29 March 2020

The Longest Week


Does anyone feel the same way?  This has been the longest week I can remember.  I can't believe it was only Monday of this same week when the Prime Minister put the whole of the UK on lockdown.

As the week progressed, some of the measures were tightened.  The police gained more power and authority.  The reasons for leaving your home were reduced.  We can only leave our homes for essential foodstuffs, health reasons (appointments, medicine, etc.), one time per day of exercise (like running or walking) by yourself or with family, or if you absolutely have to go to work, which would pretty much be medical and emergency service people, some council workers, postal people, and those working in the grocery stores.


The streets are deserted, and the neighbourhoods are quiet and feel strange -- occasionally we see someone walking a dog or maybe just walking.  The driveways and residential carparks are full.

We have to feed Shermy every other day, so we must go out, but we go straight there and back.  Neither of us even wants to go into the grocery store.

So far, we have not been able to find toilet paper anywhere!

Ian's workplace closed on Wednesday.  It feels like ages ago.  Also on Wednesday, just before they really cracked down about people on the roads, we drove to Stratherrick in the rain, and hiked through a field of very large horses, in the rain and mud and muck, and made a pilgrimage to a shrine, in the rain.  I made my consecration to Jesus Through Mary at the altar of the shrine of the Our Lady Immaculate, in the rain.



We have been attending daily online Mass, and on Friday we participated via a live broadcast in the prayers and Adoration when Pope Francis gave the Urbi et Orbi blessing.  You can read the whole transcript HERE.

We are trying to view our situation as a time of being cloistered -- for prayer, for worship, for study.  I think we're settling into a routine and feeling a little less antsy.  People are so resilient.  We can adapt to a lot.  If we feel like cabin fever is setting in, we get up and walk around the garden for some fresh air.  Of course, I know that if one is afflicted with this virus, he or she will not be experiencing the lockdown like we are.  We keep everyone in our daily prayers -- like the Pope has asked us to, we are praying for the world.

Of course, it is only the end of the first week.  Who knows what lies ahead.  What we do know is Whose hands we are in.  That is all the comfort and strength we need for now.

Blessings of peace to you all.  Stay safe and well.

25 March 2020

Do Not Panic


I saw this on eBay today.  This is the UK version of Lysol.  Needless to say, it is not on the shelves these days.  How much would you pay?

Of course we must be vigilant, wise, and keep things clean.  I hope we (myself included) are remembering to keep our hearts clean, as well.  Stay close to God, my friends.

23 March 2020

The Face of Sanity...and Signs of Spring (Hope?)


We have one sheep:  Shermy.  We used to have four, and before Ian and I married, he had 35 or 40, as a crofter.  When I came, in 2007, I didn't know what was going on with sheep (we don't have sheep in Florida!), but I had always had an affinity for them.  In the spring of 2008, I fell in love with one of Ian's lambs.  The flock was all scheduled to go away (to the auction mart, sadly), and he was going to be done with crofting.  Well, he was done with crofting, but not done with sheep!  I begged and pleaded for this lamb to be mine, and although it was a totally new concept to Ian (to have a sheep as a pet), he finally gave in, and we actually rustled this lamb and his mother away from the croft and hid them on someone else's croft!  And that lamb was Rosebud.  Who was a boy, so to his face, we mostly called him Bud.  Soon after that, we moved to another county and village, and we brought Rosebud with us -- but we didn't think we could have just one sheep, so we got Shermy to keep him company.  Then, in 2013, with some more begging on my part, we got two baby lambs who had no mothers, and we bottle fed them, and raised them up.  That was Snowball and Doodle.  We kept them in our garage and backyard for months!  Then we moved them into the big field with Rosebud and Shermy.  And for several years, we had a wee flock of four. Eventually, though, problems developed, as they often do.  Rosebud was getting older; Snowball had been bullied when he was little, but as he grew, he discovered he could bully the old guy.  We had to separate them -- Rosebud and Shermy in one field, and Snowball and Doodle in another.  Then, Rosebud died.  We saw this coming.  He made it to 10, but his constitution had never been that strong.  It was a terrible day.  That was in 2018.  At the end of 2018, Doodle died.  One day he was fine; the next he was gone.  And at the beginning of 2019, Snowball died -- the exact same thing.  Fine one day, gone the next.  And now there is Shermy. 



Having these four sheep has been wonderful and very emotional and very hard sometimes.  I always worried about the harsh weather, enough shelter (we built shelters in both fields though), whether they were happy, healthy, and well.  I was a nervous wreck at clipping time.  Most of the men who clipped them were careless, hard-nosed, and rough.  We kept trying different people, hoping for someone with a heart.  Ian had done clipping all his life, but it's very hard, especially on the back, and our sheep were all BIG.  Our last clipper was pretty good.  And then, the past couple of years, Ian has gone back to doing it, just to make sure our sheep are not traumatized unnecessarily.  We have also mostly kept dogs away from them.  I don't care what the farmers say:  dogs are predators as far as a sheep is concerned.  That is why there is a whole thing called "sheep worrying" which happens when dogs chase and nip and antagonize sheep.  The sheep literally die of fright.  I am hypervigilant to keep dogs away from ours, and have done for the past many years.


When we found ourselves with just one sheep, we were desperate to find him a companion, but it needed to be another sheep who was older, like Shermy.  Shermy turns 10 this year.  We never could find anyone suitable, and as it turns out, Shermy seems to be quite content on his own.  He has mellowed considerably and seems comfortable.  He loves scritches and petting.  Plus, he was always our sheep who made friends with others:  crows, rabbits, deer, cats. 


Also, we always take our sheep (one or four or however many) out of their field and away for walks, and to graze.  And they get rich tea biscuits for treats.  And they have kibbles, and hay, and mineral blocks, and turnips, and water.  So, all in all, they have all led pretty cossetted lives!


The other thing, though, is the wonderful therapy they have provided, and Shermy continues to provide, for us (heartbreaks notwithstanding).  Shermy is the face of sanity!  So, this past weekend, in the midst of empty grocery shelves, panic-laden news, and scary statistics, we went out for some fresh air, and some Shermy time.  Spring was making itself known in buds and flowers.  The air was fresh and crisp.  Shermy was happily eating new grass and big-leafed brassicas.  It was a refreshing time for all.  I am sure if we can get out in nature and away from people and technology, just for a little while throughout the week, it will help reset our perspectives and settle our hearts and minds in this trying time.


It is good to transform this time into quiet, peace, reflection, prayer, and a practising of the presence of God.  Be safe and well.

20 March 2020

Empty

That's what the shelves were in Lidl's today.  I went around 11:30 this morning.  I didn't take a list.  I knew it would be futile.  All I can say is, it's a good thing our palate is not typically British, because all the usual British grocery items were gone.

I found this photo on a news site via Google.  I find it heartbreaking.

I still maintain that a lot of this behaviour is foolish and caused by panic.  In that vein, I think the governments should really be holding the media accountable for the field day they are having, stirring the public into a frenzy.

Also, please let's remember that the world has been through many, many disasters, plagues, and wars and much of that has been far bigger than this is.  Just for one example:

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people worldwide than did World War I.  It is estimated that somewhere between 20 and 40 million people died in this pandemic.  Coronavirus is nowhere near as devasting as that.  It feels to me as though people have lost all ability to put things into perspective, and I honestly believe this is the result of being spoon-fed all kinds of garbage via television, the Internet, and media publications. 

People:  We must stop and think for ourselves, keep cool heads, and simply be reasonable.  Also, as People of God -- Messiah people -- we have nothing to fear.  We must pray, be calm, and be charitable.

Cleaning out the grocery stores and stockpiling is the opposite of how we should be acting at a time like this. 

Be safe, well, and SANE!

19 March 2020

The Domestic Church

A little altar on a shelf of our bookcase

A little altar on our coffee table

How can we be Christians and not have a Little Church in our homes?  My husband and I both agree most strenuously that "an hour on Sunday" is nowhere near enough to sustain us in our Faith and to keep us constant and devoted.  We do all kinds of things in our little home church, and daily prayers, but we also have sacred items throughout the house -- visual aids to keep us focused on God and saintly friends to help us along the way. 

Angels about the doorways;  Moses and Kassiani on the piano

I once heard an Orthodox priest say that "icons are not for decoration and should only be in your icon corner".  Well, while I agree that they are not items of home decor, I definitely disagree that they should only be in your icon corner!  They are beautiful and glorious and serve as constant reminders of our faith -- so they should be all over.


 

At this trying time, when churches are keeping their doors closed to the Faithful, it is more important than ever to have an active Domestic Church.  What can you do?  Here are a few suggestions (which will be obvious to the seasoned and hopefully helpful to those less so):

  • Pray -- have a keepable rule of prayer and pray daily.  Use the corporate prayers of the Church as well as your own "from the heart" prayer.
  • Light candles -- candles represent the light of Christ, and they in and of themselves are a form of prayer.
  • Burn incense -- Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice (Psalm 141:2)
  • Read Scripture
  • Read devotionals
  • Use your prayer rope or beads
  • Pray the Rosary
  • Sing, pray, or listen to hymns and sacred music (we sometimes add a piece of sacred music to our time of devotion, and listen together).
  • Pray the morning, evening, and/or compline prayers
  • Remember mealtime prayers
  • Watch a Christian video (a talk, group prayer, music, a movie -- something inspirational and uplifting)
  • Pray when you go out of the house; pray when you come into the house
  • Read about the saints
  • Keep shrines and light candles at them
  • Listen to podcasts (there are many Catholic and Orthodox podcasts out there)
  • Say a novena
  • Pray before an icon
  • Keep the feasts and fasts
  • Watch Masses from the Vatican (GO HERE)
  • Talk about your faith, with loved ones or anyone!
  • Never forget God.



My images today are various little views around our home:  places where we have icons, a little altar, a candle, a vigil lamp, what have you.  








Make your home a little church.  Do not let the devil destroy your peace or distract you from God with fear and despair.  Keep faithful!

18 March 2020

Coronavirus Rethink...and Acceptance of What Is

Well, I must rethink things.  I can admit that --though somewhat painfully.  I must ask forgiveness for over-zealousness.

Here is what has turned my mind, and how I shall try to go forward.



Please do take the time to listen to what Fr Josiah says.  Please also forgive me for any judgment and condemnation I have purported. 

Also please remember:  as Christians, we are not to be fearful, whatever is going on.  And I do still wish the churches would at least be open for private prayer and veneration, if not for gatherings.

Be safe, well, prayerful, and fearless!

CLOSED: What Are We Telling People?


The priest just phoned me.  The Diocese has closed all the churches in the north of Scotland.  I am horrified.  I maintain that this is the absolute WRONG thing to do in the face of this pandemic.  I don't believe that this will have any effect on anything, other than depriving the Faithful; it is not going to change or divert or prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

So the church is closed, but the shopping mall is open.  That pretty much sums up the state of our society and culture. 

O God, come to our aid.
O Lord, make haste to help us.


Of course, I realise that the sporting events are cancelled, as well, and that this virus is more than mud on the road or a little rain.  However, there does seem to be a grain of truth here regarding the situation of today.  It feels like some in the Church are looking for an excuse to panic, to close the church, and to deny the Faithful.


The world and its governments and all the little bureacratic civil authorities are most certainly the playthings of the devil.  

What a sad, sad day this is.  And again, I say that we are sending the message of the devil to the unbelieving world, and not the message of the Gospel.


17 March 2020

Now of All Times...



My husband and I have been discussing the state of things (read:  the Coronavirus pandemic) and the state of the Church.  We both agree:  this is NOT the time for the Church to run scared, close its doors, and act like the secular world -- full of panic and fear.  We are the Body of Christ.  We should be acting differently from the world.  What have we to fear? 

I have been reading various articles and official church documents, across the denominations.  The following is my opinion on it all: 

It is clear to me that the Protestant churches are completely under the thumb of the secular governments, and aside from encouraging their congregations to pray, are pretty much in full panic mode.  The Catholic Church is straddling the line and trying to take a sort of middle approach.  I think Pope Francis would be fearless if he were not constrained by the cardinals and bishops and the Italian government.  The Orthodox seem to be the most fearless, and although they do advise people to be wise and cautious, they also make the point that we ARE the Church -- the Body of Christ.

The Church of Scotland has cancelled its General Assembly, which wasn't even set to take place until May.  There's faith for you.  Or maybe not.  But then, what can you expect from a denomination whose national website also has a permanent page for church property up for sale -- as in, selling off disused church buildings.  The COS, and sadly, the Catholic Church in Scotland, are using the government and NHS guidelines when determining policy in the church.  To me, this says these two church entities place far more trust in the secular world than in the faith they are preaching.  I am ashamed.  You can read more about the sad state of affairs in the Church of Scotland HERE.



The Catholic Herald reported Saturday on the leadership issues that Pope Francis is now faced with.  Below are some excerpts.  Read the full article HERE:
"Drastic measures," Pope Francis said on Friday at the start of daily Mass from the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican, "are not always good."
***
The papal almoner, Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, opened his titular church and exposed the Blessed Sacrament on Friday, in defiance of Cardinal De Donatis's decree.  "It is an act of disobedience, yes.  I myself put the Blessed Sacrament out and opened my church," Cardinal Krajewski told Crux on Friday.  He also told Crux he would keep his church open, and the Blessed Sacrament exposed for adoration, all day Friday and during regular hours on Saturday.
"It did not happen under Fascism, it did not happen under the Russian or Soviet rule in Poland -- the churches were not closed," he said.
***
The fact is that the conditions were favourable to a show of papal willingness to step in and adjust the safety measures and be seen to do so in response to popular outcry.  This not only served as a message to the Italian bishops, but also to Italian authorities:  if you try to close the churches, expect a fight -- and not from ecclesiastical leadership.
Sadly, I do not believe anyone in Scotland would fight to keep the churches open.  Certainly, all signs are that the clergy and the churches are easily acquiescing to the dictates of the very secular and oftentimes aggressively anti-Christian UK government.

The OCA (Orthodox Church in America) issued the following synodal statement (in part -- read the entire statement HERE):
The Church is the mystical body of Christ.  Nothing can affect of change this sacred mystery.  Furthermore, nothing that is done in all reverence, piety, and fear of God in response to this virus should be construed as anything other than a prudent pastoral and temporary response to a situation that has the possibility of severe consequences.  As the body of Christ, we should meet the challenges posed by this virus with the assurance of faith, in oneness of mind, and in imitation of the Great Physician and Healer of souls and bodies, our Lord Jesus Christ.  All members of the Church should seek to console the anxious, assist those afflicted, and encourage those working in medical professions.  All faithful should pay special attention to those who might be at risk of more serious complications from this virus:  the young, the elderly, and those who already have respiratory or cardiac illnesses.  Indeed, no one should be stigmatized or ostracised because they have contracted the virus.

And THIS portion of the statement is crucial -- would that ALL Christian churches would adopt this attitude, INCLUDING the Roman Catholic Church.  The closing of Churches, suspension of Mass, and removal of the chalice is tantamount to telling the world that we do not actually believe in what we profess:  that the Communion wafers and wine are TRULY the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Again, I am ashamed of what so many of the churches are doing.  I understand the severity of the virus, but honestly, are we saying (to the aggressive, anti-Christian, no less) world that this virus is more powerful than God?  Think about this.  We are in a crisis of faith, people, and there is only ONE right answer.
We seek in these measures to follow the principles enumerated by His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogeia of the Church of Greece who said, "All measures that undermine faith and hope in God, anything that doubts the efficacy of Holy Communion and the mysteries is to be rejected.  Anything that honors the community of the faithful and our fellow man is an expression of love for them and for God."  In the midst of our Lenten journey to Pascha, beloved children in the Lord, we are given an opportunity, paradoxically, to honor and serve our neighbor as we struggle with this virus.  May our Great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, enable us to bear the struggle that is set before us, granting us the wisdom and discernment to know what is well-pleasing to him, and the strength to accomplish it.
There is no talk here of closing churches, suspending the liturgy, or denying Holy Communion to the Faithful.  That is as it should be.  Christians:  what do you believe?  What, truly, do you believe in this time of trial?  Who has the power here?  Is it our God, or is it the secular government, the media which induces panic at every turn, and the virus itself?  Now is the time to ask yourselves the hard questions.

The devil is laughing, my friends.

11 March 2020

A Hidden Life

 

I FINALLY saw it:  A Hidden Life.  What words are there to say?  I am forever changed by this movie.  I cannot imagine what the non-Christian sees when he watches this film, but anyone who has the Faith cannot help but be deeply and terribly moved.  During my particular viewing, when the film came to an end, absolutely no one moved from their seats.  You could hear a pin drop.  And the tears falling.  I was shaking for a long time afterwards.

I do not want to spoil this movie for anyone who has not seen it, so I will make my comments brief.  I had been wanting to see A Hidden Life for months, and finally got the chance.  I am so glad I did.  I have read many reviews of this movie:  not one of them has done it justice.  And again, if you are not a Christian, chances are you won't even understand.

The Christian life is about redemption, loyalty, faith -- and suffering.  Jesus said to pick up our cross and follow Him.  I have never seen that illustrated anywhere as majestically and profoundly as in this movie.  SEE IT.  You won't regret it.

10 March 2020

Heal the Schisms


By now you know that a thing very near to my heart is the healing of the schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.  I long for this.  In morning prayers, during the intercessions, there is this:
And first of all remember Your Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which You have purchased with Your precious blood.  Confirm and strengthen it, enlarge and multiply it, keep it in peace, and preserve it unconquerable by the gates of hell forever.  Heal the schisms of the churches, quench the ragings of the heathen, speedily undo and root out the power of growths and heresies, and bring them to naught by the power of Your Holy Spirit.
We pray this daily.  Why is this not happening?  Why are the men in the hierarchy unable to let go of their own determination to be "right" and their own egos, which are clouding the issue?  I am convinced that the humans and their egos are preventing this healing.

I actually heard an Orthodox priest say that one of the reasons Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism could not unify is because the Orthodox priests wear beards and the Catholic priests do not.  Seriously?  What kind of ridiculous argument is that?  How small is a God who worries about a detail like that?  My God is the Creator of the ever-expanding universe.  I don't think He is worried about facial hair.


If we believe the same essentials of the faith -- the Nicene Creed -- what is stopping us from uniting?  And don't talk to me about the filoque.  It is arrogant to think that one side or the other knows so much about the Unknowable God that they can determine the origin of the Holy Spirit.  For goodness' sake!  What are people thinking?

Let's all pray for humans to get out of the way and for the Church to unify.  We need this now more than ever.

05 March 2020

Purity


For most people, the concept of purity is not easy to define. 

For the secular world, it is generally a negative concept -- something that means A is better (more pure) than B.  It leads to competition, comparison, and oftentimes, persecution (read:  political correctness run amok).

Comic relief:  "politically correct" rendition
of an ages old children's song


Evangelical Christians have that whole "purity culture" thing going on:  True Love Waits, and Josh Harris, and all that.  The ultimate focus actually became the individual, and not God.  A sort of, "if I do this thing (remain abstinent) then MY life will be better / go a certain way / be safe" kind of thing.  God was not all that much a part of the equation. 

Christians -- Orthodox and Catholic -- understand that purity = God.  It is completely connected to God and His will and our attempts to live life as Christians.  If we cling to God, live for Christ, then we are on the road to purity.  True purity is Jesus.  True purity is His mother.  True purity is the love relationship of the Holy Trinity.  Any purity we have rests there.  And it only finds completeness for us as creatures in the Resurrected life everlasting.  However, it finds its root when we love God and follow Christ, who said:


We can never be pure in and of ourselves.  This is why the Evangelical concept has failed.  Wearing a "purity ring" and abstaining from sex really has very little to do with the state of our hearts, or with God's grace.  "Purity Balls" are perverse on many levels, and they are also geared towards "getting what we want" but in a different way.  Frankly, they are bizarre and creepy, and in my opinion, serve no purpose whatsoever.  They also call down upon Christians even more criticism from the secular world.  They are a stumbling block.



The secular concept of purity was doomed to failure from the outset.  Anything apart from the One True God and His holiness cannot possibly embody true purity in any form.  All the secular world has is "political correctness", division, judgment, and an "us and them" mentality.  There is no room for grace and mercy here.  There is, instead, chaos and conflict.  Secular purity is an oxymoron. 



I started thinking about purity as I pondered whether the Christian can know purity when he or she has led a chequered past, or even just led a human past.  My first thoughts were that we are too tainted, too broken, too apart from God. 

But then...wait.  That's the whole point, isn't it?  Christ offers us unending love, mercy, and grace...and forgiveness.  And when we love God in our hearts, regardless of our fallen state, we can touch the purity of Christ, and be transformed.  That's the Gospel.  That IS Good News!

There is only one way...