Holy Embezzlement

Luke 16 contains one of the most difficult to understand parables of Jesus.  It is commonly called the parable of the Unjust Steward.  For most of my life the parable offended me.  Like the Pharisees in 16:14, I want to deride Jesus for telling a parable that, on the face of it, advocates embezzlement.  The servant in the parable gets sacked for “wasting” his master’s goods, so the servant decides to earn…

Indifference and Trying Harder

In my last post, Finding Peace Despite Sinful Thoughts, I spoke of the struggle to accept the struggle, to be at peace despite ongoing sinful thought.  I compared this struggle to the battle I have in my garden with bindweed. One of the readers of that article wrote the following comment, and I thought that I would share my response with everyone.  Here’s the comment: Thank you Father, One of the problems…

Finding Peace Despite Sinful Thoughts

It’s mid May and I’m weeding my garden again.  It is one of the most spiritually instructive physical activities of my year.  My on-going battle with one weed in particular functions as a genuine icon of my inner life.   Generally speaking, my wife and I are laissez-faire gardeners.  We have very few rows of anything, just areas where we plant one thing or another—often led by what volunteers in a given…

Success Through Failure In Lent

My soul’s dignity I have enslaved to the passions; I am become like the beasts, and have no power to lift mine eyes to Thee, O Most High. But with my head bowed like the Publican, I pray to Thee, O Christ, and cry aloud: God be merciful to me and save me. (Verse 10, Lord I have Called, Friday Presanctified Liturgy, fourth week of Lent)   All of the great spiritual…

Knowing Your Measure

I’ve been reading the letters of Sts. Barsanuphius and John, written in the early sixth century in the region of Gaza.  One thing that has struck me as I am reading these letters is the pastoral compassion and just plain common sense these two holy men advocate in their correspondence.  These letters are written by and to monks living in extreme conditions.  Some are hermits, Barsanuphius has sealed himself into a room…

The Manuscript of Our Life

   In St. Isaac the Syrian’s homily 62, St. Isaac offers us the metaphor of a manuscript in rough draft to help us understand why on-going repentance is important for Christians regardless of their real or imagined state of spiritual maturity.  Here is the paragraph that uses the metaphor: Life in the world is like a manuscript of writings that is still in rough draft.  When a man wishes or desires to…

Everyday Ironies: Finding Salvation In The World

One of the biggest stumbling blocks many of us in the world face (by “in the world” I mean “not in a monastery”) is that almost all of the Orthodox spiritual advice written in books is written by monastics for monastics.  Therefore, a certain amount of discernment is called for, a certain amount of adjustment is needed, a kind of retuning of the material to fit a different key.  Those who are…

Reading Spiritual Texts: Knowing That You Don’t Know

“What brings sweetness is harder to perceive than that which brings bitterness” Abbess Arsenia I am reading a collection of letters by Abbess Arsenia, a nineteenth century Russian nun who acted as a spiritual mentor for Peter Brianchaninov, brother of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov.  St. Ignatius Brianchaninov is perhaps most famous today for his book, The Arena, in which he lays out some very practical and insightful advice for monks and anyone zealous…

Our Church / Our Family

Please register on-line for Holy Nativity’s Fall Conference: Our Church / Our Family with Dr. Philip Mamalakis.  It’s only two weeks away!  Register at holynativityconference.ca I’ve just finished his book, “Parenting Toward the Kingdom.”  I find his advice helpful and insightful. In addition to two talks on parenting, Dr. Mamalakis will be giving a talk on marriage relationships and a talk on Orthodoxy and contemporary mental health issues.

On Perceiving God’s Glory in Another

According to Serafim Seppälä*, St. Isaac the Syrian understands the perception of the angelic orders to be limited by their own natures.  That is, each rank of the heavenly orders—angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, powers, etc.— is able to perceive a higher rank, but only in so far as its own nature, it’s own ability to perceive God’s glory, allows it.   I admit that this is a rather esoteric observation, one that…