What Does Success in Bodily Warfare Look Like?

Some of the most accessible and practical wisdom from the ancient Christian desert tradition can be found in the letters of Sts. Barsanuphius and John.  They lived in Gaza (Palestine) in the early sixth century.  Over 800 letters are preserved for us, and in these letters we get an inside look at what spiritual guidance looked like in the desert monasticism of those early years.  And although much is different in the…

On Remaining Silent

When you squeeze an orange, you find out what’s in it: sweet, sour, or even sometimes rotten.  Stress does the same thing with most people, in my experience.  Stress reveals what is in our hearts, and it is usually not nearly as sweet as we thought it would be.  But that is a gift.  St. Isaac tells us that to know your own heart is a gift greater than the raising of…

Lustful Thoughts

Many do not realize that the ancient Church Fathers deal rather specifically with the problem of unwanted sexual thoughts, albeit from a man’s perspective.  Unfortunately, there were very few women in the ancient world who were able or had the leisure to read and write, so there is a dearth of information about the inner life of women in the early centuries of the Church.  Consequently, women have to translate the struggles…

Knowing Your Measure

I’ve been reading the letters of Sts. Barsanuphius and John, written in the early sixth century in the region of Gaza.  One thing that has struck me as I am reading these letters is the pastoral compassion and just plain common sense these two holy men advocate in their correspondence.  These letters are written by and to monks living in extreme conditions.  Some are hermits, Barsanuphius has sealed himself into a room…