The winter is past, the rain is over and gone

At Vespers for the Feast of St Ephrem the Syrian (January 28). Source.

WHEN thou hadst beheld, as in a mirror (2 Cor 3:18), the beautiful things of Paradise, and delighted abundantly in its unspoiled meadows, thou madest the knowledge of God to blossom in the world; and when we partake of it, through the spiritual disposition of our souls, we bloom again in spirit.

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Fuchsia 'Deep Purple' glistening with raindrops. © Jonathan Billinger, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

Fuchsia ‘Deep Purple’ glistening with raindrops. © Jonathan Billinger, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

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Song of Songs 2:10-13.

MY beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

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Frédéric Chopin, Prelude No. 5 (“Raindrop”).
Played by Hélène Grimaud.

St Nikitas: The soul renewed in the beauty of Christ’s image becomes a light to others

SEE, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

Revelation 3:8.

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WE must not allow ourselves to be frightened into silence. Yes, it’s hard to “keep on keeping on” when being pushed around – but like Ronald Reagan said: when we stiffen our spines, those around us can stiffen theirs, too! Press in, press on. Don’t retreat, friends!

Sarah Palin. Source.

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A monk of Mount Athos

“If it concerns itself with things divine, the soul becomes a light to others, it inspires them to glorify God.”

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IF it concerns itself with things divine and tills the ground of humility, tears fall on it like rain from heaven, and it cultivates love for God, faith and compassion for others.

And when in this way the soul is renewed in the beauty of Christ’s image, it becomes a light to others; attracting their attention with the rays of its virtue, it inspires them to glorify God.

St Nikitas Stithatos (c. 1005 – c. 1090). Source.

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REMOVE from me reproach and contempt; for I have sought out thy testimonies. For princes sat and spoke against me: but thy servant was meditating on thine ordinances. For thy testimonies are my meditation, and thine ordinances are my counsellors.

Psalm 118[119]:22-24.

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Franz Liszt, Transcription of ‘Ständchen’ (Serenade) by Franz Schubert.
Played by Vitaly Pisarenko.

And, behold, the half was not told me

I BELIEVED not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me.

3[1] Kings 10:7.

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LORD, Thou art fulness, I am emptiness:
Yet hear my heart speak in its speechlessness
Extolling Thine unuttered loveliness.

Christina Rossetti.

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Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings.

St Gregory Nazianzen: Our success is always judged by comparison with our place in life

“I HOPE you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it not doing its office.”

“Your picture may be very exact, Louisa,” said Bingley; “but this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice.”

Jane Austen (1775-1817), “Pride And Prejudice”. Lizzie had acquired her muddy petticoat because she was rushing to be beside her poorly sister.

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Actress Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet in 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen.

“Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice.” Actress Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen.

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OUR success is always judged by comparison with our place in life by our just and merciful Judge; and often one who is in public life and has had small success has had a greater reward than one who in the enjoyment of liberty [i.e. in a monastery] has not completely succeeded; as I think it more marvellous for a man to advance a little in fetters, than for one to run who is not carrying any weight; or to be only a little spattered in walking through mud, than to be perfectly clean when the road is clean.

To give you a proof of what I have said:—Rahab the harlot was justified by one thing alone, her hospitality, though she receives no praise for the rest of her conduct; and the Publican was exalted by one thing, his humility, though he received no testimony for anything else; so that you may learn not easily to despair concerning yourself.

St Gregory Nazianzen, Homily on Holy Baptism. Delivered on January 6, 381. Source.

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AND Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Mark 12:37-44.

St Peter of Damascus: Because of your hope God will act lovingly towards you

FOR a righteous man will fall seven times, and rise again: but the ungodly shall be without strength in troubles.

Proverbs 24:16 (LXX).

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IT is always possible to make a new start by means of repentance. ‘You fell,’ it is written, ‘now arise’ (cf. Prov. 24:16).

And if you fall again, then rise again, without despairing at all of your salvation, no matter what happens. So long as you do not surrender yourself willingly to the enemy, your patient endurance, combined with self-reproach, will suffice for your salvation. ‘For at one time we ourselves went astray in our folly and disobedience’, says St Paul. ‘… Yet He saved us, not because of any good things we had done, but in His mercy’ (Titus 3:3, 5).

So do not despair in any way, ignoring God’s help, for He can do whatever He wishes. On the contrary, place your hope in Him and He will do one of these things: either through trials and temptations, or in some other way which He alone knows. He will bring about your restoration; or He will accept your patient endurance and humility in the place of works; or because of your hope He will act lovingly towards you in some other way of which you are not aware, and so will save your shackled soul.

St Peter of Damascus (12th century), in his ‘Treasury of Divine Knowledge’, in the Philokalia.

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Whillan Beck, Boot, Cumbria. © Peter Trimming, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

“Dry up the running streams of my evils, O pure lady, by the rains of thy intercessions.” Whillan Beck, Boot, Cumbria. © Peter Trimming, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

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MOST holy Theotokos, save us.

O VIRGIN, who hast such beauty, in whom God’s light shineth, make me bright, make me beautiful in all manner of good things, that I might cry out: Praise the Lord and exalt him to all the ages.

Gate of light, open unto me the shining gate of repentance, revealing to me every straight path of righteousness which leadeth unto the doors of the divine will.

Most holy, pure lady, thou didst bear beyond telling the holy Word who sanctifieth the faithful; beseech him, that he make my lowly soul all holy now, for it is stained with evil.

A clear running river, a spring of incorruption, came forth from thee, holy lady; therefore I cry to thee: dry up the running streams of my evils, O pure lady, by the rains of thy intercessions.

At Matins on Wednesdays of the Plagal of the First Tone. Source.

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Holy God, holy strong, holy immortal, have mercy upon us.

The radiance of the Father has come to make us bright

WHAT saves a man is, again, not what man does in his helplessness, but what the word of God does dwelling in us. …

Even in the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments, God says to man: “Be holy, because I am holy!” He does not say “be holy because it is good, it is nice”. “Because I am holy!”

It is God speaking that word by Moses. To Moses he revealed that “I AM.” God is He Who Is. And he wants to bring man to the same state of being. He shared something of this in the beginning; and to the degree that man allows himself to share in this word of God, he finds in that word of God the vigour of life.

Fr Rafail Noica. Source. (My translation.)

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St Paul's Jarrow, Chancel

The chancel of St Paul’s Church in Jarrow, originally the 7th century monastery chapel. This was where St Bede attended the liturgy, with icons (so he tells us) on the walls and stretching across from wall to wall in front of the altar.

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IN a sermon on the Nativity, St Bede (+735), a monk of Jarrow in what is now the North East of England, drew lessons from the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to be assessed for tax.

NOW, the holy church is our citizenship (Phil 3:20-21), which in part wanders here in the earth, absent from the Lord (2 Cor 5:6), and in part reigns now with the Lord in heaven; and after the end of this age, will reign together with him, perfect for evermore.

So we ought all of us to walk in this citizenship, nothing should excuse us from such a wholesome journey.

We must all pay a tax debt to the King who was born: that is, we must comply with the divine commands in the unity of this present church, and by a tireless course of good works, make haste towards our entry into our heavenly homeland.

Now, in enrolling for the tax a denarius amounting to ten silver pennies was handed over, bearing the image of Caesar and his name (cf. Mt 22:15-22). This is something we should imitate spiritually.

For we render our denarius to our king, when we make it our business to fulfil the ten commandments of his law.

We bear the name of our king inscribed on the denarius, when in all our actions we remember that we are named Christians from Christ (cf. Acts 11:26), and so take care to keep the honour of his name unsullied in ourselves.

Onto this denarius of our good manner of life we should also stamp his image, and that image only, as he himself taught, saying “Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2 Vulg.). This is that same image of God, for which we were made in the first man (Gen 1:26), so that we might be holy by an endless sharing in divine holiness (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). For on this subject the Psalmist said: The light of thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us (Ps 4:6 Vulg.).

But because man lost this light of the divine countenance by sin, it pleased God to clothe himself in the countenance of a man by being born in flesh, by which he taught us that we must be reborn in the Spirit. It pleased him to appear in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet without sin (Heb 4:15), so that he could wash us clean from every sin, and retrace the clean brightness of his image in us.

St Bede, Homily 44 (Christmas Eve). My translation.

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THY kingdom, O Christ God, is a kingdom of all the ages, and thy rule is in generation and generation. Thou who wast incarnate of the holy Spirit, and made man from the ever-Virgin Mary, hast shined light upon us, O Christ God, by thy presence, light from light, the radiance of the Father, making all creation bright and clean. Everything that hath breath praiseth thee (Ps 150:6), the expression of the Father’s glory (Heb 1:3; Wisd 7:24-26). Thou who art I AM, and I AM before all,* and didst shine out as God from the Virgin, have mercy upon us.

* Ὁ ὢν καὶ προών. See Ex 3:14.

At Vespers for December 31. Source.

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O GLADSOME light, O grace
Of God the Father’s face,
The eternal splendour wearing;
Celestial, holy, blest,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Joyful in thine appearing.

Now, ere day fadeth quite,
We see the evening light,
Our wonted hymn outpouring;
Father of might unknown,
Thee, his incarnate Son,
And Holy Spirit adoring.

To thee of right belongs
All praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Lifegiver;
Thee, therefore, O Most High,
The world doth glorify,
And shall exalt forever.

Translation by Robert Bridges (1844-1930)

St John Chrysostom: Trade is a sort of asceticism

JESUS said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.’

Luke 22:25-26.

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Elder Paisios in the workshop.

Elder Paisios in the workshop.

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MAKE it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thess 4:11-12, NIV)

LET no one, therefore, of those who have trades be ashamed; but those, who are brought up to nothing and are idle, who employ many attendants, and are served by an immense retinue. For to be supported by continual hard work is a sort of asceticism. The souls of such men are clearer, and their minds better strung.

St John Chrysostom, Homily V on 1 Corinthians. Source.