Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christ is born!
Life has been a whirlwind. The choir survived, tired and sore, but we made it. Our choir director gave us little baby socks filled with candy, and each with a tiny "hand-made" icon, actually prints glued on, but really neat. We had our traditional Holy Night Supper(thanks to Mimi for the link)on the eve of Nativity. I made a lenten shepherd's pie. Matushka provided the garlic and honey, which we found last year is best not to have on an empty stomach. There was also the traditional kutya(koliva). Three of the boys went around for everyone to wash their hands from a silver pitcher and basin. Father blessed a loaf of bread and broke it and passed it around for everyone to share. We sang traditional Christmas carols. After that most headed to the church for the vigil.
After the vigil I was able to talk to my family in California, and opened up the packages they sent. I knew I wouldn't be able to talk to them on Sunday, since I had to go to work after church. Sunday morning I was startled out of sleep by the sound of tree branches falling on my roof at 6am! There was a wind storm that brought trees down and knocked out power. My neighbor, Eugenie, made a joke that it was the sound of our deacon falling out of his bed in her guest room.
Sunday after liturgy we broke the fast together with sausage, cheese and Christmas cookies. Cookies which I helped Matushka Thea and the kids bake earlier that week. We all talked about the extent of our power outages and littering of tree limbs. An elderly former-Episcopalian disappeared and reappeared as Santa Claus. I took pictures before leaving for work. Work was quiet, a lot of the patients were out with family. One family member's car was totalled by a tree falling on it during the storm.
I baby-sat Father and Matuska's three kids. We played "Clue", played with "Thomas" trains, and read Dr Seuss. Nilus told me I wasn't his friend anymore, later on he kissed me on the nose.
I've been spending a lot of late nights at work, seems to be the time of year that everyone is sick.

Blessings of the feast!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

and a new post thanks to mimi...

What Beatle are you?

John Lennon

You enjoy poetry, painting & a fine wine. A lover not a fighter.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

A fellow nurse handed me a small wrapped package and said, "I thought you'd appreciate this more than anybody else."

Look at what was inside! She bought it for me when she was on a cruise in Alaska earlier this year, when they stopped in Sitka. They were in Sitka at the same time that the Sitka Icon of the Mother of God was here in Seattle. Anyways, this was a really special gift. I've been really tired and struggling at work. There's just been a lot going on.

I've been feeling this overwhelming sense of the incarnation of Christ, how amazing our God is. I love the Orthodox hymnography that reflects this so beautifully.

From the Royal Hours:

He is our God:
There is no other to compare with Him.
Born of a virgin, He comes to live with men.
The only-begotten Son appears as a mortal man.
He rests in a lowly manger.
The Lord of Glory is wrapped in swaddling clothes.
A star leads the wise men to worship Him,
and with them we sing:
O Holy Trinity, save our souls!

[Third hour, tone 6]

Before Thy birth, O Lord,
The hosts of angels already perceived the mystery.
They were struck with wonder and trembled,
For Thou who didst adorn the heavens with stars
Art now well-pleased to be born as a babe.
Thou holdest the ends of the earth in Thy hands,
But now Thou art laid in a manger of dumb beasts.
Yet all these things fulfilled Thy saving plan,
By which Thy compassion was reavealed to us.
O Christ of great mercy, glory to Thee!

[Third hour, tone 8]

Listen, O heaven! Give ear, O earth!
Let the foundations of the earth be shaken!
Let trembling seize the regions beneath the earth,
For our God and Creator has clothed Himself in created flesh;
He fashioned all creation, yet reveals Himself in the womb of her that He formed.
O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How incomprehensible are His judgements;
and how unsearchable are His ways!

[Sixth hour, tone 4]

Today He who holds the whole creation in His hand is born of a virgin.
He whose essence none can touch is bound in swaddling-clothes as a mortal man.
God, who in the beginning fashioned the heavens, lies in a manger.
He who rained manna on His people in the wilderness is fed on milk from His mother's breast.
The Bridegroom of the Church summons the wise men;
The Son of the virgin accepts their gifts.
We worship Thy birth, O Christ.
We worship Thy birth, O Christ.
We worship Thy birth, O Christ.
Show us also Thy Holy Theophany.

[Ninth hour, tone 6]

Monday, December 19, 2005

a little T.S. Eliot for you...

The Cultivation of Christmas Trees

There are several attitudes towards Christmas,

Some of which we may disregard:

The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,

The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),

And the childish - which is not that of the child

For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel

Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree

Is not only a decoration, but an angel.

The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:

Let him continue in the spirit of wonder

At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;

So that the glittering rapture, the amazement

Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,

So that the surprises, delight in new possessions

(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),

The expectation of the goose or turkey

And the expected awe on its appearance,

So that the reverence and the gaiety

May not be forgotten in later experience,

In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,

The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,

Or in the piety of the convert

Which may be tainted with a self-conceit

Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children

(And here I remember also with gratitude

St.Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):

So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas

(By "eightieth" meaning whichever is last)

The accumulated memories of annual emotion

May be concentrated into a great joy

Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion

When fear came upon every soul:

Because the beginning shall remind us of the end

And the first coming of the second coming.

-T.S.Eliot, 1954

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ok, I've been nudged, thanks Aaron. I'll share something I read today that was really simply and beautifully put.

Others come to the festal season with the firm intention to celebrate God's gift of the Savior. They are super serious. They clench their fists and grit their teeth, determined to keep it "religious" and "spiritual." But when the season is over they are left empty and dead because they have spent their energies looking at others, condemning their foolish behavior, and becoming miserable because of it. Such people are those who instead of filling the human joys of the season with the divine grace of the Lord, ruin the holy time for themselves and their families and friends by cursing the "secularism" and "commercialism" which has infected the feast, instead of blessing God and enjoying the festival for what it really is. While berating their fellows for not "keeping Christ in Christmas," they have actually excluded Him from their own celebration by their Pharisaic self-righteousness and condemnation of their brothers and sisters for whom Christ has come and for whom He has died, whether they know it or not.
Let us celebrate, O people! But let us celebrate properly. Let us go up to Bethlehem, and not into the houses of others. Let us lift up our minds to the Lord, and not let them stray into the lives of our neighbors. Let us concentrate on God and rejoice in His mercy and love for the world, even the "secularized" and "commercialized" world where the devil reigns. Let us not ruin the festival for ourselves and for our loved ones because of what others are doing or not doing. Let us strive to "keep Christ in Christmas" for ourselves first of all, by keeping Christ in ourselves and ourselves in Christ. Then Christmas will be the God-given celebration which it is, the celebration of God's Coming in the person of His Son. Only in this way will our celebration be pleasing to the Lord, fulfilling for ourselves, and inspiring for others. For it will then be a living testimony to what a celebration really is when it is what God made it to be.
The world today urgently needs divine celebration. And so do many Christians and Christian churches. For while some are having fun, and others are condemning them for doing so, neither the one nor the other is really joyful and at peace. For no one can be satisfied without the presence of the merciful God who loves His creatures and comes to heal and forgive them their foolishness and sin. And no celebration is truly satisfying without God's compassionate presence of love.

Come, O faithful,
Begin the celebration!
Sing with the wise men and shepherds!
Salvation comes from the Virgin's womb,
Recalling the faithful to life.

Let us reject the corruption of passions,
Awaiting the visitation of Christ.
Let us come to our senses and receive knowledge,
The gift of the undefiled Lord
Who comes to be clothed in our flesh,
Refashioning us in godliness.

Beholding Christ, let us be exalted through humility.
Let us abandon earthly passions with zeal for good.
Let us learn through faith not to be proud of heart.
Let us humiliate ourselves in spirit,
That by good deeds we may exalt Him who comes to be born.

Father Thomas Hopko, from The Winter Pascha [SVS Press]

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mimi has a lovely post about John Lennon, today being twenty-five years since his murder. She is better with words, so just visit and read what she had to say.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I was tagged by XK a while ago to name the ten people who have influenced me most, outside of God and family. The problem is in putting into words WHY or HOW these people influenced me. I struggle with words. So I have been putting it off. Here it is, long and messy. Please forgive me.

in no particular order:

Mrs. Thompson my third grade teacher. We had a lunchtime reading group. This was the first time I read J.R.R. Tolkien. We read "The Hobbit" that year, and I won my own copy in a raffle, which I still have.

my high school youth pastor and his wife guided me through those difficult teenage years. Colleen was a nurse, one on a list of a few I knew growing up. Both really sweet people.

Saint Elizabeth: the Venerable New Martyr and Grand Duchess of Moscow. Not only is she the patron saint of my parish, but she was a nurse. She gave up the riches of royal life and walked in the slums of Moscow and fed the poor,and brought orphans and the sick to her monastery. She nursed the sick there in a hospital she built.

Saint Maria Skobtsova:another saint, she helped save many Jews from death in Nazi camps, and herself ended up dying in a camp.

Matushka Thea: she's a good friend and just an awesome person. She's the kind of wife and mother I hope to be someday.

Father Christopher: of course he's on this list, my spiritual father and father confessor. I hope he'd be an influence. He met with me weekly as a catachumen. He's pushed me to do things I didn't know I was capable of. The easiest to say being singing with the choir and being on the reader's list. That, dear readers, is a big deal.

The parish of St Elizabeth's. If they hadn't been as welcoming as they are, I might not have come back. Well, that sounds a little silly. I can't say for sure. Maybe I would have just driven to a farther parish. Everyone was genuinely friendly. People gave me guidance that was really helpful for someone who had never been in an Orthodox church.

It's not a specific person, but the people and culture of Hawaii. I lived on Maui for almost a year before I moved to Washington. I loved it. I worked in a beautiful outdoor nursing home. Most of my patients were Japanese, Philippino, and native Hawaiians. They were wonderful. Once you're in someone's life, you're adopted family. It doesn't take long. It never mattered that I was a "haole." I never experienced any racism. There was a Hawaiian patient in his 40's that was parapalegic, his children called me "Auntie." Anyone older there is called "Auntie", "Uncle", "Grandma" or Grandpa." Grandma or Grandpa is switched to "Nana" or "Tata" if they are Philippino, or "Oba-san" or "Papa-san" if they are Japanese. I had lots of nana's and tata's. If I walked up to an elderly man in a store here and called him "grandpa" I might get punched, but there it is a matter of respect. All elders are treated with great respect. Family is very important. It is not unusual to have three or four generations living in one house, one very crowded house. While I have no desire to live in the same house with my parents and grandparents, it does make me think. People there were wonderful, open and it was amazing. Aloha!

Many patients have influenced me. I can't even put into words how many ways this job has changed me, let alone the people. I've been licensed as a nurse since June of 2000. I worked in retail before that. It was so easy to judge people and be irritated at how they acted, being mad if you didn't have the certain gourmet chocolate or wine they wanted. Everyone get's sick. People die. People die alone in nursing homes. Some have family that visit everday. Some are in their 40's, and will spend years in those rooms. Some are in their 100's. Some don't recognize their husbands or children. Some don't speak to their family. People yell, they kiss, they laugh, they fall down, they wear diapers, they spit, they didn't always. You look at their pictures. You see your father, or your sister, or yourself. They were pastors, engineers, teachers, pilots, builders, poets. They smoked a lot, they eat or don't. They can't breathe. You wash the food off their faces from lunch, it should have been done before you arrived. You shave the tiny lady's chin so that she doesn't have whiskers. You dial the phone and hold it so he can talk to his wife of fifty-six years. He tells you of when they paddled canoes on the river in Paris, dodging the huge ships. She sings show tunes instead of telling you what's wrong, you sing along and she smiles. There's a lady that weighs 79 pounds and is 5'8" tall, she's alert and walks. Next time he yells, you remember he's dying. People don't die gracefully. They die, some alone, some surrounded by family, some quietly. I remember the first patient I saw dead. I remember the ones I found. I remember the ones I was with, holding their hands. I remember the people I found with the guns and blood. I remember the angry daughters. The happy families. I think before I react. I give hugs, and hold hands. I tell ladies their hair looks nice today. I make jokes, jokes an 88 year old laughs at. They've all influenced me. Don't judge. Love people. Don't be angry. Ease suffering. Help any way you can. Love your friends and family, and everyone else. Love the mean. Love the dirty. Christ is risen, hell is overthrown!

My friends, Chance and Cybil. There's too much to really say here, so I'll leave it at the fact that I was at a crossroads. I had almost given up on Christianity, but couldn't quite. My old friends had become Orthodox, I knew it wasn't protestant or Roman Catholic. So I made the call to ask, "What's the Orthodox Church?" The rest is, well, you know...

Some authors...C.S. Lewis: I've read quite a bit. I read "The Problem of Pain" while going through a horrible ordeal, and again on the other side of it. Also have to mention many other books, "Mere Christianity," "The Four Loves," Till We Have Faces," "The Abolition of Man," of course, "The Chronicles of Narnia." Yada yada yada. Frederica Mathewes-Green: The first "Orthodox" book I read, "Facing East." Bishop Kallistos Ware. Metropolitan Anthony Bloom.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Yesterday's first snowfall of the season!