If you have decided to embark on the journey of deepening your faith and your connection with God, you will probably meet resistance on the path of peace very soon.
Amma Theodora, one of the Desert Mothers taught the following:
You should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at once evil comes and weighs down your soul through accidie*, faintheartedness, and evil thoughts. It also attacks your body through sickness, debility, weakening of the knees and all the members. It dissipates the strength of soul and body, so that one believes one is ill and no longer able to pray. But if we are vigilant, all these temptations fall away.
I share that quote to encourage you to stay strong in this fight against evil. As soon as you decide you are going to attempt to live a life free of judging others, somebody will do something to annoy you, hurt you, or test you in some way. It is not that person’s fault, but rather it is God allowing your resolve to be tested. Continue reading
I recently wrote about the Restless Emptiness that so many of us feel. As I mentioned before, the reason we feel restless and empty inside is because we have these alien tyrants called the “passions” ruling us from the throne of our hearts.
My recent posts have been along the same theme: diagnosing and finding the proper therapy for the emptiness that we have within us. This post follows along those same lines.
Many of us in the West have lost interest in philosophical belief systems and are searching for something much deeper. It is that search that brought me to Orthodoxy, and now the healing process has begun. Below is an excerpt I recently read by an Archimandrite on Mt Athos regarding why we feel a restlessness within us:
The Middle Ages passed. Scholasticism gained strength. Roman Catholicism advanced. St Gregory Palamas, the herald of grace, was treated as deluded and a heretic. The West advanced in its philosophy. Its programme was put into action. It progressed along the lines of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It built technological civilisation, the most elaborate prison man has ever known. Continue reading
A few nights ago, I was admiring the mountain valley that we live in as it was illuminated by the moon light. I thought, “The moon is so bright tonight you could almost read a book with its light.” But at the same time there was something missing.
The moon reflects the light of the sun, but is not a source of light itself (as we all know). No matter its brightness, it fails to provide heat, warmth, or nourishment for life on this earth. The sun, however, provides light, life, and beauty.
So often I am like the moon. Continue reading
There is an emptiness in many of us. We can feel it when we are alone, not having a good day, and/or there are no distractions. It is like a gaping hole. Sometimes we may even cry out to God in desperation, “Where are you?”
Recently, I heard a contemporary pop/rock Christian song in which they sang, “Turn your face to me” several times. It reminded me of my spiritual journey. All the years of searching and finding temporary satisfaction; whether that satisfaction fix came through a pumped up worship set, a motivational sermon, or bonding with those in my community.
But the warm fuzzies would fade away and I would once again feel that nagging restlessness in me. Certainly it was not too much to expect a warm feeling of intimacy with God every day, was it? Continue reading
Not many words in our society make people recoil like the word “repent,” especially those who are not Christians. It may conjure up images of “bullhorn man” on the corner yelling at people, Bible thumpers, and the occasional warning of the impending doom of the world.
It seems for most in Evangelical Christianity, to repent is the same as “asking Jesus into your heart,” which is the same as saying a certain prayer that hits a few specified highlights. Once one has done so, they are now “saved” and should try to get others to also say the “sinner’s prayer” so they can be “saved” too. Continue reading
Today, I was reflecting on my Protestant years and the many teachings and beliefs I encountered regarding who God is and how we relate to Him. Particularly God in the person of Jesus. The following is meant to be a bit of a light-hearted poke at many of these:
Spiritual but not religious:
For my many “spiritual but not religious” friends Jesus was simply a really nice, enlightened pacifist who got entangled with the religious and political authorities of his day. One day, Emperor Constantine made him God and ever since then Christians have been duped into worshiping him. As a bonus, anything one doesn’t like about Christianity can be dismissed merely by putting it into a sentence with Constantine’s name. Words like “corruption” and “conspiracy” are jackpots that ensure the argument will win.
Lately, I have been reading through the beautiful, contemplative poems of George MacDonald. You may or may not have heard of him. His style reminds me of the prayers written by the Eastern Orthodox Saint Nikolai Velimirovich.
While MacDonald was not part of the Eastern Orthodox faith, he was the inspiration of many an author. Here are a few quotes:
Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later, I knew that I had crossed a great frontier. (CS Lewis)
Lewis went on to say that everything he ever wrote was inspired by George MacDonald. Later he even put together a devotional with 365 of MacDonald’s writings so that a Christian could have a snippet of his thoughts every day of the year.
JRR Tolkien also found him Continue reading
The temple as a building symbolizes the human body. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?” (1 Cor 6:19).
The above quote is taken from St Nikolai Velimirovich’s book The Universe as Signs and Symbols. And it made me stop and ponder: if somebody could magically or mystically wave a wand over me and construct a temple using what is inside of my heart, what would it look like?
Since an Orthodox church is also called a temple, I thought I would use that for my metaphor.
WHAT’S IN MY HEART?
What kind of icons would appear? Would there be the saints, angels, and a Savior, or would there mostly be pictures of personal achievements that make me feel proud or, worse still, profane and vulgar ideas and memories? Continue reading
Do no seek things too difficult for you, nor examine what is beyond your strength. Think about what is commanded you; for you do not need what the Lord keeps hidden.
Do no meddle in what is none of your business, for things beyond human insight have been shown to you. Speculation has led many astray and evil suppositions have caused their minds to slip and fall.
(Wisdom of Sirach 3:20-23)
May we seek those things that God has granted to us, may we grow in the knowledge that he has bestowed upon us, may we be fully present in the places he has placed us, may we not seek after that which has been wisely hidden, may we be grateful for the heavenly knowledge revealed, may we humbly learn the commandments of Christ so that we can be joined to Him in this life and the age to come, and may we rest in the quietness of His love and peace, leading others to do the same.
Recently, a short clip of Joel Osteen’s wife, Victoria, preaching at their house of worship has been making the rounds on social media.
In it she essentially states that the purpose of church, worship, and prayer are to make us happy. That God wants nothing more than to see happy people is the divine reason behind everything. Why do we go to church? to make us happy. Why do we worship? to make us happy.
I don’t dislike the Osteens, but I do disagree with the message. I chose this video because it is recent and it summarizes the Gospel According to America, though in an unveiled manner that shamelessly embraces its own narcissism.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns us, “False messiahs and false prophets will arise…” (24:24). It is worth noting that he does not tell us to beware of bad philosophies or crooked politicians. Rather, we are to beware of false christs/messiahs. This does not simply mean, “watch out for people pretending to be Jesus,” but includes the doctrines and lifestyle of anything that sets itself up against that which Jesus Christ Continue reading
I’ve never written a blog regarding Orthodoxy and technology before, but this is the 21st century and technology plays a large role in the lives of most Christians today. Even some monasteries have Facebook pages and smartphones. To ignore this aspect of our culture is to ignore the way modern people communicate with one another.
My focus today is on apps. I don’t have an Android device, so I will be discussing what is available for iPhone (though many apps are available on both).
There are good Orthodox apps out there that are beneficial to those who like to have scripture, prayers, writings of the fathers, and the daily saints with them at all times. However, not everything that appears Orthodox is Orthodox. Firstly, I will discuss an app that you should beware of; secondly, I will discuss beneficial apps that I use.
BEWARE OF THE PILGRIMAPP
The contents of this app are a mixed bag. The Daily Prayer Rule seems pretty standard and Orthodox. But the rest of the content is where there is trouble. Continue reading