Bring Back the Disney Princess!

Sleeping Beauty, Disney princess, type of the Theotokos MaryIn some of the classic Disney movies, the princess is in the forest surrounded by animals that befriend her and even sing with her.  They follow her and adore her.  These scenes reveal a character with purity of heart, a soul that was so undefiled that even nature was unafraid of her.

These scenes spoke to people at the time the movies were released, and even to myself when I was a child.  They reminded us of a memory we all instinctively carry within us: the memory of Eden.  In the Garden all of nature was subject to man and was at peace with him.  After the fall into sin, the animals became afraid of man because while we are still in the image of God, that image has been soiled and defiled by sin. Continue reading

Transcendence & Spiritual Experiences, Part 4

Warmth of Heart and Authentic Spiritual Experience in Prayer

holy friday, good friday OrthodoxThis is true life in God! To desire and seek God for the sake of God, and to possess Him and partake of Him in the way and measure that He wishes.
-St Theophan the Recluse, Unseen Warfare

Prayer is a beautiful thing, and a heart that is earnestly seeking God in purity will find Him. In my spiritual journey, I have found that Orthodoxy offers the deepest, most spiritually balanced, and safest way to experience God through prayer. While there are outward “formalities” and we do not encourage the heightened emotional states found in charismatic circles and among some Roman Catholic “contemplatives,” our prayers are far from lifeless.

In fact, St Theophan the Recluse heavily emphasizes praying with feeling and the need to have “warmth of the heart” in prayer. This is a good feeling that overflows from a heart that is open and loving toward God. On our end, we open ourselves to receiving this divine warmth through making an effort to pray and overcoming various difficulties. On His part, God bestows the gifts of warmth and grace at His discretion. Continue reading

Transcendence & Spiritual Experiences, Part 3

CHARISMATIC AND NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY

worship_by_knilvrieWithin the confines of western Christianity, one of the fastest growing sects of Protestantism is the charismatic or Pentecostal movement. This movement is so influential, that just recently the Southern Baptist Association changed one of their rules and decided they will now support missionaries who speak in tongues. Charisma Magazine explained this as the Baptists attempting to keep up with the competition.

Outside of Christianity, another movement with some identical experiences and teachings could collectively be called “New Age spirituality.”

The main similarity that both of these paths share is that they offer spiritual experiences without asceticism.  In other words, they offer an experience of “God” without the necessity of taking up your cross and following Him or sacrificing worldly and fleshly desires. Continue reading

Transcendence & Spiritual Experiences, Part 2

BEYOND ATHEISM AND RATIONALISM

Refuge by Dan MIn my last post, I discussed how many of us experience moments of transcendence that leave us with an inexplicable knowledge that there is more to this life than the material world that immediately surrounds us. The mindset of this world and forms of atheism attempt to belittle or deny us this knowledge because it is supposedly not rational or scientifically provable.

However, according to some recent research, atheism is declining in numbers. While numbers are not everything, it reveals the atheists are fighting a losing battle because humans are naturally predisposed toward spirituality. It takes effort to shut down this aspect of our being, and it is rewarding when we don’t do so. Continue reading

Transcendence & Spiritual Experiences, Part 1

Through the Trees by DanWhile reading this, you are probably sitting in a room. Around you are most likely walls and perhaps other people behind some of those walls. If you could see through the walls surrounding you, a vision of more walls would likely be had if you are in a city, and trees and earth if you are in the country.

Were you to somehow float above everything with the vision of an eagle, your position would allow you insight on more things and people. Your knowledge of your surroundings would no longer be contained to the four walls about you.

Many of us have had such “transcendent” moments where it seems we tap into something higher than ourselves. Perhaps this has come during prayer or divine services; frequently this is experienced in nature. I had an atheist friend who confessed to having several of these moments while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Continue reading

On The Acquisition of The Holy Spirit

The enlightening discussion between Motovilov and St Seraphim of Sarov on acquiring the Holy Spirit.  It seemed proper to post on Holy Pentecost.

st seraphim of sarov with a bear from nativityofchristnetIntroduction

Saint Seraphim of Sarov was born in 1759, in the city of Kursk. His parents were pious Orthodox Christians, examples of true spirituality. At the age of ten, Seraphim was miraculously healed from a serious illness by means of the Kursk icon of the Theotokos. As a boy, he immersed himself in church services and church literature. He began monastic life at the hermitage of Sarov at the age of nineteen. He was tonsured as a monk when he was twenty-seven, and soon afterwards was ordained a deacon. Continue reading

Why a Closed Communion Table? Part 2

akathist resurrection eucharist orthodoxOne of my greatest stumbling blocks coming into the Orthodox Church was the closed communion table. Growing up Protestant, my experience was that the table was open to anyone who considered themselves to be a Christian. Attending an Orthodox Church and not being able to partake of the Eucharist was difficult for me. I believe in Jesus, isn’t that enough?

My historical studies revealed just how unaware I was of Christian practices before the 20th century. I blogged about that previously; this blog will be focused more on the theological reasons for a “closed table.”

Perhaps the best place to start is with scripture and the questions:

  • When did Christians begin partaking of the Eucharist?
  • What is the Eucharist?
  • Why do Christians partake of it?
  • And finally, why is the table open only to Orthodox members in good standing?

Continue reading

Developing Inner Prayer, Part 2

silence at ValaamGod does not need our prayers or praise. But we as His creatures, made in His image, must return to the Source of our being in order to become fully alive and filled with love. Two of the most important steps toward developing inward and outward prayer are realizing the great love of God and then putting our faith and hope in that love.

St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain states, “God Himself wishes and is ready to give you all that is needed for you to serve Him rightly, and to bestow upon you every blessing you need.” Continue reading

Developing Inner Prayer, Part 1

prayer at Valaam MonasteryThe convincing factor that led me to join the Orthodox Church was not the theology or the worship services, it was prayer. In only a few months, through the teachings of the fathers, I learned more about developing prayer than I had heard in my entire life. And I saw the fruit of it too.

My last blog focused on short prayers that one can say throughout the day. The most important of all of these is the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.” As St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain teaches, “Preeminence belongs to the Jesus Prayer because it unites the soul with our Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus is the only door to union with God, which is the aim of prayer.” Continue reading

Prayerful Sighings

Colorful Tree canopyIt is not unusual for me during my prayer rule to say a handful of prayers and suddenly realize my mind has been completely absent from prayer – thinking about certain events or people. I’ve had times at the Divine Liturgy where several minutes go by, even a large portion of the service, and I realize I have hardly paid any attention to what is happening.

St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain writes,

And so it happens; the most assiduous recital of prayer can never be practiced without the thought darting away and wandering outside. Since this disturbs the prayer and makes it impure, there is no man who practices prayer, who is not chagrined by it and does not wish to be delivered from this incapacity. Continue reading

The Tale of Moral Progress

from http://krmenxa.deviantart.com/art/Evolution-53007718

image by krmenxa on deviantart

A concept that is so integrated into our subconscious that we do not even realize its presence within us is the modern lie regarding the progress of humanity. This legend states that over time, mankind is progressing and leaving the old, oppressive ways behind.

Certainly we have seen forms of progress in the past fifty years regarding technology and some civil issues. But do these things confirm that we are collectively evolving as a society? Or are we simply making a few corrections with one hand while driving society deeper into depravity with the other? Continue reading

The Unblindness of Love

Transfiguration of Christ iconLove is not blindness, it pierces through skin and marrow with x-ray vision; it looks upon the other and sees the deeper things of the heart.

Love is not blindness, it hovers over all the earth, seeking every soul that will empty itself to create a dwelling place; it is joyful with the most humble and smallest abodes.

Love is not blindness, it hears the hurtful words but sees the wounded heart below the surface, and loves it all the more.

Love is not blindness, it feels the tossed stones, the blazing fire, the piercing nails, the stinging bullets, the cutting sword, and untold pain, yet keeps reaching out with open arms.

Love is not blindness, it discerns beneath the rebellious dark heart, a soul’s child crying out for freedom from the tyrannical passions.

Love is not blindness, it seeks unity, the consummation of oneness in all, without consuming, destroying, or depersonalizing the object of its healing touch.

Love is not blindness, it cools the raging of the defiant heart with its gentle honey-caress, finding its home within all while all seek a refuge within. Continue reading