Fleeing To The Desert, A Little Bit

 Is it possible to flee to the desert a little bit?  No and yes.  No, you can’t flee a little bit, for fleeing a little bit is not fleeing at all.  But yes, you can flee a little bit, if that little bit is complete.  Here’s what I mean.  We are all called to flee the world, in the sense of fleeing the sinful ways of the world.  But we are not…

How (not) To Change A Corrupt World

The Prophet Samuel was one of the holiest prophets of the Old Testament.  But what I find most interesting is that Samuel grew to be a holy prophet while living in the midst of a very corrupt religious and political context.  Samuel’s holy mother, Hannah, was barren.  But God heard her prayer after many years and much humiliation.  God gave her a son,  and at the age of three, Hannah gave her…

Overcoming Temptations Through Low Expectations

St. Isaac the Syrian in his seventy-second homily tells us, “As soon as Grace sees that a little self-esteem has begun to steal into a man’s thoughts, and that he has begun to think great things of himself, She [Grace] immediately permits the temptations opposing him to gain in strength and prevail, until he learns his weakness…and seeks refuge with God in humility.” Our problem that we need to be saved from…

Words On Prayer To A Newly Baptized Adult

A newly Baptized Adult lost her priest shortly after she came into the Church.  Currently she has no regular priest, so she reached out for some advice on prayer.  Here are the words that I shared with her. Prayer is our ongoing encounter with God, so it includes everything (prayers, services, akathists, stillness, reading, tears).  Certainly we pray with our own words, at times, but such prayer is limited by our own…

The Two Sts. Pelagia of Antioch

On October 8, we commemorate two Sts. Pelagia of Antioch.  The first is a virgin martyr, and the second is a repentant harlot, sometimes referred to as St. Pelagia the former courtesan of Antioch. I first heard the story of St. Pelagia the virgin martyr from my bishop, shortly after he had arrived in California from Damascus.  I had just been ordained a deacon and was helping to run a large youth…

Fighting Sin

“You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). Those of you who have been reading my blogs for a long time know that I often liken the spiritual life to gardening.  We have to take care of our soul, the garden of our thoughts.  When we care for our soul, our actions are more likely to be grace-filled and less likely to be dominated by the passions.  Or…

What Is the Mark of the Beast?

It seems whenever there is a crisis, people begin to see possible predictions and warnings about such times in the scripture.  And certainly Christ does warn us to be prepared for the End, and to recognize that various tribulations and “wars and rumours of wars” would be the ongoing signs that the End is near.  However, the scriptures themselves also tell us that we are already in the Last Days.  That is,…

Why Do We Kiss The Cross?

Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.  There are actually three feasts of the Cross in the Church year: Today,  the main feast of the Cross, then on the third Sunday in Lent and again on August first. When we celebrate the Cross, we are not so much remembering the Crucifixion of Christ, as much as we are remembering the salvation that Christ’s Crucifixion has brought us and all the…

Suffering According To The Will Of God

St. Peter (1 Peter 4:19) uses this expression, “those who suffer according to the will of God,” and at first glance it seems to mean that God wills some the suffering we experience and some suffering God does not will. Read this way, Peter seems to leave us with the impossible task of discerning whether or not a particular cause or experience of suffering is God’s will or (even worse) not God’s…

The First Two Weeks of August

The first two weeks of August in the Holy Orthodox Church is devoted to the Mother of God, most specifically to asking the Mother of God for her help.  The distinctive element of this period is the Paraklesis service.  The Paraklesis service is a prayer service to to the Mother of God asking for her help and protection.  The service itself is shaped like Matins, set within Compline (only the Orthodox can…