Monday, January 17, 2011

Water, Holiness, and Other Blessings

Things that we take for granted, right?

When we were in Rhodes almost 8 years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of drinking the well water at the monastery in Tharri. We were staying at the summer camp site and there was a drinking fountain, like the kind we would see in our school hallways back in the 70's, only this one was right there on the edge of the camp where the ground was gravel-paved, so that cars could drive right up to the cabins.  

Not only a convenient way to have water available, but also a sharp reminder of the treasure of water.

It looked a little surreal sitting there with a hose hooked up to it. But when we were thirsty, it was no trouble to walk over to it and drink.

Here the tap water in our Auckland kitchen sink tastes pretty good and it reminds me of that fountain regularly. The freshness that comes puts me in a mindframe of thankfulness. I think of spiritual refreshment even more as I know I need this regularly.

Last week of course we celebrated the Baptism of Christ in the feast day called Epiphany, when Christ is revealed to the world as the Son of God.  "This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased." Some heard a voice and others heard thunder. 

The emphasis of course is God The Trinity revealed to humanity for the first time openly.

There is also a great emphasis on water. God chose water to be a vehicle of revelation.

In that Biblical scene, Christ the Creator refreshes the water that in turn brings us spiritual refreshment, something everyone seems to yearn for, but not everyone knows how to find it. Because of Christ's baptism we begin to see anew that nature is infused with God's blessings, brings us spiritual refreshment, and that spiritual refreshment goes hand in hand with repentance. Christ Himself connects it to the Baptism of John, and his preaching of repentance. Water being the source and symbol of life.  Repentance being our turning towards Life Himself.

Is there anything in this natural world that has no water in it… and yet has life?

The children are still on holiday from school, so the church was filled with many children.  For some it was the first time they had been in Church for the blessing of the waters.  They crowded the table with all the enthusiasm a favorite game could bring, curious as to what the priest was doing and why he had asked them to come so close. Some with anticipation, others were in total surprise to see the priest sprinkling the church with water. All however stood in the presence of the Holy Water as if understanding that they were in the right place at the right time, focused and in sincere anticipation of something special.

One darling little boy kept going up for more blessings, and tried to be right in the stream of the water that was falling about like rain from Heaven.  Oh to feel that need to be blessed like a child!  We do of course even as adults, but we are also not like the children who experience their desires for holy things in their entire being: joy, energy, fun, being in God's presence, all together.

Worlds away but not so far from our hearts...

in Constantinople where the Patriarch is once again able to bless the waters of the Bosphorus, (for so many years in our history he was prevented by the law of that land). You can see a video of the outdoor celebration online.  

At the time when he sings "When you were Baptized in the Jordan…"  he throws the blessed cross into the waters and the young men dive off a boat and race to meet the cross.  What beautiful faithfulness did the young man show to the world!  The one who did get the cross treaded water and held the cross for the rest of the swimmers to approach and to kiss it as they completed their length. Very moving to watch him share his blessing with the other swimmers, not taking it for granted. It was an icon of what our life in Christ can be like, when we share our blessings.

Taken from the Patriarchate Website

If you can view the event, you will notice that the Patriarch was interrupted by voices over a loud speaker. He is a wonderful example to us. How well he lives our Orthodox Christian Tradition and how peacefully he waited until the intrusion was no longer overtaking his prayers, most likely praying silently in his heart….and then….. with fervor he chanted the holy hymns.  

During this time of Epiphany , the Russian Orthodox came to our parish to celebrate Christmas as they worship according to the Julian Calendar (Jan 7th on the Gregorian).  The Russian Orthodox community have a very small church and they are in the process of purchasing a property to build. So while ours is really the smallest parish I can recall, they have even less space.  

But they are not lacking for faithful as there are nearly 10,000 Russians who live in the Auckland area alone.  They have two priests, both very talented.  Hundreds of faithful came to our parish to celebrate Christmas. They decorated the church with so much love for the Feast. We celebrated Christmas with them, and were so happy to have them near to us warming our hearts with their lovely voices, and their piety.

A renewal of a lesser kind...

This was also the week we undertook painting the whole interior of this house where we are living thanks to the generosity of one of the parishionners, his buddies, and a little of our own effort.  This house belongs to the Hellenic Community. It is about 100 years old, and they are letting us stay here so that we can live near the church and tend to the spiritual needs of the community from a very close proximity. It is very practical for us being that we are now a one-car family.  We wanted to pretty up the place a little, so we did what comes naturally…we painted!  And we hope that our work will enhance the place  even if a bit.

Those of you who know me, also know that I love a white house!  White walls!  White furniture, white linens, and lots of icons and art on the walls.  But I never got to make that a reality, and it seems that I may never because we have painted this place in some very rich colors. In lieu of size and function we tried to add a little charachter to each room.  
After all that activity, some of us needed to get out of the house

We went to a beach in Murray Bay.  It was just a simple place on the north side.  It was also very beautiful.  The waves were just so nice, and the sun was a scarey kind of hot.  We brought beach umbrellas, but I dare say it wasn't much protection.  So, we stayed for only about an hour and a half or two hours. 

We also went to a place called Bay of Islands …  which is beatiful and historic, as it is the place where a treaty was signed between the Great Britain and the Maori in 1841. For those of you who like History, I have included a link above.

Almost anywhere you go there is a Maori presence.  Here at the Bay of Islands there are traditional boats on display which are taken out ceremoniously once a year.  I wonder if we will get to see that.

The garden has grown in one month…I guess this photos is at 5 or six weeks growth. 


By God's grace we are eating from the garden everyday: cucumber, silver beat, romaine lettuce and zucchini. With some bread and olive oil,  we have been putting together some simple meals. (we are also eating a lot of chocolate..long story) One of my favorite vegetables is Silver Beet which in the USA is called Swiss Chard, and is most prominent along with the tomatoes.  Not yet ready for harvest are , sugar snap peas, green beans, three or four varieties of tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, peppers and eggplant. 

We all take turns watering. Thanks to the new worm farm, (a type of composter) where we put our organic left overs, worms make a great fertilizer, which is drained out of the composter, diluted with more water, and poured onto the garden veggies at the roots.  

It is a very small space, but it is packed with food.  On the side picket fence, Father Paul put an icon of the Theotokos, which brings us peace. Our parishioners love to come by the garden and they seems to enjoy watching the plants grow too! They like to say that they are amazed by how fast it is growing, and regard it as a little miracle. They themselves have not taken this blessing for granted. God is merciful, and He gave us this garden, and the strength to tend to it for our benefit. 

Prayers needed:
For those who want to help us pray, we are praying for Ann, and Steven, and Michael, and John and Father Paul's mother Helene... all who are dealing with cancer in one way or another. Some of them pray unceasingly for miracles, and get them too. By God's grace they never seem to forget how many have been received. They never tire of asking God for His intervention. In spite of the agony of the treatments and surgeries, they regard it all as good. May the Lord continue to strengthen them.

On the fun side of water….

This past week Georgios caught his first fish, a red snapper, while ocean fishing. He beat the men at the whole fishing thing!  Their fish were too small to take home.  

The islanders say that fishermen should never bring bananas or women on their fishing trips.  I don't know why, but I have a feeling that if you ask a man, he will know.

 Sunday after Church, we ate Snapper stuffed with herbs from our herb garden, prepared in the Greek way with lemon and olive oil.  I saved the head for soup another day.  Somebody tell my mother.

We were invited to a Koulourakia baking party at the home of a parishionner who knows my sister the pesvytera…. Whatta really small world! Its great fun to have another Greek-American at the parish! 

The baking and other cooking went on for hours!  And it only took minutes for us to eat it all. 

The day also included fun in the sun….
trying to command a sinking surf board
The G-man balancing act.

While it seems that we are not doing very much some days, these photos remind me that we do have a lot going on.  His Eminence is still in Fiji very busy working on the building for an orphanage. I can't wait to hear more news, which I will quickly pass along to you. It feels good to know that Father Paul has his confidence. Father Paul has been busy with a few house blessings, and some assigned translations for the Archdiocese.

Wishing you lots of blessedness, and peace.

A little good scenery for you to enjoy….

Sunset on the ocean just off the coast of Auckland…lots and lots of water

1 comment:

Eleni said...

Such beautiful photos! I am really enjoying following your blog, and seeing your family again. After all these years we still miss you dearly, and the boys often bring up Fr. Paul and Georgie.