Monday, February 25, 2008

Ancient Rhythms

There is a place where musical sounds and rhythms meet something deeply spiritual inside...something ancient and old..something that has been there and is awakened upon the hearing.

This is a video I discovered not long ago on You Tube when searching for my favorite Scottish band, Albannach. As far as I know this is an amateur video, but very well done! There's something about the sound, the pipe & drum, that enfolds me... it brings a joy and connection that I find difficult to accurately describe. I asked a Native American friend once, "What is it about the rhythm of the drums that grabs me so?" She replied, "They go with the beat of your heart ...they are a natural rhythm and your heart is your life so they can seem haunting and engage you."

Several members of Albannach are former members of Clan An Drumma, whom I've had the pleasure of seeing on several occasions. During one performance, a ballad was sung in a heavy scottish accent with a fair measure of Gaelic thrown in. I didn't understand a word. And it gripped my soul, ushered forth tears until I felt like an idiot standing there all alone. It's a very similar experience to how some of the Arabic chants affect me at church....

Nemo me impune lacessit!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Real Beauty

I've just returned from my photographers' convention over the weekend; what fun!! The professional photographers of West Virginia (PPWV) meet for spring and fall conferences each year where we enjoy print competitions, fellowship, classes, networking and the like.  I always take away knowledge that helps me to grow as a photographer a human being.

I took several classes from photographers much more experienced than myself, including Ellie Vayo from Cleveland, OH.  She's been in the business for over 20 years and was stating what a change she's seen in young girls over the years, regarding their figures and self-esteem.  'I'll be glad when the stick figures on the run-way are out-dated', to paraphrase one of her statements about the fashion industries' use of gaunt, anorexic-looking models.   Ellie says she now sees high school girls coming in, with visible bones protruding just below the neck.

This is the effect our culture is having on our young generations.   This is what happens when girls define themselves by the world's standards.

In an effort to buck that trend, Ellie incorporates the themes from Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty when she has the opportunity to speak to young girls.     Please take a moment to view the link below, it's a very quick film that shows from start to finish how these cover girls achieve 'the look'. 
I salute the efforts of Ms. Vayo and my friend, Dana Kees, who work to shatter the false images our culture has given our kids.

May God bless our future generations and grant us the wisdom to teach them their worth in His precious eyes.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

House Blessing, God's presence in the home

What a joy to have Fr. Andrew visit and bless our home on Monday.  The house blessing is a beautiful tradition in the Orthodox way of life.  With several hundred homes to bless each year, I am thankful that our church continues to honor this practice.  I think it’s an example of the shepherds tending to the flock.

After our greeting, Fr. Andrew asked, “Where do you usually pray?”  I led him to our den, where I have designated a small area for the icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary as well as a few candles.  He then began to pray, to ask God’s blessings upon the members of our family and our home.  I led him through our house as he continued the prayers and sprinkled each room with holy water.  

We read in Revelation 3:20 that: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and eat with him, and he with me.”  Christ seeks to bestow us with His blessings, it’s up to us to open the door and invite Him in. We should rejoice in the ways He blesses us, through our friends, our mentors, our priests and children.

I wish the kids had been home from school when Fr. Andrew came by.  Even so, I recounted the afternoon to them and they were happy to know their rooms had been sprinkled with holy water.    As I continue to grow in the Orthodox faith, I am realizing the meaning -and power - of symbols at home as well as in God’s sanctuary.   When Fr. Andrew asked, “Where do you usually pray?” I led him to the icons.  When the kids want to offer a special prayer, we go to the icon corner.  This isn’t to say that you can’t pray wherever you are, it is to say that Christ has a visible, powerful presence in our home through the “windows of heaven”, as icons are sometimes called.

Helen Iswolsky writes in her book, Christ in Russia:

“In the old days....a Russian entering his home or visiting a friend would first of all bow low before the icons and make the sign of the cross before greeting his family or host.  The icons symbolized God’s presence;  they were a constant reminder of the supernatural life, and appealed to morality and conscience.  It is difficult to lie, to cheat, to be brutal in front of an icon.  The Communists in Russia did all they could to tear away the icons from men’s homes, to deprive them of the image of their God, and to stifle the conscience of the people.”

Glory to God for the blessing upon our home, for Fr. Andrew and our church family, for all things!

*Image of icon is from Monastery Icons, where I have purchased several icons for our home.

Friday, February 1, 2008

February 1, St. Brigid's Feast Day

Today marks a day of honoring and blessing of St. Brigid, my patron saint.  She was known for her generosity, her hospitality and love of art.  It is said that at her abbey in Kildare, a fire was tended by her nuns, and only women were allowed near it.  This fire is said to have been kept perpetually alight for nearly a thousand years after her death.  Notice the flame in the image at left.    

The following is a house-blessing to share, in honor of St. Brigid and her distinct cross made of rushes: 

"May God give His blessing to the house that is here.
God bless this house from roof to floor,
From wall to wall,
from end to end,
from its foundation and in its covering.

In the strong name of the Triune God
all evil be banished,
all disturbance cease,
captive spirits freed,
God's Spirit alone
dwell within these walls.

We call upon the Sacred Three
to save, to shield and surround
this house, this home,
this day, this night,
and every night."

Blessed St. Brigid, please intercede to Christ our God, for healing, peace and wisdom, Amen.
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