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?

The Utter Destruction of Death

Stichera from the Presanctified Liturgy of the Sixth Wednesday of Great Lent:

Plagal of the First Mode
Verse 8. Out of the depths have I cried to Thee, O Lord, Lord hear my voice.
With boundless love in your hands, O holy martyrs, ye did not forsake Christ; enduring the various wounds of sufferings, ye laid low the torturers’ impudence. Preserving unbending and unshakeable faith, ye wert translated into heaven. Since ye received boldness before Him, entreat Him to grant peace to the world, and for our souls Great Mercy.

Verse 7. Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
Jesus told those who were with Him when He walked in the flesh by the River Jordan: My friend Lazarus is already dead, given over for burial. But I rejoice for your sake, O friends, for by his death ye shall learn that I know all, for I am God, even though I have appeared as man. Let us go and bring Him to life, so that death may really feel its utter destruction, and the victory I shall win, granting the world Great Mercy.

Verse 6. If Thou, O Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? For with Thee there is forgiveness.
Imitating Mary and Martha, O faithful, let us offer divine works to the Lord as they did, that He might come and raise our minds, which now lie dead in the tomb of carelessness, feeling no fear of God, and deprived of any living action. Behold, O Lord, Who of old didst raise Thy friend Lazarus by Thy coming. Give life to us also, O bountiful One, granting us Great Mercy.

Second Sunday of Great Lent: Saint Gregory Palamas

Gregory_Palamas_Dionysiou

Light of Orthodoxy,
pillar and teacher of the Church,
adornment of monastics,
invincible champion of theologians,
O Gregory, thou wonder-worker,
boast of Thessaloniki,
herald of grace:
ever pray that our souls be saved.

On the second Sunday of Great Lent, we commemorate St. Gregory Palamas and the vindication of his teachings on hesychastic prayer by the Church which is considered “a second triumph of Orthodoxy” (having celebrated Orthodoxy Sunday the first Sunday of Lent). From OrthodoxWiki:

“He maintained the Orthodox doctrine that it remains impossible to know God in his essence (God in himself), but possible to know God in his energies (to know what God does, and who he is in relation to the creation and to man), as God reveals himself to humanity. In doing so, he made reference to the Cappadocian Fathers and other early Christian writers.

Gregory further asserted that when the Apostles Peter, James and John witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor, that they were in fact seeing the uncreated light of God; and that it is possible for others to be granted to see that same uncreated light of God with the help of repentance, spiritual discipline and contemplative prayer, although not in any automatic or mechanistic fashion.

He continually stressed the Biblical vision of the human person as a united whole, both body and soul. Thus, he argued that the physical side of hesychastic prayer was an integral part of the contemplative monastic way, and that the claim by some of the monks of seeing the uncreated light was indeed legitimate.”

The Hesychastic Prayer
“In practice, the Hesychastic prayer bears some superficial resemblance to mystical prayer or meditation in Eastern religions (e.g., Buddhism and Hinduism, especially Yoga), although this similarity is often overly emphasized in popular accounts.

For example, it may involve specific body postures and be accompanied by very deliberate breathing patterns. It involves acquiring an inner stillness, ignoring the physical senses. The hesychasts interpreted Christ’s injunction in the Gospel of Matthew to “go into your closet to pray” to mean that they should ignore sensory input and withdraw inwards to pray. It often includes many repetitions of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me[, a sinner].”. While some might compare it with a mantra, to use the Jesus Prayer in such a fashion is to violate its purpose. One is never to treat it as a string of syllables for which the “surface” meaning is secondary. Likewise, hollow repetition is considered to be worthless (or even spiritually damaging) in the hesychast tradition.”

St. John Climacus from Step 6: On Remembrance of Death in The Ladder of Divine Ascent
“And I cannot be silent about the story of Hesychius the Horebite. He passed his life in complete negligence, without paying the least attention to his soul. Then he became extremely ill, and for an hour he expired. And when he came to himself, he begged us all to leave him immediately. And he built up the door of his cell, and he stayed in it for twelve years without ever uttering a word to anyone, and without eating anything but bread and water. And, always remaining motionless, he was so rapt in spirit at what he had seen in his ecstasy, that he never changed this manner of life but was always as if out of his mind, and silently shed hot tears. But when he was about to die, we broke open the door and went in, and after many questions, this alone was all we heard from him: “Forgive me! No one who has acquired the remembrance of death will ever be able to sin.” We were amazed to see that one who had before been so negligent was so suddenly transfigured by this blessed change and transformation. We reverently buried him in the cemetery near the fort, and after some days we looked for his holy relics, but did not find them. So by Hesychius’s true and praiseworthy repentance, the Lord showed us that He accepts those who desire to amend, even after long negligence.”

2015 Lenten Potluck #2: Mock Tuna Salad with Avocado Mayo

I was very bad Tuesday night and neglected to make my potluck dish ahead. That meant all day Wednesday I was trying to plan what to make, and how I’d make it in the very tiny window of time from the time I leave work to the time I get back to the church. I have a mere two hours, and I also needed to stop at the store! Luckily I already had a plan to use up two more avocados, so I just had to figure out what I wanted to cover in Avocado Mayo, a recipe I found at Girl Makes Food.

2015-3-5 Mock Tuna Avocado Mayo
I decided to do yet another version of mock tuna using chickpeas, and I even had a little bag of dried seaweed flakes from my last haul at the Asian market.

2015-3-5 Avocado Mayo
For the mayo:
Use a fork to mash two avocados until creamy and smooth. Stir in 2 Tbsp white vinegar, juice of half a lemon, 1/8 tsp onion powder & 1/8 tsp garlic powder. Salt to taste.

2015-3-5 Mock Tuna Vegan
For the mock tuna:
I lightly mashed four cans of chickpeas. Of course I bought the cheapest chickpeas I could find, and they turned out to be pretty firm and didn’t mash as well as I would’ve liked. Better to go with chickpeas that are a little more tender if you can. After mashing them, season with salt and pepper (and if you like egg taste in your tuna salad, add gray salt for the sulfur taste).

2015-3-5 Mock Tuna Vegan2
Now, depending on how fishy you want the salad, add 1/4 C to 1/2 C seaweed flakes.

2015-3-5 Mock Tuna Vegan3
I did 1/4 C. It looked like a lot, but next time I’m upping it!

2015-3-5 Mock Tuna Vegan4
Add avocado mayo and stir to coat.

2015-3-5 Mock Tuna Vegan5
Add two cans of peas, drained – you can reserve a little liquid in case you want to thin down the mayo in the salad. Turn the salad very gently to incorporate the peas, you want to avoid crushing them.

2015-3-5 Mock Tuna Vegan6
I found an antique bowl that matched the salad beautifully, it belonged to my grandmother 🙂

If I were making a smaller batch of the salad just for myself, I’d use two cans of chickpeas, one can of peas, but the same amount of mayo. I’d get it good and salty, probably use 1/4 C of seaweed flakes again (since I’d have a smaller portion of chickpeas to season), and let the salad sit over night. It should keep from browning if you cover it in plastic wrap with the plastic touching the salad. Although if it’s just for me, I don’t care if it browns a little. Just stir it up and it’s fine. On its own, the salad is both oil free & perfect for a strict fasting day, and also gluten free. Serve with pita bread for those who are gluten full.

Anyway.

2015-3-5 Lenten Potluck
We had way more people than usual at Presanctified Liturgy, and way more food than usual at the potluck.

2015-3-5 Lenten Potluck2
This is just the main table with the savory food, we had another counter filled with sweet stuff.

2015-3-5 Lenten Potluck3
Mjuddara with hummus and salad is a classic Lenten meal, is it not? We also had Sloppy Joe’s made with TVP and Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, and guess what? The little buns were made using my Tasty Buns recipe! They turned out beautifully, I think they were better than mine! I also tried the pumpkin bread, and a lovely bowl of magenta-colored soup (is there any vegetable more beautiful than the beet?).

I know some of you are also enjoying Lenten potlucks in your own parishes. What are you cooking?