The Rocks Theologize Like Voiceless Theologians

simonospetra-mt-athosSo come, my dearly beloved son. Come now, even if for only one day, to talk about God and to theologize; to enjoy what you yearn for; to listen to the rough crags, those mystical and silent theologians, which expound deep thoughts and guide the heart and nous towards the Creator.

After spring it is beautiful here – from Holy Pascha until the Panagia’s day in August. The beautiful rocks theologize like voiceless theologians, as does all of nature – each creature with its own voice or its silence. If you bump your hand against a little plant, immediately it shouts very loudly with its natural fragrance, “Ouch! You didn’t see me, but hit me!” And so on, everything has its own voice, so that when the wind blows, their movement creates a harmonious musical doxology to God. And what more shall we say about the creeping things and winged birds? When that saint sent his disciple to tell the frogs to be quiet so that they could read the Midnight Service, they answered him, “Be patient until we’re done with Matins!” Continue reading The Rocks Theologize Like Voiceless Theologians

Saint Tikhon’s Monastery

I have hardly posted any blogs lately, and that is largely due to being busy with work and travel.  I spent some time at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and greatly enjoyed my stay there.  It is the oldest Orthodox monastery in America and has been a place of rest or repose for several saints.  With 300 acres of land to explore, dozens of little chapels tucked away in the woods, and beautiful daily liturgies, it is a place of spiritual renewal and refreshment. It is under the OCA jurisdiction, and fortunately, the services are almost completely in English.

Rather than complete a detailed write up and review of my stay, I have instead decided to post several photos of my visit.  I hope you enjoy them:

Saint Tikhon's Monastery - photo by Jeremiah of OrthodoxRoad.com
A blessing upon those who enter the monastery in the name of the Lord

Continue reading Saint Tikhon’s Monastery

Doubt Is Not Unbelief

Abbot-Tryphon-with-catThere are many Christians who deeply fear doubt due to their genuine desire to love God with all their being.  This fear of doubt and refusal to acknowledge little “fires” that are kindling in the back of the mind can sadly lead to the spiritual collapse of some Christians.  Abbot Tryphon of Vashon Island, Washington, has written about how doubt differs from unbelief, and how to approach doubt in a healthy manner.  Below are his thoughts:

 

I once met a woman who claimed she never doubted her faith, and had never experienced even a moment when she didn’t believe everything the Church taught. Within that same year, this woman had abandoned her faith, and apostatized from Orthodoxy. Her fear of harboring even a little doubt about her belief in God, and her trust in the Church’s teachings, had left her vulnerable. She did not understand that although the counterpart of belief is unbelief, doubt itself must be viewed as simply a hesitation between two positions.
Continue reading Doubt Is Not Unbelief

Finishing Salvation

Athletics - Barcelona Olympics - Mens 400mIn 1992, Olympic runner Derek Redmond’s hamstring snapped mid-race. He hobbled to a stop as the other runners flew past him. With much pain and tears, he began to limp and hop toward the finish line, refusing to give up.

It appears several coaches advised him to stop running, probably to avoid hurting himself further. Already in excruciating pain, he could hardly move. But then his dad, Jim, reached him. After collapsing onto his father in tears, together they slowly and painfully made their way to a touching finish as his dad continually waived away those who were attempting to stop them.

OUR RACE

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Tim 4:7) These words of St. Paul have made an impression on me since my youth. Continue reading Finishing Salvation

What It Means to Love Oneself

Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaching iconPop-spirituality is infatuated with the biblical statement, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev 19:18, Matt. 22:38, Mark 12:31, etc). I have heard people teach that it means we should pamper ourselves; others don’t know what to make of it. The fathers of the Church say little about this latter section of the verse in their commentaries, and I think it is because it was quite simple and common sense to nearly all generations of humans before us.

I recently discussed this with someone and shared the following: Continue reading What It Means to Love Oneself

Anxiety and Burning Out in the Christian Struggle

Elder Paisios
Elder Paisios

When asked about lay people coming home from a hard day of work and feeling too tired to complete a service commonly done after the evening meal, St. Paisios replied:

When they come home at night from work and feel tired, they should never pressure themselves and become anxious.  Instead, they should always say to themselves with philotimo [1], “If you cannot read the entire Apodeipno [2], read just half or one third of it.”  And then they should try not to get too tired during the day.  They should strive spiritually as much as they can, and do so with philotimo, entrusting everything to God, and God will act.  The mind should always be close to God; this is the best form of study.

   – Geronda, what does God think of intense ascetic discipline? [3]

If it is done from philotimo, people feel great joy; God also rejoices in the philotimo of His children.  A heart that is bursting with love drips honey.  But if it is full of egoism, it is tormented… Continue reading Anxiety and Burning Out in the Christian Struggle

Real Confusion and False Clarity

Thoughtful Mood by Hieromonk Savvaty- Valaam Monastery“Better real confusion than false clarity,” as Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory used to say.  It is a quote that has been on my mind quite a bit lately.  It seems it is in our nature to seek clarity in a situation, even if it cannot really be found.

St. Paisios lamented what television was doing to children and the upcoming society.  He stated that it was making us “numb and dumb.”  The internet has only taken that to the next level.  Now, when complicated issues arise, they are frequently either settled with a “virtual” shouting match or with memes, with the result that neither side is convinced.*  Continue reading Real Confusion and False Clarity

Calamities and the Wrath of God (St. Paisios)

St Paisios of the Holy Mountain (the Athonite)Locusts, wars, droughts, and disease, they are all scourges.  This is not God’s way of educating human beings; it is, rather, the result of our moving away from Him.  Scourges happen when we stray from God.  His wrath then comes to make us remember Him and ask for His help.  It’s not that He arranges and orders, so to speak, these calamities.  Rather, God allows them to happen because he sees how far human evil can go, and how unwilling we are to change our ways.  This is His way of bringing us to our senses.   But it is not something that He has arranged; rather, it is the natural result of our own self-will, our own actions.

God told Joshua [1] not to exterminate the tribe of the Philistines, because the Philistines were supposed to be a scourge to the Hebrews every time they would forget God.  So every time the Hebrews abandoned God, the devil acquired rights over them, and he would have his “cousins,” the Philistines, attack them.  They would take the Hebrew children, smash them on rocks and kill them.  Once when the Hebrews were attacked without being at fault, God fought on their side.  He sent big hail, the size of stones, and destroyed the Philistines, because in that case the Israelites had a right to divine intervention. [2] Continue reading Calamities and the Wrath of God (St. Paisios)

The Tanager’s Lament

Scarlet Tanager wikimedia commonsWhile working outside recently, I suddenly noticed a brightly colored scarlet tanager on the ground about ten feet from me.  He would peck at bugs on the ground and then furiously scratch and preen his feathers.  His body was in rough shape, with patches of feathers missing, probably due to a mite or lice infestation.

I finished my work and sat upon the ground, my heart filled with compassion as I watched him suffering with his parasite infestation.  Continue reading The Tanager’s Lament

Confronting Ecclesiastical Issues

Paisios monachos Agioreitis20The following is advice given by St. Paisios of Mt. Athos, who fell asleep in the Lord in 1994.  It is from his text With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man.  I am posting it because of the buzz of conversation happening in the Orthodox world regarding the Great and Holy Council of Crete. 

-Geronda, what is the right way to confront difficult ecclesiastical issues?

We must avoid extremes; extreme solutions will never solve a problem.  in the old days, the grocer would add little by little with the scoop on the scale until he got the exact weight and the scales were balanced.  In other words, he did not add or remove large amounts abruptly.  Extreme positions always cause suffering for our Mother the Church, as well as for those who hold those positions, because an extreme stance has a way of nailing people into place.  Continue reading Confronting Ecclesiastical Issues

Message of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to Those Who Have Assembled in Crete

Литургия
His Holiness Patriarch Kiril

To His Holiness Bartholomew

Archbishop of Constantinople – the New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch 

To their Holinesses and Beatitudes the Primates of Holy Churches of God 

To archpastors, pastors, monastics and laity who have assembled on the Island of Crete 

Your Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew,

Your Holinesses and Beatitudes,

The Most Reverend Fellow-Archpastors,

The Honorable Representatives of Local Orthodox Churches:

I cordially greet you on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church and on behalf of the Orthodox faithful in Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Moldova and other countries, who comprise the vast flock of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Continue reading Message of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to Those Who Have Assembled in Crete

Pentecost Icon Explained

Pentecost1As with all icons of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Pentecost icon teaches theology and brings us into the reality of the event depicted.  Below are a few reflections on the symbolism and meaning of this icon.

The Position of the figures represents harmony in which no apostle is better than another.  The inverse perspective prevents the apostles who are near the back of the semicircle from being painted as smaller, which would happen in the rendering of most normal paintings.  In actuality, they are depicted slightly larger, particularly Peter and Paul as the chief apostles.  But even then, they are among equals.

There is also no discord or chaos, which contrasts with some of the Western paintings of this event, which can be a bit dramatic.  There is no sign of appearing drunk, which they were accused of that morning.  Everything is sober and harmonious. Continue reading Pentecost Icon Explained