The following article was taken from the “Orthodox Family Life” archives. May it provide motivation, encouragement, and direction in your journey through Great Lent.
by Matushka Nadia Koblosh
When asked to write an article about what we do in my family to prepare for Pascha, my initial reaction was to decline for I felt vaguely uncomfortable writing on such a subject. It is my feeling that Lent is, be definition, more a time of doing than of talking.
But on second thought, I decided to go ahead. I think there are legitimate questions and problems all Orthodox parents have who sincerely desire to keep Lent and instruct their children in its meaning. And this includes priestly families as well as lay, for there is no special Lent for rectories as opposed to "normal" families! I think that these common questions naturally call for a common discussion and sharing and it is in this vein that I share my thoughts.
First is the whole reality of Lent as such. I think it is very important to approach Lent not as some period of "religious intensity" as opposed to some other period that is not so "religious." In a real sense, the whole Christian life at all times is naturally "Lenten" because the whole Christian life is a preparation for death, resurrection, and judgment. In a way, all Christians are monks and pilgrims. Lent only serves to focus and intensify this basic element of Christian life. I think that if we really experience Lent in all its beauty and power, its spirit always remains with us - even sitting on a beach during a July vacation! This is one goal our family strives for and what we try to cultivate in our children.
by St. Gregory Thaumaturgus the Wonderworker
Homily 1: On the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary
“Today are strains of praise sung joyfully by the choir of angels, and the light of the advent of Christ shines brightly upon the faithful. Today is the glad spring-time to us, and Christ the Sun of righteousness has beamed with clear light around us, and has illumined the minds of the faithful. Today is Adam made anew, and moves in the choir of angels, having winged his way to heaven. Today is the whole circle of the earth filled with joy, since the sojourn of the Holy Spirit has been realized to men. Today the grace of God and the hope of the unseen shine through all wonders transcending imagination, and make the mystery that was kept hidden from eternity plainly discernible to us. Today are woven the chaplets of never-fading virtue. Today, God, willing to crown the sacred heads of those whose pleasure is to hearken to Him, and who delight in His festivals, invites the lovers of unswerving faith as His called and His heirs; and the heavenly kingdom is urgent to summon those who mind celestial things to join the divine service of the incorporeal choirs. Today is fulfilled the word of David, Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad. The fields shall be joyful, and all the trees of the wood before the Lord, because He comes. David thus made mention of the trees; and the Lord's forerunner also spoke of them as trees that should bring forth fruits meet for repentance, or rather for the coming of the Lord. But our Lord Jesus Christ promises perpetual gladness to all those who believe in Him. For He says, I will see you, and you shall rejoice; and your joy no man takes from you. Today is the illustrious and ineffable mystery of Christians, who have willingly set their hope like a seal upon Christ, plainly declared to us. Today did Gabriel, who stands by God, come to the pure virgin, bearing to her the glad annunciation ...”
How many of us really take the time to reflect on the things we do to others and do to ourselves in our daily lives? There are some good reasons for doing such a self- analysis. Not the least of which is that by thinking over how we may have hurt others and ourselves we may foster compassion for others in terms of the misdeeds they may have done and this in turn may lead to more civility in our evaluations of others and also in our dealings with them. It is so easy for us to justify our own aberrations while seeing the immoral, improper or wicked behavior of others. In ancient Chinese tradition Confucius (551-479 BC) sadly comments: "I have not yet seen one who could perceive his faults and inwardly accuse himself." (Analects, bk. v., c. xxvi.). On the other hand, Mencius (372 – 289 BC), the disciple and commentator of Confucius, speaks about the joys of true self-reflection: "There is no greater delight than to be conscious of sincerity upon self-examination." (Bk. vii., pt. i., c. iv., v. 2.). It is only in such sincere understanding of self that true virtue can be practiced. This helps in comprehending the meaning of Confucius' statement: "To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue: Gravity, magnanimity, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. vi.)
Psychologists would label such a process of reflection a self-inventory. For example, Robert Enright, PhD, (2012), notes the need for an “ uncovering phase” in which an individual lists their own faults and the consequences of them. This self-understanding promotes understanding of the factors that may have influenced others’ untoward behaviors. Such understanding nurtures compassion, and compassion fosters civility.
by St. Simeon The New Theologian
… If you ignore these things, my beloved one, don’t put yourself in despair, saying, ‘I have not seen these things, nor can I ever know them; I will never have the power to reach and rise up to the height of this knowledge, contemplation and cleanness’. Don’t you say, again, ‘Because, if someone won’t become like this, to ware in himself the Christ as God in this life already, and see the Christ himself and whole, and take Him to dwell in himself, one won’t enter in His Kingdom, of what use is it to me to fight, even a little, or even to lose the current pleasures?’ Don’t say this; don't even think about it, but if you wish, listen to my advice and I will announce you the way of salvation, with the help of the Grace of the all-holy Spirit.
First of all, believe with all your soul that whatever we said according to the divine and god-inspired Scriptures, are all true, and that whoever believes in the Son of God has to become this, because He granted us power to become sons of God, and if we want it, nothing can stop us. (...)
For it is certain, that if you won’t believe in these, that they happen indeed this way, you won’t ask for them to happen at all, and if you won’t ask you won’t receive. Because He says, "Seek, and ye shall find, ask, and it shall be given you" (Matt. 7.7). If you believe, follow the divine Scriptures and do what they say and you will find everything without exception as it is written - rather, you will find much more than what is in the godly Scriptures. And what are these? ‘What eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man’, the gifts ‘which God hath prepared for them that love him’ (1 Cor. 2.9). These gifts, if you believe with certainty, as we said, you will see, without any doubt at all, just as Paul, so you too - and not only this, but you will also hear ineffable words, since, as you understood, you will be seized to Paradise, even now. Which Paradise? Where the thief entered together with the Christ, and there now remains.
from the "Moral Speeches"—Excerpts from Speech 3
The Orthodox Church proclaims equality between men and women. They have, however, different roles to perform within the context of the Church. Women, as the Church emphasizes, are the backbone of the Church in that they are the backbone in their respective parishes and homes. It is well known that churches cannot continue to be strong units in the Church unless their families and children, the nucleus of any given parish, are raised and cared for in a Christian manner and according to Christ’s teachings. Chrysostom asserts that “the home is the little church” (Homilies on Ephesians, Homily XX), where all Christian education starts and ends. Nowadays, more than ever, women play an essential and indispensable role in the family. They are caring wives, nurturing mothers, valuable parish leaders and workers, and productive contributors in the workplace of our modern society. One might note that men play very similar roles in all mentioned segments! That would be absolutely true. Nevertheless, roles vary in different fields according to the gifts granted by God to each sex.
by the late Archpriest Peter E. Gillquist
Originally from The WORD magazine, February 1990, reprinted in DIAKONIA Spring 2013
Shortly after we moved to Santa Barbara, California, we re-decorated the house, painting the living room and papering the dining room. As we moved the table and chairs back into the dining area, along with the antique hutch that lined up against the west wall, I began to ponder what should go on the wall opposite the hutch. The space was somewhat limited.
Wait a minute, I thought to myself That’s the east wall. Let me find an icon of Christ and another of Mary for either side of the window.
From early times Christians would establish an “icon corner” in their homes, preferably using a corner on the east wall — east being the traditionally biblical direction from which the Son of Righteousness would appear at His second advent. Though this would technically not be an icon corner, I did want to establish the Lord’s presence in our dining room.
by St. Seraphim of Sarov, The Reasons Why Jesus Christ Came into the World
The reasons why Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world are these:
- The love of God for the human race: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16).
- The restoration in fallen humanity of the image and likeness of God, as the holy Church celebrates it: "Man who, being made in the image of God, had become corrupt through sin, and was full of vileness, and had fallen away from the better life Divine, doth the wise Creator restore anew" (First Canon of Matins for the Nativity of Christ).
- The salvation of men’s souls: "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17).
And so we, in conformance with the purposes of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, should spend our life in accordance with this Divine teaching, so that through it we may obtain the salvation of our souls.
Sixteen years ago, at the tender age of twenty-one, Sonia Daly had a vision to open an Orthodox School near her hometown in Massachusetts. With her hard work and by God’s grace, Theophany School opened its doors in 1997. Since then, we have been working hard to foster the intellectual, moral and social development of our students by engaging their minds, nurturing their spirits, and enriching their God-given gifts and talents through the teachings and life of the Holy Orthodox Christian Church. Our small class sizes and child-driven curriculum let us educate the whole child, thereby cultivating each child’s strengths, and encouraging him or her to be an independent thinker and a thoughtful member of our School, and of his or her family and communities, ultimately guiding us all along the path to Christ.
Yes, I am an Antiochian woman. We (we women, that is) are all Antiochian Women. You may be saying to yourself, “Is she referring to me?”; “I don’t belong to our women’s chapter organization – I sing in the choir”; “I teach Sunday School”; “I belong to the Fellowship of St. John the Divine”; “I make altar cloths and help clean the church.” My dear sisters in Christ, by virtue of your baptism and chrismation into the Antiochian Orthodox Church, you are an Antiochian woman.
As mothers, daughters , grandmothers, we are by nature nurturers, caregivers, and comforters of the sick and infirm. Whether we help cook for the church, fundraise for worthwhile church projects, make altar cloths, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or support battered women and their families, we are all serving God. In doing so, we are following in the footsteps of many pious, humble and faithful women who served the Lord with their whole beings, women such as the Virgin Mary, the ointment-bearers, the deaconesses who served Christ and the church, Martha who prepared and served Jesus a meal, and her sister, Mary, who, “took a very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair” (John 12:3). Each of these women with their many gifts cared for the Lord in her own way.
from St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid, March 6th
"I mean that as long as the heir is not of age, he is no different from the slave" (Galatians 4:1)
As long as the heir apparent is in the cradle, what would make him better than the son of a slave? Neither is his body better, nor are his thoughts more elevated, nor are his wishes or desires more pure. Such is the son of the king; so is the son of the slave; so is the son of the beggar. For a few years the son of the king does not differ from the son of the slave. However, when the son of the king reaches maturity and with full consciousness of his dignity, he receives authority over the kingdom, and when the son of a slave reaches full maturity and with full consciousness, he succumbs to the yoke of slavery. Then the enormous difference is seen. Then it is clearly manifest that the heir and the slave are not equal. The slave has to serve and the king has to rule. The apostle means to say that it is the same with Christians and with those who are not Christians. The non-Christian is a slave to nature and the Christian rules over nature. The non-Christian era of the history of mankind shows us how man was the slave to the elements of nature, the slave of the flesh, the slave of idols and creatures. The Christian era of the history of mankind shows us how man was master and owner, a nobleman of a royal race and heir to all.
by Maureen Massiwer Gurghigian
from The Word, March 1993
Each of the Sundays of Great Lent has its own special theme. The first Sunday is called the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. It is a historical feast commemorating the return of the Icons to the Churches in the year 843 A.D., after the heresy of iconoclasm was overcome.
The second Sunday of Great Lent is the commemoration of St. Gregory Palamas. It was St. Gregory who died in 1359, who bore living witness that men can become divine through the Grace of God in the Holy Spirit; and that even in this life, by prayer and fasting, human beings can become participants of the uncreated Light of God’s Divine Glory.
The Third Sunday of Lent is that of the Veneration of the Cross, a day marked by its beauty and pageantry. The Cross stands in the midst of the Church at the midpoint of the Lenten season to remind us of Christ’s redemption and to keep before us the goal of our efforts . But even more importantly to be revered and venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me,” (Matthew 10:38). In the Cross of Christ Crucified, lies both “the power of God and the Wisdom of God” for those being saved, (I Corinthians 1:2 4).
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to St. John Climacus (St. John of the Ladder), the author of the work The Ladder of Divine Ascent. St. John was an abbot at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai in the sixth century His work encourages the faithful to persevere in their efforts; for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved;” (Matthew 24:13).
by Matthew Gallatin
As a young child, Nick Damascus loved watching priests deliver their homilies from the pulpit. His little heart would stir, and he would say to himself, I want to do that! I want to stand up there and say, "Hey, you people! Wake up! God loves you!" Fifty years later, Nick is indeed a zealous messenger of God. Oh, he's never preached a homily. But he does share his Orthodox faith in an uncommonly vibrant way with anyone who will give him half a chance.
What many of those to whom he ministers may not know, however, is that the genuine sincerity, peace, and spiritual insight he exudes are relatively new to Nick. For much of the half-century since his days of childhood fervor, Nick wandered without purpose, searching for a sense of meaning. He could not find it in the Church. Neither did he discover it in worldly success and affluence.
But one year ago, during the holy season of Lent, God worked a miracle in the life of Nick Damascus. It was a quiet and gentle miracle, without lightning or fanfare. Yet by the Holy Spirit, through the divine power of the sacraments and the Lenten services, God transformed this man. Journeying through the weeks and liturgical beauty of the Great Fast, Nick joyously discovered the life of divine love that "surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).
An Orthodox Child of the 50s and 60s
Nick was born into a Greek home, and raised in an ethnic Greek Orthodox parish. But unlike some his age, Nick did not rebel against his ethnic identity and its traditions. He fully embraced them.
by Fr. Alexander Schmemann
Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb. The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath. The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said: God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works. . . . (Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)
By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.
Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day - Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another - Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.
In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death the Christ continues to effect triumph.
TRAMPLING DOWN DEATH BY DEATH
by Fr. Thomas Hopko
from "The Orthodox Faith, Volume II, Worship"
The first service belonging to Holy Saturday -- called in the Church the Blessed Sabbath -- is the Vespers of Good Friday. It is usually celebrated in the mid-afternoon to commemorate the burial of Jesus.
Before the service begins, a "tomb" is erected in the middle of the church building and is decorated with flowers. Also a special icon which is painted on cloth (in Greek, epitaphios; in Slavonic, plaschanitsa) depicting the dead Saviour is placed on the altar table. In English this icon is often called the winding-sheet.
Vespers begin as usual with hymns about the suffering and death of Christ. After the entrance with the Gospel Book and the singing of Gladsome Light, selections from Exodus, Job, and Isaiah 52 are read. An epistle reading from First Corinthians (1:18-31) is added, and the Gospel is read once more with selections from each of the four accounts of Christ's crucifixion and burial. The prokeimena and alleluia verses are psalm lines, heard often already in the Good Friday services, prophetic in their meaning:
They divided my garments among them and for my raiment they cast lots (Psalm 22:18).
My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me (Ps 22:1).
Thou hast put me in the depths of the Pit, in the regions dark and deep (Ps 88:6).
On Good Friday afternoon, the touching service of the Burial of our Lord takes place. This rite is especially loved by children because of its dramatic solemnity. A specially constructed sepulchre of four pillars surmounted by a dome on which stands a cross is stationed in the center of the Nave. The symbolic tomb of our Saviour is completely covered by beautifully arranged floral decorations. During the afternoon service the Body of the Crucified Christ is taken down from the Cross. And a beautifully embroidered cloth bearing the representation of the Sacred Corpse of our Lord is placed in the center of the flower-adorned sepulchre. To commemorate the Burial the following words are recited:
"When Joseph of Arimathea took Thee, the Life of all, down from the Tree dead, he buried Thee with myrrh and fine linen; and He yearned with desire, in his heart and on His lips, that Thy pure Body might be enshrouded; wherefore, hiding he cried to Thee, rejoicing, Glory to Thy humiliation, O Merciful Master." In a moving apostrophe to Christ in the tomb, the hymn is chanted:
by Fr. John Hainsworth
Every year during Holy Week I read to my congregation an eyewitness account of a certain Pascha night on Solovki Island in 1925. For centuries, this island in the White Sea had been the home of a venerable and remote monastery. After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the monks were replaced by political and religious prisoners. The once-beautiful monastery became a concentration camp. The climate of that region was especially harsh and the island well out of sight, and the newly formed gulag became a place of unspeakable horror for its inhabitants.
Among the few who survived was a prisoner who worked in the camp's archives, and he left us the description of an extraordinary occurrence. Through some favor-gained by one of the prisoners, Bishop Illarion-all the prisoners were allowed by the communist authorities to celebrate Pascha in the camp. But only that one night and never again. Preparations were made, vestments were secretly liberated from the vaults of the former monastery, and on Pascha night the whole camp gathered together. Here is the prisoner's description of that evening:
by John of Karpathos
Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God's grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing this until the day of your death. For it is written, 'If a righteous man falls down seven times' - that is, repeatedly throughout his life - 'seven times shall he rise again' [Prov. 24:16].
SSJC-WR President's Message 2013 Winter
by Fr. George Morelli
Some recent developments in the world of inter-Apostolic Church relations are encouraging. It should be pointed out that the thaw in the frozen tundra of emotional frigidity among the Churches could be traced back to the lifting of the anathemas between Rome and Constantinople in December 1965 by His Holiness Pope Paul VI of Rome and His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. This event, although symbolic, initiated a series of exchanges between the Eastern and Western Churches culminating recently in a statement of Holy Spirit-filled hope by the current Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who said: "The uniqueness of the founders of our Churches, of Elder Rome and of New Rome, the Holy Apostles Peter and Andrew, as brothers according to the flesh, constitutes a motivation for both of our Churches to move toward the genuine experience of spiritual brotherhood and the restoration of communion in this same spirit, in truth and in love."i Also on the Orthodox side is the announcement that, under the aegis of the Department External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, a theological commission approved a document on 08 November 2012, entitled The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of primacy in the Universal Church. It is now submitted to the Russian Orthodox synod for approval.ii
In today's world who has not confronted the 'arrogance of power?' At first it might be easy to think that only those who hold positions of wealth or authority would be candidates to wield power. While it is true that such individuals may be in an opportune setting to display self-serving, controlling actions, even individuals who are not high on the economic, political or social status scales can exert unwarranted, overbearing power. I am reminded of an example discussed in a graduate psychology course in New York City. A well-dressed, stockbroker-looking executive, somewhat rushed, has put a bill in a subway token window booth just as a subway train on its way to the Wall Street Station has opened its doors merely a few feet away, opposite, and in sight of the booth and the entry turn-style. Objectively there is more than enough time for the token clerk to give the passenger the token and change so that he would be able to catch the train. The clerk stalls, moves his hands appearing to sort change in front of him, and just as the subway doors are closing hands over token and change, with an obvious smirk on his face implying: "I got you."
This may remind readers of the ancient Greek notion of pride (hubris). Hubris motivates someone to use, intentionally, any means, even aggression, to degrade or humiliate others. In this case, the action of the subway clerk was not outright violence but what would be termed in psychology, passive aggression. None the less, it can easily be seen as a display of arrogant power. The Bhagavad-Gita (16: 18) describes pride this way: "Egotistical, violent, arrogant, lustful, angry, envious of everyone, they abuse my presence within their own bodies and in the bodies of others."
by St. John of Damascus
From An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chapter 1.
. . . God has not gone so far as to leave us in complete ignorance, for through nature the knowledge of the existence of God has been revealed by Him to all men. The very creation of its harmony and ordering proclaims the majesty of the divine nature. Indeed, He has given us knowledge of Himself in accordance with our capacity, at first through the Law and the Prophets and then afterwards through His only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Accordingly, we accept all those things that have been handed down by the Law and the Prophets and the Apostles and the Evangelists, and we know and revere them, and over and above these things we seek nothing else. For, since God is good, He is the author of all good and is not subject to malice or to any affection. For malice is far removed from the divine nature, which is the unaffected and only good. Since, therefore, He knows all things and provides for each in accordance with his needs, He has revealed to us what it was expedient for us to know, whereas that which we were unable to bear He has withheld. With these things let us be content and in them let us abide and let us not step over the ancient bounds or pass beyond the divine tradition.
by Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.
Begin Everything with Prayer
Since we are reminded in Scripture to begin whatever we do with prayer, it has been the practice of Orthodox Christians for centuries to have new dwellings blessed either before or just after settling in. This has been extended to one's business or office, and even college dorm rooms. "The service performed by the priest to bless the new dwelling is somewhat similar to the consecration of a church [in the Russian practice] in that holy water, holy oil, and incense are used and a lesson from the holy Gospel is read. All the rooms of the house are sprinkled with holy water and each of the four outer walls are anointed with the sign of the Cross with holy oil, a candle placed before them, and after the censing of the house, the lesson from the Holy Gospel is read [in Greek practice the service of the Small Blessing of Waters is generally done]. At the conclusion of the blessing, the inhabitants are blessed with holy water: the husband first, followed by the wife and then the children - the oldest first. Relatives and friends present are then blessed." (Marriage and the Christian Home, by Rev. Michael B. Henning, p.24.)
by St. Justin Popovich
From Man and God-man: Studies about Orthodox Theology, Athens, 1974.
“For we are laborers together with God” (I Cor. 3:9). The ideal of the true and perfect man was realized in the person of the God-man with the God-human synergy. This God-human cooperation, taking place through the God-human body of the Church, becomes a common property of man and a common way of life, thought, action, and their existence. In the Church, men are incorporated with the God-man, Christ, namely are born with Him and by Him, are transformed with Him and by Him, are crucified with Him and by Him, are resurrected with Him and by Him, partake of His Ascension and by Him, are living eternally in Him and by Him, are feeling in Him and by Him, are acting with Him and by Him. In this catholic God-humanization of man lies his exact salvation and sanctification. The human race was created for this reason, and paradisiacal life of our forefathers was created in this joyful synergy with God. The fall occurred when we rejected this synergy and began to work through sin and cooperation with the Devil. The God Logos became man in order to restore the life of Paradise and the order of life within it, namely the cooperation with God.
In 1987 our beloved Metropolitan Philip established the Department of Missions and Evangelism, with the commission to bring America home to the Faith of Peter and Paul. This commission and calling, given not only to the leaders of the Evangelical Orthodox Church but to every Orthodox Christian living in North America, rings even truer today, and more urgently.
Without the necessary funds, however, such commissions often go unfulfilled. The Order of St. Ignatius has helped to fund this mission for over 25 years. Under the chairmanship of Fr. Peter E. Gillquist of blessed memory, and the spiritual advice of Bishop Antoun, the Department of Missions and Evangelism has been instrumental in raising up and receiving over a hundred church communities into our beloved Archdiocese. We cannot say that these churches were started only by the clergy, for the laity, moved to serve through the Order of St. Ignatius, provided the necessary funds for these efforts to bear fruit.
by St. John of Kronstadt
From My Life in Christ
When you walk in a forest, garden, or meadow, and see the young shoots of the plants, the fruits on the trees, and the variety of the flowers of the field, learn a lesson from God’s plants--namely, the lesson that every tree each summer unfailingly puts forth at least one shoot of considerable size, and unfailingly grows in height and dimensions. It seems as though every tree endeavors each year to advance by the strength that God has given it; therefore, say to yourself, I, too, must each day, each year, absolutely grow higher and higher morally, better and better, more and more perfect; must advance on the road to the Kingdom of Heaven, or to the Father which is in Heaven, through the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Spirit dwelling and working within me. As the field is adorned by a multitude of flowers, so should the field of my own soul be adorned by all the flowers of virtue; as the trees bring forth flowers and afterwards fruit, so must my soul bring forth the fruits of faith and good works.