Hello Again

1It has been some time since I have posted on my blog.  I have been trying to respond faithfully to the changes life has brought upon me.  In doing to I have had to prioritize and make decisions about what is really important.  So I have taken an absence to my blog.  I am currently working on some content, and should be posting on a more regularly basis.  Until then please enjoy this reflection from St. Clement of Alexandria

The perfect person does not only try to avoid evil.


Nor does he do good for fear of punishment, still less in order to qualify for the hope of a promised reward.

The perfect person does good through love.

His actions are not motivated by desire for personal benefit, so he does not have personal advantage as his aim. 

But as soon as he has realized the beauty of doing good, he does it with all his energies and in all that he does.

He is not interested in fame, or a good reputation, or a human or divine reward.

The rule of life for a perfect person is to be in the image and likeness of God.

St. Clement of Alexandria

All For The Love Of Christ

Venerating the Kursk-Root Icon 2Treat everyone in life that you meet
As if their heart is breaking ;
Because it probably is . . .

Treat each person that you see
As if a frightened little child lives within them;
Because it probably does . . .

Treat everyone that you greet
As if they are dying inside from lack of love;
Because they probably are . . .

Treat all people that you encounter
As if their life depends on your kindness;
Because it probably does . . .

Kissing their hands . . .
Washing their feet . . .
Anointing their head . . .
Bowing to their grace . . .
Honoring God’s breath within them . . .
All for the love of Christ .

From FrNektarios Serfes
Written in October 1992

Feelings of Spiritual Drought & Exaltation

SONY DSC + Father Alexander Elchaninov

It is impossible to remain forever in a state of spiritual exaltation.  God allows certain intermissions in our fervor because He does not wish either to deprive us of the courage by which we climb higher, or to feed the pride which leads us to fall.  Let our heart advance on the path along which God leads us.True, these alternations are a painful trial; but it is good for us to know from our own experience that our moments of spiritual exaltation do not depend upon us, but are the gift of God which He takes away when He deems it necessary. If we always retained this gift of God, we should feel neither the weight of the cross, nor our own powerlessness.  Our trials would not be real trials; our good actions would be valueless. Let us therefore patiently bear the periods of depression and of aridity of the heart.  They teach us humility and the distrust of ourselves.  They make us feel how unstable and weak is our spiritual life; they make us turn more often to divine help.In this state of unfeeling dryness of the heart, in the absence of fervent prayer we must be careful not to give up our spiritual exercises, our daily prayers.  If we abandoned them we should do ourselves the greatest damage.

We are inclined to think that if we do not feel definite satisfaction in prayer, it is not worthwhile praying.  In order to realize how wrong we are in thinking this, it is enough to remember that prayer and the love of God are one and the same.  The essence of prayer does not just consist in those feelings of joy, which sometimes accompany it.  Loving prayer may sometimes exist without such feelings; and this is a more purified and disinterested form of prayer, since, being deprived of spiritual joy, its goal is God alone.

We may feel deprived of blessed consolations and yet preserve a firm will, submitting to all the difficulties which God sends us, and humbly accepting everything, even the sense of spiritual depression which we experience.   If we succeed in enduring our periods of dryness of the heart in such a way as this, we shall find that they are a salutary spiritual exercise.

(From the book:  ”Diary of a Russian Priest.”   We read from the cover: “Father Elchaninov (was) one of the most gifted priests in the Russian emigration (who) died from a tragic illness in 1934 at the age of fifty three…Deeply rooted in the spiritual and ascetic tradition of the Orthodox Church, Father Alexander was at the same time closely in touch with the intellectual movements of his own day…His writings offer an excellent introduction for Western Christians to Orthodox spirituality as a living tradition of practical value to them in their own spiritual life.”)

A soft place to land

So as they say all roses have their thorns.  Looking back I sometimes wonder if I made the right decision leaving the Episcopal church.  Our parish is really nice.  Ironically many of the problems we were facing in the local church have basically gone away.  I cannot tell you how much I miss assisting the priest, and many other aspects of my old life.

Missing all the good times makes it really easy to forget what is still wrong.  The national church is still in the same hornets nest it was in back in July.  Other problems we faced locally still exist.  Add to that my whole confusion about church authority.  In the end I know I made the right decision.

Still this has me in a uncomfortable situation.  More now then ever I understand the Jews when they were wandering in the desert.  Keep in mind I am not grumbling and complaining to God.  However I understand now their feelings of wanting to return to Egypt.  The Lord has a place for my family.  I know this to be true.  More now then ever I need to be patient and wait upon him for direction.

Since as long as I can remember I have been concerned about truth.  What is the truth about God.  Who was right about God.  What religion has it right, and withing the Christian church which one is correct.

Now many would argue that it really doesn’t matter.  One church is as good as another.  Or all churches are man made. We need to just have relationship with Jesus.  It seems you put 10 Christians in a room and you will have 12 different ideas.

This journey has brought me to so many different places.  In each place I thought it would be my final point.  All the while this still soft voice in the back of my heart spoke to me.  Is this truth?

I am to a point that I am fairly settled in my doctrinal beliefs.  I believe the teachings handed down to the Church by the Apostolic Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.  I believe in The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches are in fact the original church founded by Jesus.  That the wholeness of Truth resides within these churches.

I am at a place were I don’t know what to do.  Being a westerner I understand the Roman Catholic Church.  I am familiar with her apparitions, Feasts, and practices.  Teachings such as purgatory, immaculate conception, and indulgences are teachings I have accepted in the past.  Not without concern or question, but out of obedience.  I have grown to accept and believe many things.  Mind you these things are not bad or wrong.  Just one understanding of the ancient teachings of the church.

In regards to Eastern Orthodoxy I must say I have a basic knowledge, but overall the church is a mystery to me.  It is like a whole new world for me to explore.  I love the discoveries I have uncovered.  Every teaching rings true within my mind and heart.  Their understanding of original sin makes sense to me.  Their views on Jesus, Mary, and the Saints feels just and balanced.

Furthermore what brought me to the Episcopal church I see in the Orthodox Church.  I see something that is unique, mystical, and very practical.  I see an ancient way of worship that not only do I feel connected with those of years gone, but God himself.

I have always thought my home was in the Catholic church.  As I grew older I realized it was not necessarily the Catholic Church, but the Holy Apostolic Church.  That There is more to all of this than what I have ever known.  That churches I once thought were part of antiquity are very much alive and well.

I believe my home is in Orthodox Christianity.  It is not what I thought I wanted,  It is not what I ever expected. It is all I ever wanted.  Far greater and magnificent then I could ever expect.

It is the home I never knew existed but what I always needed.

The Art of Prayer

Recently I picked up a book called The Art of Prayer An Orthodox Anthology.  I am only about a quarter into this book, and I have to say I really am enjoying it.  The first “chapter” or paper is on the inner closet of the heart. The chapter discusses at great length the relation between natural and supernatural.  That we are both physical and spiritual.  Prayer in regards to prayers of the physical and are prayed, chanted, and read.  These can be in corporate or private prayer.  Prayers that are spiritual in nature come from within.  Birthed from the Holy Spirit they flow through us.  St. Dimitri of Rostov proposes the idea that God comes to us in our cell or prayer closet.  That our self can be a closet of sorts.  That within our heart God dwells.

This is an idea that I find great comfort in. From a Roman Catholic perspective often one gets caught up with Christ present in the blessed sacrament.  Failing to recognize God within ourselves and in the world around.  We don’t need to be in a chapel.  Or in front of our home altars.  Whatever we do.  Wherever we go God is with us, and within us.  What a beautiful idea. With that idea we are brought to a way of intentional living.  About praying without ceasing.