Edinburgh has been buffeted by high winds for two days now. Thankfully we took precautions after the last storm!
We are on top of the highest part of Edinburgh, so take the brunt of any stormy winds around. Those who choose to go against the flow of The World can find that this is the same – the more one chooses to stand with Christ and His Gospel of truth and love, the harder life feels. Let us find our tethers to the ground in the Church, our brothers and sisters, and in praying for others.
Please keep me in your prayers, as those who’ve asked me for my poor prayers are in mine. Spring is coming!
Life in the Church is circular & linear: our lives return around the axis of the Feasts, the cycle of prayers & services, the seasons of fasting and feasting. At the same time, we run this race towards Our Father, praying for “the homeland of our heart’s desire”. A foretaste of the Kingdom in that moment of receiving the Gifts, in the bright sad joy of a pre-Sanctified Liturgy, the giddy joy of Pascha, these sustain us when our prayers grow ragged and weary. God grants us moments of grace, when He knows “my heart was failing within me, there was none who knew wherein I walked”. For me, in these wintry days, a bird singing praise and buds springing up are signs of the blessings both now and in our life to come.
I pray that we all find these moments of sustaining grace, as we progress slowly around and forward, towards our final Pascha.
Work also in progress. I do hope you find some value in seeing icons as they change: I’m always (still) astonished at how His hand guides mine, so quietly I’m hardly aware of it. I know that I could not paint these alone. These are small A5 icons on oak boards, for a diptych.
Exciting news of a talk I have been asked to give will follow soon. Pray for me, my brothers & sisters!
This blog hits so many of my yes buttons: although our children are on different parts of the spectrum (that’s why it’s a spectrum & not a zillion different named things), it helps so much to know we are not alone.
I am *the* most qualified person ever to write this post. Here’s why: I can’t imagine anyone having better friends and family than I do. Gawww.
So I’d like to share with you just a sampling of what they do right. Please understand that I cannot speak for everyone; I can’t list all the great things they do if I mean to keep this under 10,000 words; and I definitely do not intend to make excuses for bad behavior on our part.
But if you have a friend with an autistic child, you might see certain behaviors from us. And if you’ve ever wondered how to uniquely and profoundly love on these friends, here is a short list of some of my favorite hats my people have worn at various times.
1. The Elephant-Avoider
Yep, we have a kid with autism. We spend 100% of our waking hours thinking about it, and about…
I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to make an icon of St Thomas the Apostle, at the moment when he greets the risen Lord in the locked room – based on the fresco by Panselinos, my great inspiration, from the Protaton on Mt Athos.
There is a very comprehensive discussion of this icon here and one of the Festal hymns is quoted:-
“With his searching right hand, Thomas did probe Your life-bestowing side, O Christ God; for when You did enter while the doors were shut, he cried out unto You with the rest of the Apostles: You are my Lord and my God.”
(from the Hymns of the Feast)
I may have said this before but it bears repeating. St Thomas did not doubt Christ’s Resurrection because he had no faith. On the contrary, his uncertainty had two reasons. One, that Our Lord might be shown to be physically resurrected, not just in a vision for the faithful and that it be recorded in the Gospel. Secondly, that we might see in Thomas the depth of love and grief and fear and hope we would all experience. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe, but he didn’t dare to believe that he might once more see his Master. His cry from the heart “My Lord and My God!” wrends the heart even now.
Throughout this icon’s making I have held the commissioner in my prayers, as he makes his way towards the ministry. I continue to pray for him and wish him χρόνια πολλά – many years – in God’s service.
Today we celebrated the feast of the amazing saint of our times, St Nectarios of Pentapolis. He has been a great healer and wonderworker in our own lives but I want to share with you the short ‘vita’ given in our parish newsletter today, as it sums up both his life and the lessons we can learn from him so succinctly.
“Today we keep the feast of St Nectarios of Pentapolis. St Nectarios was born to a large poor family in Sylevria in eastern Thrace in 1846 to a humble background. He was a good pupil and always very religious. he became a monk, was ordained and subsequently went to Egypt where he was appointed Metropolitan of Pentapolis by the Patriarch of Alexandria. Here however he became the object of the jealousy of several fellow clerics in the Patriarchate. They made lying accusations against him which resulted in his being deposed and he had to return to Greece in disgrace. These accusations stayed with him for the rest of his life. After a very difficult period he was eventually appointed as a peripatetic preacher and then as the principal of the Rhization seminary in Athens. Here his humility and holiness were an inspiration for the students and many stories are told about him at this time. Two stick in my mind. The first was when some students misbehaved and brought the seminary into disrepute. St Nectarios said nothing to them but imposed a very strict fast on himself! The students were so embarrassed that they never misbehaved again. The other was when one of the cleaners became ill and was unable to do his job. So that he would not be sacked St Nectarios got up even earlier in the morning and did all the cleaning – especially of the lavatories – before everyone else got up. As a result the cleaner recovered and did not lose his job.
Eventually St Nectarios retired to the island of Aegina and here he successfully refounded a monastery for nuns often in the teeth of opposition. After his death on November 8th 1920 everyone saw that he had been a very holy man indeed: he was canonised in 1961. The monastery on Aegina now has the most beautiful, and largest, church in the whole of Greece, to cope with the vast number of pilgrims who come to venerate his relics. He is remembered as a wonder worker and is commemorated by the Church at every proskomide: a unique accomplishment for such a modern saint. He is also revered because many people are healed through his prayers, many hear him knock when they listen at his tomb (He does. I heard him!).
However, there is another reason why I think we should remember him in our age: how he dealt with adversity. St Nectarios had a very difficult life indeed. Often he must have thought that all his effort and hard work was useless and that he was achieving nothing. Yet he persevered. He did not hate or fight those who wronged him. He submitted to the will of others however unfair they were and continued to honour and love God above all things.
We all have difficult times in our lives. In those times let us remember St Nectarios and continue with the tasks that we have in hand and try to do them as well as we can for the glory of God, without complaint or grumbling. The Saviour’s Resurrection did not happen without suffering: neither will our Salvation.
But he who endures to the end will be saved (Mark 13:13)
Holy Nectarios, pray to God for us!”
(Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain Newsletter, 9th November 2014, 7th Sunday of Luke, 5th tone).
Proof that I have not, yet, fallen off the edge of the world! I am enjoying this more than I should perhaps, because I am studying the original by Panselinos to really understand it. Layers in drapery can easily become solid and flat or we can lose our sense of the form beneath the fabric: resist the temptation to ignore basic rules of drawing, especially when painting something complicated! I will share this with you again when it is completed. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions :)