Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Most Difficult Prayer

While I was stressing out last week about something that really was nothing in the end, I found this prayer.  As I was going through it, I realized that this has got to be the most difficult prayer out there.  The difficulty lies in the condemnation and hence realization of how far my soul is from God.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, whether neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.  They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.  They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.  They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord.  Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I have tried to sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Thy garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord.  Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me; so my fleeing to Thee may have no return; so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins:  arrogance and anger; so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; ah, so that I may for once be freed from self deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies except himself.  One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.  It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world:  friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand.

But a son blesses them, for he understands.  For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.  Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord.  Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Amen.

I told you that was hard.  Love to all!!



 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Let us pray.

I've been thinking about starting a whole new blog dedicated to prayer but being that I am crunched for time, it's much easier to just use this one.

It has come to my attention that almost every.single.night after the daily tragedies are read on the news, most of them end with "and our thoughts and prayers are with the family/town/survivors."  It made me wonder, sheesh, with all these people praying you would think that the world would be in a much better spot than it is presently.  If you have been living on Mars and have sketchy Internet service, and the only website you can get is my blog (my apologies to you), it's really awful. Truly awful.  One would not be incorrect in saying that we are probably at this point:

 “A time is coming when people will go mad and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, “You are mad, you are not like us.” - St. Anthony of the Desert, 4th century.


For the next year, or maybe for the life of this blog, posts will be dedicated to all things prayer. Of course, it will be the Orthodox Christian we-have-2000+years-of-experience-with-prayer viewpoint.

First posting, if I don't have to work, will be Monday.  Praying for you all to have a peaceful weekend.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Orthodox Wood Art

A little plug for a friend of mine...

Please visit his website at Mike's Best Work to see (and purchase!) more of his beautiful creations.

Friday, June 7, 2013

And for my second post of 2013...

You know...when I started blogging I got off to a super duper start.  Holy smokes, I was pumpin' stuff out like there was no tomorrow!  And now...you can hear the crickets chirping.

It's time consuming and sometimes I feel a bit guilty sitting at the computer when I have tons of housework that needs to be done.  Crazy people that they are, my family likes to eat and they appreciate clean underwear.  The kids also liked to be picked up from school when it's completed for the day.  So between driving, cooking, cleaning and other stuff, my life of blogging becomes stymied.

Well now that it is summer, I'm starting up again. I hope.

First up...I may be a little late to the party but dear Orthodox peeps you have got to get yourself a copy of Everyday Saints.  You can find every human emotion in this book..you will laugh, you will cry, you will jump out of your seat and want to hug God for being so awesome.  I can barely type the words "Egyptian Cat" and not start giggling.  Like the name implies, Everyday Saints allows you to relax just enough to realize that salvation isn't only for the spiritual superstars.  It's for bums like us too.  And if that isn't enough to convince you, Amazon has it rated 5 stars with 54 reviews.  On Amazon it looks like it only has the Kindle Version.  I know it's been selling out everywhere so a copy may be hard to come by.  I have one left at my parish's bookstore if you happen to be the area (Sts. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church in Phoenix). 

That's it for now. I think I hear an 8 year old boy attempting to make Kool-Aid by himself, so 'tis best that I leave.  See you all soon!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cleaning up 2012

I've got two things to wrap up from 2012...so here it goes:

1 - The last time we met I posted about my grandmother's departure from this life to the next.  Her funeral was a beautiful occasion and when you compare it to those outside of Orthodoxy, there simply is nothing to compare.  If you have the inkling to do so, I suggest you find the service online and read through it. An Orthodox Christian's death is a feast of love.  I walked away from my grandmother's funeral with a refreshing perspective on death.  It "reminded" me how much I am loved from birth to death by not only God and my immediate family, but also by the entire Church, both triumphant and militant.  And it wasn't a mental reminder either. It was more like a transformation that didn't come from rational thinking like "Be happy!  She's in a better place and I can go there too!"  It is something much more sublime and indescribable.  Sort of how you really can't describe that state of being after the Orthodox Paschal (Easter) service.  Actually I feel it more acutely on Bright Monday after I have finished cooking/cleaning and had some sleep.  The world is illumined and you feel exceedingly hopeful in all things and the boundaries between heaven and earth seemingly don't exist.  Blessed are those who have attained the ability to walk around this world perpetually in this state!  

And then there is this:

2 - Prior to that post about my grandmother's death, I had been giving my own thoughts on Markides' book, The Mountain of Silence.  All in all, I liked the book and found it to be edifying and you can read through the comments for a little more discussion between myself and an anonymous poster.  I don't think I'm going to comment anymore on his books only to say that I quite liked his latest, Inner River: A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Christian Spirituality, especially Fr. Maximos' conversation about the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  His teaching was that these fruits were listed in a hierarchical order and that without the one listed last, self-control, that the others are not truly attainable.  I suppose that is why the Church has such an emphasis (almost daily) on fasting, the tool to self-control when practiced correctly.   Obviously the book goes into more more depth than my two sentence synopsis.  There is also a chapter on Markides' journey to St. Katherine's Monastery at the foot Mount Sinai in Egypt.  As someone who has very little chance of visiting the Sinai desert, I rather enjoyed that chapter. To wrap it up, like I wrote in my prior post, not everyone likes Markides' books.  For me, however, the first book really had a positive effect on my life and perhaps that's why I have enjoyed the two that followed.     


So now what's in store for 2013 for Desert Deliberations?  I don't know really.  Maybe just random ramblings that I come across.  I did just read a lovely little book called Crazy John, which recounts the life a modern day Fool-for-Christ in Greece.  It can be purchased here through St. Barbara's Monastery bookstore. 
Here's an excerpt:
 
In this particular neighborhood that may not differ from all others, not even from our own--whether we live in the city or in a village-- the foolishness of a single person, a model of Jesus Christ, was enough to provoke a pleasant revolution. It is pleasant because it is unique, one of a kind, a novelty through time. This revolution breaks the demonic bonds of souls admittedly captured and attached to ephemeral and inferior things. It restores them to the frequency of heaven and to the invigorating, salutary, doxological pulses of the Holy Trinity. It attires them with the sense of the Greek "philotimo" and unselfishness, honesty and purity, patience and perseverance, sacrifice and love, humility and repentance. It is only with this attire that the soul can attend the unceasing everyday table, which God gives us bounteously.
 
It's a refreshing read for sure.

Wishing you all a marvelous New Year that brings transformations that you never thought possible!


 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Memory Eternal!

My pious and God-loving grandmother Julia enterned into eternal life this morning at the age of 101.  She was the 6th of 8 children, but the first in her family to be born in the United States.  She and her pious husband John (d.1983) raised two children of their own, my mother and my uncle who himself entered into eternal life in 2010.

Julia was a tremendous cook and baker who faithfully served her home parish of Sts. Peter and Paul Orthodox Christian Church in Syracuse, NY with these talents until her early 90's when she began to slow down a bit.  She loved Our Lord Jesus and always spoke about "Our Lord this" and "Our Lord that" as if she knew Him quite closely (which she did!).  She loved all Christians but expressed to me once that she wished everyone would come to the Orthodox Church because of the beauty of the worship and that the expression of love to our Lord Jesus could not be found in any other place on earth.  About 8-9 years ago while she was still living in the home that my grandfather built, I accidently walked in on her saying her morning prayers.  Although a little bit hunched over, her arms were uplifted as high as she could as she stood praying.  I felt like I had walked into a private conversation and so I hurriedly backed out of the room and sat in awe.  I am unworthy to have had such a magnificent handmaiden of God as my grandmother.  To say that I feel blessed is an understatement. 

We love you Grandma.  What a joyous day to have been greeted by Our Saviour, His Mother, your parents, your husband, your seven siblings and your own son.  May your memory be eternal!

The following video was her favorite hymn.  It is from Psalm 77.  I can close my eyes and hear her singing this in her kitchen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A brief interruption on the Markides' postings

On the side bar over there on the right under "Places to Visit" is a link to the Orthodox Christian Quote of the Day. I rather enjoy it and some days it's seems to be just the right medicine for whatever I'm struggling with.

Today's quote comes from one of my all-time favorite saints, St. Seraphim of Sarov. I am dealing with some people that are being malicious and hurtful and hence making them quite unlovable. Thank you St. Seraphim for your wisdom. God-willing we shall meet someday. (and thank you to Adam who faithfully emails these out every day)

God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the devil - for the devil is cold - let us call on the Lord. He will come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him but also for our neighbor, and the cold of him who hates the good will flee before the heat of His countenance

It's not easy but I'm gonna try.