Prayer of the Heart and Humility

St Catherine's Orthodox ChurchIf one enters into the prayer life of Orthodoxy, you will find a great emphasis on keeping Christ on your heart and mind at all times.  The monastics and many laypeople strive to attain “prayer of the heart,” in which their heart speaks the name of Christ or what is known as the Jesus Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me” at every waking and sleeping hour.

Entering into this realm of life is exciting and transformative.  It requires two things: first of all is grace from God.  Without His grace, everything else is worthless.  Secondly, it necessitates a readiness on our part to receive him.  If our hearts and minds are full of the cares, attachments, and desires of this world and our flesh, then there is no room for grace within us.  Of course, it takes the grace of God to remove these things, but we must make ourselves available and take the tiniest step of effort toward Him.

Releasing the desires and attachments of the flesh is a slow process.  The more we dig around inside of us, Continue reading

Working the Land Within

Farmer in Indonesia by JayantaraHe who works his own land will be satisfied with bread,

but those who pursue vain things are in need of discernment. (Prov 12:11)

WORK YOUR OWN LAND

The “land” which we are advised to work is our heart.  Those who plow their heart, making it ready for the seed of the Logos and pulling the weeds of passions, will be satisfied with “bread.”  Bread here can be understood in two ways. Continue reading

Why do the Orthodox pray to saints?

Below is a letter recently written that I felt may help others out as well.

http://www.ssppoc.org/In regards to praying to saints, it is one of the most difficult things for Protestant Christians to understand.  I wrestled with it for a while.  The old English word “pray” means to ask.  As in, “I pray thee, Ezekiel, could I suffer you for cup of water?”

In the modern English Christian world, the word has come to mean “to ask God for something.”  So, when we mention “praying to the saints” it seems horrible because we’ve been trained that the word should only be used in regards to praying to the god of whatever religion one adheres.

As you are finding through the Jesus Prayer, true prayer is much more than simply asking for something.  It is communing, that is connecting with the Divine in a deep way…establishing a heart to heart connection.  Continue reading

God Speaks Through Pink Shirts

The Embarrassing Pink Shirt Incident

MikeRossPhotography

Trimming the rapidly growing weeds and grass on the steep section of our yard is not one of my favorite activities.  I used to wear shorts, but got stung several times by yellow jackets  — once they flew up my shorts and that wasn’t much fun.  So, I reluctantly began wearing pants when trimming.

This year it has been poison ivy.  Nearly every time I would trim I would have itchy bumps pop up on my arms after a couple of days.  I’m a rather spoiled person and enjoy my air conditioning in the summer time, and I really don’t like being hot (hence the shorts and t-shirt when trimming).  I moved to the mountains of North Carolina because I’m not fond of sweating, not to mention Continue reading

Babel Upside Down

Pentecost iconIn the prehistoric times, mankind decided they would force their way into heaven. The biblical narrative explains they built a large tower with the intention of walking right into heaven. Their plan was destroyed when they found themselves speaking in diverse tongues and no longer able to understand each other.

Pentecost, which was celebrated today in the Orthodox Church, could be considered Babel upside down. The Holy Spirit descended among us and the diverse tongues that once divided mankind acted to unite.

Now, we no longer build towers to reach into the heavens because the heavens have come sweeping down into our world.

As one Kondak goes,
“When the Most High came down and confused the tongues,
He divided the nations, but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity, and with one voice we glorify the Most Holy Spirit.”

Heaven within

1013261_10200815667388812_1403043136_nOn several occasions, I have written about heaven not being a physical place, but rather a state of being.  I ran across this quote recently in my readings and thought I would share:

You, then, O reader, hasten to sell your possessions and give to the poor. Possessions are, to the wrathful person, his anger; to the fornicator, his disposition for debauchery; to the resentful person, his remembrance of wrongs.

Sell these things and give them to the poor demons who are in want of every good thing. Return the passions to the creators of the passions, and then you will have treasure, which is Christ, in your heaven, that is, in your mind which has been exalted above this world. For he who becomes like the heavenly One has heaven within himself.

It comes from Blessed Theophylact’s commentary on Matthew in regards to chapter 19 and the rich young ruler’s encounter with Jesus.

The Lord’s Prayer, Part 6

Ladder-cropped“LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE”

I can think of few things as dangerous as a lack of forgiveness. Harboring a grudge completely destroys the soul. I wrote about this quite a bit in my last post, but in order to pray this part (lead us not into temptation…) in truth, the former phrase regarding forgiving others must be fully lived. We cannot even begin to pray if we have not forgiven everyone.

The Elder Porphyrios writes,

For Christ to enter within us when we invoke Him with the words ‘Lord Jesus Christ,’ our heart must be pure and free from all impediments. It must be devoid of hatred, egotism, and malice. We must love Him and He must love us…

On every occasion when something happens to you, place the blame on yourself. Pray with humility and don’t seek to justify yourself. If, for example, you find yourself the object of enmity, pray with love so that you pour love over the enmity. If you hear a slander against you, then pray and be careful, because the noise of murmurings shall not be hidden. The slightest murmuring against your neighbor affects your soul and you are unable to pray. When the Holy Spirit finds the soul in this state it does not dare to approach.”

Continue reading

The Lord’s Prayer, Part 5

“FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS”

Baby__s_First_Steps_by_Shadyslady1219REPENTANCE

Salvation is the therapeutic process of healing and oneness with Christ our God.  We begin our journey toward God and healing with the first step of repentance.  As a child taking their first steps excites parents, so too the angels and our Savior rejoice when we begin our baby steps in repentance.

As we mature, our steps become stronger and our strides take us further, but we never mature beyond taking steps.  In the same way, we never mature past repentance.  We do not reach a place on this side of heaven in which we no longer need to repent for wicked thoughts, words, and deeds.  Rather, as we mature spiritually, we know ourselves more fully and our repentance deepens. Continue reading

The Lord’s Prayer, Part 4

Communion of the Apostles by Fr Ted“GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD”

There are two interpretations that St Maximos gives for this part of the Lord’s Prayer. The first is by far the most important.

The primary understanding

I am the bread that came down from heaven and gives life to the world cries our Lord. It is this Bread, this life-giving, fulfilling, sustaining, joyful Bread that we are to ask for daily. The phrase ‘this day’ refers to the present age, our present life in these mortal bodies, as well as an everyday reliance upon the Word (Logos) within us. Continue reading

The Lord’s Prayer, Part 3

creation icon“THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN”

The two wills: heaven and earth

In the book of Genesis, we see God take dust of the earth and create mankind. Mysteriously, this earthen vessel was formed in the image and likeness of its Creator. When we pray for God’s will to be done on “earth” we are praying for His will to be accomplished within us earthen vessels.

In order for this to be brought forth, we must cast aside our own turbulent will and desires in order to align our being with the heavenly Will. By pursuing Christ in love and obeying His commandments, we begin to see heaven unfold in our lives.

As mentioned in the first part of this series, we must not think of heaven as being separated from us by some sort of physical distance. Heaven is not “somewhere up there” and earth “down here.” As Christ Himself said, “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Mat. 10:7) and in another place, “the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)

Heaven and earth are states of being, existential realities, both Continue reading

The Lord’s Prayer, Part 2

Christ PantocratorHALLOWED BE THY NAME

Just as we can blaspheme God and His name, so too God is glorified in us and through us.  Why he has chosen to use us as His instruments of glory is beyond my understanding.  But the writings of the fathers teach us that He is hallowed through us.

We hallow or sanctify the name of our heavenly Father by grace when we mortify our desire for material things and purify ourselves of corrupting passions.  Sanctification is the destruction of ungodly desires within us.  St Maximos links our desires to the “incensive power” within us that is often turbulent and fights for its will to be done.  Holiness throws water on this fire.

THY KINGDOM COME

“Thy Kingdom come” is another way of saying “may the Holy Spirit come.”  Putting away the aforementioned anger and ungodly desires through grace and our own will power, We are now made into a temple for God through the Holy Spirit by the teaching and practice of gentleness. Continue reading

The Lord’s Prayer, Part 1

Jesus prayingI begin this series on the Lord’s Prayer with a bit of trepidation.  Who am I, a baby in the Orthodox faith, to attempt to explain some of the mysteries of this beautiful and divine prayer?  It has been on my heart to write about it for several months, so I decided to go ahead.

I will be greatly utilizing the writings of St Maximos the Confessor for nearly everything that is written.  Also, I pulled from the wisdom of Blessed Theophylact and some of the desert fathers.  This is not a historical or cultural interpretation of the “Our Father,” but rather a spiritual one.

“OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN”

The opening words of this prayer contain quite a bit.  Firstly, we state “our Father” not “my Father,” which signifies the brotherhood of all believers who call upon the name of our God in faith.  We are all in this together.  We are not a collection of free agents belonging to the Father, but rather one Body in Christ unified through Him and the Holy Spirit.  This oneness of our nature is key to understanding the remainder of the prayer. Continue reading