Thursday, August 28, 2008

"The Way of the Will"

As I've been preparing for our year I picked up a book called "Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning". I really love Charlotte Mason philosophy of education and this book has been very enlightening. One of the chapters called "The Way of the Will" was particularly illuminating. Not so much with regards to education, but with regards to my own spiritual struggles. That being said, I want to add here quickly that this book could be very enlightening to anyone with children, not just those that home school. But this chapter could be enlightening to anyone!

Children have a will that is underdeveloped. (And after reading this I believe, so do I.) I was curious when Charlotte spoke of the importance of developing and training the Will of the child.
First of all, what is the Will?...
The Will is part of the soul of every man. But can we define it? If the Will is such an intrinsic part, how is it that so many people go through life without a single definite act of "willing"? Doing what everybody else seems to be doing (convention), fitting in with the crowd (custom), seem to steer the course of the average man. He may get up, dress, breakfast, follow his morning's occupation, eat his fast food lunch, and relax in the evening with this television without any act of choice.
What we do know about the Will is its function to choose, to decide. And you may have noticed that the more difficult the decision--and the weaker we may sense our will power to be--the more strenuous an effort it takes to decide. All around us opinion are provided for us. Advertisements bombard our senses until we gravitate toward convenience, convention, and covetousness. To follow the crowd and the way of least resistance seems to be all we need to get through the day.
But what is necessary of every man is character, and character is as Charlotte speaks of it--finely wrought metal beaten into shape and beauty by the repeated action of the Will. We who teach should make it clear to ourselves that our aim in education is less good conduct than good character. We may mold good conduct in our children, but it is of value to the world only as it has its source in character. To have a strong, virtuous character, we need a strong, vigorous Will.
Every assault upon the flesh and spirit of man is an attack, however insidious, upon his personality--his Will.

It is discouraging how crime and promiscuity have risen, but there will always be persons of good Will among us--God's remnant--who resist the general trend. Our duty as parents and teachers is to turn out into the world persons of good Will.
Parents keep a child's Will weak by constant suggestion. By suggestion Charlotte means deciding everything for our children--with nagging reminder--instead of giving them little bits of responsibility, room to fail, and consequences to face. Some called it "feeling the pain of decision."

What we do with the Will is voluntary. What we do without the conscious action of the Will is involuntary (habit). the Will's function is to "choose", and with every choice we make, we grow strength of character.

The power to Will is a slow growth, but it grows stronger as it is put to use. Charlotte tells us that the Will is the controller of the passions and emotions, the director of the desires, the ruler of the appetites. The Will builds its muscles as it is exercised. Every time a child represses the urge to have a fit, to hang his head in self-pity, or snatch something he wants away from another child, his Will is exercised and grows stronger. (
Adults as well? I think so.)
It should be pointed out that a turbulent (impatient, fitful) person is not ruled by Will at all, but by impluse, passion, and desire. To lose control is a sign of a feeble Will.

The simple Will, what our Lord calls "the single eye", would appear to be the one thing needful for straight living and serviceableness. But always the first condition of the Will, for good or ill, is an object outside of self. By degrees we may come to realize that just as "to reign" is the distinctive function of a king, so "to Will" is the function of a man. A king is not a king unless he reigns, and a man is less than a man unless he Wills.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday Stichera, Tone 8

One stanza of the stichera last night was particular moving to me. Set to tone 8 brings it much more beauty.

When the Ewe-lamb and Virgin beheld Thee, her Lamb,/
led to the slaughter,/
she followed after Thee with tears, and cried aloud:/
"Wither dost Thou hasten, O my Child?/
Let me go with Thee, O Jesus most sweet,//
for I cannot bear not to see Thee, O my Jesus!"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Thank you... all those who voted for my moms Robin video. She won!
Check out all the winners here...there were 5 winners.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary

I found this article on the OCA website. It is VERY good and well worth the long read. I had never read much of this before.

The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary: After the Ascension of the Lord, the Mother of God remained in the care of the Apostle John the Theologian, and during his journeys She lived at the home of his parents, near the Mount of Olives. She was a source of consolation and edification both for the Apostles and for all the believers. Conversing with them, She told them about miraculous events: the Annunciation, the seedless and undefiled Conception of Christ born of Her, about His early childhood, and about His earthly life. Like the Apostles, She helped plant and strengthen the Christian Church by Her presence, Her discourse and Her prayers.

The reverence of the Apostles for the Most Holy Virgin was extraordinary. After the receiving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles remained at Jerusalem for about ten years attending to the salvation of the Jews, and wanting moreover to see the Mother of God and hear Her holy discourse. Many of the newly-enlightened in the Faith even came from faraway lands to Jerusalem, to see and to hear the All-Pure Mother of God.

During the persecution initiated by King Herod against the young Church of Christ (Acts 12:1-3), the Most Holy Virgin and the Apostle John the Theologian withdrew to Ephesus in the year 43. The preaching of the Gospel there had fallen by lot to the Apostle John the Theologian. The Mother of God was on Cyprus with St Lazarus the Four-Days-Dead, where he was bishop. She was also on Holy Mount Athos. St Stephen of the Holy Mountain says that the Mother of God prophetically spoke of it: "Let this place be my lot, given to me by my Son and my God. I will be the Patroness of this place and intercede with God for it."

The respect of ancient Christians for the Mother of God was so great that they preserved what they could about Her life, what they could take note of concerning Her sayings and deeds, and they even passed down to us a description of Her outward appearance.

According to Tradition, based on the words of the Hieromartyrs Dionysius the Areopagite (October 3), Ignatius the God-Bearer (December 20), St Ambrose of Milan (December 7) had occasion to write in his work "On Virgins" concerning the Mother of God: "She was a Virgin not only in body, but also in soul, humble of heart, circumspect in word, wise in mind, not overly given to speaking, a lover of reading and of work, and prudent in speech. Her rule of life was to offend no one, to intend good for everyone, to respect the aged, not envy others, avoid bragging, be healthy of mind, and to love virtue."

When did She ever hurl the least insult in the face of Her parents? When was She at discord with Her kin? When did She ever puff up with pride before a modest person, or laugh at the weak, or shun the destitute? With Her there was nothing of glaring eyes, nothing of unseemly words, nor of improper conduct. She was modest in the movement of Her body, Her step was quiet, and Her voice straightforward; so that Her face was an expression of soul. She was the personification of purity.

All Her days She was concerned with fasting: She slept only when necessary, and even then, when Her body was at rest, She was still alert in spirit, repeating in Her dreams what She had read, or the implementation of proposed intentions, or those planned yet anew. She was out of Her house only for church, and then only in the company of relatives. Otherwise, She seldom appeared outside Her house in the company of others, and She was Her own best overseer. Others could protect Her only in body, but She Herself guarded Her character."

The circumstances of the Dormition of the Mother of God were known in the Orthodox Church from apostolic times. Already in the first century, the Hieromartyr Dionysius the Areopagite wrote about Her "Falling-Asleep." In the second century, the account of the bodily ascent of the Most Holy Virgin Mary to Heaven is found in the works of Meliton, Bishop of Sardis. In the fourth century, St Epiphanius of Cyprus refers to the tradition about the "Falling Asleep" of the Mother of God. In the fifth century, St Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, told the holy Byzantine Empress Pulcheria: "Although there is no account of the circumstances of Her death in Holy Scripture, we know about them from the most ancient and credible Tradition." This tradition was gathered and expounded in the Church History of Nicephorus Callistus during the fourteenth century.

At the time of Her blessed Falling Asleep, the Most Holy Virgin Mary was again at Jerusalem. Her fame as the Mother of God had already spread throughout the land and had aroused many of the envious and the spiteful against Her. They wanted to make attempts on Her life; but God preserved Her from enemies.

Day and night She spent her time in prayer. The Most Holy Theotokos went often to the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord, and here She offered up fevent prayer. More than once, enemies of the Savior sought to hinder Her from visiting her holy place, and they asked the High Priest for a guard to watch over the Grave of the Lord. The Holy Virgin continued to pray right in front of them, yet unseen by anyone.

In one such visit to Golgotha, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Her and announced Her approaching departure from this life to eternal life. In pledge of this, the Archangel gave Her a palm branch. With these heavenly tidings the Mother of God returned to Bethlehem with the three girls attending Her (Sepphora, Abigail, and Jael). She summoned Righteous Joseph of Arimathea and other disciples of the Lord, and told them of Her impending Repose.

The Most Holy Virgin prayed also that the Lord would have the Apostle John come to Her. The Holy Spirit transported him from Ephesus, setting him in that very place where the Mother of God lay. After the prayer, the Most Holy Virgin offered incense, and John heard a voice from Heaven, closing Her prayer with the word "Amen." The Mother of God took it that the voice meant the speedy arrival of the Apostles and the Disciples and the holy Bodiless Powers.

The faithful, whose number by then was impossible to count, gathered together, says St John of Damascus, like clouds and eagles, to listen to the Mother of God. Seeing one another, the Disciples rejoiced, but in their confusion they asked each other why the Lord had gathered them together in one place. St John the Theologian, greeting them with tears of joy, said that the time of the Virgin's repose was at hand.

Going in to the Mother of God, they beheld Her lying upon the bed, and filled with spiritual joy. The Disciples greeted Her, and then they told her how they had been carried miraculously from their places of preaching. The Most Holy Virgin Mary glorified God, because He had heard Her prayer and fulfilled Her heart's desire, and She began speaking about Her imminent end.

During this conversation the Apostle Paul also appeared in a miraculous manner together with his disciples Dionysius the Areopagite, St Hierotheus, St Timothy and others of the Seventy Apostles. The Holy Spirit had gathered them all together so that they might be granted the blessing of the All-Pure Virgin Mary, and more fittingly to see to the burial of the Mother of the Lord. She called each of them to Herself by name, She blessed them and extolled them for their faith and the hardships they endured in preaching the Gospel of Christ. To each She wished eternal bliss, and prayed with them for the peace and welfare of the whole world.

Then came the third hour (9 A.M.), when the Dormition of the Mother of God was to occur. A number of candles were burning. The holy Disciples surrounded her beautifully adorned bed, offering praise to God. She prayed in anticipation of Her demise and of the arrival of Her longed-for Son and Lord. Suddenly, the inexpressible Light of Divine Glory shone forth, before which the blazing candles paled in comparison. All who it saw took fright. Descending from Heaven was Christ, the King of Glory, surrounded by hosts of Angels and Archangels and other Heavenly Powers, together with the souls of the Forefathers and the Prophets, who had prophesied in ages past concerning the Most Holy Virgin Mary.

Seeing Her Son, the Mother of God exclaimed: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God My Savior, for He hath regarded the low estate of His Handmaiden" (Luke 1:46-48) and, rising from Her bed to meet the Lord, She bowed down to Him, and the Lord bid Her enter into Life Eternal. Without any bodily suffering, as though in a happy sleep, the Most Holy Virgin Mary gave Her soul into the hands of Her Son and God.

Then began a joyous angelic song. Accompanying the pure soul of the God-betrothed and with reverent awe for the Queen of Heaven, the angels exclaimed: "Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou among women! For lo, the Queen, God's Maiden comes, lift up the gates, and with the Ever-Existing One, take up the Mother of Light; for through Her salvation has come to all the human race. It is impossible to gaze upon Her, and it is impossible to render Her due honor" (Stikherion on "Lord, I Have Cried"). The Heavenly gates were raised, and meeting the soul of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Cherubim and the Seraphim glorified Her with joy. The face of the Mother of God was radiant with the glory of Divine virginity, and from Her body there came a sweet fragrance.

Miraculous was the life of the All-Pure Virgin, and wondrous was Her Repose, as Holy Church sings: "In Thee, O Queen, the God of all hath given thee as thy portion the things that are above nature. Just as in the Birth-Giving He did preserve Thine virginity, so also in the grave He did preserve Thy body from decay" (Canon 1, Ode 6, Troparion 1).

Kissing the all-pure body with reverence and in awe, the Disciples in turn were blessed by it and filled with grace and spiritual joy. Through the great glorification of the Most Holy Theotokos, the almighty power of God healed the sick, who with faith and love touched the holy bed.

Bewailing their separation from the Mother of God, the Apostles prepared to bury Her all-pure body. The holy Apostles Peter, Paul, James and others of the Twelve Apostles carried the funeral bier upon their shoulders, and upon it lay the body of the Ever-Virgin Mary. St John the Theologian went at the head with the resplendent palm-branch from Paradise. The other saints and a multitude of the faithful accompanied the funeral bier with candles and censers, singing sacred songs. This solemn procession went from Sion through Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane.

With the start of the procession there suddenly appeared over the all-pure body of the Mother of God and all those accompanying Her a resplendent circular cloud, like a crown. There was heard the singing of the Heavenly Powers, glorifying the Mother of God, which echoed that of the worldly voices. This circle of Heavenly singers and radiance accompanied the procession to the very place of burial.

When the procession reached the Garden of Gethsemane, then amidst the weeping and the wailing began the last kiss to the all-pure body. Only towards evening were the Apostles able to place it in the tomb and seal the entrance to the cave with a large stone.

For three days they did not depart from the place of burial, praying and chanting Psalms. Through the wise providence of God, the Apostle Thomas was not to be present at the burial of the Mother of God. Arriving late on the third day at Gethsemane, he lay down at the tomb and with bitter tears asked that l he might be permitted to look once more upon the Mother of God and bid her farewell. The Apostles out of heartfelt pity for him decided to open the grave and permit him the comfort of venerating the holy relics of the Ever-Virgin Mary. Having opened the grave, they found in it only the grave wrappings and were thus convinced of the bodily ascent of the Most Holy Virgin Mary to Heaven.

On the evening of the same day, when the Apostles had gathered at a house to strengthen themselves with food, the Mother of God appeared to them and said: "Rejoice! I am with you all the days of your lives." This so gladdened the Apostles and everyone with them, that they took a portion of the bread, set aside at the meal in memory of the Savior ("the Lord's Portion"), and they exclaimed : "Most Holy Theotokos, save us". (This marks the beginning of the rite of offering up the "Panagia" ("All-Holy"), a portion of bread in honor of the Mother of God, which is done at monasteries to the present day).

In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Two days on the beach this week...

A week ago today, we took some dear friends to Fay Bainbridge State Park on a beautiful sunny day and played on the beach for several hours. Here (from left to right) are Patrick (our guest), Charissa, Kelsey, Joseph and Nicholas. The spent the afternoon digging, splashing, running and getting very dirty. But they had a blast and slept very well that night!

At one point during the day Liz came running up to get her camera all excited saying, "Charissa caught a fish! She just reached into the water and caught a fish with her bare hands. A perch. I've never known anyone to do that!"
When we first got to the beach Nicholas sat in the sand just enjoying the warmth of the soft sand. He was watching the sand intently as it ran through his fingers. Then he started asking questions as he watched the sand move. He'd look very closely at it at times. "What's sand?"

Mud! Mud is always fun!

Then yesterday we went back to the same beach but this time we went with some friends from Church. Ellen's grandson, Riley, has been visiting all summer and this is his last week here before going back home to Virgina. Riley is on the far left. The kids had such a blast once again.

Joseph loves to dig in the sand and decided to bury himself.

We had the treat of seeing a bald eagle come flying out over the water and back again to this tree, twice. If you click on the picture you can see it close up. Bald eagles are so beautiful and majestic looking.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Food is Your Best Medicine and Orthodoxy

This book I'm reading, Food is Your Best Medicine, is an extremely fascinating book. I'm not one to read books that are so detailed medically/scientifically but this book is downright fascinating. I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book and as I'm reading the chapter on the functions of the kidney and what makes it function properly and what makes it function improperly, something occurred to me that I must share with my fellow Orthodox. The main theme of this book is that our bodies don't function properly when filled with toxemia or toxins that we've ingested via the rich, refined, overcooked, UNnatural foods we eat everyday. Our internal organs or FILTERS begin deteriorating or become overwhelmed with the work they need to do and can't filter the toxins out of the body as they should. Everything we eat our body doesn't need, those things we don't need in our body are the toxins it needs to eliminate. These toxins are what causes disease when not eliminated properly.
His remedy for having the healthiest body possible is in what you eat! If you eat as naturally as possible, uncooked fruits and vegetables, or vegetable broth and fruit juices, and moderate amounts of meat that is lightly cooked then your body will be healthy and normal (in the true sense of normal). When the body is overwhelmed with toxins his remedy is to “fast” on vegetable broth and fruit juices to cleanse the system. I wonder if you can guess what I might be getting at with regards to Orthodoxy.

In the Orthodox cycle of fasting periods and feasting we have been given the natural means to cleanse our bodies periodically. We are to fast from the richest of foods and to consume what should be natural and cleansing.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Xenia Kathryn's recent blog post has spawned some great comments and then thoughts in my own head....Community. Without taking the time to have links to past blog posts I'm certain that I have blogged more than once regarding my thoughts on “community”. It is so important and lacking, beyond words, in our present society. I also know that I love my little farm and would love to expand it to much larger boundaries. Would this mean that I would have to leave my “community”? As is noted in the post it seems as though for one to have acreage and grow a “farm” one must leave “community” behind. Even though I am close to Church, I live in an area where the Church community itself is spread as far as it could go. If I ever want to grow my little farm bigger (as in acreage, etc.) I know that I will not be able to do this in Western WA as the cost of living here is far too great. I know it isn't as high as in such places as California but it is much higher than such places as Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, etc. James and I have become very aware of the fact that we could sell our home here in Western WA (after living here for awhile longer to gain more equity and of course wait for the market to come back) and go to the Midwest somewhere and buy a house nearly free and clear. How appealing is that? But would I have to leave all ideas of community behind? Hmmm....not sure I really want to do that. I crave more of a close knit Orthodox Community.
I do know of one blog post I did awhile back that included the coolest Icon written of an Orthodox “Community”. Is it too much of an unrealistic “dream” that something like this could exist? I don't know. Maybe if I “build it they will come”.

In the meantime, the mister and I have decided to work much harder at creating this little farm into a self-sufficient place. The outcome we hope to achieve is debt-free (or as close as possible to that term we can get) self-sufficiency and greater community. THIS IS HARD WORK! And work I'm slowly learning to do, out of desire and necessity. It may be years before we see that final result. And it may not be in Western WA where the final result takes place.

Monday, August 04, 2008

To All My Portland Blogging Buddies

I am hoping to head your way to attend this retreat in October. I'm on a fairly strict budget and was wondering if anyone has space to put me (and maybe one other person from my Church) up for one night. We are hoping to carpool several of us but I don't want to ask too much so maybe I could find a bed, sofa, cot or floor for at least one or 2 of us. You don't need to feed us.

Thanks so much!!

You can email me privately....
susansophia.f [at] gmail[dot]com