The Canaanite Woman

canaanite woman orthodox iconThe reading of the encounter between Jesus Christ and the Canaanite woman can raise more questions than many other passages.  In summary, we see a Gentile woman from a pagan culture coming before Christ on behalf of her demon possessed daughter.

At first, Christ ignores her; then he calls her a dog before finally healing her daughter.  What are we to make of this?  Why would God, who so readily healed the multitudes in passages before and after this one, appear to be so difficult and insulting?

As unlearned as I am, I will attempt to answer those questions, relying mostly on the assistance of Saints John Chrysostom and Theophylact.

Continue reading The Canaanite Woman

St. Photius of Constantinople

Photius-of-Constantinople-PatriarchToday, February 6th, we commemorate the one whom some historians say was second to St. John Chrysostom in influence on the Constantinoplitan throne. I’ve decided to complete a blog entry about St. Photius because his teachings and the heresies he faced are as relevant today as they were some 1,200 years ago.

St. Photius ascended the Partriarchal throne after his predecessor, Ignatius, was deposed in the year 857. He was raised from layman to Patriarch in six days, which is unusual. He was a man of great learning in both secular and theological studies.

A great deal of controversy surrounded his quick appointment, particularly in the West. Pope Nicholas I sent delegates to investigate the matter and was assured that Photius’ appointment was legitimate. Years later, Nicholas changed his mind and held a council to anathematize Photius. Nicholas’ successor, Pope John VIII, later annulled the decisions against Photius and even sent him an omophorion (or pallium) to confirm Photius’ appointment.  Many years later, the Latin (Roman Catholic) church reversed their decision again and they now support Pope Nicholas, whom they call St. Nicholas the Great. Continue reading St. Photius of Constantinople

On Refuge from Sinful Thoughts

castle_by_netdogThere was in a certain place a beautiful woman of questionable behavior. The ruler of this country took pity on her, that such beauty would perish, and, when he found the opportunity, he said to her, “Give up your immoral ways, and I will take you to my house and you will become my wife and the mistress of many treasures. Just watch that you are faithful, or else there will be such trouble for you as you cannot even imagine.”
She agreed to this, and was taken to the ruler’s house. Her former friends, seeing that she had disappeared, began searching for her, and found out that she was with the ruler.
Although the ruler was a terror, they did not despair of enticing the beautiful woman back to themselves once again, knowing her weakness. “We have only to go up behind the house and whistle; she will know who it is and immediately run out to us.”
That is just what they did.
They went behind the house and whistled. The beautiful woman, hearing the whistle, started. Something from her previous life stirred inside of her. But she had already come to her senses, and instead of running out of the house, she rushed into the inner chambers to the ruler himself, and immediately calmed down; she did not even hear the whistling that continued outside.
Her friends whistled a few more times and went off with nothing.
The meaning of the parable is clear. The beautiful woman represents the fallen soul that has turned to the Lord in repentance and made a contract to belong to and serve Him alone. The former friends are the passions. Their whistling is the impulses of passionate thoughts, feeling, and desires. Escape into the inner chambers is shelter in the depths of the heart, there to stand before the Lord.
When this is accomplished within, the passion that has troubled the soul leaves of its own accord as if it had never existed, and the soul calms down.

-=-From The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned to It. A parable by St. John the Dwarf adapted by St. Theophan the Recluse.

Continue reading On Refuge from Sinful Thoughts

Additional Thoughts on Zeal


I previously blogged about lukewarm Christianity and zeal, and I wanted to add a couple more thoughts.

I think differences between someone who is beginning the work toward obtaining zeal and the person who is lukewarm are fairly simple.  The zealous Christian puts more effort into remembering God throughout the day.  Remembrance of God in all things is, I think, what divine zeal looks like. Continue reading Additional Thoughts on Zeal

Divine or Ungodly Zeal?

Theophany Procession2 are few topics that were closer to the heart of St. Theophan the Recluse than that of zeal, both in its divine manner and in its ungodly forms.

He sometimes characterized Christians in one of three categories:
1. Those who are cold
2. Those who are neither hot nor cold
3. Those who are zealous

Little needs to be said regarding Christians who are cold. These would probably be those people who come to church only on Pascha and Nativity and see little practical use for God or religion in their daily lives.


Those in the second category I would call the “nice guy” Christians. On the exterior, they’re nice folks who are easy to get along with. They show up at church regularly, they have an icon corner in their home, they know many of the exterior forms of worship, but their hearts are not zealous for God. Therefore, they tend to mix a great amount of worldliness into their lives. They will readily take their cues and beliefs from culture as from the fathers of the church.

All of us quite easily drift into being neither hot nor cold. Continue reading Divine or Ungodly Zeal?

The Kingfisher’s Snare

Below is a story my wife wrote regarding one of our recent adventures. She refers to me as “J.”

Male Belted Kingfisher. Canon 40D with 300mm f/2.8L IS, 580EX flash with Better Beamer in ETTL mode FEC 0.
Belted Kingfisher – wikimedia commons

At the end of our road, there is a fishpond with a tree arching over it.  On my walk today, I realized that a kingfisher was somehow caught on the end of a slender branch reaching out over of the middle of the pond (a kingfisher is a type bird, about the size of a crow with a great big beak and a bold crest).  He was dangling over the pond about a foot above the water, struggling to free himself to no avail.  I stopped to watch him, pain and pity filling my heart as he violently wrestled, but was unable to escape.  Weary and exhausted, the bird would rest and pant, hanging below the branch.  I surveyed the scene, seeking a means to rescue him, but couldn’t find a way to reach him over the water.  Grieved, I went home, unable to see how it was possible without wading into the murky pond of unknown depth. Continue reading The Kingfisher’s Snare

God Is Not Confused

Book of Kells - Temptation of Christ
Temptations of Christ – Book of Kells

In my Protestant years, I learned that after His baptism, Christ went into the wilderness in order to “find Himself,” to attempt to discover His purpose and receive His calling from God. Various biblical commentators, including William Barclay, paint a portrait of a Jesus who, like us, tries to find His purpose in life.

Having read several fathers of the Church, I now see that such a presentation of Christ is as far from the truth as possible. Christ is both fully man and fully God and has never had a moment of doubt or confusion.

St. Gregory Palamas writes, He made our guilty nature new in Himself by taking it upon Himself from the Virgin’s blood, as was His good pleasure, and justifying it through Himself…the only-begotten Son of God did not take a human person from us, but our nature, and made it new, being united with it in His own person. [1] Continue reading God Is Not Confused

Sorrow and Fasting

monk feeding pigeonsThe biblical authors were no strangers to sorrow, and most of us in this life carry or have carried some form of sorrow in our hearts. Speaking of sorrow, the Apostle Paul writes, “For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly sorrow produces death.” (2 Cor 7:10).

There are two types of sorrow: worldly and godly. But what is the difference?

Worldly sorrows have a multitude of sources including: Continue reading Sorrow and Fasting

Abiding in Christ

transfiguration of Christ - stained glass - orthodox-smallCome…let us be transformed this day into a better state and direct our minds to heavenly things, being shaped anew in piety according to the form of Christ. For in His mercy the Savior of our souls has transfigured disfigured man and made him shine with light upon Mount Tabor. [1]

In my last post, I attempted to emphasize the need for us to look exclusively to God as our source of love and fulfillment. Regarding the “Five Love Languages,” they are fine practices for us to edify others, but we should never expect anything in return.

That is a hard teaching, especially when society tells us the root of our problems is that we don’t love ourselves enough, which is completely wrong because truthfully we love our flesh entirely too much. Continue reading Abiding in Christ

A Critique of the Five Love Languages

love_by_jpdeanFrom my teenage years until recent times, I firmly believed that all people had their needs for love fulfilled in five different ways, as outlined in the best seller by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages.

Now that I have been exposed to Orthodox theology and have come to know my own heart more deeply, I feel that Dr. Chapman’s theory is a bit flawed.

As outlined by Dr. Chapman, there are five ways in which people give and receive love.  When someone in a relationship feels unloved, it may be because their significant other is not “speaking” their “love language.”  The five are:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Receiving Gifts
3. Acts of Service
4. Quality Time
5. Physical Touch Continue reading A Critique of the Five Love Languages

The Awakening: Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome

beauty_and_the_beast_by_austh-smSome people have criticized the classic Disney movie Beauty and The Beast due to its romantic display of Stockholm Syndrome, which is a phenomenon in which someone held captive develops an emotional attachment and loyalty to his or her captor. While the Disney film makes the beast reform his ways and repent, what if the story took a different direction? What if he remained a ravaging beast and she still fell in love with him?

What if we all have Stockholm Syndrome? What if our culture and our flesh are our beastly captors, and being raised by them and in them has caused us to sympathize with our captors?

What would freedom look like, perhaps a body that is in submission to the soul? Continue reading The Awakening: Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome

Resources on Toll-Houses and the After Life

Orthodox toll house iconI know of only a few other topics in Orthodoxy that can cause as much division as toll houses.  With that in mind, I have put together a page in order to assist people who want to know more information.  Most people I’ve spoken to and resources I’ve encountered that oppose the toll house theology end up creating an overly-literal and exaggerated concept of the toll-houses, or they strive so hard to refute toll-houses that they find themselves in the opposite extreme of sharing theology with groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who teach “soul sleep.”

The resources I have to offer are 1) Free electronic resources and 2) Printed books that are usually a bit more in-depth.  The main purpose of this brief blog post is to point to the resources page that I have been maintaining and periodically updating.

Click here to go to the resource page.