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
A 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.
There 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)
There was in a certain place a beautiful woman of questionable behavior. The ruler of this country took pity on her, that such beauty would perish, and, when he found the opportunity, he said to her, “Give up your immoral ways, and I will take you to my house and you will become my wife and the mistress of many treasures. Just watch that you are faithful, or else there will be such trouble for you as you cannot even imagine.”
She agreed to this, and was taken to the ruler’s house. Her former friends, seeing that she had disappeared, began searching for her, and found out that she was with the ruler.
Although the ruler was a terror, they did not despair of enticing the beautiful woman back to themselves once again, knowing her weakness. “We have only to go up behind the house and whistle; she will know who it is and immediately run out to us.”
That is just what they did.
They went behind the house and whistled. The beautiful woman, hearing the whistle, started. Something from her previous life stirred inside of her. But she had already come to her senses, and instead of running out of the house, she rushed into the inner chambers to the ruler himself, and immediately calmed down; she did not even hear the whistling that continued outside.
Her friends whistled a few more times and went off with nothing.
The meaning of the parable is clear. The beautiful woman represents the fallen soul that has turned to the Lord in repentance and made a contract to belong to and serve Him alone. The former friends are the passions. Their whistling is the impulses of passionate thoughts, feeling, and desires. Escape into the inner chambers is shelter in the depths of the heart, there to stand before the Lord.
When this is accomplished within, the passion that has troubled the soul leaves of its own accord as if it had never existed, and the soul calms down.
Below is a story my wife wrote regarding one of our recent adventures. She refers to me as “J.”
At the end of our road, there is a fishpond with a tree arching over it. On my walk today, I realized that a kingfisher was somehow caught on the end of a slender branch reaching out over of the middle of the pond (a kingfisher is a type bird, about the size of a crow with a great big beak and a bold crest). He was dangling over the pond about a foot above the water, struggling to free himself to no avail. I stopped to watch him, pain and pity filling my heart as he violently wrestled, but was unable to escape. Weary and exhausted, the bird would rest and pant, hanging below the branch. I surveyed the scene, seeking a means to rescue him, but couldn’t find a way to reach him over the water. Grieved, I went home, unable to see how it was possible without wading into the murky pond of unknown depth. Continue reading The Kingfisher’s Snare
There was once a grand and beautiful painting created by a genius artist. He gave this painting to his students before departing this world. The students wrote many lessons regarding the deep symbolism of the painting and various sayings of their inspiring teacher. The painting was not only the unification and culmination of their writings, but of all of the cosmos and life itself.
In order to share the image with other countries, duplicates of the painting were made with extreme attention to detail. The written texts continued to be passed down from generation to generation along with copies of the painting. Over the years, the painting was framed in many different ways: sometimes it contained a simple wooden frame, other times its frame was gilded with gold and ornate carvings. Various regions created frames depending on Continue reading The Many-Faced Painting: A Parable
The Great Fast, also known as Great Lent, is just around the corner. During this time, many Orthodox will begin eating a vegan diet. Many of us will also make an effort to say a few more prayers each day and eliminate some distractions such as social media, television, and internet usage in order to create more time for prayer and spiritual reading.
These things of themselves do not save us. Rather, they are the method which we use to open ourselves to the grace of the Holy Spirit. Those who are taking their spiritual struggle seriously during the Great Fast will likely find that the amount of demonic warfare increases. This manifests itself in different ways: new distractions when we pull away from old ones, a barrage of thoughts that come during prayer and spiritual reading, and other temptations that wish to test our resolve.
Many of us wonder: why do I have to face these spiritual struggles? Wouldn’t it be so much better if God could just wave a magical wand over us and make temptations go away? Why do we have trials?
In answer to those questions, I will post the insights and stories of a God-bearing elder whose own elder was St Joseph the Hesychast. He is from Mt Athos and currently is the elder of a monastery in Arizona. His name is Elder Ephraim and this is from his book The Art of Salvation. Continue reading Confronting Temptations