Be Attentive

On Ascetic Labors, by St. Gregory Palamas | Orthodox Quotes at Orthodox and Vegan
“The attentive person can do much more for himself and within himself: first of all, he can draw God’s attention, God’s love, God’s grace. Saint Symeon the New Theologian says that one must struggle, pray, weep, repent, and undertake ascetic labors – but all the while recognizing that it is not ascetic struggles that save us, but attention, God’s eyes, which see us in this spiritual disposition and condition. It is He, the Lord, Who saves us. Through one’s ascetic struggles one simply demonstrates that one desires salvation and that one is disposing oneself to it, that is, that one is attentive to it.”

-From The Heart is Deep: St. Gregory Palamas and the Essence of Hesychasm by Bishop Atanasije (Jevtic)

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

Get Ready for Pizza Week 2016

Vegan Chili Cheese Pizza
It’s hard to believe, but Lent is almost here, and that means Pizza Week (aka Cheesefare Week) is about to begin! Mark your calendars and get ready to celebrate from Monday, March 7, through Sunday, March 13. Cheesefare Week is traditionally the time Orthodox Christians use up the remainder of their egg & dairy products before we begin the Great Fast. In my kitchen, I’ll be using up the last open carton of VeganEgg, and all my delicious vegan cheese.
After sneaking our last piece of cheezy pizza sometime after Forgiveness Vespers…the party’s over for nearly 50 days. Great Lent begins Monday, March 14.

I’ve been inviting you all to celebrate Pizza Week with me for the past few years, but this year I have something extra special to share with you – a review of a product that’s not yet available here in the United States. I was SO lucky to get my hands on a few samples!!! And I can’t wait to tell you about my experience so you can be prepared for this product when it finally arrives on our side of the ocean.

So Pizza Week. If you are sadly unfamiliar with Pizza Week, this wonderful concept was thought up by my brother-in-law Christopher. Here are the rules:

1. You must eat pizza at least 1 time every day. It does not have to constitute a whole meal, but it can.
2. You must eat a standard size piece of pizza at least.
3. You can eat any type of pizza you want – thin, pan, Chicago style, etc.
4. You may eat pizza multiple times in one day.
5. You can put anything on the pizza you want (though meat is technically not allowed that week, please consult your priest or spiritual father to discuss your personal fasting rule).
6. You don’t have to be Orthodox or be giving up pizza for Lent to participate in Pizza Week (though that’s generally the point).
7. It is highly recommended that the next time you eat pizza after March 13 at 11:59 pm is after the Anastasi Divine Liturgy on Pascha (generally about 1-3am on Sunday, May 1.)

For us vegans celebrating Cheesefare Week, this is most beneficial if you plan to abstain from vegan cheese/pizza during Great Lent.

Get creative! You don’t have to go out and shop for Pizza Week. Go through your cupboards and fridge and see what you can throw together. It will be good practice for whipping up cheap Lenten meals for the next 6 weeks. Will you have a Reuben pizza? A chili cheez pizza?? Whatcha got planned?!?

Get Ready for Pizza Week 2016

Vegan Chili Cheese Pizza
It’s hard to believe, but Lent is almost here, and that means Pizza Week (aka Cheesefare Week) is about to begin! Mark your calendars and get ready to celebrate from Monday, March 7, through Sunday, March 13. Cheesefare Week is traditionally the time Orthodox Christians use up the remainder of their egg & dairy products before we begin the Great Fast. In my kitchen, I’ll be using up the last open carton of VeganEgg, and all my delicious vegan cheese.
After sneaking our last piece of cheezy pizza sometime after Forgiveness Vespers…the party’s over for nearly 50 days. Great Lent begins Monday, March 14.

I’ve been inviting you all to celebrate Pizza Week with me for the past few years, but this year I have something extra special to share with you – a review of a product that’s not yet available here in the United States. I was SO lucky to get my hands on a few samples!!! And I can’t wait to tell you about my experience so you can be prepared for this product when it finally arrives on our side of the ocean.

So Pizza Week. If you are sadly unfamiliar with Pizza Week, this wonderful concept was thought up by my brother-in-law Christopher. Here are the rules:

1. You must eat pizza at least 1 time every day. It does not have to constitute a whole meal, but it can.
2. You must eat a standard size piece of pizza at least.
3. You can eat any type of pizza you want – thin, pan, Chicago style, etc.
4. You may eat pizza multiple times in one day.
5. You can put anything on the pizza you want (though meat is technically not allowed that week, please consult your priest or spiritual father to discuss your personal fasting rule).
6. You don’t have to be Orthodox or be giving up pizza for Lent to participate in Pizza Week (though that’s generally the point).
7. It is highly recommended that the next time you eat pizza after March 13 at 11:59 pm is after the Anastasi Divine Liturgy on Pascha (generally about 1-3am on Sunday, May 1.)

For us vegans celebrating Cheesefare Week, this is most beneficial if you plan to abstain from vegan cheese/pizza during Great Lent.

Get creative! You don’t have to go out and shop for Pizza Week. Go through your cupboards and fridge and see what you can throw together. It will be good practice for whipping up cheap Lenten meals for the next 6 weeks. Will you have a Reuben pizza? A chili cheez pizza?? Whatcha got planned?!?

Holy Friday Vigil

Last night was Holy Friday (Good Friday) for Orthodox Christians. There is a tradition of some of the faithful keeping vigil at the tomb from the end of the Lamentations service until Liturgy on Holy Saturday morning.


Taken from the Antiochian Archdiocese website:

After our Lord died on the Cross, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus, bound it in linen cloths with spices and buried it in a new tomb. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sat opposite the tomb watching as their Lord was buried. The Church over the centuries has joined with these two women in keeping watch over Jesus’ tomb. The Holy Friday Vigil at Christ’s tomb is our opportunity to help keep watch over our Lord’s body as He descends in to Hell to loosen the bonds of death. What better way to understand the death and resurrection of Jesus than to participate in the Vigil by His tomb?


A handful of people from our parish signed up to read or chant, either for a few hours or as needed through the night.


One thing I like about reading through the Psalter is recognizing the verses we use in our hymnography, sometimes long sections of the psalms put to music. Other times just a few verses, like the Alleluia Verses we chant during the Bridegroom Matins.


I get tired sitting in the pew, but when someone starts chanting I can’t help but sing along, even if I’ve got my headcovering pulled halfway over my face and my eyes closed 🙂

We somehow went without doing this the past couple years, but I hope we’ll be able to keep it up from now on.

Does your parish keep vigil on Holy Friday?

Here’s a friend of mine chanting By the Waters of Babylon

And from Holy Transfiguration Monastery

2015 Pascha Basket: Part 1


Yesterday I had to make a stop at Harvest Health, so I figured I might as well start grabbing things for my Pascha basket. One cool thing about Orthodox Easter (besides everything) is the candy is usually half off by the time we celebrate. Unfortunately that does very little for vegans 🙁 But I did find some gummy candies on sale at HH. No chocolate bunnies or anything.

It’s okay, though, because I’ve found some great recipes for homemade peanut butter cups, and I’m going to make my infamous booze-soaked chocolate cake. I also have macadamia nuts and pine nuts for making fancy vegan cheese (hoping to get it fermenting Saturday). Since I don’t break the fast with the usual stuff, I just like to splurge on things like $5 bags of marshmallows or whatever.

What plans do you have for your basket this year?