After we have been long dedicated to silent prayer and experience it largely as restful and peaceful, it is easy enough to feel quite happy simply to stretch out in this hammock of contemplative practice and enjoy a martini of quietude. In this case we have managed to avoid the pull of the moon on our awareness and instead have become besotted by the moon’s allure. This is not to deny the real progress we

Holy Ground

Holy Ground All this might sound like a new sort of romanticism, but our own very concrete experiences and observations will help us to recognize this as realism. Often we must confess that the experience of our loneliness is stronger than that of our solitude and that our words about solitude are spoken out of the painful silence of loneliness. But there are happy moments of direct knowing, affirming our hopes and encouraging us in

Shaping Life Spiritually (Part III)

Along with continence of the tongue and belly, along with silence and fasting, humility is also described in many other sayings of the fathers as the royal road to God. For the monks humility is considered “the greatest virtue, for it lets a person rise up from the abyss, even when the sinner is like a demon.” The third practice consists in the interesting advice not to be sorry for something that is past. In


It is a known fact that a person who practises the piano too zealously gets cramp in his hands, and a too diligent writer exposes himself to writer’s cramp. Dejected and downcast, the musician or author, just now so full of hope, must break off his work; in idleness he is exposed to many evil influences. From this example you should take warning. Fasting, obedience, self-discipline, watchfulness, prayer all make up the constituent parts necessary

Practical Prayer

In the same way as the early Church, the desert Christians were deeply committed to Jesus’ teachings and lived practice. Their chosen solitude and silence was not anti-social but a way to become better at seeing clearly and at loving deeply. Withdrawal was only for the sake of deeper encounter and presence. Diana Butler Bass describes the natural flow from solitude to prayer to active love: “[Jesus’ invitation to] ‘Come follow me’ was intimately bound

Voices of Wisdom (III)

In all forms of ego-defense, from the generation of bodily aches and pains and itches to distract one from quiet to the beginning stages of spiritual narcissism as manifested in expectations and false dark nights, the ego is reacting against an intentional attempt to enter into willingness and surrender.  It is defending itself against an outright, self -imposed attack.  People whom William James considered to be a “once-born” or “healthy” mentality may be spared all


IT is important, while practicing prayer in this way, not to give the body free rein. A prayer in which the body is not distressed and the heart grieved is like an incompletely developed foetus, says St. Isaac the Syrian, for such a prayer has no soul. And it carries within it the seed of self-sufficiency and pride that makes the heart consider itself not only among the called but even among the chosen few


A PERSON who resolves to begin regular morning exercises usually does so not because he already has physical fitness but in order to get something he does not have. Once one has something he can be anxious to keep it; previous to that, he is anxious to get it. Therefore, begin your practice without expecting anything of yourself. If you are fortunate enough to sleep in a room by yourself, you can quite 1iterally and

Venerable John Climacus of Sinai, Author of “The Ladder”

Saint John of the Ladder is honored by Holy Church as a great ascetic and author of the renowned spiritual book called THE LADDER, from which he is also called “of the Ladder” (Climacus). There is almost no information about St John’s origins. One tradition suggests that he was born in Constantinople around the year 570, and was the son of SS Xenophon and Maria (January 26). John went to Sinai when he was sixteen,

Deliver Me from Idle Words

By Katherine Johnson Tremendous power lies hidden in the smallness of a single word. Seemingly insignificant, a word holds within itself the power to encourage or to unleash the demon of despair. All of creation came into being by the Word. It seems God’s creative example holds within itself the greatest model for the human tongue. I suppose that’s why I find myself in a constant struggle with my words. As an Orthodox writer I