2012-12-27

How to Leave a Legacy of Love

 

 

 

     Give Love Away as Your Legacy of 2012-2013

legacy of love On January 19, 2012 we posted a reflection on our blog site in which we encouraged readers to grow in love as their legacy of 2012. Can you list some specific, concrete ways in which you have chosen love over indifference? Love over annoyance? We ask because there is less than a week left in 2012.

If you have not yet deliberately left love (or enough love) in the world this year, there still is time. Go to our latest website blog entry, Your Unfolding Love Story Continued, to read quick tips on how you can get started or grow your legacy of love for 2012. And consider a New Year's resolution to leave a legacy of love in 2013.
                                                             

Forgiveness Story Triggers Flood of Gift-Giving    
Free groceries and Christmas gifts are piling up for a Nova Scotia, man who forgave the thief who ran off with his turkey dinner and presents. Frank (Mike) Foley went shopping last Wednesday but a thief broke into his car and stole the groceries and gifts he had just bought. Instead of calling the police, Foley posted a message on his Facebook page forgiving the intruder.

Foley says he has not heard from the thief, but he has received more than 1,000 emails, phone calls and visits from generous people bearing groceries and gift cards. He keeps
True Forgivenesstelling them it's not necessary. "They keep saying, 'You know what, we want to do this for you,'" Foley said, "and it's so overwhelming." 

Read the full account of this heartwarming story and more than 100 other true stories of true forgiveness in the Forgiveness News section of our website. And remember that it can be Christmas year-round when you keep giving the gift of forgiveness.


internationalforgiveness.com
   
 
International Forgiveness Institute | 1127 University Avenue, Suite 105 | Madison | WI | 53715

2012-11-22

Thank You, O Lord! - Fr. Alexander Schmemann

November 21, 2011

Thank You, O Lord!
Final words

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann celebrated the divine liturgy for the
last time on Thanksgiving Day. This was particularly appropriate since
Father Alexander had devoted his whole life to teaching, writing and
preaching about the Eucharist; for the word Eucharist in Greek means
thanksgiving. At the conclusion of the liturgy, Father Alexander took from
his pocket a short written sermon, in the form of a prayer, which he
proceeded to read. This was a strange occurrence since Father never wrote
his liturgical homilies, but delivered them extemporaneously. These were his
words, which proved to be the last ever spoken by him from the ambo in
Church. http://oca.org/reflections/fr.-alexander-schmemann/thank-you-o-lord


Thank You, O Lord!


Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.

Thank You, O Lord, for having accepted this Eucharist, which we offered to
the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and which filled our hearts
with the joy, peace and righteousness of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for having revealed Yourself unto us and given us the
foretaste of Your Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having united us to one another in serving You and
Your Holy Church.

Thank You, O Lord, for having helped us to overcome all difficulties,
tensions, passions, temptations and restored peace, mutual love and joy in
sharing the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for the sufferings You bestowed upon us, for they are
purifying us from selfishness and reminding us of the "one thing needed;"
Your eternal Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having given us this country where we are free to
Worship You.

Thank You, O Lord, for this school, where the name of God is proclaimed.

Thank You, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives and, especially,
children who teach us how to celebrate Your holy Name in joy, movement and
holy noise.

Thank You, O Lord, for everyone and everything.

Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deeds, and no word is
sufficient to celebrate Your miracles.

Lord, it is good to be here! Amen.

a poem: Every land is the holy land.

Every Land


by Ursula Le Guin

 

     The holy land is everywhere. —Black Elk

 

Watch where the branches of the willows bend

See where the waters of the rivers tend

Graves in the rock, cradles in the sand

Every land is the holy land.

 

Here was the battle to the bitter end

Here's where the enemy killed the friend

Blood on the rock, tears on the sand

Every land is the holy land.

 

Willow by the water bending in the wind

Bent till it's broken and it cannot stand

Listen to the word the messengers send

Life from the living rock, death in the sand

Every land is the holy land.

 

-- from Finding My Elegy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)

2012-11-20

It's the THE DOOR!

(Thank you to arshi for contributing to this.)

Ever walk into a room with some purpose in mind, only to completely forget
what that purpose was?

Turns out, doors themselves are to blame for these strange memory lapses.
Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame have discovered that passing
through a doorway triggers what's known as an event boundary in the mind,
separating one set of thoughts and memories from the next. Your brain files
away the thoughts you had in the previous room and prepares a blank slate
for the new locale.

Thank goodness for studies like this. It's not our age, it's that door!

Now, consider every doorway an opportunity to start fresh, leave one thing
and start another.

2012-10-18

Making a House for God in Our Hearts

What is the purpose of prayer? To make a link between prayer and mind,
between mind and heart, between the power that thinks and the power that
loves. So the mind that descends its awareness into the heart is not an
activity of the human being, it is a work of God. What we are doing is that
we pray to God for the unity of our own being, the whole being.

When we pray, we are making a house for him (God) in our heart, and when God
enters he brings sublime peace with him. Once united to God, we are never
alone, and we need never fear anything again. God becomes our protector, the
foundation for our whole life.

In the Gospel we say that God is our Father. This is a God who loves us, a
God who is himself love. When God himself settles into our being, he makes a
house for himself in our heart. He's hugging us.


Archimandrite Teofil of Brancoveanu Monastery (Romanian Orthodox Church)
Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer by Norris J. Chumley
2011 Harper Collins Publishers
www.jesusprayermovie.com

2012-09-30

New Study: Benefits of Spirituality Affirmed

New Study: Benefits of Spirituality Affirmed

By Katrina Gay, NAMI Director of Communications
http://www.nami.org/MSTemplate.cfm?Section=E-mail_Network&Site=FaithNet_NAMI&template=/contentmanagement/contentdisplay.cfm&ContentID=145197


A recent University of Missouri (MU) study highlighting the positive role of spirituality in recovery from physical and mental health conditions reaffirms what previous NAMI surveys have revealed. In spite of the tremendous hardship of the personal experience of a health crisis, including a mental health condition, the resilience of the human spirit emerges as one of hope, faith and triumph for many.

When NAMI asked individuals living with schizophrenia and depression, in two separate surveys, what components are most important in their mental illness recovery, survey respondents of both NAMI’s Schizophrenia: Public Attitudes, Personal Needs in 2008 and Depression: Gaps and Guideposts in 2009 reported prayer and spirituality as primary, just below medication, psychotherapy or counseling and, for depression, exercise.

Forty percent of respondents living with depression reported spirituality as a primary form of treatment. Additionally, a majority reported that participation in their spiritual or religious practices had not been adversely affected by their depression.

For individuals living with schizophrenia, 38 percent reported a greater connection to religious or spiritual practices as part of their treatment and recovery.

It comes as no surprise then that MU study, reported in the paper, “Relationships among Spirituality, Religious Practices, Personality Factors, and Health for Five Different Faiths”, published in the Journal of Religion and Health, echoes NAMI’s own discovery.

MU explored recovery experiences of individuals of five main faiths: Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Surveys were conducted of individuals self-reporting their physical health and mental health and highlight the relationship between these two conditions. Across all five practices, a greater degree of spirituality was related to better mental health and despite differences in beliefs among the world’s main religions, the study reveals that spirituality enhances health regardless.

"Our prior research shows that the mental health of people recovering from different medical conditions … appears to be related significantly to positive spiritual beliefs and especially congregational support and spiritual interventions," said Dan Cohen, assistant teaching professor of religious studies at MU and one of the co-authors of the study.

As health care providers, families, individuals and faith leaders continue to recognize the positive role of faith in recovery, they can better meet their own needs and the needs of their family members, patients and faith community and enhance their own and others’ experiences.

Read more  ( http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/249272.php ) on the Medical News Today website. Read the abstract ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22618413 ) of the study.

NAMI FaithNet is an online community including a clearinghouse of grassroots perspectives, provides resources, tools and encouragement for individuals and all faith communities to assist in this effort. http://www.nami.org/faithnet


2012-08-31

For inspirational songs, there's no place like hope

For inspirational songs, there's no place like hope
Article by: KIM ODE Star Tribune August 26, 2012
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/167371325.html

The next time you're seeking a source of inspiration, try singing
"Over the Rainbow." You know, um, the song that ends, "Why, oh why
can't I?"

Perception is a funny thing.
While the lyrics of the signature song from "The Wizard of Oz"
actually paint a mood of wistfulness wilting into despair, the
feelings perceived from Judy Garland's serenade to a place beyond the
clouds apparently are enough to make it No. 1 on a list of "Top 100
Most Inspiring Songs" as determined by Beliefnet.

Beliefnet, which describes itself as a multi-faith online resource for
inspiration and spirituality, compiled the list "as a guide for
individuals who seek encouragement and strength," according to a
release.

Granted, Dorothy sort of flew over a rainbow, and even though she
awoke vowing never "to leave here ever, ever again" because there's no
place like ... Oh, gosh, the music swells and you just know there must
be a place where dreams really do come true.

ROUNDING OUT THE TOP 10
•"What a Wonderful World," by Louis Armstrong
•"Lean on Me," by Bill Withers
•"Wind Beneath My Wings," by Bette Midler
•"Man in the Mirror," by Michael Jackson
•"We Are the Champions," by Queen
•"Greatest Love of All," by Whitney Houston
•"Imagine," by John Lennon
•"You Raise Me Up," by Josh Groban
•"One," by U2.

2012-08-20

How Great Love Is

How Great Love Is

Once upon a time there was an island where all the feelings lived;
happiness, sadness, knowledge, and all the others, including love.

One day it was announced to all of the feelings that the island was going to
sink to the bottom of the ocean. So all the feelings prepared their boats to
leave.

Love was the only one that stayed. She wanted to preserve the island
paradise until the last possible moment. When the island was almost totally
under, love decided it was time to leave. She began looking for someone to
ask for help.

Just then Richness was passing by in a grand boat. Love asked, "Richness,
Can I come with you on your boat?"

Richness answered, "I'm sorry, but there is a lot of silver and gold on my
boat and there would be no room for you anywhere."

Then Love decided to ask Vanity for help who was passing in a beautiful
vessel. Love cried out, "Vanity, help me please."

"I can't help you," Vanity said, "You are all wet and will damage my
beautiful boat."

Next, Love saw Sadness passing by. Love said, "Sadness, please let me go
with you."

Sadness answered, "Love, I'm sorry, but, I just need to be alone now."

Then, Love saw Happiness. Love cried out, "Happiness, please take me with
you."

But Happiness was so overjoyed that he didn't hear Love calling to him.

Love began to cry. Then, she heard a voice say, "Come, Love, I will take you
with me." It was an elder. Love felt so blessed and overjoyed that she
forgot to ask the elder his name. When they arrived on land the elder went
on his way. Love realized how much she owed the elder.

Love then found Knowledge and asked, "Who was it that helped me?"

"It was Time," Knowledge answered.

"But why did Time help me when no one else would?" Love asked.

Knowledge smiled and with deep wisdom and sincerity, answered, "Because only
Time is capable of understanding how great Love is."


[sent by email without attribution]

How Great Love Is

How Great Love Is

Once upon a time there was an island where all the feelings lived;
happiness, sadness, knowledge, and all the others, including love.

One day it was announced to all of the feelings that the island was going to
sink to the bottom of the ocean. So all the feelings prepared their boats to
leave.

Love was the only one that stayed. She wanted to preserve the island
paradise until the last possible moment. When the island was almost totally
under, love decided it was time to leave. She began looking for someone to
ask for help.

Just then Richness was passing by in a grand boat. Love asked, "Richness,
Can I come with you on your boat?"

Richness answered, "I'm sorry, but there is a lot of silver and gold on my
boat and there would be no room for you anywhere."

Then Love decided to ask Vanity for help who was passing in a beautiful
vessel. Love cried out, "Vanity, help me please."

"I can't help you," Vanity said, "You are all wet and will damage my
beautiful boat."

Next, Love saw Sadness passing by. Love said, "Sadness, please let me go
with you."

Sadness answered, "Love, I'm sorry, but, I just need to be alone now."

Then, Love saw Happiness. Love cried out, "Happiness, please take me with
you."

But Happiness was so overjoyed that he didn't hear Love calling to him.

Love began to cry. Then, she heard a voice say, "Come, Love, I will take you
with me." It was an elder. Love felt so blessed and overjoyed that she
forgot to ask the elder his name. When they arrived on land the elder went
on his way. Love realized how much she owed the elder.

Love then found Knowledge and asked, "Who was it that helped me?"

"It was Time," Knowledge answered.

"But why did Time help me when no one else would?" Love asked.

Knowledge smiled and with deep wisdom and sincerity, answered, "Because only
Time is capable of understanding how great Love is."


[sent by email without attribution]

2012-08-14

On being true to oneself

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh: On being true to oneself


In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Time and again I am asked by people on a concrete occasion "What is the Will
of God for me now, in the nearest future?" And I always refuse to speak in
God's own Name, because I believe that all I, or any priest, can do is to
stand before God in awe, and say, "Lord, Thou art the Truth, Thou art Life,
Thou are also the Way, teach this person; be to this person the Way,
enlighten this person with the truth, and bring him to such plenitude of
life as no one can either convey or give."

And yet there are things which can be done. Each of us is a freeman of God,
as St. Paul said clearly, He says there was a time when we all were slaves
of Satan, slaves of our passions, of our fears, slaves of all the things
that press on all sides and do not allow us to be true people. In Christ
freedom is granted; not license, but the freedom to be ourselves, the
freedom to grow into the fullness of the stature which God has dreamt for
us, to grow into fullness that will make us truly living members of the Body
of Christ, partakers of the Divine Nature.

On whatever step of our spiritual development we are, the first thing which
is required of us is that we should be true to ourselves: not to try to be
anyone except the person we are; not to try to ape any behavior, to force
ourselves into any mould in heart, in mind, in will which could be a lie
before God, to lie to ourselves, a deception for others. The first rule is
to be true to ourselves; and to be true with all the integrity, all the
passion, all the joy of which we are capable.

And what does this mean? Apart from what I said a moment ago, it means that
we must find who we are not only socially, but at another level.

And to do this, we can read the Gospel which is an image of what a true
human being is; not a book of commandments, of orders, as it were, given by
God, "Do this, and you will be right in My sight" no: it is a picture of
what a real human being thinks, feels, does and is. Let us look into the
Gospel as one looks into a mirror, and we will discover that in so many ways
we are a distorted image but that in a few ways perhaps, we are a true human
being already, at least potentially. Let us mark those passages of which we
can say, like Luke and Cleophas on the way to Emmaeus: Does not my heart
burn within me when I hear, when I read these words? How beautiful they are!
How true! That is life!.. And if you find one passage or another to which
you respond this way, rejoice; because at that point God has reached you at
the deepest level of your being, revealed to you who you truly are; but at
the same time revealed to you Who He truly is, shown you that you and He are
in harmony; that if you only become what you already, potentially, truly
are, you will become His like, the like of God; a true undistorted image -
at least in one or two things.

Then there is another move; if we want to be truly ourselves, we must
remember that God does not expect us to be what we are not, but what we are.
And that we can stand before God, and say to Him, 'Lord! I have read this
and that in the Gospel; I understand it with my mind; I believe in my heart
that it must be true; but it does not set my mind aglow, my heart on fire;
it does not stir my will, it does not transform me yet. Accept me as I am! I
will change - but for the moment I cannot respond to such a commandment, to
such an example. There is a passage so beautiful, to me, in the writings of
St. Mark the Ascetic in which he says, "If God stood before you, and said,
'Do this, and do that' and your heart could not answer 'Amen' - don't do it;
because God does not need your action: He needs your consent, and harmony
between Him and you."

Let us therefore try when we ask ourselves in an attempt to find out what
the Will of God is for us, not in the absolute, but now: where do I already
stand? What can I already now be and do, and do it wholeheartedly with God?
- because in the end, the aim of our spiritual life, of our life and our
faith in Christ does not consist in being drilled into doing one thing
rather than the other; it is to establish between God and us a relationship
of true friendship, of a joy of mutual freedom, and within this freedom,
within this friendship, in response to God's love, to God's respect for us,
to the faith He has in us, to the hope He has vested in us, and say 'This
person has understood that he is not a slave, that he is My friend' and He
is our friend. What a joy! And it is a gift of God, which we can give Him as
we received it from Him!

Amen.

* All texts are copyright: Estate of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh,
Metropolitan Anthony Library

2012-08-08

Simply Smiling Can Actually Reduce Stress

July 31, 2012 - Smithsonian Magazine
Simply Smiling Can Actually Reduce Stress
Posted By: Joseph Stromberg
http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/07/simply-smiling-can-actually-reduce-stress/?utm_source=smithsonianinsider&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=201208-insider

It sounds like the most useless advice imaginable: Just put on a happy
face. Conventional wisdom is that smiling is an effect of feeling
happy, rather than the other way around. Simply smiling in stressful
situations can't possibly make you feel any better, right?

Wrong. A fascinating new study by University of Kansas psychologists
that will soon be published in the journal Psychological Science
indicates that, in some circumstances, smiling can actually reduce
stress and help us feel better.

"Age old adages, such as 'grin and bear it,' have suggested smiling to
be not only an important nonverbal indicator of happiness but also
wishfully promotes smiling as a panacea for life's stressful events,"
said researcher Tara Kraft. "We wanted to examine whether these adages
had scientific merit; whether smiling could have real health-relevant
benefits."

To investigate the claim, the researchers recruited 169 willing
college students for a hands-on experiment. But they had to engage in
a bit of deception. Actually telling the participants that they were
testing whether smiling would make them happier would have distorted
the results, so the students were told that the experiment was about
multi-tasking.

First, the participants were instructed on how to perform an unusual
task: holding chopsticks in their mouths in particular ways that
prompted various facial expressions. They were divided into three
groups, one that was taught how to form a neutral expression, one that
learned how to form a normal smile, and one that was instructed to
form a Duchenne smile (also known as a genuine smile), which involves
the use of eye muscles, as well as those around the mouth.
Additionally, only half of the smilers actually heard the world
"smile" during the learning phase; the others were simply taught how
to hold the chopsticks in a way that produced smiles, without the
expression being identified as such.

Next, the students were put in "multi-tasking situations" that were
intentionally designed to be stressful. In the first one, they were
asked to trace a star shape with their non-dominant hand while looking
only at a mirror image of it, and were misled about the average
person's accuracy in completing the task. While attempting to execute
the maneuver with as few errors as possible to win a reward (a
chocolate), they were continually reminded to hold the chopsticks in
their mouths to maintain the intended facial expression. Afterward,
they were instructed to do the same as their hands were submerged in
ice water.

During and after each of these tasks, the participants' heart rates
were continuously monitored, and at regular intervals, they were asked
to report their levels of stress.

The experiment's findings were startling. As a whole, the smilers had
lower heart rates while recovering from the stressful tasks than those
who had assumed neutral expressions, and those with Duchenne smiles
had lower heart rates yet. Even those who were smiling only due to
their instructed chopstick position—without explicitly being told to
smile—showed the same effect. Since heart rate is an indicator of the
body's stress response, it seems as though the act of smiling actually
reduced the participants' overall stress level.

Most intriguingly, a small difference was noted in the self-reported
stress levels of the groups after the ice water task. Although the
amount of positive feelings declined for all participants after
putting their hands in ice water, the decline was slightly smaller for
smilers than for those with neutral expressions.

Researchers are baffled regarding why this might happen. The
connection between facial expressions and underlying mental states is
still largely unexplored, but some have suggested that smiling could
reduce levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone. This study flips
our traditional understanding of emotion and appearance on its head:
Feeling good could sometimes be a consequence of smiling, not just the
other way around.

What does this mean for your daily life? When feeling stressed, try
forcing a smile on your face. If you can manage a genuine, Duchenne
smile—what people often refer to as "smiling with your eyes," not just
your mouth—that's even better. For whatever reason, forcing yourself
to look happier could actually end up helping you feel happier.

"The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other
type of stress you might try to hold your face in a smile for a
moment," said Sarah Pressman, one of the researchers. "Not only will
it help you 'grin and bear it' psychologically, but it might actually
help your heart health as well."

2012-07-10

Dealing with the problem of waiting

Spirituality: Dealing with the problem of waiting
5:41 PM, Jul. 6, 2012
http://www.stargazette.com/article/20120706/LIFE/207060352/1113/?nclick_check=1

I never really cared for the Monopoly board game. My problem is that I could never decide which game piece I wanted to be. I hated the hat and there's no way I'd take the wheelbarrow.

As a child, I always wanted the race car. But when I tried to claim it, my big sister would usually twist it from my hand and force me to take the little Toto dog. I wanted the race car because I had a need for speed and the car always made me feel I was getting somewhere.

I like a game that takes me places, not one that keeps me waiting. Unfortunately, a random roll of the dice often sent me to the worst place on the board -- jail. For someone with a wait-aversion, I hated jail because I was confined to watch my siblings pass me to collect their $200.

As a chaplain in the dual careers of military and hospital chaplaincy, I'm acquainted far too well with waiting. The most dramatic place I've played the waiting game is the hospital waiting room.

The room provides the setting for the hardest part of my job, waiting with people. When you are stuck in this waiting room, it doesn't matter how important you are, how beautiful or rich or how careful you've been; you are wedged, fixed and trapped in a room full of people where life has told them they must wait.

For example, I've waited with women as they are hospitalized through high-risk pregnancies, praying for their 30th week to bring the best chance of their baby's survival. I've waited with an agonizing father as he prays for pain medication to bring final comfort to his dying daughter. As a military chaplain, I've also waited with families as they hope against hope that the official confirmation of their loved one's fate will be averted.

However, I'd say that the hardest part about waiting with people in life's waiting room is standing with those who have not previously established the grip of faith in their lives.

Faith is the grip the parachutist feels when his harness tightens. Faith is the grip the trapeze artist knows as she hangs for a second in midair only to be snatched by a skillful partner. Faith is the grip we feel that comes from just beyond the edge of the darkness in which we stand. It's an authority that knows the darkness, but comes from the light.

Ancient scripture tells of three men who knew the grip of faith while living through trying political times. When the men formed a prayer group, the king saw their formation as political protest and punished them by throwing them into a fiery furnace. I've been in some warm waiting rooms, but the thermostat in this room was out of control.

Witnesses saw the men rescued from the fire by a presence brighter than the fire itself, someone they described as "an Angel of the Lord." But the real miracle wasn't the angelic rescue; the real miracle was that the Angel went into the fiery room in the first place.

When life puts us in heated waiting rooms, we may not always be able to walk out unscathed, but my prayer for you is that you will know a faith that the New Testament writer in Jude 1 described as something that will "keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating."

Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and the author of "No Small Miracles." He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains. You can call him at (321) 549-2500 or email him at ask@thechaplain.net or visit his website at www.thechaplain.net. Write him at P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759.

2012-07-07

The Three Monks (Tolstoy)

Here it is (Leo Tolstoy, 1886):

AN OLD LEGEND CURRENT IN THE VOLGA DISTRICT


'And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.' -- Matt. vi. 7, 8.


A BISHOP was sailing from Archangel to the Solov├ętsk Monastery; and on the same vessel were a number of pilgrims on their way to visit the shrines at that place. The voyage was a smooth one. The wind favourable, and the weather fair. The pilgrims lay on deck, eating, or sat in groups talking to one another. The Bishop, too, came on deck, and as he was pacing up and down, he noticed a group of men standing near the prow and listening to a fisherman who was pointing to the sea and telling them something. The Bishop stopped, and looked in the direction in which the man was pointing. He could see nothing however, but the sea glistening in the sunshine. He drew nearer to listen, but when the man saw him, he took off his cap and was silent. The rest of the people also took off their caps, and bowed.

 

'Do not let me disturb you, friends,' said the Bishop. 'I came to hear what this good man was saying.'

 

'The fisherman was telling us about the hermits,' replied one, a tradesman, rather bolder than the rest.

 

'What hermits?' asked the Bishop, going to the side of the vessel and seating himself on a box. 'Tell me about them. I should like to hear. What were you pointing at?'

 

'Why, that little island you can just see over there,' answered the man, pointing to a spot ahead and a little to the right. 'That is the island where the hermits live for the salvation of their souls.'

'Where is the island?' asked the Bishop. 'I see nothing.'

 

'There, in the distance, if you will please look along my hand. Do you see that little cloud? Below it and a bit to the left, there is just a faint streak. That is the island.'

 

The Bishop looked carefully, but his unaccustomed eyes could make out nothing but the water shimmering in the sun.

 

'I cannot see it,' he said. 'But who are the hermits that live there?'

 

'They are holy men,' answered the fisherman. 'I had long heard tell of them, but never chanced to see them myself till the year before last.'

 

And the fisherman related how once, when he was out fishing, he had been stranded at night upon that island, not knowing where he was. In the morning, as he wandered about the island, he came across an earth hut, and met an old man standing near it. Presently two others came out, and after having fed him, and dried his things, they helped him mend his boat.

 

'And what are they like?' asked the Bishop.

 

'One is a small man and his back is bent. He wears a priest's cassock and is very old; he must be more than a hundred, I should say. He is so old that the white of his beard is taking a greenish tinge, but he is always smiling, and his face is as bright as an angel's from heaven. The second is taller, but he also is very old. He wears tattered, peasant coat. His beard is broad, and of a yellowish grey colour. He is a strong man. Before I had time to help him, he turned my boat over as if it were only a pail. He too, is kindly and cheerful. The third is tall, and has a beard as white as snow and reaching to his knees. He is stern, with over-hanging eyebrows; and he wears nothing but a mat tied round his waist.'

 

'And did they speak to you?' asked the Bishop.

 

'For the most part they did everything in silence and spoke but little even to one another. One of them would just give a glance, and the others would understand him. I asked the tallest whether they had lived there long. He frowned, and muttered something as if he were angry; but the oldest one took his hand and smiled, and then the tall one was quiet. The oldest one only said: "Have mercy upon us," and smiled.'

 

While the fisherman was talking, the ship had drawn nearer to the island.

 

'There, now you can see it plainly, if your Grace will please to look,' said the tradesman, pointing with his hand.

 

The Bishop looked, and now he really saw a dark streak -- which was the island. Having looked at it a while, he left the prow of the vessel, and going to the stern, asked the helmsman:

'What island is that?'

 

'That one,' replied the man, 'has no name. There are many such in this sea.'

 

'Is it true that there are hermits who live there for the salvation of their souls?'

 

'So it is said, your Grace, but I don't know if it's true. Fishermen say they have seen them; but of course they may only be spinning yarns.'

 

'I should like to land on the island and see these men,' said the Bishop. 'How could I manage it?'

 

'The ship cannot get close to the island,' replied the helmsman, 'but you might be rowed there in a boat. You had better speak to the captain.'

 

The captain was sent for and came.

 

'I should like to see these hermits,' said the Bishop. 'Could I not be rowed ashore?'

 

The captain tried to dissuade him.

 

'Of course it could be done,' said he, 'but we should lose much time. And if I might venture to say so to your Grace, the old men are not worth your pains. I have heard say that they are foolish old fellows, who understand nothing, and never speak a word, any more than the fish in the sea.'

 

'I wish to see them,' said the Bishop, 'and I will pay you for your trouble and loss of time. Please let me have a boat.'

 

There was no help for it; so the order was given. The sailors trimmed the sails, the steersman put up the helm, and the ship's course was set for the island. A chair was placed at the prow for the Bishop, and he sat there, looking ahead. The passengers all collected at the prow, and gazed at the island. Those who had the sharpest eyes could presently make out the rocks on it, and then a mud hut was seen. At last one man saw the hermits themselves. The captain brought a telescope and, after looking through it, handed it to the Bishop.

'It's right enough. There are three men standing on the shore. There, a little to the right of that big rock.'

 

The Bishop took the telescope, got it into position, and he saw the three men: a tall one, a shorter one, and one very small and bent, standing on the shore and holding each other by the hand.

 

The captain turned to the Bishop.

 

'The vessel can get no nearer in than this, your Grace. If you wish to go ashore, we must ask you to go in the boat, while we anchor here.'

 

The cable was quickly let out, the anchor cast, and the sails furled. There was a jerk, and the vessel shook. Then a boat having been lowered, the oarsmen jumped in, and the Bishop descended the ladder and took his seat. The men pulled at their oars, and the boat moved rapidly towards the island. When they came within a stone's throw they saw three old men: a tall one with only a mat tied round his waist: a shorter one in a tattered peasant coat, and a very old one bent with age and wearing an old cassock -- all three standing hand in hand.

The oarsmen pulled in to the shore, and held on with the boathook while the Bishop got out.

 

The old men bowed to him, and he gave them his benediction, at which they bowed still lower. Then the Bishop began to speak to them.

 

'I have heard,' he said, 'that you, godly men, live here saving your own souls, and praying to our Lord Christ for your fellow men. I, an unworthy servant of Christ, am called, by God's mercy, to keep and teach His flock. I wished to see you, servants of God, and to do what I can to teach you, also.'

 

The old men looked at each other smiling, but remained silent.

 

'Tell me,' said the Bishop, 'what you are doing to save your souls, and how you serve God on this island.'

 

The second hermit sighed, and looked at the oldest, the very ancient one. The latter smiled, and said:

 

'We do not know how to serve God. We only serve and support ourselves, servant of God.'

 

'But how do you pray to God?' asked the Bishop.

 

'We pray in this way,' replied the hermit. 'Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.'

 

And when the old man said this, all three raised their eyes to heaven, and repeated:  'Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us!'  The Bishop smiled.

 

'You have evidently heard something about the Holy Trinity,' said he. 'But you do not pray aright. You have won my affection, godly men. I see you wish to please the Lord, but you do not know how to serve Him. That is not the way to pray; but listen to me, and I will teach you. I will teach you, not a way of my own, but the way in which God in the Holy Scriptures has commanded all men to pray to Him.'

 

And the Bishop began explaining to the hermits how God had revealed Himself to men; telling them of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

 

'God the Son came down on earth,' said he, 'to save men, and this is how He taught us all to pray. Listen and repeat after me: "Our Father."'

 

And the first old man repeated after him, 'Our Father,' and the second said, 'Our Father,' and the third said, 'Our Father.'

 

'Which art in heaven,' continued the Bishop.

 

The first hermit repeated, 'Which art in heaven,' but the second blundered over the words, and the tall hermit could not say them properly. His hair had grown over his mouth so that he could not speak plainly. The very old hermit, having no teeth, also mumbled indistinctly.

The Bishop repeated the words again, and the old men repeated them after him. The Bishop sat down on a stone, and the old men stood before him, watching his mouth, and repeating the words as he uttered them. And all day long the Bishop laboured, saying a word twenty, thirty, a hundred times over, and the old men repeated it after him. They blundered, and he corrected them, and made them begin again.

 

The Bishop did not leave off till he had taught them the whole of the Lord's prayer so that they could not only repeat it after him, but could say it by themselves. The middle one was the first to know it, and to repeat the whole of it alone. The Bishop made him say it again and again, and at last the others could say it too.

 

It was getting dark, and the moon was appearing over the water, before the Bishop rose to return to the vessel. When he took leave of the old men, they all bowed down to the ground before him. He raised them, and kissed each of them, telling them to pray as he had taught them. Then he got into the boat and returned to the ship.

 

And as he sat in the boat and was rowed to the ship he could hear the three voices of the hermits loudly repeating the Lord's prayer. As the boat drew near the vessel their voices could no longer be heard, but they could still be seen in the moonlight, standing as he had left them on the shore, the shortest in the middle, the tallest on the right, the middle one on the left. As soon as the Bishop had reached the vessel and got on board, the anchor was weighed and the sails unfurled. The wind filled them, and the ship sailed away, and the Bishop took a seat in the stern and watched the island they had left. For a time he could still see the hermits, but presently they disappeared from sight, though the island was still visible. At last it too vanished, and only the sea was to be seen, rippling in the moonlight.

 

The pilgrims lay down to sleep, and all was quiet on deck. The Bishop did not wish to sleep, but sat alone at the stern, gazing at the sea where the island was no longer visible, and thinking of the good old men. He thought how pleased they had been to learn the Lord's prayer; and he thanked God for having sent him to teach and help such godly men.

 

So the Bishop sat, thinking, and gazing at the sea where the island had disappeared. And the moonlight flickered before his eyes, sparkling, now here, now there, upon the waves. Suddenly he saw something white and shining, on the bright path which the moon cast across the sea. Was it a seagull, or the little gleaming sail of some small boat? The Bishop fixed his eyes on it, wondering.

 

'It must be a boat sailing after us,' thought he 'but it is overtaking us very rapidly. It was far, far away a minute ago, but now it is much nearer. It cannot be a boat, for I can see no sail; but whatever it may be, it is following us, and catching us up.'

 

And he could not make out what it was. Not a boat, nor a bird, nor a fish! It was too large for a man, and besides a man could not be out there in the midst of the sea. The Bishop rose, and said to the helmsman:  'Look there, what is that, my friend? What is it?' the Bishop repeated, though he could now see plainly what it was -- the three hermits running upon the water, all gleaming white, their grey beards shining, and approaching the ship as quickly as though it were not morning.

 

The steersman looked and let go the helm in terror.

 

'Oh Lord! The hermits are running after us on the water as though it were dry land!'

 

The passengers hearing him, jumped up, and crowded to the stern. They saw the hermits coming along hand in hand, and the two outer ones beckoning the ship to stop. All three were gliding along upon the water without moving their feet. Before the ship could be stopped, the hermits had reached it, and raising their heads, all three as with one voice, began to say:

 

'We have forgotten your teaching, servant of God. As long as we kept repeating it we remembered, but when we stopped saying it for a time, a word dropped out, and now it has all gone to pieces. We can remember nothing of it. Teach us again.'

 

The Bishop crossed himself, and leaning over the ship's side, said:

 

'Your own prayer will reach the Lord, men of God. It is not for me to teach you. Pray for us sinners.

 

And the Bishop bowed low before the old men; and they turned and went back across the sea. And a light shone until daybreak on the spot where they were lost to sight.

 

 

2012-07-03

The present moment of the 21st Century

My sense is that within the chaos and these tribulations there is a manifestation of God striving to be born, that the cracks revealed in our human systems, in our religious communities, in our treatment of the earth and fellow creatures reveal new possibilities and ways we might live more faithfully.  I believe we are called to assist in that work, to be midwives of the spiritual transformation trying to be born.  I believe we are called to witness and lovingly hold our communities, our homes, as the breaking open leads to deeper truths and greater light.
Lucy Duncan 
Beacon Hill Friends Meeting (July 2012) 
From: Alice Carter

2012-05-03

Seven Signs of Spiritual Health

You are spiritually healthy when:
  1. You feel a sense of belonging.
  2. You are open to awe and wonder.
  3. You live with an attitude of hope.
  4. You have the ability to trust.
  5. You are able to show appreciation.
  6. You have a sense of purpose in your life.
  7. You have a sense of humor.
author unattributed

2012-03-28

Today in the Temple of Broken Hearts

In The Temple of Broken Hearts
By Monk Alexander

Let us think about all the good things God gives us in our life, and then they will increase and will oust all the bad ones. But here we have to bear in mind that good does not necessarily mean pleasant.

If we savor details of our misfortune, we will be sucked into the swamps of sad thoughts with the danger of suffocating in our own mud. Saint Ephraim the Syrian said: "You will smell the stench of a dung-heap, as long as you stand beside it".

Let us learn to rejoice at all the good things the present day brings with it, then we will not burden ourselves with solving our future problems.
Jesus Christ says: "Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day" (MT. 6:34).

In medical terms, the preoccupation with something that has not yet taken place is called a 'dark perspective disorder'. The Gospel warns us against this disorder by proclaiming to live in the present day.

It is necessary to turn from the past and cast off thoughts about the future in order to discover unlimited potential of the present day.

This day is unique, for it will never be repeated again. It comprises the whole experience of my previous life and all the potential for the future. It belongs to me and I can do whatever I want with it. I can fill it with vain trouble and anxiety, or I can dedicate to God.

Today is the day God has given me.

If I could realize what kind of gift it is to me, I would use every moment of it to make my life brighter and more meaningful spiritually.

I would not look back to the past in disappointment, would not reflect anxiously about the future. I would try to live it the best I could.

I would notice everything interesting and divine in my life and nature around me. Thirst for beauty, thirst for life is characteristic of every living thing, but it is conscious only in man.

Today, by dying consciously for all that has nothing in common with the Divine life, we can be born into a new life in God, the name of which is love.

From the Orthodox Forum
Posted 03-28-2012

2012-02-18

spiritual help for a marriage in trouble

O Lord, tonight send your angels to touch the hearts of those that have been joined in the sacrament of matrimony but are troubled and in pain; fill them with love for Thee; strengthen and reunite them in peace, love, and harmony; help restore their bonds and overcome any difficulties they may face. Love heals all things. Love never fails. Let love prevail in them and between them. Amen.

+  +  +

O Lord give me strength and wisdom to endure these trials, complete the tasks assigned to me, and not succumb to dark clouds of sadness and anxiety that have come upon me. Without Your blessings, my shortcomings are overwhelming. Send an angel to surround my family with heavenly wings to survive the storm that swirls arounds us. Help us to know Your love and to put our trust in You. O Lord hear my cry through the night and even into the morning.  Amen.

+  +  +

O Lord, when arms that were available to hold us; when hands that were available to help; and when a voice that offered encouraging words are no longer within our reach, comfort us so that we are not lost in despair and heartache. Transform our sadness into loving memories that we can cherish. We know, as you have taught us, that all separation from our loved ones is temporary, if we have loved truly - whether in this world or that to come, it is love that is eternal. O Lord, remind us of that love and bring peace to our minds and hearts. For those of us with fragile faith, give us evidence of love so that in our despair we can continue in loving ways until we all come to that place filled with your presence, your light, your love. And if there is anything that we have done or continue to do that gets in the way of that love, be kind and have mercy in the removal of all obstacles among loved ones.- whether in this world or that to come, it is love that is eternal. O Lord remind us of that love and peace to our minds and hearts. For those of us with fragile faith, give us evidence of love so that in our despair we can continue in loving ways until we all come to that place filled with your presence, your light, your love. And if thereis anything that we have done or continue to do that gets in the way pf thatlove, be kind and have mercy in the removal of all obstacles to dwelling in love and among loved ones.  Amen.
+  +  +
Fr John-Brian Paprock
February 15-18, 2012

2012-01-04

Spiritual sobriety

Spiritual sobriety

One of the characteristics of a genuinely healthy spiritual life is temperance. We know in ordinary speech what sobriety means in comparison to drunkenness. One can get drunk in various ways, and not only through wine. Everything that fascinates us so much that we no longer can remember God or ourselves, nor the basic values of life: this is a form of drunkenness. It has no connection to what I have called inspiration – the inspiration of a scholar, of an artist, to whom God has given the ability to see behind the outward form to that which surrounds it: a certain depth of being, which he can draw out and express in sounds, or lines, or colours so as to make it accessible to the people around it who were blind to it. But when we forget specifically that very meaning revealed by them and create an object of delight out of that which should be an object of contemplation – then we lose our sobriety. In Church life it happens so often and so destructively, when people come to church because of the singing, or because of the emotions that are aroused by the harmony of the mystery of the divine service, when God is no longer in the centre of everything but only the experience that is the fruit of his presence. The essential feature of Orthodox piety, of Orthodox spirituality, is sobriety, which transfers everything of value and its entire meaning from itself to God.

-- Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
“Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh: Essential Writings” 
Orbis Books, pp 132-133