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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.

Still, 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.

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 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 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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DAILY QUOTE for January 16, 2019

If you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer...

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January 16

 

If you really want to love Jesus, first
learn to suffer, because
suffering teaches you to love.

St. Gemma Galgani


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SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Honoratus of Arles

Although their father objected and placed obstacles before t...

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St. Honoratus of Arles

Honoratus was born into a patrician Roman family that had settled in Gaul, present-day France. As a young man, he renounced paganism and won his elder brother Venantius over to Christ.

Although their father objected and placed obstacles before them, the two brothers decided to leave the world. Under the tutelage of the hermit St. Caprasius they sailed from Marseilles with the intention of leading a secluded life in a Grecian desert.

In Greece, illness struck and Venantius died in peace. Also ill, Honoratus was obliged to return to Gaul with his instructor. At first, he lived as a hermit in the mountains near Fréjus.  Later, he settled on the island of Lérins off the southern coast of France. Followed by others, he founded a monastery on the island about the year 400. The monastic community is active to this day. St. Patrick, the great apostle of Ireland is said to have studied at Lérins.

In 426 Honoratus was pressed upon to accept the bishopric of Arles, where he reestablished Catholic orthodoxy, challenged by the Arian heresy. He died three years later exhausted from his apostolic labors.
The island of Lérins, today the island of Saint Honorat just south of Cannes, is home to Cistercian monks who live in a majestic monastery and produce fine wines and liqueurs which are well-known throughout the world.

WEEKLY STORY

Mary and the Muslim

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him h...

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Mary and the Muslim

Don Octavio del Monaco was a wealthy citizen of 17th century Naples. Like many of his class, Don Octavius had several Muslim slaves in his household. These children of Islam were amazed at the kindness of their “master.” He fed and clothed them better than they received in their native land. In return, his slaves attended to their tasks with diligence, as Don Octavius did not over work them, but assigned them duties in keeping with their dignity as children of God.

If these Muslim slaves had any reason for complaint, it was the gentle persistence with which their master and his wife exhorted them to give up their false religion and become Catholics. Don Octavius even went so far as to invite the slaves to join his family in the chapel to worship the one true God with them!

Our story today is about one young slave in particular. His name was Abel, like the slain son of Adam and Eve. He felt drawn in a peculiar way to a lamp that burned in front of a shrine to Holy Mary. Abel would purchase the oil needed to keep the lamp lit from his own meager stipend. As he continued to practice this humble devotion, he would say, “I hope that this Lady will grant me some great favor.”

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian. At first the Turk resisted. But she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said to him: “Now no longer resist, Abel, but be baptized and called Joseph,” conferring on him a name that was very dear to her Immaculate Heart indeed.

On August the 10th, 1648, there was much rejoicing in Heaven, for on that day “Joseph” and eleven other Muslims converted to the Christian faith and were baptized. Their conversion was brought about by the kindness shown by Don Octavius and the special intercession of the Mother of God.

Our story does not end here. Even once this son of hers was safely baptized, Mother Mary delighted in visiting him. Once, after having appeared to him, she was about to depart. But the Moor seized her mantle, saying, “Oh, Lady, when I find myself afflicted, I pray you to let me see you.” In fact, she one day promised him this and when Joseph found himself afflicted he invoked her, and Mary appeared to him again saying, “Have patience", and he was consoled.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian.

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