Monday, April 30, 2007

Bath Time

Not a reflection on my personal hygiene, but descriptive of my long-awaited girls` day out with some cyberfriends in Bath !

I have been away on my own !
For the first time in seven years without the children, for a whole 16 hours :-)
It was so nice not to have to be constantly listening out for cries of "Mum!", and it was equally wonderful to come home to my little ones at the end of the day !
Did any of you see the TV show "Regency House Party" from four years ago ? Where they sent a load of young men and women to live an authentic Regency period summer in an authentic Regency period Country House ?

The producing TV channel set up a forum, which , when they closed it after about 18 months or so, was still going strong, so we decided to set up our very own Forum which would not be at the vagaries and whims of a TV Channel.

We continue to flourish, and one of the members invited us all to a Regency House party weekend at her home in Bath. I opted just to go for the day, as I am a bit of a home bird at the best of times, and these were all friends whom I had also never ever seen in the flesh :-)

I felt a whole weekend would be rather overwhelming.........for me and them !
I arrived at Rosie`s amazing house in Bath at 9 am yesterday. Rosie was one of the chaperones on the TV show.

She bought a gorgeous Georgian house just outside the busy centre of Bath, but within easy walking distance of the shops :-)

It is truly amazing and she has restored it to its full glory, with plaster mouldings and cornices, and the original stone floors. This veritable and enormous palace has no less than *six * storeys - needless to say, there are chairs on every landing so that those housed "in the gods" can catch their breath on the ascent....LOL.
It is much bigger than the Museum House at No 1 Royal Crescent.

We had a grand day out , her Italian housekeeper did us proud on the food front, and I was pooped by the time I got home at 09-45ish Saturday night, but replete with wonderful memories ;-)
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Too Much CSI


You know you have been watching too much CSI when you walk into the school yard at home time and see this, and my first thought was that it looks like a mass casualty scene from CSI !

Apparently the explanation was entirely benign and the younger classes had been allowed to draw their shadows with chalk on the yard in the afternoon playtime :-)
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The Main Man


A rare photo of my DH, who is generally behind the Camcorder taking photos of us !
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Mountain Climbing


We climbed up Margam Mountain, which is not quite a thousand feet tall, so in theory it is only a hill, apparently.
It was hard work on a very hot day...but the views were lovely!
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Monastic Ruins


Part of the monastic ruins at Margam.


The octagonal building is the Chapter House
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Margam Orangery


This is part of the facade of the Orangery at Margam Castle.
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Magnolia


This enormous and glorious Magnolia tree was quite spectacular !
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Here Be Giants !


At Margam park, there is a delightful fairy tale village and in one of the trees, there is the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk :-)

And he really is up a very big tree.......
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Friday, April 27, 2007

Orthodox Roundup

It`s that time again already :-)

Last issue, I forgot to mention some wonderful Lenten and Paschal snippets from our Byzantine Catholic friend, MaryPoppinsNOT , over at Crazy Acres. In this one, she compares the Great Canon to labour, as all our female readers who have given birth will empathise :-)
I absolutely adored her Bright Week idea of a bonfire accompanied by food and the celebration of an Akathist ! And her experiences of running an icon painting workshop are fascinating.

Another late update from post-Pascha is this interesting post about Radonitsa, the Ancestors` Remembrance Tuesday after St Thomas` Sunday and a discussion about why we pray for the reposed.

The life of Blessed Matrona of Moscow is related here, and the wise words of Fr John Krestiankin about marriage are quoted here

2007 marks the 1600th anniversary of the repose of St John Chrysostom !


Which is the coolest town in Europe ? Go here to find out !

James from Paradosis provided me with the coolest picture ever - the Great Blessing of an Ice Rink for the World Ice Hockey Championships !

His wife Sophia blogs about the beginning of their farm industries and the reason for their choice of name here.

The heartbreaking events of Virginia Tech are discussed movingly by S-P over at Pithless Thoughts and by Fr Peter, who discusses the heroic actions of a Jewish Holocaust Survivor who protected his students though it cost him his life, and of Fr Peter`s own counselling work at the campus after the tragedy......

The Violent Munkee had an amazing insight whilst listening to the Orthodox funeral of Boris Yeltsin and Michael over at Sarisburium ponders on the meaning of Silence in our lives as described in the Rule of St Benedict.

St Seraphim`s advice on how to pray when time is short is discussed by Fr Stephen, who also tells us why monastics are vitally important in the modern world. St Silouan`s admiration for the wisdom, piety and integrity of his father is a highly profitable read.

The amazing spiritual advice of Bishop Kallistos of Denver bears very close reading , and I will certainly be coming back to this repeatedly.

If you have young ones, they will most likely love this, where you can watch and listen to the author reading aloud the story she wrote about the miracle worked for her grandmother by St Kendeas !

I think that`s about all for now, folks !
Till next time........
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Old Prayer Book !

One of my recent acquisitions due to the current favourable (to us) £/$ exchange rate has been a copy of the Old Orthodox Prayer Book from the Old Believer community at Erie.

It is fabulous, and the best £15 I have spent in a very long time :-)

I particularly like the Canon for the Sick, which I have not ever seen before in a prayer book.

It is great having the large variety of Canons, Akathist, Liturgy(which has some differences from what I am used to), all the Hours, Vespers, Matins, Calendar, Troparia and Kontakia in one easily portable volume, as it is much smaller than Hapgood and more "useful" on a layperson`s daily basis than Hapgood. They may not be used often, but they are extremely useful to have. I think this may become my designated "Hospital Prayer Book" to be packed and taken in emergencies as it is both comprehensive and compact.

What I simply wasn`t prepared for was the Orthodox aerobics. If you think the Canon of St Andrew in Lent is tough on the joints, so are the daily prayers.

To pray the standard Morning prayers according to the rubrics involves 58 metanias (plus 5 more if you wish to pray fervently for someone alive, and another 5 if you wish to pray fervently for someone who has reposed), making 68, plus ten full prostrations interspersed at intervals . And that does not , of course, include the 17 prostrations involved in the prayer of St Ephrem in Great Lent !


Personally, I find the activity involved very useful in keeping me focused on what I am praying, rather than racing through the prayers, though it is obviously entirely possible ( though I imagine not often formally permitted by the Community) to omit the bows and prostrations when needed.

I have a friend who is an Old Believer hierodeacon , so I was pleased to be able to afford to get this lovely book and see for myself why he loves it so much .
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Elderly Nuns Murdered in Greece

The BBC news site has just reported that two elderly Orthodox nuns were murdered at their remote convent, Dormition of the Virgin near Astros, 80 miles away from Athens.
It is believed that the thieves stole a cross containing a relic of the True Cross.

Lord have mercy......may the Nuns` Memories be Eternal.
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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Weird Things Meme

Dave Holford has tagged me to write six weird things about myself. It has taken me a while to get round to it, for which I apologise.

Why stop at six ? LOL.

1/ I hate going to the hairdressers, or anyone fiddling with my hair. Makes my flesh creep, my hackles rise and shortly after I start to get really cross. I`ve never had a bad experience at the hairdresser`s salon or anything of the sort.
Everyone else thinks that is really weird.......

2/I am a retired Campanologist !
I can ring bells, though I haven`t done it for quite a while now. And I mean proper, hung, several hundredweight each bells in church towers, not these namby-pamby handbells or carillons.....

3/ I once nearly caused a mini-riot at a concert when I was at University. Some guy behind me kept shoving me hard in the back, so I turned round and gave him the benefit of my opinion. He didn`t like it very much, and a full-on argument developed which very nearly became violent. I am ashamed now , needless to say.

4/ At one point in my Anglican youth, I seriously thought about becoming a nun. My priest thought I was definitely going to end up a nun. God`s providence decreed otherwise, and here I am, an Orthodox laywoman.
People who see me now with four kids tend to have a giggle over that !

5/ I can`t read music at all. Nor play any instrument.
I am a total klutz in that department.

6/ I am a Trekkie. And I like watching Judge Judy. So there ! My guilty secrets are out....
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Saints Meme

The task is to name four of your favourite Saints, one who was well on the way to sanctity, is widely venerated already and very likely to be made a Saint in due course, and one who isn`t yet publicly declared a saint but probably should be made a Saint.

My votes:

St John of Shanghai and San Francisco
St Benedict of Nursia
St Barsanuphius of Optina
St Spyridon

Blessed:
Fr Seraphim Rose

Should be made a Saint :
Elder Cleopa of Romania
or
Elder Porphyrios of Greece.

Who would you choose ?

I tag Mimi, Deb, S-P and Ian from Oz.......... and anyone else who wants to play.

Feel free to vehemently disagree with my choices in the last two categories :-)
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More On St George`s Day

Another snippet- April 23rd is also Shakespeare`s death-day.

Apparently Will Shakespeare was 46 years old the year the King James Version of the Bible was published.

There is a neat mystery entailed :-
Open your KJV of the Bible and look for Psalm 46

Count 46 words from the beginning. The word is 'shake'.

Count 46 words from the end (do not include the word 'selah' which is an arcane Hebrew rubric and no, I don`t know what it means but I intend to find out!).

Lo and behold, that word is .....................'spear.'

How coincidental is that ?


H/T to RC blog Standing On My head

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Birth and Death

One of the kindest and most loving things came to my attention today.

There is a group of photographers who freely donate their time and skills to helping families who have endured the stillbirth or death of an infant.

They go to hospitals where these babies are dying or have just died, and take loads of photographs of the baby and of his /her family, so the families have a tangible keepsake of the short but precious life of their child.

What an amazing act of love and charity, to help these families. One family helped in this way can be found here, with wonderful yet such sad photographs..........
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Superman Beware !

Kryptonite has been discovered !
No, not in a Superman film, but in reality.

Before we all get too excited, it just shares the same chemical makeup as Kryptonite shown in a museum case label in one of the films, but I think it is still pretty neat !
Story here
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Monday, April 23, 2007

St George`s Day


A Happy and Blessed St George`s Day to you all !

I really liked this fresco with scenes from the life of St George at Kremikovtsi Monastery, Bulgaria.

:-)
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Spiders On Caffeine

I know I have posted a lot today, but I hope you will indulge me and agree that I simply had to draw your attention to this post

Ignore the bit about caffeinated soap to get you going in the morning; scroll down and see what fascinated me was the fact that caffeine acts as an insecticide, and the studies showing that spiders weave different sorts of webs depending on what chemical/medications they have been fed/dosed with....
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Glories Of Nature

One of the non-Orthodox blogs I visit regularly is Fragments From Floyd

It is filled with glorious photographs of the area wherein Fred lives, in Virginia, and wonderfully vivid and poetic descriptions of his life there.
Fred has now produced two sets of cards based on his photographs of the area, which can be purchased here

I have ordered some and I am looking forward to getting and sharing their beauties by using them to delight friends and relatives.
Just looking at the pictures brings a smile to my face :-)

One of my favourite past pictures from his blog can be found here
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Sun Cream

I knew it would rain today.

We went shopping to BlogTown on Saturday, and mindful of the letters that generally come home from school at this time of year exhorting parents to buy sunscreen for their children and allow them to take it to school so it can be applied at intervals throughout the day when we do actually have sunshine, I complied.

I stood, boggled, at three aisles of sunscreen products in a branch of a major shop chain, looking and wondering which one to choose. I normally buy factor 50 as both of the young ones have quite sensitive skin compared to the older two, and I naively thought this would narrow the search somewhat.
It didn`t .
Sunscreen products for children are seriously big business and there were loads to choose from- in fact , many more than there were last year.

Sticks which look green when first applied , sprays which look green when first applied, liquids which look green when first applied so you can see what parts you have missed.
Items which are waterproof, or "use once and protect for six hours".

Items which you need to apply 15 minutes before going out in the sun and items you can apply and go straight out in the sun.
Factor 50, Factor 40, Factor 30 for kids, in various permutations of the above and made by numerous different manufacturers.
I was exhausted by the time I finished, and the only bright point was that it was a "Buy One, Get One Free" promotion, so the two bottles only cost me £11 instead of £22.

And of course, we woke up this morning and it was raining. So the girls went to school wearing raincoats, not sunscreen !

But at least I am prepared if the sun should dare to show its face again in the next few months......
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Baby Bird Has Wings !

The baby bird I wrote about recently has, despite all the odds, survived and thrived, and can now fly confidently.

Yesterday I was delighted to see both he and his mother fly around in the garden and then over the rooftops into an adjacent garden. I know he still has a long way to go before he is independent, but I am glad he has made it thus far.

I know that many thousands of young birds are victim to predators, but I really wanted to help this little one and his mother who has tended him so lovingly and watchfully over the last week he has been in my garden.

And next door`s cat is extremely well-fed and really doesn`t need to feast on this particular little bird !
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Basil`s Search For Miracles

Basil`s Search For Miracles
by Heather Zydek,
published by Conciliar Press 2007

It is listed as suitable for children aged9 - 12, though it can be enjoyed by a much more varied age group than that.
I **thoroughly** enjoyed it, and so did my daughter :-)

Heather very graciously sent me a preview copy of her great new book for children;it arrived in time for Pascha, and we read it in Bright Week.

DD3 (aged 8, but working with the 11 and 12 year olds in their English class in school) and I started it as bedtime reading, but after a few days she found she simply couldn`t bear to wait for the next installment and begged to read it herself. She was utterly engrossed and subsequently devoured it in just under two days.


We meet 12 year old Basil and are quickly drawn into a confrontation he has with his mother over where he should go to school. His current school, where he is coasting along academically and has many friends, is not stretching him or his considerable linguistic abilities at all, and Mom has decided he needs to go to a school where his particular talents will be recognized and put to good use.

Despite all his protests and fury, he is told, point-blank, that his mother has made the decision to send him to St Norbert`s , that it is final and that she as an adult is responsible for these kinds of decisions , not him. I do so hope this message actually penetrated to my DD3 as well , LOL !

Basil is somewhat reconciled to the idea when he finds that St Norbert`s not only publishes a school newspaper , but is looking for a new member of pupil staff for the newspaper. He applies, and is accepted.
We see him meet the others on the newspaper team, and see how they all interact, except for Anthony, a quiet, obviously gifted boy, who loves to draw, and who is very much a loner, looking rather shabby and unkempt, and generally avoided by most people.

Basil ends up writing a religious column for the paper, which leads him on his own personal voyage of discovery; as he searches for things to write about, he discovers an Orthodox church near his home, meets its Priest and is introduced to the weeping icon kept there.
As Basil is a predominantly unchurched child, all this is a bit of a culture shock, and it takes him time to assimilate what he has found.

He discovers about Saints, the Holy Fire in Jerusalem and miracles. Other members of his class are Christians, and learns about their way of life too. The gentle , kind wisdom of the Orthodox priest takes hold of Basil and he learns to look out for others.

His relationship with the outcast Anthony develops, and he finds that Anthony is living in an abusive home, with an alcoholic father, and his mother has died. Life looks bleak for the boy, yet he has an uncle who loves him and helps him as much as possible, and the two boys become friends.

Anthony is an unusual, deeply thoughtful and loving child, who does his best to understand his father and to explain his behaviour to Basil, who has a loving mother and has such a different background that he finds it hard to understand how his friend continues to live in such an environment.

Christianity -and particularly Orthodoxy - is such a strong element running throughout the book. It is explicit in the descriptions of the miracles and saints, whilst allowing and encouraging children to find out more about the incidents described, and implicit in the themes and undercurrents permeating the whole book without ever being "preachy", or over the top.

The ending is surprising, and my daughter loved the fast pace of the book and the descriptions of the conflicts which Basil has with his mother, who is portrayed as loving and caring, yet a bit distant and very preoccupied with working hard as well as being a single parent - a difficult set of situations which she does her very best to juggle and to do them all justice. The responsibilities and worries facing her as a parent are also depicted well. It would be entirely possible to write a whole book from her point of view, too !

Basil is a contemporary child, facing all too common contemporary challenges, and most children I know could relate very well to him and the way his life is initially and how it develops. Christianity is shown as something that can and should be life-changing, that it is valuable, comforting, life-enhancing and , ultimately, truly necessary .

This book is truly a fine achievement, and Heather Zydek should be warmly congratulated on it.
I look forward to lots more from her in due course !
Lots more info from her web site !

Go and read it; you will be glad you did :-)
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Weather

The weather here continues **absolutely glorious**.

We are now on our third week of sunshine and some real warmth; my beloved tortoise from my childhood has surfaced from his long winter`s sleep and is busy trundling around the garden in search of his favoured food, dandelions, which we have in abundance :-)

I have a load of washing blowing dry on the washing line, there is some blossom on our plum tree and our pink fuschia is in flower.
What joy to see beauty in my little garden.

Apparently, however, the weather is due to change and there has been some unsubstantiated rumour of rain by the weekend.

Oh well, it has been lovely while it lasted !
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Mother Gavrilia Speaks

Another profitable saying from the ever-memorable Eldress Mother Gavrilia:-


Do not wish for many things, whether they are within or out of reach.
Instead, take care to sanctify the little you have.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

I wanted to say something about the appalling events at Virginia Tech , and have been struggling to say anything of profit.

I grieve so much at this pointless and desperately sad tragedy.

I commend the souls of all those slain to our loving God, and their families and those who were injured to the loving prayers of the Theotokos.

Lord have mercy on us all.........
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Bird Watching

I love watching birds anyway, but I have been very assiduously watching a particular baby blackbird in my garden.

This little one had fallen out of its nest about five days ago, and I saw him sitting on the children`s swing seat in the garden. He didn`t move, not even when I saw next door`s ginger tomcat stalking him. I leapt from the computer chair, frothing at the mouth and uttering strange oaths (in fact, I yelled something along the lines of "Not on my watch, you ginger illegitimate offspring!"), opened the back door and shooed the cat away before I walked right up to Baby bird.

He was a very little baby, with barely grown feathers, certainly not enough to fly properly with. I could hear the frantic calling of his mother , who was in a tree at the bottom of the garden, so I retreated, left them to it and kept watch to make sure next door`s cat didn`t come back.
Mother bird kept collecting worms, coming back to the garden and feeding the baby, who was hiding behind the compost bin, out of harm`s way.

He has continued to grow and thrive, and is now able to fly up into the apple tree in our garden as his feathers have grown longer and his wings stronger. He is hopefully much less vulnerable now, though his mother is watching him all the time, and she doesn`t leave the garden.

It has been a joy to see him grow, and his mother`s care for him.

The enormity of how much more God loves us is amazing. Most of us would do anything, even lay down our lives to protect our children. God did much more than that for us.

Christ is Risen !
He is Risen indeed !
Alleluia !!
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Changing Plans

Today, the young ones went back to school. Although I knew I was going to miss them, I was planning to do loads of things that I wanted to do and needed peace and quiet to do.

Real life got in the way, as it mercifully has a habit of doing :-)

My mother has very severe asthma, and yesterday was started on antibiotics by her doctor for a chest infection . She needed shopping and was definitely not well enough to go herself, so I offered to run her errands and take the shopping to her home.

I took the girls to school, walked home, took the dog for a walk, got a bus to town, then did mum`s shopping (included flowers for the next door neighbour, whose father died on Sunday evening), caught another bus to her house, sorted out some paperwork and business for her, had lunch with her, washed the dishes and caught two buses home before walking down to pick the children up from school and walk them home again.

So, I was able to help my mother, sort out things that she would have found difficult, saved her a difficult and physically exhausting shopping trip, kept her company for a few hours, showed her how to use her laptop to surf the Internet, got her flowers so she could give her neighbour as a sign of her sympathy, and catch up on some news.

I may have been out of pocket financially, but I was enriched so much more by spending time, helping out and giving pleasure.

At home I would have done some housework ( well, the housework will still be there tomorrow, next week and next year !), surfed the Net (that too will always be there tomorrow !) and generally just indulged my own selfishness.

Instead I had to get off my backside and do something positive and tangible, which was much more beneficial for me and for my beloved mother.
It did me the world of good !
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Monday, April 16, 2007

Another Death In The Family

We have just had news that my much-loved Great Aunt Rose died late this afternoon.
My mother is taking it very hard, as Aunt Rose was with my grandmother whilst she was in labour with my mother, had seen my mother being born and Rose had remained very close to my mother throughout her life.


Her death was expected, following complications after surgery , but we are grieving nonetheless.
Hopefully we will know tomorrow exactly when the funeral will take place.

It is the end of an era, as Rose was the last sibling of my grandfather`s generation left alive....


May her Memory be Eternal !
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Mother Gavrilia Speaks

From Mother Gavrilia, a profitable word:-

Any place may become a place of Resurrection, if the Humility of Christ becomes the way of our life.
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The Voice In The Night

Sometimes I have woken and been unable to get back to sleep.

I generally have my prayer rope under my pillow, and it is but the work of a second to grasp it and start the Jesus prayer, for myself, family or friends, and usually I will get back to sleep with the words of the Prayer on my lips.

I have an eclectic mix on my blog-roll, and I was delighted to see this post by a nun on the voice in the night calling us to prayer.
I`m glad to know I am not alone :-)
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Holy Feud Stinks

Quite literally !
There was a major feud amongst denominations of monks sharing the Holy Shrine in Jerusalem just before Pascha, over toilets of all thing.......

UPDATE
Michael, I know exactly what you mean. I too felt so very sad when I read this.

Christ showed such love and compassion to those around Him, yet we who call ourselves His followers can sometimes show such contempt for other people, seeming to forget that all are made in the Image of God and are loved by Him.........
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Big Brother

The Big Brother State creeps ever closer with the news that in some places, nursery and primary schoolchildren have been fingerprinted without parental knowledge or consent, and the children even told not to tell their parents.........

Story here


UPDATE
Needless to say, it is very unlikely that the state will be getting my permission to fingerprint my school-age children.........
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What Kind of Nerd Would You Be ?

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and it's eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society, however you can probably be overly-critical of works.

It's okay. I understand.

Social Nerd
Artistic Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Science/Math Nerd
Anime Nerd
Drama Nerd
Musician
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace
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Orthodox Roundup

Christ is Risen !

Home-schooling - the benefits and drawbacks- has been in the news here over the last few weeks, with concerns that parents are not teaching their children enough. I was very interested to read this summary of a RC mother`s homeschooling day

It seems very comprehensive to me and is able to include a fair amount of appropriate religious education; would any of my homeschooling readers like to share their own experiences ?

Some brilliant blogposts appeaared about Holy Week, and I know it is a little late, but I thought I would share my favourites :-)

Joshua asks "How long would you stand and listen to the reading of the gospel – the good news of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ – the story of his pilgrimage from the upper room to the garden tomb?"

Christopher gives a wonderful account of Holy Week in the Holy Land in 1846 by Monk Parthenius .

James talks about killing God

Mimi provides the Paschal greeting from all around the world`s languages !

Fr Joseph provides a plethora of Paschal pictures (I rather liked that sentence !)

Mary Brigid ponders on Bright Week

Christopher posts excerpts from Scott Cairns` magnificent, poetic essay on his experiences on the Holy Mountain. and Fr Stephen talks about the importance of truly "hearing" Scripture as opposed to simply listening to it.....

Monica talks about how eavesdropping on murder at a doctor`s clinic in Romania affected her, and James ponders the morality of imposing circumcision on infants to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases rather than teaching them abstinence before marriage.

Dave Holford ponders the point of the Turkish government renovating an Armenian church and then refusing to let anyone use it, and archaeology may have discovered the truth behind the Titulus Crucis


I think that`s all for now, folks :-)



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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

WP Interview With Rita Wilson

I found this article on a mailing list , and thought you would all enjoy it.

I particularly loved the burning hair bit - our priest says you know it is Holy Week and Pascha when someone`s hair gets on fire :-)
I`m posting it all, in case it vanishes from the WP web site at some point in the future :-0

Why Easter is Greek to Me: Xristos Anesti!

Once every few years, Greek Easter falls the same week as “American Easter,” as it was called when I was growing up.

In order for “Greek Easter” to be celebrated the same week as “American Easter,” Passover has to have been celebrated already. We Greeks don’t do Easter until after Passover, because how can you have Easter BEFORE Passover. Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, after all. Unless it is one of the years when the two holidays align. Like this year.

Here are some of the things that non-Greeks may not know about Greek Easter: We don’t do bunnies. We don’t do chocolate. We don’t do pastels.

We do lamb, sweet cookies, and deep red. The lamb is roasted and not chocolate, the sweet cookies are called Koulorakia and are twisted like a braid, and our Easter eggs are dyed one color only: blood red. There is no Easter Egg hunt. There is a game in which you crack your red egg against someone else’s red egg hoping to have the strongest egg, which would indicate you getting a lot of good luck.

Holy Week, for a Greek Orthodox, means you clear your calendar, you don’t make plans for that week at all because you will be in church every day, and you fast. Last year, in addition to not eating red meat and dairy before communion, my family also gave up sodas for the 40-day Lenten period.

During one particularly stressful moment, there were many phone calls amongst our kids as to whether or not a canned drink called TING, made with grapefruit juice and carbonated water was, in fact, a soda and not a juice, which our then 10-year-old decided it was, so we had a Ting-less Lent.

No matter where I find my self in the world I never miss Easter, or as we call it, Pascha. I have celebrated in Paris, London, New York City, Los Angeles, and in Salinas, California at a small humble church that was pure and simple.

When we were kids, our parents would take us, and now as parents ourselves we take our children to many of the Holy Week services including the Good Friday service where you mourn the death of Jesus by walking up to the Epitaphio, which reperesents the dead body of Christ, make your cross, kiss the Epitaphio, and marvel at how it was decorated with a thousand glorious flowers, rose petals and smells like incense.

Some very pious people will crawl under the Epitaphio. I have always been so moved to see this. There is no self- consciousness in this utter act of faith. There is no embarrassment to show symbolic sorrow at the death of our Saviour.

At a certain point in the Good Friday service, the Epitaphio is carried outside by the deacons of the church, as if they are pall bearers, followed by worshippers carrying lit candles protected from dripping on your clothes and on others by having a red plastic cup that sits below the flame to catch the wax drippings. Every Greek person knows all too well the smell of burning hair.

One time, in London, I smelled something and turned to look at where the smell might be coming from, only to be horrified that it was coming form me and my head was on fire. But I digress.

It is somber and quiet as we follow the Epitaphio, in candlelight, from the altar to the outdoors, in order for it to circle the church before it returns back to the altar. We sing beautiful lamentations that make your heart break with their pure expression of sadness and hope.

One of my favorite services during Easter is Holy Unction. This happens on the Wednesday of Holy Week. Holy Unction is a sacrament. It is for healing of our ills, physical and spiritual. It is preparing us for confession and communion. This sacrament has always been so humbling to me.

When you approach the priest for Holy Unction, you bow your head and as he says a prayer and asks you your Christian name, he takes a swab of blessed oil and makes the sign of the cross on your forehead, cheeks, chin, backs of your hands and palms. It is a powerful reminder of how, with faith, we can be healed in many ways.

The holy oil is then carefully dabbed with cotton balls provided by the church so you don’t leave there looking as if you’re ready to fry chicken with your face, and before you exit the church, you leave your cotton balls in a basket being held by altar boys, so as not to dispose of the holy oil in a less than holy place. The church burns the used cotton balls.

There have been times when I have left church with my cotton ball and have panicked when I am driving away. At home I take care of it. Imagine a grown woman burning cotton balls in her sink. But that is what I do.

Midnight Mass on Saturday night, going into Sunday morning is the Anastasi service. We will arrive at church at around 11 p.m., when it starts, and listen to the chanter as he chants in preparation for the service. My kids, dressed in their suits and having been awakened from a deep sleep to come to church, groggily sit and wait holding their candles with red cup wax catchers.

As the service progresses, the moment we have all been waiting for approaches. All the lights in the church are turned off. It is pitch black It is dead quiet. The priest takes one candle and lights his one candle from the one remaining lit altar candle, which represents the light of Christ’s love ( I believe).

From this one candle, the priest approaches the congregation and using his one candle he shares his light with a few people in the front pews. They in turn share their light with the people next to them and behind them. In quiet solemnity, we wait until the entire church is lit with only the light of candles, the light that has been created by one small flame has now created a room of shared light.

And at a moment that can only be described as glorious, the priest cries out, “Xristos Anesti!” “Christ is Risen!” We respond with “Alithos Anesti!” “Truly, He is Risen!” We sing our glorious Xristos Anesti song with the choir. That moment, which happens about an hour, to an hour and half into the service and seems as if the service is over, actually marks the beginning of the service. The service then continues for another hour and a half.

When I was a kid, after the service was over, we would go to the Anastasi Dinner that the church would throw in the church hall, where we would break our fast, drink Cokes at 2:30 in the morning, dance to a raucous Greek band and not go home until our stomachs were full of lamb, eggs, Koulouraki, and we saw the sun rise. Or was it the Son rise?

But usually now, after Midnight Mass, we drive home with our still-lit candles. I always love seeing the looks on peoples faces as they pull up to our car seeing a family with lit candles calmly moving at 65 m.p.h. down the highway. When we get home, we crack eggs, eat cookies, drink hot chocolate (so not Greek) and I burn a cross into our doorways with the carbon from the candle smoke to bless our house for the year.

There have been many times when painters touching up the house have wondered why there was this strange black cross burned into our doorways. The next day is usually followed by a late sleep in, then getting up and doing the same thing you just did but in the daytime at the Easter Picnic, usually held at a local park.

I have to say, the Greeks know how to do Easter. Make no mistake. This is the most important holiday in our church. It is a beautiful week. I haven’t even begun to touch on what the week is really like. This is a sampling of a sampling of what it is like. It is so much more deep, so much richer than I have written here.

But one thing is clear. It is a powerful, beautiful, mysterious, humbling, healing and moving week. It is filled with tradition and ritual. It is about renewal and faith. And even though it is still too early to say, Xristos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

Actress Rita Wilson, whose mother and father both were born in Greece, is widely credited with landing Nia Vardalos a movie deal for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Wilson and her actor husband Tom Hanks had their own "Big Fat Greek Wedding" in 1988. They have two children.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

I`m A Church Father !

Indeed I am !!!








You’re St. Melito of Sardis!


You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.


Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!




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Glorious Pascha !

I wish you all the joy of the Greatest of Feasts, Pascha and Bright Week !

I was too tired to post yesterday, but we made it to Agape Vespers and the parish party/barbecue and we had a glorious time. The young ones and I were able to receive the Holy Mysteries after the service and before the party, which was a wonderful blessing and put the seal on my joy.....

Our languages yesterday for the Gospel :
English
Greek
Welsh
Gaelic
Latin
French
German
and
ARABIC !

We were blessed to have an elderly couple who hail originally from Iraq celebrating with us, and we had Arabic in our Paschal Greetings too, as well as Arabic food at the party.

I ate far too much and did suffer a little last night as a result :-)
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Friday, April 06, 2007

Holy Week Hiatus

I most likely will not post again till sometime in Bright Week, but wanted to say that you are all in my prayers as we enter the great solemnity of the Passion.


Have a blessed end of Holy Week and a joyous Paschal celebration !

much love !
Elizabeth
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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Holy Week Services Online

I have just found that the Holy week services are available to watch online live or archived,
here

Yippee !
I will not be able to get to most services due to family comittments and travel, so this will be a blessing.
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Monday, April 02, 2007

Miracles in Greece

Every year in Cefalonia, on the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, these lovely little snakes make their appearance.....


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More Photos




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Carreg Cennen Castle



We visited this castle recently, and so far it is my definite favourite. Not least because you have to walk through a farm to get to the path to climb up the hill, and we were greeted by free-range turkeys going "Gobble gobble" most sweetly :-)

Edited to add : Carreg Cennen Castle is in Carmarthenshire, South Wales - about an hour`s drive from where I live.
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Slightly Cheating

I am posting the link to the Akathist to the Precious Cross as we are now in Holy Week.

May we all be blessed as we share in the services of this special Week !
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