Why We Have To Suffer

There is something within me that just doesn’t want to believe Jesus, that doesn’t want to believe that the hard things Jesus said apply to me.  “In this world you will have tribulation,” He said (John 16:33).  Why is it that every time I face something hard, something painful, something unfair, why is it that I think something is wrong?  I can’t  just accept that this painful trial, this tribulation, is the…

Turning Earth Into Heaven

I don’t think I can repeat often enough that the one Greek word peirasmos means both a trial and a temptation.  These two concepts, trial and temptation, are quite distinct in English and so it’s hard for us English speakers to understand statements in the Fathers such as “this sickness is a temptation.”  How can a sickness be a temptation if I don’t want to be sick?  It doesn’t make sense in…

The Folly and Necessity of Rationalizing the Supra-rational

Several years ago I was leading a book study on St. Theophan the Recluse’ The Spiritual Life and How To Be Attuned To It.  I had read the book at least twice before this study, so I was going through it a third time as I prepared for my talks. As I read, I was excited to discover that I seemed to be understanding his broader ideas and not getting so lost…

Advice On Psalmody

In the middle of Homily 54 of St. Isaac’s Ascetical Homilies, he begins a set of paragraphs with the question, “Do you wish to take delight in the psalmody of your liturgy and to understand the oracles of the Spirit which you recite?”  In the following three paragraphs, St. Isaac gives specific advice on how to do this, how to take delight in psalmody. He begins by saying that one should disregard…

Admitting That We Hate

Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny (Matthew 5:25,26). It has been said by many others that the “adversary” in this saying from the…

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…

Reforestation and The Healing Of The Soul

It’s August first, 14 degrees (57f) and raining: Welcome to my world. Actually it is a beautiful day, if you wear a little more than a tee shirt and if you’re somewhat at peace with yourself.  A lot of our life is like this.  On days that we expect sun and good times, it rains–sometimes it rains for days on end and it seems as if we will never see the sun…

Some Thoughts on Rightly-Directed Zeal

In my last blog I spoke of one of the ways zeal can be wrongly directed.  Today I’d like to share a few thoughts on rightly directed zeal based on the 55th homily of St. Isaac the Syrian.  Let’s begin with this quote: In the beginning of its movement, the impulse of a desire of good is accompanied by a certain zeal, similar to coals of fire in its fervent heat.  Such…

Wrongly Directed Zeal

St. Isaac the Syrian speaks of two kinds of zeal.  In homily 51 he speaks of a “sick” zeal, a “wrong” zeal.  And in homily 55 St. Isaac speaks of zeal as a “watchdog” and “shield” of the soul.  However, to say these are two different kinds of zeal is not quite correct.  Both find their origin in the natural, “incensive” faculty of the soul.  This is an old English word that…

Evangelism According To St. Isaac The Syrian

When you wish to exhort someone toward the good, at first give comfort to his body and honour him with words of love.  For nothing so persuades a man to feel shame, and causes him to exchange his evils for what is better, as the bodily benefactions and the honour which he receives from you.  And a second means of persuasion is a man’s diligent effort to make himself a laudable example. …