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Things You Can’t Invent

By Fr. Stephen Freeman, June 19, 2015 Most of the things in our lives are not of our own making – they were given to us. Our language, our culture, the whole of our biology and the very gift of life itself is something that has been “handed down” to us. In that sense, we are all creatures of “tradition” (traditio=“to hand down”). Of course, these things that are not of our own making and

The Purpose and Method of Christian Life (Part XI): Means to the End (Part I)

Here is how things stand so far. We have observed the five most important virtues through which the fathers in the Conferences teach us to establish the purity of heart that is the go al of Christian life. These are detachment, discernment, discretion, balance, and humility. We have observed that the fathers taught Christians to practice these virtues in order to guide them to their proper telos, which is the kingdom of God. We have

The Second Tuesday after Pascha. CHRISTOS ANESTI! CHRIST IS RISEN! Staying by Oneself (Part II)

The inner attitude with which monks are supposed to sit in their cells is described by another elder in a drastic image: “When you dwell in the desert as a hesychast [a person who practices quietistic meditation], don’t imagine that you are doing something great. Instead, think of yourself as a dog that has been driven away from the crowd and tied up because he bites and bothers people.” The monks do not remain sitting

The Tenth Day of Great Lent. Lent in Our Life (Part II)

In regard to Lent, instead of asking fundamental questions—”What is fasting?” or “What is Lent?”—we satisfy ourselves with Lenten symbolism. In church magazines and bulletins appear recipes for “delicious Lenten dishes,” and a parish might even raise some additional money by means of a well-advertised “tasty Lenten dinner.” So much in our churches is explained symbolically as interesting, colorful, and amusing customs and traditions, as something which connects us not so much with God and

Spirituality from Below (Part III)

For the monks humility is the courage to face the truth, the courage to accept their own earthliness, their humanity. The monks test one another in humility, so as to find out whether someone really is a man of God. “A monk was highly praised to Anthony by the brothers. Then Anthony took him and put him to the test, to see if he could endure insults. When it became clear that the man couldn’t

Spirituality from Below (Part II)

The following remark has been attributed to Anthony: “If you see that a young man is striving for heaven with his own will, grasp his feet and drag him down; for it will do him no good.” It makes no sense for young people to meditate too early on, to take the path to mysticism too soon. First they have to come to terms with their own reality. They have to take a good look

Death and Humility

A pilgrim to the Holy Mountain of Athos asked an old hermit, “Father, how can I attain my salvation?” The venerated holy man replied, “Every day at dusk go to the cemetery and for an hour hurl insults to the dead. Do that for a month and pay attention to everything that happens around you. Then come and report to me.” After a month the pilgrim returned. “Father, I have done what you told me

From the Prayer of Jesus to Prayer of the Heart (Part II)

Once this prayer [the Prayer of Jesus] has taken root within us, our heart is illumined by a deep confidence, in which we are spared of the former blindness that allowed us to pray only with the lips. Now we welcome prayer as an ineffable treasure. As spiritual guides have so often declared, “the Prayer of Jesus is a joy that elicits a response of thanksgiving.” At this point in the spiritual pilgrimage, the heart

From the Prayer of Jesus to Prayer of the Heart (Part I)

Archimandrite Placide Deseille is Higoumen of the Monastery of Saint Anthony the Great, St.-Laurent-en-Royans, France, and professor at the St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. The following thoughts are adapted from a talk he gave at a local parish on 6 March 2008, originally published by the Service Orthodoxe de Presse (SOP), supplement no. 327, April 2008. The expressions “Prayer of the Heart” and “Prayer of Jesus” or “Jesus Prayer” are often used as equivalents.

A Tuning Fork

Contemplative prayer is like striking a tuning fork. All you can really do in the spiritual life is resonate to the true pitch, to receive the always-present message. Once you are tuned, you will receive, and it has nothing to do with worthiness or the group you belong to, but only inner resonance, a capacity for mutuality (see Matthew 7:7-11), which implies a basic humility. We must begin with the knowledge that the Sender is absolutely and