28 December 2008


The simplicity, the humbleness, the remoteness, the miracles converge into creating a timeless snapshot of the Orthodox spirituality, apart from the historical circumstances. Patriarch Alexei II of Russia praised Ostrov for its profound depiction of faith and monastic life, calling it a "vivid example of an effort to take a Christian approach to culture." (Wikipedia)

Over the holidays I had the opportunity to watch Ostrov yet again (Russian film portraying Orthodox spirituality). Afterwards my husband and I both commented on how the more we watch it, the more we get it. What I love the most are the prayers: the Jesus Prayer, Psalm 50, the Trisagion, the opening of Divine Liturgy... When I hear those oh-so-familiar words, I have a strong sense of home and peace whether it is being prayed in Russian, English, in my own parish, in a church in a different country (or even jurisdiction :) ), or in a film.

I jotted down some of the thoughts about it that have been floating around in my mind and thought I'd type 'em up--no particular agenda or message to this post. Mostly factoids. Probably will use bullet points, even. Whether or not you've seen the movie, this probably will seem quite random. Not sure if I'd call these spoilers, but I guess if you like to experience movies like this without any expectations or preconceived thoughts, you may not want to read this.

So anway...

  • I really noticed this time how there is no indication of disbelief or surprise when the monks find out that Fr Anatoly is preparing to depart this life and that he knows the exact day. Those who live holy lives of prayer more expect miracles and this sort of thing than they are surprised by them. They have a clearer understanding of reality and of what is the norm. The Orthodox approach to death is one of the things which will change me the most over time, I think. The balance of sober reality and peace is really beautiful, and I appreciate how it is portrayed in this film.

  • As a fool for Christ, Fr Anatoly disguises his greatness (God's grace) before others so as to avoid praise and elevation in rank. When his strange ways are judged, he only defends himself with Scripture--that really stuck out to me this time. Although he is simply following Christ's example with his responses, at first glance it looks like just another example of odd behavior. But he has truly become a stranger to this world, and he does not seek any justification from man.

  • This was the first time it sunk in that the cozy room where Fr Anatoly prays (keeps his icon) is his cell where he's supposed to sleep. However, he chooses to sleep on the rough coals without any bedding. Before, I recognized it as an aesthetic effort of depriving himself of unnecessary comforts. This time I see it as him keeping his sins continually before himself in order to stay in a constant state of repentence. He labors over the coal (symbol of his sin) during the day, sleeps on it at night, and suffers with it in his lungs. Because of his life of repentence and humility, God grants him the gift of tears, prayer of the heart, healing, and of clairvoyance.

  • I think the abbot Filaret is a great character. He seems peace-loving and unobtrusive. He sees Fr Anatoly's holiness and has the difficult job of reconciling (before the other monks) Fr Anatoly's unusual ways with the order of the monastery. I also notice that he does not seem intimidated by the fact that Fr Anatoly, a simple monk whom he probably helped to save, has apparently achieved a higher level of holiness than himself, the abbot. Also, during the movie his quiet demeanor is contrasted with a firey, obnoxious confrontation of his sin. As an observer it is easy to judge his character for being so attached to fine boots and linens, being an abbot and all. However, in "reality" (being that he's fictional), he lives in the harsh conditions of northern Russia on an island and takes comfort in a couple worldly things which he didn't even buy for himself. Those are small potatoes compared to my worldly appetite for comfort and fine things! What is most important is that he readily humbles himself, takes the correction and is thankful for it.

  • Frs Job and Filaret are convicted of their own downfalls just by interacting with Fr Anatoly in his regular day-to-day life. His virtues exaggerate their sins. Him sleeping on coals and doing such hard labor in his poor health is in stark contrast to the abbot's beloved luxuries. His humility and prostrations for forgiveness before Job frustrate Job all the more because he is not willing to let go of his pride. It is interesting how true that is to reality.

  • Lastly, it always strikes me how people come to Fr Anatoly looking for advise, prayer and miracles, but then are unwilling to accept all that is offered to them. They thought they knew what they wanted... The mother brought her son for physical healing, but did not care as much for his spiritual healing although that is the whole point of life and therefore of God's dealings with us.

If you haven't seen Ostrov yet, I highly recommend it. I have to admit (and warn you) that the subtitles are subpar for sure. But I have heard enough great reviews from English-only speakers to have hope that it can make some sense anyway.

17 December 2008

St Nicholas of Myra...the feast approaches!

The truth of thy deeds
hath revealed thee to thy flock as a canon of faith,
an icon of meekness,
and a teacher of abstinence;
for this cause thou hast achieved the heights by humility,
riches by poverty,
O Father and Hierarch Nicholas,
intercede with Christ God that our souls may be saved. ~ Troparion

This glorious saint, celebrated even today throughout the entire world, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of the city of Patara in Lycia. Since he was the only son bestowed on them by God, the parents returned the gift to God by dedicating their son to Him. St. Nicholas learned of the spiritual life from his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara, and was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of New Zion founded by his uncle. Following the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all his inherited goods to the poor, not keeping anything for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charity, even though he carefully concealed his charitable works, fulfilling the words of the Lord: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3). When he gave himself over to solitude and silence, thinking to live that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: “Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people, if thou desirest to be crowned by Me.” Immediately after that, by God’s wondrous providence, he was chosen archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock. During the persecution of Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, he was cast into prison, but even there he instructed the people in the Law of God. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea [325] and, out of great zeal for the truth, struck the heretic Arius with his hand. For this act he was removed from the Council and from his archiepiscopal duties, until the Lord Christ Himself and the Most-holy Theotokos appeared to several of the chief hierarchs and revealed their approval of Nicholas. A defender of God’s truth, this wonderful saint was ever bold as a defender of justice among the people. On two occasions, he saved three men from an undeserved sentence of death. Merciful, truthful, and a lover of justice, he walked among the people as an angel of God. Even during his lifetime, the people considered him a saint and invoked his aid in difficulties and in distress. He appeared both in dreams and in person to those who called upon him, and he helped them easily and speedily, whether close at hand or far away. A light shone from his face as it did from the face of Moses, and he, by his presence alone, brought comfort, peace and good will among men. In old age he became ill for a short time and entered into the rest of the Lord, after a life full of labor and very fruitful toil, to rejoice eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven, continuing to help the faithful on earth by his miracles and to glorify his God. He entered into rest on December 6, 343. ~The Prologue From Ohrid (written by St Nikolai of Ochrid)

Commemorated December 6 (19, OC).

29 November 2008

revelation about Revelation

I was just listening to Matthew Gallatin and he was talking about sola scriptura. He mentioned the use of Rev. 22:18-19 as support for sola scriptura and then read the passage. As he was reading, before he said anything more, the light bulb went off in my head and I practically gasped from surprise at the obvious:

Revelation 22:18-19
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophesy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophesy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city and from the things which are written in this book."

Advocates of sola scriptura heavily rely on this passage: to them "the book" mentioned is the complete, Old and New Testament Bible--the complete canon. However, the book in question is plainly "this prophesy" of St John and not the entire New Testament canon (which did not exist at the time). In fact, the book of Revelation almost didn't make it into the final New Testament canon.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say that ALL the important doctrines and traditions that Christians are to follow are spelled out in the letters written by the apostles to the churches (esp in those specific ones that made it into the complete canon). And nowhere does it say that any practice not specifically spelled out in the Scriptures is to be rejected (unless Rev 22;18-19 is misinterpreted).

One must presuppose sola scriptura to be true in order to interpret the passage to be referring to the complete canon of the Bible as we know it today.

01 November 2008

the 17th Kathisma

I have been reading the 17th Kathisma of the Psalter for my departed Grandmother and am interested to learn the specific reasons why this particular Kathisma was chosen.

Personally, as I read it I think, "This is not describing me at all!" and that's partly why I wondered why it would be read for me at my departure from this life. Here is a quote that directly addresses my question:

"At this service the 17th Kathisma (17th Kathisma — a Kathisma is one of the 20 divisions of the Psalter. The 17th Kathisma is comprised solely of Psalm 118 (Psalm 119 in the King James Version), the longest psalm in the Psalter) is read, which reveals to us the condition of our heart, and like a magnet draws out of it everything passionate and sinful which prevents us from approaching the Lord." (The One Thing Needful)

As I, a sinner, read it, it really does seem to turn into a prayer of compunction followed with the hope that someday, somehow I will be able to pray Prophet David's words from a pure heart.

Please share if you have learned anything about it or find anything!

26 October 2008

two letters from hell

As the nation prepares for Halloween, I bring you A Letter from Hell. It was put out by Dare 2 Share, a group published by Focus on the Family, and you can now find it on Godtube.com. Enjoy :) Oh, and the juicy part ends around 6:48--past that it gets a bit boooorrring.

Those who brought you A Letter from Hell now present Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America. It's not a stirring video, but it is a long, dramatic essay. Here is a Facebook group's summary of what the "letter" says:

Focus on the Family Action recently put out a hypothetical letter that outlined what America would look like from the perspective of a Christian looking back on an Obama presidency from 2012. The letter starts off by saying, “Many Christians voted for Obama – Younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far-Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong.” Here are just some of their scenarios Focus on the Family paints for us:

- The Supreme court leans liberal, 6 to 3.
- Terrorist attacks have occurred in 4 US cities.
- Christian doctors, nurses, counselors, and teachers have either been fired or quit.
- Iran perpetrated a nuclear attack on Israel, drastically reducing the size of its borders.
- Pornography is freely displayed.
- Inner city violent crime has dramatically increased due to gun control.
- Russia has occupied 4 additional countries.
- Gas tops $7 a gallon.
- Euthanasia becomes commonplace.
- Blackouts occur throughout the country.
- Homosexual marriage becomes law in all 50 states.
- Campus ministries, Christian adoption agencies and Christian schools nearly cease to exist.
- Home school families emigrate to Australia and New Zealand by the thousands.
- Bush officials are jailed and bankrupt.
- Taliban oppression overtakes Iraq and death of American sympathizers reaches millions.
- Homosexuals are given a bonus to enlist in the military.

I'm not really sure what to say in response, except that if these letters reflect the truth, I must a) be an idiot, b) not be a good Christian, and therefore c) be going straight to Hell. I guess all I can say is WISH YOU WERE HERE...HA ha ha ha ha *evil laugh*

24 October 2008

On Halloween

Here we go again. Since I can remember I always had a thing against Halloween. It is so dark, ugly and offensive. Even non-scary ways of celebrating Halloween don't settle right with me because the way we celebrate it doesn't change what it is actually about.

Throughout the years I've found that the people in my life who've tried the hardest to convince me that it is okay, even very good, to celebrate Halloween have been practicing Christians. I always thought this was a bit ironic.

So I was so happy to learn a few years back that our own Vladika, Bishop Kyrill, wrote a concise essay, On Halloween, about its origins and why Orthodox Christians should reject every aspect possibly related to it. My favorite part is how he says that all of our actions are either for God or against God, and that we cannot pretend that pagan practices are not related to the spiritual world and therefore are of no consequence. Afterall, we do not live in a merely physical world.

These contemporary Halloween practices have their roots in paganism, idolatry, and Satan worship. How then did something that is so obviously contradictory to the holy Orthodox Faith gain acceptance among Christian people?

The answer to this question is: spiritual apathy and listlessness, which are the spiritual roots of atheism and the turning away from God. In today's society one is continually urged to disregard the spiritual roots and origins of secular practices under the guise that the outward customs, practices and forms are cute, fun, entertaining, and harmless. Behind this attitude lies the dogma of atheism, which denies the existence of both God and Satan and can therefore conclude that these activities, despite their obvious pagan and idolatrous origin, are harmless and of no consequence.

The holy Church must stand against this because we are taught by Christ that God stands in judgment over everything we do and believe, and that our actions are either for God or against God. Therefore, the customs of Halloween are not innocent practices with no relationship to the spiritual world. But rather they are demonic practices, precisely as an examination of their origins proves.

ps. I know that likely some of the people reading my blog do celebrate Halloween in their own ways. This post is just about me and my family and what I truly to be right--and if you haven't noticed, I believe/feel very strongly about certain things :) Love you all!

05 October 2008

a prayer for Grandma

My grandmother passed away comfortably in her sleep last Sunday morning after two weeks of pain and suffering. May God give rest to her soul.

God blessed me with frequent, sweet and quiet visits with Grandma during those two weeks, up to her last hours. Especially towards the end and on the day of her passing, I kept my chotki close and said the Jesus prayer--this gave me such comfort and a sense of strength. During this busy week of funeral/memorial services, I have been so grateful for my copy of the 17th Kathisma (certain part of the Psalter) and the Akathist to Jesus Christ for a Loved One who has Fallen Asleep as it is so comforting to be able to pray for her at home (she is not Orthodox).

I'd like to share a few of the prayers from the Akathist:

Kontakion 3
Bound with the bonds of the flesh, Thy servant would fall into sin, but her spirit pined for Thine eternal truth and holiness. Now, when the weakness of the flesh is constrained by the corruption of the tomb, may her soul be borne aloft higher than the sun to Thee, the All-holy, and may it sing a song of deliverance: Alleluia!

Ikos 3
Thy chief Apostle, in the cold night by the bonfire, denied Thee thrice yet Thou didst save him. Thou who alone knowest the weakness of human nature: forgive also Thy servant Christine for the many ways she often fell away from Thy will:
Jesus, establish her there, where there is no going astray.
Jesus, deliver her from grievous torments of the conscience.
Jesus, may the memory of her sins perish forever.
Jesus, remember not the temptations of her youth.
Jesus, cleanse her of secret transgressions.
Jesus, overshadow her with the gladsome light of salvation.
Jesus, All-merciful Judge, vouchsafe Thy servant Christine the sweetness of Paradise.

Kontakion 7
We believe that our parting will be brief. We bury thee, as grain in a field, and thou wilt spring forth in another land. Let the weeds of thy sins die in the grave, but may good deeds shine forth there, where good seed brings forth incorrupt fruit, and where holy souls sing: Alleluia!

Ikos 7
When the fate of the departed fades into oblivion, when her image dims in the heart and time obliterates, along with her tomb, the fervency of prayer for her, then do Thou not abandon her but give delight to her lonely soul:
Jesus, the warmth of Thy love never ceases.
Jesus, Thy goodwill is inexhaustible.
Jesus, in the never-silent supplications of the Church may her sins be washed away by the offering of the Bloodless Sacrifice.
Jesus, through the intercession of all Thy Saints, grant her the grace of prayer for the living.
Jesus, in the days of our own trials, accept her intercession for us.
Jesus, All-merciful Judge, vouchsafe Thy servant Christine the sweetness of Paradise.


(Akathist to Jesus Christ For a Loved One who has Fallen Asleep published by St Paisius Serbian Orthodox Monastery.)

31 August 2008

Francis of Assisi and stigmata

I know little about Francis of Assisi (of the Roman Catholic Church) and have recently been curious to read more about him since he is such a well-known figure. Coincidentally I just came across an essay entitled: "A Comparison of the Mysticism of Francis of Assisi With That of St. Seraphim of Sarov". I have only breezed through it so far, and it sounds interesting. Here is a snippet:

"The experience (stigmatisation) of Francis of Assisi is remarkable and of singular interest to Orthodox Christians, since as mentioned above, nothing similar is encountered in the experience of the Orthodox Church with a long line of ascetics, and equally long history of mystical experiences. As a matter of fact, all of the things Francis experienced in the process of his stigmatisation are the very beguilements the Church Fathers repeatedly warned against!"

I was surprised to learn that he experienced stigmatisation (was he the first?). I guess I was surprised just because I kind of forgot that it exists not only in movies, plus I have never given stigmata much of a thought since it is not something that occurs in Orthodoxy.

The first thing that came to mind when I read that Francis wanted to experience Christ's earthly sufferings was the story of an Orthodox saint who prayed that God would find him worthy to suffer as a martyr throughout his life--oxymoron?--yes and no because he was tortured *almost to death regularly for something like 60 yrs of his life. They would literally rip apart of his body one day, and overnight he would be completely healed. The next day the cycle would begin again until that leader would grow frustrated/embarrassed and pass him off to a new court where they devised new ways of trying to kill him. Through witnessing his faith and sufferings, many were saved. He suffered for the sake of Christ and His Church.

Anyway, I look forward to reading the whole thing very soon.

27 August 2008

the Dormition of the Most-Holy Theotokos

Congratulations with the Feast!

Tonight's service touched me, and I found the following songs especially beautiful, the words and the tunes (too bad you can't hear it--next time you should join me!)

O ye Apostles, having gathered here from the ends of the earth,
bury my body in Gethsemane.
And do Thou, O my Son and God,
receive my spirit. (Extapastilarion)

When the Translation of thy most pure tabernacle was being prepared,
the apostles surrounded thy deathbed and looked upon thee with dread,
and as they gazed at thy body, they were filled with awe.
In tears Peter cried aloud to thee:
'O undefiled Virgin
I see thee who art the life of all mankind lying here outstreched,
and I am struck with wonder:
for He who is the delight of the future life
made His dwelling in thee.
Pray, then, fervently to thy Son and God
to save thy flock from harm.' (Tone 6--)

18 August 2008

congratulations with the feast!

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!


"Thou wast transfigured on the mountain O Christ our God
showing to Thy disciples Thy glory as each one could endure;
shine forth Thou on us, who are sinners all, Thy light ever-unending
through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Light-giver, glory to Thee"

08 August 2008

prayers for the departed

It seems that every forty days someone in my family's extended circle passes away. For forty days after someone's passing, our family says this prayer every evening before bedtime:

"Have mercy, O Lord, on the soul of Thy departed servant ______ and grant them eternal rest in Thy Kingdom, where sickness and sorrow are no more, neither sighing, but life ever-lasting. Amen"

For the last year, we've said a new name almost every forty days (or somewhat close to it). I am actually considering putting together a "wall of the departed" with their pictures in our room under the cross. It would both serve as a reminder to pray for them all and as a reality check for our lives.

I just read the article Prayers for the Dead: Pannikhida by Bishop Alexander (Mileant). It is a short explanation of the Orthodox belief of our fate after death and the importance of prayers for the dead.

The more I understand and take in these Orthodox understandings, the more hope and peace I have for my own passing through death. Heaven for me is becoming less and less like an 'empty white room' and more like a community of people lovingly praying and helping each other to the glory of God. I am also more aware of the fact that the spiritual realm I will encounter after the death of my body is not supposed to be unfamiliar and that the goal of this life is to learn how to live in unison with the Holy Spirit, His saints (here and departed) and angels--life as it was meant to be lived in the garden, a perfect mystical union of the physical and of the spiritual.

From the article, here are some reality checks for me:

"Man is given life in order to learn how to believe, to do good, and to develop his talents. All of these things make up his spiritual riches, or, in the words of the Saviour, his "treasure in heaven." Death sums up the life of a person, and his soul must then come before God for an accounting, to receive its reward or punishment."

"While a person lives, God gives him the chance to repent and correct his shortcomings. After death, the possibility of repentance is removed. Still, if a person dies and is not deserving of paradise, this does not mean that he is doomed to eternal torment. Until the Last Judgment, the torments of sinners in hell are temporary and can be relieved or even removed by the prayers of believing people and the Church."

About the judgment the soul receives just after "falling asleep":

"But the judgment which follows soon after death is not yet the final judgment, because only the soul is being judged, without the body. About the existence of this preliminary judgment the Apostle Paul wrote: "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). At the end of the world, after the universal resurrection of the dead, there will be the universal Last Judgment, at which God will judge all people simultaneously. Then each person will receive either eternal reward or eternal punishment with his or her resurrected body.

"Thus, there exist two states after death: one for the souls of the righteous, in paradise; the other for the souls of sinners, in hell. (The Orthodox Church does not accept the Roman Catholic teaching about an intermediate state in Purgatory. The church fathers usually attribute the word "Gehenna" to the state after the Last Judgment, when both death and hell will be cast into a fiery lake, cf. Rev. 20:15)."

Physical death is no longer the end for us nor for our relationships with one another:

"In order to appreciate the power of prayers for the dead, it must be understood that death interrupts only the physical contact among people; spiritual contact continues. This contact is realized through prayer....Thus, prayer joins our world with another world, where the angels, the saints and our departed relatives and friends dwell. Since the moment of the resurrection of Christ death has lost its former fatality; instead, it has become the beginning of a new life....Christians who have departed from this world do not sever their ties to the Church to which they belonged during their life."

"Prayers for the dead always benefit them. If they were not deemed worthy of heaven, these prayers alleviate their fate beyond the grave, and if they are in paradise, these prayers give them joy and an increase of light."

(I have posted a lot from the article here. You may just want to go read the whole thing if you're interested. Father Alexander's website is such a great resource for such articles.)

06 August 2008

back into it

Hey everyone. I have been missing for a while, I know. I've been busy with a bunch of different things, and nothing in particular has come to mind to write. I've had a lot to think about, but picking one thought and then translating it into something readable can be an issue sometimes. Anyway, I'm hoping to get back into writing now and then. I like to write because it usually means that I've been reading and thinking and been more conscious of my experiences.

I've been reading Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition by the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos. It is a great book, and I'd be interested in seeing if he has published any others. I'm also reading The Way of a Pilgrim, a classic gem about the Prayer of the Heart which I plan to reread. Both have been very edifying and I have a million little tabbies marking my favorite pages :)

Something new--I have joined a discussion group for the book Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard. It is outside my normal type of reading, but it should be interesting to see some of the new (or not) ideas forming within in the Protestant circle. So far the book seems fairly rationalistic/scientific, but I am only into the second chapter. Maybe a better description would be "thorough"--he is careful to clarify everything, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I could barely stand the first chapter, but the second chapter was more palatable, I guess you could say. Glancing ahead there were a few topics I do look forward to reading. My ultimate measuring stick for the book is whether or not there is an emphasis on repentance and prayer as the main things we can do to change the course of our spiritual formation. In any case, in the group there have been a few great comments, and I look forward to hearing more of people's thoughts as we go through the book.

I guess that's it for now. I'll keep you posted :)

07 July 2008

a prayerful sighing of parents for their children

These prayers a so beautiful and helpful. If you have children (or God-children), I hope you are able to incorporate them into your prayers.
(original source)

LORD Jesus Christ, Son of God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy Most Pure Mother, hearken unto me, Thine unworthy servant (name), O Lord, govern in mercy my children, Thy servants (names). Have mercy on them and save them, for Thy name’s sake.O Lord, forgive them all their transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, that they may be perfected before Thee. O Lord, set them on the true path of Thy commandments and enlighten their minds with the Light of Christ unto salvation of their souls and the healing of their bodies. Bless them, O Lord, at home, at school, in their journeys and in every place of Thy dominion. Preserve and shelter them, O Lord, from flying bullets, arrows, the sword, poison and fire, from mortal wounds and sudden death. Guard them, O Lord, from all visible and invisible enemies, and from all danger, evil and misfortune. Heal them O Lord, from all sickness, deliver them from every impurity, and lighten their spiritual sufferings. Grant them, O Lord, the grace of Thy Holy Spirit and a long life; grant them health and chastity in all piety and love, and to live in accord with all their neighbors, near and far. Multiply and strengthen them, O Lord, in mental ability and bodily strength, given to them by Thee. Bless them to lead a pious life and, if it is pleasing to Thee, grant them married life and honorable childbearing. For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, give me, Thy sinful and unworthy servant, a parental blessing for my children and Thy servants, both in this present time, morning, noon and night, and also in Thine eternal, almighty and all-powerful Kingdom. Amen.

O God, Maker of all creation, Thou hast made me worthy to be the mother of a family, and through Thy goodness hast bestowed children upon me; and so I dare to say: these children are Thine, for Thou hast given them being, hast infused them with an immortal soul, and hast raised them to life through baptism. And in accordance with Thy will Thou has adopted them and received them into the bosom of Thy Church. Send down to me Thy gracious help in raising my children, for the glory of Thy name. Bestow on me patience and strength to do Thy will. Teach me to plant in their hearts the root of true wisdom-the fear of the Lord-that all their lives they may tremble at Thy words. Open to them the understanding of Thy law. Until the end of their days let them act with the sense that Thou art everywhere present. Plant in their hearts loathing for every transgression, that they may be pure in their signs. O Righteous Judge, who punishes children for the sins, but sprinkle them with the dew of Thy grace. O Heavenly Father, order the fate of my children according to Thy blessings, do not deprive them in this life of their daily bread, send down to them in due time all that is necessary for the acquisition of blessings in eternity. Be merciful to them, when they sin before Thee; look not upon the sins of their youth and ignorance; chastise them and have mercy on them, but turn not Thy face away from them. Turn not Thy face from the in the day of their tribulation, that they may not fall into temptations beyond their strength. Cover them with Thy mercy, that Thine Angel may walk with them and preserve them. Abandon not my children, O Lord, and give them that which is profitable for salvation. Amen.

20 June 2008

when i was little

When I was little I spoke to the angels. Not like I had visions or anything. I just knew they were there helping and protecting me, so I figured I'd talk to them on occasion. Often I'd just thank them for their help. I must have mentioned it to someone because I remember being told that we only pray (talk) to God. So after that when I'd pray to God, I'd ask him to please strengthen my angels and to thank them for me :) lol. Now I understand that it is always good to give thanks (to friends, saints, angels) and, in the same breath, to give the glory to God since it is through Him that all things come to us.

When I was little I loved the story about how Jesus said "Let the little children come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." I believed that children are particularly special to Jesus and hoped and prayed that He would return to earth while I was still young so that I could be that special little child who got to sit on His lap. How I longed for His coming!

When I was little I prayed really hard for about a week that it would literally rain money. I believed He could make it happen and saw no reason why it wouldn't be a good idea (except that the falling change would kinda hurt, like hail does). I was told that that is not exactly the kind of prayer God is likely to grant, but I just figured they probably never even tried it. Well, turns out they were right.

When I was little I often questioned my salvation and therefore would ask God again and again to come into my heart. Later I was told that I shouldn't doubt and that I didn't need to keep asking. So I stopped asking, but I didn't stop wondering/questioning until I was a little older.

When I was little I was so many things. It is funny to look back.

What comes to mind when you look back?

15 June 2008

not so smart afterall

Recently I have noticed in myself a tendency to think and read more about spiritual things than actually live a spiritual life of prayer. It's an ironic temptation. For example, often times I read or write late into the night, come away tired and then (sometimes) say a quick prayer and cross myself before drifting off to sleep. Honestly, if the angels wouldn't whisper, "Is this bed to be my coffin..?" in my ear, I'm not sure I'd even get a quick prayer in half the time. Other times when I am actually praying, very often certain words will spark different thoughts on a related subject and I will be thinking about those things while my mouth is reciting prayers.

I am now reading a book called The Way of a Pilgrim (author unknown). It is a lovely little book full of wisdom about understanding Prayer of the Heart (Jesus Prayer) and learning to apply it. Just the other night I encountered this dialogue which deals exactly with my issue. I offer it here in case it may encourage you as it has me. I put in bold my favorite part.

(spiritual Father) "Tell me more about the edifying experiences you have encountered in your wanderings."

(pilgrim) "It would take a long time to tell of them all; besides, I have already forgotten a great deal; I have always tried to remember only that which guided and urged my indolent soul to prayer. All the rest I remember but rarely. Or rather, I try to forget the past, as the Apostle Paul bids us. My late elder of blessed memory also used to say that forces opposed to the Prayer in the heart assail us from two sides, from the right hand and the left. In other words, if the enemy cannot distract us from prayer by means of vain and sinful thoughts, he brings back edifying reminiscences into our minds, or fills them with beautiful ideas so that he may draw us away from the Prayer--a thing which he cannot bear. This is called 'a theft from from the right side,' where the soul, forgetting its intercourse with God, revels in a colloquy with itself or with other created things. Therefore, he taught me to shut myself off from even the most sublime spiritual thoughts whenever I am at prayer. And if at the end of the day I remembered that more time had been given to lofty ideas and talks than to the essential secret Prayer of the Heart, I was to consider it a sign of spiritual covetousness and immoderation."

31 May 2008

Sergei Esenin

Tonight I am in the mood to listen to Russian poetry recitation, so I found these clips.

The first clip is from a tv film series "Esenin" about the life and death of Sergei Esenin. It is very well made and captivating, and we watched the whole series within a day or two. The second is not related to the film.

Here is a brief biography if you are interested.


Россия родина моя

22 May 2008

franklin graham, not my friend!

I just read this article about Franklin Graham's Festival of Hope in Kiev, Ukraine. This is a good example of why the Orthodox Church is not happy about the Westernization of...I mean crusade into...I mean evangelization of Russia and Ukraine by Protestant Church, Inc.

The opening line spoke of the beauty of the golden churches in Kiev "A feeling of Old Testament gravity and ritual hangs in the air."

Then the author recalls Graham's story of Nicodemus:

"He was a very religious man ... conscientious in all his religious duties.” But for all of that, he said, Nicodemus was still troubled in his soul, unsure of how one is able to stand before God. So he went to Jesus by the cover of night to ask Him. “When Jesus answers his question, ‘You must be born again,’ Nicodemus must have been stunned,” Franklin said. “He was a Pharisee, the strictest of all religious sects. They dedicated their lives to upholding the law of God.” He continued, “You see, religion is not enough to save you.” After being in their country just a while, Franklin said, he could see Ukraine was a very religious nation—but, like Jesus told Nicodemus, religion is not enough. We have to be born again.

[Can I tell you just how much I've come to love the phrases "born again" and "personal savior"?]
Franklin explained why: “You can’t work for your salvation. If you could work for it or buy it, you would boast about it. The only way you can experience forgiveness is by God’s grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. ... It’s coming into an agreement with God. ... You’re telling God, I want to turn from my sins. I don’t want to go back to that old life. I want that new life.”

Graham takes cheap shots at Orthodoxy, shows a complete lack of understanding of her teachings and misleads people by telling them that the Church does not believe in salvation by grace but by works. You'd think these "great wise" leaders would be the ones most educated about other faiths so as to have a better understanding of their own. I guess not. Or does he know the truth and yet choose to mow over it in order to win more to his side?

(Kind of off topic, but I can't move on without pointing out how he says that "salvation by grace" equals an "agreement" between man and God. hm. Interesting how that works.)

I could go on and on about the issues I have with Big Chrisitanity's evanglization efforts in Russia....but I'd better not. All I'll say is GO SOMEWHERE ELSE.

But, Glory to God, despite such efforts to elbow out Orthodox culture, the Russian Orthodox Church is bouncing back and is continuing to grow. The blood of the martyrs is bearing great fruits, and the unity of the Church is even stronger than before.

I heard about this article from Fr Stephen's blog. He is much more graceful and helpful in his response in "The Orthodox Church and Personal Salvation".

19 May 2008


We were going through our huge stack of mail tonight and came across a strange envelope. At first I thought it was just a cheesy thing from a church, but what we found inside looked more like a cult...except I'm sure it's a total FRAUD. It sounds exactly like those emails I get from people in Nigeria trying to send me millions of dollars if only I'd fly to England to pick it up. These guys are "Saint Matthew's Church"...yeah right.

Highlights from Page 1, dated "Sunday, May 2008" (wow, and I opened it on Monday!):

Let this be the best year of your life through faith and prayer. God is ready to help you reach your dreams and goals.

People just like you are writing to this 57-year-old church, telling us of all types fo blessings since this church started praying with them...loved ones saved...better jobs, raises in salaries, being able to buy and sell homes, cars etc...

We believe that you are about to be blessed through this unusual, Bible Faith, Church, Prayer Rug which we are placing in your care for these next 24 important hours.

When you use this Faith Church Prayer Rug, go into a room where you can be alone (just God and you)...try to be by yourself when you kneel on this Holy Ghost, Bible Prayer Rug, or spread it over your knees. We want this Church Ministry, Prayer Rug to be touching both of your knees as you pray for the needs you are facing right now.

These next 24 important hours are crucial to you. Timing is important to God. After you kneel on this Church Prayer Rug, or place it over your knees, place it in a Bible, on Philippians 4:19. (If you don't have a Bible, it's okay - just slide it under your side of the bed, for tonight, if you can.) Leave It There No Longer Than Tonight Only! God sees. Then, in the morning it is a must that you get this unusual blessing church Prayer Rug out of this house and back to us, here at the church's chapel prayer room, in faith...so we can rush it onto another family that's in need of a blessing.

Notice the face of Jesus on this Church Prayer Rug. When you first look you will notice that His eyes are closed. If you relax and continue looking straight into His eyes, you will see His eyes slowly opening, and He will begin looking back at you. [This is true--you can see it right away. The "open" eyes look a bit freaky]

Pray about sowing a seed gift to the Lord's work. Give God your best seed and believe Him for His best blessings. And say "Yes, I want one of those Deuteronomy 8:18 Prosperity Crosses, blessed for me by the church."

Saint Matthew's Senior Bishop

ps. Read your faith, Holy Ghost instructions on the enclosed, sealed prophecy, only after you have mailed this Prayer Rug back to the church for your blessed Deuteronomy 8:18 Prosperity Cross.

Page 2 (do I really need to tell you what was on Page 2?)

Lots of stories of people being blessed with thousands of dollars and/or healings.

The Prophecy was totally vague, of course.

I'm contemplating mailing these goodies to the local investigative news station for their records. Obviously this letter finds all the highly suggestible people who will do exactly what they say. I'm sure they would be telling me to send money in the next letter.

Anyway, this was our entertainment for the night, though a bit of a bore to read about, I'm sure. It was kind of interesting to see the "subliminal messaging" (thought it was pretty obvious). I'm sad for the people who fall for it.

13 May 2008

people with icons

me with icons

People with Icons

At baptism, Orthodox Christians take a saint's name. This saint becomes their patron saint. During morning prayers, we say "Saint ___, intercede to God for us."

The saints are depicted in icons--paintings--that line the walls of Orthodox churches, our homes (living room, bedrooms, kitchens), sometimes our desk at work, often in our cars and anyplace that is appropriate!

Here, you can share a portrait of yourself or someone else with their patron saint or another icon that is important to them!

Inspired by Women with Icons

As one member of this group has mentioned in comments, the process of taking the one picture is not to be taken lightly. It can, however, be very motivating and inspiring to have a specific occasion for which to ponder upon our relationship with Christ and His saints.

For moderation purposes, you have to be invited to join the group. If you're interested, we'll figure out a safe way for me to get your email so I can sen you an invite.

01 May 2008


[Thanks to Matthew Gallatin's podcast "Judgment Day" and Fr Stephen Freeman's blog post "What Are You Waiting For?"]

Many think of horned demons in hell pushing people around with pitchforks. However, our sinful passions in this life will be our real tormentors in eternity, for we will be separated from our flesh which is able to feed them. Our souls will burn with insatiable desire and frustration because we will have all that we desire but no way to enjoy it.

Again, in the end will we all get what we have been waiting for and desire. Everyday I prioritize my desires and needs and schedule my day around them. Which of these are temporal and which are eternal? What will be left once I walk through the purifying fires and cross into eternity? I wonder if this is what the Lake of Fire is: God's presence. Some will enter it and
find themselves unscathed; others will survive, though greatly reduced; perhaps some will almost perish, but the purifying flames will compel them to repent; and others will be completely lost in the fire, for they will have committed their whole selves to to the world in sin and will have nothing left for eternity. Will they burn so completely that they cease to exist?

Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. Though I have done nothing good in Thy sight, yet grant me by Thy grace to make a good beginning! And grant me repentance before the end!

21 April 2008

Martyr Petronia

Just the other day I decided to do a thorough Google search on my patron saint, Marytr Petronia. There is very little information about her since she lived and died in the first century, as far as I can tell. I actually found three dates set aside for a St Petronia (Petronilla): Sept 29, May 31, and Oct 8. I don't know if there are three different St Petronia's or if the one is celebrated on different dates.

Interestingly, October 8 is Taisia's name day, our wedding day, and the name day of the priest who married us. I am, however, a little skeptical about this date because of the source where I found it.

In Rome St Petronilla (May 31) is very popular and her relics are even in St Peter's Basillica. There are several of legends attached to her, including that she is the "daughter" of Apostle Peter and that instead of dying a martyr she miraculously became deathly ill and died a virgin, thus avoiding unwanted marriage to a noble. Funny how the people prefer a romantic story to a martyr's crown.

As for September 29, I was able to find her listed on several Orthodox calendars and so I'm sure it is legit. I remembered that this date is around the time that I was baptized, about a week before our wedding (Oct 8). Out of curiosity I asked my mother in law to see if she could find the exact date on which I was baptized (b/c our dated photos are on a hard drive that died, and I didn't have a calendar to mark at that point). She found her day-timer for that year and wrote me back...I was baptized on September 29!

This is really exciting and affirming for me because although I have grown to love my name and have learned to pray to St Petronia, every so often a little doubt creeps in about the reality of her existence. Also, my original intent was to be named after Apostle Peter, so sometimes I wonder if I should consider him as my patron saint. Also, I have been baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church, and it is uncommon to pick a non-Russian name--and Petronia is about as uncommon as one can get (outside of Rome, apparently). So I've had all these little doubts, try as I have to squash them by trusting God's good will.

So yeah, having been unwittingly baptized on my name day makes it quite obvious that Martyr Petronia is praying for me and is meant to be my patron saint. Fits right in with the saying that the saints choose us. Glory to God!

19 April 2008

a little story about St Ephraim

At that time the venerable Ephraim decided to take up his dwelling in Edessa and prayed, "O Lord Jesus Christ, deem me worthy to behold Thy city, and as I enter it, send me someone with whom I can converse profitably about the Scriptures." Arriving at the gates of Edessa, he saw only a woman. The saint was disappointed and whispered, "Lord, Thou hast disdained Thy servant's prayer. Can a woman tell me anything I do not already know about Thy word?"

The woman stopped and stared at Ephraim, who asked her, "At what are you looking?"

"I am looking at you, because the first woman was made from a man's rib, but you should be looking at the ground, from which the first man was taken," she retorted. Ephraim marveled at the reply and praised God, Who had given the woman such wisdom. He realized that the Lord had answered his prayer, and he took up his abode in the city, where he dwelt for a long time.

I cracked up at her response. Then I marveled at his humility.

It is from the life of St Ephraim the Syrian.

05 April 2008

Oprah has her own church, too?

I received an email about this and found it interesting, though not very surprising:

On March 3, 2008, 300K people gathered for Oprah Winfrey’s Church. Now there are 2 million members.

Some of their teachings:
~ Denies Christ’s sacrificial death
~ There is no sin
~ There are millions of ways to ’salvation’
~ Christians are confused
~ Salvation comes from ’me’
~ Teaches the ’New Age Christ’
~ etc. etc.

This is interesting and noteworthy since I bet many faithful followers of Oprah probably thought she was a Christian. Truth is, she seems to "feel" a truth (watch the vid) that may acknowledge Christ, but only as a symbol. Keep in mind when watching that feelings are products of our rational mind; they do NOT represent reality and they are NOT the makings of our soul.

"From the words of Isaac the Syrian we see that what we call prelest proper exists when a man starts trying to live above his capabilities. Without having cleansed himself of passions, he strives for a life of contemplation and dreams of the delights of spiritual grace. Thus the wrath of God befalls a man; because he thinks too highly of himself, God’s grace is withdrawn from him and he falls under the influence of the evil one who actively begins to tickle his vainglory with lofty contemplation and [spiritual] delights..."

I agree with the electronic-sounding guy in the video--everybody, it is time to turn off the d@!$ television!!!

14 March 2008

repentance opens up a new way...

Prayers by the Lake, XVIII by St Nicholai of Ohrid and Zica

Repent of your ways, inhabitants of the earth. Behold, the eye of the Master of the world is keeping watch deep within you. Do not trust your seducible eyes, let the Eye illumine your way. Your eyes are curtains over the Eye of God.

Repentance is admission of the way of sin. Repentance opens up a new way. The penitent’s eyes are open to two ways: to the way which he is going, and to the way he should be going.

There are more who feel repentant than there are who turn their wheels onto a new way. I tell you: the penitent must have two types of courage--he must have the courage to weep over his old way, and he must have the courage to prepare himself for a new way.

What good is it for you to feel repentant and still tread the old way? How do you describe a person who is drowning and shouts for help, but when help arrives will not grab hold of the life line? I liken such a person to you.

Repent of your yearning for this world and all that is in this world. For this world is the graveyard of your ancestors, which is gaping and waiting for you. Just a little longer and you will be ancestors and will yearn to hear the word "repentance," but you will not hear it.

Just as the wind begins blowing and carries off the mist before the sun, so will death carry you off before the face of God.

Repentance rejuvenates the heart and lengthens one’s lifetime. The tears of a penitent wash darkness from his eyes, and give his eyes a childlike radiance. The eye of my lake is like the eye of a deer, always moist and radiant as a diamond. In truth, the moisture in the eyes drains the anger in the heart.

The soul in the penitent is like a new moon. A full moon must wane, a new moon must wax.

The penitent clears the weeds from the field of his soul, and the seed of goodness begins to grow.

Truly, the penitent is not one who laments over the evil deed he has committed, but one who laments over all the evil deeds that he is capable of committing. A wise landowner not only cuts the thornbush that has pricked him, but every thornbush on the field that is waiting to prick him.

O my Lord, make haste to show a new way to every penitent, after he scorns his old way.

O heavenly Mother, Bride of the All-Holy Spirit, bow down toward our heart, when we repent. Open the fountain of tears within us, that we may wash away the heavy clay, that saddens our eyes.

O All-Holy Spirit, blow and disperse the unclean stench from the soul of the penitent that has been choking him and lead him to repentance.

We bow down and beseech You, O Life-giving and Mighty Spirit!

13 March 2008

Lenten prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life,
Take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust of power, and idle talk.
But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother,
For blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen.

O God, cleanse me a sinner.

09 March 2008

asking forgiveness

Dear family and friends in Christ,

Today is Forgiveness Sunday, a day of preparation for our journey of repentance and struggle against the passions, or in other words, Great Lent. Today at church priests and laity alike prostrated ourselves before each other, one by one, repenting and asking for forgiveness. With our hope in the Bright Resurrection of our Lord, in unity we chose unconditional forgiveness and responded to each other "God forgives, and I forgive you."

To my loved ones, acquaintances and to readers just passing by, I ask you to please forgive me, a sinner, for any offense I my have committed against you, whether in knowledge or in ignorance, known or unknown, in word or deed.

To the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray for those who may have sinned against me: may nothing be held against them on my account, but may they be saved by Thy grace. Forgive us, O Lord, for all are the works of Thy hands. Show compassion on us, for Thou art good and the Lover of mankind.

07 March 2008

Women with Icons

I linked to this beautiful slide show from Martha's page. I just love it and hope you will all take a look. Women with Icons

01 March 2008

demon hunters beware

"You don't become holy by fighting evil. Let evil be. Look towards Christ and that will save you." -Fr Stephen

I remember my days of seeking out spiritual battles--taunting the demons, declaring holy war against them...wow. In the end, when my soul passes through the realm of kingdom of darkness with my 'third eye' wide open, we will see who is taunting who along the way to the Final Judgment. (Lord, grant me repentance before the end!)

The thing is that these battles with demons distract from what really matters: the battle within ourselves against our evil passions which pull us further and further away from who/what we are meant to be--holy images of our holy God. Instead of looking toward God in order to learn true love and humility, we are focusing on the evil which exists 'out there' as well as basically practicing pride and judgment to boot. The demons know this and revel in anything that hinders us from using this short life to find unity with God. If we want to fight demons for real, we must achieve real humility. They have no defense against a contrite heart...neither do our passions.

Maybe one could say that instead of hating evil, we should turn from it and love God and our neighbor? 'Cause it sure seems true that we become what we hate...I can't get these guys out of my mind.
Demon Hunter:
"Storm the Gates of Hell"
"Hell hath no fury at all"

15 February 2008

as a little child

"Let the little children come to Me,and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it"

It is necessary, however, to examine what is the meaning of being babes in wickedness, and how a man becomes so, while in mind a grown man. A babe then, as knowing either very little or nothing at all, is justly acquitted of the charge of depravity and wickedness; and so it is also our duty to endeavor to be like them in the very same way, by putting habits of wickedness entirely away from us, so we too may be regarded as men who do not even know the pathway leading to guile, but who, unconscious of malice and fraud, live in a simple manner, practicing gentleness and a priceless humility, and readily forbearing from wrath and spitefulness. For such we affirm are the qualities found in those who are still babes.
(St Cyril of Alexandria. Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, Homily #121.)

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and with Thy governing Spirit establish me." (Ps 50)

13 February 2008

tax rebate

I, for one, am looking forward to the $1500 I should be getting in the mail on top of my tax return (fingers crossed) this spring. It’s the tax rebate Bush is sending everyone, hoping we’ll go out and spend it in order to stimulate the economy.

"To pay for the rebates — which are estimated to cost about $117 billion over the next two years — the government will have to borrow more money, enlarging the budget deficit." (read this here.)

In other words, in order to stimulate the economy, the government will borrow $117 billion dollars from the Federal Reserve (which will simply print the money since this country does not have $117 billion), who in turn will charge interest on that money (because it’s a bank)--guess who gets to pay for the $117 billion plus interest over the next ***years? We do, with our tax money! Yay! I wonder how much I’ll end up paying for this ’gift’ of $1500?

I’m no economist, so I’m not trying to say that it won’t help the economy in the short term. But this shows the terrible state of our economy in general and the ridiculous way we do things. The real winners in this scheme are those who are a part of the Federal Reserve, aka Rockefellers et al...imagine how much they are making!

I found this quote today by Thomas Jefferson: "I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies." Funny thing is that we have both: a banking institution which owns our government and a standing army.

RON PAUL 2008!!! Here you can find some of his writings on the subject.

Here is a fantastic, informative video in whichG Edward Griffin explains the Federal Reserve’s who’s, what’s, when, where’s and why’s.

12 February 2008


I guess I misunderstood the information...Ron Paul is marching forward!

11 February 2008


a song by Ani DiFranco [sorry Ani, had to edit a little]

Life in the circus ain't easy
But the folks on the outside don't know
The tent goes up and the tent comes down
And all that they see is the show
And the ladies on the horses look so pretty
And the lions are lookin real mad
And some of the clowns are happy
And some of the clowns are sad

But underneath
There's another expression
That the makeup isn't making
Life under the big top
It's about freedom
It's about faking
There's an art to the laughter
There's a science
And there's a lot of love
And compliance

Welcome to the freakshow
Here we go...

We live to hear the slack-jawed gasping
We live under a halo of held breath
And when the children raise up a giant shield of laughter
It's like they're fending off death
And we can make something bigger
Then anyone of us alone
And then the clowns will take off their makeup
And the people will go home

But life on the outside ain't easy
No sequins, no elephants,
No parading around
Yeah, the tent goes up
And the tent comes down
And they're stuck in this [stupid] town

You need a lot of love and compliance

Welcome to the freakshow
Here we go

08 February 2008

Ron Paul is out

"Of course, I am committed to fighting for our ideas within the Republican party, so there will be no third party run. I do not denigrate third parties -- just the opposite, and I have long worked to remove the ballot-access restrictions on them. But I am a Republican, and I will remain a Republican."

*sigh* That's part of letter I got in my email tonight. Such a bummer. Well, I hope this is just the beginning for our generation. Hopefully this spark will blaze into a fire over the next 4-8 yrs.

Well, it's Obama for me now. Any thoughts about his ideas on health care and education, No Child Left Behind in particular? And for health care, I'm not looking for socialized medicine, perse, but something drastic has got to happen.

04 February 2008


Hope everyone gets out to vote on Tuesday!!!

31 January 2008

follow -up to my 'question for Christians'

Let me explain where my previous, somewhat random post came from. The other night I was just reading through my journal and came across this short quote from one of Matthew Gallatin's podcasts. In this particular podcast he described how experiencing or walking with God can be compared to dancing with a partner. The question I posed on my last post is actually the question he had asked himself while still a western Christian: "If I ignore what I believe about my God and set aside everything that I feel about my God, what is left of my experience with God? And the answer was nothing." This felt relevant to where I've been spiritually lately. I also posted it as kind of a poll because I was curious to hear what it would bring to mind for others.

When I first heard Gallatin's question, it really hit home for me as I could totally relate to his question and his answer. In the times when I was unsure what belief was right and when I came down from spiritual highs, where did God go? How could I lose Him so easily and frequently? If we say that God can only be experienced through beliefs and feelings, are we not saying that He only exists in relation to our minds and "hearts"? (I say "heart" because feelings originate in the mind, our true heart is our nous.) Our relationship with God must include more than theology and 'lofty' thoughts and feelings. I believe that God, especially in Christ's incarnation, is concrete and can be experienced in very concrete ways. He is here, everywhere present and filling all things.

I mentioned that the whole reason I chose this quote is that it is relevant to where I've been spiritually lately. You see, I've noticed how, yet again, I've been turning off course in my spiritual life. I have been thinking plenty, my beliefs are as strong as ever, and I have even felt spiritually sentimental, but still these days I find that I am lacking a true experience with God. I see it in my behavior, in my internal life and in my relationships. The reason for the lack is that I have not been actively, intentionally participating in the life of God through the Holy Mysteries. It is through the Mysteries (there are more than seven, by the way) that we encounter God, and His powerful Presence changes us and makes us a little more like Him. Although these experiences rarely bring tears to my eyes nor am I usually filled with palpable joy, they are real and leave an impression on my soul, mind and body. Many people who are not part of the Orthodox faith still think that the Divine Mysteries (Sacraments) are evidence of a works-based salvation theology, but that is a misunderstanding. A life of holiness and participation in the Holy Mysteries are how we meet God in a concrete way and are thereby purified. Orthodox Christians follow this way to holiness so that we, His unprofitable servants, can, through God's great mercy, be fully united with Him in the end. Glory to God for all things.

I welcome comments, corrections, additions.

29 January 2008

question for Christians

If you ignore what you believe about your God and set everything aside that you feel about your God, what is left of your experience with Him?

07 January 2008