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Dear Friends,
To me, it’s just not Christmas without flowers in the house. The beauty and mystery of holly, ivy and mistletoe dates back centuries to the ancient Romans and Druids, predating Christianity. Legend says that holly grew under the footsteps of Christ and that the plant’s thorny leaves and red berries symbolize his suffering on the cross.
According to the legend of the poinsettia, a poor young girl had nothing to offer in church on Christmas Eve, so she brought a bouquet of greenery from the pathway to the church. During the Christmas Eve service, the greenery transformed into beautiful red star shaped flowers, underscoring the importance of offering gifts with humility. Evergreens on Christmas wreaths in a circle shape representing God without beginning or end.
My favorites are amaryllis and hyacinth. They are more than just a lovely color or shape or fragrance. They are living things that you have to take care of. They are perishable; they grow slowly, peak and then they die. They remind us that nothing lasts forever and that is indeed good to find the beauty of each season.
Put a flower in your home this Christmas!
-Rev. Rachel Hatgidakis

Meditations for Advent – 2019

Dec 1st -First Sunday: It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep, because our salvation is nearer than when we came to believe.
Mon: The powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming upon a cloud with great power and majesty…”look up, because your redemption is at hand.”
Tues: Law must give place to Love, and separate races and nations be united in one universal brotherhood, with Christ as the eldest brother.
Wed.: When our hearts have the living faith, have received Jesus Christ into them: then will the light of the world be born within us as in a humble stable.
Thurs.: So peace will come again on earth, but a peace unlike aught known before. Then will the will-to-good flower forth as understanding, and understanding blossom as goodwill.
Fri: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.
Sat.: Our soul waits for the Lord
See further suggested meditations on our web site:

From Father Paul: This Holy Season
This morning I want to go into some things related to this season of the year. I want to get to you brothers and sisters about the reality of our Lord at this time of year. There’s one thing I notice that you do not seem to feel. You have many things that function differently at this time. There are many of you had certain things in your life and in your personality clean up and you’ve gotten some things out of maybe the past of your experience, to release yourself from them. But there is that other thing that is taking place that you’re not fully conscious of, and that is the fact that while you look at a Christmas card and say, “Ah, yes, this is the birthday of Jesus on Christmas. This is what we’re commemorating.” But you do not realize the reality that this has actually happened, that Jesus was born again this year. Because that symbol of Jesus’ birth is not just a symbol. It is not just a thing that says on this date we are going to celebrate a memoriam, so to speak, like the passing of an individual into the other world.
No, we are celebrating a birth, because as he goes through each cycle of the twelve signs of the zodiac, of the twelve months into a new year, there is a distinct change. And the Jesus that you knew last year is not the Jesus that you know this year. Just look around yourself, amongst you, and see how many of those that are the same people that they were last year. Now this sounds strange to you, probably, but this is the truth. And this is why many of us who have gone a little deeper into things at this time of year and at the approach of the deeper realities of this universe and this orb, that we start to take on the sadness, the reality of the human race. To see their errors, to see the things which they have not done and the things they should have done. To realize what Jesus is about to do when he goes through the crucifixion again. Because that’s part of his memory too, and he will experience it.
If you have memory of any initiation that you have gone through you are never going to forget it, because if you do, it is not real. And as we approach these days of the crucifixion, there is a realization of the gifts that our Lord has left for us. And then there is that time between the crucifixion and the resurrection, that holy week when nothing seems to happen, when there is almost an appearance that the spirit has stopped functioning. It is as if the great Host stood in abeyance. Will he go through the crucifixion again this year? Will we gain for this year the atonement? For we gain and we sit and then we look within ourselves, we look within the cosmos and we see the greatness, the true greatness of the gift that he left with us. And this is the time of true retrospection; this is the time when we prepare for true rebirth. This is the time when every brother and sister should prepare themselves for the resurrection, and truly be born again into the life of Christ even greater than they were before. That they should really experience once again a true birth, to see the glories of the cosmos unfold. To really see that they are reborn, really know that they are reborn. Not just a nice tale, a story or a thankfulness for what he did then, but what he is doing now.
This may be a little bit hard for you to understand, but what he is doing now, this is the important thing. Men teach and write great books about the body of Christ, but the experience of this, Christ Jesus, the experience of this is what really does the job.
The other night, I presume it was something of imagination maybe, I was retiring and I looked up at the Master’s picture and I said, “Yes, I don’t have to ask, be with me as I leave, because I know you are everywhere.” And right at that moment there was great peace come across the void, so to speak, and really filled the room, the chapel. If I had felt separation between myself and our Lord, that peace could not have existed, because if you have to go from here to there, you are not there at all. It isn’t until we become a part and parcel of the crucifixion and the resurrection that we can truly know and understand the mystics of old and their work, the way they spoke of it and universal initiation. [Note: this was spoken three months before his passing.]
For every man, no matter who he is and what church he’s in, what order he’s in, what he believes or what he doesn’t believe, he is going to go through the crucifixion at some time, really. Not a wooden cross, but believe me, you can go through the crucifixion in everyday life. But when you do go through it there it is almost worse than hanging on a cross. And it will happen. Many of you have had your mothers and fathers and your friends turn against you. A number of you have been actually thrown out of the house, I know that, your home. You’ve been turned down on many things in the way of school and job and all that sort of thing, and then you wound up here. Well, what do you think that was? Why could you not have the friendship of family that understood you? I have seen men go from wealth to total poverty during that time. It was the crucifixion that was taking place. And then you came to the place where new life was and you experienced the resurrection. For you had died, many of you had, with all sorts of things. You were as far dead as a person could get, and still have life. You see, there is a reality and that reality is something you cannot escape, and you must experience these things.
Now, if you really want to try-not try, but really do it, really experience it-meditate with the Master. Don’t set there and say, “Now, I’m going to meditate on Jesus,” and fold your hands or put your hands on the arm of the chair, or you get on your knees in front of the altar and say, “I’m going to meditate on Jesus.” Oh, pshaw. Reach out your arms as if you were reaching toward a very fine young lady or your mother or somebody. Reach up, throw yourself out, get away from yourself and what you think you’re going to do, because you’re not going to go and do it that way at all, never in the world. Let yourself go out. This is your last moment. There is just one hope and that’s him. Otherwise it is death. This is the way you reach Jesus Christ, and you’ll never reach him any other way. Until you know, until you are sure that Jesus is the only one that can bring you to the Father and that this is your only one that can bring you to the Father and that this is your only hope. That all the mental thinking and concentration and all the other things are merely extra tools for other things, but in this they can do nothing. “Jesus, accept me, let the power of the spirit come down upon me and give me new life.” For all your mentality and your mentalism, and all the beautiful thoughts that you can think is not going to do it. You have got to give yourself up. It has got to be a last ditch stand as if you were over in the prison, and that they were going to pull a switch and he was the only one that would give you the reprieve. That’s where it is and that’s what it is. It is a reprieve, and anything short of that is just a mental idea that you have created. A mental idea that you still want to do it yourself. You can’t do it. It won’t work. You can sit and issue all the prayers for hours, and all the work, the beautiful things that you want to say, and it isn’t going to do it, not a bit. Until you make that appeal for that last-ditch hope, you will not reach him, because you still, until you can do that, you still have your thing going. You still are doing it yourself. And that is not it, and you cannot experience the crucifixion until you are with him, truly. Now let us get away from the mentalism and get down to the basic realities.
After you’ve made it, after you are with him, then these other things have their place, and you see it. But until you are with him and can feel some of the things that he felt, that you can share some of the sorrow that he felt, until you can feel some of the glory and joy that he felt in the resurrection-and there is joy even in the crucifixion. This is something you wouldn’t quite understand, but that’s where it is. And in this holy season this is what we should strive to attain. And I often think, as I see someone trying to contact the Master, what he said. This is the secret of it: “Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?” His appeal. He wanted to make that move forward, that reaching out into the other world where his Father was. So he had to make the void between him and his Father before he could follow that path of Ascension.
Now let’s during this Easter season, this holy season, let’s put this to work and prepare ourselves for the days that are universally accepted. It doesn’t make any difference, maybe the man had made a mistake with the calendar, or one thing or another. That won’t make any difference. This symbol is there just the same and there’s just as much reality to it as if we had turned the clock back two thousand years, even if you were right there on Calvary; it’s just as real. It is happening, and this earth itself is going through and will go through a resurrection on those days, and the crucifixion. Because it will come to its illumination. This living body within our Lord Jesus Christ, every cell of its moving reality. This is the time to begin to work as people, not as mystics, occultists or anything else, but under the true ancient faith of the way of creation, to work hand in hand with Jesus Christ, to reach the great Christos above.
There is the Way. He said, “I am the Way,” and he meant that. This was not meaning that we should follow what he did. That wasn’t what he was talking about when he made that statement. He meant he had traveled this path before, and this was the path he was traveling again to leave a track, a track where the sign posts were on it, this way into the other world, into the other place, into the higher realms, if you wish. But by him passing this way he had left it open for us to follow. So if we did the things that he said, we would be able to travel that same Way that he did, because he had paid the price for it. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” And just because you have had a flicker of light when you went through illumination, that isn’t the whole bag of wax, believe me. That’s just the beginning. That is just the beginning. Follow ye him. God bless you.

SOUL III …When the soul has attained the perfection, it is freed from the cycle of generation and no longer requires contact with these conditions, tests, trials, and re-cycling. It again becomes a pure and evolved soul which returns to its divine source as before its first imprisonment.

The oldest rite in the early philosophy shows that belief in the soul was a part of the principle of the primitive culture. Furthermore, it has always been believed by nearly all of the primitive and modern philosophies. Let us realize also that our mystic cults said that man’s soul is a divine essence and is rarely associated with the material body.

We find that much thought in the writings of many great people; historic philosophers born in the Taurus, about 301 BC. They held that the sun was the abode of God. From the sun, radiated a divine essence, the soul of God. This soul pervades all space and, in separable segments, entered into the human body to be born on the earth. The soul, or god-man, essence was the revivification of the fire or the universal emanation of the intelligence provided providence of God.

There is added on the original idea,that the degree of the validity of the soul, after so-called death, depends upon the degree of its vitality in its life in the body. Arguments in favor of these believe that the soul is a divine element, or entity, having its own origin in God, residing temporarily in an earthly body, and freed at the dissolution of the body to return to its origin, or source.

There are many and learned discussions regarding these things. To really understand what life is, then one must begin to see and know that all of this and the great wonders which we see around us, must have something that remembers from life to life–that we are, that we are going to be, and that we are not going to be just a man. We are going to be a being. We are going to be a highly intelligent individual. If we listen to the words of the inner being, and if we reach a state of spiritual consciousness, where we listen to the direction from within, we will soon realize that there has to be a soul. For, many of the answers and things we get will be impossible without a record brought forward.

That science — that hard materialistic goal — we recognize that we take cognizance of the soul and we even admit that a man might think and still not have or think about the things which might come from the soul.

Plato voiced this same idea in the words: “as manifestly as the human soul is, by means of the human senses, it is linked to the present life, attracting itself by reason of concepts, conclusions, anticipations and efforts; to which reason leads it to God and eternity.”

We see that the human mind not only conceives the existence of the human soul, but that the duality of man’s earthly existence is at once made apparent by our recognition of such concepts of the soul. It is not possible after considerable thought to conceive of a man as having a soul without conceiving that man’s expressions on earth — that is, in the form of body and soul. The material form enclosing the immaterial which has continual existence.

Consider the soul as a separate part and shell of the Self — immaterial parts of the dual man. Mind must naturally be considered the immaterial entity of the being immortal, divine and immanently from God. This the reality. This is the actual heritage which God has left us with, that we can take with us: our life history, our life library from one life to another without hesitation.

Tao Te Ching: The heart that gives, gathers.

The inmates’ idea was far-fetched: install a Japanese garden in the shadow of a massive cellblock at the Oregon State Penitentiary.
For one, prison officials wondered, who would pay for it? Who would do the work? Would the elegant elements of a Japanese garden run afoul of the Byzantine rules intended to keep the maximum-security prison safe?
The men persisted.
They became adept at grant-writing, securing nearly $500,000 to fund their idea. They made presentations to corrections staff, potential donors and others, transforming themselves into polished public speakers in the process. They recruited laborers from their own ranks – nearly 180 inmates in all – who worked during the summer to plant trees, move boulders and install elaborate water features.
This week, five years after floating the idea, the men – and the prison officials who signed off on the project – unveiled something extraordinary deep within the grounds of Oregon’s oldest penitentiary: the largest prison garden of its kind in the country.
The world-renowned Japanese garden designer, Hoichi Kurisu, who designed Portland’s famous Japanese garden, provided design services pro bono. And inmates added to the funding from foundations by making monthly donations of $5.00-10.00 a month out of their meager prison incomes to support the project.
Kurisu has a lovely statement about the garden on his website: “The healing garden at OSP has the potential for long-term impact on how justice is defined and rehabilitation achieved.
As Japanese gardens have done for thousands of years, this garden will offer unique opportunities for self-realization, tranquility, and peace. For inmates experiencing depression, anger, stress, and total disconnection from natural elements, recovering a sense of awe and appreciation for nature’s beauty can inspire transformation at the deepest levels.”…
-The Oregonian

A Christmas Message from Paramahansa Yogananda
My Christmas wish for you this year is twofold: that the consciousness of Christ be manifest in you through deep meditation, and that your exemplary actions will persuade others to abandon their evil or worldly ways and become spiritual. Both meditation and action are necessary or the spiritual path, for they contribute toward individual and mass evolution. It is not God’s will to develop spiritually in a selfish way, i.e., without extending help to others who are suffering. So remember always to render service to mass evolution, while seeking the Father through regular practices of deep meditation.

The more one develops spiritually, the deeper becomes his or her love and compassion for humanity. Accompanying love and compassion is the desire to uplift humanity from the throes of ignorance and war and the consequent suffering they bring. However, you must remember to make God first in your heart always. The Father will not be content with second place; He must reign first and foremost in the most tender center of your being — your heart. Through His blessings and grace alone are you able to develop and help humanity emerge from its ignorance.

Meditate regularly and practice Kriya Yoga faithfully with all the concentration of your mind and the intensity of your heart. On Christmas Eve meditate for many hours in the presence of other devotees. Dedicate this extended meditation to the achievement of the love of God and the attainment of World Peace and Brotherhood among all nations.

Share your gifts (material, mental and spiritual) with the less fortunate on Christmas. This will make your holiday a real one. The gifts need not be expensive but practical ones: durable clothing (new or used) for those who need it, canned and dried foods for people who find them difficult to obtain in their countries, a friendly visit to the physically afflicted, a word of comfort to the depressed, and spiritual manna to those who are seeking the love of God. You can help distant as well as local people in these ways.

Be ambitious for God. Keep seeking Him through meditation and keep working for Him. This will give you the spiritual emancipation you are seeking. Christ and the great ones showed through exemplary living that it can be done. So follow their footsteps quietly and humbly. God bless you always. May your everyday become a Christmas of ever-new joy, love, peace, and wisdom in God and the Gurus.
–With deepest blessings, Paramahansa Yogananda