God gave Saint Barbara authority to serve communion.
When I speak these words in the U.S., they are often met with bewilderment and even anger, especially in convert-heavy Orthodox circles. Yet, where I come from, and in many other Slavic Orthodox countries, depicting Saint Barbara with a chalice in her hand is standard, as she is widely known for serving communion. Saint Barbara miraculously appears to women and men, to this day, serving communion to those who are dying or who find themselves in life-threatening situations.
I recently noticed versions of this recipe popping up around Instagram. At first, I couldn’t believe anyone would pickle something so delightful on its own as a strawberry. But I was wrong! The acid in the vinegar makes the acidity of the strawberries pop, and the peppercorns added a welcome hint of spice.
These have become my new favorite lunch topping for an open-face goat cheese sandwich with a sprinkle of thyme. You can put them together in the morning, and they’ll be ready in time for lunch. (It’s also not a bad idea to serve smaller versions of those sandwiches as appetizers for a summer party, perhaps drizzled with a little honey.)
St. Ita was once asked by St. Brendan what were the three things which God most detested. She replied: “A scowling face, obstinacy in wrong-doing, and too great a confidence in the power of money.” St. Brendan then asked her what three things God especially loved. She replied, "True faith in God with a pure heart, a simple life with a religious spirit, and open-handedness inspired by charity."
These are the only recorded words we have from a saint who is often called “The Foster-Mother of the Irish Saints,” and who did indeed foster and raise many children, including St. Brendan, in her convent in Killeedy.
In my New Calendarist tradition, last Wednesday was the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, the 25th day after Pascha and before Pentecost. The Pentecost season lasts six weeks. The first three Sundays celebrate Pascha itself–the Resurrection, the Sunday Of St Thomas who confirmed that Jesus himself was the One who died on the cross and came back to them by asking to touch the wounds; and finally, the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, those courageous women who left home before dawn to tend to Jesus’s body and found an angel who told them the Good News of the Resurrection, and so they were the first to know.
A few months ago, we had a lovely suggestion from a member of our community, Elizabeth Rotoff, who wants to help Orthodox who were either new to fasting or long-time practitioners find healthy ways to work their way through our seasons of restricted eating. Here's a sample of her approach and, if you are interested in learning more, she will be offering a workshop starting this coming Monday. This is an experiment for us--we've never posted a non-Axia offering before as a blog.
As we come to the close of the Paschal season and approach Pentecost, this signals the approach of another fasting period: the Apostles’ Fast.
Periodically, I pick up my copy of the biography of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr, written by Lubov Millar, and re-read certain parts. Photographs, anecdotes from people who knew her, and letters written by Elizabeth all provide a level of detail that is unusual within the genre of Orthodox hagiography. While I love having such an extravagant window into the life of an Orthodox saint, I also have found it interesting that the spiritual process of cultivating communion with a saint, whether modern or ancient, seems to happen apart from the noise of biographical detail.