Abbot Chapman Prays In The Rain

Spiritual Letters is a collection of letters written in the early part of the twentieth century by a Roman Catholic priest—and I highly recommend it to English speaking Orthodox Christians who want to be encouraged in prayer. The priest, Abbot John Chapman, was a very well educated Oxford graduate and devout Anglican who converted to Roman Catholicism in his mid twenties.  As a Roman Catholic he became a Benedictine monk, then a…

Concern Over God’s Judgement: What Does It Look Like?

In homily 51, St. Isaac begins a paragraph by quoting St. Gregory (I don’t know which one): “He is a temple of grace who is united with God, and is constant in his concern over His judgement.”  St. Isaac then asks, “what is concern over God’s judgement?”  His answer is quite surprising, a non sequitur really.  He doesn’t actually deal with God’s judgement at all, at least not in the way that…

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,…

Meeting God in Unanswered Prayer

Someone, apparently a young adult, wrote me recently and asked about prayer.  This person was having a hard time discerning the difference between worry and prayer.  He or she was wondering if prayer, although salutary to ourselves, really does have an effect on those we pray for.  Particularly, this person was worried about and/or praying for his or her parents who seemed to be getting further and further apart.  Did God hear his/her…

Sinful Dreams and Spiritual Warfare

A catechumen once asked what he could do to get victory over bad dreams: especially lustful dreams that roused his passions and often led him into temptation. I told him that this is one of those aspects of life in a fallen body that must be resisted and endured. One of the ways satan seeks to weary and wear out the saints (or those who strive to be holy) is through the…

Glorying In Our Weaknesses

One of the recurring statements in St. Isaac the Syrian’s homilies is that we will not be completely free from the experience of passionate desires until our death.  Consequently, it is necessary for us to find a certain peace in the knowledge of our shadows, of our weaknesses.  It’s not that it’s “OK” to have passions–as though we were supposed to give up and just let certain persistent passions have their way…

When Apples Are Sometimes Oranges

One of my big confusions during the first few years of my journey as an Orthodox Christian was caused by an assumption I had that words used by different Orthodox spiritual writers would refer to the same thing. There may be a philosophical name for this way of thinking about words and reality (other than ignorance), but I don’t know what it is. It took me a few years and abundant consternation…

Giving Birth To Prayer

Now that we are well into Great Lent and have, I hope, pushed ourselves a little in fasting and prayer, it’s probably time to take stock of what is really happening.  I imagine most of us are failing miserably.  Even if we have managed to keep a strict diet, obeying to the best of our ability the outer guidelines of the fast and even if we have attended most of the extra…

Advice On Distracting Thoughts In Prayer

I just received the newsletter from St. Barbara’s Monastery, in Santa Paula, CA.  I consider the Abbess there, Abbess Victoria, my first spiritual father.  Or as I sometimes say, “my first spiritual father was a mother.”  In this newsletter, Abbess Victoria gives excellent advice on what to do with worries and other distracting thoughts in prayer.  I can think of nothing more edifying than to share with you than what she has…

Closing The Door To Tormenting Demons

“Beware of idleness,” St. Isaac the Syrian warns the hermits, for “without it a monk cannot fall into the hands of those who strive to enslave him.” St. Isaac warns hermits not to neglect psalmody nor prayer because in abandoning them, the solitary opens a door to the demons. The judgement of God comes upon us not because we have neglected spiritual discipline, as though God punishes us for legal omissions, failing…