Owning the joint context of living in the church year and season, combined with being what she refers to as being “a middle-aged American women living in the twenty-first century,” Carlson’s goal is to not only inspire others to read the Philokalia, but also show others her personal experience of reading it. According to Carlson, “This is a view of my own wilderness, words from words, in dialogue with the text itself.”
I was born a weak, defenseless child, but Thine angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now Thy love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity; from birth until now the generous gifts of Thy providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give Thee thanks, with all who have come to know Thee, who call upon Thy name.
Glory to Thee for calling me into being.
Glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe.
Glory to Thee, spreading out before me heaven and earth.
Like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom
Glory to Thee for Thine eternity in this fleeting world.
Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen.
Glory to Thee through every sigh of my sorrow.
Glory to Thee for every step of my life’s journey.
For every moment of glory
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.
(Ikos 1 of The Akathist Hymn: “Glory to God for All Things”)
This was part of tonight’s Akathist service at our parish. This specific akathist was written in a Soviet labor camp, and was discovered in 1940 in the possession of the reposed servant Protopresbyter Gregory Petrov. It was the first time that I had been able to attend an Akathist service that used this text, and the above excerpt struck a chord because this week marks a decade since I first entered the Orthodox church as an inquirer. On November 18, 2008, I sat on an unfinished plywood floor listening to Fr. Alexander Atty (+2014) tell the members of a new Orthodox mission, and their invited friends, about the faith.
Everlasting King, Thy will for our salvation is full of power. Thy right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give Thee thanks for all Thy mercies, seen and unseen. For eternal life, for the heavenly Joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Thy praise, both now and in the time to come. Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.
(Kontakion 1 of The Akathist Hymn: “Glory to God for All Things”)
When the sun is setting, when quietness falls like the peace of eternal sleep, and the silence of the spent day reigns, then in the splendour of its declining rays, filtering through the clouds, I see Thy dwelling-place: fiery and purple, gold and blue, they speak prophet-like of the ineffable beauty of Thy presence, and call to us in their majesty. We turn to the Father.
Glory to Thee at the hushed hour of nightfall.
Glory to Thee, covering the earth with peace.
Glory to Thee for the last ray of the sun as it sets.
Glory to Thee for sleep’s repose that restores us.
Glory to Thee for Thy goodness even in the time of darkness.
When all the world is hidden from our eyes.
Glory to Thee for the prayers offered by a trembling soul.
Glory to Thee for the pledge of our reawakening.
On that glorious last day, that day which has no evening,
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.
(Ikos 4 of The Akathist Hymn: “Glory to God for All Things”)
As I was writing the last piece, I remembered that, when I frequently flew Air Canada during my four years living in Newfoundland, I always looked forward to the section of the En Route magazine that showed what people brought with them in their carry-on bags. The things that the interviewees brought with them ranged from cameras to lavender oil to pashminas, with the idea of making travel comfortable, personal, and enjoyable.
When I packed for my trip to Buffalo, I thought intently about what I would bring in terms of a makeshift icon altar, as I was only bringing a carry-on bag and was limited by space, weight, and liquidity (no more than 3.5 ounces, after all). The question arose: what do other people bring with them? How do they maintain a prayer rule while traveling, and what do they do to turn their space into a little church (just like home)? What I learned was that everyone’s was different.
From top left, going clockwise:
- The Way of the Ascetics is an example of a small book that I will often bring with me on the trip, in case I would like to read something without worrying about battery life or wi-fi. Small books like the Popular Patristics series from SVS Press are good due to their size; for me, The Way of the Ascetics was one of the first books I read as an Orthodox, and one that I have read several times, so it’s a comfortable read that doesn’t get old. Having such a comfortable read brings a sense of consistency to often unpredictable trips.
- A pen. Self-explanatory.
- A battery candle. They have a decent shelf life, come in multi-packs, and are easy to get through security.
- Folding icons. These, or small icons, fit nicely in the pocket of a messenger bag, or the inside of a coast.
- Tea bags. I like having my own tea on the trip; you can often get water for free at the airport, and it’s a reminder to drink tea, say the Jesus prayer, and handle it.
- Small prayer book. I’ve had at least two of these since becoming Orthodox, and they’re great for road trips.
- A journal. The one in the photo was given to me by my in-laws, who have found different ones for me over the years. I use this one for writing diary entries, and also printing and taping Orthodox quotes and images to remind me of how to act.
- Kindle. I have a basic Kindle that I see multiple-ebooks on, including the Orthodox Study Bible. It’s also useful to have the Kindle app if you have a smartphone.
- (Surrounding everything else) Headphones. I keep sacred music on my phone as takeoff and flying music; my particular favorite is Sacred Georgian Hymns. Additionally, the Ancient Faith Radio app is terrific for downloading podcasts.
I asked some friends to submit ideas of what they brought, and was fortunate to have two submissions. One, from writer and blogger Summer Kinard, had the following description:
I like to travel with a diptych icon, a couple of prints of saints (pictured: St. Panteleimon and St. Seraphim Of Sarov), an LED or travel candle, a few books, an Akathist, a crochet hook and little ball of yarn for praying with my hands, a prayer rope or ring, noise canceling headphones, the Orthodox Study Bible for Kindle, and the Daily Readings app. I write longhand manuscripts and take notes on my iPad, but I also carry paper notebooks for the same purposes.
April and Taylor Warren, a couple who attend Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco, sent this photo, along with the following description: “Our icons, prayer book, and prayer ropes. We often use our phones for the Bible searches and prayers as well (with Pray Always app.) We being the prayer book if we can check in a bag.”
Now that you’ve seen a few examples, what do you take with you on a trip? What do you bring to make your life more prayerful on the road? If you’d like to share, send a comment, or email me.
Finding a parish is quite easy, but here are some tips for visiting elsewhere:
1) Go to Orthodoxy in America and type in the city that you’ll be headed to. The website has all of the major jurisdictions, and even has monasteries listed.
8) Share the experience with others. My Lyft driver in Buffalo had never seen the church I visited, which led to a discussion about our faith. Conference goers sometimes enjoy seeing photographs of places away from the conference.