What does this mean?

I’ve been ordering study materials off of Amazon to help me understand Orthodoxy better. I’m researching icons and the meaning behind; this and that. One item I thought was particularly interesting was this cross.

San Damiano Crucifix from Monastery Icons

It is quite colorful. Everything about it tells us a story about the passion of Christ. It circles back around from the foretelling of what is to come; the angels holding the items to be used in the crucifixion of Christ are also featured in the icon of Mary; ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Help’. Since these instruments of the crucifixion are held in the hands of angels, we are shown that this is in the hands of God, not men. I’m going to stop right there and not tell you more about it because discovering these truths for ourselves is so much more powerful than having them spoon fed to us. Please click on this LINK to read more about the imagery used on this icon. This cross, in any size, would make a great gift this Christmas/Nativity season. It’s so easy to just give mindlessly during the holidays. As Christians, it is wholly appropriate to give gifts during the holidays that represent, and help us to reflect on, who Christ is, what He did for us, and that will help us draw nearer to Him- and thus further away from the destructive things of this world.

I am not receiving any sort of kickback from Amazon, or this website, by promoting this cross. I just think it would make a lovely gift for so many people for so many reasons. When I give them this year, I’m going to include the information on what the symbols mean so that those who receive them can have a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and what He has and still is, doing for us.

Eight inch cross for wall-LINK

Three and four eighths inch cross necklace (or can hang in car, office cubicle, etc.) LINK

Nine inch cross on stand LINK

Some of the crosses full depict every image on the Brigantine cross mentioned at the beginning of this article, some do not. I believe, however, that any of them would a blessing to the receiver as well as the giver.

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A little self examination

ild mary of egypt is an icon of repentance and
Icon of Repentance, St. Mary of Egypt

No, I’m not talking about the physical self examinations we are all encouraged to perform on ourselves. I am referring to spiritual, soul focused, self examination. This is so important for Christians. Rather than excuse, or pray away, bad behaviors how about being willing to give them up? How about trading in your life of sin as-a-Christian, and reclaiming the glory of God through repentance? Here is a soulful look at the Ten Commandments where the penitent self examiner is asking of themselves how well they have adhered to each commandment.  This is taken from the: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Arch Diocese website. LINK

Self Examination Before Confession

First Commandment

Have I believed in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Have I failed to trust in God and his mercy? Have I complained against God in adversity? Have I been thankful for God’s blessings? Have I doubted the Christian faith and the teachings of the Church? Have I tried to serve God and keep His Commandments? Have I given way to superstition? Have I frequented the religious meetings of heretics and schismatics? Have I neglected my duties to God through fear of ridicule or persecution? Have I failed to pray to God faithfully? Have I put myself before God?

Second Commandment

Have I made an idol of any person or thing? Have I given to anyone or anything the worship that is due to God alone? Have I set before myself the holy life of Jesus and tried to imitate Him? Have I read the Holy Scriptures regularly? Have I been irreverent during Church Services, let my attention wander, or been insincere? Have I neglected to receive Holy Communion regularly or without due preparation?

Third Commandment

Have I profaned the holy name of God in any way? Have I cursed anyone or anything, or sworn a false oath? Have I failed to give proper reverence to holy persons and things? Have I had due respect for the clergy of the Church, or hindered them in performing God’s work? Have I broken any solemn vow or promise? Have I entered into any unlawful contract or made an unlawful promise?

Fourth Commandment

Have I stayed away from Church on Sundays or prevented others from going? Have I done unnecessary work on Sundays? Have I spent the day in unwholesome fashion or profaned it by improper conduct? If I could not go to Church because of illness or other grave cause, have I prayed at home? Have I caused anyone else to profane the Lord’s Day? Have I kept the Fasts and Festivals prescribed by the Church?

Fifth Commandment

Have I respected my parents and been obedient to them? Have I been guilty of deception, or caused them pain by my words or actions? Have I neglected them or failed to help them? Have I done my duty towards my family? Have I been wanting in love or kindness towards my husband (or wife), or harmed him (or her) in any way? Have I set my children a good example and tried to bring them up properly? Have I corrected their faults with patience and not with anger? Have I over-indulged or spoiled them? Have I neglected my god-children and failed in my obligations towards them? Have I worked for my employers honestly and diligently? Have I treated fairly all those who have worked for me? Have I honored God as my Heavenly Father by treating others as my brothers, and have I honored the Church as my spiritual Mother by honoring and practicing my religion in accordance with her teachings?

Sixth Commandment

Have I caused the injury or death of any one, or wished that I were dead? Have I done anything to shorten my own life or that of someone else by injuring health, or through evil and intemperate living? Have I given way to anger, or harmed others with words or actions? Have I defamed others who needed help, or failed to stand up for those unjustly treated? Have I been cruel to anyone? Have I mistreated animals or destroyed any life unnecessarily? Have I failed to forgive anyone or harbored evil thoughts against them?

Seventh Commandment

Have I given way to impure thoughts, words, or deeds? Have I committed any unworthy actions alone or with others? Have I degraded myself in any way, or forgotten human dignity? Have I read immoral books or magazines, or delighted in obscenity of any kind? Have I associated with bad companions or frequented unsavory places? Have I eaten or drunk or smoked too much? Have I been lazy, idle, or wasted my time? Have I led others to commit sinful acts? Have I been unfaithful to any trust confided in me?

Eighth Commandment

Have I stolen anything or wished to do so? Have I kept anything that did not belong to me? Have I tried honestly to find owners of lost articles I have found? Have I paid my debts? Have I lived within my income, and not wastefully and extravagantly? Have I given to charitable causes in proportion to my means? Have I been honest and upright?

Ninth Commandement

Have I told lies, or added to or subtracted from the truth? Have I made careless statements or spoken evil of anyone? Have I told any secrets entrusted to me, or betrayed anyone? Have I gossiped about anyone or harmed their reputation? Have I concealed the truth, assisted in carrying out a lie, or pretended to commit a sin of which I was not guilty? Have I tried to see the good in others rather than their shortcomings?

Tenth Commandment

Have I envied anything good that has come to others? Have I been jealous of another’s good fortune? Have I wished for anything that was another’s? Have I damaged or destroyed the property of others? Have I wished for things God has not given me, or been discontented with my lot? Have I been stingy? Have I held back anything due another? Have I hoped for the downfall of anyone so that I might gain by it? Have I failed to be gracious and generous to anyone? Have I expected God to give me that which I would refuse one of my fellow men?

A word on fasting

Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus, called the abbot Hilarion to see him. A portion of fowl was set before them and the bishop invited the abbot to eat. The old man said, “Forgive me, Father, but since the time I took this habit I have never eaten anything that has been killed.”

And Epiphanius said to him, “And from the time I took this habit I have let no man sleep who has anything against me, and neither have I slept holding anything against anyone.”

And the old man said to him, “Forgive me, Father, for your way of life is greater than mine” (The Sayings of the Fathers).

christicon

While I am not a baby christian, I AM a baby Orthodox Christian. None of the churches I went to really spoke too much about fasting because they took the, ‘don’t talk about your fast’ phrase a bit too literal. The Orthodox Fathers have quite a bit to say about fasting, among other important things, so let’s listen to their wisdom!

One of the denominations I explored oh-so-briefly during my spiritual travels was the Anglican church. It was here that I first heard about people fasting from meat because it was good for the environment and good Christians don’t eat meat (according to their bishop). What?!   God made all of creation for man to enjoy… even if that meant putting some of those created things into a stew pot to be eaten later.

For the holy fathers taught us to be killers of passions and not killers of the body. Partake of everything that is permissible with thanksgiving, to the glory of God and to avoid boastful arrogance; but refrain from every excess (The Monks Callistus and Ignatius, 14th c., Directions to Hesychasts).

As we approach the 40 day Nativity Fast, it’s a good idea to take a look at why we fast. Do we do it to boast of our devotion to creation? The created things, or do we do it with humility before God? Search your heart for your true reasons behind your actions. God knows everything. We can hide nothing from Him. Make sure your motivations are pure.

Lord have mercy

Orthodox Christianity for Absolute Beginners

Someone near and dear to me has been diagnosed with a very invasive and aggressive cancer. They go to their first chemo appointment on Thursday.

It’s been a theological as well as physical struggle for them due to the false teachings of many modern churches that what Jesus did on the cross canceled out sickness, poverty, suffering and death. This is NOT biblical and yet these theological lies continue to permeate Christianity destroying people when they come against hard times because they have not learned the truth about such things.

For now, there is a great deal of hand holding, prayer, and tears in my life. It’s all ok because even better than all of that is the comfort and joy we receive through the Spirit of God. God walks us through the valley of the shadow of death, and we fear no evil for He is with us. Amen.

Lord have mercy.

A comforting dream

Yesterday was a particularly difficult day. I was trying to decide if I should continue to attend my local Orthodox Church. I asked God for a sign to let me know that what I was doing was ok.  He sent to me a beautiful, comforting dream. I dreamt that I was participating in a Divine Liturgy celebrating Mary. Everything was covered in gold. In the in between spaces of the icons painted on the walls there was gold leaf. Everything that you would normally see as bare wood in a church was covered in gold. It was almost blinding. It was beautiful, warm, inviting and comforting. I’ve decided to continue to go to church.

(Update: I am to be baptized on Pentecost!)

Lord have mercy.

Do you pray prayers of repentance?

repentanceiconO Heavenly King and Psalm 51 (Psalm of Repentance)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!

O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere and fillest all things; Treasury of Blessings, and Giver of Life – come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us. (3x)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

O most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, cleanse us from our sins. O Master, pardon our transgressions. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy. (3x)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Lord, have mercy. (12x)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Come! Let us worship God, our King!
Come! Let us worship and fall down before Christ, our King and our God!
Come! Let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and our God!

A PSALM OF REPENTANCE (Psalm 51)
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy steadfast love; according to Thy abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.
Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified in Thy sentence and blameless in Thy judgment.
Behold! I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold! Thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice.
Hide Thy face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation and uphold me with a willing Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways and sinners will return to Thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of Thy deliverance.
O Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise.
For Thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, Thou wouldst not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
Do good to Zion in Thy good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then wilt Thou delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on Thy altar.

That we should no longer be children

sermononthemounticon

Ephesians 4:14-19 (Epistle)

14
that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

Wow, has my view of the Orthodox Church changed in the last few weeks since I have been reading upon it, listening to podcasts, and attending catechism classes as well as the various services offered by my church. The more I learn the more I realize how far off track modern church has gone from the original model of church. I feel as though I have gone from darkness into the Light… the Light of Christ. I’ve had so many, ‘ah-ha’ moments.

I went to vespers last night. I never thought I’d ever venerate an icon of, Mary and yet… there I was with tears in my eyes lighting a candle for my sister at our Icon of Mary. Now, when I do go to church and greet the icons, it’s as if I am saying  ‘hello’ to family members. I get so emotional. Every time I walk into church, it’s like a family reunion. I’ve missed them, missed being in church.

Last night, a 9 month old baby was a bit fussy. I don’t know what was going on, maybe he was teething. He was crying half heartedly and sounded as if he was in pain. When his mother carried him over to the icon of, Jesus that sits in the Narthex, he start bouncing up and down in her arms and making happy noises at it. I get it buddy… I get it.

Lord have mercy.

Freedom vs. entrapment

Every morning, my husband and I wake up, get out of bed, go to the living room, drink coffee, eat breakfast, read, and pray. Lately, I’ve been reading the daily bible verses offered by the website; Orthodox Church in America. Not only do they offer daily bible reading, but also information on what feasts are being celebrated and the saints and martyrs being honored for the day. It’s a bit of biblical history with breakfast and I love it. Here is today’s reading which reminds us that Christianity is a walk toward Christ and away from sin. Why not spend the day, or the next few days, looking at your life through the lens of these bible verse I’ve posted below to see where you could do some clean up work? Not allowing poison into your life is so much better than trying to fight it once it has entered you.

Galatians 5:11-21 (Epistle)

11
And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.
12
I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
13
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
14
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
15
But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
16
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
17
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
18
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
20
idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
21
envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.