The Hardest Thing In Life

silhouette of woman facing sunset

There are many difficulties and challenges in life.  Generally speaking, they are usually these:

Financial.  Loss of jobs, debt, etc.

Emotional.  The ups and downs in relationships with family and friends, bullies and adversaries.

Physical.  Illnesses.

Death.  The loss of a loved one.

School.  Working hard to get good grades and finish a degree.

Job.  Stressors in the workplace.

But, for me, none of those temporary hardships and painful experiences is as challenging or as tough as living the Christian life.

It’s a lifestyle that is worked on daily.  One of constant striving to repent, changing my thinking and actions.  It can get very exhausting and frustrating.

Being a Christian, living the life of a Christian, isn’t just believing in God and reading the Bible.  Sure, that’s necessary and included, but it requires more from us.

Cooperating with God’s grace so that we are transformed. 

Image result for public domain pictures of walking path toward the sun

There’s a saying by St. Athanasius that says “God became man so man can become like God” (paraphrased but the gist is correct).

In order to become like God, (called theosis in Greek explained here), there are tools and practices that help us get there.

In the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith, these tools and practices are:

Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, Confession, attending Church services, reading the Bible, books about the Saints, and Other spiritual material, and spiritual mindfulness/warfare.

Image result for public domain pictures of Greek Orthodox Christian Jesus Prayer Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner

All of these practices are like exercises for an athlete training for the Olympics.  With God’s help, we are training our minds, bodies, and souls, in preparation for encountering Him when we depart this life and hopefully enter into His Kingdom.

St. Paul talks about this race we must run until the finish (the end of our earthly lives).  God says that we are saved when we endure until the end.

This transformation of our minds, hearts, and bodies is a life-long journey.

All of this effort is exhausting at times, especially the mental battles via spiritual warfare.  You’re fighting with the enemy’s temptations, and your own ego/pride.

Incidentally, you have to die to live.

We died and rose with Christ in the fount at our baptism.  But being a Christian means I am to do this daily.

We as Christians, are to be continually changing, growing spiritually and holy in Christ God.

This means we are not supposed to be stagnate.

We are not supposed to be the same person we were a year ago, a month ago, a week ago, a day ago.  By our cooperating with God, He is transforming us into holy beings.

Without God, we can do none of this.

In a culture that is all about ME and the EGO, it is a very difficult activity to repent daily and make the effort to cooperate with God’s grace.

It’s much easier to stay the way we are, which isn’t fully human.

Staying as we are is not how God initially made us to be in the beginning before the Fall.

Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, made this transformation of union with God and holiness possible through his incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, reconciling us to God the Father.

Yet, at times, I wonder why I’m doing this because I don’t see my progress. Why am I not changing?  It feels at times like I’m idling, just sitting there in my own sinful mud puddle, flailing about.

feeling-the-effects-of-chronci-stress

A few weeks ago, pondering all of this, I could understand why people become atheists.

The Christian life is tough.

You feel like running in a hamster wheel getting nowhere a lot of the times.  I teeter between hating myself and self-love/arrogance/conceit.

This perpetual battle drains you of any energy or will to want to continue.

But you know you can’t quit.

You want to be with God, you want to love Him, you want to love others.

You can’t quit because you know Him.

monk contemplating with prayer rope

There are still occasions where I’m still trying to fix myself without turning towards Him.  He is in the background instead of the foreground.

“We ourselves cannot get rid of any of our faults. He takes them away from us, one by one.” – Mother Gavrilia

I am corrupted by the culture in which I live, where I want results quickly, if not immediately, and I know intellectually that’s not how it works in the spiritual life, the life of a Christian.

“God works in eternity. Not in the hurry of our temporary life. Everything will happen as and when He wants.” – Mother Gavrilia

But this awareness needs to travel from head to heart to soul.

I get encouragement, love, and guidance from my spiritual father and love and understanding from fellow Orthodox and various Christian friends struggling along with me.  I follow the Orthodox Christian practices listed above.

If it weren’t for the Church, I’d be twisting in the wind with no roots or steady moral compass.

I know this because I was there decades ago before I was a practicing Orthodox Christian.

However, this ongoing inner struggle is a balancing act, of moderation, as always.  And for me, moderation in anything has been difficult most of my life until the past decade or so.

I was the All or Nothing sort.

I would pursue something hard and obsessively, or I’d just quit/drop the activity.  As a result, I’ve had to reign myself in when going overboard and pull myself up when apathetic or despondent.

But discovering this tendency and monitoring myself has only been possible through God’s enlightening my mind and heart, and His help.

God's mercy quote by St. Isaac the Syrian.jpg

Christians find passages in the Scriptures and sayings by the Saints that give them hope and encouragement.

Mother Gavrilia, a nun who died in the early 1990s, is a not-yet-declared Saint, in my opinion.

I read the book about her life many years ago, and it was life-changing.  She changed my whole worldview.  I quoted her twice already in this blog post.

Here’s one of my favorites:

“God often does not desire the act but the intention. It is enough that He sees you are willing to do His command.” – Mother Gavrilia

She is saying making an effort to follow God’s Commandments daily is all He expects from us.

I cherish these words.  It washes away the frustration and weariness of my daily struggles.

“When you know Him, you want to be with Him, be like Him, learn to love Him, all people, and all of His creation.” – Me.

 

 

Anxiety Bores Impatience

silhouette of woman for anxiety blog post

When I was twenty-two, I was diagnosed with general anxiety with periodic panic attacks.

Anxiety and panic, for me, are two different things.  Panic attacks hit me in my head first, causing dizziness, followed by quickened heart rate, some perspiring, fear, and the like.  With anxiety, it starts in the chest and causes helplessness, an impending sense of doom, as well as quickened heart rate.

Everyone who suffers from anxiety or panic attacks may share in some of the symptoms, but experiences them a bit differently and also has different triggers that set them off.

Mine is TIME.

I remember in my early twenties explaining this visual of my trigger of time as a rodent running on a wheel, getting nowhere while time and the world churned ahead without me.  I desperately wanted to catch up but was helpless to in the moments of panic attacks.

mouse on wheel

When I had my first panic attack at age twenty, it felt like my head was going to spin right off my body, my heart raced, and I feared loss of mind and control.  And as panic sufferers know, we become worried about it happening again, which perpetuates the panic feelings.

Eventually, after having a handful of full-blown panic attacks, I learned to be aware of when one was coming on, and talking to myself (in my head, not out loud) about it in a reasonable manner.

talking out of anxiety and panic

At that time in my early twenties, for four years, I was on an anti-anxiety medication for my anxiety and a tranquilizer for panic attacks.  Both medications did the job of curbing my anxiety and panic attacks.  After getting off the medication, my system seemed improved.

Since this time (over twenty years ago), I’ve faired pretty well, but since the onslaught of peri-menopause, my anxiety and panic attacks have been kicked up a notch, causing some disruption in my life.

At the end of June, I did some stupid things because of my anxiety, like mistakenly canceling my debit card.

I looked over my husband’s and my checking account and discovered a debit card purchase for a DVD from an unknown company.  Worried and panic-stricken thinking  somebody had gotten my card number, I went online and disputed the purchase.  Immediately after I did that, my card was canceled.

It was at that moment I remembered the amount of the purchase and realized I did purchase this DVD.  It was just that the company name didn’t match the place I ordered from.

silencing inner critic

Peri-menopausal fog brain mixed with anxiety is a recipe for chaos.

I called the bank the next day, and a new card was sent out for two-day delivery.

If I’d just waited and thought calmly for about five more minutes, I’m positive I would have remembered the amount and the place from which I purchased the DVD.

This was the day Whole Foods opened in my area, and I wanted to be there for the opening (I know, that alone is nuts).  Obviously I didn’t have my debit card, but I did have my checkbook.  That was a mistake because they didn’t take checks, so I had to run home and fetch my credit card that I’ve been desperately trying to pay down.

I could have just waited until the next day when my new debit card arrived and gone to Whole Foods then and not gone through all of this.  But NO, I was anxious to go RIGHT NOW!  If I didn’t go then, think of all the things I’d miss seeing on Opening Day!

scolding myself

Every time my anxiety hits, I become impatient and pushy.  After the incident, I’d hate my actions and how I irritated my family members.  Imagine this anxious impatience…it feels like a tornado of confusion, frustration, fear, and anger sweeping through you.  At least it does for me.

depressed-silhouette-woman

After experiencing this impatience three days in a row, I broke down in tears of frustration and anger, really strongly disliking myself for my stupid actions and idiocy.

Where did my brain go?

The next few days and weeks I sat analyzing my actions and behavior. I finally saw this pattern of impatience and that it was actually tied to my anxiety.

It only took me 28 years to figure this out.

gif of duh or rolling eyes

In any case, this was a breakthrough for me, a relief.  I’d finally figured out what I was doing and why I was doing it.

But how was I going to stop doing it?

Anxiety pounces on me unexpectedly a lot of the time.  The behavior and havoc almost always play out before I am aware of it.

Friends who suffer from anxiety and/or panic attacks, how do you experience them?  How do you deal with them?

Being a person who tries to follow Christ, making an effort to be Christ-like daily, even though I fail most of the time, my anxiety causes me to forget to ask Him for help when I’m going through this.  Too many times, I try to control these attacks all on my own.

give your burden at the Lord's feet

This is the crux of my problem.

But I suppose I had to discover what I was doing before I could reach this point.

So, now that I know this, I am making the effort and becoming more aware to ask God to help me through these instances of impatience and anxiety.

I’m not really a fan of praying for patience, because…well…then your patience is tested, and I fail 99% of the time.

BUT…

In reality, it’s through those tests of my patience, that I am provided the chances to be patient and make it become more of a habit, and therefore, become more of who I want to be, which is a better, calmer, loving person with a closer relationship to Christ.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been able to apply patience to at least three occasions, by talking to myself, as a type of mental coach, and through God’s help.

Here’s to a new path toward a less anxiety-ridden life.

mountain path towards light

~*~*~*~

 

When Art & Math Unite

colored fractal

In 2015 through my online college, I took a required general education math course on math concepts for which I chose thinking I could maybe get through that seeing how horribly I did in math in my high school years.  That most math above the basics was something to avoid and something appearing too foreign like a lost prehistoric language with strange and cryptic symbols.

Ahem…All you math geniuses out there, please humor me and follow me through this post.

How naive I was to think math concepts would be easier.  So many of these concepts I’d never heard of before, but by week two, I was to choose one for my final 10-page paper on this concept.

This discovery caused me great anxiety, and I wrung my hands and shed tears of fear and panic allowing these scary unfamiliar math theories and formulas to balloon up to a major overwhelming hurdle over which I didn’t believe I could jump.

I beseeched my advisor that perhaps it had been a mistake to take this class, and really, I needed to go back to square one and take a basic algebra class first before my brain could wrap itself around any of these heady applications.

But alas, I’d missed the window to withdrawal from the course and with a gulp and shaky body, I braced myself for the onslaught of cryptic, confusing, symbolic hell.

By week two, I was introduced to the Fibonacci sequence, and immediately, my mind was blown.  The same numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …) found on pinecones were found on other objects in nature, such as flower petals and the nautilus. Yes, I’m sure you all already knew this, but for me, this was all new and fascinating!

Cool video by Khan Academy on the Fibonacci Sequence:

(credit to Khan Academy)

There was a dark, cobwebbed, spongy crevice in my brain that opened up like the detachable hood off of a convertible, and God’s universe glistened bright and infinitely vast before me.  The mathematical number sequence and how it joined with nature screamed the hands of God, for nothing perfect in this world can be accidental or just be.  Something perfect has to be created by Someone Perfect–God.

Suddenly, math had taken on a totally different view for me, and I liked it.

Reading over and looking up the meaning of the list of math concepts in which we students were to choose from, I finally chose the knot theory because it sounded less scary and perhaps even something my simple, elementary math brain could comprehend.

So, for the next few weeks, in between weekly assignments, I read the history of knot theory, its formulas, how it’s used in life, and watched videos of professors teaching the knot theory by scribbling many different knots on the chalk board and explaining the negative and positive integers used in them.  Frankly, I enjoyed watching those lectures!

While researching how the knot theory is used in life, such as in our DNA and mountain climbing, I was pleasantly surprised to find it in art, and not just any art, art by sculptor, John Robinson.

immortality sculpture

The first one shown above titled Immortality, sculpted in 1982, resembles a trefoil knot.  The meaning behind this great work of art is profound and beautiful.  He created this trefoil to represent the three generations of his family, he being the oldest of the three.  It shows the continuous movement and connection through time, becoming infinite.  Robinson said, “I believe that Immortality is made up of one’s memories of the past, as well as those one leaves behind.  I see this Symbolic Sculpture not only as a continuous journey, but also the scroll of which all life’s experiences (DNA) is recorded.”

rhythm of life pic

In the second picture, his sculpture, Rhythm of Life,  was also done in 1982. When creating this piece, he had wrapped a ribbon around an inner tire tube.  The last wrap was the fourth time around, and it returned to its original starting point.  Ronnie Brown, an English mathematician, had explained that this happens in Torus knots in math.  Robinson said, “I created the sculpture about the time that the miracle of DNA had just been discovered, and for me, this delightful flowing ribbon summed up the continuity of Genes.  I found I could balance the 18-inch maquette on a single point.”

Through this math course that was called The Heart of Math, I truly learned there was a lot of heart to it, and a lot of soul and beauty.  It may have taken decades for me to have found an appreciation for math via this class, but I’m just grateful I did discover it.

 

Works Cited
Symbolic Sculpture:  The Collected Works of John Robinson.  (n.d.).  Rhythm of Life.  Symbolic Sculpture:  The Collected Works of John Robinson.  Retrieved from
http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/jr/rhythm_of_life.php

 

What The Hell

Oil-painting-The-Hell-Fresco

If you ask people what hell means to them, you’ll get a variety of answers.

Some people might say it loosely resembles the animated depictions in classic cartoons:

cartoon of hell.jpg

Other people might say it’s a cold place far away from God:

cold dark cave

Then, there are people who think hell is a myth:

myth of hades

Lastly, a few people think Heaven and Hell are one in the same:

bright light

Personally, I see hell as the latter.  Saint Isaac the Syrian (my favorite Saint) describes it beautifully:

“I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and vehement as the punishment of love? I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment. For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is sharper than any torment that can be. It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God. Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all. The power of love works in two ways: it torments those who have played the fool, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend; but it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties. Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret. But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability.”

Why do I choose to see hell in this way?  Because it makes sense to me.  God is through all and in all, and He is a consuming fire.  God is warmth and light.  So, in understanding this, the next step in my thought process is that because of free will given to us by God, we make choices daily and therefore, I choose to follow God or reject Him.  In my decisions, I decide my fate, my own judgment.  I’m the judge of my own destiny.  God honors my choice because He can’t impede on my free will.  He can’t go against Himself, as Father Thomas Hopko of blessed memory would say.

All of this is contingent on whether I truly know God or have just been told or read about Him.

Back to God being a consuming fire.  When I repose this life, I enter into His Light because He’s everywhere.  Nowhere is He not.  And the Light is bright and warm, and it brings me joy and peace if I love Him as best as I was able to truly understand and give love to Him and others.  If I knew Him intimately and chose to sever my relationship with Him, I’d feel His Light and Joy as a burning, tormenting fire.  This is why God revealed He is eternal and why the Apostles speak of those rejecting God as being eternally tormented.  He’s always there.  God loves every human who’s ever lived and will live until His Second Coming.  He wants us to be with Him.  That’s why we were created.

I made a choice to follow Him twenty-three years ago, and I hope to continue to choose Him daily until I pass this earth and am standing before Him.  I hope to hear the glorious words akin to what God told the thief on the cross:  “Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise,” (Lk 23:43) (NIV).

sunshine

 

~*~*~*~

 

Holy Pascha

Christ's Resurrection

Let God Arise!  Let His enemies be scattered!

When you take the journey with Christ from His entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, praised and honored through the laying down of palms, through the grueling walk to Golgotha, wailing with His Mother, to experiencing the thunderous, earth-trembling from His death, His descent into Hades, breaking the chains and releasing those waiting in the tombs, preaching to those who did not know Him, to witnessing His glorious Resurrection, told to us by an angel at His Tomb, your body, mind, and soul are greatly and positively affected.

Your body aches from the hours of services, for which three quarters of the time you’re standing.  Your mind is filled with the readings of his journey and what it all means.  Your heart is torn into pieces listening, watching, and reading of the scourging, mockings, spitting, and especially the words “His blood be on us and on our children.” Lord, have mercy.  *doing the sign of the cross*  That line always gets you.

swinging censor

You take in the sweet smell of incense that reminds you of the realm of God’s Kingdom, the prayers of the Saints, and that you and your brothers and sisters in the nave of His Church are with Him through all of it.  You’ve heard these passages hundreds of times, but something new and profound hits you every year this is read aloud.  This time, you’re wishing you were the thief on the cross, hoping, praying, pleading, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” and you’re dying to hear Him say, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

You weep when you hear His Mother, the Theotokos, wail and say to Him as He plods to His voluntary crucifixion, “”Where are you going, my Child? Why do you travel along so fast? Would there perhaps be another wedding in Cana, and you hurry there, to turn for them water into wine? Can I not come with You, my Child? Or tarry with you? Speak to me a word; You, Who are the Word. Pass me not by in silence, You, Who kept me pure. For You are my Son and my God.”  In your humanity and being a mother of two sons, the words slice through you, cutting you deeply, and you feel Mary’s pain.

But then the Panagia tells Him to hurry and rise on the third day so that she can see Him glorified:  “O my Son, where has the beauty of Your form vanished?  I cannot bear to see You unjustly crucified; hasten, therefore, and rise up, that I too may behold Your Resurrection from the dead on the third day.”  You realize that the Theotokos knew and understood immediately what Christ had been saying before His crucifixion that He’d rise on the third day, whereas all but one of the Apostles fled in confusion, fear, and sorrow.  Beloved Apostle John stood by the Cross with Christ’s Mother and the other women.

Pictured below:

Christ crucified.  Holy Thursday evening is the Twelve Gospels Service that follows Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion.  Our bishop was present for this service, so instead of being three hours, it was four.  This night’s service is the longest, but this was the longest I’ve ever encountered, but it didn’t matter.  When you experience such profound, glorious, and heart-wrenching events, you’re undone, heart, soul, body, mind, but in a good way.

Christ crucified Annunciation GOC

This is the kouvouklion — Christ’s Tomb — that the ladies of my church decorate each year ( took this picture personally on Friday.  It is from my church).  Gorgeous.  It is carried around the church Friday evenings for the Lamentations service, where we join Joseph of Arimathea in carrying Christ’s body to the new Tomb.

kouvouklion Annunciation GOC Holy Week 2018

Video taken by me at our “home” parish back in Colorado Springs, Colorado, (2011) that gives you a glimpse into Holy Saturday morning’s Divine Liturgy where Christ descends into Hades and destroys its chains and gates and opens the tombs.  The pounding we made (and wish all Orthodox Churches did this) is to symbolize the breaking open of the gates and chains and the tombs.  The priest throws basil leaves and flowers symbolizing Christ’s victory and that He is King and Lord. (It isn’t unusual that after the two and a half hour service the night before that this service is less attended, which is unfortunate because it’s such a beautiful and joyous experience).

Holy Saturday evening’s Resurrection Service is held around midnight with a vigil and then the Divine Liturgy.

Here’s a video from an Orthodox Church of a few years ago that shows what happens around midnight when the priest announces, “Come receive the Light,” which the candle represents Christ’s descent into Hades and darkness and through His Resurrection, the Light has come into the world and has trampled down Death by His death.  After His entrance, you, along with your brothers and sisters in Christ, say joyously and triumphantly, “Christ is Risen!” and will chant this verse over and over again that early Sunday morning and the next several Sundays:

Christ is risen from the dead,

trampling down death by death, 

and upon those in the tombs,

bestowing Life.

The Holy Fire descends on the Tomb of Christ inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem every Holy Saturday.  The Greek Orthodox Patriarch receives the Holy Fire that miraculously lights his bundle of thirty-three candles each year).  Here’s a video of this mystical and miraculous event from today:

At the end of the liturgy, you receive a red egg that symbolizes the blood of Christ, and Life.  You gather with your family and brethren in the hall for some food and drink, and crack eggs with them.  The cracking of the eggs symbolizes the cracking open of the tombs.  If your egg survives the cracking contest, you are blessed.

cracking red eggs Orthodox Pascha.jpg

It’s a blessing to return home each night smelling of sweet, heavenly incense, and body wrought from worshiping Christ God in body and spirit.

On Pascha Sunday, you attend the Agape Vespers Service where the proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection is read in several different languages.  The most common languages spoken are English, Greek, Arabic, Latin, Albanian, Spanish, German, French, and sometimes Japanese and Swahili.  Others also may be said if there are parishioners who know that language or come from the country that speaks that particular language.  You enjoy hearing the Good News in many tongues, showing this message is universal.

You enjoy a Paschal picnic of lamb and all other types of meat, etc., and Pascha sweet bread, called Tsoureki in Greek.  We got one this year from the women’s monastery a few hours away:

Greek Pascha sweet bread.jpg

 

Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen!

 

 

 

Happy Easter to My Christian Friends and a Blessed Palm Sunday to My Orthodox Christian Brethren

palm sunday icon 1

Today is Western Christian Easter, and I wish all my Christian friends celebrating Christ’s Resurrection today a Blessed and Happy Easter.

Today is Palm Sunday for us Orthodox Christians.

palm cross 2

We Eastern Christians are on the Julian Calendar, whereas Western Christians follow the Gregorian Calendar.  If you are interested in learning a little more about this, click on this link.

Tonight (I think technically last night) starts Orthodox Christian Holy Week in which we participate and follow Christ through his Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.  It’s the greatest feast and holiday of the year for us.  It’s also a very focused, holy, and busy week for us.  Reading my church’s bulletin, there are around sixteen services for Holy Week.

We call this celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on Sunday not Easter but Pascha.  This is the term that’s been used from the beginning, which follows the Jewish Passover (Pesach).  Here’s a couple excerpts of info on Orthodox Pascha and where the word originates from:

Pascha (Greek: Πάσχα), also called Easter, is the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. Pascha is a transliteration of the Greek word, which is itself a transliteration of the Aramaic pascha, from the Hebrew pesach meaning Passover.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center of the Orthodox Christian faith. Twelve weeks of preparation precede it. This is made up of pre-lenten Sundays, Great Lent, and Holy Week. The faithful try to make this long journey with repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and study. When the feast finally arrives, it is celebrated with a collection of services combined as one.

One of the hymns we sing on Palm Sunday:

Apolytikion: First Tone

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion, You did confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!

I’ll try to write a midweek post and one on Pascha to share the absolutely moving, beautiful, and profound services to give you a glimpse into what this week is like for us Orthodox.

Again, Happy Easter to all my friends celebrating today!

 

The Wood’s Song (3 Minute Video)

semantron pic

I never tire of watching this video and thought I’d share it with you. I love traditions from different countries and religions. I find them fascinating. Perhaps you do, too? I hope so!

Pictured above is a wooden board called a semantron used in Eastern Orthodox Christian monasteries where monks use mallets to bang against the wood, making a cool sound that is used as a call to prayer (like bells are used at churches). Here’s a history of the use of the semantron via Wikipedia:

The portable semantron is made of a long, well-planed piece of timber, usually heart of maple (but also beech), from 12 feet (3.7 m) and upwards in length, by 1 12 feet (46 cm) broad, and 9 inches (23 cm) in thickness.[2] Of Levantine and Egyptian origin, its use flourished in Greece and on Mount Athos before spreading among Eastern Orthodox in what are now Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Macedonia. It both predates and substitutes for bells (first introduced to the East in 865 by the Venetians, who gave a dozen to Michael III),[3] being used to call worshipers to prayer. 

In the portable wooden form, at the centre of the instrument’s length, each edge is slightly scooped out to allow the player to grasp it by the left hand, while he or she holds a small wooden (or sometimes iron) mallet in the right, with which to strike it in various parts and at various angles, eliciting loud, somewhat musical sounds (κροῦσμα, krousma).[2]

Although simple, the instrument nonetheless produces a strong resonance and a variety of different intonations, depending on the thickness of the place struck and the intensity of the force used, so that quite subtle results can be obtained.[5] A metal semantron, smaller than those of wood, is usually hung near the entrance of the catholicon (the monastery’s main church).[6] In the traditional monastic ritual, before each service the assigned player takes a wooden semantron and, standing before the west end of the catholicon, strikes on it three hard and distinct blows with the mallet. He then proceeds round the outside of the church, turning to the four quarters and playing on the instrument by striking blows of varying force on different parts of the wood at uneven intervals, always winding up the “tune” with three blows similar to those at the beginning.[3]

The video is three minutes in length.  I hope you enjoy it!

(Romanian monk hitting the semantron with wooden mallets for a call to prayer courtesy youtube)

 

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