Monday, December 29, 2008

"From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!"

St Theresa of Avila

Christmas is such an overwhelmingly joyful time of year! And it ends today as we begin carnival, another time of celebration and excess. The tree is down and the needles it scattered are swept up but the celebration goes on until lent - though with a different tone. With Christmas, it is a celebration of the coming of Christ, looking back on Advent and the time we spent waiting for His arrival. In carnival we are celebrating in anticipation of the deprivation that lent will bring, it has almost a sense of urgency about it.

We are off to Epiphany mass this evening to celebrate the revelation of Christ's divinity and the end of a long awaited season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art."

Konstantin Stanislavsky

Hot tea is a great blessing. I've been drinking it by the pot this week - inspired by Tolstoy and snowy days. The solstice is coming soon and I am overjoyed. These days are too dark for me and the dawn comes late. Solstice is such a magical time - it belongs so naturally to Christ; I love to see the darkness shrink back and the light grow stronger. I am amazed that even in our pagan dreams God weaves His own mythology.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”
Leo Tolstoy

Yesterday, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, I could see my breath in the back hallway. I dread now the walk through the wasted, frozen backyard to the compost pile, or any need to wander out into the snowy cold outdoors. Though if I had a shovel, or an open yard, I would revel in the tiny flakes and the bracing cold that makes the indoors so seductive. I have apple-pumpkin butter on the stove and coffee at my elbow, if only my husband were home in the warm sanctuary we have created I could watch the snowfall with careless enjoyment, wrapped in the nest of colours and scents we have created for ourselves.

I would love to welcome guests into my home today and watch the day together with tea and conversation to warm our souls. I would like to have a tableful of bright-eyed passionate people, playing cards and loving life. If Matka were here I would like very much to play gin rummy with her and Ojciec as I remember them playing on Sunday evenings – cards will forever feel like laughter, and smell like beef soup. If not my parents, than friends would be ideal, so long as they bring guitars and are eager to talk Tolstoy and theology.

At mass last night I fell again in love with the traditional mass. Our priest is truly a Byzantine, now trained in the Latin Rite, who prays the mass with an earnest, eastern energy that joyfully eclipses the many somber families in attendance. I feel almost as though I’m back at my Ukrainian parish among the enthusiastically independent prayers that the faithful send up silently throughout the liturgy. It often seems that the beauty of the liturgy is really only being actively nourished and encouraged in the Traditional Latin mass and in the Byzantine liturgy, though I know and have seen many novus ordo parishes rediscovering their sense of ritual.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"The artist has a special relationship to beauty. In a very true sense it can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator "
Pope John Paul II

I am in town today, shopping for Christmas and for the feast of St. Nikolas. Advent is such a lovely time - it is so easy to discover beauty in the bits and pieces of everyday life. Last night I made curried turkey salad for dinner, with chai tea and the last of the ciabatta. It is dark so early now, so I filled the blue room with candles and we ate on our Spanish plate that look Greek because of their blue and sipped Krupnik from silver vodka cups. It was a wintery meal because of the light and the hot tea and the warming vodka and our own careless knowledge that just outside it was cold and clear and dark.

We have managed so far to avoid turning on our heat. The apartment has been warm enough without it thanks to heat-loving upstairs neighbors and exposed heat pipes that snake up the walls of each of our rooms. The blue room is warmest in the evenings and we curl up on the blue seat and read or write and talk amid our candles and icons.

Now that the cold has come and we are indoors more, we hope to create more artistically. Winter is such a lovely time for the making of beautiful things - there is so much inspiration in the snow and in the expectation of Advent.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."
Soren Kirkegaard

It is so difficult some days to know God's will. I sometimes think He's hidden it under so many layers of possibility, so that we have to dig and discard the many options He offers to find what it is He truely wills for us.

Advent is such an ideal time for not knowing; for living the questions without concerning ourselves with answers we haven't been given. It is a time of expectation, of uncertainty, of waiting for what is to come. Perhaps God has hidden His will so that we may fall more completely into the nature of the season and give ourselves over to the story He has written for us.

Monday, December 1, 2008

"Love God, serve God: everything is in that." -- St. Clare of Assisi

Welcome Advent!

The earth is snow-dusted, the sky is steel grey, and the altar is violet and lovely in it's penitence. I spent the first Sunday of Advent sweeping the dust of Thanksgiving festivities away and adjusting to daily life again. Our guests flew out in the morning and we missed their pleasent, easy company throughout the afternoon. But the joy of the new year crept in as we changed the sheets and altar-cloth to rich purple and shared a dinner of left-over champagne, curried turkey, and butternut-soup.

I am always surprised to discover how little we need to live grandly; and how much is provided by God through our good friends and neighbours. I have a box of lovely dishes and a treadle-sewing machine waiting back home - curtesy of my ciotka, who though I'd appreciated them. Our beeswax-Advent candles are a gift of a shop-owning friend who shared part of Thanksgiving dinner with us. The leftover champagne was brought and left by ojciec i matka who are generous practically to a fault. We are amazingly blessed.