Posts Tagged ‘Liturgy’

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.

In medieval times, an anchorite made his or her vows, and was often sealed up inside a small room attached to the side of a church. I have joked that I could not find a church willing to have me! Truth be told, I didn’t look for one. Rather, both my bishop and I knew that my vocation was truly as an anchorite of the whole diocese, and the cloister walls of my anchorhold consisted of the tall firs and cedars surrounding my small house situated in a quiet neighborhood a few miles out of town.

As a priest, my community of peers was that of the clergy, and my bishop asked that I make my vows during the Holy Week liturgy for the reaffirmation of ordination vows, and  the consecration of the Chrism, the oil used in baptism. Drawing on the ancient tradition of monastic vows and the enclosing of anchorites and the blessing of hermits, (see especially The Hermits and Anchorites of England), I wrote my portion of the liturgy, which was then integrated into the larger form. The final combined liturgy may be seen here: Vows of an Anchorite.


Camano DeepLight

Camano DeepLight



How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! *
   My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord;
   my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
      Psalm 84:1


Welcome to my new blog, Holy Dwelling. My intent is to share some resources and reflections about the Soul’s quest to become one with God. In so doing, I will be examining three simple questions:

     Who am I?  (How does ancient Christian anthropology inform our understandings of the human person as body, mind, and soul?)

     Where am I going?  (What does the Orthodox tradition of theosis (or divinization) have to tell us about the ultimate destiny of the Christian?)

     How do I get there?  (How does the ancient tradition of the Prayer of the Heart or Jesus Prayer prepare our body, our mind, and our soul for union with God? And how does the liturgy of the Church, including the sacraments, and even the architecture of the building itself aid in our journey toward union with God?)

Now, because I long ago learned that the mystical journey is more of a spiral than a straight line, these entries will circle around in no particular designated order or structure…and may at times include the spiritual lessons I have learned from my cats and my cows!

I invite your responses as we share a few steps of the journey.

The Rev’d. Susan Creighton

A further word about myself….where I’ve been, how I got here, what feeds my soul:

My ecclesiastical ‘family of origin’ is that of the Episcopal Church (Anglican). She has baptized me, confirmed me, and ordained me a priest. I have served her in a variety of ministries, including within a religious order, as a parish priest, in campus ministry, and as a teacher, retreat leader, and spiritual director.

My liturgical life has been profoundly shaped by the Book of Common Prayer, the monastic tradition of psalms, canticles, prayers and, of course, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

My contemplative prayer life began by sitting in the dark with a candle, an icon, and the cross. Over the years, my soul was nourished by the mystical traditions represented by The Cloud of Unknowing and St. John of the Cross, among others. In the last decade, I have returned to the depth of the mystical traditions, focusing particularly on the (Eastern) Orthodox tradition of the Prayer of the Heart, utilizing the Jesus Prayer, and the ascetical tradition of The Philokalia.

I attempt to keep my theology firmly rooted in the eternal truths as expressed in the creeds and liturgy of the ancient church, but most particularly in the teachings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and in the writings of the Church Fathers, including Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius of Pontus, Hesychios, Maximus the Confessor, Dionysius the Areopagite, and others.

All these have prepared me for the fullest and truest expression of my vocation and life in God as I now live it as an Anchorite, under solemn vows of Silence, Solitude, and Simplicity.

~ ~ ~

A note about the present ‘Anglican chaos’: I am sorely grieved by our schisms, heresies, litigations, and plain bad manners. I am even more grieved by the schisms, heresies, litigations and plain bad manners exhibited in the Body of Christ down through the centuries. However, our Lord has placed me in this particular ‘family of origin’ at a particular time of history, and He has called me to the particular vocation of priest and anchorite. What He has given, He does not take back. Neither my vocation nor my ecclesiastical family are something which I can lay down, or turn my back on. . .they are not mine to reject.

Most probably all the above doesn’t matter a whole lot to the Living God, as made known to us in His Son, Jesus the Christ. Rather, I believe He says to us all: “Do you love me?” By his mercy, may we always answer, “Lord, you know I love you.” And through eternity, he says, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

I can only pray that some of you may find food for your souls within these pages, and that you will discover your own “HOLY DWELLING.”

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