Light in the Darkness

14 11 2011

People often find the darkness inside an Orthodox church a bit disturbing. I have heard other Orthodox Christians mention various reasons as to why this is so: to help us focus, to distance ourselves from the distractions of the world and other reasons. To others it just seems to be a place of darkness and with the darkness it seems on the surface to be contrary to what we think it should. After all shouldn’t being in Church be a place of light?

As the Nativity fast is soon upon us, my thoughts were turning toward preparing my heart for the coming of the Nativity of our Lord God and Savior in the flesh. That wonderful time of year that is for Christians a time of reflecting and remembering the birth of Jesus – Christmas. The Nativity season doesn’t end “officially” in the church until Theophany also know as Epiphany. This season is known as the festival of lights.

As a child raised in a Lutheran Church, we, as a family looked forward to the Advent services and especially the Christmas Eve services. During each Advent service we would light one special candle on Sunday to again prepare our hearts. Then came the midnight Christmas Eve services which usually started around 11:00 in the evening and it would end on or a bit after midnight. During this service all the lights in the church were extinguished and then each of the Advent candles were lit with a special Scripture reading. Finally it came time to light the Christ candle. Upon the Christ candle being lit, the Pastor would take his own individual candle and light his candle from the Christ candle. The Pastor would then light one of the candles of one of the other members of the church, who in turn would pass the lighting on to another, until each one of us had our own individually lit candle. By the time everyone had their own candle lit, the room was no longer dark. We were no longer sitting or standing in darkness.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”  Isaiah 9:2, The Holy Bible, New King James Version

“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people but the Lord will arise over you and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”  Isaiah 60:1-3, The Holy Bible, New King James Version

Jesus said of Himself that He was the Light of the World. The scriptures have numerous references to God and especially the God-man Jesus of being light and in Him is no darkness. As Christians we are exhorted to let the life of Christ, the light of Christ, shine out of our own hearts and lives.

We have many artistic renditions of the Nativity with some very common themes that illustrate the Nativity story in paintings, sculptures and in the Orthodox Church icons. It is the Nativity icon I find many expressions of darkness contrasting light. The cave in which Christ is born is pictured dark and out of the darkness the light of Christ is shining. It was dark in the sky until Angels appeared and lit up the sky. And let’s not forget the magnificent Star, the Magi from the east followed to where the baby Jesus lay.

In the services of the Orthodox Church there are many reminders to help teach us eternal truths. One of the reminders is a darkened church. There is light in the surroundings, but the lights are strategically placed in front of icons in the form of candles: in the memorial boxes and small oil lamps (lampadas). There is usually a big light such as a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. In the evening Vespers service the candles and lampadas are lit, but the overhead lighting is off, until a certain moment when we sing a song that begins with “O Gentle Light of the glorious…”

I am not an Orthodox “expert” by any means, so hear are my humble thoughts on these expressions of contrasting light and darkness. Jesus came into a dark world as the Light of the world. Each time a candle is lit in front of an icon we remember the particular saint or angel as one who has the light of Christ dwelling in them. The “halo” around various saints and angels reflects the glory of God shining from their faces and their lives.

So much more symbolism in the candles, the flames, oil burning in the lampadas, everything to remind us that although we are in a dark world, we have the light of Christ with us always. And just as the light from the Christ candle is One glorious light – it is still passed on person to person. So the next time you find yourself surrounded by darkness look for the light, perhaps bring a light to someone else in darkness. Where do we get this light? We receive the light from the Lord Jesus Christ himself who even the darkness, the darkness is light to Him.





Christmas Letter 2010

16 12 2010

Recently I watched a YouTube video of people in a mall in the food court being treated to a “spontaneous” 100 voice choral performance of Handel’s Messiah. First you see people eating, carrying on conversation, going about everyday tasks of everyday life. Then the background music played on an electronic keyboard plays the introduction of the Messiah and one lone young woman stands up with cell phone in hand and begins to sing, followed by a young man, and then many others joining in. After the singing is finished and the applause dies away the choral members go back to “everyday living”. For those who haven’t seen it yet, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE&feature=autofb

When I think about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the parallels are obvious. For in the midst of everyday living and everyday tasks, heaven joins earth to impart a blessing of great joy. In the midst of crowds traveling, shopping, taxes, and labor, come Joseph and Mary into this turbulence. I don’t know about you, but when I think of the Christmas carol “Silent Night”, I often think that it probably wasn’t a very silent night on earthly terms, overflowing inn, cattle, sheep, donkeys, camels, and who knows what other animals were joining in the noise. Yet, imperceptibly a baby is born, not just any baby, not just any boy, but the incarnate God, the God-man, Jesus. Immanuel – God with us. Yes, God came down into the midst of our earthly everyday lives, dwelling, walking, and living among us. And for those of us who may be simple shepherds or maybe even a wise seeker, God is still waiting to impart to us joy, peace, hope, love and eternal salvation. I am sure there are hundreds of moments I have missed out on instances of “heaven touching earth”. Christmas is a wonderful time of year to reconnect with God and celebrate the Nativity of Christ, God reconciling man to himself and to one another. God provided his angels to the shepherds, a star to the wise men, a donkey and a manger to Joseph, Mary and the Christ child. God is ready to speak, to guide, to provide if I only keep my heart tuned into Heaven.

As I reflect over the past year I can see how God has spoken, guided and provided so faithfully and compassionately. Thankfully because of God’s mercy in spite of the times my heart was tuned in elsewhere on earthly concerns He still reached down and was with me.

This year I had the privilege of taking in at two different times a foster dog. Our first one was Beau Ty, an Australian Kelpie Heeler mix. Our second one was Kel, another Australian Kelpie. Both of these dogs needed training and fortunately they both were adopted into wonderful homes.

I had a number of “health issues” at the beginning of the year including the swine flu and a few upper respiratory infections. I also was bitten by a loose cat (in the middle of one of my puppy classes) and subsequently underwent a series of rabies vaccinations. Our two cats had to have teeth pulled and dental work. My dog, Dani Joy, underwent surgery for an abscessed infection that was probably caused by an embedded fox tail (last year she had a fox tail removed from an area nearby). My other dog, Patrick Ryan, continued to go downhill in his health and the weekend prior to Thanksgiving I had to say goodbye to my sweet boy. I finished my Animal Behavior College Dog Training course and graduated with honors. I left Petco the first part of October and am now working for Cari Bowe of Shasta Dog Training teaching dog classes and assisting in her board/train business.

Although I have gone through some trials, God has been faithful to see me through. I am thankful for many things… most importantly my family and my friends. I am blessed and I look hopeful to the new year, not because of my goals, or my plans but simply because Immanuel, God is with us. May you find joy, hope, peace, and love in Christ this season and every season.





Good King Wenceslaus – A Christmas Carol and Historical Christianity

19 12 2009

The Holy Martyr Wenceslaus (Vatslav or Vyacheslav), King of the Czechs

Commemorated September 28/October 11

Of all the ancient stories that surround Christmas, the tale about King Wenceslaus (spelled Vatslav or Vyacheslav) stands out. Though the carol was composed by noted songwriter and priest, John Mason Neale, the song is based on historical fact.

King Wenceslaus was a real member of European royalty, a ruler who daily touched his subjects with Christian kindness and charity. For many in the Dark Ages, this king was the role model for Christian leaders. Today, over a thousand years after his death, King Wenceslaus remains a role model for Christian people everywhere.

The son of Duke Borivoy (Bratislav) of Bohemia, Saint Wenceslaus had the good fortune to be raised by his grandmother, holy Martyr and Princess Ludmilla (commemorated September 16). Ludmilla was a devoted Christian woman who raised Prince Wenceslaus in deep piety, teaching her grandson the meaning of faith, hope, and charity. Wenceslaus took his grandmother’s lessons to heart, and in 920, when Duke Borivoy (Bratislav) was killed in battle, the youngster seemed ready to put what he had learned into action. At the age of eighteen, Saint Wenceslaus, just a few minutes older than Boleslaus, was made the leader of Bohemia.

In spite of his youthful age, he ruled wisely and justly and concerned himself much about the Christian enlightenment of the people. The holy prince was a widely educated man, and he studied in the Latin and Greek languages. Saint Wenceslaus was peace-loving. He built and embellished churches, and in Prague, the Czech capital, he raised up a magnificent church in the name of Saint Vitus, and he had respect for the clergy.

Envious nobles decided to murder the saint and, at first, to incite his mother against him, and later to urge his younger brother, Boleslav, to occupy the princely throne. As the young duke attempted to guide the troubled nation, his mother, Drahomira, and his brother, Boleslaus, instituted a pagan revolt. They assassinated Ludmilla as she prayed, then attempted to overthrow Saint Wenceslaus. The teen took charge, put down the rebellion, and in an act of Christian kindness, expelled his mother and brother rather than executing them. The tiny nation was amazed that the boy would react with such great mercy.

With the wisdom of Solomon, the young duke set up a nation built on true justice and mercy. He enacted laws in the manner he thought would best serve his Lord. As king, he labored in the Faith like the great ascetics, and strengthened the Christian Faith among his people. He was strict in ensuring that no innocent person suffer in the courts. In his zeal for the Christian Faith and in his love for his fellow man, Saint Wenceslaus purchased pagan children who were being sold as slaves, and immediately baptized them and raised them as Christians. He translated the Gospel of St. John into the Czech language, and transported the relics of St. Vitus and St. Ludmilla to Prague.

He even journeyed out into the country seeking insight as to what his people needed. When possible, he shared everything from firewood to meat with his subjects. He took pity on the poor and urged those blessed with wealth to reach out to the less fortunate. In large part due to Saint Wenceslaus’s example, a host of pagan peasants turned to Christianity. It was a revival unlike any had ever seen in the country.

When Saint Wenceslaus married and had a son, all of Bohemia celebrated. Peasants and powerful landlords sought the man out, offering their prayers for long life and happiness. With a smile on his face, the leader assured them that he was praying for their happiness as well. In the years that followed, the duke and his subjects continued to share both their prayers and their blessings with one another each day. Rarely had a leader been as universally revered as was Wenceslaus.

And Saint Wenceslaus loved Christmas. Centuries before gift giving became a part of the holiday tradition, the young leader embraced the joy of sharing his bounty with others. Inspired by a sincere spirit of compassion, each Christmas Eve the duke sought out the most needy of his subjects and visited them. With his pages at his side, Saint Wenceslaus brought food, firewood, and clothing. After greeting all in the household, the duke would continue to the next stop. Though often faced with harsh weather conditions, Saint Wenceslaus never postponed his rounds. Like a tenth century Saint Nicholas, the kindly young man made the night before Christmas special for scores of families. For many, a Christmas Eve visit from the duke was an answered prayer and a special reason to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Boleslav invited his brother to the dedication of a church, and then asked him to stay another day. In spite of the warnings of his servants, the holy prince Saint Wenceslaus refused to believe in a conspiracy and exposed his life to the will of God. On the following day, September 28, 935, when Saint Wenceslaus went to Matins, he was wickedly murdered at the doors of the church by his own brother and his brother’s servants. Falling to his knees on the church steps, the dying ruler looked up and whispered, “Brother, may God forgive you.” Then he died. His body was stabbed and discarded without burial.

The mother, hearing of the murder of her son, found and placed his body in a recently consecrated church at the princely court. They were not able to wash off the blood splashed on the church doors, but after three days it disappeared by itself.

Amazingly, when the young man realized what he had done, the new duke turned away from his colleagues and embraced the faith that had guided his brother’s life and rule. Though he had planned the revolt that had killed his twin, it was Boleslaus who sustained the memory of Saint Wenceslaus. After repenting of his sin, the murderer transferred the relics of Saint Wenceslaus to Prague, where they were placed in the church of St. Vitus, which the martyr himself had constructed (the transfer of the relics of Saint Wenceslaus is celebrated on March 4). The memory of Saint Wenceslaus has been honored from of old in the Orthodox Church. Thanks to the man who killed his brother, the Crown of Saint Wenceslaus became the symbol of the Czech nation. Saint Wenceslaus suffered in the year 935 and his relics repose in Prague.

The Christmas Carol “Good King Wenceslaus”

 Good King Wenceslaus looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,

When the snow lay round about, Deep and crisp and even;

Brightly shone the moon that night, Tho’ the frost was cruel,

When a poor man came in sight, Gath’ring winter fuel.

 

 “Hither, page, and stand by me, If thou know’st it, telling,

Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”

“Sire, he lives a good league hence, Underneath the mountain;

Right against the forest fence, By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

 

“Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, Bring me pine logs hither:

Thou and I will see him dine, When we bear them thither.”

Page and monarch, forth they went, Forth they went together;

Thro’ the rude wind’s wild lament And the bitter weather.

 

“Sire, the night is darker now, And the wind blows stronger;

Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer.”

“Mark my footsteps, good my page;  Tread thou in them boldly:

Thou shalt find the winter’s rage Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

 

In his master’s steps he trod Where the snow lay dinted;

Heat was in the very sod  Which the Saint had printed.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure, Wealth or rank possessing,

Ye who now will bless the poor,Shall yourselves find blessing.

 An Orthodox Hymn of Praise

 The Holy Martyr Wenceslaus, King of the Czechs

From a wicked mother, good fruit was born:

Saint Wenceslaus, who pleased God.

His wicked mother gave him only a body,

But his grandmother-light and faith and hope.

The glorious grandmother, pious Ludmilla,

Nurtured Wenceslaus ‘s soul.

As a white lily, Wenceslaus grew,

And adorned himself with innocence.

As the king reigned, the people rejoiced,

And with their king they honored God.

Yet the adversary of man never sleeps or dozes,

Laying sinful snares for every soul,

And he incited Boleslav against Wenceslaus.

“For what, my brother, do you want my head?”

Wenceslaus asked, but was still beheaded!

But the evildoer did not escape God.

The soul of Saint Wenceslaus went

Before the Most-high God, the Just,

The One he had always adored,

And with Ludmilla, Wenceslaus now prays

For his people, that they be strengthened in faith.

Saint Wenceslaus, beautiful as an angel!





The True Saint Nicholas and Ancient Christian History

19 12 2009

The True Story of Saint Nicholas…

Our Father among the Saints Nicholas the Wonderworker Archbishop of Myra in Lycia

Commemorated December 6/19

Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, and Wonderworker is famed as a great saint pleasing unto God. He was born in the city of Patara in the Lycian region (on the south coast of the Asia Minor peninsula), and was the only son of pious parents Theophanes and Nonna, who had given a vow to dedicate him to God. As the fruition of longtime prayer of his childless parents, the infant Nicholas from the very day of his birth revealed to people the light of his future glory as a wonderworker. His mother, Nonna, after giving birth was immediately healed from illness. The newborn infant while still in the baptismal font stood on his feet three times, without support from anyone, indicating by this to honour the MostHoly Trinity. Saint Nicholas from his infancy began a life of fasting, and on Wednesdays and Fridays he accepted milk from his mother only but once, after the evening prayers of his parents.

From the time of his childhood Nicholas thrived on the study of Divine Scripture; by day he would not leave church, and by night he prayed and read books — fashioning in himself a worthy dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. His uncle, Bishop Nicholas of Patara, rejoiced at the spiritual success and deep piety of his kinsman. He ordained him a reader, and then elevated Nicholas to the dignity of presbyter, making him his assistant and entrusting him to speak instructing the flock. In serving the Lord the youth was fervent of spirit, and in his proficiency with questions of faith he was like an elder / starets, which aroused the wonder and deep respect of believers. Constantly at work and vivacious, being in unceasing prayer, presbyter Nicholas displayed great kind-heartedness towards the flock, and towards those afflicted coming to him for help, and he distributed all his inheritance to the poor. Having learned about the bitter need and poverty of a certain formerly rich inhabitant of his city, Saint Nicholas saved him from great sin. Having three grown daughters, the despairing father considered to give them over to profligacy so as to save them from hunger. The saint, grieving lest the man perish a sinner, by night secretly brought him through the window three sacks with gold and by this saved the family from falling into spiritual destruction. In bestowing charity, Saint Nicholas always strove to do this secretly and conceal his good deeds.

In setting off on pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, the bishop of Patara entrusted the guidance of the flock to Saint Nicholas, who fulfilled this obedience carefully and with love. When the bishop returned, he in turn asked blessing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Along the way the saint predicted the onset of a storm threatening the ship with inundation, since he saw the devil itself having got on ship. At the entreaty of the despairing pilgrims, he calmed by his prayers the waves of the sea. Through his prayer also was restored to health a certain sailor of the ship, who had fallen from the mast and was mortally injured.

Having reached the ancient city of Jerusalem and having come to Golgotha, Saint Nicholas offered up thanksgiving to the Saviour of the race of mankind and he made the rounds of all the holy places, doing poklons and making prayers. By night on Mount Sion the closed doors of the church opened by themselves in front of the arriving great pilgrim. Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, Saint Nicholas decided to withdraw into the wilderness, but he was stopped by a Divine voice, urging him to return to his native country. Having returned to Lycia and yearning for a life of quietude, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery, named Holy Sion. But the Lord again announced another pathway, awaiting him: “Nicholas, this is not the field, on which thou ought to await Mine harvest, but rather turn round and go into the world, and there My Name shalt be glorified in thee”. In the vision the Lord gave him a Gospel of exquisite workmanship, and the MostHoly Mother of God — an omophor.

And actually, upon the death of archbishop John, he was chosen bishop of Lycian Myra — after one of the bishops of the Council gave a decisive reply on the question of choice of a new archbishop — the choice of God as directed him in a vision — Saint Nicholas. Summoned to the flock of the Church in the dignity of archbishop, Sainted Nicholas remained a great ascetic, appearing to his flock as an image of gentleness, kindness and love towards people. This was particularly precious for the Lycian Church during the time of persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Bishop Nicholas, locked up in prison together with other Christians, sustained them and exhorted them to bravely endure the fetters, punishment and torture. He himself the lord preserved unharmed. Upon the accession to rule of the holy equal-to-the-apostles Constantine, Saint Nicholas was restored to his flock, which joyfully received back their guide and intercessor.

Despite his great gentleness of spirit and purity of heart, Saint Nicholas was a zealous and ardent warrior of the Church of Christ. Fighting evil spirits, the saint made the rounds of the pagan temples and shrines in the city of Myra and its surroundings, shattering the idols and turning the temples to dust.

In the year 325 Saint Nicholas was a participant in the I OEcumenical Council (Sobor). This Council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of faith, and he stood up with the likes of saints Sylvester the pope of Rome, Alexander of Alexandria, Spyridon of Trimiphuntum and others of the 318 fathers of the Council against the heretic Arius.

Saint Nicholas, in the heat of denunciation and fired up with zeal for the Lord, even gave the false-teacher a good drubbing on the ears, for which he was deprived of his bishop’s omophor and put under guard. But several of the holy fathers shared a vision revealing that the Lord Himself and the Mother of God had made the saint to be bishop, bestowing upon him the Gospel and omophorion. The fathers of the Council, having concurred, that the audacity of the saint was pleasing to god, gave glory to the Lord and restored His holy saint to the dignity of bishop.

Having returned to his own diocese, the saint brought it peace and blessings, sowing the word of Truth, nipping in the bud defective and spurious claims of wisdom, uprooting heresy and healing the fallen and those led astray through ignorance. He was indeed a light in the world and the salt of the earth, wherein his life did shine and his word was mixed with the salt of wisdom.

Even during his life the saint worked many miracles. Of them the one accorded the greatest fame was the deliverance from death by the saint of three men, unjustly condemned by a greedy city-commander. The saint boldly went up to the executioner and took hold of his sword, already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The city-commander, denounced by Saint Nicholas in wrong-doing, repented himself and begged for forgiveness. During this time there were present three military officers, dispatched by the emperor Constantine to Phrygia. They did not suspect that they soon likewise would be compelled to seek the intercession of Saint Nicholas: it so happened that they had been vilely slandered before the emperor and were come under a sentence of death. Appearing in sleep to the holy equal-to-the-apostles Constantine, Saint Nicholas called on him to dismiss the wrongful death-sentence of the military officers who, now in prison, prayerfully called out for help to the saint. He worked many other miracles, and asceticised many long years at his labour. Through the prayers of the saint, the city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine. Having appeared in sleep to a certain Italian merchant and having left him as a pledge of payment three gold money-pieces, which the merchant found in his hand upon wakening in the morning, he requested him to sail to Myra and furnish grain there. More than once did the saint save those drowning in the sea, and provide release from captivity and imprisonment.

Having reached old age, Saint Nicholas expired peacefully to the Lord (+ 345-351). His venerable relics were preserved undecayed in the local cathedral church and flowed with curative myrh, from which many received healing. In the year 1087 his relics were transferred to the Italian city of Bari, where they rest even now (about the Transfer of Relics see under 9 May).

The name of the great saint of God, the hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas, a speedy helper and suppliant for all hastening to him, is famed in all the ends of the earth, in many lands and among many peoples. In Russia there are a multitude of cathedrals, monasteries and churches consecrated in his name. There is not, probably, a single city without a Nikol’sk temple.

In the name of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker — the first Russian Christian prince Askol’d (+ 882) was baptised in 866 by Patriarch Photios. Over the grave of Askol’d, the holy equal-to-the-apostles Ol’ga (Comm. 11 July) erected the first temple of Sainted Nicholas in the Russian Church at Kiev. Primary cathedrals were dedicated to Saint Nicholas at Izborsk, Ostrov, Mozhaisk, and Zaraisk. At Novgorod the Great one of the main churches of the city — the Nikolo-Dvorischensk church, later became a cathedral. Famed and venerable Nikol’sk churches and monasteries are at Kiev, Smolensk, Pskov, Toropetsa, Galich, Archangelsk, Great Ustiug, Tobol’sk. Moscow was famed by several tens of churches consecrated to the saint, and three Nikol’sk monasteries were situated in the Moscow diocese: the Nikolo-Greek (Staryi) — in the Chinese-quarter, the Nikolo-Perervinsk and the Nikolo-Ugreshsk. One of the chief towers of the Kremlin was named the Nikol’sk. Part of all the churches devoted to the saint were those established at market-squares by Russian merchants, sea-farers and land-goers, venerating the wonderworker Nicholas as a protector of all those journeying on dry land and sea. They sometimes received the name among the people of “Nicholas soaked”. Many village churches in Russia were dedicated to the wonderworker Nicholas, reverently venerated by peasants as a merciful intercessor before the Lord for all the people in their work. And in the Russian land Saint Nicholas did not leave off with his intercession. Ancient Kiev preserves the memory about the miraculous rescue of a drowning infant by the saint. The great wonderworker, hearing the grief-filled prayers of the parents in the loss of their only child, by night snatched up the infant from the waters, revived him and placed him in the choir-loft of Saint Sophia church in front of his wonderworking image. And here in the morning the infant was found safe by his thrilled parents, praising with a multitude of the people Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.

Many wonderworking icons of Saint Nicholas appeared in Russia and came also from other lands. There is the ancient byzantine embroidered image of the saint (XII), brought to Moscow from Novgorod, and the large icon written in the XIII Century by a Novgorod master. Two depictions of the wonderworker are especially distributed in the Russian Church: Sainted Nicholas of Zaraisk — in full-length, with blessing right hand and with Gospel (this image was brought to Ryazan in 1225 by the byzantine princess Eupraxia, future spouse of Ryazan prince Theodore, and perishing in 1237 with her husband and infant-son during the incursion of Batu); and Sainted Nicholas of Mozhaisk — also in full stature, with a sword in his right hand and a city in his left — in memory of the miraculous rescue, through the prayers of the saint, of the city of Mozhaisk from an invasion of enemies. It is impossible to list all the graced icons of Saint Nicholas. Every Russian city and every church was blessed by suchlike icons through the prayers of the saint.

Eastern Christian Orthodox Hymn – Troparion    Tone 4

The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith,/ a model of meekness, and a teacher of temperance./ Therefore thou hast won the heights by humility,/ riches by poverty./ Holy Father Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

Eastern Christian Orthodox Hymn – Kontakion    Tone 3

Thou wast a faithful minister of God in Myra,/ O Saint Nicholas./ For having fulfilled the Gospel of Christ,/ thou didst die for the people and save the innocent./ Therefore thou wast sanctified as a great initiator of the grace of God.





Christmas Letter 2009

17 12 2009
Natvity Scene
Eastern Christian Orthodox Nativity Icon

For Unto Us a Child is Born… Unto Us a Son is Given!

 “Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world as the light of wisdom. For by it those who worshipped the starts were taught by a star to worship Thee the Son of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Wisdom from on high.” (Nativity Troparion) 

“The Virgin today gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. Angels and shepherds glorify Him, and wise men journey with a star. For a young Child is born for us, Who is the eternal God.” (Nativity Kontakion) 

The above are Eastern Christian Orthodox Hymns on the Celebration of the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Dear Family & Friends, 

 I can not believe how quickly Christmas is approaching and another year is coming quickly to an end. As usual, I can honestly say my life is not dull and I have had another “interesting” year. I have kept quite busy more than the past several years. I have had my share of trials, and yet many of my friends and family have had suffered far greater than I. Again, I have so much to be thankful to God for. As I reflect back on this past year I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and that He ALWAYS answers prayer. I know God is faithful and is truly Emmanuel, “God is with us”. He has truly been with me even in my stumbling, my falling, my stubbornness, my foolish pride, in spite of it all… He is still with me. I can look back and see His hand guiding me, supporting me and comforting me even in my darkest days. 

It has been 7 years since I left the Pregnancy Center and I am still officially considered “disabled” and unable to work a “regular” part-time job. Still in spite of the day to day changes and all the unplanned ups and downs. God is still teaching me to make the most of each day that He has given and just because I may not be “doing anything” I can still pray and worship my Creator. 

I had my third year anniversary with Petco as a Dog Trainer this past October. I am the only Dog Trainer at our Petco facility and I can honestly say I get to go to work and play with dogs and meet all kinds of new people! I am also still plugging away at my other business of building websites and doing the occasional business consulting or some other odd job. I still continue to housesit (rather check in on and take care of) Jan’s 4 Cockatiel birds and take care of plants, yard, pool, and anything else while her and her husband travel off and on throughout the year. 

Sometime in late January or February (I can’t remember) I fell out of a tree while trimming some errant dead branches. So I began another round of Physical Therapy and although I have two bulging discs one of which was torn, after going through Physical Therapy, my back is in better shape than it has been in years. 

In March, the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation authorized retraining and education for me to attend the Animal Behavior College to become a Professional Dog Trainer (technically that is what I am at Petco) but this will in the future open doors of opportunity for having either potential growth via Petco or branch out on my own a bit more. I finished the online and book learning in August and began my externship with a Dog Training Mentor in September. I finished phase one of three before the rains and the weather permitted anymore. I hope to finish the last two phases early spring. I also hope to begin my volunteer requirements with the Shasta County Animal Control after the first of the year. When my externship and volunteer phases are completed, I will then take my final exam. I hope to continue with my dog training education in working with Shelter dogs and rehabilitating problem behavior dogs and dogs who have aggression issues. 

During the Spring/Summer of this past year I taught Agility classes for the Nor Cal Dog Training Club and had a great time. Also with the Nor Cal Dog Club and through my own dog training business, me and a few friends of mine did some demonstrations at some local elementary schools in April and June. We did Obedience, Agility, Flyball and Tracking demos. It was lots of fun for the dogs, the kids and us! 

I have also been busy doing demos or having informational booths at various “animal/dog” events in and around my community. 

In April, I had an info booth and offered the AKC Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) testing for the annual “Love Your Pet Expo” a benefit for local animal rescue groups. My Shetland Sheepdog, Dani Joy, did some Agility and Flyball demos at this event and had a great time. 

In May, I participated in the Haven Humane Society’s Dog-a-thon. 

In August, I did some demos with 2 other dog trainers in the area at the Open House for the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Manton (near Shingletown east of Redding). Unfortunately, Dani Joy ended up with a foxtail embedded in her chest wall and had to have surgery as it was headed to the heart/lung cavity. Thankfully, she is doing great now. Also in August, I had an informational booth with Petco at a fundraising event called “Woofstock” a benefit for a local animal rescue group. 

In September, I coordinated a demo event for the Nor Cal Dog Training Club at the annual Honey Bee Festival in Palo Cedro where we did Agility, Rally Obedience, and Flyball demonstrations. My two Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties) Patrick Ryan and Dani Joy showed off their stuff in Flyball and Dani Joy got her picture in the Palo Cedro newspaper. My Italian Greyhound Skippy did some beginning Agility at the demo as well. Also in September, I went to the 2nd Annual Chico Canine Carnival, a benefit for Animal rescues in Butte County. I offered the AKC CGC testing and my dogs did Flyball demos. I was supposed to do some Flyball demos and some more AKC CGC testing for the Siskiyou Paws for Walk fundraising event that same month, but ended up coming down sick. 

In October, I coordinated a dog-sport community event in Anderson called “Pawsibilities Unleashed” where we had numerous dog trainers, dog sporting activities and animal rescue groups putting on demonstrations, offering information and encouraging responsible dog ownership. 

After that event ended, I resigned from the Nor Cal Dog Club. I am now also an inactive member with my flyball team the Gold Coast Flyers. 

I am very focused on working at Petco, getting my education and certifications needed for being a dog trainer. 

Still on the subject of dogs… over Memorial Day Weekend I traveled down to my dad’s home in El Dorado, CA and went to the “Hangtown Kennel Club’s Dog Show” where I had Patrick Ryan entered for 3 days in competition Rally Obedience (Rally “O” for short). He came home with 2 qualifying scores. He needed 3 to get a Rally Novice title, unfortunately, his owner (me) messed up – always “handler error” – and it was his best performance of the weekend and my dad and step-mom, Marti were there to cheer me on and take pictures. 

In the second week of June, I went to a four day dog show in Gridley, CA and entered both Dani Joy and Patrick Ryan in Rally “O”. Dani Joy got her title in Rally Novice on the fourth day. Patrick Ryan got his Rally Novice on the first day, and 2 qualifying scores on the 2nd and 3rd day, in Rally Advance, however, like the last show, Patrick did a “star” performance but once again – handler error! So we need another show to get his title in Rally Advanced. I was still so very proud of them! 

Skippy got his AKC Canine Good Citizenship while we were at the Chico Canine Carnival in September, which is his first step in any kind of event. I hope next year to enter him into Rally “O” and by the way, he is finally house-trained! Skippy will be 4 years old in March. He still has some behavioral issues to work through like “resource guarding” he thinks EVERYTHING belongs to him, the living room, Dee, the cats, the toys, the yard, etc. 

Patrick just turned 10 years old this past week. He is showing more of his age and he is losing a bit of his hearing. But he is still as smart as a whip. He is now learning new tricks and I am thinking of taking up the sport of Canine Freestyle (a.k.a. doggie dancing). 

Dani Joy will turn 7 years old in January and is still the live wire as ever. Although she has mellowed just a touch enough to focus more on commands and do her Rally “O” and a few tricks too! 

Dee still has her 2 beautiful Havana Brown Cats, Alexandria Rose, better known as “Buppie,” and Misty Rose. They will both be 5 years after the first of the New Year. They still play and chase each other around the house like a couple of kittens. Shawn who was a rescue kitten grew into one big BOY and was terrorizing the other two so he was placed into another home. 

Our newest addition arrived at our home Wednesday afternoon, December 9th, via an animal rescue group from the Burney/Fall River Mills area. They brought to our home a 10 month old male pup named “Bingo” who is ¾ Australian Kelpie and ¼ Queensland Heeler. He is a FOSTER dog that I am helping to rehabilitate so he goes with me to Petco and helps me teach my dog classes. He came from an elderly man who had beaten the dog and threw him outside in 6 below zero weather.  He had no fenced in yard in the mountains and the dog was often found running along the side of the roads and freeway. He was terribly mistreated and the rescue group had been trying to get the man to surrender the dog to them for quite some time. The rescue group paid to have him neutered in November and he got at least a Rabies shot, but hadn’t had any other vaccinations. He was starving for love and attention and terribly neglected. He is very smart and learns commands very quickly. 

It is a delight to work with such a sweet dog. It is also sad to see him belly crawl and cringe and the slightest movement that reminds him of his mistreatment. He had never been on a leash, been in a crate and stayed outside most of the time. He is now wearing a harness and is walking on a leash beautifully, is crate trained, knows several basic commands and gets along with all the other animals except Skippy and Buppie, who don’t like him, but Bingo is smart enough to stay out of their way. 

I will keep working with him at least through January and see him through his second set of vaccinations and get him ready for adoption, with nice manners when he is ready to be placed again. We have since renamed him, “Christmas Beau Ty,” and call him “Beau Ty.” It seems to fit him perfectly. There are many offers for a home for him coming in when I am at work. 

My private dog training business has been primarily focused on private lessons with one-on-one training with the dog and the dog owner. It has been challenging and very rewarding. I created a new website just for my dog training business it is www.k9keltsdogtraining.com 

I have had only one new website job which was a barter/trade deal for some furniture. So I now have a new sofa, loveseat, 6 foot bookcase, and a futon that folds out to a double-bed. Their website is www.salesdirectsofamattress.com 

If you are looking for some unique gifts for friends or family or for yourself… check out my website at www.kieranna.com and look under web design and/or web portfolio and take a look at some of the sites I’ve built. I am always looking for new websites to build. 

My roommate, Dee, continues to be completely disabled due to her back injury and constant Fibromyalgia pain. However, she has over 20 penpals that she corresponds with on a regular basis including a couple of ladies in prison. Her youngest son Joey got married this past year and lives in Colorado. Her oldest son, David and his wife Crystal, were recently medically discharged from the Army and have moved to Red Bluff, just 15 minutes south of us. So Dee is pleased to have at least one son close to home and his 4 boys live in Redding with their mom. Her middle son, Tim, is still not in any contact with her and she rarely gets pictures or notes from his ex-wife about the other 2 grandchildren. It breaks her heart, so please pray for that situation. 

I know longer attend St. Andrew’s Serbian Orthodox Church, but I occasionally attend St. Nicholas Orthodox Church of America. I am trying to become more of a regular attendee, however, I often work nights and find it very hard to get up in the morning… (I never was a morning person anyway and now it is more difficult). 

In June & July my sister traveled to Ireland and then to Israel for research work for Westmont College where she is a Professor of Communications Studies. 

My Dad is still the Pastor of El Dorado Community Church and Marti, my step-mom still runs their bookstore, in El Dorado “Books-n-Bears”. 

In August, my family (Dad, Marti, Deb & Keith) and I (and 3 Shelties, mine and my sister’s) went on our annual family vacation but this time it was in some connected cabins along the Russian River. We had lots of fun canoeing, fishing, playing games and walking along the beach and visiting the little tourist shops around the area. 

My youngest brother Matthew Jason Dunn is a singer/songwriter/dancer and is loving his life! He recently moved to a beautiful new home in Aptos, CA. 

During the last part of October I came down with a stomach/intestinal virus and so did Dee. It was awful, but nothing like when I came down with the Swine Flu over Thanksgiving weekend. As it went through its course, I then came down with a secondary respiratory infection a mild case of pneumonia. So I was off work for 8 scheduled days… so my dog training schedule went haywire… but I am back at work and things are getting back on schedule. 

I have entered another technological phase of our world of text messaging and social networking. So I am on FaceBook, MySpace, ZooToo, LinkedIn, Classmates.com, and a few others that I don’t remember. So if that is your thing look me up. 

My life is interesting, changing and I am changing and growing. I am still gradually gaining some of my health and hope to continue getting well. I am also constantly reminded the reality of life is about getting old and our journey towards eternity; this is earth and not heaven. What really matters is how we lived in light of eternity and our relationship with others and with God. The Three Maji

I pray that this year will be one of renewed hope and commitment in your own journey towards eternity and walking with God.

Thank you for being in my life, for being who you are, for being a blessing, for praying for me, and the privilege of me praying for you. 

Much love, hugs and prayers for you and your family.

God’s Blessings to All of You this Christmas 2009

By God’s Mercy & Grace – Kieranna Kathleen








%d bloggers like this: