Pentecost: Trinity Day

Pentecost -

Learn About the Icon of Pentecost at Icon Reader

50 days after Pascha, the Holy Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost – the day the Holy Spirit descended on the Disciples in the form of flaming tongues, and they began to preach in languages they did not know.

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”
Acts, Chapter 2:5-12

“The Orthodox Church sees Pentecost as the final fulfillment of the mission of Jesus Christ and the first beginning of the messianic age of the Kingdom of God, mystically present in his Church. It is traditionally called the beginning of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Besides celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit, the feast also celebrates the full revelation of the divine Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hymns of the Church, celebrate the sign of the final act of God’s self-disclosure to the world of His creation.

To Orthodox Christians, the feast of Pentecost is not just a celebration of an event in history. It is also a celebration their membership in the Church. They have lived Pentecost and received “the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” in the sacrament of chrismation.” -Orthodox Wiki

Here’s a simplified version of the Byzantine setting for the apolytikion for the Feast of Pentecost, chanted by members of the Antiochian Archdiocese’s Teen SOYO. It’s chanted in the eighth mode (Tone 8).

Blessed Feast to all!!

My Vegan Tradition for the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord

Vegan Tradition for the Feast of the Ascension -

Learn More About the Icon of the Ascension

The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord is celebrated 40 days after Pascha. The feast commemorates the account of Christ ascending into heaven 40 days after His Resurrection.

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Acts 1-3 & 9-11

‘The Ascension of Christ shows the last stage in God’s plan for mankind: total union with Himself upon one’s departure from the world. According to V. Rev. George Florovsky, “in the Ascension resides the meaning and the fullness of Christ’s Resurrection….and with Christ, man’s nature ascends also.”‘ -Orthodoxwiki

Traditions on the Feast of the Ascension

I couldn’t find any special Orthodox traditions for this feast day, but while I was googling I found an odd one on a Catholic website. Apparently some people eat various kinds of birds “because Jesus “flew” to heaven.” It makes more sense to me that we would honor winged creatures in some way today, so I looked for animal sanctuaries that rescue farmed chickens or turkeys.

Even though the world record for longest chicken flight is only 13 seconds, I’ve decided this year I’m going to make an $18 donation to Animal Place Sanctuary, which the video above says will pay for one bag of feed for one day for the many chickens the sanctuary has rescued.

Donate to Animal Place Sanctuary

There are quite a few other farm sanctuaries in the United States. Check this list from to Find a Sanctuary in Your Area. You could also plan a visit or volunteer day and get to know the animals.

However you celebrate today, Blessed Feast!

Saint Porphyrios: Turn to Christ

Orthodox Quotes - Saint Porphyrios

“We should refer all our problems, whatever they are, to God, just as we say in the Divine Liturgy that we ‘commend our whole life to Christ our God’. We leave everything to You, O Lord. Whatever You will. Let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The person who turns to Christ turns everything into prayer. He makes both difficulties and tribulations into prayer. Whatever happens to him, he begins, ‘Lord Jesus Christ…’. Prayer is beneficial for everything, even the simplest things.”

-Saint Porphyrios, Wounded by Love

Unboxing Vegan: Greek Pascha Swap with Myrrh from St. Demetrios

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! I’m still recovering from Holy Week, but I thought I better at least share my Vegan Box Swap unboxing with you before we’re out of the 40 day festal period 🙂 I was lucky enough to snag Maria for my first official Vegan Box Swap just in time to fill my Pascha basket with all kinds of treats from Greece! There was so much stuff, I couldn’t fit it all in my basket – and it’s a big picnic basket.

(I’ve done a couple unofficial swaps, I’ll share those later!)

People always ask what I do for Pascha since I’m vegan all year. Usually I splurge on a few special foods, and have a nice glass of Scotch. The swap took care of my special foods this year.

Greek Vegan Unboxing
These items all made it into the basket to be blessed (except the mastic which I used to make Artoklasia Cake for our Pascha celebration)
-Chocolate Covered Orange Marzipan
-Orange Spoon Sweets
-Mastic/Mastika/Mastiha, aka Submarine
-Nut Butter Cups
-Chocolate Covered Cherries – with booze inside!

Greek Vegan Unboxing
Here we have three kinds of cookies, a little orange pie that got thoroughly crushed (and it was near the expiration date, so I split it with my dad before Pascha ((he loved it)), a big round loaf of sweet chocolate bread, halva with cocoa swirls, and baklava with kataifi.

Greek Vegan Unboxing
Gigantes, some kind of puffed snack thing, rusks for making one of my favorite Greek salads, Greek coffee, and tons of herbs including the stuff used to make Greek mountain tea – I love that tea!

Greek Vegan Unboxing
Also included was this lovely postcard with the sweetest turtle ever in the whole world, and when you move the postcard the turtle moves and the fish move!!!!

Here’s my little unboxing video. I’m so awful at these, but they’re really fun to make. However this one is extra embarrassing because I didn’t recognize one of the items in the box AT ALL. I made a special request for it, then forgot about it, and then…I couldn’t get it open, and I thought it was just one of those potpourri satchels. Nope.

Myrrh from the Relics of St. Demetrios in Thessaloniki
It was a precious bag of oil-soaked cotton balls from the myrrh-streaming relics of St. Demetrios.

Myrrh Streaming Relics of St. Demetrios of Thessaloniki
I visited Agios Demetrios, the church built over his crypt, in Thessaloniki in 2013.

Myrrh Streaming Relics of St. Demetrios of Thessaloniki
But although I was able to venerate his relics, it wasn’t until I got home that someone pointed out I could’ve asked for the myrrh. WHAT?! So I asked Maria if she could get some, since she’s in Thessaloniki, and she did! It smells wonderful. We can talk about myrrh-streaming saints and myrrh oil in another post.

Greek Vegan Unboxing
I hope you all appreciate what I’ve had to go through since Pascha. I’m trying so hard not to eat a ton of sweets, which is always hard for me anyway, but now I had no choice because I wanted to be able to tell you about at least a few of them.

Vegan Nut Butter Cups
I think these are maybe not peanut butter because the flavor isn’t very strong – maybe they’re almond butter? Anyway, they’re great. And it’s not just the nut butter covered in chocolate, there’s a thin layer of wafer on the bottom and sides. **Found out they’re hazelnut!

The grape must cookies, or moustokouloura, are basically a soft molasses cookie made with grape molasses.

The vegan baklava and kataifi were completely drenched in syrup, so much so that the inner packaging was already sticky on the outside. I almost forgot what baklava is like…it is good 🙂

The boozy chocolate covered cherries and chocolate covered orange marzipan taste just like you’d expect, like you want to eat them all at once in 3 minutes.

The rest I haven’t gotten into yet. Maybe next week I’ll make dakos (bread salad) with the rusks.

Do you have any suggestions for using my Greek treats? Wanna share a link to your own unboxing? Comment below!

Holy Unction in the Orthodox Church

Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday

Bishop Anthony reads the Seventh Prayer at the service of Holy Unction

Last night, on Holy Wednesday, Bishop Anthony was with us to celebrate the service of Holy Unction.

. . .Hearken to our supplication, and receive it as incense offered unto thee; and visit these thy servants, and if they have done aught amiss, either by word, or deed, or thought, either by night or by day; if they have fallen under the ban of a priest, or under their own anathema; or hath been embittered by an oath, and have foresworn themselves: We beseech thee and supplicate thee: loose, pardon, forgive them, O God, overlooking their sins and wickednesses, and all which they have committed knowingly or in ignorance.

-from the Seventh Prayer of Holy Unction

Holy Unction is one of the seven sacraments of the Orthodox Church, most commonly celebrated on Wednesday evening of Holy Week (although it can be done privately at any time throughout the year). This service comes from the apostolic tradition described in the New Testament, James 5:14-15, “…let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven”.
The service of Holy Unction was also recorded by St. Serapion, a fourth century bishop, in the Euchologion of Serapion of Thmuis.

Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday
The priest anoints the faithful on the forehead, hands, etc in the form of a cross saying, “The blessing of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ: for the healing of the soul and body of the servant of God, [name], always: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen”

Almsgiving Opportunity of the Week: Project Mexico

St. Nicholas Almsgiving Icon

St. Nicholas brings a dowry in secret

Again, we are given time by our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ for the seeds of almsgiving to fall upon our hearing. Again, Christ has given us the sower to imitate, who sowed his seed on good earth, and from it reaped a hundred-fold. For behold the message which is proclaimed from his hands. Behold the theater of almsgiving that has been gathered. For within have been called the lovers of God, and the lovers of honor and the lovers of the poor. Those who fervently desire crowns are called. For God is standing by, He Who grants confirmation, receiving the little money given by the lovers of the poor, and granting them the Kingdom of Heaven. I entreat you, let none of us forfeit this grace. Let none of us neglect this great and world-transcending gift for a little money: no poor man, nor rich man, nor servant, nor free man, nor wise man, nor worker, nor man, nor woman. But I entreat all of you, with diligence let us purchase the Kingdom of Heaven.

-St. John Chrysostom

Lent is not only a time of abstaining from certain foods, but also a time of repentance, a time for increased prayer, and a time of increased almsgiving. In this spirit, I’ve decided to bring you one almsgiving opportunity each week. Admittedly, this first one is self-serving. In August I’ll be going with a group of about 25 people to Project Mexico at St. Innocent Orphanage. We’ll spend a week building a home for a family in need. The trip will cost approximately $1300 per person, and we’re asking for contributions to cover this cost. The funds are used to pay for plane tickets, van rental, one night in a hotel (the rest of the time we camp out on the property of St. Innocent Orphanage), building materials, and other expenses related to building the home. You can make a general contribution to the group, or for those of you that know me, put my name in the comments and your contribution will help cover my personal expense.

Click HERE to Visit the GoFundMe Page for Project Mexico: Team Grand Rapids, MI, to Make a Donation Today
Project Mexico Home Building
And if possible, please also share our GoFundMe page on facebook or via email. Your contribution can make a big difference in the life of a family in Mexico.

“Because of the prosperity that most of us enjoy, it is difficult to truly understand the basic and fundamental challenges that exist just beyond our borders. Only minutes south of one of California’s favorite vacation destinations, you will find Tijuana, Mexico, a city not only of considerable size and history, but of significant human poverty and hardship as well. With a population of over 1.3 million residents, it is sobering to appreciate that nearly half of them live on less than $200 (USD) per month. . . .
Since 1988, Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage has been building secure, safe and weather-tight homes for some of the most impoverished families in northern Mexico. Built strictly by volunteer labor, these homes provide families economic security and hope for a brighter future. While serving these families, the volunteers discover that they have been transformed. Through their service to others, they realize that they have received much more than they had given. To date, we have hosted well over 11,000 volunteers on our 16 acre ranch as we continue to humbly bear the burdens of others in the name of Christ.”

Sunday of Orthodoxy

Sunday of Orthodoxy

Synodikon of Orthodoxy, read at Orthodoxy Sunday Vespers on the first Sunday of Great Lent

As the Prophets beheld,
As the Apostles taught,
As the Church received,
As the Teachers dogmatized,
As the Universe agreed,
As Grace illumined,
As the Truth revealed,
As falsehood passed away,
As Wisdom presented,
As Christ awarded,

Thus we declare,
Thus we assert,
Thus we proclaim Christ our true God and honor His saints,

In words,
In writings,
In thoughts,
In sacrifices,
In churches,
In holy icons.

On the one hand, worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord.
And on the other hand, honoring and venerating His Saints as true servants of the same Lord.

This is the Faith of the Apostles.
This is the Faith of the Fathers.
This is the Faith of the Orthodox.
This is the Faith which has established the Universe.

Clean Tuesday, 2016: Body & Soul

This morning I was looking over a copy of The Talanton, the newsletter from St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Ohio. Included is a good homily by Metropolitan Savas, you can read the whole homily HERE. I had a hard time picking which part to share, so this is kind of a long excerpt. Worth the read, though.

This is why we go through this period of fasting: to discipline our body, to show the body who is the boss so we are not led by it. But we are riding the body like a horse. This is why we involve our body in prayer; we do not just pray in our heads, but we involve our bodies: we raise hands, bend our knees, kiss the ground, cross ourselves. We know that whatever we do with the body affects the soul. We know that the body’s actions are an expression of this. And we know that we wait for a new heaven and earth. We aren’t expecting to be delivered from the material world – we are expecting a transfiguration of the world. . .
I want to share an extended passage from St. John [of the Ladder] that speaks to this relationship of body and soul. . .

By what rule or manner can I bind this body of mine? By what president can I judge him? Before I can bind him he is let loose, before I condemn him I am reconciled with him, before I can punish him I bow down before him and feel sorry for him. How can I hate him when my nature disposes me to love him? How can I break away from him when I am bound to him forever? How can I escape from him when he is going to rise with me? How can I make him incorrupt when he has received a corruptible nature? How can I argue with him when all the arguing of nature is on his side? If I try to bind him through fasting, then I pass judgement on a neighbor who does not fast, with the result I am handed over to him again. If I defeat him by not passing judgement, I turn proud, and I am again a prisoner to him. He is my helper and my enemy, my assistant and my opponent, a protector and a traitor. I am kind to him and he assaults me. If I wear him out he gets weak. If he has his rest he becomes unruly. If I upset him he cannot stand it. If I mortify him I endanger myself. If I strike him down, I have nothing left with to acquire the virtues. I embrace him and I turn away from him. What is this mystery in me? What is the principle of mixture of body and soul? How can I be my own friend and my own enemy? Speak to me, speak to me my old fellow, my nature, I cannot ask anyone but you. How can I remain uninjured by you? How can I escape the danger of my own nature? I have made a promise to Christ that I will fight you, yet how can I defeat your tyranny? But this I have resolved, mainly that I am going to master you.

. . .We are living now in a period where we are trying to do just that, master our bodies, for the sake of the health of our soul, and we are in a period where we are in a sense all becoming monks and nuns. We are trying to do at least 40 days of what monks and nuns do throughout the year. You know they are the maximalists of the faith, they have the volume turned way up. They do it all the time, we try and get there every so often, and follow their example, and learn from them. And so this is the time where we, too, turn to literature such as this that feeds our souls as we try to reign in our bodies, and we thank God for the gift of St.John and we ask for his prayers always now and forever and to the ages of ages.

Clean Monday, 2016: How to Destroy the Passions

Well, I was very bad during Cheesefare and didn’t have time (or on some days, a computer) to update like I have in the past. I’ll have to catch up at some point after Clean Week. For now, spiritual food for this strict fasting day, the first day of Great Lent:

St. John of Damascus

“These eight passions should be destroyed as follows: gluttony by self-control; unchastity by desire for God and longing for the blessings held in store; avarice by compassion for the poor; anger by goodwill and love for all men; worldly dejection by spiritual joy; listlessness by patience, perseverance and offering thanks to God; self-esteem by doing good in secret and by praying constantly with a contrite heart; and pride by not judging or despising anyone in the manner of the boastful Pharisee (cf. Luke 18 : 11–12), and by considering oneself the least of all men. When the intellect has been freed in this way from the passions we have described and been raised up to God, it will henceforth live the life of blessedness, receiving the pledge of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 1 : 22). And when it departs this life, dispassionate and full of true knowledge, it will stand before the light of the Holy Trinity and with the divine angels will shine in glory through all eternity.” – St. John of Damascus

Breakfast Pizza with VeganEgg

It’s here, guys – Pizza Week is HERE!!! And I got started bright and early with a breakfast pizza. Now, I have to admit I lied yesterday when I finished my VioLife post by saying I was off to get my pizza crust started. I went to a party, came home and slept on the couch, got up at 3 to clean the kitchen, and made the dough around 3:45am. I didn’t realize I was almost out of flour, and the only yeast in the pantry…expired in 2010! But I decided to try it anyway, maybe it was still okay………

Well, this morning I checked my lump of dough safely set aside in the draft-free oven. It was REALLY cold in that oven! And the dough hadn’t risen at all. But I was not deterred, I would just have a flatbread pizza, simple as that.

Vegan Breakfast Pizza with VeganEgg and VioLife Cheese
And if you don’t mind my saying so, I think it turned out pretty darn well. In fact, it is beautiful.

Anyway, you can use your favorite crust recipe or a store-bought crust, or try my old favorite recipe from a vintage TimeLife cookbook. As for the toppings…

Vegan Breakfast Pizza
Crust of choice
1/4 – 1/2 C chopped onion (to taste)
1/4 – 1/2 C chopped bell pepper (to taste)
One serving VeganEgg, prepared scrambled
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil
Garlic powder, to taste
VioLife Prosociano (Parmesan), or other favorite vegan cheese

Preheat oven to 500.
Saute onions and bell pepper in oil just until tender. Set aside.
Prepare scrambled VeganEgg, seasoned with salt and pepper.

If you’re using a homemade pizza dough, oil your pizza pan, roll out the dough to desired thickness, and place dough on greased pan. If you’re using store-bought, just stick the crust on the pan 🙂 Lightly drizzle crust/dough with olive oil and spread evenly. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Top with sauteed veggies and scrambled VeganEgg.

Bake for 5 – 10 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned. Remove from oven and immediately top with shaved Prosociano. If you’re in the US, we don’t have VioLife yet 🙁 But you can use your favorite vegan parm, mozzarella, nutritional yeast, or just skip it!

But seriously…as soon as VioLife is available here, you MUST try the Prosociano. It’s a hard cheese with a great salty, nutty, and slightly sharp flavor. I’m going to be so sad when it’s gone, who knows when I’ll be able to get my hands on more??? If you’re ever in Greece or the UK, I recommend pulling an I Love Lucy-type move to smuggle it home – put a hollow prego-belly on under your shirt, and fill it with VioLife.

More pizza to come all week, more VioLife reviews, and a proper VeganEgg review coming soon!!! Until then, enjoy your breakfast pizza!