Thursday, March 27, 2014

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Where heaven and earth are joined

Whenever we have non-Orthodox visitors, I am touched by the look on their faces as they gaze for the first time the sublime, otherworldly, beauty of the interior of our little temple. They are often speechless, just as one would be when seeing a sunset on a warm summer evening. This first glimpse leaves them in a state of silence, as they attempt to process something that seems foreign, yet so familiar. It is as though they have taken a peek into heaven itself, which is really what they are experiencing.

My own first encounter with Orthodoxy took place in the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin, "Joy of All Who Sorrow", in San Francisco, back in my graduate school days. I remember being overwhelmed, even stunned, by what seemed like a vision of heaven. I came out of the cathedral feeling as though I had just walked into the Old Temple in the Holy City of Jerusalem, and had beheld the Ark itself. The iconostasis did not seem like a barrier between the nave and the altar, but like the veil of the Old Testament temple, shielding me from a holiness that would have been overwhelming, just as was the Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites. Yet this icon screen also seemed to beckon me into the presence of God, like a sign of welcome, affording me a glimpse of God's Kingdom without laying me low to the ground.

This temple bespoke the truth of the Orthodox teaching that there is no separation between the Church Militant here on earth, and the Church Triumphant in heaven, for here was a place where heaven and earth came together. It was within this temple where the Divine Services gathered mortals, such as myself, and linked us in worship before the Throne of God, joining us to the Cloud of Witnesses, spoken of in the holy scriptures. This truth was exemplified by the icons and frescoes depicting the Cloud of Witnesses, the saints themselves. Their images surrounded me, reminding me that heaven awaits me, and that one day I too can stand before the Father of Lights.

The Orthodox depiction of the saints is a reminder that they stand before us as witnesses, by their lives, to the truth that eternal life is a reality, and that because of Christ's redemptive act upon the cross, the saints are not dead, but alive, and together we all gaze upon the glory of Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven. The great grace that resides within these depicted saints allows them to embrace the whole world with their love, for they see how we languish in affliction, and they never cease to intercede for us before the Throne of God. They have become our friends in high places, as they await the end of time, when we, too, will stand with them before the Throne of Glory, worshiping the Undivided Trinity.

The saints depicted in the frescoes and icons, having won the good fight, encourage us by their example, and aid us by their prayers, that we, too, become victorious in our battle with the unclean spirits of darkness. Their lives give witness to the importance of living in repentance, and placing Jesus above all else, for it is in Jesus Christ that they have gained eternal life. It is in Jesus Christ that we, like the saints who have gone on before us, have the same promise of immortality. As our friends, they await the day when we will join them, offering their prayers for that end. In gratitude and love, we kiss their holy icons, knowing they are our true friends and family, and that we are united with them as one, in Christ Jesus Our Lord.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photos: Interior views of Holy Virgin "Joy of All Who Sorrow" Cathedral, San Francisco, CA., and Protection of the Holy Virgin Church of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery, Vashon Island, WA.

Thursday March 27, 2014 / March 14, 2014
Fourth Week of the Great Lent: Adoration of Cross. Tone six.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Food without Oil

Venerable Benedict of Nursia, abbot (543).
St. Theognostus, metropolitan of Kiev and Moscow (1353).
St. Rostislav-Michael, prince of Kiev (1167).
St. Euschemon, bishop of Lampsacus (9th c.).
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of St. Theodore ("Feodorovskaya") (1613).
Martyr Eustathius and his company at Carrhae, Mesopotamia (741).

You can read the life of the saint by clicking on the highlighted name.

The Scripture Readings for the Day

Isaiah 28:14-22

14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scornful men,
Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,
15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
And with Sheol we are in agreement.
When the overflowing scourge passes through,
It will not come to us,
For we have made lies our refuge,
And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”

A Cornerstone in Zion

16 Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily.
17 Also I will make justice the measuring line,
And righteousness the plummet;
The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
And the waters will overflow the hiding place.
18 Your covenant with death will be annulled,
And your agreement with Sheol will not stand;
When the overflowing scourge passes through,
Then you will be trampled down by it.
19 As often as it goes out it will take you;
For morning by morning it will pass over,
And by day and by night;
It will be a terror just to understand the report.”

20 For the bed is too short to stretch out on,
And the covering so narrow that one cannot wrap himself in it.
21 For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim,
He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon—
That He may do His work, His awesome work,
And bring to pass His act, His unusual act.
22 Now therefore, do not be mockers,
Lest your bonds be made strong;
For I have heard from the Lord God of hosts,
A destruction determined even upon the whole earth.

Genesis 10:32-11:9

32 These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.

The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Proverbs 13:19-14:6

19 A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul,
But it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil.

20 He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

21 Evil pursues sinners,
But to the righteous, good shall be repaid.

22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.

23 Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor,
And for lack of justice there is waste.

24 He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

25 The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul,
But the stomach of the wicked shall be in want.

14 The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.

He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord,
But he who is perverse in his ways despises Him.

In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride,
But the lips of the wise will preserve them.

Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.

A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies.

A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it,
But knowledge is easy to him who understands.
I invite my readers to listen to my

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All-Merciful Saviour Monastery is a non-profit, 501 C3 organization, under IRS regulations.
All donations are therefore tax deductible. We support ourselves through the sales of Monastery Blend Coffee, our fine line of teas, and make Monastery Jams, all sold on line, and in our gift shop. We grow as many of our fruits and vegetables as we can, tend bee hives, and raise free range chickens for our eggs. With all we do to support ourselves, we still depend on the generosity of our friends and benefactors. You can donate to the monastery through PayPal, or by sending donations directly to the monastery's mailing address.

All-Merciful Saviour Monastery
PO Box 2420
Vashon Island, WA 98070-2420 USA
Abbot Tryphon's email address:

1 comment:

  1. Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral is one of my favorite churches, too, Father. I remember my first time visiting. I was staying for a month at the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in Manton, and the then abbot, Fr. Jonah, brought a group of us down to the old Point Reyes Station monastery location to pack up the remaining icons and other stuff, and to bring it all back to Manton. This happened during the Feast of St. John, so my first time at Holy Virgin Cathedral was for the vigil of St. John's Feast. We were then able to return for the Divine Liturgy the following morning. What an experience. I think that helped to further cement my decision to become Orthodox.

    And again, the shades and colors created in your little church when the sun light hits those edges and walls is awesome.