Learning The Prayer Of The Heart

In 1851, an anonymous monk on Mount Athos wrote a book on prayer.  The title of the book has been translated as The Watchful Mind: Teachings on the Prayer of the Heart.  It is a book that I cannot recommend for most people because, like much classic Orthodox spiritual writing (the Philokalia, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian, to name a few), it was written…

Why Does God Humble Us?

Truly, O Lord, if we do not humble ourselves, You do not cease to humble us.  Real humility is the fruit of knowledge; and true knowledge, the fruit of trials. St. Isaac the Syrian  Homily 36 In homily 36, St. Isaac says that there are two levels to our being crucified with Christ.  The first level is physical and is a matter of our will.  It has to do with bringing our…

A Small Affliction Born For God’s Sake

A small affliction borne for God’s sake is better before God than a great work performed without tribulation; for affliction willingly borne brings to light the proof of love…. St. Isaac The Syrian: Homily 36 Someone has famously said, the exact attribution is under dispute, that it is not the mountain that wears us out but the grain of sand in our shoe.  St. Isaac is, I think, saying something similar.  In…

Contracting Our Vision

In my part of the world, sometimes referred to as the Bible Belt of Canada, I have plenty of opportunity to interact with Evangelicals of various stripes: from intellectually rigorous, Reform(ation)-minded Calvinists to free wheeling, seemingly theologically ambivalent  Charismatics.  One thing that has struck me, however, about most of the Evangelicals I have encountered lately is how strongly they prioritize ministry, or action taken for God in the world.  This is such…

Trusting God To Hold You

One of the struggles I have as I strive to pay attention to my heart, is that (at the same time) I perceive in my heart very sad things and joyful, hopeful things.  It’s as if two realities, or two reflections of the world around me are manifest within me.  When I first started to notice this reality within myself I found the concept of “bright sadness” helpful.  I first ran across…

Reflections From Tea With Bonnie

Tea At The Clayburn Store This morning my wife and I took one of our occasional half-day vacations.  It’s a warmish 19 degree day (68 Fahrenheit) with the sun poking through the clouds.  We walked a mile or so up a trail in the hills and then afterward stopped by a country tea and scone place for a bite and a chat and just some quite time together, Bonnie working on her…

From the Plain To The Foothills

Mt. San Jacinto “So there you are on the heights, surveying the earth below and the sky above.  Your intellect [nous] now begins to feel its freedom and wants to fly.” I enjoy reading spiritual literature from holy people in the Orthodox Christian tradition.  I like it because I often catch glimpses of myself, of my own struggles and my own triumphs.  In many ways, books have been like a surrogate spiritual…

On What Is Only Mine To Give

Mother Alexandra, formally Princess Ileana of Romania, back in 1960 wrote a little booklet called “Our Father: Meditations on The Lord’s Prayer.”  The booklet is divided into fourteen prayers each focusing on a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer and arranged to be prayed with one’s morning and evening prayers over a week (so there’s a morning and an evening prayer for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.).  In the very last prayer, the prayer…

On Needing God’s Kneading

Archimandrite Aimilianos in a lecture entitled “On The State That Jesus Confers” says that the basic human problem is that we do not see God.  In fact, most people cannot see God, but can only seek Him.  This is because our eyes (both physical and the eyes of our souls) are earthly, they are trained to see, to think about and to contemplate only physical things and what can be deduced from…

Of Course There Are Many Inconsistencies

St. Theophan the Recluse is today one of the most popular spiritual writers of 19th century Russia. In many ways his great gift is that he was able to summarize the whole Orthodox teaching on inner growth and spiritual life and apply it to the very specific context of 19th century Russia, especially 19th century Russian monasticism. Like his near contemporary, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, St. Theophan recognized that the monastic institutions of…