roman Braga} ~ "prayer is life, not theory"

Do you know what the monks implied when they asked for more supervision in the practice of hesychasm? They did not say that we should not recite the Jesus Prayer; all the prayer books printed in Romania have it on the first page: O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." And there is a note there saying that this prayer can replace any other prayer. So the monks recommended it and the Church recommended it. What the monks could not accept was too much intellectualization; a whole theology has been created around this Prayer—too much discussion instead of simply practicing it. They were for simplicity; prayer is life, not theory.

~Fr. Roman Braga, 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

40 day memorial for Mr. Husband's godson

Pictures from Mr. Husband's Godson's 
40 day memorial service.
The light was so beautiful 
and the candles so warmly inviting.
I appreciated more and more the prayers the church
has for the departed.
My godmother gave me a verse that was 
repeated on this 40th day in our daily readings,

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

{Fr. Roman Braga} ~ on dispassion

Father, do you think that the ascetic effort associated with the Prayer of the Heart should be the same for monks and for lay people?

The first step should be the Prayer, I mean the formula. If you repeatedly recite the Jesus Prayer, the rest comes naturally. Man cannot become dispassionate without falling on his knees and asking God for this grace, because everything comes by the grace of God. Attaining dispassion is not the result of personal effort, but it comes by the grace of God; so you must fall on your knees, see yourself as a sinner, and ask for God's help. Prayer and the purification of passions happen at the same time. I think that priority must be given to prayer. It is said that there is no pure prayer without first attaining dispassion. But I say that whether pure prayer or forced prayer, prayer must be the beginning of any spiritual work.
~Fr. Roman Braga, 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

{Fr. Roman Braga} ~ on "spirituality"

"And now, a few words on "spirituality", which you have repeatedly asked about. I live Orthodox spirituality through the liturgical cycles. I strongly believe that the Holy Spirit is in the Church. When I told you about the monks of Cemica and Condritsa, I was speaking about some great unknown men. There were among them great spiritual monastics whom no one knew about. I do not think "elders" are some "gurus" to whom people go to see them performing miracles or hanging on pillars or living as animals in the clefts of rocks. I think that true spiritual elders live in the discipline of the Church, in obedience and humility. The Spirit of God is in monasteries and in churches, together with the monks and priests incorporated in the monastic and liturgical life, not in isolated individuals. Monks are tempered like steel in humility and obedience. I know that there are people looking at them like wonder workers, anxious to see something miraculous, and they classify them as good or bad by how they "perform". There was a woman in Iasi who once came to Father Bartolomeu Dothan and asked me if he was a saint. I told her, "I do not know, madam." She replied, "The world says so." And I said, "It might be." And she said, "If he is a saint, why does he not perform some miracles?" She came to such a humble man to see miracles! I am not comfortable with this idea about the spiritual man. Spiritual men are not some spiritual elite, detached from the regular life of the Church. When we mention them, we say "St. Seraphim of Sarov". Sarov was a monastery. We speak of a man incorporated in a discipline. The same thing with our Romanian saints like "St. Chiriac of Taslau". Taslau is a monastery with a fixed discipline. "Iosif of Bisericani", another monastery, "Onofrei of Sihastria", "Paisie of Neamts", "Daniel the Hermit of Voronets", "Ghelasie of Rametsi"... all these are remembered by their monasteries which had a fixed discipline and rules; these men were incorporated into this discipline. The Spirit is there where the monastery is, where the Church is. Their spiritual exploits are obedience and community discipline."

~Fr. Roman Braga, 

Friday, May 22, 2015

{Fr. Roman Braga} ~ prayer is not formalistic or legalistic...

"First and foremost is the matter of prayer. 
You should realize that there is a great difference between Protestant and Orthodox beliefs about spiritual realization. Orthodoxy is not overly formalistic or legalistic; the accent is on living with Jesus Christ in your heart and feeling His presence at all times. Prayer doesn't mean you have to read a certain number of official prayers. The Phiokalic definition of prayer is the feeling of the presence of God in you heart, even if you don't say any words. You realize this state of prayer by a continue dialogue with our Lord."
~Fr. Roman Braga 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Strawberry Lemon Cake ~ Take 2 ~ with added lemon curd

I made this cake for the second time,
this time making it a layer cake.

A different yogurt,
not as thick I think, as the one I used before,
the Liberte brand that I 
can't find so far here
(though I did see it in Atlanta GA few years back!)...

It frothed after adding the baking soda...
I've tried and tried to think of where
I got this cake from;
I don't think I invented it myself but at the same time,
I remember thinking that the Liberte yogurt would be prefect for it,
and well.... where this recipe is from, I am unsure to be quite honest, 
I can say though that I made enough changes this time around,
that I am not afraid to call the recipe 'mine' either....

Once the strawberries (I used frozen ones this time around,
as I could not find fresh organic ones) were in,
the batter was fairly substantial... 

Before I continue my critique of 
this cake take two,
may I hasten to add that it was good
and my guests assured me that it was very good.
I am a bit of a culinary perfectionist but also
culinary cake searcher... 
The two cakes did not rise as much
as I thought they would and I wonder if the
baking soda in yogurt frothing-too-soon (?) was 
part of the reason... I could see myself
making up the 'add soda to yogurt' by myself back then
and I am going to experiment with this,
as I am looking for the
perfect strawberry lemon cake
and remember that the first time I made it,
it was really good.... 
I am thinking next time of adding the yogurt and soda differently,
and searching out recipes to see how others do yogurt cakes.
I am thinking next time of the frosting,
keeping the butter but making most or all of the milk
extra lemon juice as it was not as 'sweet-lemon zing' as the
original frosting... 

I added lemon curd to the middle.
Next time I will be a LOT more generous with the 
lemon curd, as my lemon and raspberry cake
that I made later,
with a LOT of lemon curd from the above bottle,
left over form this cake, was really quite good.
I would now say put about 1 cup of lemon curd here...

I did add a lot of lemon zest which was great... and 
it was so fun to put together!

The frosting was in a more liquid form and 
poured out beautifully over the cake... 

It was clearly waiting for strawberries to grace the 
top and sides of the cake!

Was really fun decorating it!

It was a beautiful finish to the meal
I had with my dear Australian friends, 
S&R and such a special meal and time spent!

I WILL (God willing of course) be making
this cake again!
and trying the yogurt-soda mix differently,
perhaps making double the batter for thicker cakes,
using more lemon curd and a thicker frosting...
or, for a change, a whipped cream on top
with fresh strawberries would also work well here... 

That's the fun of baking!
And it was a beautiful cake and the leftovers 
I must say held well and the flavours
deepened and it was a really lovely cake...