Archive for June, 2008

Scattered Thoughts

June 29, 2008

We have noticed with sadness that nowadays men suffer dreadfully because their mind is fragmented. Imagination, which is only one of the mind’s activities, is overindulged and dominates men’s lives, leading some to hardness of heart due to pride, and others to mental illness. According to the teaching of the Gospel and the Scriptures, the mind works naturally only when it is united with the heart. Mind and heart are naturally joined together when the fire of contrition is in the heart.

Archimandrite Zacharias in The Enlargement of the Heart.

I’m certain that my experience of prayer is similar to that of most of my readers – a struggle to pray with a scattered mind. To read of the return of the mind to the heart is to know how far my prayers are from where they should be. It is also a realization that to “love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind,” is virtually impossible in such a scattered state. We lack the wholeness to make such an offering.

The desire of my heart is to not forget that there is such a thing as a mind united to the heart. My desire is to settle for nothing less. There is an emptiness in theology when it remains only a recitation of ideas and a fantasy of the imagination.

Thus, when I speak of a fullness (as I often do in my writings), I speak of something that belongs to God and can only come to man as a gift. There is a fullness in the sacraments of the Church, though in our scattered state we approach that fullness only with faith – with a hope for what we do not yet see. There is a need for steadfastness in that hope – a steadfastness that refuses to turn aside for something less.

We have been promised heaven – indeed I believe the union of mind and heart is a place where that promise begins to be fulfilled. Thus I will not turn aside for something else – whether argument or curiosity. For the fantasies of our scattered thoughts are not the stuff of reality – only the stuff of delusion.

There are moments of clarity – even for those whose most common experience is a scattered state. These moments come as flashes – sometimes in the Liturgy – sometimes in prayer – sometimes in very unexpected places. The flashes themselves are gifts – small insights that call us to remain steadfast and not to turn aside from hope.

In a very few cases in my life, I have had the pleasure of meeting someone whose thoughts were not scattered – who were wholly present – mind and heart. In each case it has been an encounter with humanity bordering on fullness – not something that overwhelms but something that welcomes and makes all things around seem brighter and more truly alive. I would not dare to say that I was encountering a saint, for God alone knows such a thing. But I have met those who were clearly moving in that direction in a way that we rarely see.

I saw it once in a woman who was a hospice patient. She had been homebound and bed-ridden for better than six months. I noticed that every day a constant stream of friends passed through her home. It was unusual. Generally when someone is sick for a prolonged period, vists become fewer as people readjust their lives and turn their attention elsewhere. It is sad but true. However, in this case just the opposite was happening. I cannot say that her friends were of such great quality that they never left her – but rather that she was a person of such good heart that people continued to visit because they always received more than they gave.

She was not Orthodox, but she was curious about my faith. What I was able to share with her was received with gratitude and with an understanding that immediately seemed to grasp the heart of each matter. I discovered that my visits to her (as her “hospice chaplain”) were themselves unusually frequent. I always left with more than I had brought.

She died perhaps eight years ago. As a priest, I have kept her name in my prayers of remembrance for the departed. I pray for her, for I hope that she will remember and pray for me.  

She was a fullness in an unexpected place. God’s grace appears where it appears. But the reality of it all is the heart of the matter for me. She, like several others I have known, was real and not a fantasy. She was a largeness of life that defied explanation apart from God. In such a life the mind is not scattered but brought to where it should remain – united to the heart. From such a heart love flows in a manner that draws the hungry souls of all around. And the fire of contrition burns in all who remain in its presence for arrogance and pride are reduced to ashes in such a holy furnace.

The Fullness of the Fullness

June 28, 2008

It is frequently the case that Orthodox theology uses the word “fullness” to describe its understanding and life of the gospel. This is a far more apt expression than simply saying “we have the truth.” Fullness, I think, better describes something. Truth, in our modern vocabulary, can mean something quite flat – as in a correct answer on a test. However, “fullness” describes not only the truth but the truth with an embodiment, the life of grace, but life as it is lived. The truth, but as it is incarnate.

Part of the celebration in which I participated during this last week, was a recognition on the part of the Diocese of the South (OCA) of a fullness – most particularly as we have experienced in the life and ministry of our Archbishop DMITRI. It is a recognition that for 30 years, the diocese has been formed and shaped by someone whose primary concern has been for the fullness of the faith and its embodiment, both in himself and in his priests, and not simply a concern for the machinery of the diocese.

Most of the priests of the diocese have been ordained by him, and their ministries have been formed and shaped by this living model we have before us.

It is the case in Orthodoxy, that when we speak of Holy Tradition, that, although we mean the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, we also mean that presence as it is mediated to us in the liturgical life of the Church, in our communion with God, and as embodied in our midst through the minstries which God has set among us. Without the gospel expressed in a life, it is only the gospel as an idea – some abstract. It is the incarnation of the gospel in the ministries in which God has set in His Church that saves us from the obscurity of the Gospel as mere “idea.” Anybody can preach an idea – but an idea that has become incarnate is a different thing. The life itself says more than words, and it gives to its words a meaning that the words would never have by themselves.

That is the experience of the Diocese of the South. We have both heard the Gospel, but it has also been enfleshed among us. I am challenged by the humility of Christ because I have lived with the meekness of my Archbishop.

This, of course, is the great crisis of Christianity. It’s modern temptation is to be reduced to ideas and slogans. Indeed, this has often been its temptation during times of safety. By the grace of God, monastics and other Christians of serious commitment have rescued the gospel from the mediocrity of mere idealism.

Humility is a difficult task, as is the kindness of a good heart. I have never known anything else from my father in God.

I know that “God resists the proud,” and I have seen this illustrated amply in my years of ministry. I know what it is for God to resist my own pride or the pride of a parishioner. I have seen Him resist the pride of those who believe that their titles “entitles” them to something – which is simply not true.

We honored 30 years of the gospel enfleshed in the Diocese of the South last Thursday night at a banquet. We also celebrated the possibility of an Auxiliary Bishop (Jonah Paffhausen) who is himself a model of meekness.

Orthodoxy faces many deep challenges in the modern world. Some of them are brought on us by both the abuses of the past century as well as the new challenges of the present century. Our ecclesiology, which is never more than love (a canon cannot produce the Church), is and will be tested to the maximum. But the world is not hungry for the Canons or for pride of place, but for the self-sacrificing love of Christ and the fullness of His emptiness on the Cross.

The way forward for Orthodoxy in America will only be through the Cross, God help us. But there is no other way forward for anyone, ever, anywhere.

The Cross is the emptiness of God, but also His fullness. The Church will truly embody that fullness only as it embraces the emptiness set before us.

I am only an Orthodox priest with a limited scope of responsibility. I stand in awe of the men who have been brave enough to embrace the Cross of the Episcopacy. I believe that as much as anyone is not more than everyone, they will have to face the temptation to live something less than the Cross. I pray for grace for each and all of them. May God grant us servants of the Cross – crucified Bishops who proclaim the crucified God – crucified priests who proclaim the crucified Christ – crucified laity who proclaim the crucified life of the Gospel.

For this the world has hungered for all its life – for the Crucified life is the only life. May God hear us and keep us. May God give us grace to take up the cross and live for nothing else. Glory to God.

Good To Be Home

June 27, 2008

I give thanks to God for a safe journey home from Dallas. Slight mishap with our plane in Memphis. It was delayed because the cargo bay caught on fire. Then things got complicated. But we arrived home just a few minutes ago. Glory to God.

I hope to do more writing in the next day or so. I was greatly moved by my time with Archbishop Dmitri and with the life of the Church in the Diocese of the South. As God wills I’ll share more.

A Father in God

June 25, 2008

I occasionally have to answer the question from the non-Orthodox who wonder why we refer to priests as “father,” particularly when the Scripture says, “Call no man father.” Of course, the verse following that would also forbid the use of the word, “mister,” but few seem to notice. St. Paul uses the term “father,” however, and it became and has remained a useful term, not because there is any disdain for the teaching of Christ, but because there is a recognition that there is such a thing as spiritual fatherhood and there always has been. It is a gift of Christ and a traditioning in the manner of a father with his children, as Christ gave to His own apostles.

We actually live in an age when fatherhood, even natural fatherhood, is in crisis. Adolescent youths (particularly young men) generally do not need to associate with lots of other young men their age (they usually just wind up in trouble). What they desperately need is apprenticeship – an opportunity to learn how to be a man and for someone to model and show them what that looks like.

The same is certainly true for Christians. We need spiritual fathers – men who can model what it is to be truly whole and truly a follower of Christ. This is not just true of men – we need the same thing for young women – spiritual mothers who can model what it is to be truly whole and truly a follower of Christ.

The proper role of a Bishop with his people, and particularly with his priests, is to be a spiritual father. In my years in the Diocese of the South, both before my conversion and after, I have found this phenomenon to be alive and well in the ministry of my Archbishop DMITRI. Being with him this week is simply another immersion in the model and the reminder of what everything is truly about. When he teaches the gospel there is a simplicity but a simplicity that reaches to the very depths of the Christian life. There is a joy in his presence and an abiding sense that you are loved and cared for. What child could ask more of a father?

We are celebrating the 30th year of our diocese, and a ministry of a bishop that is slowly drawing to its close. But the light does not grow dim as things draw to a close, but only grow brighter and clearer. To stand with him in the altar this morning as one of the concelebrants, was to remember again what it is to be a priest and what the meaning and the depths of the sacrifice truly mean. I saw a man ordained a deacon, and another, priest – and remembered my own ordinations at the hand of this blessed man. And found rekindled in me again the hope that what I have done as a priest has been faithful to what was given me.

This is the true fullness of Tradition. It is tremendously personal as, indeed, it should be. The Tradition is finally a gift of the Holy Spirit but always mediated through the ministry of the Church. To stand with a successor of the Apostles, indeed with a true Apostle to the South, is one of my life’s greatest honors. May God grant him many years!

Dallas and the Diocese of the South

June 23, 2008


I will be in Dallas on Tuesday through Friday, attending the annual Diocesan Assembly of the Diocese of the South (OCA). My great joy is to spend time with my Archbishop DMITRI. It is also on our agenda to elect Igumen Jonah Paffhausen of St. John Maximovitch Monastery in California as our Auxiliary Bishop. May God direct our hearts. I will post articles from Dallas as I am able, and ask your prayers for God’s grace. Many thanks!

Repentance for the World – Prayers by the Lake XXIX

June 23, 2008

This xxix prayer of St. Nicholai of Zicha from Prayers by the Lake, echoing the prayers of Pentecost should give us all hope in our sins as we seek the merciful God.
For all the sins of men I repent before You, Most Merciful Lord. Indeed, the seed of all sins flows in my blood! With my effort and Your mercy I choke this wicked crop of weeds day and night, so that no tare may sprout in the field of the Lord, but only pure wheat.1

I repent for all those who are worried, who stagger under a burden of worries and do not know that they should put all their worries on You. For feeble man even the most minor worry is unbearable, but for You a mountain of worries is like a snowball thrown into a fiery furnace.

I repent for all the sick, for sickness is the fruit of sin. When the soul is cleansed with repentance, sickness disappears with sin, and You, my Eternal Health, take up Your abode in the soul.

I repent for unbelievers, who through their unbelief amass worries and sicknesses both on themselves and on their friends.

I repent for all those who blaspheme God, who blaspheme against You without knowing that they are blaspheming against the Master, who clothes them and feeds them.

I repent for all the slayers of men, who take the life of another to preserve their own. Forgive them, Most Merciful2 Lord, for they know not what they do. For they do not know that there are not two lives in the universe, but one, and that there are not two men in the universe, but one. Ah, how dead are those who cut the heart in half!

I repent for all those who bear false witness, for in reality they are homicides and suicides.

For all my brothers who are thieves and who are hoarders of unneeded wealth I weep and sigh, for they have buried their soul and have nothing with which to go forth before You.

For all the arrogant and the boastful I weep and sigh, for before You they are like beggars with empty pockets.

For all drunkards and gluttons I weep and sigh, for they have become servants of their servants.

For all adulterers I repent, for they have betrayed the trust. of the Holy Spirit, who chose them to form new life through them. Instead, they turned serving life into destroying life.

For all gossipers I repent, for they have turned Your most precious gift, the gift of speech, into cheap sand.

For all those who destroy their neighbor’s hearth and home and their neighbor’s peace I repent and sigh, for they bring a curse on themselves and their people.

For all lying tongues, for all suspicious eyes, for all raging hearts, for all insatiable stomachs, for all darkened minds, for all ill will, for all unseemly thoughts, for all murderous emotions–I repent, weep and sigh.

For all the history of mankind from Adam to me, a sinner, I repent; for all history is in my blood. For I am in Adam and Adam is in me.

For all the worlds, large and small, that do not tremble before Your awesome presence, I weep and cry out: O Master Most Merciful, have mercy on me and save me!”


1. For the parable of the wheat and the tares, see Matt. 13:24-30.

2. Cf. Luke 23:34.




With A Grateful Heart

June 23, 2008

With deep thanksgiving my wife and I received news of the birth yesterday of our first grandchild. Son of Matushka Mary and Fr. Hermogen Holste, he is Peter Alexis Holste. He weighed in at 6 lbs 9 oz. and is quite handsome, we are told. Our joy is immeasureable and we offer thanks for the many of you who have kept this wonderful child and parents in your prayers. May God grant them many years! As yet I have no picture to post. Sorry.

In honor of this event and because I can think of nothing better to express my joy, I share again the wonderful hymn written by St. Nicholai of Zicha.


People rejoice, nations hear:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Stars dance, mounts sing:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Forests murmur, winds hum:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Seas bow*, animals roar:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Bees swarm, and the birds sing:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!

Angels stand, triple the song:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Sky humble yourself, and elevate the earth:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Bells chime, and tell to all:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Glory to You God, everything is possible to You,
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!

 I also add this Hymn by St. Nicholai (sent to us by Dejan). “Angels are Singing”

“Što god tkaš, vezuj konce za nebo”
Whatever you weave, tie threads to the sky.

Night magnificent and night silent,
Above the cave a star is shining,
In the cave mother is sleeping,
Angel keeps vigil over Jesus.

Angels are singing,
Shepherds are playing,
Angels are singing,
Wise men are announcing:
What nations awaited,
What prophets have said,
Here now in the world is announced,
in the world announced and declared:
Christ Saviour is born to us,
For salvation of all of us,
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Lord have mercy!

St. Nikolai Velimirovich

radost = joy
duša = soul
ljubav = love
poštenje = integrity, honesty
Isus = Jesus
vera = faith
nada = hope
spasenje = salvation
mir = peace
pokajanje = repentance
Gospod = Lord
smirenje = peace
ljubav = love
mladost = youth
spokoj = poise

“Shepherds are playing” means that they are playing music, in Serbia for example traditionally shepherds are playing wooden fife.

Why the Intercession of the Saints is a Dogma

June 22, 2008

Biblical interpretation and doctrine based on Scripture have certain parameters that anyone rightly handling the word of truth must observe. The particular rule that I have in mind in this posting is the simple avoidance of anachronisms. That is, if an idea did not exist at the time of the New Testament, or shortly thereafter, but is, in fact, a modern development, then, whatever the writer might have meant, he could not have meant something that wasn’t an idea until the modern period. This is a fairly simple rule. If it can be shown that an idea is uniquely modern, then, if it is used as an interpretation of Scripture, we can be sure that the interpreter is reading back into Scripture something that is not there nor can be there.

In no case is this sort of anachronism more flagrant nor more distorting of Christian doctrine, than the notion of the self – and thus of the nature of what it is to be human. The idea of what it means to be a person, or “the self”, etc., is not a given. It varies widely from culture to culture (particularly between ancient cultures). Evidence of this would be quite strong if one was comparing the Christian understanding of the self (in any form) and the Buddhist conception of the self (or the non-self).

But within Christianity, the self has undergone radical change in its definition and the cultural understanding of what it means to be a person. One of the most magisterial treatments of this topic was published in 1989, Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self: the Making of the Modern Identity. For years, Taylor taught Moral Philosophy at Oxford and more recently at McGill University. He has his own philosophical agenda that is not of particular interest to me, but in the course of his work he offers one of the best descriptions of the evolution in Western thought of the conception of the human person.

He notes that a radical change took place at the time of the Reformation and the early Enlightenment. The arguments of the time succeeded in redefining what it meant to be a person – particularly a person in relation to God. At stake was the theological effort to undermine the traditional claims and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, many of which were simply the common inheritance of both Orthodoxy and Catholicism, the understanding and teaching of the early Church.

In a very insightful passage, Taylor has this to say about the Church and the change it underwent with regard to the emerging modern identity:

If the church is the locus and vehicle of the sacred, then we are brought closer to God by the very fact of belonging and participating in its sacramental life. Grace can come to us mediately through the church, and we can mediate grace to each other, as the lives of the saints enrich the common life on which we all draw. Once the sacred is rejected, then this kind of mediation is also. Each person stands alone in relation to God: his or her fate – salvation or damnation – is separately decided. [emphasis added]

As his description of this change develops he describes what happens to the Catholic Christian who is redefined by the Reformation (which happened throughout the Protestant world).

I am a passenger in the ecclesial ship on its journey to God. But for Protestantism, there can be no passengers. This is because there is no ship in the Catholic sense, no common movement carrying humans to salvation. Each believer rows his or her own boat. [emphasis added]

The great shift that occurred was to move from seeing a human being as a person participating in a common human nature – indeed whose existence and salvation are to be understood almost entirely in terms of participation (koinonia). The shift was a move towards the modern autonomous individual who is defined primarily by the choices made in his/her life. The modern individual, understood as consumer, is an almost perfect example of the evolution of this thought. Taylor’s book is a must-read for anyone who wants to follow this movement in the history of Western thought.

However, the modern conception of autonomous man is a concept not shared by Scripture. It does not undergird the thought of St. Paul or St. John, indeed it undermines both if it is wrongly brought into the realm of Scriptural interpretation. Its application in Christian doctrine has tended to shift the emphasis in modern Christian teaching away from a sacramental (participatory) understanding and towards a form of volunteerism where the decision of an individual for Christ is the sole defining characteristic of salvation.

Interestingly, Christ never said, “Except a man accept me as His personal Lord and Savior He shall not inherit eternal life,” even though many modern Christians would think that much of what He said means precisely that.

Christ does say, “Except a man be born again (or “born from above” the Greek is purposefully ambiguous) he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” But birth is not an autonomous act, nor does it ever involve a decision by the one being born. I am not arguing here that the role of the human will plays no role in salvation, for it does – but not in the way imagined by modern volunteerists. 

In the classical Christian understanding of what it means to be human – we do not exist alone – but as participants in a common nature – and though our fall from grace has left us damaged – so that we generally experience ourselves as autonomous individuals – this is not our proper end – salvation restores us to a place of proper communion with God and with other persons. There is an extension, an enlargement of the self, such that our life can no longer be defined simply by reference to the self, but must be seen as it exists in communion with God and others. Thus love becomes the defining act of our existence.

In no place does this participatory understanding of human existence play a greater role than in the life of the Church – both the Church that we see – and the Church that we do not see – the saints who surround us and pray unceasingly before the throne of God.

It is this proper understanding of human salvation that is safeguarded in the Church’s teaching of the communion and intercession of the saints. And it is the self understood in its modern, autonomous form that makes the doctrine of the intercession of the saints seem so foreign to many modern believers. Saints for them simply get in an individual’s way when he seeks to relate to God.

But if the human person and his salvation are understood in a proper participatory sense – nothing could be more normal than the intercession of the saints. It is simply a description of what it means to actually share a common life – the life of God. How can those who share in the common life of God not care for and pray for one another? How can they not solicit each other’s concern? Far from distracting from God – it draws us towards a right understanding of God – who is the Lord of Hosts – not the God of the autonomous individual.

Thus St. Paul when looking for ways to describe proper Church life will use images such as the body to describe how we are to relate to Christ and to one another. We cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you.” We cannot say to the saints, “I have no need of you.”

In classical Christian teaching we are told, “No one is saved alone. If we fall, we fall alone. But no one is saved alone.”

Our will has its role. Orthodoxy strongly teaches the importance of asceticism (acts such as fasting and prayer, almsgiving, etc.). But the purpose of asceticism is not self-improvement, but simply to learn cooperation with the communion of grace that is saving us. In fasting and prayer we learn that our life depends not on ourselves but on others – God who is the Source of all life – and our proper communion with the rest of creation.

The Church never teaches a doctrine or dogma simply for the sake of teaching. Such proclamations are always about the truth as revealed to us in Christ – particularly as it relates to our salvation. The intercession of the saints is one such dogma. For it safeguards the revealed teaching concerning what it means to be a human created in the image of God and the very nature of our salvation. Human beings are created such that we are meant to share and live a common life – the life of God. The Communion of Saints is simply a dogmatic expression of that reality – a verbal icon of the truth of our being.

All Saints and Their Intercession

June 21, 2008

I reprint this article in honor of All Saints’ Day (which is the Sunday after Pentecost on the Orthodox Calendar).

Doubtless one of the less understood aspects of the Orthodox faith, particularly by Protestants, is the importance of the intercession of the saints. Orthodox doctrine and teaching is quite clear that we do not treat saints as objects of worship, nor as worthy of worship. This would be blasphemous to us. Nevertheless, it is a huge part of the “ethos” of Orthodoxy, probably only understood from the inside and then only after a time.

The first thing I think of in this regard is simply that Scripture never seems to speak of God as “alone.” He is the Lord God of Sabbaoth (Hosts) – He is the “God of a huge crowd” to render it into the vernacular. This is first disclosed to Isaiah in his prophetic vision in chapter 6 of his work – but it is, to some degree, reflected in the fact that the Hebrew word for God is frequently rendered in the plural (Elohim). The Fathers rightly saw in this a veiled reference to the Trinity – but it is also proper to see in this a plural that surrounds God. We do not worship a plural God – but a Triune God – who is nevertheless surrounded by a great Host.

Much of our modern world, governed as it is by images of the dominance of the individual, tends to focus on God as individual. Islam (in certain forms) is radical in this respect – and some forms of modern Christianity have, for all intents and purposes, followed suit. The doctrine of the Trinity is reverenced but not truly understood, much less made the basis for worship. With this has come a radical shift in the understanding of heaven, our life in the Church, the meaning of prayer, the hope of salvation, even the understanding of what salvation itself means.

Orthodox worship and prayer, on the other hand, is simply crowded. Though we worship only the Triune God, we nevertheless do so in company with a “great cloud of witnesses,” whom we frequently acknowledge in our prayers, asking for them to join us in our prayer, seeking their prayers for us, just as assuredly they are urging us on from the life in heaven and interceding constantly before God for us.

This is probably the greatest change in my consciousness since becoming Orthodox. We are never alone, nor are we even simply alone with God. I am always with many even when I draw into my closet to pray.

Encouraged by the many stories of the lives of the saints, I am also encouraged by the holy icons, whose images of the saints remind me of these great heroes and heroines. More than that I am truly aware of their presence with me (us). My prayers seem to echo and to crescendo, joined as they are with those who now pray ceaselessly.

Many times there are saints whom one seems to know personally – either because you have frequently asked for their prayers – or for some aspect of their story that seems important – and even occasionally because something has happened that can only be described as having been “sought out” by a saint. An example of this last case is (for me) the not too infrequent phenomenon of simply being “found” by an icon. By this I do not mean buying an icon – but that an icon has come to me by some other means, accompanied by the sense that “this is no accident.” Such stories are not uncommon in Orthodoxy. Some of the greatest icons known to the Church were simply “discovered,” their origins remaining completely unknown to the Church. An excellent example of this is the famous wonder-working “Kursk Root-Icon of the Mother of God.”

I was once asked by an Anglican friend if I ever thought about returning to my former life. There are a thousand reasons I could have given him for “no,” not the least of which being, “I have found the true faith, etc.” But as I recall I simply said to him, “I couldn’t bear the loneliness.” How could I pray without the Mother of God? without the saints? And not in some secretly held “pious opinion” that might be allowed by the Church – but as the Church’s true worship, because it is the revelation of the Lord God of Hosts?

No. “God is with us, understand all ye nations and repent yourselves, for God is with us.”

When Insults No Longer Annoy

June 20, 2008

Amma Dionysia gave alms to a beggar, but less than he wanted. The beggar began to speak harshly to her, and Dionysia took offense, wanting to strike back.

Abba zosimas corrected her, saying, “You are striking against yourself. You are chasing every virtue from your soul. Can you endure what Christ endured? My lady, I know that you have given away your possessions as though they had no value. But until you become meek, you are like a metal smith pounding a bar of iron and failing to produce a useful object. You will know you have become meek when insults no longer annoy you.

From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

I read such stories and know how far I am from such meekness. I have a new set of CD’s with a retreat led by Igumen Jonah Paffhausen to which I am eagerly looking forward. However, I know that the beginning of his retreat is on the word, “Do not react.” It will be one more word on meekness. How will we ever inherit the earth?