Face to Face

There are few joys of a blogosphere writer greater than to meet face-to-face with his readers. Such has been my experience at my time at the 16th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America. To embrace someone who can say that my articles on the death of my parents helped them to endure the death of their own parents is beyond anything I can express in words – for the love of the brethren which makes it possible to write is far extended by the tears and comfort of those who read. Glory to God for all things!

Such is also the case for all things that pertain to Christ’s holy Church. For the joy of the Church cannot be measured in words, nor can words give it true expression. My life as an Orthodox Christian has been an unending experience of the joy and strength of the brethren. Many times my heart has been broken in prayer and offered in tears and sorrow – but it has always been met in humility of love and the joyful candor of love and meekness. My sorrow has always been overcome in the love of the brethren.

The life of the Church always transcends the paucity of our own experience. The simple question, “How are you doing?” has been met by my inability to give expression to my heart.

I cannot express in words the fullness of my heart that is found in the sight and presence of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah. Any weakness which may find criticism in anothers’ words is overcome in his very sight and uncompromising love which are the fullness of my experience of his friendship. I am a weak and foolish man who easily welcomes the kindness and friendship of those whose love I do not deserve.

I have met again the many priests and laymen who, like me, are the spiritual children of Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas. I realize how unworthily his kindness and unrelenting generosity have been met by the smallness of my own Orthodox life. But my life has again been stretched. May all be saved!

An assembly of Orthodox Christians is both joy and sorrow. It is joy because the brethren constantly remind of the possibility and presence of paradise. It is sorrow because my own sin separates me from the fullness of such joy. I pray the forgiveness of my sorrowful sins and the taste of Christ’s promise. I pray also for those whose experience of the assembly of saints is itself a sorrow – God alone knows. May no one be deprived of paradise on my account.

I cannot begin to say how my heart longs for paradise and the presence of all who are readers of my own unworthy writings. Through the mercies of God, may we know each other in that place where there is no sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting! Glory to God for all things! May all who read be forgiven their sins! And may all pray for my soul – unworthy and empty of repentance!


  1. Thank you, Father. I hope one day to be one of those faces you can meet in person. I would love to give you a big hug! (Funny little coincidence in reading your words, “I cannot begin to say how my heart longs for paradise and the presence of all who are readers of my own unworthy writings.” I picked up the work entitled “Nostalgia for Paradise” by Alexander Kalomiros to reread some parts earlier this morning!)

    May the Lord have mercy on His Beatitude, Met. Jonah. I believe he is a good and faithful servant. May all that the evil one intends for evil be brought to naught and may the Lord instead use it for the good and for the upbuilding of His Holy Church.

  2. By your prayers holy father. I was moved by His Beatitude’s Christ-like example given in his opening words at the AAC which I was blessed to hear on AFR. He truly embodies Christ. What a wonderful example he is. I am, daily, thankful he is our Hierarch.

  3. “May all who read be forgiven their sins!” I need that. I need to know that, not just feel or believe it because it is theological or even bibilical, but because it is the reality of God to forgive. I respect the priesthood–I do not idolize them because they are only men–but I value their sacramental function in our lives. If it is in your heart that all your readers be forgiven (and I am one of your readers even though I might not fit into the appropriate category), then I accept that God listens to you and I trust that He will fulfill your prayerful desire. Thank you for procurring or aiding in the forgiveness of my sins.

  4. Father Stephen,

    I was so hoping to meet you, I spotted you from afar on the first day. Some of my friends did get that blessing and let me add my thanks to theirs. Regarding the Metropolitan: I discovered a new book at the St. Vladimir’s Press booth of his life and writings – “Reflections on a Spiritual Journey” Metropolitan Jonah Paffhausen.
    I’ve only just started it, I’m loving it.

  5. Life in the church…I am studying Liturgical theology and what a challenge to our now-a-day thinking. As Dr H Tristram Englehardt said in a recent video on Orthotracts.org that “God transcends all…even my concepts and in all ways of deceiving myself”. I have found “life” in the church.

  6. I missed meeting you, although I was there.
    Having said that, someone was telling me how her friend was truly blessed by a meeting with you, and it felt very God-driven. For that, I give thanks!

  7. “The life of the Church always transcends the paucity of our own experience. The simple question, “How are you doing?” has been met by my inability to give expression to my heart.”

    Father, I can relate to the same inability. Often, when I am asked the same question I am at a loss for words. I look within to grasp and search for an answer, but it seems to have evaded me. I believe my inability to respond is because I have allowed myself to be distracted by those things which do not profit the soul and nurture the heart. I long for the day to respond to others queries from a heart that has been in close communion with my Savior, daily, hourly, moment by moment.

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