The Spirit, the Modern World, Pentecostalism and Orthodoxy

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Part of the larger Christian context in which Orthodoxy lives today includes not only Catholics (of various sorts), Protestants (of even more sorts), but Pentecostals as well (of which there are quite a few sorts). Indeed, having come splashing onto the modern religious scene around 1900, Pentecostals have been by far the fastest growing of all Christian groups, and have had huge influences everywhere, with only the possible exception of the Orthodox. The “Worship Wars” (as my dear friend Terry Mattingly the columnist dubs them) would be unimaginable without Pentecostalism. Pentecostals, and their upscale cousins, the Charismatics, have taught Catholics to sing (sort of), Episcopalians to clap their hands (how shocking!), and even Baptists to speak in tongues with such frequency that this year Baptist Conventions were loathe to say that Baptists should do not such things. So called “contemporary worship services” are a direct influence of the Charismatic Movement.

The history of Pentecostalism is a special branch of Church history. Rooted somewhat in the Holiness Movement, itself an offshoot of Methodism, Pentecostals can trace some of their roots back to the Great Awakenings of Whitfield and Finney. What nervous Anglicans once disdainfully called “Enthusiasm” (when it was being manifested by early Methodists) we today would call “being slain in the Spirit” and other such common phenomena.

My wife and I met in a charismatic house Church so that I do not write as a stranger on the subject. I spent two years, as well, living in a charismatic commune. Many years ago I would have been about as hard core as they come. Today I judge the matter quite differently and see, with fear and trembling, Pentecostal thought and practice in a different light.

A little history is worth sharing. The story of how I became involved with all of this is not germane to this present story. More to the point is why I left. My main reason for leaving is what I would today call a “schizophrenia” in the movement itself. The language used for religious experience was (and is) quite concrete: “God spoke to me…etc.” Everything had this twist. To speak in lesser terms was to speak without faith. The schizophrenia came when I looked at myself and those around me. We spoke one language and lived another. This is not to simply say that we were hypocrites. Of course there was hypocrisy – all Christians fail to live what they believe. It is called sin. This does not and did not shock me.

However, a danger arises when the language of the Christian life is spoken at such a high level that even the most normal of experiences becomes baptized with the language of God. The price of hypocrisy grows in such a setting. Indeed, the price of everything grows. There are promises made in Pentecostalism that are simply not true and represent poor spiritual teaching.

The Great Awakening (late 1700’s) was among the first to make such promises – promises attached to a particular experience. Whether it was confusing the language of being “born again” with the theological fact of being born from above by the Spirit and adopted as God’s child or confusing that experience with strongly felt emotions or a definitive experience of sorrow or what have you – the link was made – a single experience can change your life. Those passages in Scripture that referred to being “born again” had traditionally always been interpreted as references to Baptism and were now transferred to the realm of subjective experience. Thus today when people are asked if they have been “born again,” in popular American Christian parlance, they are being asked about their inner experience.

I speak now in the Orthodox Tradition. A single experience is a single experience. It can be important in your life and may even be a catalyst for major change. But there is no single experience in which we were one person and become another. St. Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus is drawn in very dramatic terms and repeated several times in Acts. I believe the story and believe that St. Paul’s allegience to the risen Lord changed immediately. I do not believe, however, that Saul became St. Paul at that moment. Saul became a repentant, Baptized Christian (once he’d made his way into Damascus and found the Christian to whom God directed him). But there then began a protracted period in St. Paul’s life. In Galatians 1:17, Paul mentions a sojourn in Arabia (by which he meant the desert East of Damascus, not Saudia Arabia) that some scholars estimate to have lasted as much as 10 years. He returned to Damascus and still spent 3 years there before going to Jerusalem. He took time, not just to sit in the desert and have Christ dictate his story to him, etc., as some fundamentalists want to think (they treat some New Testament figures with more legend than we Orthodox do). Paul had a long way to go before becoming a saint.

This is his witness in 2Corinthians 11:

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

Of course, these are just the headlines. The whole of what the blessed Apostle experienced would be impossible to record, but he became the great man of God not because of a single experience, but because of all he experienced, particularly in the abundance of his sufferings. And he says as much in the passage above.

I have said before that Americans want the spiritual life of Mother Teresa and all of the shoes of Imelda Marcos. And much of modern day Pentecostalism and its offspring have offered just this: an experience of God which can turn the blandist of personalities into prophets of the Kingdom without at the same time turning them into the ascetics of the desert. Paul was an ascetic, not a Pentecostal.

I turned away from the Charismatic movement in my early 20’s because I found it driving me to atheism. My simple thought was that “if the language in the Bible (which sounded just like everyone around me) had no more reality within it than the nonsense I saw then (and now in the same movement), then perhaps there’s no reality in the first place.” It was the temptation to despair. What I wanted was a solid witness to the existence of God (I did not and do not deny the importance of experience) but not a witness that was whipped into belief or mesmerized into being.

I had read enough to have heard of the sober witness of the Christian Tradition. I began then a turn back to the Tradition, though making it all the way to Orthodoxy took years, and not without detours. But my initial criticisms and hunches continually proved to be true.

Orthodoxy, without hesitation, has guarded the validity of man’s experience of God. The unmediated knowledge of God in the experience of the Divine Energies is a matter of Dogma for Orthodoxy. It is not up for debate or change. Having said that, we do not have a “come get the Divine Energies Vision service.” There is a recognition that such mass offerings are delusion, at best.

We come, day in and day out, to the hard lesson of obedience to God’s commandments. We confess our sins. We receive absolution. We receive the Body and Blood of God. We are taught to pray without ceasing (though this is rarely acheived). We fast regularly. We read the Scriptures. We read the lives of the saints. And we ground ourselves in theology that wasn’t necessarily written yesterday. There is not a “latest revelation” to be had – there is Christ. He is the revelation of the Father. The rest is frequently something else – but not from God.

I am not surprised that American Pentecostalism is growing and forming and shaping many things around it. It is, in many ways, an American experience, well-suited to support the expansion of our dominance of world culture. It has African elements as well (but so does the American experience). But if you would see African Christian spirituality at its roots – then travel to the deserts of Egypt or the monasteries of Ethiopia. There you will find centuries of sober theology, transformed into the lives of true saints.

True theology must finally be grounded in the truth of the living experience of the Church. “We speak of what we know,” as Christ said of the Jews. What Orthodox theology teaches it offers not with the subtle ratiocination of medieval schoolmen nor simply of dry, rationalistic formuations. We worship the true and living God Whom We Know in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Miracles have never ceased from our midst.

The other day I had “an Orthodox experience” that has become somewhat common in my life. I arrived at a parishioner’s business place “just in the nick of time.” She had walked to work earlier in the day. It was now nearly time to close shop. It was beginning to rain, and she had a modest sized machine that needed to be carried home. I was thinking of her, of some conversations earlier in the week, and I simply went by to touch base.

But both of us realized that I was not there by accident, but by providence. “In the nick of time,” also carried within it a sense of “in God’s time.”

I contrast this with a life in which, deep in prayer, I “suddenly feel led” to go by her shop. God got me where he wanted me, but there were no bells and whistles and nothing to make me think any higher of myself than Balaam’s ass (a most appropriate comparison, I assure you).

Another time I sat on a dock, contemplating the confession I was soon to make (I was visiting at St. Silouan’s Retreat on Wadmalaw Island in S.C.). While I waited I noticed a kayaker in the river who eventually came to shore (he was from somewhere completely different). To my surprise he eventually came to the dock. I spoke politely then ignored him. To my consternation, he began a conversation. I have to say at this point I was dressed in an entirely civilian manner. Before long his conversation, which was about spiritual seeking, turned to Orthodoxy and he said he had been looking for someone with whom to discuss Orthodox Christianity.

At that point I interrupted him. “Do you know where you are?”

“No,” he replied.

I told him. I also told him I had an appointment in five minutes that clearly belonged to him and not me. I led him to the chapel, introduced him to Fr. John Breck (the priest there) and quickly told him of our encounter. “He’s clearly here to see you. I’ll make confession after Vespers.”

No bells. No whistles. Just God at work. I’ve gotten used to it, more or less. My friend, the Byelorussian Monk, Fr. Innokenty says, “You Americans! You talk about miracles like you don’ believe in God.” Too true.

I understand the hunger that feeds Pentecostalism and am sympathetic. The secularized culture in which we live has robbed many people of faith in God or a belief in any reality beyond their own experience. And yet the heart hungers for God. This is not wrong – it’s right. Our hearts are indeed hungry for God. But for me, that same hunger makes it impossible to quietly look the other way while people engage in emotional manipulation and bad theology to manufacture an answer that is not God.

God is too important for us to settle for anything other than Him. One of the largest elements in Orthodox spirituality is a keen sense of the problem of spiritual delusion. The classic work, The Arena, is probably one of the finest works on the subject. Our hearts are restless for God, but they are also easily subject to conterfeits, even within Orthodoxy. Experience is deeply important, but inherently treacherous territory. Only the wisdom of God, as manifested in Scripture and the lives of His saints, can guide us through such a place. The greater the claims of experience, the greater the need for mature theology – indeed the greater the need for the whole of theology – which is the Christian inheritance we know as the Orthodox Church.

40 comments:

  1. Father,

    As an interesting side-note: the cover story of the latest Christianity Today is on Pentecostalism in Africa and the prosperity gospel that is often closely tied in with these movements. Get this statistic: Of the 890 million Africans in Africa around 147 million of them are Pentecostals.

  2. One of the great tragedies of Orthodoxy was its weakness in Africa at just the time that Islam arose. I can only trust that God is in charge of history. There are interesting stories, however, of entire Churches, almost denominations, converting to Orthodoxy in Africa. Some of them have taken a look at history and returned to their Christian roots. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria has been very active in receiving such Churches and training their clergy, etc. There is an Orthodox seminary in Kenya, I believe. I strongly recommend the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. Their magazine (most of which are on line) is a testament to Orthodox mission work and an eye-opener.

  3. Father Stephen,

    I left the church and went back out into the world in confusion due to my inability to speak in tongues. I was somehow “less holy”, or so I thought. I was ruined for a while, but came to my senses as our Lord continued to call to me. I understand exactly what you refer to here.

    Thankfully, He that began a good work in us is faithful, and in spite of our failure He perseveres, and is the Victor.

    Thank you for such a good piece, I even quoted you a bit, I hope you don’t mind.

    Thank you, Jim

  4. My diocesan bishop, MARK, (Antiochian Diocese of Toledo & the Midwest) was raised a Catholic, but spent 10 years in the charismatic movement before becoming Orthodox (he was even an Old Testament professor at Oral Roberts). At the recent seminars in Detroit on Orthodoxy for Anglicans, he spoke that his 10 years in the charismatic movement were the darkest of his life.

  5. Theodora Elizabeth,

    I met Bishop MARK in Detroit at the conference. He seems a very solid man and a joy to be with. There can be a kind of darkness out there. I was not surprised by his remarks. I often wonder how different local Pentecostalism is from what is popularly marketed? The prosperity gospel seems extremely widespread – and further than Pentecostalism.

    I will say, that along the fringes of Pentecostalism was also the first place I ever heard typological teaching from Scripture. Some of it was quite good. Some quite strange. But it made me curious. Like so much else, it’s better when you find it in the Fathers.

  6. Two odd thoughts:

    Christian History and Biography, which is an excellent popular Christian rag published by the same folks that do Christianity today but very, very balanced, did an excellent bit on Pentecostalism — I’ll try to uncover the exact issue.

    And in the truth is stranger than fiction category, not even Orthodoxy has been completely untouched by the Pentecostal movement! I’ll end with that teaser. 🙂

    Xp

  7. I am aware of some of Fr. Stephanou’s stuff in Florida though it is so isolated that i would not classify it has having an impact, but you have succeeded in raising my curiosity.

    Pentecostalism, on some level, may be the quintessential modern American religious form, and thus almost impossible for any to resist. But more thought on that another time.

  8. Fr. Stephen,

    I had forgotten you were at the conference (my parish priest was also there). We are extraordinarily lucky to have Bp. MARK. Your comment that he is a joy to be with is correct. After a visit to my parish during Great Lent this year, one of the other priests commented that when Bp. MARK serves, the atmosphere behind the iconostasis is very prayerful.

  9. My mother has gotten involved in a pseudo-12-step/Pentecostal/Charismatic group that has seminars or conferences every couple of months in her area. My dad about 20 years ago, got burned out on this sort of stuff after joining a non-profit missionary organization where everyone there was charismatic (except for him and a couple of others).

    I worry for her, and I worry about my dad sometimes. He’s just gotten so burned out on religious authority figures that he doesn’t go to church much at all.

  10. Ah yes, the Pentecostal experience. I’ve had my own, four years worth, at an Assemblies of God “church”. Went and saw “Tilton at the Hilton”, became very scared and awoke, deeply depressed one day realizing how “plastic” I had become. The jargon was for me the thing that caused me great consternation as well.
    Thanks once again Father for a most reflective bit of of insight.

  11. Having been raised as a Pentecostal and a former Pentecostal pastor, it has taken me years to work through several stages of grief in leaving Pentecostalism. I have moved from anger, to resentment, to finally an ability to appreciate what good my expereinces in Pentecostalism did for me.

    I did a series of articles on this subject at the end of 2006 and the work helped me appreciate just how much leaving Pentecostalism was like sobering up. I had used faith as an intoxicant for so long that I actually needed Orthodoxy to help me get sober.

    It is in that sobriety that I finally learned to appreciate the mystical/reality of Orthodoxy.

    B

  12. For these very reasons am I considering leaving evangelicalism for Catholicism or Orthodoxy. I also did my time in the A of G and other denominations, always looking for the cloud 9 experience, etc. I’m finding it’s only liturgy and tradition that will sustain me over the long haul.

  13. Irenaeus,

    You should be fully aware of the place the charismatic movement has in Catholicism and continues to run largely unchecked. It is one more reason I think of them as a protestant church.

    The Marian aparitions I have attended were also entirely made of of Catholic Charismatics, with the same problems I saw elsewhere. If someone else has a less jaundiced view I’d welcome their thoughts.

  14. Irenaeus Says:

    July 10th, 2007 at 1:57 am
    For these very reasons am I considering leaving evangelicalism for Catholicism or Orthodoxy. I also did my time in the A of G and other denominations, always looking for the cloud 9 experience, etc. I’m finding it’s only liturgy and tradition that will sustain me over the long haul.

    While I had and still have friends/acquaintances who have solid and spiritual Christian lives as Charismatics (which is where I spent most of my 30 years as a Christian), getting visions/words/wisdom/spiritual leadings that are truthful and seemingly valid, there were too many historical, theological and practical (i.e., how it’s practiced) problems, IMO, for me to remain there.

  15. I am grateful for this post, and the comments.
    I was in a group for several years that eventually I had to leave. (I can relate to what one commentator described as the grieving process, with the eventual realization that there was something positive that came out of it.) It was not a charismatic group, but was fundamentalist and had a strong focus on the “inner life” experiences.
    Eventually my experiences of mysticism and subjectivity made me feel like I was a mental case. I was always waiting to be “led” to do this or that. If I wasn’t led, I was fearful that I was in my flesh or soul, or in any case not following the Lord. So this meant that I was paralyzed, thinking I was “dependant” on the Lord.
    It was very, very hard to pull myself out of that. And it required a complete reconsideration of my own theological views.
    Anyway, I just wanted to express how wonderful it is to find a blog like this. I meet with a new Christian group now (not Orthodox), and am finding healing and restoration.

  16. Father Steven:

    I read your blog on “Pentecostalism” with great interest. While I agree with much of your analysis there is also much with which I must disagree. Like yourself I was deeply involved in the Charismatic Movement. I too met my wife in a Charismatic gathering and also like you I lived in a Charismatic Commune. However, the Charismatic Movement did not drive me to atheism, instead it drove me to Orthodoxy! When one has witnessed the genuine then one can discern the counterfeit. I had witnessed and experienced enough of the genuine presence of God in Charismatic worship to know that there was something even deeper and more profound and that led me to study the worship of the early Church which in turn led me to the Orthodox Faith. With this said however I think that you critique of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement (PCM) to be nuanced. There is no such thing as “Pentecostalism” but rather “PentecostalismS”. The Movement, and its sister the Charismatic Movement can in no way be approach as a monolithic movement. Much of your criticism centered on the Movements in America. However, the PCM in South America, Africa and Asia are quite different from their cousins here in the good ole USA. While the “Prosperity” message has be exported for the most part PCs in the “Third World” had repudiated this American hybrid. In my thinking it is no coincidence that the Orthodox Church in certain parts of Africa and in Indonesia had its roots in the lives of Pentecostal believers. There is an automatic affinity among deeper thinking Pentecostals for the Orthodox Faith. Because of my background I receive dozens of e-mails a week from Pentecostals around the world who feel drawn to the Orthodox Faith and yet also cannot deny the authentic encounters they’ve had with the Holy Spirit. With the blessing of my Bishop I have embarked upon a ministry to Pentecostal/Charismatics while at the same time working for the spiritual renewal of Orthodox Christians who have no real personal connection with Christ, the Church or a spiritual life. Without a doubt there is much within the PCM that questionable but likewise there is much which goes by the name Orthodox thatis detrimental to the soul and not salvific. I’m convinced that over the next several years more and more Pentecostals and Charismatic will embrace the Orthodox Faith, but if you expect them to testify that their experience in the PCM was negative you will be surprised. For many coming to Orthodoxy is the completion of a journey in the Holy Spirit that they began in the PCM. I am so grateful that the Lord brought to the Orthodox Church and the fulness of the Fatih, however, I am also thankful for the many glorious times I sensed the closeness of His Spirit in the PCM and how in the long run it prepared me for the most glorious of all…the Orthodox Church, its faith, life and worship!

  17. Fr. Timothy,

    I read your note with joy – not disagreement. My own experience, I am sure, is not something that can be generalized though it has much in common with others. But we serve a good God who loves us all and I know is gracious to those who are not Orthodox (or even Christian). I have to add that I have been blessed many times by Him in situations that were far from Orthodox as well. Your note was a useful balance and a good word. May God bless your ministry.

  18. Could anyone direct me to Christian thought that counters the argument for relativism …………..relating to Islam and Christianity both being violent?

    I would appreciate an email back to me with a link or ideas you might have concerning this.

    regards and best wishes,
    joe O’mara

  19. Thank you for your post, Father. I found it at just the right time.

    My husband and I are youth pastors in a Pentecostal church. I am wholly grieved every day by the spiritual condition in this movement. I am tattered by the devotion to these teens to teach the true Word versus the manipulated word being forced by the pastor. The congregants are like the pastor’s puppets and their children are dying more every day because of the pseudo-Christian lives they are learning to live. We have tried to find others to commune with who see and address the many heresies in the Pentecostal church, others who can be a support, but alas, there are none.

    Like you, Father, I have a peculiar faith journey – Roman Catholic as a child, Southern Baptist as an adolescent and adult, and only recently Pentecostal. As far as I can remember, I have had a deep love for the church. I have always had distaste for those who condemn other denominations. But now, for the first time, I have seen the tragic underbelly of lies and manipulation that is so prominent in the Pentecostal/charismatic movement. The more I study various denominations, the more my heart breaks for the church.

    My husband, who was reared as Pentecostal, has been horribly wounded by this movement. I can only imagine the terror one experiences when faced with the realization that you lived a lie throughout your entire life. I was shocked recently to discover a support group here in the US for recovering Pentecostals. Not only support groups, but many blogs pertaining to the spiritual abuse that is rampant in the Pentecostal/charismatic movement.

    For now we serve where we are, teaching as best we can the true Word. Everyday the pastor pushes harder against us, trying to force his false god. The teens God has entrusted to us are starting to see a faint light that is Truth. Several are beginning to seek after God with their lives as we introduce more orthodox thought into our discussions.

    Although it is sad to be living among wolves, we are protecting the kids as best we can, preparing them with the Word.

    I would love the opportunity to see more orthodox resources for adolescents. Any suggestions or websites would be a great help.

  20. I think of a number of resources – go to Conciliar Press website – they’ll have much, both in book and in pamphlet that might be of use. Light and Life publishing is also a treasure trove of materials.

    There will be some things that you can do where you are – but the children won’t ultimately be safe with only a single protector. They need a Church. I will be in prayer for you and those whom God has given you. May he protect you and keep you ever in His Truth.

    You can email me at email hidden; JavaScript is required if you want to send a private note.

  21. Does anyone read their Bible anymore? Let’s find our answers through diligent personal study of the Word of the true and living God.

  22. Patrice,

    Of course Orthodox Christians (the site you are on is an Orthodox site) read their Bible and we read the Fathers of the Church, etc. Reading the Bible and just diligently looking for personal study and answers is not taught in the Bible. The Bible was written to the Church and it is in the context of the Church that it should be read and interpreted. The result of the private interpretation path is 20,000 Protestant denominations and no Christian unity. There is a Christian faith that has maintained its unity for 2000 years. It is this faith that is presented here along with its disciplines (which includes study of Scripture, prayer, giving alms, fasting, etc.).

  23. hello i am a convert to orthodoxy with a baptist background and i am really glad to hear that many Pentecostals are becoming orthodox, the orthodox church it literally the true faith. i hope that the Pentecostals see the light in orthodoxy and mass convert to it.

  24. Dear Father Stephen;

    I am a new convert to orthodoxy from Evangelicals(Christian and Missionary Alliance). I understand everything that has been written. haleluyah to God the Trinity for bringing us back home.

    David Jerry

  25. Fr. Stephen,

    I do not know much about this,but i am puzzled by some comments about the Holy Spirit in PCM, as a born orthodox christian i believe that the Holy Spirit is live (active) only in the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside of the church it will be the spirit of the prince of this world – satan. Please correct me if i am wrong.

  26. Katia,

    He is everywhere present and filling all things. And we know that God is everywhere at work for the salvation for all. The Orthodox Church is indeed the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, in her dwells the fullness of God. I would not go so far as to say that everywhere else is the spirit of the prince of the world at work, though he’s busy everywhere – even attacking Orthodox Christians. As Orthodox Christians we need only confess the fullness of what we know has been given to us, and not to judge what may or may not be present of God’s mercies in other situations. He is a good God and so loves mankind. I know that some teach that there is no grace outside the Orthodox Church – but this has tended to be an extreme position (originally borrowed from Rome who said that grace only dwelt in Rome). I do not find it to be in full agreement with Fathers of the East.

    No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit according to the writings of St. Paul. That is only a small example. But I do not mean to endorse ecumenism – simply to be merciful when speaking about God’s work in others.

  27. “…The Orthodox Church, as the Body of Christ, is indivisible, invincible, and unerring in its “correct and saving confession of the faith.” It is, however, possible for individual Orthodox and even entire local Churches to betray the truth of Orthodoxy, such that they lapse, being cut off from the universal Church, just as the Western Church long ago fell to the heresies of Papism and Protestantism. It is also possible for Orthodox to separate and for there to exist “contentions” in the bosom of the Church, as St. Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth (I Corinthians 1:10-14). The criteria of truth in such instances are the dogmas and canons of the universal Orthodox Church or, to cite the words of St. Vincent of Lérins († ca. 450), “that which is believed always, that which is believed by everyone, and that which is believed throughout the whole world.” ….

  28. Thank you Father Stephen for having this linked on your blog this morning. Very, very good and worth the read.

  29. Fr. Stephen, I spent the 1st 25 years of my life pentecostal. Then, another 24 in an evangelical church. If I were to use an analogy of my thirsting for true life and truth those 49 years, it might be this. I am a man on a life raft, desperate for water. Sometimes I’m able to catch a little rain from small passing showers. At other times I’m blessed with a squall, so much so that I fill up a small bucket. But this too after a time runs dry. I dream of a steady flow of crystal clear water from a waterbrook. I even recall the words of One who spoke of water that would spring up unto eternal life. I only found this continual source of life giving water in the Orthodox Church. My small bark encountered a massive ship in the Church. The spring is ever flowing in Christ’s blood and body, in the prayers of the Church, in the saints, through the daily rhythm of the Church calendar, in repentance and confession, anointings with oil, etc. It has flowed as a life giving source of true life for me these last 21 years. Somewhat ironically, the monastery we’ve attended the last 13 years is the Monastery of the Holy Theotokos, the Life Giving Spring. Glory to God for this life, Glory to God for all things!

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