Category Archives: reality

Staying with the moon.

Thinking back on what happened early this morning, I’m all at once surprised, pleased, and disappointed, that I didn’t take a picture. The fact that the idea did not occur to me shows how the moon was saturating my soul with its bright reality, leaving no entrance for something as intangible as the future with its theoretical possibilities.

A night or two previous, I had caught a brief glimpse through my bedroom window of the moon waxing gibbous. But it was 4:30 a.m., and my eyes soon closed again in sleep. Last night before climbing in to bed, I saw on the Moon Phases app on my phone that the moon was full! Might I see it again, I wondered? Would I wake at the right time, or would clouds hide it from me? Several times I did wake, and saw only the blank, midnight blue sky.

But around six o’clock, I sat up to find the moon shining in on me, hanging bigger and brighter than a streetlight, right in the middle of my big window that faces west. So I lay on my bed to watch it, and wondered if I might stay with it until it sank below the horizon. Could I actually mark its descent? Well, yes, I could very easily do that, because the blinds over my windows were not drawn up all the way; the slats made lines across the picture, by which I could mark the steady movement of the white moon.

I thought, how sweet, how rich a gift, to be awake at just this moment, to be with the moon in its fullest display, loving it. The moon may be full every 28 days, but I certainly don’t see it every month. To not have to crane my neck, or stand in the cold, but to enjoy its presence from the comfort of my bed – well, who knows if I’ll ever have that chance again.  But this is real: I watched the moon last night until it was just one bright spot above the neighbor’s roof, and then it was gone.

This is what that window looked like at close of day when the sun had gone down:

And because it doesn’t seem right to publish this post without a single photo
of our dear moon, here it is as I once saw it in the evening:

I know some of you were also watching that moon
at some point in its course across the sky;
it is surely a wonder, a regular and familiar, beautiful thing in our world.

Glory to God!

Nothing of all these exists anymore.

Today we celebrate the Veneration of the Holy Cross, “planted” like a tree in the middle of Great Lent for our refreshment and encouragement, and as a foretaste of Pascha. We haven’t completed our Lenten labors, but the fatigue of them is lightened by the joyous hymns of this feast, such as this from Matins:

“Let all the trees of the forest dance and sing, as they behold their fellow-tree, the Cross, today receiving veneration: for Christ, as holy David prophesied, has exalted it on high.”

This quote from the shining Mother Gavrilia also reflects that joyful mood:

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“Think and see only the Light. Everything else is irrelevant and should not affect you in any way… By reliving regrettable incidents of the past, you cause much harm to yourself… We should take all our sorrow and place it at the Feet of Christ. Because He suffered on the Cross for our sins, and for our sorrows, and for our problems, and for all the gloom of our souls. For everything! And when you remember that the Blood of our Lord is cleansing us from everything, that’s the end of it! Nothing of all these exist anymore… Place them at the Feet of Christ… and then go forth as a joyful person.”

~Mother Gavrilia, The Ascetic of Love

What honesty reveals of mystery…

I read a list “of the best poems for New Year,” and Christina Rossetti’s “Old and New Year Ditties” was among them. The second stanza reads:

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

This reminded me of a prayer that we pray at every Divine Liturgy, “All things good and profitable for our souls, let us ask of the Lord.” When we realize that as the poet says, whatever comes our way has the potential to “help me on my…rugged way to heaven,” even what is “ill” is transformed.

That isn’t to deny the “honest face” we need to have in ourselves, and which some part of us longs for from everything and everyone we encounter in life. Fr. Alexander Schmemann said, “If there are two heretical words in the Christian vocabulary, they would be ‘optimism’ and ‘pessimism.’ These two things are utterly anti-biblical and anti-Christian.” What we need is reality, the reality that “Our faith is not based on anything except on these two fundamental revelations: God so loved the world, and: The fallen world has been secretly, mysteriously redeemed.”(From the lecture “Between Utopia and Escape.”)

As we face the gifts of the new year 2017, may God’s grace flow through each one. My love goes out to you all!

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Do the spooky thing.

My late husband many times told me that I thought too much. He would like to have read this recent article by Fr. Stephen who tells me the same thing, and I commend it to your reading, even though, as Fr. Stephen admits, “…our thinking about thought is decidedly spooky.” We do need to think in order to learn the proper place of thinking, and the difference between thinking about God and being with God.

It is the latest in a series in which the author tries to get through our modern noggins the reality that we are more than our thoughts and feelings, and that the Christian faith is not essentially an idea. How could it be, when God is not an idea?

I think I get this, and I have written about it and quoted others about it for my own edification many times. It remains that I was born in this modern era and I’ve soaked up its ways as regularly as I’ve eaten my breakfast. It’s hard to live in the truth that I am learning, but each point that Fr. Stephen makes in each successive article helps a little more. This last one is full of concrete illustrations, such as:

1) eating your saIMG_1452 chunkndwich
2) burying your dead
3) being bored in church
4) the mythology of Star Trek
5) what Christ’s blood is
6) taking antidepressants

To contrast the secular mind with the spiritual or the Christian mind would be to perpetuate the misconception of our selves, and the article is fittingly titled “The Secular Mind Versus the Whole Heart.” In the comments section the author often elaborates on and clarifies statements in response to commenters, so don’t miss that part. Read it here.