Prayerful Scottish Poetry

George_MacDonald_(1862)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

Man as a Temple

from http://www.cityscouter.com/pictures/munich/Dachau-Concentration-Camp-Photos.htmlThe 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

A brief word of wisdom

from orthodoxphotos.comDo 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.

The UnAmerican Gospel

from http://calonarang.deviantart.com/art/Wolf-in-Sheep-s-Clothing-268960219Recently, 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.

MIXED MESSAGES

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

Apps for the Eastern Orthodox

iphone and galaxyI’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

PilgrimAppThe 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

Whose Time Is It Anyway?

We have this funny idea about time.  Let me give you an example:

booboofluffmuffincatbox1The alarm goes off, playing a cheesy song on the radio.  I roll over, turn it off, and dress for work, thinking about how I need to begin my morning prayers.  I walk out of the bedroom door and a cat has puked on the living room rug.  Stumbling over to fetch some paper towels, I am greeted by a horrendous smell: the litter box needs to be cleaned…again.  Ugh.

Disgusted, I pull on the paper towels and knock over a glass on the kitchen counter creating another mess, this one composed of glass and water.  The birds hear the clanking of the glass and get excited: “Feed me! Feed me! It’s morning!  Whoopee! Feed me!” they sing with their usual morningtide gusto.

Seeing me stump back into the room, the cats roll around on the rug playfully, never mind the pile of puke next to them.  I grumpily begin wiping and cleaning, petting and feeding, all the while thinking, “It is time for prayer and I’m stuck out here cleaning messes.  I don’t have time for this!” or even worse: “God, if you really wanted me to pray, you wouldn’t have allowed all of this to take up my time!” Continue reading

Our Hope in Death, Part 2

by Joukuu3In my prior post, I discussed the significance of the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and why and how death entered into the world.

In this post, I will attempt to answer the question: if Christ has come to renew our nature, why do we still die? Also, we will discuss the hope we have through death.

THE INCARNATION

A solid understanding of the significance of the incarnation will enable us to understand it in relation to our own death. When God saw that His creation that was formed in His image had fallen into death and decay, He took action. Continue reading

Our Hope in Death, Part 1

Dormition of the Theotokos-smallerThis past week, many people were shocked to learn of the suicide of the popular movie star and comedian Robin Williams. In the Orthodox Church, we have been preparing ourselves for tomorrow’s feast day: the Dormition of the Theotokos (that is, her falling asleep in the Lord). Death surrounds us every day; to the vast majority of it we remain ignorant. It is also the one certainty in each one of our lives: we will die.

These things can bring up questions: What is death? Why do we die? What is the purpose of death if we have a resurrection to come? All of these questions I will attempt to answer, but I will start at the beginning… Continue reading

Receiving Material Grace

prophet moses iconI am often confronted with the reality of a divine mystery.  This all-powerful, all-knowing God whom we serve chooses to “work in mysterious ways.”  (Isa 45:15).  The particular “way” that I have in mind is His working through material people and objects rather than doing everything Himself.

Even God’s greatest intervention in the history of humanity, the incarnation of the Logos, was completed through the willingness of a pious young virgin.

BIBLICAL EXAMPLES

When God wanted to free His people, he called Moses to confront Pharaoh.  How much more efficient would it have been if he had simply sent an angel to Pharaoh in a “shock and awe” sort of method? Continue reading

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