The Rediscovery of Silence

Posted in Uncategorized on April 15, 2014 by citydesert

“One of the main features at the [at the Ideal Home] show was the Quiet Treehouse, an extraordinary £400,000 building that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Tolkien’s Shire. Inside were a number of products that had been endorsed by Quiet Mark, the international mark of approval from the UK’s Noise Abatement Society that encourages the design of quieter high performance technology to reduce unwanted noise in our environment.
These included the latest technology from brands such as Dyson, Lexus, Bose, Smeg, Philips, Vaillant, Insinkerator, Lumie, Magimix, Kitchen Aid and Samsung. There was even a band playing that could make a ‘sound portrait’ of visitors by feeding off their ‘aura’.

Interestingly, the retailer John Lewis is partnering with Quiet Mark to provide a platform to sell these endorsed products, so the notion that quiet products are an indulgence that only people with money to spare can afford is scotched. If John Lewis are involved, products like this are unlikely to fail commercially because of their price point.

“Noise surrounds us and affects our everyday lives in ways most people are completely unaware of. However, when it comes to electronics we believe it will become an increasingly important consideration for consumers when they are deciding what technology to buy for their home,” said Johnathan Marsh, Head of Buying, Electricals, John Lewis.`
quiet tree house 2
It’s not only in the home that silence can be golden. Quiet Mark is also heading a campaign to move away from using decibels as the key sound measurement as they do not reflect the range of human hearing. A measure that uses pure loudness as a guide misses auditory perception of sounds and its evaluation, be that pleasant or unpleasant.
Such a new measure should be sound quality and in its first attempt to test this metric, Quiet Mark has decided to use a car, the new Lexus CT 200, carried out with HEAD acoustics GmbH. The level of interior and exterior vehicle noise will be tested under different driving conditions, providing an acoustic and psychoacoustic analysis of measurements.
“This is a glimpse into the future where a healthy acoustic environment is as important as the architectural design of a building,” said Poppy Elliott, Managing Director of Quiet Mark says. ”

* The Quiet Treehouse at the Ideal Home Show was designed by Blue Forest Luxury Treehouses and will be donated for permanent use by Chestnut Tree House, the children’s hospice for Sussex

“In our stressful lives we are surrounded by a cacophony of sound and we feel unable to control this pollution. The louder the noise around us, the more energy we waste to overcome it, and it is getting worse day by day. If we don’t do something about this soon, our ability to hear the subtle sounds around us will disappear. Since launching in January 2012, Quiet Mark has significantly changed the way people and manufacturers view products. Quiet Mark has helped to create a demand for use of quieter technology in our homes, in our workplace and in the open air. Quiet Mark sprang from the response to public complaints received by the Noise Abatement Society’s 24/7 national noise help-line, concerning the volume of excessive noise made by household tools and appliances which invade the fabric of everyday life.”
For Quietmark, see

A Christian Ending

Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2014 by citydesert

Pascha reminds us most particularly of Death and Resurrection. It should call to mind not only the Death and Resurrection of the Lord, but also of His children, and of the Orthodox understanding in theory and practice of the end of life in this world. Therefore, a welcome addition to contemporary Orthodox works in English is: “A Christian Ending: A Handbook for Burial in the Ancient Christian Tradition”, J. Mark and Elizabeth J. Barna [Divine Ascent Press; 1st edition, 2011]
“A handbook for burial in the ancient Christian tradition. While aimed at Orthodox Christians, this book would be a very helpful guide to anyone who is interested in preparing for a funeral within the context of community, without the use of corporate funeral homes, and using green and sustainable methods. From the foreword: “How should Christian people prepare for death, their own and that of loved ones? No question can be more important than this, since death is the final reality of our earthly life. Yet particularly in the United States, we tend to avoid the question as much as we can. We consider death to be brutal and tragic, whatever its circumstances and causes. It marks an end to our ambitions, while it underscores the ephemeral nature of our existence. Therefore we treat it like a “last enemy” from which there is no escape, no salvation. Death appears as a spectre, a menacing evil, that evokes a reaction of dread. Written in a genial, conversational style, this book offers the Christian reader a solid foundation in both the theology and the psychology of death: its place within God’s creative and saving work, and the personal impact it makes on those facing death and those who grieve for them. It also clarifies a great many misconceptions held by most people concerning professional funeral practices, making clear that a truly “Christian ending” to our life can mean beauty and utter simplicity both in the rituals that surround it and in the burial itself. Many readers will be surprised to learn that it is not at all necessary, legally or practically, to use the services of a funeral home. There is indeed “another way,” one more in keeping with the Gospel imperative to honor the physical body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. This work includes a section on the actual preparation of the body of the deceased, together with prescribed readings of psalms and prayers, all of which can be accomplished with or without the participation of clergy. Finally, an extensive bibliography is followed by a list of items needed for preparation, as well as various post-mortem forms the reader will find indispensable.” -Fr. John Breck
“An Orthodox Christian Life ends with the act of Christian burial. The body of a Christian, which was immersed in the sacred waters of Baptism, anointed with Holy Chrism, and nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, has become the sanctified dwelling-place of God, even in death remaining worthy of profound reverence. By undertaking the solemn task of preparing the body and celebrating the traditional funeral rites, not only does a Christian community show proper respect for the body of the departed, but all involved also receive tremendous spiritual blessing and nourishment. This book provides a detailed description of the many facets involved in this great act of love. May it be a blessing for all who heed the advice it offers, and may it help all our communities to enter more deeply into the awesome mystery we must all face: death, and the preparation for our resurrection!” – Metropolitan Jonah, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America
orthodox funeral
“Written in a genial, conversational style, this book offers the Christian reader a solid foundation in both the theology and the psychology of death: its place within God’s creative and saving work, and the personal impact it makes on those facing death and those who grieve for them. It also clarifies a great many misconceptions held by most people concerning professional funeral practices, making clear that a truly “Christian ending” to our life can mean beauty and utter simplicity both in the rituals that surround it and in the burial itself.” – Fr. John Breck

On Ancient Faith Radio: “A Christian Ending Rediscovering Ancient Christian Burial Customs for the Modern World” Start date: July 2013 9 episodes
christianending radio
“How should Christian people prepare for death—their own and that of loved ones? No question can be more important than this, since death is the final reality of our earthly life. Deacon Mark Barna, the co-author of “A Christian Ending: A Handbook for Burial in the Ancient Christian Tradition”, has been preparing Orthodox Christians for burial without a professional funeral director for nearly ten years. He and his wife and co-author Elizabeth cared for three of their parents in their home for nearly seven years. In this podcast, they share their knowledge and experience of end-of-life issues, as well as how to organize and prepare for a parish-directed funeral with or without the help of a professional funeral director.”

Basil the Younger, Ascetic

Posted in Uncategorized on April 7, 2014 by citydesert

March 8 is the Feast of Saint Basil the Younger, Ascetic

“At a young age, Venerable St. Basil left the world and began his struggle in a desert place. It happened that seeing him in a forest, courtiers of the Byzantine Emperor who were passing by were alarmed by his strange appearance. Imagining that that he could be the source of trouble, they seized the ascetic and brought him into the city, where Patriarch Samon had him interrogated. When asked to identify himself, the Saint answered only that he was a pilgrim and a stranger on this earth. They submitted the Venerable one to extreme tortures, but he remained resolutely silent, not wanting to tell of his life of spiritual struggle. Losing patience, Samon asked St. Basil: “Impious one, will you long persist in hiding who you are, and from whence you came?” The clairvoyant responded: “One should call impious those who, like you, spend their lives in all manner of uncleanness.” Furious at this public denunciation, Samon ordered that the Saint be suspended, head down, with his arms and legs tied behind his back. The torture was so cruel that those who witnessed it began to complain about Samon. When, after three days of trial, the holy struggler was taken down, he was seen to be alive and unharmed. Samon ascribed this miracle to sorcery and had St. Basil thrown to a hungry lion. However, the lion would not touch the Saint, and peacefully lay down at his feet. In his impotence, Samon ordered that blessed Basil be drowned in the sea. However, two dolphins took hold of the Saint, and brought him to shore in Eudom, near Constantinople. The saint went into the city. There, near the Golden Gates, he met a man named John who suffered from epilepsy. St. Basil healed the sick man in the Name of the Savior, and then, at John’s request, stayed at his home. Multitudes of the faithful would come to the Blessed One for advice and instruction, and to receive healing of their illnesses by his prayers. Possessing the gift of clairvoyance, St. Basil would criticize sinners and move them onto the path of repentance. He would also foretell coming events. Among the Saint’s visitors was Gregory, who became his disciple and who later wrote a detailed account of his teacher’s life. Once, at an inn, Gregory found an expensive belt that had been misplaced by the innkeeper’s daughter. Thinking to sell it and distribute the proceeds to the poor, Gregory hid it. However, on the way home, he lost both the belt and his things. In a dream, he was taught a lesson by St. Basil, who showed him a broken pot, and said: “If anyone should steal even such a useless thing, he will be punished fourfold. You hid a belt that did not belong to you, and are condemned as a thief. You must return what you find.”
When St. Theodora, who attended St. Basil reposed, Gregory very much wanted to find out about her life after death, and he would often ask the holy struggler to reveal it to him. By the Saint’s prayers, he once saw Eldress Theodora in a dream. She related to him her soul’s journey through the toll houses after her death, and how she was helped by the power of St. Basil’s prayers. (St. Theodora is commemorated on 30 December.)
St. Basil reposed ca. 944 AD, at the age of 110.

basil younger life
“The Life of Saint Basil the Younger: Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of the Moscow Version” (Dumbarton Oaks Studies) Denis F. Sullivan (Translator), Alice-Mary Talbot (Translator), Stamatina McGrath (Translator) (2014)
“The Life of St. Basil the Younger”, one of the longest and most important middle Byzantine saints’ lives, presents the life of a holy man who lived in Constantinople in the first part of the tenth century. Usually described as a fictional saint, he had the distinction of residing in private homes rather than in a monastery, performing numerous miracles and using the gift of clairvoyance. The vita, purportedly written by one of Basil’s disciples, a pious layman named Gregory, includes many details on daily life in Constantinople, with particular attention to slaves, servants, and eunuchs. Two lengthy descriptions of visions provide the most comprehensive source of information for Byzantine views on the afterlife. In one, the soul of an elderly servant Theodora journeys past a series of tollbooths, where demons demand an accounting of her sins in life and collect fines for her transgressions; in the other Gregory describes his vision of the celestial Jerusalem, the enthronement of the Lord at his Second Coming, and the Last Judgment. This volume provides a lengthy introduction and a critical edition of the Greek text facing the annotated English translation, the first in any language.

Mark of Athens and Mark the Ascetic, Hermits

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2014 by citydesert

March 5 is the Feast of Saint Mark of Athens and of Saint Mark the Ascetic, both Hermits.
Mark of athens
“St Mark of Athens (4th c.) was born in Athens of pagan parents, but believed and was baptized, and, forsaking everything, lived as a hermit in the desert beyond Egypt. He did not see another human being for ninety-five years, and we would know nothing of his life had not the monk Serapion come upon him. Mark was about to depart this life, and lived only long enough to tell Serapion his story. Serapion then gave him burial.”

“Saint Mark was born in Athens. He related his life to Abba Serapion who, by the will of God, visited him before his death.

He had studied philosophy in his youth. After the death of his parents, St Mark withdrew into Egypt and settled into a cave of Mount Trache (in Ethiopia). He spent ninety-five years in seclusion and during this time not only did he not see a human face, but not even a beast or bird.

The first thirty years were the most difficult for St Mark. Barefoot and bedraggled, he suffered from the cold in winter, and from the heat in summer. The desert plants served him for food, and sometimes he had to eat the dust and drink bitter sea water. Unclean spirits chased after St Mark, promising to drown him in the sea, or to drag him down from the mountain, shouting, “Depart from our land! From the beginning of the world no one has come here. Why have you dared to come?”

After thirty years of tribulation, divine grace came upon the ascetic. Angels brought him food, and long hair grew on his body, protecting him from the cold and heat. He told Abba Serapion, “I saw the likeness of the divine Paradise, and in it the prophets of God Elias and Enoch. The Lord sent me everything that I sought.”
mark of athens 2
During his conversation with Abba Serapion, St Mark inquired how things stood in the world. He asked about the Church of Christ, and whether persecutions against Christians still continued. Hearing that idol worship had ceased long ago, the saint rejoiced and asked, “Are there now in the world saints working miracles, as the Lord spoke of in His Gospel, ‘If ye have faith even as a grain of mustard seed, ye will say to this mountain, move from that place, and it will move, and nothing shall be impossible for you’ (Mt.17:20)?”

As the saint spoke these words, the mountain moved from its place 5,000 cubits (approximately 2.5 kilometers) and went toward the sea. When St Mark saw that the mountain had moved, he said, “I did not order you to move from your place, but was conversing with a brother. Go back to your place!” After this, the mountain actually returned to its place. Abba Serapion fell down in fright. St Mark took him by the hand and asked, “Have you never seen such miracles in your lifetime?”

“No, Father,” Abba Serapion replied. Then St Mark wept bitterly and said, “Alas, today there are Christians in name only, but not in deeds.”

After this, St Mark invited Abba Serapion to a meal and an angel brought them food. Abba Serapion said that never had he eaten such tasty food nor drunk such sweet water. “Brother Serapion,” answered St Mark, “did you see what beneficence God sends His servants? In all my days here God sent me only one loaf of bread and one fish. Now for your sake He has doubled the meal and sent us two loaves and two fishes. The Lord God has nourished me with such meals ever since my first sufferings from evil.”

Before his death, St Mark prayed for the salvation of Christians, for the earth and everything in the world living upon it in the love of Christ. He gave final instructions to Abba Serapion to bury him in the cave and to cover the entrance. Abba Serapion was a witness of how the soul of the one hundred- thirty-year-old Elder Mark, was taken to Heaven by angels.

After the burial of the saint, two angels in the form of hermits guided Abba Serapion into the inner desert to the great Elder John. Abba Serapion told the monks of this monastery about the life and death of St Mark.”

Mark of Athens was one of the Bosci or Boskoi; the Grazing Hermits and “lived in this way till his body was covered with hair like a wild beast’s”.

“St Mark the Ascetic (5th c.) was a disciple of St John Chrysostom, tonsured a monk at the age of forty by St John himself. He then withdrew to the Nitrian desert and lived for sixty years as a hermit, devoting himself to fasting, prayer, and writing spiritual discourses. Saint Mark knew all the Holy Scriptures by heart. His compassion was so great that he wept at the distress of any of God’s creatures: once he wept for the blind pup of a hyena, and the pup received its sight. Though he lived alone in the desert, it is said that he received Communion from an angel. The holy and scholarly Patriarch Photios held his writings in the highest esteem, and at one time there was a saying, ‘sell all that you have, and buy Mark.’ Some of these beautiful and profound writings may be read in English in the first volume of the Philokalia. “

mark ascetic 3
“Marcus Eremita or Markus the Ascetic was a Christian theologian and ascetic writer of the fifth century. Mark is rather an ascetic than a dogmatic writer. He is content to accept dogmas from the Church; his interest is in the spiritual life as it should be led by monks. He is practical rather than mystic, belongs to the Antiochene School and shows himself to be a disciple of John Chrysostom.
mark ascetic 5
Various theories about his period and works have been advanced. According to Johannes Kunze, Mark the Hermit was superior of a laura at Ancyra; he then as an old man left his monastery and became a hermit, probably in the desert east of Palestine, near St. Sabas. He was a contemporary of Nestorius and died probably before the Council of Chalcedon (451).
Nicephorus Callistus (fourteenth century) says he was a disciple of John Chrysostom. Cardinal Bellarmine thought that this Mark was the monk who prophesied ten more years of life to the Emperor Leo VI in 900. He is refuted by Tillemont. Another view supported by the Byzantine Menaia identifies him with the Egyptian monk mentioned in Palladius, who lived in the fourth century. The discovery and identification of a work by him against Nestorius by P. Kerameus makes his period certain, as defended by Kunze.

See also

Constructing Your Life – Smaller!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2014 by citydesert

“”Your life and how it looks is a reflection of how well you did in that project of constructing who you are,” Christopher Smith says. To a degree, Smith’s own dream follows that ideal. Just before his 30th birthday he impulsively bought two hectares in the Colorado mountains, to fulfil a fantasy of building his own home. With no building experience, this graphic designer used rented tools and YouTube to coach himself through the practical points of DIY. But it’s in the scale of house that his dream truly deviates.
tiny house film 1
Since 1970, the average American home has almost doubled in size from 130 square metres to 250 square metres (in Australia the figures are comparable – 125 square metres to 243 square metres). Smith’s dream home is 11.5 square metres.
He is one of hundreds of Americans to embrace the idea of living small. Very small. Tiny houses rarely exceed 18 square metres.
tiny house film 2
”The Tiny House movement for a lot of people is this act of civil disobedience where they are trying to actively put the brakes on that [bigger is better] mentality,” he says.
Australians, too, are part of a growing worldwide movement. According to Darren Hughes, who operates the Facebook page TinyHousesAustralia, building codes around tiny houses are similar to the US. As tiny houses are less than the minimum house size, putting them on wheels classifies as a temporary structure. In which case, why not buy a caravan? Because building it yourself is key to tiny housing, Smith says.

Tiny Houses’ American antecedents date back at least to 1854 with Henry David Thoreau’s classic Walden. In it, Thoreau describes building a 13.5 square metre cabin near Walden pond in Massachusetts. Like his hero Thoreau, Smith, together with his partner Merete Mueller, documented their own cabin building in Tiny: A Story about Living Small, and including interviews from members of the Tiny House fraternity.”

Read more:
tiny house 3

For the e-book:

Guier (Gwerir) of Cornwall, Hermit and Priest

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2014 by citydesert

March 4 is the Feast of Saint Guier (Gwerir) of Cornwall, Hermit and Priest

“Of the saint nothing is known except that he was a hermit at Ham-stoke, near Liskeard, in Cornwall, and that King Alfred was cured of a painful disorder when praying in the church built over his grave by S. Neot.
Asser, in his life of Alfred, thus relates the matter:
king alfred
” He had this sort of disease from his childhood ; but once Divine Providence so ordered it, that when he was on a visit to Cornwall for the purpose of the chase, and had turned out of the road to pray in a certain chapel, in which rests the body of S. Gwerir, and now also S. Neot rests there, — for king Alfred was always from his infancy a frequent visitor of holy places for the sake of prayer and almsgiving, — he prostrated himself for private devotion, and after some time spent therein, he entreated God’s mercy, that in His boundless clemency He would exchange the torments of the malady which then afflicted him for some other lighter disease ; but with this condition, that such disease should not show itself outwardly in his body, lest he should be an object of contempt, as makes men useless when it afflicts them. When he had finished his prayers, he proceeded on his journey, and not long after he felt within him that, by the hand of the Almighty, he was healed, according to his request, of his disorder, and that it was entirely eradicated. . . . But, sad to say! it was replaced at his marriage by another which incessantly tormented him, night and day, from the twentieth to the forty-fourth year of his life.””

saints of cornwall
See also Nicholas Orme “The Saints of Cornwall” (Oxford University Press, USA, 2000)

Lupicinus, Desert-dweller of the Jura Mountains

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1, 2014 by citydesert

March 3 is the Feast of Saint Lupicinus, Desert-dweller of the Jura Mountains
“Saint Lupicinus (c. 486) (also known as Lupicinus of Condat) was an Abbot and the Bishop of Lyon from 491 to 494. His brother was Saint Romanus of Condat. St. Lupicinus is noted for founding the abbeys of Saint-Claude in the Jura mountains and in the Lauconne districts of France. His successor was St. Rusticus, Archbishop of Lyon.”

“Saint Romanus, born in the late fourth century, left his relatives and spent some time in the monastery of Ainay at Lyons, near a large church at the point where the Saône and Rhone Rivers meet. The faithful had built it in honor of the famous martyrs of that region, whose ashes were thrown into the Rhone. His purpose for this retreat was to study all the practices of monastic life, and he obtained from the Abbot of Ainay some recently written books on the lives of the Desert Fathers.
At the age of thirty-five, Romanus retired into the forests of Mount Jura, between France and Switzerland, and fixed his abode at a place called Condate, near two rivers, where he found a plot of ground fit for culture, and some trees which furnished him with wild fruit. Here he spent his time praying, reading, and laboring for his survival. Lupicinus, his brother, came to him there, accompanied by several other disciples, who were followed by others, drawn there by the fame of the virtue and miracles of these two saints. When he was 54 years old, Romanus was ordained a priest by Saint Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers.
As they grew in number, the brothers built several monasteries, as well as a convent for their sister and other women, called La Baume. Before Saint Romanus died, there were already five hundred cloistered nuns. The nuns offered prayer and sacrifice and kept strict silence.

The two brothers governed the monks jointly and harmoniously, though they were of different dispositions; the gentleness of the first was balanced by the severity of the other, according to need. When a group of rebellious monks departed, Saint Romanus, by his patience and prayer, won them back, and if they departed a second or even a third time, received them with the same kindness. When Lupicinus, whose habits were very severe, criticized Romanus for his leniency, he replied that God alone knew the depths of hearts, and that among those who never departed, there were some whose fervor had declined, whereas some of those who returned after leaving even three times, were serving God with exemplary piety. He also explained that some who remained outside the monastery religiously practiced the rules they had learned in the monastery, even becoming priests. Saint Romanus died about the year 460, and Saint Lupicinus survived him for twenty years.”

life of the jura fathers
See further “The Life of the Jura Fathers: The Life and Rule of the Holy Fathers Romanus, Lupicinus, and Eugendus, Abbots of the Monasteries in the Jura Mountains, with appendices, Avitus of Vienne, Letter XVIII to Viventiolus, and Eucherius of Lyon, The Passion of the Martyrs of Agaune, Saint Maurice and His Companions, and In Praise of the Desert” Translated by Tim Vivian, Kim Vivian, and Jeffrey Burton Russell with the assistance of Charles Cummings, O.C.S.O. [Cistercian Studies Series, No. 178.] (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications. 1999


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