Praying Like a Publican – A Reprint

Sometimes I want to say things I’ve already said. My parishioners have apparently learned to put up with this as my children did long ago. The subject of this posting came up recently in a sermon (probably not for the first time – but who can remember?). It is not all that is to be said about prayer – but it should be said sometime and is said too infrequently. If you…

The Heart of Silence

The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there. (H.43.7) St. Macarius One of the great difficulties in knowing silence is not to be found in…

The Silence in which We Dwell

There is a strange noisiness to our culture. Most of us live very busy lives in which time itself is noisy. My phones (there always seem to be two) are primed to go off at any moment and the very details that surround us carry a kind of noise about them. It is rare that the world would offer us silence. And yet, the Fathers teach us about Hesychia (silence) in which…

What St. Seraphim Meant

“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” This is perhaps the most famous quote of the great Russian saint, Seraphim of Sarov. Many of his icons have this saying on them. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it. On the other hand, I think there are many who do not understand it. And understanding what he meant can take you to the very heart…

Icons and the Scriptures

I have had many thoughts this week about problems within the modern academic study of Scripture. An inherent problem is that scholars of Scripture lack both imagination and experience. I do not mean to impugn the intelligence of any particular academic – indeed, I have known many interpreters of Scripture whose work was almost pure imagination. What I am alluding to is a limit of imagination to see the many layers, the…

Windows to Heaven Are Not One Way

I am participating in an icon workshop this week. Lectures, slides, and the slow process of learning how icons are painted, by painting one yourself under the guidance of an accomplished master. My experience is that you very quickly see that here you can only be pupil (at least at this stage of my life).  A small but interesting point worth sharing this evening, is in the process of writing or painting…

Music and Scenes from the “Desert”

One of the better known monasteries in Russian history is the Valaam monastery. Taken over by government authorities during the time of the Communists and used for other purposes, it has been returned today to the Church and is growing into a full-functioning, thriving monastery, one of the “deserts” where spiritual warfare on behalf of the world is unceasing. The music is a development of the “Valaam Chant” that has its own…

With Humble and Contrite Hearts

Perhaps among the greatest of Psalms is David’s 50/51: Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight, so that thou…

The Desert – Struggling in a Flat Land

One of the best-known sayings to have come from the Desert Fathers is: “Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” To a large degree the saying extols the virtue of stability. Moving from place to place never removes the problem – it only postpones the inevitable. Somewhere, sometime we have to face the heart of our struggle and by the grace of God overcome. Of course, not everyone…

Icons in a One-Storey Universe

I’ll ask my readers to forgive me as I look at yet another aspect of the Christian life when the idea of a two-storey universe is jettisoned and we come to realize that we are living in a one-storey world: that God is with us. Readership has remained very high over the past week or so, so I will take that to mean that many people are interested in this approach and the…