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Easter and the Marvelous World of Eggs

 

As a child, I was fascinated by the foil wrapped, chocolate eggs hidden in the bush. The intense search was rewarded by a glimmer of light and color in the greenery that never failed to make my heart skip.

Little girl gleefully unwrapping a chocolate eggStill, in our Catholic household, we actively celebrated the Resurrection of Our Lord; and it was explained to us children that the Easter egg was a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection because the egg is symbolic of new life that emerges from a confined space, such as Christ’s tomb.

 

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Later, for a few years, I attended a Ukrainian Catholic grade-school and there I was introduced to the fascinating art of Pysanky, or “writing on eggs”, and tried my wobbly hand at it.

As I handled the “kistka” an instrument that dispenses hot wax, as an ink pen dispenses ink, I loved every minute. The process, basically masks designs and progressively dips the egg into dies to reveal, at the end, and when the wax is melted off, a small marvel. No matter how amateur or how proficient one is at it, there’s a thrill.

Drawing lines on an egg for Pysanky

Indeed, pysanky, from the word pysaty, “to write”, dates back to pre-Christian times, when eggs were celebrated for their life-giving/nutritious properties.

With the advent of Christianity, the custom was incorporated into the new faith and related to Our Lord’s Resurrection with Christian symbols replacing pagan ones.

I wasn’t to be a pysanky artist. I use a pen, rather than a “kistka”, but never forget that one time I did “write” on an egg, and felt the fascination of the ancient tradition.

It was thus, with another heart-skip that last October, while on vacation in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I met a group of bubbly Pysanky artists who convene there every year.

Inspired by Pysanky master Lorrie Popow, a life-long writer of Pysanky, just named 2015 Arkansas Living Treasure, people come from all over the world to learn this ancient art form.

Several pysanky eggs

Culture is a powerful thing. It can be used for bad, as manifested all around us today, or it can be used for good as evinced by the strength of ancient customs. Steeped in a civilization inspired by Christ, these customs not only have enriched generations past, but continue to cross oceans, resurfacing in places such as the heart of Arkansas!  

Red and Black Pysanky egg

Indeed such traditions, when used and passed on with the right knowledge and linked to their deep religious meaning, can be an asset to faith, especially for children who are so visual and “hands on”.

I loved those eggs I found in the bush, and I loved those eggs I learned about in school. They never took away from faith, but rather lent a marvelous component of enjoyment and art to the sacred in my life.

 


 By Andrea F. Phillips
Photos: Pysanky Eggs displayed at the 2014 convention of Pysanky painters in Hot Springs Arkansas. 

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 24, 2021

It is easy to infuse a most fervent devotion into others, ev...

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July 24

 

It is easy to infuse
a most fervent devotion into others, even in a short time;
but the great matter is
– to persevere.

St. Philip Neri


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Charbel Makhlouf

Multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was fi...

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St. Charbel Makhlouf

Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in the village of Bekka Kafra in Lebanon on May 8, 1828 and was one of five children born to Antoun Zarrour Makhlouf and Brigitta Chidiac. His father was a mule driver who died when Youssef was only three years old, leaving his widow to bring up their children alone.

Although Brigitta was left nearly destitute, she reserved a profoundly religious atmosphere in their home and instilled in her children a deep spirit of piety. Because of this fidelity, Youssef became unusually devoted and inclined to prayer and solitude at a very young age. He was greatly attracted to the life and spirituality of hermits; and as a young boy tending his family’s small flock, he would often go to a nearby grotto where he had erected a little shrine to the Holy Mother of God and would spend his whole day there in prayer.

When he was twenty-three years old, Youssef, feeling the call to the religious life, left his home and family to join the Lebanese Maronite Order at the Monastery of Our Lady in Marfouq. Here he began his formation as a monk before later being transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron near Beirut. There he received the religious habit of the Maronite monk and took the name Charbel. He made his final profession as a religious brother on November 1, 1853 – he was twenty-five years old.

Brother Charbel immediately began his studies for the priesthood under the instruction of Father Nimattullah Kassab, who was also later declared a saint by the Church. Charbel was ordained on July 23, 1859, following which he returned to the Monastery of St. Maron where he lived a life of great austerity. In 1875, he was granted permission by his superiors to live a solitary life in the Hermitage of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was under the jurisdiction of the monastery; and there he resided for the remaining twenty-three years of his life until his death on Christmas Eve, 1898.

St. Charbel is renowned for his many miracles both during his life and after his death. His most famous miracle – which was also his first – occurred when, multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was filled with water. He is also credited with many healing miracles.

After his death, he was interned at the Monastery of St. Maron, now a famous pilgrimage site. His tomb was often witnessed surrounded by a dazzling light, and to this day his remains are incorrupt and an unexplainable blood-like fluid flows from his body. He was canonized on December 9, 1977, by Pope Paul VI, who held him up as an example to help us understand “in a world, largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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