That Which is Bread

Why do you labor for that which is not bread? — Isaiah

Let my prayer arise

incense-and-iconWe may liken fasting to a burning coal and prayer to frankincense.
Neither has value without the other,
but together, the sweet savor of their incense fills the air.

— Abba Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor) in Orthodox Prayer Life

A fruitful Lent to all

Prayer Rope
If a man takes refuge from the tempest in this harbor,
will he not be saved?
If in his agony he kneels before this house of healing,
will he not be cured?
O Maker of all and Physician of the sick,
before I perish utterly,
save me, O Lord.

— Penitential sticheron for Lenten Sunday Vespers, Tone 4

A Lenten Challenge

prodigalson
This was first written with my own parish in mind, but I post it here with the thought that it might apply more widely.


A Lenten Challenge
During the Great Fast, the Church invites us to struggle harder and to pray more fervently for our salvation and spiritual growth. As part of its invitation, the Church offers us a wealth of services every week of the Fast to help us draw closer to our Lord. As anyone who attends these services can tell you, not all of us take advantage of them: attendance is often quite poor.
May I offer a challenge for this Lenten season? Come to at least one Lenten service every week of the Great Fast. (The Sunday Divine Liturgy isn’t really a Lenten service and doesn’t count!). Many, but not nearly all, of our faithful already do more than this. God will surely bless them for their faithfulness.
Anyone who can get to church has the ability to meet this very modest challenge. Do we tell ourselves that we’re “too busy” to fit in even one weekday service? Perhaps we have filled our lives with other activities, but in doing so we have said about each activity: “This is more important than church.” This is a delusion.
Here is a bonus challenge: Read the rest of this entry »

“The right to be unlimited”

Chagall Icarus
A recent commercial for Sprint’s digital data services is remarkable in a few ways — it includes the line “I need to upload all of me” — but I thought one line stood out as a kind of manifesto for the techno-humanist spirit of our age:

I need, no, I have the right to be unlimited.


The image is Marc Chagall’s The Fall of Icarus.

Weapon of peace

Soldier's CrossThe Kontakion to the Cross hails it as “Weapon of peace and unconquerable standard of victory.” These seemingly paradoxical words came to my mind as I read this remarkable story by Archimandrite Ambrose Pogodin from the current Orthodox Life (January-February 2013).Even though the story is long for a blog post, I give it here in full with the kind permission of the publisher, Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville NY. Do your soul a favor and subscribe to this edifying journal. (Subscribe here. $22 annually in the US.)


One of my parishioners told me the story of his cross. Here it is in his own words.
  I was born in the USSR. My father was the chairman of a kolhoz and my mother was a schoolteacher. My father was a Communist Party member, while my mother was a leader in the komsomol. I was raised in the spirit of materialism. My grandmother was the only religious one. When no one was at home, as we huddled together on the stove, she taught me to pray; and, to tell the truth, what she told me was much closer to my heart and understanding than that which I heard from my parents. My grandmother — who, as I later found out, baptized me without my parents’ knowledge — died when I was still quite young. Yet those few prayers that she had taught me remained etched in my memory for a long time, as among the few beautiful things that I chanced to experience in my younger years. Yes, perhaps these were the only beautiful things in my life.
Read the rest of this entry »

Timeless, timely

This poster, which ought to hang in every kitchen, was created in 1917 as part of an effort to encourage Americans to economize on the Home Front during the First World War. But the advice is good at any time.
Food Poster 1917
I’m not so sure about “Use less wheat,” but with everyone worrying about gluten sensitivities, who can say?

Source: The Kitchn

Wounded by the Gospel

NT Papyrus
Here are a few excerpts from a talk by Archpriest Alexei Uminsky, rector of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity in Moscow. Emphases added.


What is it that a priest normally asks someone about at Confession? “Have you read your morning and evening prayers? Have you kept the fasts? Have you prepared for Communion?” But the question of whether someone lives according to the Gospel is never asked! No one would even conceptualize it: neither priests, nor the people of God. But this is one of the very greatest problems in our church life. The Gospel has faded into the background, for understandable reasons. It’s very inconvenient to live with the Gospel; it’s very difficult for us to apply the words of the Gospel to ourselves. For whom are these words written? For whom are the words about the kind of faith that can move mountains written? For whom are these words written: Lord, bid me come unto Thee on the water [cf. Matthew 14:28]? We have a feeling, when reading the Gospel, that makes us say: This isn’t about us; this is written about someone else; this has nothing to do with us. But as soon as we decide that something in the Gospel has nothing to do with us, then we begin – step by step – to give up on the Gospel. Then the Gospel becomes just another kind of prayer rule for us. What we don’t understand in the least is that the Gospel is written for us, that we need to live according to it, that we need to measure ourselves by it. And we need to carry it out.
Read the rest of this entry »

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