The Geography of Hell

The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) has a long history of teasing Christians into dangerous territory. I suspect that many if not most Christians have more than a little curiosity about life after death. We want to know what happens. We want to know “how things work.” And this parable – at least on its surface – seems to give more indication of “how things work” than almost…

Soul Saturday – And Forty Days

In my early exposure to Orthodoxy, I became intrigued with the term, “Soul Saturday.” My family would visit an Orthodox monastery not too far away from here for their annual pilgrimage that occured on one of the weekends of a “Soul Saturday.” This is term from popular parlance – the more proper English title of the event is a “Memorial Saturday.” These occur at a number of times during the year, mostly during Lent.…

Finding God in Abundance

Another simple thing that is quite difficult: From Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain I have realized that the destruction of man lies in the abundance of material goods, because it prevents him from experiencing the presence of God and appreciating His benevolence. If you want to take someone away from God, give him plenty of material goods. He will instantly forget Him forever. I realized this when I was younger. When…

The Poor in Spirit

Few passages of Scripture are more familiar in the Orthodox Church than the Beatitudes – Christ’s sayings from the Sermon on the Mount which begin, “Blessed are….” With familiarity comes the occasional lack of attention, in which we forget to ask, “What does that mean?” I think this is particularly the case with the saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” There is no particular…

At the Door of Thy Compassion

This prayer is printed and framed and hangs among the icons in my church office: A Prayer of St. Isaac of Syria At the door of Thy compassion do I knock, Lord; send aid to my scattered impulses which are intoxicated with the multitude of the passions and the power of darkness. Thou canst see my sores hidden within me: stir up contrition – though not corresponding to the weight of my…

The Knowledge of God

The knowledge of God, generally spoken of in a very experiential manner, is an absolute foundation in Orthodox theology. Nothing replaces it – no dogmatic formula – no Creed – not even Scripture – though Orthodoxy would see none of these things as separate from the knowledge of God. But the questions I have received are very apt. In a culture that is awash in “experience” what do we Orthodox mean when…

The Elder Sophrony on the Struggle of Prayer

Prayer is infinite creation, the supreme art. Over and over again we experience an eager upsurge towards God, followed only by a falling away from His light. Time and again we are conscious of the mind’s inability to rise to Him. There are moments when we feel ourselves on the verge of insanity. ‘Thou didst give me Thy precept to love but there is no strength in me for love. Come and…

Raising a Saint – St. Silouan on his Father

Most of us would be satisfied to raise children who remain faithful believers. It is not always an easy thing and every parent who has such a child should rejoice constantly. There is no method to raise a child to be a saint, for God alone gives the grace that results in the mystery of such wonderful lives. However that may be, I am often struck in reading the writings of St.…

Anger and a Father’s Wisdom

It is interesting that in reading the life of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos the figure that stands out most in his life is that of his (unlearned) peasant father. His father was clearly a man of great faith. St. Silouan thought his father to be wiser than many so-called spiritual fathers. The following story is an interesting account of how a father dealt with anger in correcting his son. This excerpt…

Pray Always

“Prayer is a matter of love. Man expresses love through prayer, and if we pray, it is an indication that we love God. If we do not pray, this indicates that we do not love God, for the measure of our prayer is the measure of our love for God. St. Silouan identifies love for God with prayer, and the Holy Fathers say that forgetfulness of God is the greatest of all…