Friday, March 31, 2023

Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast (St. Mary of Egypt)

Hello friends, and welcome to our last post before Holy Week, WOW! This Great Lent absolutely flew by, and I've been trying to savor every moment. Holy Week is one of my favorite times of the entire liturgical year, so I'm gearing up for that big time. We have a busy weekend ahead with some enjoyable activities (plays and dance shows to see, the church Easter Bazaar) before launching into the stark splendor of Palm Sunday. This past weekend, we lit nearly all of the candles on our Lenten festal wreath, 5 purple candles. The final 6th candle will be swapped from purple into a special black candle just for Holy Week. 😍 Then the yellow candle for Easter day, and afterwards we'll move into a full set of white candles for the Easter season until Pentecost!


But first, we have some additional journeying to do this Great Lent. This past Sunday, the feast of St. Mary of Egypt, was the one year anniversary of attending my very first Divine Liturgy with my Anne. 🥰 I remember Father's homily about her quite well, detailing her life prior to finding Christ, and then her sojourning into the desert to live an isolated life of repentance and faith for many decades prior to her death. Not long before she died, she encountered Saint Zosimas of Palestine, who gave her the Eucharist, and promised to return the following Lent to give her communion again. But the next year when he looked for her, he found that she had died, seemingly soon after he left her the previous year, and thus soon after receiving the Eucharist. The story so made an impression on me that one of the first icons I ever purchased is of St. Mary of Egypt receiving communion from St. Zosimas of Palestine:

This past weekend also marked the closest Sunday to one of the 12 Great Feasts, the feast of the Annunciation, and Father was wearing his Marian blue vestments to mark the occasion. I invested in a bigger set of the Great Feasts icons to hang in our kitchen so that we can all see and learn from them much more easily when we sit down at mealtimes:

Well, I purchased the sets of the spring and summer feasts. I'll get fall and winter ones closer to September and the feast of the Veneration of the Cross, to divide up the cost a bit! Legacy Icons has a great system for that

My kids are both off from school for Holy Week, and thus this past week they had some liturgical activities and confession in lieu of that. I am very much looking forward to the special liturgies and prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours that are coming up!

How are you preparing for Holy Week? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Catholic Book Club: The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours

Hello friends! A little mid-week interjecture for us this Lent with a book review on one of my favorite Catholic topics of all time: the Liturgy of the Hours! This is part of a larger series from Our Sunday Visitor (other volumes include prayer, spiritual communion, adoration, confession and Lent; hark, I may need to pick that last one up!) and this one is written by our very own community member, Barb Szyszkiewicz

The Liturgy of the Hours is one of the most meaningful parts of my spiritual life, and I've read a number of books discussing it and/or addressing how to pray it, as it does involve a bit of finessing to get used to how to find your place in the style of volume(s) you ultimately end up choosing. This little book has all the deets on the different options available for praying this treasure of the Church (both physical books and apps), and guidance on how to get started diving in and praying it. It also has a heartwarming SOS section addressing some of the major concerns people have as they navigate their way through the process of making the Hours part of their daily prayer routine. My personal favorite involved what to do if you pray Evening Prayer in the morning, or vice versa, or you pray the completely wrong day and set of prayers. Asking for a friend.


Because it happens to everybody! 

Barb also includes the story of her journey on how she came to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and how she taught her husband to do it, at his request, during the pandemic. I really enjoy personal faith testimonies, and I LOVED this chapter in the book!

As the title would indicate, this is a short book that you will zoom right through, especially if you devour books on your favorite topics like I do. And it does an absolutely marvelous job of both introducing you to this form of prayer if you're new to it/intimidated by it, and getting into some nerdy nitty gritty for those that are more familiar with praying the Hours. I will be referring back to this little gal frequently I can already see, when I have a question about solemnities, feasts or memorials, lol!

I LOVED this guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, and it is now a permanent part of my bookcase for easy reference! If you also read the Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and if it inspired you to begin praying (or get back to praying) the Hours!

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Fourth Sunday of the Great Fast (St. John Climacus)

 Hello everyone, and welcome back to our Lenten journey! 😁 We're really getting there, aren't we? We lit the 4th candle on our festal wreath this past weekend, and by now we're nearly done with the 5th week, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. We are indeed past the halfway point of this important liturgical season, and I always evaluate how my goals are going at that juncture. As is so often the case, they're not going nearly as well as I'd like. 😂 I haven't been very consistent with my Liturgy of the Hours, and the book I planned to read this Lent hasn't even been cracked open. My brain has been pretty busy these days fretting over lots of changes with my kids. Totally normal growing up stuff, mind you, but very difficult for anxious mothers!

However, I'm not abandoning ship with Liturgy of the Hours! I'm getting it in when I can, and I just read a new booklet on this devotion that I will be sharing with you next week, stay tuned for that! Very excited about a book review post. And Holy Week will be here soon which always entails magical liturgical things and so many spiritual blessings, so soldier on we must.

This past weekend in the Byzantine rite was themed on St. John Climacus, who is known for describing the image of the Ladder of Divine Ascent in the spiritual life:

From the Orthodox Wiki:

The Ladder of Divine Ascent is an ascetical treatise on avoiding vice and practicing virtue so that at the end, salvation can be obtained. Written by Saint John Climacus initially for monastics, it has become one of the most highly influential and important works used by the Church as far as guiding the faithful to a God-centered life, second only to Holy Scripture.

There is also a related icon known by the same title. It depicts many people climbing a ladder; at the top is Jesus Christ, prepared to receive the climbers into Heaven. Also shown are angels helping the climbers, and demons attempting to shoot with arrows or drag down the climbers, no matter how high up the ladder they may be. Most versions of the icon show at least one person falling.

Fascinating stuff! We gathered after liturgy to chat details about the upcoming Easter Bazaar, and Anne and I are putting together a basket for the raffle themed around gardening. We've had a fun time putting it together! More details on all of that next week.

How is your Lent going as we near Holy Week, friends? I love taking this journey together each year! 🤗

Friday, March 17, 2023

Third Sunday of the Great Fast (Veneration of the Holy Cross)

Hello friends and happy Friday! We're about halfway through Great Lent, and time is just flying! This is one of my favorite times of the year, outside of the autumn and Christmas. In mid-March, Lent is always in full swing, spring weather and activities are on the horizon, March Madness basketball is happening, and life just feels full of new promise and possibilities. It's just wonderful!

This past Sunday in the Byzantine rite was themed after the Veneration of the Cross. This is an additional contemplation of this particular meditation, as it is also on the Byzantine Church calendar for mid-September. Father was wearing beautiful red vestments for the occasion, and there was a special litany following Divine Liturgy in which we all venerated the cross. It was a beautiful addition to the liturgy. We're still praying along with the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, though I know many churches use the Liturgy of St. Basil during Great Lent. I have never attended that particular liturgy. :)

We lit our 3 candles though Easter still seems a bit off, Lent is feeling settled in in the best possible way. I added a few new additions to our family icon library. St. Patrick, of course!

My new favorite icon of Our Lady, the Theotokos of Vladimir:

Sts. Monica and Augustine, so perfect for this philosophical household!

Adorable micro icons: Christ and Theotokos iconostasis set, the famous Christ the Pantocrator from Mount Sinai, the Protection of the Theotokos, and red Golgotha Cross. Also a new Guardian Angel friend who came as a free gift!

We also have out the very first icon I ever purchased from last year, commemorating Great Lent:

It's been such a special season so far, and I'm so grateful to be spending it with all of you! How is your Lent progressing this year?

Friday, March 10, 2023

Second Sunday of the Great Fast (St. Gregory Palamas)

Hello everyone, and I hope that your Great Lent is continuing to bear spiritual fruit! We're really speeding along, aren't we?... towards the halfway point of the season. This past weekend found us at Divine Liturgy once again, and the theme for the Second Sunday of Great Lent is on St. Gregory Palamas. Thus, Father's homily spoke about monasticism and how we can live that out in our daily lives as laypeople. Especially during Lent, I love thinking about the home as our domestic monastery!

Speaking of such, we lit the second candle on our Lenten festal wreath on Sunday! Our Byzantine rite parish also hosted the first coffee hour of the new year (we brought some danish!), and we're really feeling more and more at home there. Everyone who attends the 9 am English language liturgy knows us know, and we feel a lovely kinship with them. It was nice to socialize and unwind with everyone for a spell after liturgy. Planning is in high gear for the Easter Bazaar, and I'm looking forward to helping out and becoming more immersed in parish life. Thus, when I found out that the parish was having a meeting on Thursday evening for all interested parishoners, I put that into my calendar. 

Thursday evening found me knitting at a table surrounded by icons and learning more about the challenging financial place that the parish is in. At this particular parish, it's difficult to get any kind of influx of new members outside of family members of existing members, and as the parish ages, there are less and less active members. Less active members means less income in the form of donations, and of course, the pandemic meant less events in the past few years from which quite a bit of fundraising usually resulted. So we spent some time strategizing events for the remainder of the calendar year, which was a great feeling. I'm currently praying a novena to St. Patrick that the parish is able to raise the funds that it needs to pay its' debts and stay afloat financially. 🙏 The Easter Bazaar is Palm Sunday weekend and we're all looking forward to it.

How is your Great Lent progressing, friends? I need to get started on some of my spiritual reading, but I do feel like it's been quite a spiritual fruitful season for me so far!

Friday, March 3, 2023

First Sunday of the Great Fast (Sunday of Orthodoxy)

Lit the first candle on Ash Wednesday in our bi-rite family!

Happy Friday everyone, and it's all Lenty now, isn't it? 😁 I had my very first official Sunday of the Great Fast, and am all excited to tell you about it! 

First of all, the fabulous Legacy Icons has added Lenten candles that will work in the festal wreath I acquired for the 6 week season of Christmas preparation/St. Philip's Fast in the Eastern rites. I was SO EXCITED for this idea, and acquired them forthwith. 😂 There are also candles for Easter and Pentecost seasons, but we'll save that excitement for another time. ;-)

The First Sunday of Great Lent at Divine Liturgy found us focusing on iconography. I love the themed weeks in the Byzantine rite, and the lead up to Lent and then Great Lent itself has some great ones. This particular Sunday is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy, and I had no idea what that even meant, and come to find out via our handy theme, that it indicates the triumph over the iconoclasts in the ninth century. So our theme for the Sunday of Orthodoxy is the Commemoration of Holy Images. Awesome, right?!

In that same vein on themes, within our Byzantine rite parish, one of the things I'm enjoying is the bigger-picture-at-a-glance monthly bulletin. As a Latin rite Catholic, I was very used to the weekly variety, which included not only information on liturgies for the week, but also parish, Catholic schools and diocesan activities. I *think* this is common in Latin rite parishes, though I'm sure that it can vary. Our Byzantine rite parish is so small (and indeed, the entire regional eparchy, which from what I understand is the Eastern rites version of dioceses), that a monthly bulletin definitely makes much more sense. At first, I missed the weekly influx of new churchy news, but this monthly style has really grown on me. The focus is almost entirely liturgical, unless there is a big parish event coming up, like one of the seasonal bazaars, or a Ukrainian fundraiser, and then that will be printed on the front or back as well. And I like how you can see what is coming up more fully in the liturgical calendar, for instance, in March we have:

  • Second Sunday of the Great Fast: St. Gregory of Palamas
  • Third Sunday of the Great Fast: Veneration of the Holy Cross
  • Fourth Sunday of the Great Fast: St. John Climacus
  • Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast: Our Venerable Mother, Mary of Egypt

St. Mary of Egypt marks the anniversay of the very first Divine Liturgy that I ever attended, and that was with Anne! This all feels so special. 🥰

I'm so happily making my way through Lent. I'm also trying to get to my Liturgy of the Hours every day in the form of Morning, Evening and Night Prayer. I'm not always successful, but I'm definitely praying the hours much more than I usuall do! And this coming Sunday, I'm looking forward to learning about St. Gregory of Palamas and to coffee klatch after Divine Liturgy. We're making cupcakes! 😋

How is your Lent going, friends? 💜