Thursday, March 14, 2019

First Thursday in Lent 2019 ~ wonderful box of books, service and sunlight

I finished my L'Engle re-read... it's not as deep as the Ring of Endless Light...
I remember reading this book years ago... L'Engle was very important to me esp.
in my 20's... before I was Orthodox or knew of the Orthodox Church, L'Engle was
one who helped me a lot in my growing up years which I see as my early 20s...
I remember feeling very Mothered by her books in that time in my life...
I had left home but I still went home for Christmas and had not yet had to support myself
by working full time and having my own place, etc... 
I find I often read L'Engle when I am in the midst of some type of change... 
I am trying to write more (though I don't think I will get back to this until next week)
and in general feel like I am in some sort of change... 
These books came today (I do my church bookstore for my far-away church):

The 2 books on the right are for the bookstore,
the two on the left I get a copy of as well :)

The above book, 
Words of the Heart is one that I was so excited to get!
Gerondissa means Abbess in Greek, FYI.  
Her life story, at the beginning of this book, is pretty 
mind-blowing.  Her spiritual experiences and desire to be a nun since age 7
are very beautiful and unusual for most of us, certainly myself
but it is wonderful to read of her; I can feel the Greek Woman's Monasteries
I have been to when I read this book... it's a real blessing and to have a book
about a female monastic and her homilies (teachings she told her nuns; an Abbess being 
the head of a group of nuns who make up the Monastery) are going to be such a joy to read!
I am really excited about this book!
So, about tonight and the last 3 nights of Lent before tonight...
The Canon of St Andrew of Crete is traditionally done for the
first 4 days of Lent, Clean Monday-Thursday.
I thought I would write a little bit about this Canon as I know a lot of my 
readers (or at least the ones who comment the most! (Hi dear friends!!!)) 
may not be familiar with these prayers.
Like a lot of my Orthodox memories, I can't really remember a lot about when 
I was first aware of the Canon of St Andrew of Crete.
I remember it most from my Ottawa years. 
As my priest here local to us in NJ explains,
the Canon of St Andrew of Crete was a text that St Andrew wrote
for himself, to urge himself to greater repentance. 
As my Husband was talking about last week, when he and I were talking to
some people who were searching but not yet Christians,
and were asking when one would know that they were a Saint,
we basically said they probably would not know this as much as they
would be deeply aware of their own sinfulness as the closer you are to God,
the more one see's one's own sin; my Husband quickly explained
that when you compare yourself to other people, 
you may think you are doing fine but when you compare yourself to God,
to Perfection, you cease to see yourself in the same light;
so the closer you are to God, the more one is aware of their own
sinfulness, how, like the parable of the Prodigal Son, they know they are
unworthy to be called a son or daughter of God; 
St Andrew of Crete wrote this beautiful canon (it's like praying exquisite poetry)
using TONS of Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments in the Bible,
to try to wake himself up to his own deep sinfulness, to bring himself
to greater repentance.  
There is a story (I can't remember who right now, Ortho-folk reading this,
I would LOVE to be reminded of who this was, so please chime in if you can/have time)...
back to the story, of a Saint, a Monk (?) who was dying and asked God for more
time because he felt he had not even begun to repent.... 
This understanding of repentance is really important to being able to 
understand the Canon of St Andrew of Crete...
why he would say he was worse than the worst sinners in the Bible,
that he had not even begun to repent...
it's a deep searing look at his soul, seeing his own spiritual poverty and
spiritual infirmity... and it is poetry that washes over one and brings, 
as my local priest said today, the spirit of Lent to us,
opens the door to our Lenten Journey... 
If you want to read the whole Canon of St Andrew of Crete, you can do so here or here.
A really wonderful book, that has the canon on one side and 
commentary/thoughts to ponder/deep insight on the other side,
is Fredrica Matthewes-Green's book 
which I own, have read and can highly recommend...
I still have fond memories of the Lent I read this in Ottawa and talking
with my dear Ottawa priest who was my spiritual father for 7 years before I 
married my Husband... what precious time that was! 
It's really a lovely book and I can recommend it to anyone,
Fredrica Matthewes-Green is a wonderful writer, very practical, clear, accessible! 
She has been a writer for many years and has been an Orthodox Christian for 
decades now and is a priest's wife as well, so she has lots of experience within the church...
and communicates in a way that you know you can be understood and can understand her...
Anyway, it's a great book, I recommend it!
Here are two bits of the Canon that I especially noticed tonight and wanted to share with you:

Venerable Mother Mary above is actually not the Mother of God but
of St Mary of Egypt, whose story (long story short)
is that she was a sin-loving prostitute who tried to go to church
to venerate the Cross of Christ and was not able to enter the church,
a invisible spiritual force would not allow her to enter; after she realized 
what was happening she begged the Mother of God for help and that she 
wanted to change her life; she could enter the church and was baptized and 
lived in the desert of Egypt weeping over her sins for decades and was taught by God
and found by a holy Monk who was overcome by her holiness and brought her Communion
the next Lent (he found her in the desert where he was practicing Lent as a Monk) and the 
Lent after this found her passed away and with the help of a Lion he buried her
and told the story of her life, as she had told him 2 Lents before.
Saint Mary of Egypt is such a beloved Saint that the 5th Sunday of Lent is dedicated to her.
Remember, we view the Saints as those in Heaven who can pray to Christ for us...
it's similar to how we would ask a Christian friend or a Christian Mother or Godmother
to pray for us.... those who have died are alive in Christ and are around His throne
and can intercede for us. 
It is all because of Christ's Resurrection and Ascension... 
This can be pretty odd sounding to those who are either not Christians or
who are Christians in one of the Protestant Christian traditions but it is 
a pretty organic normal way of seeing how in Christ we are always together
and that asking the Saints for their help, their prayers, has been happening since
the times of the very early church... 

And the prayers above show how it all comes back to Christ 
and asking for His mercy... His help, His salvation.... 

I love being in church for this first week of Lent...

A dear local friend dropped off some vegan banana bread with dries cherries
tonight! You know I am excited for this!! Hello wonderful Saturday morning
breakfast with Mr Husband! I am already dreaming of it!
So nice!  I am excited... 
Well, I better get going... I need to get up on time as DV (Lord willing) our
first presanctified liturgy is tomorrow night!!!
I LOVE these. 
But I will be fasting from noon on so I need to get up on time 
so I get enough food + liquid,
some who are spiritually (and physically) stronger fast from after breakfast
but that is not myself and that's fine.
Praying that God's love is experienced in your daily struggles
and that whatever may be going on right now,
you know of God's faithfulness to you, 
no matter how dark and difficult it may be.
Hold on, the Lord Jesus loves you and wants your salvation...


Granny Marigold said...

Isn't it wonderful that we can be comforted and mothered even by some authors? Like you I reread those special 'friends' every so often.
I like the title of the one book you have pictured... Tending the Garden of our Hearts I think it is. I hope the book is as good as the title. You'll have to mention if you enjoyed reading it.

Pilgrim said...

Frederica Mathewes-Green’s writing has helped so many. I am looking forward to the interview Cynthia Damaskos did with her, for I think it will be posted this coming Sunday, and relates to her book on the Canon of St. Andrew. By the way, I think subscribing to My Beautiful Lent during Orthodox Lent is a real encouragement.

elizabeth said...

Granny Marigold, I have looked at the Tending the Garden of our Hearts, it focus seems to be for families with children but can be used by anyone who is seeking to grow. It is has themes within it of prayer, of Orthodoxy (about the Orthodox church), almsgiving, humility. There are stories that help people ponder the theme. It's a nice book. My only wish is that they had made the font bigger, as I think it is a bit small for us who are getting older or have bad vision. That said, I can still read it (I have a cataract even though I am young so I am quite aware of vision issues).

Life in the Slow Lane - thanks for the info! :) Yes, F M-G books have helped many!!!

Cosette said...

Hello! Can someone tell me were to find Gerondissa Makrina's book ( word of the heart english copy). Can be purchased from mount athos or place near to it?

elizabeth said...

Cosette: you can buy it here: