Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Joys!

A Blessed Christmas and Joyful New Year to you!

I have found the remedy to hustle and bustle and the occasional holiday feeling of “’s over so soon?”  St. Benedict’s Rule gives great wisdom and insight into balance and seeing God in every moment, but more on him later =-)  

Another great discoverery in Orthodoxy -and antidote to busyness - has been in celebrating Advent, the coming of the Messiah.  Advent is not an observance unique to Orthodoxy, but the weight and focus of anticipating Christ’s birth all season long (7 Sundays in Orthodoxy)  vs. two celebratory days on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day has extended our joy and energies tenfold.

I’ve posted a photo of our kids’ Advent Calendar that we used this year for the first time.  Each evening they opened a window which showed an illustration and a Bible verse relating to a different name for Christ, such as “Alpha and Omega”, “Christ, the Messiah”, “The Lamb of God”, and “the Rock of Ages”, to name a few. They really enjoyed it and I count it as time well spent before bedtime.

Some other highlights I want to remember from Christmas ’07:

* Hubby’s DELICIOUS meal on Christmas day, Beef tenderloin with black pepper crust and salad of new potatoes with roasted walnuts and warm bacon vinaigrette.  Simple and extremely satisfying.

*The full moon on Christmas Eve - being outside in the quiet to watch and listen for sounds in the forest.


*Mrs. Bryant’s house (our elderly neighbor who pass

ed to heaven in November), as my sister and her husband put lights on the empty house as a loving remembrance.

*Witnessing a spectacular sunset as I was driving with the kids over Gauley Mtn. on  December 21st- our gift from God!


*The gentle tap on my arm followed by “You are so pretty” from a beloved family member with Alzheimer’s.

*Feeding apples and carrots to the horses and ponies with my niece.

*Laughter ---especially with my sister!  This is her gift to me, (a mouse-pad) which really gave my funny bone some exercise. =-)  It's such a sweet comfort to be understood.....


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gift of Incense

“And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.” Rev. 8: 4

Of all the treasures that Orthodox worship has brought to my life, understanding God’s design of our senses in His heavenly worship is chief among them.  This single concept, this reality, ushered me around the corner from understanding Christian theology as a reasoned set of precepts to follow, to Christianity as LIFE in Christ, active participants in the life-giving Trinity. 

For years I have burned incense in my home.  Sometimes the smell would annoy my husband and other times it would bring lively chuckles from my friends who liked to tease my ‘hippie’ inclinations.  Even so, I liked the fragrance and the wafting smoke reminded me of times well spent by a campfire.  Such is the powerful memory of scent.

From the first time I stepped into an Orthodox church, I smiled at the fragrance which seemed to cling to the atmosphere.  This was no passing sweetness that you sometimes encounter when moving among people at the mall; incense moves slowly and hangs in the air like stars in the heavens on a dark winter night.  It quickens your awareness and asks your stillness.

A friend of mine, who is not Orthodox, remarked that ‘incense induces one to prayer’.   Revelation 8 tells us of heavenly worship and guess what?  There will be incense in heaven!  Can you imagine the divine fragrance of the Court of Christ?  

When the magi visited the Christ-child, they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, aromatic gums and resins with healing properties; gifts befitting a King.  And isn’t it curious to note that this same balm, the myrrh, was applied to Jesus’ body when he was laid in the tomb? (St. John 19:9)

Blessings to you this Christmas season and may your prayer times be enriched with the sweet aroma of wafting incense.

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