Friday, October 30, 2009

Saint Zenobia

Today is my name day.   The Orthodox church commemorates Saints Zenobius and Zenobia on October 30th.  They were brother and sister coming from a wealthy family in Cilicia during the reign of Emperor Diocletian.  Their parents raised them as Christians and when the brother and sister were older, they gave away their inherited wealth to the poor and needy.  

Zenobius was given the gift of healing maladies and his sister, Zenobia, would help him attend to the sick and the suffering.  Zenobius was also bishop of Aegae.  The siblings were both killed in 285 for professing their faith in Christ.  It is said that the following conversation was held between the Govenor Licius and Saint Zenobius - “I shall only speak briefly with you,” said Licius to the saint, “for I propose to grant you life if you worship our gods, or death, if you do not.” Zenobius answered, “This present life without Christ is death. It is better that I prepare to endure the present torment for my Creator, and then with Him live eternally, than to renounce Him for the sake of the present life, and then be tormented eternally in Hades.”

I spent the day enjoying time with my family and a couple of my friends.  The icon above was given to my by my brother a few years ago.  Saint Zenobia is not a common icon among those who write or sell icons.  My brother was very sweet to have this icon written by an iconographer in Greece while he was on pilgrimage there.

Hymn to Saints Zenobius and Zenobia -

Let us honor with inspired hymns the two martyrs for truth:
the preachers of true devotion, Zenóbius and Zenobía;
as brother and sister they lived and suffered together and through martyrdom received their incorruptible crowns.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Godparent Sunday

Our parish celebrated Godparents and Godchildren today.  I don't think there's a specific day designated to this because I've been in parishes that celebrate it in February and in parishes that don't celebrate it at all.  On Godparent's Sunday, the children are encouraged to receive Holy Communion with their Godparents.  In our parish, many of the Godparents live out of town (including all four of my own kids') so they lit a 3 day vigil candle for their Godparents and left it in the church.

Please forgive the blurriness of the pictures.  I used my phone's camera and it doesn't handle motion very well.

All the children read a portion of the prayers from the Baptism service with Father.  In addition to to this, the middle school and high school students read short summaries explaining the Sacrament of Baptism after Liturgy was completed to the rest of us.  They did a fantastic job!  Father encouraged all of us to have a close relationship with our Godparents/Godchildren and not just remembering them on birthdays, Christmas, and Pascha.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Greening Your Church Community

1.  Set up a recycling station in the church hall.

2.  Church Yard Sale:  Hold a yard sale in the church parking lot as a fundraiser

3.  Plant trees around the church

4.  Plan a day to pick up any trash on the church grounds or in the neighborhood around the church

5.  Bulletin board at church with a picture/short story on an index card about one change each family has made to make their home more environmentally friendly as stewards of God’s Creation.

6. Clothing Swap:  Plan a day for the community to hold a clothing swap (hand me downs on a grand scale) in the hall.  One side of the hall can have tables for boys/men’s clothing.  Each table is labeled with a size range.  The other side of the hall is for the girls/women’s clothing.  Again, tables are labeled with a size range.  Anyone wanting to participate, brings clothing (in decent shape) on the designated day.  They sort their clothing onto the appropriate tables.  (i.e. Sorting time is from 9am – 10am)  Then everyone can look through the clothes and find items they need for their growing kids or different clothes for themselves.  (This can take place after the sorting from 11am – 1pm, for example)  It can be a social time where coffee and snacks are brought while benefiting everyone at the same time with a clothing swap.

7.  Community Garden:  There are many different ways you could approach this but the basic idea is for a community garden on the church property where parishioners can grow fruits and vegetables together for their homes and for social hour after Liturgy on Sunday.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

I'm on a journey to make my home and family more green.  What do I mean by green?  My own personal definition is - taking steps to eat healthier (organic, non-processed, and attempting to have a productive little garden), waste less (anything from packaging for an item I buy to eating leftovers in the refrigerator instead of letting them go bad to recycling and composting for sending less to the landfill), use products that not only are easier on the environment but also on our bodies (shampoos, toothpaste, dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, etc.), respecting/loving God's Creation, and teaching my family about these things along the way.  It's not always easy and it's definitely a lifestyle change.  What I've found is that it's easiest to incorporate these things one or two at a time.  Once I get comfortable and make it a part of my everyday life then I know it's time to add another thing.

My latest addition on my journey is making my own dishwasher detergent.  It is very simple and considerably cheaper than buying the environmentally friendly version at the store (although I have bought that in the past also).

Here's my recipe that has worked very well for me these past 3 months:
- 2 cups borax
- 4 cups baking soda
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 4 ounces citric acid
- distilled white vinegar (for the rinse cycle)

Measure out and mix together the borax, baking soda, salt, and citric acid.  Keep it in a container that will not get your detergent wet.  I bought my container and spoon at a local kitchen store but you could use just about anything.  I use 2 scoops for the main wash and 1 scoop for the pre-wash.  I don't know exactly how much that measures out to be but I'd guess that one scoop is about 2 tablespoons.

You can find the borax in the laundry section of your store.  It's pretty easy to find.  I bought my citric acid from Amazon.  I didn't use the citric acid at first but after my dishes kept turning out foggy after they'd been washed, I did some research and found that the citric acid will prevent the foggy and streakiness.  It has worked incredibly well.  I bought a large container of it - this way I don't have to worry about ordering it on a regular basis since the one container will make about 35 batches of detergent.  The salt is added to help act as a scrubber for the dirt on the dishes.  I've played with this recipe for the past 3 months and found that this one works best for me.  I also pour in a little bit of distilled white vinegar into the rinse aide (twist off cap in the inside door of the dishwasher) which helps to disinfect and also with streaking.

Feel free to post any of your own dishwasher detergent recipes and how they work for you!

Blessing of the Mississippi River

The mighty Mississippi River was blessed yesterday by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew along with several other clergy.  You can see pictures of yesterday's service here.

Here is a short little video on YouTube from yesterday's Blessing of the Waters.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Recycling Church Icon Bulletins Project

I have always had a hard time just throwing away our weekly bulletins.  It seems disrespectful to me to throw away these icons.  I had a nice size pile of icons in a file folder waiting for an idea on how I could re-use them.  My daughter has always enjoyed working on craft projects with me - so I started an ongoing project with her when she was little.

I bought a spiral binder and sheet protectors.  Then we pulled out some construction paper, markers, scissors, glue, and scrapbooking scissors.  We went to work and created a book about the saints, feasts days, and angels of the Orthodox church.  We'd glue the front part of the icon bulletin onto the construction paper then cut out the back side of the bulletin (many times containing a description of the icon on the front) and glue it to the back side of the construction paper containing the icon on the front.  Each week after church, we'd come home and add another icon to her book.  Many years later, my kids have a decent collection of icons that they can flip through and read about at home.

This is a nice way to re-use these icon bulletins and bring the family together for a craft and discussion about the icons.

I organized the book the following way but feel free to tweak it to your liking:

1.  The Apostles:  They were the first ones to spread the message of Christ and salvation through Him.

2.  The Prophets:  They predicted and prophesied about the coming of Christ.

3.  The Martyrs:  Those that died because they refused to worship anyone but God.

4.  The Fathers and Hierarchs of the Church:  Those who excelled in explaining and defending the Christian faith.

5.  The Monastics:  Those who dedicated themselves to spiritual exercise , reaching, as far as possible, perfection in Christ.

6.  The Just:  Those who lived in the world, leading exemplary lives as clergy or laity with their families, becoming examples for imitation in society.

7.  Feast Days of the Orthodox Church

8.  Angels

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Live Broadcast of the Green Patriarch

At 11am (Eastern) today, you will be able to watch a live broadcast of the patriarch's address to the Religion, Science, and Environment (RSE) Symposium.  Patriarch Bartholomew has been a part of  RSE symposiums in the past also.  The symposiums are held on major world rivers because of the extreme importance of water.  This symposium will be focusing on the Mississippi River.

A wonderful video has been made available (for free - it's normally a $20 video) on the web.  It does a wonderful job giving a background about Patriarch Bartholomew as well as his efforts for helping the environment.  I encourage all of you to take advantage of the opportunity to not only watch the live address above but also watch the following video - "The Green Patriarch".

At this time, it is exceedingly trendy to be “eco-friendly”.  As Orthodox Christians, we need to put into perspective why it is important to be protectors of the environment and not just follow the current fad because “it’s the thing to do”.  God created the earth and he put us here to be stewards of the earth.  As stewards of the earth, we have to be aware that sometimes our actions can contribute to the destruction and polluting of the beauty of God’s Creation all around us.  There are steps each one of us can do to change our own lifestyles and homes.  Just as the average person could not go out and run a marathon tomorrow – making your home environmentally friendly is not going to happen overnight.  There are habits we have – that we may or may not even recognize yet – which will take some time to break.  Take small steps in changing.  Begin the walk towards becoming eco-friendly and with time you’ll be running the marathon yourself.

Here are some discussion questions to think about while watching the film (link above) - "The Green Patriarch".  After the show, talk with your family and friends about your thoughts and what you’ve learned from the documentary.  Talk about the changes you want to make in your own home.

Discussion Questions:
1.    1.   Who is the “Green Patriarch”?
2.    2.    How did he earn the title of Green Patriarch?
3.    3.    Why does the patriarch say it is a sin not to care for the environment?
4.    4.    What is the goal of the patriarch by having symposiums with scientists and religious leaders together?
5.    5.    Where does the patriarch take the symposiums?
6.    6.    How can a massive movement to save the earth occur?
7.    7.    There’s a need for leadership with the environmental crisis.  Why is it important for it to come from religious leaders?
8.    8.    What was the declaration the Patriarch and Pope signed?

This is truly an important and historic visit for the patriarch to the United States!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Patriarch's Arrival in the U.S.

Here's a short little clip of Patriarch Bartholomew arriving at the New Orleans airport.

Visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Photo by:  Nikolaos Manginas

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople will be arriving today in New Orleans.  He will be visiting several places in the U.S. including Louisiana, New York, Georgia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. as well as being part of a symposium on the Mississippi River discussing ways to improve the environment.  You can follow his itinerary here.

My husband and I were very blessed to get to meet him on a pilgrimage in 2007.  He talked a little about his efforts to help the environment and the importance of being stewards of God's Creation.  I'm sure his schedule was extremely full and we all knew how fortunate we were to receive 30 minutes of his time at the patriarchate.  (There were about 25 of us that went on this pilgrimage through the Youth Department of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.)

Here's a glimpse of our trip:
Locally, the patriarchate is referred to as the Fener or Phanar.  Our bus driver dropped us off on a main street where our first hint that we were close to the patriarchate was a small shop selling icons.  This sticks out quickly in Istanbul where the population is dominantly Muslim.  We start to walk up a side street towards a walled in courtyard.  Some of the locals are trying to sell knick knacks to us while others are staring at us.  We're not quite sure if it's a curious stare or an intruding stare.  As we approarch the stairs to walk up to the door of the courtyard, we notice a door in front of us that has been permanently locked. 

We quickly learn that one of the past patriarchs, Patriarch Gregory V, was hung in front of this door in 1821 by the Turks.  The door is welded shut to this day in memory of the patriarch.  

Here is the door from inside the courtyard -

There are many buildings situated close together once you enter the courtyard.  Nothing as glamorous or large as something you find at the Vatican but there is a humble beauty and peace washing over you as you glance around. 

This is the exterior of the Basilica of St. George -

Inside, we venerated the relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian as well as the relics of other saints.

These are the relics of St. John Chrysostom on the left and St. Gregory the Theologian on the right.

Our group was escorted into a large room where we waited to see Patriarch Bartholomew.  We watched and listened as he sat and talked to us.  Afterwards, we were permitted to look around in a couple of rooms before walking out to the courtyard again.

During the pilgrimage we visited many churches and historical spots.  Among one of our favorites was Agia Sophia (the Chuch of Holy Wisdom) in Constantinople.  The first time you visit Agia Sophia, you are just overwhelmed with the immensity of the church.  I stood there and imagined what it would have been like to attend a Divine Liturgy here hundreds of years ago.  Clergy numbered in the hundreds during the church's prime.  It must have been absolutely amazing!

    Walking up to Agia Sophia

     A glimpse of the narthex

Nave of the Church  (There was construction on the dome.)

This is the upper level of the church.  

Today, you can see the impact the crusades, Muslims, and tourists have had on the church over the centuries.  In this picture, you can see the painted walls with the ornate byzantine style decorations done by the Muslims.  Muslims do not believe in having pictures in places of worship and covered all the icons in Agia Sophia with plaster and paint when they converted the church into a mosque.  The mosque has since been turned into a museum and some of the icons have been uncovered for the tourists to see.  This icon in particular has been damaged primarily by tourists. can't get up close and touch it because there is a rope "wall" in front of the icons.  But previously, tourists would take a mosaic as a souvenir of their visit to Agia Sophia.

This is an example of the damage the crusaders left on Agia Sophia. The cross was plucked from the walls of the church when the crusaders came through and plundered Constantinople in the 1200's.

Here's an example of the impact the Muslims had on the church.  This small portion of wall has had the plaster removed and you can catch a glimpse of the gold tile mosaics under the plaster presumably with icons from the church's days as an Orthodox church instead of a mosque or museum.

Some of the damage and wear & tear of the church is probably from earthquakes as well since some of the other churches we visited in Constantinople had earthquake damage - especially on the ceilings and domes.

Overall, Agia Sophia was a place of awe and beauty.  I still can't shake the feeling and impression I was left with on my first visit there.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Travel Channel Academy

My husband and I just completed a course ("bootcamp") through The Travel Channel Academy in Washington D.C.  It was a four day intensive course on not only film journalism but film making in general.  We signed up for the class for two reasons.  1) Les and I have always enjoyed editing our annual home movies together (as Christmas gifts to family) and knew we would enjoy taking this course together to enhance our production skills.  2)  We want to produce Orthodox content videos in the near future.  We learned so much from the class and are absolutely pumped to begin filming our first video outside of class.  Look for our first video to show up on the website in the very near future!

My husband, Les, outside our classroom at The Travel Channel

Monday, October 5, 2009


I went back "home" to see my family this past weekend and to see my sister-in-law's chrismation.  What a wonderful blessing!  May God grant you many years Melissa!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Green Patriarch

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been nicknamed "The Green Patriarch" for his extensive work initiating environmental awareness and response.  Some of his most well known work has been the environmental symposiums he has held around the world with both religious leaders and scientists alike.  In October of this year, Patriarch Bartholomew will be visiting the United States.  He has various meetings and appearances scheduled across the U.S. and will also be holding another Environmental Symposium on the Mississippi River.  A wonderful website has been put together to give further information to everyone about the Patriarch's visit.

Becket Films put out a phenomenal short film about "The Green Patriarch".  I purchased it about six months ago when I was developing my Vacation Church School Curriculum.  It was well worth the $20 I spent to purchase it but I just discovered you can view it on the above website for free.  If you'd like to learn more about the patriarch - here's the perfect opportunity.  Here's a direct link to the video.

(Picture used with permission)

My husband and I were blessed to go Constantinople in 2007 with a group of friends, Father Mark, and Bishop Savas.  During the trip, we visited the patriarchate, Agia Sophia, Chora Church (Museum), and many other places.  At the patriarchate, we were greeted by Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew.  He is a very sweet and sincere man.