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From Roommates to Family: Transforming your home into an intentional community

This New Year, God is inviting you to be a family on purpose. This invitation goes out to all households, no matter the size, age, or blood relation of its members. God wants to remind you that He didn’t bring you together to simply be roommates who happen to share the same address. Rather, He brought you together to be a family, to be living icons of God’s inner Trinitarian life.

The family is called to to be the source and origin of Love. She is called to be the heartbeat of society. For it is the mercy and compassion, or lack thereof, that  husband and wife and brother and sister show to one another, that flows into society. The home pours life giving blood to the organism that is society, and if the heart is broken, or, worse yet, if it stops beating, then what hope is there for community life in our parish or office?

As a family, we are called to participate in the divine dance of the Lover and the Beloved. We are called to give and to receive freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully without keeping tabs.

One of the biggest obstacles to establishing this intentional community is keeping tabs. We see our life in this building that we call a house as a chore and our connection to its people as a task force. Checklist A. Checklist B. Checklist C. Like Martha, we cry out, “Lord, do You not care that [insert name] has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell [him/her] to help me.”

Practical Steps:

To be a family on purpose, you need to intentionally come together. But with so many commitments and distractions, you need super glue. So what is this super glue that will bring you all together? Hint: it will be this same glue that will keep you together even when you are physically apart- when your spouse goes on a business trip or when your kids go off to college.

For most families, this glue is food. Sadly, once our kids grow up, daily dinner turns into an annual dinner on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and, if you’re lucky, birthdays. It seems that food, no matter how tasty, is not enough to bring and keep our families together.

What, then, can serve as this super glue? Allow me to share a story of a family that inspires me so much. At my previous parish, there was a family with eleven children under the age of fifteen. This family, despite its size, and despite the fact that its military father is gone several months out of the year, is glued together by prayer. No matter where in the world the father is, he always calls at 7 p.m. EST to say his evening prayers with his family. Prayer: this is the super glue we need to go from being roommates to being a family.

I want to invite you to allow prayer to set the rhythm of your home life. Prayer, not food, shows, video games, or anything else, should summon all the household’s members together. By forming a habit of morning and evening prayer, you’ve already made the first step toward establishing an intentional community. Once you have this down, the second step can be to add another intentional gathering time to read the Scriptures together. This can involve choosing a book in the Bible and reading a section or a chapter together after a specific meal time. Every member can then share their light from what has just been read. By holding this intentional gathering at the same time and place every day, you will help lift your family’s conversation to what St. Paul calls the “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable” (Philippians 4:8). Going to Church on Sundays and Feast days, of course, should be a given, so that your family may nourish your parish family and vice versa.

Beyond prayer, which is the super glue of any intentional community rooted in God, there are other glues that the Holy Spirit will inspire in your heart as you place this intention- of being a family on purpose- before God. These can include fun ideas like family game nights, bring-a-friend-to-dinner night, outings with mom and dad, etc.

We can’t forget, however, other important aspects of being a family on purpose, and these include the necessary tasks that make a household work. These are duties, such as cleaning, cooking, taking the trash out, and changing light bulbs, that we should accomplish responsibly and lovingly for the glory of God. These duties should not be seen as “chores” nor should they be seen as “mundane.”

We can gain so much insight by contemplating on the Holy Family’s hidden life in Nazareth, where, day in and day out, regular household duties were transformed into Sacred Service. Unlike in Bethany, in Nazareth, “Mary” and “Martha,” what they represent, were not at odds. The apostle, the doer, and the mystic, the be-er, were one. All of the Holy Family’s sacred duties were completed whilst contemplating the Face of God and being present always to Christ.

As we set off to make our homes intentional communities, we should not divorce Mary and Martha. If we forget God, if we forget prayer, then sacred service turns into a list of chores and family turns into a task force. The heart of the family should not be a taskmaster, nor should she make family members bitter or embarrass them with how they complete their duties to the household. Rather, the heart of the family should invite its members into an intentional rhythm and encourage them to contribute to the household responsibly out of love.

This New Year, may we establish intentional communities in our homes so that we may be families on purpose by remembering to pray, to have fun, and to work hard all to the glory of God.

MaryMartha Email

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“Girl Crushes” and “Bromances”

Our society, so over sexualized, wants to limit what it means to “fall in love” to the sexual sphere. This is a mistake.

In Christ, we can fall in love and should allow ourselves to fall in love with God’s creations, who were made in His image and likeness. 

And so, we can fall in love with our spouses, with our children, with our parents, with our siblings, with our friends, and, even with strangers (“friends we just hadn’t met before,” as there is no stranger in Christ). But, because of our overly sexualized culture, we are afraid to admit this love before not only others but our very selves. 

I believe this is especially the case with female/female and male/male friendships. When they are “too close” according to society, they need to take on a sexual label: they have a “girl crush” on one another or they have a “bromance.” And if the joke turns into a confusing tug in your heart, you start believing that because “yes, I truly am in love with this person” it needs to be sexual since only this expression of “being in love” is legitimized by society.

In the face of a judgmental culture, we become uncomfortable with being a comfort within the intimacy of a profound friendship. We need to cast out immature and fear based judgments and lies out of our hearts and minds.

If we are to be spiritual mothers (and spiritual fathers) to one another, we need to embrace each other! You need only meditate on the icon of Mary and Elizabeth or Peter and Paul to understand falling in love in, with, and through Christ.

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Our bodies are not the prison of our souls. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are good. Affection is good. In Christ, may God transform and purify our affections. May we not fear falling in love with one another and expressing this love both spiritually and physically without believing the twisted perversion secularism wants us to believe.

We can have intimacy that is not sexual and we most certainly can and should allow ourselves to fall in love with God’s icons, the men and the women in our lives who reveal to us the Face of God.

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Starting Over: Resurrecting Relationships

Do you ever wish you could meet someone for the first time again and start over? Do you ever ask yourself, how did we get to this ugly place? How did distance come bet ween us, who were so close? Or, you might ask yourself, how come I’ve known you for so long and we’ve never broken the ice, this ice that prevents us from truly opening our hearts to one another? How can we break the ice if an Ice Age is all we’ve come to know or have ever known?

I want to clarify that I’m not here speaking solely about a significant other, but also about our children, our siblings, our parents, our friends…

So maybe you were really close to someone, someone with whom you shared not only your pains but also that silly and quirky side no one else seems to understand. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to get close to someone but you can’t seem to cover topics beyond “how’s the weather?.” I realize these are two very different situations, but they include the same heart’s desire: can we just start over?

God is merciful and compassionate. He is the Resurrection. In Christ, we learn the mystery of Redemption. If you are willing to invite Christ into your heart, He will teach you how to die to your old self and be born into a new person. He will also guide you to place your relationship at the foot of the Cross, where you will witness the reality of the paradox “through death comes life.” God, Who is all loving, hears your cry and desires to resurrect all of your relationships.

When someone goes through a major life change, a resurrection, we can be hesitant and uncomfortable to trust in the truth of their heart’s conversion. We need to stop judging and believe once more in the power of grace. After all, we don’t want people to see us under a judgmental light and see our “conversion” and our “new ways” as us being self-righteous…this is very hard. No, this is a time  to fall before God in our weakness and to rise before God in His strength, to pray for our death and our resurrection, for the death of our old ugly ways and for the birth of our new beautiful ways. And, at the same time, pray for that person, who right now is piercing your heart, to also be transformed by His grace. And, we must be grateful for His grace, for this is the grace that allows us and this person to become new, the grace that is allowing us to slowly change our ways, the grace that allows us to be patient, kind, and vulnerable to one another as we are dying before one another, and for the grace  to hold on to the hope of the resurrection.

God, you are merciful and compassionate, increase our faith, hope, and love in You, our Father and our Mother. Help us die before we die that we may live in eternity right now, always living and breathing, thinking, speaking, and doing before Your Presence. Help us to see all things and all people in Your merciful and compassionate Light. Help us to forgive one another, to let go and let God. And, finally, help us to break the ice when all we’ve known or come to know is the Ice Age.

As always, feel free to comment with your own experience or message me privately. I would love to learn from you about the feminine genius’ power to forgive and vulnerable willingness to start over.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Praise be to You,  the Most High God, for You are very good. You are the healer and You hear our cry.

O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things, the Treasury of Blessing, and the Giver of Life, come and dwell within us and cleanse us from every blemish and save our souls O Good One.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us!

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us!

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us!

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Hormones, P.M.S., and Holiness

I woke up the other morning feeling very irritable. It’s that time of the month again. When I was a teen, I had absolutely no control over the surge of hormones that rushed to every inch of my body, aggressively flooding my flesh with cravings and aggravations.

I’m an adult woman now. I need to stop using P.M.S. as an excuse for eating junk and speaking harshly. I need to take responsibility over my hormones, and, instead of being swayed by them, master them. Easier said than done…

God is merciful and compassionate, and, in His wisdom, He gives us a relatively predictable cycle, with all sorts of signs to help us understand our sacred, mysterious, and beautiful bodies. This means, that I can actually predict, or at least, diagnose my irritability along with my insatiable hunger.

So, that morning, I decided that it was not going to be a repeat of the last month, and, let’s be honest, every month since I was 13. I got up, kissed my baby good morning, changed his diaper, fed him breakfast, read him a book, and- thankfully it was the weekend- passed him unto my husband. I told my husband exactly how I was feeling and why. I told him that I did not want to lash out at him for him practicing his scales on the guitar or at our son for being his playful self.

I knew all I needed was an hour to myself, to pray, to breath, to rest in the serenity and solitude of silence… This short hour nourished me so much so that I actually emerged from the basement in good spirits ready to listen to the song my husband had been working on, which an hour before was causing me great irritation.

I learned that experiencing P.M.S. can be an opportunity for spiritual growth. I absolutely do not have to allow hormones to get the best of me. These hormones do not have to push all my virtues and graces out the window for the next few days.

From my own experience, it has really helped me to become conscious of P.M.S. and to predict and diagnose it before it gets out of hand. I pay extra attention to my breath and am also extra gentle with myself.

My advice: do everything slowly. Be slow to think, to speak, and to do. Go inside of yourself and don’t let anyone or anything, no matter how annoying and irritating, get you to come out.

Re-think the silent treatment. Instead of giving it to others, give it to yourself. Be like Mary, she kept all things in her heart. Her silence was empty of bitterness and poured over in sweetness. As Psalm 4 entreats us, “Be angry but sin not, commune in your hearts on your own bed and be silent” (Psalm 4). Don’t leave your metaphorical bed. Be kind to yourself. Take it easy. As Jesus says, although our spirit is willing, our flesh is weak. By God’s grace, may our spirit become more willing and may our flesh become less weak.

And men, if you happen to be reading this article about P.M.S. (God bless you!), please be extra patient with your wives, daughters, and any other woman in your life. And women, be honest, be vulnerable, be soft: let those that live with you know that you are struggling today. Let them know that you are feeling irritable and that you need time to yourself and to please go buy you chocolate (actually, try to avoid sugar!). Stay within yourself. This is not a time for expression. This is a time for introspection, for purification. May this blessed time be spiritually edifying and sanctifying. Praise God for our feminine genius. I love being a woman.

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Connecting with the Angels

As we strive to become women of God, its important to connect with his messengers, the angels. You can CONNECT WITH THE CHOIRS OF ANGELS by praying through them to God for specific intentions:

  • When you need to feel the love of God, connect with the Seraphim
  • When you need an insight into the wisdom of God, connect with the Cherubim
  • When you need to peacefully submit to the will of God, connect with the Thrones
  • When you need to know the will of God, connect with the Dominions
  • When you need help carrying out the will of God, connect with the Virtues
  • When you need help removing obstacles keeping you from doing the will of God, connect with the Powers
  • When your nation and its leaders need protection and guidance, connect with the Principalities
  • When you or a loved one need special intercessions and protection, connect with the Archangels
  • Finally, when you or a loved one need guidance in daily life, connect with the Angels, and, specifically, your Guardian Angel

Prayer Invoking to the Choirs of Angels

O Holy Angels, watch over us at all times during this perilous life: O holy Archangels, be our guides on the way to heaven; O heavenly choir of the Principalities, govern us in soul and body; O mighty Powers, preserve us against the wiles of the demons; O celestial Virtues, give us strength and courage in the battle of life; O powerful Dominions obtain for us dominion over the rebellion of our flesh; O sacred Thrones, grant us peace with God and man; O brilliant Cherubim, illuminate our minds with heavenly knowledge; O burning Seraphim, enkindle in our hearts the fire of charity.
Amen.

Listen to the beautiful Cherubic Hymn chanted during the Byzantine Divine Liturgy

“We, who mystically represent the Cherubim, And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity. Let us set aside the cares of life that we may receive the King of all, Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.”

Reginald Herber’s hymn Holy Holy Holy is also beautiful: “Cherumbim and Seraphim falling down before Thee, Who wert, and art, and ever shall be.”

Continue reading to learn more about each Choir of Angels…

The word angel means “messenger.” God’s messenger’s are organized into several orders, aka Angelic Choirs. The most influential of these classifications was that put forward by    pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the fourth or fifth century in his book The Celestial Hierarchy.

This icon depicts the Angelic Choirs

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THE FIRST HIERARCHY OF ANGELS is made up of the Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the Thrones. The Seraphim make up of the first choir of angels, and they are known to express the love of God. They guard the Holy Throne of God in Heaven. The Cherubim make up the second choir of angels; they express the wisdom of God. They guard the Holy Throne of God on Earth, i.e. the tabernacles in all the various parishes.  The Thrones make up the third choir of angels and they express the peace of God. They are called the “God-bearing thrones” since God “sits” on them. They are intellectual thrones, as writes St. Maximus the Confessor, and God intellectually resides on them.

This icon depicts Mary and Jesus between the Seraphim and the Cherubim

Theotokos

THE SECOND HIERARCHY OF ANGELS is made up of the Dominions, the Virtues and the Powers. The Dominions assert the will of God, while the Virtues carry out the orders. If any obstacles present themselves then the Powers step in to block them out. A football analogy might help to imagine all of this: the Dominions are like the coaches, yelling out instructions; the Virtues are like the running backs (they run with the football); and the Powers are like the fullbacks (they tackle anyone who is in the way of the running back).

THE THIRD HIERARCHY OF ANGELS is made up of the Principalities, the Archangels, and the Angels. The Principalities make up the seventh choir of angels, and they are known to protect towns, cities, nations and their leaders. The Archangels make up the eighth choir of angels and are known to make intercessions in times of great need. Finally, there are the Angels, including those life-long companions who inspire us to do good and avoid evil.

This hymn to the Theotokos is worth meditating on. You can listen HERE and read the words below:

It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without defilement you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos we magnify you!

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We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.

Saint John Paul the Great

In John 7:53-8:11, we read the beautiful account of Jesus and the woman that had been caught in adultery:

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” …Those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one…“Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

When you meditate once more on this Gospel account, my hope is that you come out remembering this woman encountered by Christ not as “the sinful woman” but as “the forgiven woman.” And, may you also apply this way of thinking to yourself by experiencing the power of God’s grace and mercy in your own heart.

I am the forgiven woman. I am the woman that was caught in adultery, condemned not to death but invited by Christ to Life. As Jesus says, “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” (John 10:10)

By His grace and His mercy, we are made into new creations, or, rather, we are restored to our original creation. God does not hurl stones at us but spoon feeds us the Bread of Life!

Truly, we are precious and beloved daughters of the Father and we are the sum His love for us…and can this Love ever be summed up?

I pray that God may grant us the gift of a true mirror. Under His Light, may we see through our blemishes, our weakness, and our failures, and see the image of the one, true, good, and beautiful God in our reflection. May we also see our sisters in Christ under this same Light.

(You can watch this scene from the Bible Series HERE)

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