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Until my recent retirement from iconography, I painted Byzantine-style icons using the traditional materials from antiquity—egg tempera and gold leaf. For Orthodox Christians, icons aren’t “just art”—they are liturgical art, and they belong to the spiritual realm. Sure, there are people who collect icons for their artistic value alone, and I hope that once they hang them in their homes they discover another dimension made available through the icons.
The Sounding is delighted to present Jessie Beddoe, the youngest Orthodox writer to be featured in our Orthodox Writers, Readers, and Artists series, and (as far as we know), the youngest writer ever to contribute to The Sounding. Jessie is 13 years old. She wrote the following short story as a fictional account, but it is based on a real person and a real event.
And grant rest, O Master, to our souls and bodies as we sleep; preserve us from the gloomy slumber of sin and from the dark passions of the night. Calm the impulses of carnal desires, quench the fiery darts of the evil one which are craftily directed against us. Still the rebellions of the flesh, and put far from us all anxiety and worldly cares. Grant us, O God, a watchful mind, pure thoughts, a sober heart and a quiet rest free from every vision of the devil. Raise us up again at the hour of prayer, strengthened in Your precepts and holding within us steadfastly the thought of Your commandments. Grant that we may sing praises to You through the night and that we may hymn, bless and glorify Your all-honorable and majestic Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Make the sign of the cross, and you tell a story—the story of God coming down from Heaven to Earth, extending His open arms to encompass the world in His sacrificial death. This Story is at the heart of the still fuller Story, which stretches from before Creation "unto ages of ages." Story is so woven into the fabric of the universe that you might even say, with the poet Muriel Rukeyser, that "The Universe is made of stories, not atoms," that Story is the fabric of the universe, deeper and more durable than matter itself.
A while ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Entrance of the Theotokos Monastery in Libertytown, MD. My family has some history with this monastery in a strange sort of sense. My husband used to live there. Before it was a monastery, the property was the Life in Jesus Community. A group of Charismatic Episcopalians formed a community which eventually, for various reasons, did not succeed. While my husband was in high school, his family moved to this community. In many ways, it was both positive and negative. While in college, he met an Orthodox professor and converted to Orthodoxy, which resulted in his leaving the community.
Sitting in the middle of the wilderness is not the easiest place in the world to connect to others and think what to say in books that might help children grow close to God, which has turned into my lifelong journey.
Every time someone hears that my patron saint is St. Parascheva from Iasi, Romania, I am faced with the same question. Are you Romanian? I always laugh and say no, I’m an American convert.
“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.” Samuel Johnson, from Works of Samuel Johnson
Mother’s Day approaches and it has occurred to me that in much the same way that children learn about life and beauty from their mothers, we readers are inspired and taught by writers.
My sense of observing and processing the world around me has evolved over time. As a younger person, I was enthralled with gifted speakers of the 1960’s: John Kennedy and his brother Robert, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X. Even my parish priest in New York captured my attention with his message, delivery, and presence. I cannot discern even now whether this attraction was personality driven or simply how I related to the world around me. Nonetheless, the spoken word captivated me during those early years.
I recently had a conversation with someone who was interested in writing Orthodox children’s books; however, she was primarily interested in writing fantasy. We talked for a few minutes, and it got me to thinking about this. We pray to the Theotokos to help us with “wicked memories and fantasies.” So it seems appropriate to me to ask the question: Is it Orthodox to read and write allegory/fantasy?