My Dog As A Mirror

I have a great six-year old German Shepherd named Kota.  She is intelligent, obedient, and easily bored.  I can train her to do almost anything a few times.  She will fetch, roll over, play dead, spin around and do all sorts of dogie tricks—three or four times.  That’s it.  And unless you have some really good—and I mean really good—treat for her, she just won’t chase after that ball any more. Kota…

convolvulus arvensis 

Every spring I muse on the weeds in my garden.  A particularly demonic weed (from my perspective) is convolvulus arvensis: Bindweed.  Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it.  The only way to get rid of it completely is to kill everything using something like Roundup—and that’s only if it has not flowered.  If it has flowered and produced seeds, well then you are looking at 20 years of volunteer bindweed. I am not…

Finding and Following Our Heart

I mentioned in a previous blog post that the fathers and mothers of the Church often use words differently, and that you can’t always pin down the exact definition of words like soul, mind, heart and spirit.  But this inconsistency is not unusual among Christian spiritual writers.  In English there are several ways we use the term ‘heart,’ and it is often unclear what exactly people mean when the say things like,…

St. Isaac And The Passions

In the comment section of a previous post, these questions were asked.  I thought I would address my response in a full blog post.  I hope it makes sense. Two questions Father: 1) Can you explain more how the passions can never fully be uprooted from the soul? I tend to think of the soul as only having good qualities, and now becoming Orthodox I see that this is not what the…

Marriage, Sex and Lent

There are some in the Orthodox Tradition who have said that married couples should abstain from sexual relations during lenten periods.  Some have gone so far as to say that this is the teaching of the Church.  I am not an expert on such things, so I will not venture an opinion on whether or not it is the teaching of the Church or whether or not it is merely pious opinion.  However,…

What Does Asceticism Look Like?

One of the temptations of being an Orthodox priest and pastor is to present a view of the spiritual life and the ascetic path by which one develops his or her relationship with God in the Church as if it were essentially one thing, as if there were only one way for everyone—and I knew what that way looks like.  A lot of the reason for this, in my own experience, has…

Knowledge As The Infancy Of Love

In homily 47, St. Isaac introduces his famous three degrees of knowledge, which I have spoken about at length before.  Today, I’d like to take a closer look at some aspects of the first degree of knowledge. St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 8:1 that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  Because Paul sets up this contrast between knowledge and love, it’s easy to assume that they are somehow opposites, or tensions…

Holding Thorny Hands

A couple of weeks ago, a disturbed young man got onto the metro train in Vancouver and began acting erratically and shouting and cursing.  As people in the car began moving away from him, one woman did the opposite.  A seventy-year old woman moved toward the man and reached out her hand and gently held his hand.  She just gently put her hand in his.  The man immediately calmed down, and then,…

Stillness and Love: Shunning Your Neighbour To Love Your Neighbour?

St. Isaac the Syrian’s homily 44 is one of his several very difficult homilies.  It is difficult not because it is hard to understand.  Exactly the opposite is the case.  It is quite straight forward and easy to understand.  I understand it, and I am offended by it.  Homily 44 is a letter written to another monk who loves stillness exhorting him to guard that stillness by avoiding contact with others.  St.…

Disciplines, The Shifting Meaning of Words, and the Narrow Way

In Homily 43, St. Isaac speaks of three areas of ‘discipline,’ or areas in which we must guide or rule our life.  Proper discipline in these areas leads to purity.  These three areas are bodily discipline, leading to purification of the body; discipline of the mind, leading to purification of the soul; and spiritual discipline, leading to purification of the mind.  Now right off the bat you might notice that St. Isaac…