Thursday, September 30, 2010

Final tree post and next month's topic

I can't believe it but we have come to the end of our month of trees.  At the beginning I really didn't have many ideas, but as September rolled on, tree topics kept springing up in places where I least expected them to.  Glory to God for that!

This last post on trees is quite simple.  Either go to the library or pick up a copy of the book below at your local bookseller.  It's meant to be a children's story but truthfully it is a tale for every single human being regardless of age, gender, race or religion.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
 Here's the link to purchase it from Amazon.  The first time my husband read this to our eldest child, he came out of her room sniffling and wanting to know why I had not warned him about the story.  Buy it, borrow it, whatever.  Just read it. You won't be disappointed.

And finally, next month's topic is....HEALTH.  Spiritual health, Emotional health, Physical health.  See you tomorrow!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A tree farm as a part of my family tree

The Barna family farm at sunset in Waymart, PA.
Pardon the interruption for a shameless plug regarding my family tree.

Most of my family came to this country a little bit over 100 years ago with one part of my family initially settling in the Pittsburgh area to work in the coal mines of Western Pennsylvania. After a few years of doing this, my great-grandfather came to the realization that coal mining was a dangerous business and after making the perilous journey over the Atlantic for a better life here in America, he wasn't going to risk losing his life in a coal mine.  So my Great-Grandpa Barna and his pregnant wife (with my grandmother) and 4 children made one final journey to the rolling green hills of Eastern Pennsylvania to do what his family in the "Old Country" had done for many generations, farm.

In time, the family grew to 8 children in all, with one of the younger kids eventually taking over the farm.  As a child I would go and visit Great-Uncle Joe and his wife Aunt Marge on the family farm (at that point a dairy farm), and although I only visited them maybe once or twice a year, my memories of that family establishment are still quite vivid and endearing.  I am so unbelievably privileged to have had that experience as a child because truly there is nothing that can compare to traditional American farm life. Unfortunately this lifestyle has all but disappeared thanks to huge food corporations (see book at side bar on Culture and Agriculture by Wendell Berry, two big thumbs up) but that's a beast of a topic for another day.

At any rate, by God's Grace, this farm is still around and now in the loving hands of my Great-Uncle Joe's grandson, Dan.  Dan has abandoned the dairy farming aspect of the business and has now focused on something really amazing, a tree farm!  One Two Tree Farm Wholesale Nursery grows over 50 varieties of high quality, well maintained trees on over 77 acres of rich Pennsylvania soil.  Simple words can not suffice in expressing my gratitude to my cousin Dan (and his father, his aunt and all those before them!) for keeping the Barna farm alive.  In doing so he not only preserves my childhood memories, but also preserves the Earth and thereby aids in the preservation of mankind.

May God grant much success to this tree farm and many many years of life to all of those in my family that have worked so hard to keep the Barna farm a living, breathing entity.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Virgin Mary and the Myrtle Tree

Icon is from the OCA website

Below are some miraculous accounts of an icon of the Virgin Mary.  For all you non-Orthodox readers, we more commonly call the Virgin Mary the Theotokos.  Theotokos is Greek which means, one who gave birth to God. This is taken from Luke 1:43 when Elizabeth, the Virgin Mary's relative says: 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  See Luke 1: 39-43 which gives the fuller account here

Today, September 24th in the Orthodox Church, we remember God's Grace working through this icon of Himself and His blessed Mother. We call her blessed because she calls herself that in Luke 1:48 "For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."  Here's the longer passage so you can read it in context here.  As Orthodox Christians we believe that prayers to the Theotokos are heard and presented to Christ.  It is no different than asking your neighbor to pray for you. And who would be better to ask to pray for you than Christ's Mother who is alive in Him before His very throne?!

Without further ado, I present this to you which is taken from the OCA website (The Orthodox Church in America):

The Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos "Of the Myrtle Tree" (Myrtidiotissa) is in the monastery church of Myrtides on the Greek island of Kythera. It derives its name from the fact that it was found in a myrtle bush in the fourteenth century.

At that time, a shepherd was tending his sheep in a deserted valley which was filled with myrtle bushes. On September 24, forty days after the Dormition, the Mother of God appeared to him and told him to seek her icon which had been brought to that place many years before.

The shepherd fell to the ground in amazement, praying to the Theotokos. As soon as he got up and turned around, he saw the icon in the branches of a myrtle bush. Weeping for joy, he brought the icon home and told his friends and relatives about how he had found it.

When he awoke the next morning, the shepherd found the icon missing, and thought that perhaps someone had stolen it during the night. With a heavy heart, he led his sheep back to the spot where he had found the icon. To his amazement, he saw the icon once again in the branches of the myrtle bush. Glorifying God, the man took the icon home with him once more. The next morning, it had disappeared just as it had before. When this happened a third time, the shepherd realized that the Mother of God wanted her icon to remain where it had first appeared.

A small church was built to house the icon, and was called "Of the Myrtle Tree," after the icon. The building was replaced and enlarged over the years, and many miracles took place there.

At the end of the sixteenth century Theodore Koumprianos, a descendant of the shepherd who found the icon, lived in the village of Kousoumari. He was a paralytic, and had an unshakeable faith that the Mother of God would heal him. Each year on September 24 he sent a family member to the church to light candles for him. One year he asked to be carried there by his family so that he might venerate the icon himself. During the Vigil, a great noise was heard coming from the direction of the sea. People fled the church, thinking that pirates were attacking. The paralytic remained in the church by himself, entreating the Mother of God for protection. Suddenly, he heard a voice from the icon telling him to get up and flee. He stood up, and then walked out of the church. Soon he was able to run and catch up with his relatives, who rejoiced upon seeing this miracle. As it turned out, there was no pirate attack, and the noise was regarded as a sign of God's providence so that the paralytic could remain alone in church with the icon. Since that time the Koumprianos family has celebrated the icon's Feast Day with a special reverence, since Theodore had been healed on that day.

Some of the other miracles associated with the Most Holy Theotokos and her icon "Of the Myrtle Tree" include protection of the island from the plague, ending the barrenness of a Jewish woman from Alexandria, saving people from death, and many other great wonders.

Pilgrims come to venerate the icon on the Feast of the Dormition (August 15), and also on the day of its discovery (September 24).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jonah and the Tree?

This dramatic icon of Jonah the Prophet was painted by Nicholas Papas and can be purchased at Come & See Icons here
Yes, I am quite familiar with the story of Jonah the Prophet and I know that one of the most spectacular parts of that story has to do with Jonah in the belly of the whale. (see above icon) One of my favorite pieces of artwork of this story was done by one of my children.  It is a picture of a giant whale, with Jonah sitting in the middle of the beast and with little kid SUPER BIG handwriting it says "Jonah Prays."  That was the first sentence this child ever wrote.    Ok, enough of me and back to our tree theme.

Let's skip to the end of the book of Jonah to chapter 4 (found here) when Jonah gets really ticked off with God for saving the people of Ninevah.  In his anger, Jonah traipses to the outskirts of Ninevah to rest and here's the balance of the text:
And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

9 Then God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?"

And he said, "It is right for me to be angry, even to death!"

10 But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
I know it says plant, but if the plant was big enough for shade, then perhaps it was tree-like?

At any rate, I think the point to get here is this.  We can't be mad at God for anything.  As Jonah himself says earlier in the chapter when he first expresses his displeasure at God for saving the sinners of Ninevah:

for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. (Jonah 4:2)
It's a very hard thing to love those who we think in our own self-righteousness don't deserve God's love, but here's the thing...God loves EVERYONE whether we like it or not.  This can be a very hard pill to swallow, just ask Jonah, but it something that we need to come to terms with.  Hopefully it doesn't take being swallowed by a whale to get our attention.   

Oh and by the way, today, September 22nd, we remember Jonah the Prophet in the Orthodox Church.  ; )

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Tree of Jesse

This beautiful icon was painted by the hand of Nicholas Papas and can be purchased  from Come & See Icons found  here.

Family trees, we all got 'em.  Even Jesus has a family tree.  The following is from the Come & See Icon website and describes the above icon which is entitled "The Tree of Jesse" which, with  paint and wood, describes what the Scriptures have to say about the coming of The Christ.

This icon depicts the many prophecies of the Virgin birth of Christ.  There are twelve Old Testament prophets, shown holding things that reveal their identity and the prophecy they foretold of the Theotokos and the virgin birth of Christ.  In the top row, from left to right: St. Daniel, whose scroll reads: "The stone was cut out of the Mountain without hands" (Daniel 2:45); St. Moses holding the bush that was burning, yet not consumed (Exodus 3:2-4); St. David, whose scroll reads: "Arise O Lord into thy rest: Thou and the ark of thy strength." (Psalm 132:8); St. Isaiah holding tongs with live coals (Isaiah 6:6); St. Jeremiah, whose scroll reads: "He was seen upon earth and conversed with men." (Baruch 3:37); St. Samuel holding a throne referring to St. Nathan's prophecy to King David whom St. Samuel had anointed (2 Samuel 7:13-16).  In the bottom row, from left to right:  St. Habakkuk holding the overshadowed Mountain that is the Virgin (Habakkuk 3:3); St. Micah, whose scroll reads: "He is come unto the gate of my people." (Micah 1:9); St. Gideon holding a fleece: "As dew upon the fleece hast Thou descended into the womb of the Virgin, O Christ" (Judges 6:37-38); St. Ezekiel, whose scroll reads: "This gate shall be shut, It shall not be opened." (Ezekiel 44:2); St. Amos holding an ark referring to the Virgin serving as the Tabernacle of Christ (Amos 9:11); Prophet Balaam, whose scroll reads: "There shall come a star out of Jacob and a sceptre shall arise" (Numbers 24:17).  Enthroned in the center of the tree sits the Holy Virgin Mary.  At the foot of the tree lays St. Jesse asleep.  Jesse is portrayed asleep, to tell us in a way that we know his righteous character not so much by the works done in his own lifetime, so much as by the righteous line that proceded from him. That line which started with David and culminated with the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ our Savior.  We don't know much about Jesse, other than that he was the father of King David, who was "a man after God's own heart." But the Scripture honors him calling Jesus Christ the "root of Jesse". Romans 15:12

This root of Jesse, Jesus' family tree can be found in two places in the New Testament, Luke 3:23-38 here and Matthew 1:1-16 here

The Matthew passage is read in the Orthodox Church on the Sunday before Christmas, which is called the Sunday of the Holy Fathers.  This particular passage is quite fascinating in that it mentions women.  The Orthodox Study Bible notes this: "The mention of women (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba) is unusual.  Each one was either a Gentile or a sinner.  The inclusion of these three women declares God's graciousness and prefigures the calling of the Gentiles into the Church.  It also underscores the role of women in God's plan of salvation and anticipates the special place of the Virgin Mary in that plan." (pg. 1266 footnote)

Personally, I like the fact that Jesus' family tree is really no different than my own, it contains saints and sinners alike,  and all of whom are equally important in making me who I am today. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

A tree saved you, so how about returning the favor?

Through the cross, made from a tree, we were saved.  Now, how about you saving a tree?  Or a bunch of them?  By simply clicking below, once a day, FREE OF CHARGE, you will help preserve the rainforest habitat.  Make this a habit.  It costs you nothing but a moment of your time and a click of your mouse.

The Rainforest Site

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Exultation of the Life-Giving Cross

This is from the OCA website about today's major feast day which is always celebrated on September 14th. The icon image above is also from the same website.

Here is the history of this day:

The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter.

Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration. This took place under the Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory in the year 312 over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.

In 313 he had issued the Edict of Milan, by which the Christian religion was legalized and the persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the empire were stopped. The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Edict of Milan to oblige Constantine, still fanatically continued the persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the 313 Edict of toleration extend also to the Eastern part of the empire. The Holy Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine, having gained victory over his enemies in three wars with God's assistance, had seen in the heavens the Sign of the Cross, and written beneath: "By this you shall conquer."

Ardently desiring to find the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, St Constantine sent his mother, the pious Empress Helen (May 21), to Jerusalem, providing her with a letter to St Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Although the holy empress Helen was already in her declining years, she set about completing the task with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan temple and the statues in Jerusalem. Searching for the Life-Creating Cross, she made inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful.

Finally, they directed her to a certain elderly Hebrew by the name of Jude who stated that the Cross was buried where the temple of Venus stood. They demolished the pagan temple and, after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Tomb of the Lord was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, a board with the inscription ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the Lord's Body (March 6).

In order to discern on which of the three crosses the Savior was crucified, Patriarch Macarius alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord touched the dead one, he came to life. Having beheld the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross was found.

Christians came in a huge throng to venerate the Holy Cross, beseeching St Macarius to elevate the Cross, so that even those far off might reverently contemplate it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual leaders raised up the Holy Cross, and the people, saying "Lord have mercy," reverently prostrated before the Venerable Wood. This solemn event occurred in the year 326.

During the discovery of the Life-Creating Cross another miracle took place: a grievously sick woman, beneath the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The elder Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism. Jude received the name Cyriacus and afterwards was consecrated Bishop of Jerusalem.

During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) he accepted a martyr's death for Christ (see October 28). The holy empress Helen journeyed to the holy places connected with the earthly life of the Savior, building more than 80 churches, at Bethlehem the birthplace of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended to Heaven, and at Gethsemane where the Savior prayed before His sufferings and where the Mother of God was buried after her death.

St Helen took part of the Life-Creating Wood and nails with her to Constantinople. The holy emperor Constantine gave orders to build at Jerusalem a majestic and spacious church in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, also including under its roof the Life-Giving Tomb of the Lord and Golgotha. The temple was constructed in about ten years. St Helen did not survive until the dedication of the temple, she died in the year 327. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335. On the following day, September 14, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross was established.

Another event connected to the Cross of the Lord is remembered also on this day: its return to Jerusalem from Persia after a fourteen year captivity. During the reign of the Byzantine emperor Phocas (602-610) the Persian emperor Khozroes II in a war against the Greeks defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem and captured both the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zachariah (609-633).

The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years and only under the emperor Heraclius (610-641), who with the help of God defeated Khozroes and concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes, was the Cross of the Lord returned to the Christians.

With great solemnity the Life-creating Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Heraclius in imperial crown and royal purple carried the Cross of Christ into the temple of the Resurrection. With the emperor went Patriarch Zacharios. At the gates by which they ascended Golgotha, the emperor suddenly stopped and was not able to proceed farther. The holy Patriarch explained to the emperor that an angel of the Lord was blocking his way. The emperor was told to remove his royal trappings and to walk barefoot, since He Who bore the Cross for the salvation of the world from sin had made His way to Golgotha in all humility. Then Heraclius donned plain garb, and without further hindrance, carried the Cross of Christ into the church.

In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, St Andrew of Crete (July 4) says: "The Cross is exalted, and everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast".

Monday, September 13, 2010

A tree that removes bitterness, once and for all

photo is mine and was taken in the White Moutains of Arizona

I subscribe to a daily Bible exegesis from a Yahoo group called Dynamis. It follows the Orthodox Church's calendar of readings and offers daily explanations of one of the day's prescribed readings.

Below is today's explanation of Exodus 15:22-16:1 which is in preparation for tomorrow's feast day, The Elevation of the Life-Giving Cross. It is about the tree that removes bitterness.

The Cross ~ Removes Bitterness: Exodus 15:22-16:2 SAAS, especially vs. 25: "So he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet."

Three days into the wilderness after the memorable crossing the Red Sea, God's People found no water in the vast, scorching and largely arid Sinai peninsula, a region mostly devoid of water. However, they came upon some waters, but they 'were bitter' (vs. 23) - probably poisoned. Death by thirst or poison welcomed them, but God-the-merciful revealed how these water could be changed: "...the Lord showed [Moses] a tree (vs. 25), physically visible, and then illumined to the eye of the great Seer's heart: a tree to sweeten the water!

Now, because of the Cross, "...all the trees of the wood, planted from the beginning of time, rejoice; for their nature hath been sanctified by the stretching of Christ on the Tree." Every tree is worthy of reverence, since some were used for God's glory in the saga of our salvation. The Lord disclosed a tree to Moses and ordered him to throw it into the bitter waters of a poisonous spring of the Sinai Peninsula. That place is called Marah or bitter. The particular tree at Marah is forever revered as a type of the Cross, the more wondrous Tree whereon our Lord sweetened the bitterness of the "...tree of the knowledge of good and evil..." (Gn. 2:17).

In truth, we embitter ourselves; but Christ our God has removed that poison by the Cross. The tree of God's choosing "...made the waters of Marah sweet, anticipating the act of the Cross." Glory to Him Who by His saving powers heals and showers ineffable mercy on us!

Our merciful Lord has given the Tree of His Cross to us. It illumines our hearts to see eternal power, and thus to end our bitter thirst from parching sin and death. The Cross saves in the desert of this arid world! Many addicts imagine thirst is assuaged with elixir in a bottle! Others struggle vainly against insatiable hunger for food! The honeyed kisses of illicit love fail the promise of lasting sweetness. But Christ our God reveals the Cross. On its wood He takes away the unrelieved burning of the heart "...having nailed it to the Cross" (Col. 2:14).

God sweetens the tenacious bitterness of our sin. No inherent property of the tree at Marah made the waters potable; it was God working through a little desert tree. He sweetened the water by directing Moses to cast the tree into the poisons, and "...the waters were made sweet" (Ex. 15:25). No earthly chemistry removed the bitterness at Marah, those dangerous and, lethal waters. But for us, Christ's Cross does transform the poison of this existence into Life.

The bane of our sin is changed from venom by unimaginable mercy. Christ wrests life from the Tree of His Cross. "For the message of the us who are being the power of God" (1 Cor.1:18). Be encouraged! Worship the Lord Jesus, for He promises that "...he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (Jn. 6:35).

Having quenched our forefathers' thirst, God now has "..made a statute and an ordinance..." (Ex. 15:25): "If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is pleasing in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His ordinances, I will put none of the diseases on you that I brought on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord your God who heals you" (vs. 26). God leads us on toward our Elim and "...twelve fountains of water..." (vs. 27).

The Cross is Life for all. Only bow down before the Saving Tree; embrace its wood with joy and fear: "...with fear because of sin, for we are unworthy; with joy because of the salvation which Christ, Who was nailed thereon...granted to the world."

Today's Prayer:

O Thou Who was raised up on the Cross of Thine own will, O Christ our God, do Thou bestow Thy compassions upon Thy People named after Thee from all afflictions and death.

If you would like to receive these readings click on the link at the sidebar.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A tree manifesting Christ's triumph over evil!

This tree grows in the area formerly known as the Gulag Archipelago written about by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. During the ravage atheist Soviet regime, the Orthodox Christian monasteries on these island chains were shuttered and countless souls were murdered by the Communists in the gulags (prison camps). It was also here though, through the suffering and torments of the gulags, that Solzhenitsyn found Christ.

May the memories of the millions of martyrs for Christ and His Church AND that of Alexander Solzhenitsyn be eternal!

Source of photo: a website called Orthodox Miracles.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Another tree theme interruption

Today mark's the 1st anniversary of the death of someone very dear to me, Fr. Gabriel Cooke. Fr. Gabriel gently led a very confused and hurt person (me) back to God. If he had not been so kind and so loving, I have no idea where I would be today.

I'm not going to bore you with my memories of him, but leave you with one thought of many that will always stick with me:
True Christianity is not Burger King. You can't have it your way.

Below is a video of still frames of Fr. Gabriel from the Blessing of the Waters service. This Feast Day is more commonly known as Theophany or Epiphany, Christ's baptism by John the Baptist in the river Jordan. On this day in the Orthodox Church, we sanctify (make holy) the water through the grace of God and use it in our daily lives. This video shows Fr. Gabriel sanctifying some large body of water in Prescott, AZ. Someday I'll tell you the story of the well just outside of Chernobyl in a small Orthodox Christian village that is not radioactive. The local priest sanctifies the water every year and their water tests 100% uncontaminated every year. This story can be seen in the Japanese documentary "Alexei and the Spring." It's in Japanese but has English subtitles. GREAT FLICK!

May your memory be eternal Fr. G!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Tree Hymn

On Good Friday during Holy Week according to the Orthodox Christian calendar (which usually differs from the Protestant/Roman Catholic Holy week), we have what is called the Burial Service. It is a somber but exquisite service that recalls the final moments of Christ's Crucifixion and his subsequent burial in the tomb. The service begins at the 9th hour (3 pm). (Matt 27:46-56; Mark 15:33-41; Luke 23:44-49; John 19:28-30)

At the end of this service, the priest carries the Gospel book, and the altar servers carry our Lord's body (which is actually a full body icon of Jesus embroidered onto cloth) and place both in a tomb which then resides in the center of the church until we celebrate Christ's resurrection on the third day. This carrying of Jesus' body from the altar (where it is normally kept) to the center of the church reenacts Joseph of Arimathea's taking the Lord's body down from the cross, and placing it in the tomb. This act is recorded in all four gospels. (Matt 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)

So while this is occurring, the choir and faithful are ever so gently singing the following:

The noble Joseph,
when he had taken down Thy most pure Body from the tree,
wrapped it in fine linen,
and anointed it with spices,
and placed it in a new tomb.

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

The angel came to the myrrh-bearing women at the tomb and said: Myrrh is fitting for the dead,
but Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption.

There is so much more that can be said about this, and I will during Holy Week in 2011, but this hymn just perfectly caps this extremely moving service.

The video below is simply a choir practising the hymn, but place this song in your imagination along with sweet smell of incense, the vision of our Lord Jesus in the tomb, multitudes of candles flickering, and the words of Holy Scripture still coursing through your mind. My short description does no justice this event. Most people are moved to tears.

I recommend all Christians of every flavor attend this service. And don't be shy. Sit in the front of the church and sing along with the service book.

Oh, and back to our tree theme. The tree image is used repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testament, with it's ultimate end use as the cross of Christ. We lost paradise through the tree in Eden, but regained it again through the tree used to hang our Saviour on Golgotha.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Church in a tree at Plataniotissa

Organic Orthodox Christianity to the extreme!

(ps-you may have to turn up your volume a little)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pardon the "Tree Theme" Interruption, but it's later than you think!

Brethren: It is later than you think.

Hasten, therefore, to do the work of God.

Fr. Seraphim Rose

Indeed it is Fr. Seraphim! Pray for us!

Fr. Seraphim Rose passed from this life to eternity 28 years ago today. He was not one to mince words and certainly not one to embrace fakery (ie Consumeristic Christianity that is so pervasive in America today). His books are not the easiest to digest and have certainly raised some controversy. For a taste of Fr. Seraphim Rose's works I would recommend God's Revelation to the Human Heart found at St. Herman Press, $5.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Poem From My Youth

photo from the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest found at

I'm starting off my month long series of spiritual things related to trees by honoring a man whose poem has forever replayed itself in my heart.

When I was a child I attended Joyce Kilmer Elementary School for 4th and 5th grade. Joyce Kilmer was a prolific poet who had lived in my hometown until his untimely death in WWI at the ripe old age of 31. I'll give a give few more bits about Joyce Kilmer after the poem, but here is his most famous prose that was required memorization at my school.


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear,
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain,
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer was born in 1886 in New Bruswick, NJ. During the short span of his life he was a journalist, poet, literary critic, lecturer and editor. A convert to Roman Catholicism from the Episcopal Church, he credits his conversion to a deep longing for "something not intellectual, some conviction or mental - in fact I wanted faith" [Letter from Joyce Kilmer to Fr. James J. Daly, 1/9/1914] (source: Wikipedia)

Kilmer was married with 5 children, and ultimately lost his life while serving as a sergeant in the 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment during WWI in 1918 by a sniper's bullet.

It is shameful for me to admit that for all the years I have enjoyed replaying Kilmer's poem in my heart, that I never knew much about this brave American Christian who so lovingly wrote these words. Forgive me Mr. Kilmer for my past usage of your poem in my own private spiritual musings without giving honor to your life. You are an extraordinary man.

Alfred Joyce Kilmer, May Your Memory Be Eternal!