|Our first snow of the season (click on photo to enlarge).|
The Church, like a forest,
provides needed Oxygen
provides needed Oxygen
Growing up in Northern Idaho, I was surrounded by mountains and forests. I don't remember a time when forests did not tug at my heart and fill my imagination with thoughts of adventure. As a small child my parents took my brother Dwayne, and me, on annual camping trips to a state park on the far northeast side of Lake Pend Oreille. There my dad would make us small toy canoes, complete with sails, out of birch bark. This state park is virtually unchanged since that time, and I try to visit the campground every summer, when I go bass fishing with my brother.
As a high school student I regularly went hiking in the mountains around Sandpoint, Idaho, together with my best friend (now a professor of theology and philosophy in Scotland). Jim and I would climb to the highest point of a given mountain, and pray together. We could understand the Prophet Moses meeting God on Mt. Sinai, for we too felt the presence of God on the mountain. To this day I feel closer to God when hiking in a forest, and the grandeur of the mountains that surround the Puget Sound inspire me, and lift up my soul.
When we first cleared the land to build the monastery, we cut down as few trees as possible, desiring as we did to have the buildings appear as though cupped like a kitten in the hands of God. We even named our forest after Saint Seraphim of Sarov, who himself sought solitude in a forest. Our forest not only provides that needed solitude, but gives us oxygen, allowing us to breath. Like the forests throughout the whole world, ours provides good air to breath, and fills our lungs with the sweet odor that only a forest can provide. Is it any wonder I consider myself a conservationist?
Monks have always had a special place in their hearts for forests. Coptic and Ethiopian monks have been known to plant trees on desert mountains whereupon monasteries have been built, and calling these places, "holy forests". Russian monks sought their solitude in the Northern Thebaid, forests that became their desert.
For me, forests and mountains have always been associated with prayer. My first chapel was at the end of a hidden trail, in a forest that was just a short walk down the beach from our home on Lake Pond Oreille. I'd constructed a small altar out of driftwood, and nailed a cross made out of tree branches on a tree behind the altar. When in college, my first encounter with an icon took place during the very summer I'd visited the Redwood Forest of Northern California, for the first time.
Our temples are like forests in many ways. When we enter into an Orthodox temple we are encompassed in the living presence of God, and our spiritual lungs are filled. It is oxygen for the soul that we breath in, and the forest that surrounds us is none other than the cloud of witnesses, the saints, who join us in worship before the Throne of God. The oxygen we breath in is God's Grace that flows out to all who would seek the safety and sanctuary that awaits us in God's Holy Temple.
With love in Christ,
|Click on photo to enlarge.|
32nd Week after Pentecost. Tone six.Forefeast of the Theophany.
Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles: James the Brother of the Lo'rd, Mark the Evangelist, Luke the Evangelist, Cleopas the Brother of Joseph the Betrothed, Symeon the son of Cleopas, Barnabas, Justus, Thaddeus, Ananias, Stephen the Archdeacon; Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, and Parmenas of the seven deacons; Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Onesimus, Epaphras, Archippus, Silas, Silvanus, Crescens, Crispus, Epenetus, Andronicus, Stachys, Amplias, Urban, Narcissus, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, Agabus, Rurus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobus, Hermas, Linus, Gaius, Philologus, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Olympas, Tertius, Erastus, Quartus, Euodias, Onesiphorus, Clement, Sosthenes, Apollos, Tychicus, Epaphroditus, Carpus, Quadratus, Mark called John, Zenas, Aristarchus, Pudens, Trophimus, Mark, Artemas, Aquila, Fortunatus, and Achaicus; Dionysius Areopagite and Simeon Niger.
Venerable Theoctistus, abbot at Cucomo in Sicily (800).
Repose of St. Eustathius I (Eustace), archbishop of Serbia (1285).
New Hieromartyrs Alexander, Spephen and Philippe priests (1933).
New Hieromartyr Nicholas priest (1939).
New Hieromartyr Paul priest (1941).
Venerable Aquila, deacon of the Kiev Caves (14th c.).
Martyr Zosimas the Hermit and Martyr Athanasius the Commentarisius (superintendent of prisoners), anchorites of Cilicia (3rd-4th c.).
Martyrs Chrysantha and Euphemia.
Venerable Euthymius the New of Thessalonica, monk.
St. Gregory of Langres (539-540) (Gaul).
Martyrs Abbot Euthymius and Twelve Monks of Vatopedi Monastery, Mt. Athos (1285) (Greek).
New Martyr Onuphrius Manassias of Gabrovo and Hilandar Monastery, Mt. Athos (1818) (Greek).
The Ethiopian Eunuch of Queen Candace.
Venerable Fathers Evagre, Ilia the Deacon, and the Disciples of the Thirteen Syrian Fathers (6th. c.) (Georgia).
St. Symeon, metropolitan of Smolensk (1699).
I wish to thank those of you who have been contributing towards the principle of our mortgage ($250,000.00). For those of you who can't donate due to the depressed economy, please remember to pray for the monastery. It would be such a great blessing if we were able to retire the mortgage debt altogether.
Donations can be made directly to the monastery through PayPal, or you may send donations to:
All-Merciful Saviour Monastery
PO Box 2420
Vashon Island, WA 98070-2420 USA
The Untamable Tongue1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
The Sadducees: What About the Resurrection?
18 Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying: 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. 22 So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also. 23 Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.”
24 Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.”