Not Naked, But Clothed in Glory

Harrowing of Hades Italy 1200 -croppedThe serpent found a second Eve in the Egyptian woman, and with words of flattery he sought to make Joseph fall.  But, leaving his garment behind him, Joseph fled from sin; and like the first man before his disobedience, though naked he was not ashamed.  (Bridegroom Matins, Canticle Nine).

Frequently during the course of Great Lent, as well as Holy Week, we look upon the example of the Old Testament patriarch Joseph.  Earlier in the same service, we sing,

Jacob lamented the loss of Joseph, but his righteous son was seated in a chariot and honored as a king.  For he was not enslaved to the pleasures of Egypt, but he was glorified by God who sees the hearts of men and bestows upon them a crown incorruptible. (Canticle One)

And again,

[Jacob’s] wise and glorious son was enslaved in body but kept his soul free from bondage, and became lord over all Egypt.

And lastly, we reflect upon a different type of robe: Continue reading Not Naked, But Clothed in Glory

St. Gregory Palamas: The Approachable Genius

St Gregory Palamas Homilies by Mt. Thabor PublishingThere’s a tendency for us modern folks to feel that the teachings of the fathers of the church are too lofty and are unapproachable for the common person.  So, if we read at all, we stick to modern authors who distill the works of the fathers into something more intellectually palatable.

However, I don’t believe this watering down of the fathers is necessary.  Granted, some fathers such as St. Maximos the Confessor are quite lofty and can be difficult to understand at times.  There are also some modern Greek theologians who make me pull out my dictionary with every other sentence.

But besides these and a few others, most of the works of the fathers are quite approachable.  Why?  Because, as anyone who studies history knows, we are not so different than the people who have come before us.  Therefore, the issues that even the most ancient fathers address are quite similar to our everyday problems.  While there are new ways to sin (cyber theft, internet pornography, etc), these are still the same base passions with slightly different means.

Years ago, I heard somewhere that the true genius does not need to talk above everyone else, but is able to grasp the truth so effectively that he can explain it in a way that most ordinary people can understand.  Continue reading St. Gregory Palamas: The Approachable Genius

The Cross, The Suffering, and The Glory

Holy Friday iconIf any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Mark 8:34

These well known words by Christ are true for every Christian in every generation. Those who suffer for God take up their cross and follow Him. In the New Testament we are endlessly reminded that there is no way to the Kingdom of Heaven without suffering. To live the Christian life is to give up our ideas of comfort, security, and self-will in order to accept hardships, tribulations, and a cross.

The desert father, St. Barsanuphius, puts it so succinctly:

Pass over from the world, and henceforth mount the Cross, be lifted from the earth. Continue reading The Cross, The Suffering, and The Glory

The Prayer Flare

110921-N-XZ912-085NORFOLK (September 21, 2011) Members of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Seven (HSC-7) perform Search and Rescue (SAR) jumps for qualification on Wednesday night at Naval Station Norfolk. These qualifications help the navy with readiness and sustainability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christopher B. Stoltz/Released)

Our house is nestled in a cove between two mountain ranges.  One in front of the house, and the other behind.  There are popular trails that follow the ridges of the mountains for those who enjoy a difficult hike.

The other night, we heard a helicopter circling nearby.  We peaked out a window and realized a hiker must have been injured and called for emergency assistance.  The helicopter spent some time maneuvering into the rescue area, which was near the ridge of the mountain slope.  It was night time and a storm was rolling in, so the task was both dangerous and difficult to navigate.  Continue reading The Prayer Flare

Self-Pity: A Quiet Snare

St-Theophan-Recluse-pravoslavie“Self-pity is the root of all our stumblings into sin. He who does not indulge himself is always steadfast in good.” – St. Theophan the Recluse

SELF-PITY AND GRIEVING
I recently experienced a minor grief – nothing compared to what many people suffer. However, during that time I realized one of the keys between healthy grieving and sinful despair is the focus of our thoughts. When I began dwelling upon, “I’ll never get to see her again,” or “She’ll never be able to make me laugh again like she used to,” I found it was quite easy to slip into despair. Continue reading Self-Pity: A Quiet Snare

Playing in Fire: A Parable

hills_of_fire_by_kkartA man wakes up in an unfamiliar field.  Sniffing the air, he detects something burning, only to realize that the “fog” obscuring the sun above him is in actuality a thick cloud of smoke.  Rising to his feet, he confirms the entire field is encompassed by a wildfire, which is quickly drawing nearer to himself.  There is a section of grass that has not burned straight ahead of him.  Peering into the distance, he sees that it is a path leading to a large body of water.  Luckily, there is a dock with a boat at the water’s edge.  The captain of the boat is untying the ropes from the dock while frantically beckoning the man in the field toward himself.

The man in the field feels a gust of wind and sees the fire surging closer to him.  Continue reading Playing in Fire: A Parable

What Do Icons Mean?

007-Trinity-icon-hospitality-AbrahamThe following is an article written by iconographer Michael Goltz. In it, he explains the theology of the icon, its use, symbolism, how/why characters are portrayed, etc. I hope it is as beneficial to you as it was to me.

The iconography of our Orthodox Church, with all of its symbolism and spiritual meaning, is central to the Church’s teaching. People are greatly influenced by what they contemplate, and so the Church, in its love for its faithful, has given us iconography in order to help us contemplate God. The Church has elevated iconography to a place of prominence as a teaching tool. What the Gospels proclaim with words, the icon proclaims visually. Continue reading What Do Icons Mean?

True Fasting – The Journey of Great Lent

From Pravoslavie - Russian celebration of "Mother of God, quick to hearken"“When you come to appear before me, who requires of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies — I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. Continue reading True Fasting – The Journey of Great Lent

The Casting out of Adam and Forgiveness Sunday

Casting of Adam out of Eden-ParadiseThis Sunday is called the Sunday of Forgiveness, in which we remember Adam and Eve being cast out of the Paradise of Eden. Though they initially wore no clothing, they were robed in garments of light and beauty. When cast out of Eden, they were clothed in skins of flesh, which signifies what is now our mortal, corruptible bodies.

Through transgressing the commandment of God by eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve broke the divinely appointed fast. Now we, having inherited corrupted human nature and contributing our own sins to it, are called to keep a new divinely appointed fast: that of Great Lent. Continue reading The Casting out of Adam and Forgiveness Sunday

When Death Valley Blooms

02_deathvalleybloom-national-geographicRecently, National Geographic posted beautiful pictures of one of the hottest and driest places on earth, which is aptly named Death Valley.

Due to an unusual amount of rainfall, this valley has had what is called a “Super Bloom” in which flowers have burst forth everywhere.

It reminds me of the spiritual life.

Within every heart is the potential for Godly beauty to arise. The seeds are lying dormant.  With the waters of baptism as well as tears shed over our sins, the once dead, stony heart in everyone of us has the potential to “Super Bloom,” as Death Valley has.

Should we continue in repentance, the roots will grow deeper as our hearts are purified and we noetically see God.  Then when dry spells come, these “dark nights of the soul” that are allowed in order to test us, our established roots will keep us alive as grace invisibly works within us, deepening our love for God.

No person is a lost case. Every heart, even the driest, has this potential for beauty. Continue reading When Death Valley Blooms

The Quest of Anodos (a short story)

desert_by_scorpio_empireThere was once a young man named Anodos. He found himself wandering through a sweltering desert with nothing but sagebrush and vultures as his companions. Naturally, our vagabond grew quite thirsty in his ramble under the sun.

As he strayed deeper into this rocky, lifeless land, he came upon a large house. Rushing forward, he hoped to at least receive some water, perhaps even a full meal. He knocked on the door and was greeted by a well-groomed, clean shaved young man. Explaining his thirst, the host Continue reading The Quest of Anodos (a short story)

The Great Fast and The Pharisee

Publican Pharisee iconBecause the Orthodox Church was instituted by God to be the hospital for our souls, everything within it has been ordained through the Holy Spirit for our salvation. The upcoming season of Great Lent (the Great Fast) is no exception.

In her wisdom, the Church does not simply throw us straight into a difficult fast, but rather slowly steps us toward it: both theologically and practically. The Church readings on Sundays teach us important lessons about fasting, and on a practical level, the fasting begins slowly with Meatfare Sunday.

WHY FAST?

It is pertinent to ask why do we fast?  Continue reading The Great Fast and The Pharisee