I’ve nearly begun to think that my personal liturgical calendar is trying to tell me that I have somehow reverted to the Julian Calendar (pre-16th century—and utilized by many of the Eastern Orthodox Churches) and which presently lags 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar with which most of the world operates. I do not pretend to understand the mathematical and astronomical configurations which must be considered with any effort of measuring time. I only know that more often than I like to admit, I often seem to lag behind the rest of my personal world, whether family, world, or church. It is most likely a lack of discipline, structure, and order on my part (mea culpa), but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! As a result, in whichever season you find yourselves, know that my thoughts and prayers for all do not appear to be constrained by such varied configurations!

Nonetheless, I did note that when it began snowing on the 24th of December, and over the next several days, piled up to close to 18” on my deck, I was amused to look out the window and see a visitor, who introduced himself (so-to-speak) as “Vladimir, a Siberian Orthodox monk” who came to share my wintry world. Garbed in a heavy white robe, both his eyes and beard were visible, and I was grateful to notice his kindness and wisdom in wearing a COVID mask. A couple of days later after a night when the temperature plunged to 6oF, I saw that Vladimir had wrapped himself in an additional 8” of whiteness . . . perhaps even a Siberian monk found things a bit chilly at the DeepLight Anchorhold this year!

A few nights later, the temperature soared to 42o and with the help of some gentle rain, Vladimir departed, leaving behind his supporting limbs of a Douglas fir tree I had raised on Camano Island and brought with me to Bellingham 19 years ago. With the forecast predicting another snow storm of possibly 5” to 8” tomorrow, we shall see if Vladimir returns to celebrate Epiphany with me. Oh, my goodness, the Gregorian liturgical calendar still seems to be lurking somewhere in my bones!

When I posted the photo of Vladimir (along with my description of him) on our neighborhood Facebook page, I found the comments of several others to be a bit startling, to say the least. My search through Wikipedia discovered that upon viewing my photo, their response was virtually the polar opposite (no pun intended) of my own: I had seen the benevolent image of a holy monk, or at the minimum, of a unique snowman! My readers, without exception referred to film characters such as Disney Studio’s Nightmare before Christmas in which the primary character Oogie Boogie Creepy is described as “frightening, dark and scary”; Slenderman, a supernatural horror film in which the title character is featured as “stalking, abducting or traumatizing people, particularly children”; and lastly the ice monster in Disney’s Frozen movie.

In this difficult year we have all been through, as we see 800,000+ Americans die of COVID; as we see our democratic republic tremble on the brink of chaos and dissolution; as we see both the young and the aged struggling for adequate basic resources, education, housing and medical care; and as we see our friends and families stressed to the breaking point by illnesses, financial challenges, and sheer weariness—is it then any wonder that the people despair, and cry out for relief from any source, be it rulers, magicians, or glamorous fairy-tales?

These reflections are perhaps no more than examples of how we each view things, events, and people based upon our own unique views of reality. But my sense is that it can also be seen as a parable of sorts related to our world in 2020, 2021, and now 2022. Do we encounter the “different and strange” as something or someone to be feared, persecuted, and overcome? Or, can we see the possibilities of goodness, truth, and beauty, when we encounter the “different and strange”, whether that be of people and races; ideas and politics; religions and philosophies? I pray that one day we all might learn to see with eyes of compassion and love for all of God’s creation He calls “Good.”

I cannot help be reminded of several stanzas of the Lament I crafted over a year ago. This Lament has formed the root of my prayer for the last 18 months:

Now the seas rise up in great waves; *
orchards die from thirst, and forests burn to ash.
Ahhhh….say the Wise: “All created things have their season.”

We have plundered the earth of her riches, *
crafting idols by the might of our minds.    
Ahhhh….says the Lord, “Have no other gods before me.”

The homeless, hungry, and suffering, fill our streets; *
We fear the stranger, and cast out the different.
Ahhhh…..says the Lamb, “As you do to the least of these, you do to Me.”

Violence stalks our villages, slaughtering even our children; *
rulers scorn our laws and steal the hearts of our people.
Ahhhh…..says the Lord God, “Seek the light and peace of My presence.”

And even more has my soul found strength and peace in the prayer from Psalm 51:9…
“O Lord, in your great mercy, make me hear of joy and gladness, * that the body you have broken may rejoice.”

That psalm is always chanted in the Ash Wednesday liturgy, and the last time I heard it was on that day in 2020. God willing, and health issues and COVID surges permitting, perhaps I can return to corporate worship on Ash Wednesday, 2022. In the meantime, on June 1st, I was blessed to welcome two dear friends to the Anchorhold to join in a Vespers/Eucharist celebration of the 40th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.

And now in a few hours we come to the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” . . . When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-11)

May we all in the coming year hear the sound of joy and gladness, as we join the wise men in their rejoicing, and in offering our humble gifts to the Holy Child, born of a woman, Son of God, Prince of Peace, now and forever, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Diocese of Olympia

“Let us stretch our mind up towards heaven, from which we have received a Savior, Christ the Lord. Today the abyss of inaccessible light, today the boundless outpouring of divine radiance shines on the Apostles on Mount Thabor. Today Jesus Christ—a reality and a name that is dear to me, truly the sweetest and most attractive of names, exceeding all notions of sweetness—is recognized as Lord of the Old and New Testament.” (St John of Damascus, Oration on the Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ)

Mark 9:2-8And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Eli′jah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Master,[a] it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli′jah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son;[b] listen to him.” And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only.

Feast of the Visitation, June 1, 2021, DeepLight Anchorhold

Forty years ago, in 1981, the Feast of the Visitation – traditionally celebrated on May 31st – fell on a Sunday, and was transferred to June 1st. This feast is, of course, the remembrance of when Mary, the mother of Jesus, visited her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, to share their mutual joy at their miraculous states of pregnancy. This day is also a time of celebration for me personally as it is my 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood. Two dear friends joined me in the Anchorhold to mark this anniversary. As is my custom, Vespers and Eucharist were combined, and our prayers of intercession included the Trisagion, the Jesus Prayer, and the Song of the Most Holy Theotokos, as well as the Lament in a Season of Coronavirus.

I ask your prayers that I may be given the grace to continue faithfully in my vocation as Priest and Anchorite.

Susan Creighton+

Holy Saturday, 2021

Earth spins on her axis;
Galaxies sing, spiraling in deep space;
                                   In Holy Silence, we wait.

In the beginning was the Word:
The Light shines in the Darkness;
                                     In Holy Silence, we wait.

The Darkness has not overcome the Light.
Death has not overcome Life.
                                      In Holy Silence, we wait.

May it be so.


NASA: Chandra X-ray Observatory: Galactic Sonification

Whitby Abbey, 1979

When the Whole Creation groans in travail . . .

O Lord, in the agony of our affliction, how shall we live? *
     We long for the melons, leeks, and riches we once knew.
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in this world become alien to all?

The streets empty and silent; children and laborers sent home; *
     We hide from the wrath of the virus.
Ahhhh….says the Earth: “Be still: hear God’s Voice in the silence.”

Now young and old lay dying, *
     lungs gasping for life-giving breath.
Ahhhh….say the Birds: “The skies are blue, and we will sing.”

Now the seas rise up in great waves; *
     orchards die from thirst, and forests burn to ash.
Ahhhh….say the Wise: “All created things have their season.”

We have plundered the earth of her riches, *
     crafting idols by the might of our minds.
Ahhhh….says the Lord, “Have no other gods before me.”

The homeless, hungry, and suffering, fill our streets; *
     We fear the stranger, and cast out the different.
Ahhhh…..says the Lamb, “As you do to the least of these, you do to Me.”

Violence stalks our villages, slaughtering even our children; *
     rulers scorn our laws and steal the hearts of our people.
Ahhhh…..says the Lord God, “Seek the light and peace of My presence.”

Fragments of memory slip away from beloved elders, *
     as historical monuments fall, giving birth to a cultural dementia.
Ahhhh….says our Master, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

How shall we teach our unborn children of God’s holy mysteries, *
     when we have forgotten the stories of faith?
Ahhhh….says the Spirit, “Baptize them, anoint them, break bread together.”

But how can we baptize, bless, anoint, and comfort, *
     when we cannot touch flesh made in God’s Image?
Ahhhh….says Thomas, “Do not cling; trust my vision of the Risen Lord.”

The temples deserted, all rites suspended; *
     How shall we pray? How can Mother Church survive?
Ahhhh….says Christ Jesus, “My Holy Dwelling is within your own heart.”

O Lord, in your great mercy *
     lead us to the path of repentance,
     and be gracious unto our sins.
O Lord, in your great mercy *
     cleanse us of all our iniquities
     and purify our passions.
O Lord, in your great mercy *
     visit and heal our infirmities,
     and transfigure our souls by Your Love.

. . . that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ our Lord.
(Romans 8: 22…38)

The Rev. Susan Creighton, Anchorite
Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Theotokos, 2020

(I preached this sermon on June 1st, 1982, the first anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. The Rev. Susan Creighton+)

Mosaic from the Clyde Adoration Chapel of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, MO

My Dear Cousin:

I dictate this letter with faltering voice and with a great sense of weariness, for the years have multiplied upon my head. I am so old now that I’ve forgotten just how many years there have been. But I’m not so old that I’ve forgotten everything. In fact, it seems the events of long ago happened only yesterday, and now as the dusk of my life draws to a close, and the soft darkness of death approaches, I feel moved to share some of these memories with you.

For you see, dear cousin, you were really the only one who fully understood; and of course you were the only one who could—for you, too, were a woman, and a mother—and you, too, have borne a son dear to your heart.

That day long ago when you visited me so unexpectedly is as clear in my memory as the summer sun. Then, as now, we lived high in the hills of Judea, and the air was clear and sharp, yet heavy with the expectation of the late rains and of the harvest soon to be gathered in. It had been a long, cold spring for me, and I had felt all the aches of the ancient in my heavy body; even then, my years were many. And then there was this added burden—so welcome but still so heavy.

My belly grew and my legs ached with the weight of it, and I wondered as my time grew near whether or not my strength would fail me.

My body had never learned in its youth how to be a mother, and these lessons come late were taxing to body and soul. I found a loneliness in it, for my beloved husband was enveloped in a great silence that even my love could not seem to penetrate. He had been like this ever since his last turn of service at the temple in Jerusalem: utterly unable to speak, and with the light in his eyes turned inward as if he gazed upon a sight beyond human vision. I know now that his silence came from God, but then it was a hard thing to know, and I longed so for just a word from him—just a word to tell me that he shared both my pain and my joy. But his silence became my silence, and together we waited.

In all those silent months, I had long hours to pray and think, for my old body refused to labor in other ways. It, too, had turned inward, and all my energies seemed to pour into this new life within me, and to leave little over for outward concerns. And as I waited and prayed, and grew heavier and heavier, I remembered: I remembered Sarah as she must have been: like me, both joyous and frightened with the advent of a pregnancy so ardently longed for. I remembered her faithfulness, her willingness to follow Abraham to new lands, to uncertain futures, to the eternal seeking of what must have seemed an illusory promise. Sarah knew; she knew what it was to wait, and pray, and remember. She knew what it was to be a mother, to bear a son, to let him go.

Then there was Rachel: won by Jacob after long years of labor; sharing him with her sister Leah. Rachel, too, must have known long years of silence and grief and prayer. And then at last God “hearkened to her and opened her womb” and she bore her son Joseph. Rachel knew: she knew what it was to wait, and pray, and remember; she knew what it was to journey ever forward and follow a God who demanded all; Rachel knew what it was to give that all as she labored over the birth of her son Benjamin, the son who claimed her life as the price of his own.

And so the long months went on, there on the hills of Judea. The days passed, and I waited, and my belly grew. I found it hard to sleep, and often rose long before the dawn to sit in the soft darkness and watch the light slowly creep over the eastern mountains. Those were the moments when I felt utterly at peace; I knew that my beloved had been faithful to God; I knew that the life within me would not die; I knew that the silence and waiting would come to an end.

Those quiet mornings were precious to me, and I felt my own heart sing as the first sleepy birds began the morning chorus. And singing brought to mind that other old friend from the past: Hannah. Like me, Hannah had been long barren, and sorely tormented by her affliction. She, too, had known the scorn of others as the years rolled past. She, too, waited and prayed most fervently, and the Lord heard her prayer and had pity upon her. In due time Hannah conceived, and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.” Hannah knew what it was to bear a son, and to let him go—to lend him to the Lord’s service; and she knew how to rejoice in her blessing: “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee; there is no rock like our God . . . He raised up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.”

Hannah knew how to wait, and pray. Hannah knew how to sing.

And so, dear cousin, the months passed. And that clear spring day dawned, and the birds sang, and I went about the chores of my silent house, waiting, ever waiting.

Then you came. You entered my house and greeted my beloved and me, and with the sound of your young, hopeful voice, the child in my own womb leapt for joy.

From the deep pit of silence within me came the cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! . . . And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

And your voice broke into song: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” You sang, O Mary, my cousin, and you brought joy and peace to our silent house. And then you departed upon your own way, already swelling with the child within your own womb, and I waited, larger and heavier, and so near to my own time of delivery.

Yes Mary, we both know what it is to wait, to bear a son, to let him go, to sing.

And in these many years since, we have not ceased learning to wait, to pray, and to sing. Even in those moments of the greatest grief, we have known joy. My own John left us so early; his father’s blessing was upon him, and he went forth to prepare the way of the Lord; he went forth to be the prophet of the Most High . . . It was hard to let him go, and yet we knew we must, for he was ours no longer; the Spirit had claimed him from time before time, from that moment in the temple when my beloved Zechariah was struck dumb.

But it was hard to let him go: Sarah’s son was spared the knife; my son was not.

Yet still we sang: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free.” And you, my dear: you were so very young, yet you bore so very much more. You bore the Son who redeems us all; you bore the pain of scorn and rejection even as he lay in your womb; you bore the abandonment of Golgotha; you bore the incredible news of his resurrection; you bore the sight of his risen body and sore wounds.

You bore all this, my dear Mary, because you are the most favored one: You are she, chosen above all women to be the Mother of God.

You are she, my dear, who has become the mother of us all. Yes, even of me, your old, old cousin. For you are she who has taught us all to wait, to pray, to remember, to sing.

You are she who has taught us to bear forth within our barren bodies the Word of the Lord.

You are she who has taught us to seek the fruit of Christ within the hearts and minds and souls and bodies of all whom we meet.

You are our Mother, calling us forth to give birth to Love.

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

With weary joy, my dear, I remain your affectionate cousin,


Resurrection by Mikhail Nesterov

John 20:1-31

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

(I wrote this 3 years ago….today, even the “Wailing of the Wood” seems to be silenced by our quarantine.)

The Wailing of the Wood
Good Friday, 2017 (reprise: 2020)

Many sunrises ago, my mother seed,
plucked by a hungry dove,
and nourished in its belly,
fell upon rocky soil, was trod
deep by a wandering sheep’s hoof,
then thirstily drank the droplets
from a summer’s rain.

Seasons passed, and many more;
my cells swelled and grew,
ever stretching toward the Light.
Then one late autumn day, sharp steel
axes cut deep into my flesh, and I fell hard
upon the rocks that had been my cradle.

In the dim months of winter, I was carried,
pulled, tugged, and flipped, with steel teeth
cutting deep into my flesh again,
until shaped square and planed smooth.
The spring-time moon shone brightly overhead,
when once again I was hauled about,
cut into two pieces, and sent upon my way.

My longest part reached the Hill first;
then came my shorter portion,
carried upon a poor Man’s bleeding shoulders;
He could barely walk beneath my weight.
My parts were joined, and then His flesh was
laid upon my own, and hammered in.

They lifted us together, and as His sinews were torn
and joints were pulled, my own flesh stretched
to hold him close, secure. A last breath sighed,
“Forgive them all,” and I knew my work was done.
His Mother wept; his friends fled, as all around
the mountains echoed the eternal cry:
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

© 2017 Susan Creighton

Descent of the Holy Spirit


When the Whole Creation groans in travail . . .

During the earliest days of Christianity, when the followers of Jesus the Christ were under nearly constant persecution, the faithful were often unable to gather together to celebrate the mysteries of the Eucharist. Drawing on their inheritance from Jewish Temple and Synagogue, they continued to pray morning and evening, often simply in family groupings or in solitude.

As the worst of the Roman persecutions abated, and Christianity became a legal religion in the empire, regular gatherings in churches were allowed and even encouraged. Yet many souls—both men and women—felt called to a more deliberate and intense discipleship, and retreated to the mountains and deserts to follow Christ through their lives of prayer in silence, solitude, and simplicity. Eventually these hermits and anchorites became so numerous, they began to gather together to share their lives of prayer and service while living communally in monasteries. One of the oldest of these (in continuous existence since the early 4th Century) is the Monastery of St. Catherine, at the base of Mount Sinai in the Egyptian desert. http://www.sinaimonastery.com/index.php/en/history

Throughout the long history of the Earth, humanity (indeed, all of God’s creation) has been threatened in various ways, times, and places by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Famine, War, Pestilence. Our time is no different. The coronavirus, COVID-19, is simply the one we face in 2020. And just as our ancestors down through the ages have done, we will fight these threats with all our medical, technological, and political might.

And we will pray, just as they did—in our churches, synagogues, and temples (when we can), in our homes with our loved ones, in our solitudes (whether by choice, or by circumstance), remembering always the elderly, the homeless, and the dying, and those who care for them.

. . . we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with
sighs too deep for words.

Our prayers will take many forms: the familiar and beloved words of liturgy and hymns, or the simpler prayer of the heart, “Lord, have mercy.”. And perhaps we may find our prayers are “too deep for words” and we fall silent before the immensity of the perils of our time, but even more profoundly, we fall silent before the sure and certain hope that we and the entirety of creation are eternally held in the Heart of God.

. . . For I am sure that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the
love of God in Christ our Lord.
(Romans 8: 22, 26, 38)

During this time of pestilence, and the “physical distancing” it requires, perhaps some of you may wish to explore an ancient and simpler form of daily prayer, which you may find in my BREVIARY of HOLY SILENCE on the page SONGS of the SOUL. I will be posting other relevant material on this page in the near future.

With blessings and prayer for God’s creation and all who dwell therein.
The Rev. Susan Creighton
16 March 2020

Photo by Francois Guillot/AFP

‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’

Monday in Holy Week, April 15, 2019
Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris engulfed by fire

Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house,
that thou hast brought me thus far? . . .
For thou, My God, wilt build a house for him;
thy servant has found courage to pray before thee.

We build our temples of stone and wood,
walls wrapped with precious gold and jewels of glass;
They hold—and hide—our path to God,
and within, nourish our courage to pray.

Do you see these wonderful stones and great buildings?
Not one stone will be left here upon another;
all will be thrown down. Destroy this temple,
and in three days I will raise it up.

When even temple stones are silenced,
God’s Voice sings on within our hearts,
raising within our Soul the Holy Dwelling
of Love that fire and flood can never doom.

(Mary Magdalene)
O, who will roll away the stone barring the tomb?
He is not here; he has risen! Go forth singing,
Allelulia! Christ is Risen!
He is Risen, indeed! Allelulia!

David: 1 Chronicles 17: 16, 25
Jesus: Mark 13:1-2; Mark 14:58
Mary Magdalene: Mark 16:1-7

(c) Susan Creighton 2019

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