Humility By Accident

In homily 24, St. Isaac points out a fundamental law of discernment:  “Everything that can be perceived by the senses, whether an action or a word, is a  manifestation of something hidden within.”   This principle of discernment is not given to us so that we can spy into the hearts of others by trying to surmise what is hidden in their hearts by scrutinizing their words and actions.  No, if we apply…

Growing Up In God

One of the difficult transitions or junctures of the spiritual life is the movement between what St. Isaac the Syrian calls the second and third degrees of knowledge.  Keep in mind that the language of degrees is metaphorical.  It describes spiritual experience and ways of encountering and knowing God.   Many of us have gone through seasons of our life in which we have striven with great intention and zeal to do…

Zeal

St. Theophan the Recluse, in The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned to It, stresses the importance of zeal, which he describes as our “willingness to do whatever it takes to be saved.” Of course, saving is something that God does and has done (and will do). Nonetheless, we too must be active. This activity on our part is motivated by zeal. Zeal is an energy to do something, to do…

Confession In The Orthodox Church

Confession takes various forms depending on the circumstances and your relationship with your confessor.  At a minimum, it involves standing before the icon of Christ, saying a short prayer, confessing your sin to God in the priest’s presence, getting whatever counsel the priest may have, and kneeling to receive absolution. However, sometimes confession takes the form of sitting and talking–or at least begins that way, especially if your confessor is more of…

Moving From Guilt to Humility

Sometimes I confuse guilt and humility. When I become aware of a particular weakness or failing, when the sadness of my failure seems to overwhelm me, my first response can sometimes be to try harder. And while sustained effort is an important part of attaining anything valuable–from Christian virtue to proficiency in algebra–trying harder often makes matters worse rather than better.   When I fail in Christian virtue, it is usually not…