The Icon We Love Most

An early post on icons – hopefully part of a short series… Years ago when I was studying in an Anglican seminary (mid-70’s), I had the beginnings of my interest in icons. I owned a couple, and read what little was available on the topic in English at that time (believe it or not there was a time when not many books were available in English on the topic of Orthodox Christianity).…

The Time for Prayer

A brother asked a hermit, “If I oversleep and miss the time for prayer, I hesitate to keep the rule of prayer. I am embarassed and do not want the brothers to hear me praying.” The hermit gave him this advice: “If you sleep late, get up and shut your door and windows. Then pray your psalms. Both day and night belong to God. You will glorify God whatever time it is.”…

The Experience of Prayer

As a foolish man I go so far in this post as to speak of the experience of prayer. I write this not to speak of great experiences but, if possible, to quiet our minds, and to speak a word of peace in a culture that is full of madness and spiritual delusion. There are many wonderful spiritual stories to be found in the lives of the saints and elders. Many people,…

Beginning to Pray

I have written from time to time on the nature of prayer. I was recently asked by a reader to offer a reflection on “beginning to pray,” which seems to me to be an invitation to write about something that happens for me, by necessity, every day. I cannot write as a man of great experience in prayer. But I have had years of experience in beginning to pray. If the reader…

Usefulness and Beauty

The recent questions about knowing God – which I have described as something that often comes to me in the “peripheral vision” of my life – seems somehow related to the perception of beauty as well. Beauty often seems to be “greater than the sum of its parts.” We see beauty not simply by looking at a thing – but by seeing it. Many people look at icons – a rightly prepared heart is…

With What Little We Know – It Is Enough

The question was offered earlier today: What is the place of asceticism in the life of a family? Should we learn to guard the intellect, strive for pure prayer, etc. in a similar way as a monastic would? I offer here a reprint that speaks to the question. For the truth is, we will know little about the deeper forms of asceticism – even if we read books on the subject (or especially…

The Fascination of Wickedness

For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good (Wisdom 4:12) Man has such powers that he can transmit good or evil to his environment. These matters are very delicate. Great care is needed. We need to see everything in a positive frame of mind. We mustn’t think anything evil about others. Even a simple glance or a sigh influences those around us. And even the slightest anger or indignation does harm.…

True Knowledge of God – Living the Tradition

Tradition (the subject of my last post) is understood within the Orthodox faith in a manner that is quite different than the word’s use in the vocabulary of many other Christians. Tradition is the continuous Life of God in the Church. There are many things that give expression to this life – but Tradition itself is not the expression but the content that gives rise to the expression. The Christian faith is…

More Notes from the Edge

I began last week with an article on the End of the World and the Orthodox view of the “last things.” I have followed this with thoughts about life on the “edge.” That image, a common metaphor within a number of 20th century Orthodox writers, is continued in this post – and likely in several more to come. Perhaps it is an aspect of our modern life that we frequently find ourselves…

In the Grasp of Wonder

Concepts create idols; only wonder grasps anything. St. Gregory of Nyssa St. Gregory of Nyssa’s marvelous dictum is among a handful of things that describe what is required for the Christian life. So much of Christian history has been marked with a bifurcation – a split between those who study the faith and those who live it. It is not a necessary split – only a common one. Of course there is…