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”

All Saints Day, and the Beginning of the Apostles' Fast 2015

My apologies for not keeping up with the major feast days. Last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost. One week after Pentecost we celebrate the Sunday of All Saints, and the following day the Apostles’ Fast begins – that’s today! I have once again added a page in the top menu with the fasting guidelines for this fast, for anyone that may be interested.

So, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the feast of All Saints, but it is a beautiful tradition. I’m stealing these few paragraphs about it straight from the GOARCH website, and below that some info on the fast:

The first Sunday after the Feast of Holy Pentecost is observed by the Orthodox Church as the Sunday of All Saints. This day has been designated as a commemoration of all of the Saints, all the Righteous, the Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Shepherds, Teachers, and Holy Monastics, both men and women alike, known and unknown, who have been added to the choirs of the Saints and shall be added, from the time of Adam until the end of the world, who have been perfected in piety and have glorified God by their holy lives.

Honoring the friends of God with much reverence, the Prophet-King David says, “But to me, exceedingly honorable are Thy friends, O Lord” (Ps. 138:16). And the Apostle Paul, recounting the achievements of the Saints, and setting forth their memorial as an example that we might turn away from earthly things and from sin, and emulate their patience and courage in the struggles for virtue, says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every burden, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

This commemoration began as the Sunday (Synaxis) of All Martyrs; to them were added all the ranks of Saints who bore witness (the meaning of “Martyr” in Greek) to Christ in manifold ways, even if occasion did not require the shedding of their blood.

All Saints
Therefore, guided by the teaching of the Divine Scriptures and Apostolic Tradition, we honor all the Saints, the friends of God, for they are keepers of God’s commandments, shining examples of virtue, and benefactors of mankind. Of course, we honor the known Saints especially on their own day of the year, as is evident in the Menologion. But since many Saints are unknown, and their number has increased with time, and will continue to increase until the end of time, the Church has appointed that once a year a common commemoration be made of all the Saints.”

About the Apostles’ Fast
Having rejoiced for fifty days following Pascha (Easter), the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostles began to prepare for their departure from Jerusalem to spread Christ’s message. According to Sacred Tradition, as part of their preparation, they began a fast with prayer to ask God to strengthen their resolve and to be with them in their missionary undertakings.

The scriptural foundation for the Fast is found in the Synoptic Gospels, when the Pharisees criticized the apostles for not fasting, Jesus said to them, “Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.” In the immediate sense, Christ was referring to his being taken to be crucified; but in the wider sense it is understood in terms of his Ascension into heaven, and his commission to preach the Gospel, which can only be accomplished with prayer and fasting.

The tradition of the Fast has existed at least since Pope Leo I (461 AD), as is evidenced by his homilies, though it has subsequently been forgotten in the West. The Fast is thought to have been instituted out of thanksgiving to God for the witness of the apostles of Christ. With this Fast, believers express their thanks for the apostles’ endurance of persecution during their mission.

The Apostles’ Fast is what’s called an ascetic fast. Ascetic fasting is done by a set monastic rules. These rules exist not as a Pharisaic “burden too hard to bear” (Luke 11:46), but as an ideal to strive for. Ascetic fast rules are not an end in themselves, but are means to spiritual perfection crowned in love, and aided by prayer. The rules mainly consists of total abstinence from certain foods and a substantial dietary reduction.
(above info from Wikipedia)

Your fasting rule may vary according to your ability.

Blessed fast to all!

Eggplant Pizza, and Spinach Pizza from Mars (or something)


I got behind posting my pizzas, but believe me, I haven’t gotten behind on Pizza Week. Thursday night I attempted to recreate another one of the pizzas I had in Italy.

Well, it’s kind of like a melding of two. At one restaurant I had an ultra thin crust pizza with nothing on it but sauce and thinly sliced garlic. At another place they sold the pizza in thick rectangular pieces topped with thinly sliced eggplant.

I baked it at 500 like the others, but it took a bit longer with the thicker crust (10 – 15 minutes).

This is one of my favorite kinds of pizza. The one thing I think is different,

I think I need more oil and salt in the crust to give it an authentic flavor. At least that’s how I remember it, it was a really long time ago.

Then last night I did a spinach pizza with the last of my crust & sauce. And also…

lots of garlic. I love garlic. I spread plenty of olive oil on the crust and then added about 3 cloves worth of thin slices of garlic.


and spinach. You could tear the leaves, or use baby spinach, but I wanted to make a statement pizza. Wouldn’t hurt to cover the leaves with more sauce, too, but I just like how this looks.

For my cheese, a tahini sauce with a heaping tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp vegan cream cheese, salt, onion powder, a little nutritional yeast, then thin it down with water enough to spoon it on the pizza. Drizzle everything with a little olive oil.

It looks like a pizza from outerspace.

The “cheese” firmed up and browned beautifully.

How many thin crust pizzas does it take to feed a vegan?

Just one 14″ is fine. I ate the whole thing, but you can do that with a minimalist pizza. Then I found a nice way to use up my leftover tahini sauce and spinach and ate that, too. I’ll post it later.

I’ll try to squeeze in the rest of my pizzas before Pizza Week is up. Today my sister and her family are coming to town and we’re taking our mom out for lunch. FOR PIZZA. I’m hoping we can try a new place, but we’ll see. For Sunday dinner we’ll all be making our own pizzas. Should be fun!

Holy Food

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I didn’t actually have anything to do with this one, I just sat in my office while the smell of freshly baked bread wafted in from the kitchen down the hall.

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A group of people from church baked a huge batch of holy bread (prosphora),

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using about 25 pounds of flour. I think it gets us through about a month of Sundays.

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My post on Making Prosphora is the second most popular post on the blog, although probably a quarter of those hits are from people wanting to know how many calories are in holy bread. On that note, I would just like to point out you’re only supposed to take one little square – if you’re that worried about how many calories are in it, maybe your diet is too restrictive!!

Pascha Basket

Well, my Pascha basket wasn’t as fancy as, say, the ones shown on OrthodoxNorthwest, but I do have fun finding random things for it each year.

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This year I was thrilled to discover the Michigan-made “Teta Foods” brand. Teta is another way of saying “grandmother” in Arabic, and this garlic spread is amazing.

I realize most people don’t think of mustard when they think of breaking the fast. I bought it because I would never normally spend so much on even my favorite condiment.

I’m looking forward to trying the dark chocolate with sea salt, and the Righteously Raw chocolate beverage. I was disappointed with Emmy’s Granola, though. I was kind of dried out and really hard. It made a nice treat for Jack.

The more traditional Easter candy is for my little nephew, and the Fre wine (wine with “alcohol removed”) is for my prego sis. I am in the process of enjoying the Johnny Walker Black Label myself.

Saturday I waited as long as possible to head over to Little Africa and get a takeout box (and a half) filled with my favorite stuff. The salad doesn’t hold up too well sitting out for three hours, maybe I’ll skip that one next year. Also, next year I’d like to spring for a nice needlepoint basket cover, and maybe an open basket instead of my pic-a-nic basket.

What did you have in your Pascha basket this year??

If I were a Saint

Saint Elder Paisios Quote
“We must pray for other people with contrition and pain in our soul. We can only achieve this, if, due to our humbleness, we consider ourselves the cause of all the problems in the world.

– But, Father, how can you accept that you are the cause for the divorce of a married couple in Athens?

– Well, I say to myself: If I were a saint, like the old fathers, I would ask God to make them love each other again, and He would help them, as He has promised to listen to saints. Since I am not a saint, God does not listen to me. Therefore, it is my fault that this family is breaking up, as well as for the evil existing in the world. This way, I never judge anyone, but I only blame myself for everything; then God will help.”

Elder Paisios*

*UPDATE: Elder Paisios was glorified on January 13, 2015, by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople – in other words, he is now formally recognized as a saint. He is commemorated each year on July 12.

visit to Holy Trinity Monastery

Today I went with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Smith Creek.

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This is the monastery.

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In the church.

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The bells.

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I wish I could live in a house like this…

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but without being a monastic.

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We stayed for lunch, this is the dining area. While we were in the sitting room, my 2-year-old nephew impatiently asked, “When are the monks going to bring us food?”

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Salad, vegetarian chili, Lenten shortbread cookie (koulouria), olives, bread & we think taramosalata, a carp roe dip (only my sister tried it, but she loved it).

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I had the cake on the right, with raisins and nuts in it. The other is a Lenten version of Kourabiethes, a Greek butter cookie with almonds, brushed with orange flower and rolled in confectioners sugar. The Fruit Delight candy is basically Turkish Delight with fruit or nuts in it, and made without gelatin.

I hope we can go back for a visit in the summer. Even though it’s supposed to be spring, on the way home we drove through sunshine, rain, hail, and snow – basically in that order, over and over again! But there’s a path with benches that goes around the monastery, beside the lake, and it would be lovely when it’s warm and the sun is out.

Why Oppress Thy Flesh?

1St. John Chrysostom“The point is not only that we should come to church each day, that we should continually listen to one and the same thing, and that we should fast for the whole Forty Days. No! If we, from continually coming here and listening to the teaching, do not acquire anything and do not derive any good for our soul from the time of the fast ­ all this does not procure for us any benefit, but rather serves for our greater condemnation, when despite such concern for us by the Church we remain just the same as before.

Do not say to me that I fasted for so many days, that I did not eat this or that, that I did not drink wine, that I endured want; but show me if thou from an angry man hast become gentle, if thou from a cruel man hast become benevolent. If thou art filled with anger, why oppress thy flesh? If hatred and avarice are within thee, of what benefit is it that thou drinkest water? Do not show forth a useless fast: for fasting alone does not ascend to heaven.”

-Saint John Chrysostom

halfway there!

1Holy Cross“Every hard and strenuous work is accomplished with great difficulty, which appears especially in the middle of such work; for the effort in this performance brings with it fatigue which makes the accomplishment of the rest difficult. Having arrived with God’s grace at the middle of the Fast, our compassionate Mother—the Holy Orthodox Church—thought fit to reveal to us the Holy Cross as the joy of the world and power of the faithful to help us carry on the struggles of the divine Fast.

By its power, O Christ God, preserve us from the crafty designs of the evil one and account us worthy to worship Thy divine Passion and life-giving Resurrection, as we achieve the course of the Forty Days with ease, and have mercy on us, as Thou alone art good and the Lover of mankind. Amen.”

From the Synaxarion, on the Third Sunday of the Great Fast

Lent seems to be going by so quickly this year! Only three Sundays left before Holy Week….