Sunday, December 25, 2011

Blessed Feast of the Nativity!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

"And Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart"
Luke 2:9

The Christ Child's Lullaby

My love, my pride, my treasure oh
My wonder new and pleasure oh
My son, my beauty, ever You
Who am I to bear You here?

 The cause of talk and tale am I
The cause of greatest fame am I
The cause of proudest care on high
To have for mine, the King of all.

And though You are the King of all
They sent You to the manger stall
Where at Your feet they all shall fall
And glorify my child, the King.

There shone a star above three kings
To guide them to the King of kings
They held You in their humble arms
And knelt before You until dawn.

They gave You myrrh and gave You gold
Frankincense and gifts untold
They traveled far these gifts to bring
And glorify their new born King.

And in the Gaelic:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Death and Thanksgiving

"Jesus wept."  The shortest sentence in the Bible shows Jesus demonstrating some very human emotions as he wept before the tomb of His friend, Lazarus.  He wept because His friend was dead.  He wept because of the pain and grief felt by Lazarus' sisters and friends.  He wept because the wages of sin is death.

He wept, even though He knew that in just a moment, He would raise Lazarus from the dead, proclaiming His mighty power over death.

The death of friends and loved ones affects us all, even our Lord.  This morning, I awoke to the news that my friend Holly had passed away last night after a nearly two year battle with ALS.  There are so many things I could say about Holly, but mostly, when I think of her, I remember her kindness and her unbelievable ability to see the best in people.  Being the recovering pessimist that I am, this was always good to see.  She had a passion for sharing the Gospel with people, but she also had a passion for people.  She LOVED people.  She loved them with her words, with her deeds, with her beautiful singing voice.  She was an Optimist of the First Degree.

And this morning, she is wrapped in the arms of the Lord.  She is where she most wanted to be in this life: with God.  She has been made perfect.

I rejoice in this!

But I weep as well.  I weep because of sin.  I weep for her loved ones, her husband and young daughter who have to navigate the rest of this life without her.  I weep, even though  I KNOW that Holly is alive with Christ.  I know that I can ask for her prayers and that she prays even more perfectly now than she did in this life. I know that she has joined that Great Cloud of Witnesses.

I *hope* that I weep for the same reasons that Jesus wept.

I think that was never more human and yet more divine than when He wept before the tomb of Lazarus.  He felt such human emotions for divine reasons.  May it be like that for all of us!

Orthodox Christians all over the world sing the great Paschal proclamation year after year: "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs, bestowing Life."  The icon of the Resurrection depicts the shattered tombs of the departed under the feet of Jesus.  He stands upon them holding Adam and Eve firmly in His grasp, Satan bound and defeated in the darkness.

On this Thanksgiving holiday, I'm going to try and keep this image in my mind.  It would be easy to continue to weep at Holly's tomb, but I will try to remember this victorious icon and how this is now REALITY for my friend.

A blessed Thanksgiving to all and may Holly's memory be eternal!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


"As an Orthodox Christian, I do not want to come out as a proponent of Halloween since it is not an Orthodox feast I feel the need to defend. The reason I am trying to bring some awareness of the truth about Halloween is because as an Orthodox Christian I believe it is my duty to speak the truth and expose error in a spirit of love and concern, especially when other Orthodox are spreading these lies out of ignorance. Halloween is a part of our society and especially of our children's lives, and an answer from an Orthodox Christian perspective is needed. It does not help our Christian witness in the world to distort information to make our message sound better. In fact, it does just the opposite and I believe those capable of discovering the truth will be judged for disseminating lies which are unfounded. We have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and truth to be above propagating errors. It is the proclamation of the truth which brings freedom and respect, and a pure heart which makes all things pure."
~John Sandinopoulos, Mystagogy, Halloween: Separating Fact From Fiction, emphasis mine

So... every single year, the Christian blogosphere comes alive again with blog posts about how Christians shouldn't participate in Halloween because it is "pagan" or because it "celebrates a culture of death".

I confess- this drives me crazy.

Personally, I'm wary of using the genetic fallacy to argue anything...

Normally, I pretty much keep quiet and go on my merry way.  Occasionally, I link to awesome articles on Halloween, written by Christians I admire and respect that address some of the issues that the community has with this totally secular, market-driven, non-holiday.

This year, I decided to educate myself a little more by asking some questions of my BFF- a former-Christian-turned-Pagan.  

The purpose of this interview is to share information.  I am not, in any way, promoting paganism.  Obviously, as an Orthodox Christian, I would take issue with that worldview and religious practice, but I still believe in the freedom of all to follow their conscience.  My purpose is pretty much summed up in the quote at the top of this blog.  Please, please read this post in the spirit of which I intend it.

Some of the links I provide below confirm what Anne says in this interview, so if you're in doubt, check out the links. 

And now, the interview:

Genevieve: Do pagans celebrate Halloween? 
Anne: No.  Pagans celebrate a number of Holidays, depending on what their tradition is.  I'm a Celtic Wiccan, and I celebrate Samhain (pronounced Sow-an).  Halloween is indeed a version of All Hallows Eve, which was a Christian holiday.  Children would go door to door begging for cakes in exchange for prayers.  Not very Pagan.

Okay, then what do pagans celebrate on this day?
For my tradition, this is the third Harvest Festival.  It is when our ancestors would have slaughtered animals to be prepared for the Winter.  It's also when we mark the change of Seasons.  We see life as a series of cycles.  Winter is the death cycle.  Not only is the earth resting, but in the olden days, it was likely that people would die, too.  It was cold and people needed to survive.  Today we still thank the Gods for the gifts of the harvest, acknowledge that the earth is going into it's rest or death phase and ask for the protection of the Gods through the Winter.

How old is this festival?
Samhain is mentioned in Irish literature from the 10th Century.  But it was a Druidic practice that is likely much much older.  Considering that most Pagan religions have holidays which are based quite a bit on the Earth and it's changes, I think it's likely that such festivals have gone on as long as people knew to be thankful, and scared.

What are some of the activities that you and other pagans will be engaging in on this day?
My family and I will be having a celebration. This is an example of something we might do:

(Genevieve's Note: If you click on the link, please be aware that the "Dark Mother" and "Dark Father" are symbols for actual darkness, not Satan or demons or anything of the sort.)

Do these rituals have anything to do with Satan or Satanism?
Absolutely not!  When Christians look at the world, they see the many gifts given by God, inherent in everything.  We see that too.  We just see the Powers that give it a bit differently.  We believe that everything that was given by the Gods has the mark of the divine upon it, and thus should be treated with respect.  We strive to bring ourselves into harmony with the earth in order to bring ourselves closer to Deity.

Are there any similarities between Samhain and the American cultural day called Halloween?
Not really.  The only reason they're connected is because they occur close together, and because the idea of the Witch is something that was taken by the Church many many years ago, and changed into something scary.  There are so many reasons for that, and they're all basically political.  That scary witch idea became associated with Halloween over time, and so people think that real Witches celebrate it.  We don't.  At least not as a religious holiday.

Where does "trick or treat" come from?  Is that pagan?
Nope.  Again, Christian.  Like I said earlier, Christian children would go door to door begging cakes in exchange for prayers.  Demonic, isn't it?

 As a pagan, are you troubled by some of the images that society has imposed on your religion?  The nasty green witch?  The bubbling cauldron?  Blood and guts everywhere?  This IS a pagan holiday afterall, even if what we think of as Halloween doesn't look much or anything like Samhain.  Do you feel that society has hijacked this day and turned it into something commercial and ridiculous?
Halloween doesn't bother me.  But I did see a Satan costume accessory pack which included a pentacle and that kind of annoyed me.  The pentacle is a symbol of peace often worn and used by Pagans, and has nothing to do with the devil.  The image of the witch has been hijacked over time, and that does bother me.  At the same time many witches love to sort of take it back.  Our sisters from the past were usually either not witches at all, but Christian women who were too knowledgeable for their own good, or they were women who tried to preserve the old traditions and knowledge, and were tortured and murdered for their beliefs.  There's a certain power in taking back those ideas.

Why do you think Christians fear Halloween so much?
I think most people don't know the History and/or don't understand it.  It's so much easier to fear than to learn.  

What would you like to say to any Christians reading this blog who might have an issue with their children participating in some Halloween activities because these activities as having pagan origins?
I would tell them that the origins of Halloween are Christian, not Pagan.  But that there's a bigger picture here.  Whether one is Pagan or Christian, surely you can see the handiwork of God in the changing seasons.  You can use any time to thank him for the gifts of the harvest, and want protection for the coming Winter.  There are a limited number of symbols in the world.  The symbol matters less than what it symbolizes.  So, participating in Halloween won't make your child Pagan anymore than visiting a Cathedral would make me a Christian

Thanks Anne!

Ultimately, I think it is up to each Christian family to determine what they are going to do on this day.  Personally, we will be celebrating my birthday and going trick-or-treating.  We don't decorate our homes with ghoulish decorations but we don't hand out Bible tracts either.  So I guess you would say we are middle of the road.  As you can see from Anne's interview, there isn't really anything done by your average kid on Halloween that is part of a pagan religious practice.

A few more thought-provoking blogs on Halloween:

Halloween- An Orthodox Approach

The Truth About Halloween 

Forgive me, a sinner.

The Crazy

So... if you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll probably have surmised that I'm crazy.  I suffer from clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.  There are days when I feel great and days when I don't really want to get out of bed.  Sometimes, stressful situations bring out the best in me.  Sometimes, even the smallest mistake can send me into a frenzy.

I spend most days feeling perfectly normal, as though I've conquered the illness.  I start thinking maybe the sadness and anxiety are behind me.  After all, I'm not checking the local news stations to see if I've hit anyone while driving without realizing it and driving away.  I'm not constantly looking up heart attack symptoms on the internet to see whether or not my chest pains are going to kill me.  I trust the memory I have of closing the garage door and I don't worry about whether or not I'm going to come home and find my house vandalized.

So, the crazy must be behind me, right?

I've found in recent months that I still obsess about something pretty much all the time.  Sometimes the obsessions can be positive.  For example, I recently started reading a series of books that are incredibly awesome and for a while, that was all I could think about.  For a few weeks, I read any spare moment I could to the neglect of housework and the abandonment of children to the cartoon.  I visited an art museum, saw 18th century art and thought about the clothes my characters were wearing.  I talked to friends.  I posted about it on Facebook.

And THAT, is a manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I have my other worries- the ones that constantly plague me.  They never go away.  They are always with me- the thoughts sound out over and over and over again.  I want to lay them aside.  I want to pray them away.  I know its possible.

But to tell you the truth, I am weary of myself.  I'm tired of being crazy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Review: The Queen and the Cats

I am so excited to review this beautiful new children's book, The Queen and the Cats: A Story of St. Helena, written by Calee Lee and illustrated by Turbo Qualls.

The Queen and the Cats tells a little known, but very true story of how St. Helena brought a piece of the True Cross to Cyprus.  At that time, all the churches and monasteries had been infested by snakes and people could not worship in those places.  St. Helena famously sent a boat full of cats back to Cyprus and the cats took care of the problem.

That's the adult version of the story.

This book, however, is told through the eyes of a little girl, watching all the excitement unfold. The story isn't watered down at all.  The illustrations are beautiful and vibrant.   Children's books so often flourish in one area or the other: either the story is watered down, but the book has great pictures, or its the other way around.  The Queen and the Cats is a wonderful blend of both.

In the back of the book, there is a small biography of St. Helena, along with the Troparion of her Feast day and a photograph of the True Cross which St. Helena left on Cyprus centuries ago.  I really appreciated this little addendum, especially as a homeschooling mom, because I can read this story, which almost seems so outrageous that its almost unreal, and the turn around and explain to my children that this is a TRUE story and that God worked a miracle through St. Helena's ingenuity and her love of the people of Cyprus.

Run, don't walk, to get this book off of Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  It is the first in what will hopefully be a long line of affordable Orthodox children's books published by Xist Publishing.  It is available for $4.99 on Kindle and $11.99 for a soft cover copy.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Who Is Jesus?

I was reminded about a poem written by Mother Teresa which has both convicted my heart and brought me much comfort:

Who Is Jesus to Me?

Jesus is the Word made Flesh.
Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross.
Jesus is the Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass
For the sins of the world and mine.
Jesus is the Word- to be spoken.
Jesus is the Truth- to be told.
Jesus is the Way- to be walked.
Jesus is the Light- to be lit.
Jesus is the Life- to be lived.
Jesus is the love- to be loved.
Jesus is the Joy- to be shared.
Jesus is the Sacrifice- to be offered.
Jesus is the Peace- to be given.
Jesus is the Bread of Life- to be eaten
Jesus is the Hungry- to be fed.
Jesus is the Thirsty- to be satiated.
Jesus is the Naked- to be clothed.
Jesus is the Homeless- to be taken in.
Jesus is the Sick- to be healed.
Jesus is the Lonely- to be loved.
Jesus is the Unwanted- to be wanted.
Jesus is the Leper- to wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggar- to give him a smile.
Jesus is the Drunkard- to listen to him.
Jesus is the Retarded- to protect him.
Jesus is the Little One- to embrace him.
Jesus is the Blind- to lead him.
Jesus is the Dumb- to speak for him.
Jesus is the Crippled- to walk with him.
Jesus is the Drug Addict- to befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostitute- to remove from danger and befriend.
Jesus is the Prisoner- to be visited.
Jesus is the Old- to be served.

To me-
Jesus is my God.
Jesus is my Spouse.
Jesus is my Life.
Jesus is my only Love.
Jesus is my All in All.
Jesus is my Everything.

Jesus, I love with my whole heart, with my whole being.  I have given  Him all, even my sins, and He has espoused me to Himself in tenderness and love.  Now and for life, I am the spouse of my Crucified spouse.


This poem personifies what it means to be a Christian.  We must see the face of Jesus in EVERYONE, even our worst enemy, even the person that society has written off.  And we must humble ourselves and serve those people.

Because He IS "the least of these..."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Υπεραγία Θεοτόκε σώσον ημάς!

O You Apostles from far off,
Being gathered together in the village of Gethsemane
Lay my body in burial
And You, my Son, and my God, 
Receive now my spirit from me.

You are the sweetness of Angels
The gladness of the afflicted ones
A protection of all Christians
O Virgin Mother of our Lord;
Grant now me help and save me
From eternal torments

I have you as Mediator
Before God who loves mankind;
May He not question my action
Before the hosts of the Angels
I ask of you, O Virgin,
Hasten now quickly to my aid.

You are a tower adorned with gold
A city surrounded by twelve walls
A shining throne touched by the sun
A royal seat for the King
O unexplainable wonder,
How do you nurse the Master?

What a blessed night of prayer!  I've tried to put my thoughts and feelings into words.  They are totally inadequate.

Υπεραγία Θεοτόκε σώσον ημάς!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us!