Quick Trip

My youngest son is working as camp counselor in upstate New York, and needed some things he’d forgotten at home. Our parish also had some items for Holy Trinity Monastery, in Jordanville, New York, so I decided to make a quick overnight trip and bring everyone everything.

The monastery has a seminary and a cemetery. In the Orthodox Church one should be married or a monk to be ordained. When my brother started seminary, he invited me to a conference. That’s where I met my husband. George became a married priest. Joseph eventually became a monk.

My brother is buried behind the church, in front of the cemetery, right in the middle of everything. I visited his grave and those of some of the monks and bishops who are dear to us. Then I went up to the cemetery on the hill where our godfather and more friends are buried.

Photo credit: Chad Husby via Remodel Blog / CC BY-SA
Photo: Chad Husby via Remodel Blog / CC BY-SA

The sky was blue, the weather gentle, and it was good to spend time remembering. A well tended grave is an act of love. It gives us a focal point for grief. And when we have adjusted to a loss as one learns to live without a limb, a hand, then the pleasure of wisdom passed on and time spent together has the potential to eclipse grief. Not always. Just as, with a regular eclipse of the moon, sometimes it’s too cloudy for us to see, sometimes we are too cloudy.

But I grew up near the sea, at low elevation, and I tend to concern myself with the diurnal and the pragmatic. So to be in the Adirondacks driving past cliffs of rocks, soaring trees, and looking down on sweeping verdant plains is a vacation for the heart, a rest from the mundane. Love does not die. And so it is a comfort to walk from place to place where people you love are safely stashed.

So much of our treasure is already laid up in Heaven.

Top photo credit: Chad Husby via Source / CC BY-NC-ND

Sermon, Orthodox Easter

Among Protestant ministers, one of the hardest tasks of the year is writing the Easter homily. The Orthodox Church solves this problem by allowing only one, the same each year. It’s so good and so timeless that you can listen to it every year and learn something new. It’s just the right length, so that a busy priest, who has been in church for several long services every day for most of Holy Week is not forced to come up with something novel or brilliant to win the hearts of those who do not always come to church.

It is not “timely” or “topical” or about “hot issues of the day,” but rather about the nature of God, man, resurrection, mercy, and love.

It covers everything.

Here is that sermon.

Source: http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/sermon.htm

This sermon is read at the Paschal Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of the Resurrection. It was written circa 400 AD by St John Chrysostomos

If any be a devout lover of God,
let him partake with gladness from this fair and radiant feast.
If any be a faithful servant,
let him enter rejoicing into the joy of his Lord.
If any have wearied himself with fasting,
let him now enjoy his reward.
If any have laboured from the first hour,
let him receive today his rightful due.
If any have come after the third,
let him celebrate the feast with thankfulness.
If any have come after the sixth,
let him not be in doubt, for he will suffer no loss.
If any have delayed until the ninth,
let him not hesitate but draw near.
If any have arrived only at the eleventh,
let him not be afraid because he comes so late.

For the Master is generous and accepts the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour
in the same was as him who has laboured from the first.
He accepts the deed, and commends the intention.

Enter then, all of you, into the joy of our Lord.
First and last, receive alike your reward.
Rich and poor, dance together.
You who fasted and you who have not fasted, rejoice together.
The table is fully laden: let all enjoy it.
The calf is fatted: let none go away hungry.

Let none lament his poverty;
for the universal Kingdom is revealed.
Let none bewail his transgressions;
for the light of forgiveness has risen from the tomb.
Let none fear death;
for death of the Saviour has set us free.

He has destroyed death by undergoing death.
He has despoiled hell by descending into hell.
He vexed it even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he cried:
Hell was filled with bitterness when it met Thee face to face below;
filled with bitterness, for it was brought to nothing;
filled with bitterness, for it was mocked;
filled with bitterness, for it was overthrown;
filled with bitterness, for it was put in chains.
Hell received a body, and encountered God. It received earth, and confronted heaven.
O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen! And you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is risen! And the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is risen! And the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen! And life is liberated!
Christ is risen! And the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power, now and forever, and from all ages to all ages.

Pascha Cheese

One of the traditional Russian Easter dishes is “syrnaja pascha,” or “Pascha Cheese.” It is a cheesecake like dish which is molded in a special pyramid shaped mold and which is served on slices of kulich, a rich, eggy sweet bread.

You make the Pascha cheese with the farmer’s cheese whose recipe I posted here earlier.

Here is my favorite recipe for Pascha Cheese.

Matushka Irina’s Russian Pascha Recipe

Young girl holding pascha cheese and eggs
Young girl holding pascha cheese and eggs

5 lbs farmers cheese
7 sticks unsalted butter–softened
8 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
1 pint heavy cream
4 cups of sugar
zest of an orange
11/2 piece of vanilla bean scraped

Put the cheese through a sieve
Add all the ingredients and mix
Put in double boiler and with a wooden spoon mix until it looks like
thin farina. Cook until hot—DO NOT BOIL. It will be quite liquid.

Put the pot in the sink and surround with ice. Let cool and mix occasionally. It will firm up.

Wet cheesecloth (or cloth). Put it in your mold. Fill with pascha.
Cover the top of the mold with more cheesecloth.

Now, here opinion divides. The person who gave me the recipe doesn’t use a weight on hers; I put a can of beans on top of mine to hasten the draining process. I guess it’s your choice here. Leave this in the fridge until it firms up.

If you don’t have a pascha mold, a clay pot makes a decent substitute. Because it is, to some degree, cooked, this recipe stays fresh longer than other pascha recipes I’ve tried.

This is what it looks like when it’s in the refrigerator waiting to be opened and served:

Pascha cheese in the refrigerator under weights.
Pascha cheese in the refrigerator under weights.

And this is what the serving dish looks like after people have had some:

Pascha, after.
Pascha, after.

Farmer’s Cheese

This year, Orthodox Easter, or Pascha, will fall on May 1. One of the dishes we traditionally make is called syrnaja pascha, “pascha cheese.” It is a cheese-cake like food that we mold into a pyramid and eat slathered onto a sweet bread called kulich.

One of the ingredients for pascha cheese is farmer’s cheese. Apparently there are two kinds of farmer’s cheese. One is a hard product that you can chop up and put in salad. It’s closely akin to paneer and does not lend itself well to blending or molding. The other is the kind that they sell in Russian stores. We could not find it in the part of Houston where we lived for eleven years, so the ladies at church taught me how to make my own.

Farmer’s Cheese

Scald one gallon milk.

Remove from burner and add one quart buttermilk (from the nuns, I learned to pour things in the sign of the Cross. Since you’re not supposed to stir this, it makes even more sense here.)

Cover with a towel and place out of breezes for a day and a night and a day.

At the end of the second night, place it in the oven on “warm.”

In the morning you will see a mountain of curds in a sea of whey (unless it doesn’t work. Some years it doesn’t work, and California milk needs to be treated differently for reasons I do not understand).

Strain the curds into a very clean pillow case or tee shirt — cheese cloth has too wide a weave for this.

Refrigerate in a closed container until you are ready to use.

One gallon of milk plus one quart of buttermilk makes approximately two and a half pounds of Farmer’s Cheese.

Does it save money? Yes! Locally, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Farmer’s cheese runs from $3.99 to $7.99 per pound. I can make ten pounds of cheese for about ten dollars.

Photo: Curds sans whey

Loneliness in Modern Life: What to Do?

Recent conversations have led me to think more than usual about loneliness in modern life. I often speak of clergy life as being all of us fighting the same battle, from different foxholes. But loneliness is a factor, a reality, and I think it’s worse for the laity. The closer one stands to the altar, the more one gets that “Christ is in our midst” is not a mindless greeting but the statement of a profound reality. When one lives far from church, both physically and metaphorically, it becomes harder to keep this in mind. What to do?

Read my full article on pravmir.com.