Tag: St Joseph

In Athens

In Athens

I thought I’d share with you some of the beautiful things we’ve seen and experienced in Athens so far.

There are countless interesting churches. In the rear of this picture is the main Greek Orthodox metropolitan cathedral, The Cathedral of the Annunciation, recently refurbished, whilst in the foreground is a centuries-old church known as Little Metropolitan, really St Eleftherios Church (which we haven’t managed to go into yet as it is often shut, unusually for this area). On our last trip here my fiancé and I prayed outside under the moonlight, giving thanks for each other and asking God’s guidance during our engagement.

This past Sunday we were able to go to Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of St Dionysus where we found this very peaceful portrayal of St Joseph and the Christ Child.

There are several people we need to buy gifts for and also we are going to bring some non-perishable Greek foods home to form part of the meal after our wedding. So we went through the Monastiriki which is a set of narrow, winding streets packed with little open-fronted shops selling jewellery, leather bags and sandals, T-shirts, traditional dresses and embroidered shirts, icons, crosses, ornately covered Bibles, food (olives, baklava, Turkish delight, sweets, herbs, stuffed vine leaves, olive oil), drinks (lots and lots of Ouzo and Metaxa brandy miniatures), replicas of Ancient Greek artefacts and statues, toys, and countless souvenirs (some tackier than others – apparently you can fit a picture of the Parthenon onto everything from a teacup to a wooden replica of a certain part of the male anatomy!!).

It’s worth looking up, as well as at the shop fronts, because there are often pretty balconies above you and twisting grapevines where doves sometimes sit.

With new sensory experiences around all day long, I have needed to balance busy hours with down time, and we are so fortunate to have a pool at the hotel to cool down or rest beside.

My fiancé has been utterly impressively amazing at getting me and my wheelchair around – not at all easy when the streets are cobbled and up / downhill. I’ve been really concerned he will wear himself out caring for me. I walk where I possibly can but it is not much at all. My fiancé’s love is a deep blessing I never could have imagined existing. I want to help him rest and care for his own needs too.

I will post another Greece update with more photos soon.

Ginny xxx

Christmas Day – “O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

Christmas Day – “O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

Christmas morning! We’ve arrived. Christ Our Lord gives Himself to us in tender love and mercy. Come, let us adore Him, the Christ Child in the manger.

What a year it has been, personally for me, for my loved ones, for this whole world. Falling over the same stumbling blocks and falling into the same sins, or losing sight of hope in the face of fear, flashbacks, overwhelming emotions that can block out everything I want to believe in, it does not take much to make me despair and think God’s mercy has run out for me and He will cast me aside and say I do not know Him. Looking at what’s happening, here, in my family, in the UK, in stricken countries like Syria, never have I felt so helpless here and now faced with such need, fear, suffering, the very present threats of acts of terrorism, the devastation and loss wracking so many people. It is so hard to know how to respond and easy to feel very afraid.

At the vigil Mass last night, we sang “It came upon a midnight clear” after Communion. This is not one of the carols I know best but never did this verse seem so apt:

Yet with the woes of sin and strife, this world has suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong,

And man at war with man hears not the love song which they bring –

O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

So often I, we, cannot hear the song that Our God sings to us His beloved. Shame, fear, despair, self-disgust, pride, all can make this “still small voice” harder to hear. I was praying, feeling despair and the voices were saying to me, how could God look at me now, how could He look at my foul disgusting weak lazy heart. The Lord answered me in prayer, “My gaze is longing Love.” And He called me to draw near in prayer to the manger at Bethlehem, with His Holy Mother and St Joseph’s protection.

The nativity is the sweetest song of love for us. God who brought this whole world into being, who shaped the seas and land and skies, who brought each of us into being in love, is come in humility, even vulnerability, as a little Baby, reaching out to us, fully sharing our human lives. He was born into darkness, poverty, homelessness, a world confused and at war. The Priest told us in his homily last night, when we look at the Christ Child, we see the certain knowledge that God never gives up on us. He delights in each of us. He delights in us so much that He chose to be born as one of us. And I think He chose to be born, needing us, needing our simple answer “yes” to receiving Him, yes to resting in His loving gaze, to holding Him in our minds and hearts, to carrying His hope into the world, to encountering Him anew each day but most especially this Christmas morning. So we learn to “give back the song which now the angels sing” in the words of the carol.

You are in my prayers today. I feel deeply thankful to you for reading, commenting, your thoughts, prayers and support and the experiences you share on this journey. I know that for many of us Christmas and New Year is not an easy time and it gives rise to deep, erratic emotions and maybe painful memories. I struggle at this time. Through all the joy of the gift of God this day, I feel overwhelmed and unstable, emotions heightened, the pain of losses and traumatic effects associated with this time and deepened, and the needs, expectations and rush of the holiday period are not easy to face. I’m very blessed not to be alone, to have two special friends to celebrate with quietly today, and to have these couple of friends and the blogging community here with whom I can share honestly. Thank you.

I’m wishing you plenty of moments of happiness; peace deep in your heart through whatever path you are on; that you can experience friendship, care and support; that in the hardest times there are little things to give you hope bit by bit; most of all, that you know the love of God who delights in you.

“…And ye, beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo! The days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
The blessed angels sing.”

[From “It came upon a midnight clear” by Edmund Sears (music by Richard Storrs Willis) – see here for full lyrics ]

Wishing you a blessed Christmas.

Ginny xxx

[Image from “The Nativity Story”]

 

 

Not that far from Bethlehem

Underneath the stars, just a simple man and wife,

Somewhere in the dark, his words cut the silent night –

“Take my hand, for the Child that you carry is God’s own,

And though it seems the road is long,

We’re not that far from Bethlehem.”

(Hopefully the above link works. It’s supposed to link to a video for the Christmas carol “Not that far from Bethlehem” by Point of Grace – see the footnote!)

It’s just a week til Christmas. I have very confused feelings around this time of year. Advent has passed so very quickly. It’s a time I really wish everything would slow down. I struggle all the more with relationships, especially in the family, and the knowledge that I am not what I should be is all the more painful. This must be normal for everyone, to some extent, I think. I think the more expectations there are, the more distance and emptiness hurts.

Feeling so weak, though it’s one of the most (if not the most) abundant times of hope and grace. It’s the time that Our Lord Jesus came to us, to love and heal and forgive us. It’s the root of our faith. Yet, this time of year it’s harder day to day and I feel all the more that I’m failing precisely because of my fear and emptiness.

Prayer and hope can seem nearly impossible and just as I feel a terrible darkness that seems to black out everything else when I’m distressed about interpersonal relationships, losses and so on, in the same way I can enter this state if I start to fear my God. The faith that at other times sustains me becomes a source of utter pain, “knowing” that I’m bad and can never be “enough” or with Him.

I start to make my God a sort of compilation of all the terrors and obsessional thoughts in my head, making God a punishing judge, who is angry with me and knows I am evil inside and cannot wait to punish and reject me for it.

This is so very dangerous. God is not the sum of my fears. My relationship with God does not depend on my thoughts, fears, hallucinations and sickness. When I read God’s Word in the Bible, He tells me that “perfect Love casts out fear”. He does not say we must be enough, but only “come to Me”. He does not say we must perfect ourselves to earn His love, but “you did not choose me but I [Jesus] have chosen you” and that we love because He loved us first and lifted us up in His arms.

So, this time of year, I try to answer His gentle voice, “come”. In prayer, I meditate upon drawing close to Jesus, Mary and Joseph at the stable in Bethlehem that first Christmas. Jesus Christ, who is all Love, is come to us as a helpless little baby, to share with us every joy, every suffering, every need, every feeling. He chose a young and poor woman, to be his Mother and to answer “yes” to God’s call, and through her “yes” and through her body, He came into the world. He was born in the “stable so bare” as the carol says, laid in a manger. He did not ask riches or a palace or great astounding things. He asked only love and a place in our hearts.

As Christ was born in that poor empty stable at Bethlehem, so He will come into our poor empty hearts. It does not matter if my heart is empty – there is the more space there for him to fill. It does not matter that I feel I have nothing to give him. A baby asks nothing but love and to be with us always. So does the Christ Child. He will fill my heart and He will be everything I am not. No amount of pain that I may feel can change that.

So I say yes, and in prayer and meditation I kneel close to the manger, and I wait and watch and hope and rejoice, with Mary and St Joseph. There we gather united with everyone who struggles, longs and hopes. However dark it seems, however long this road is, even in the midst of this most awful pain, we can never be far from Bethlehem.

 

We’re not that far from Bethlehem, where all our hope and joy began

For in our arms we’ll cherish Him,

No we’re not that far from Bethlehem.

Lyrics and score by Point of Grace – film extracts from “The Nativity” – with thanks to Crisen de Guzman for the video – all rights belong to the respective artists