Archive for October, 2009

Words from an Elder – And a Thought about Trees

October 31, 2009

IMG_2914I am sharing here a few sayings from the Elder Amphilochios of Patmos, someone whose life and teachings I have heard spoken of before by Metropolitian Kallistos of Diocleia (Kallistos Ware). They are worth savoring. The quotes come from the volume Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit. I am especially fond of his attitude to trees. The leaves have almost reached their autumn peak here in East Tennessee and it would take a very hard heart not to be stuck by their beauty. According to Met. Kallistos, the Elder frequently assigned the penance of planting a tree on the island (Patmos) for those who came to him for confession. His ministry raised up a forest as well as demolished the sins of many.


My children, I don’t want Paradise without you.

Whoever plants a tree, plants hope, peace, and love and has the blessings of God.

Consider all people to be greater than yourself, though they may have many weaknesses. Don’t act with hardness, but always think that each person has the same destination as we do. Through the grace of God I consider all people to be saintly and greater than myself.

I am like the old tree in whose shade the meek sheep of Christ gather during the hot days of summer, and in whose branches the small birds gather. All ask that the old pine tree might live so that they have their joy. However, slowly, slowly its roots rot and the heavy winter will come, when a strong wind will knock him down and he will become wood for the fire. Now, however, the pine tree makes glad the sheep and birds that gather in the desert.

When man partakes of Holy Communion he receives power and is enlightened, his horizons widen, and he feels joy. Each person experiences something different, analogous to his disposition and the flame of his soul. One person feels joy and rest, another peace, another a spirit of devotion and another an inexpressible sympathy towards all things. Personally I have often felt tired, but after Holy Communion I felt myself completely renewed.

Brother, forget your sins: our Christ has blotted them out from the Book of Life.

In the hour in which we are tempted we must be patient and pray. Temptation is a clever craftsman. He is able to make small things loom large. Temptation disquiets, saddens, and creates external battles. He knows many arts. He brings man to doubt. For this reason we have many shipwrecks. When we are beset by temptations, that’s when the grace of God comes. When one undergoes temptation, he recognizes his weakness, is humbled and attracts the grace of God. Don’t let the winds of temptation affect you. They can’t do you any harm.

When someone opens your heart, I’d like him to find nothing there but Christ.

I ask you to put this order into practice: as much as you can, try to cultivate your love toward Christ’s own person. You must reach the point that whenever you mention His name, tears run from your eyes. Your hearts must be truly ablaze. Then He will be your Teacher, your Guide, your Brother, your Father, your Elder….

Pay no attention to things earthly and passing. Be concerned about the union of your soul with God.

Not to Judge

October 29, 2009

IMG_0529In a monastery there were two remarkable brothers who soon merited to see the grace of God descend upon each other. Now one day it happened that one of them went out of the monastery on a Friday and saw someone who was eating in the morning, and he said to him, ‘Why are you eating at this hour on a Friday?’ Later there was the synaxis [assembly] as usual. Now his brother saw that grace had withdrawn from him, and he was grieved. When they had returned to the cell he said to him, ‘My brother, what have you done? Indeed, I do not see the grace of God upon you as it used to be.’ The other answered him, ‘I am not aware of having done anything wrong, either in act or in thought.’ His brother said to him, ‘Have you spoken any words?’ Then he remembered and said, ‘Yesterday I saw someone who was eating outside the monastery early in the day, and I said to him, ‘Why are you eating at this hour on a Friday?’ This is my sin. But labor with me for two weeks, praying God to forgive me.’ They did this, and at the end of two weeks one brother saw the grace of God come upon the other and they were comforted and gave thanks to God.

From the Wisdom of the Desert Fathers

There are a number of marvelous aspects of this small story. One is the all-too-common occasion of judging another. It is a revelation that even such holy men as those who are laboring unceasingly in prayer can have the simple temptation to fix someone else’s practice of the fast. This is not the story of an over-zealous recent convert, but a father of the desert. Among believers, temptation and sin know no strangers.

Another marvel is that these good fathers “see the grace of God.” We are not told how they see the grace, or even fully what it means “to see the grace of God upon them.” It is interesting to me that the story says that they merited to “see the grace of God descend upon each other,” which is a world away from “seeing the grace of God descend upon themselves.” I suspect that the former is a blessing, whereas the latter would be a dangerous if not disastrous temptation.

Another marvel is the humility with which the offending brother accepts the word that grace is not upon him “as it used to be.” Which leads to the final marvel – the simple statement that they prayed together for two weeks for his forgiveness. Our religious world is often infected with legal imagery of sin and forgiveness – imagery which makes us instantly guilty and instantly forgiven. Such imagery does not allow us to contemplate the true effect of sin in our lives, nor does it allow us to understand the true scope of forgiveness and healing.

But these blessed fathers of the desert understood much. They do not doubt God’s love or mercy but they do not labor for forgiveness as a mere legality. Forgiveness also represents the healing of our soul and the restoration of our life with God. Perhaps I should add one last marvel to my list: God hears their prayer and His grace descends upon him.

May God hear our prayer and may His grace descend upon us!

The Argument

October 28, 2009

800px-2_priests_checking_merchandiseBlessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.

For many years, two hermits lived together without any conflict or disagreement. One suggested they have a quarrel to see how others live. The other answered, “I don’t know how to start a quarrel.”

The first said, “Look, I’ll put this brick on the ground between us and claim it is mine. Then you insist it belongs to you. That’s how quarrels begin.”

They put the brick between them. One said, “That’s mine.” The other said, “No, that’s mine.” The first answered, “Yes, it belongs to you. Take it.” They were not able to argue with each other.


Peacemaking is difficult. Peacemaking within the light of Truth is particularly difficult for it requires the healing of souls. Peace is not the absence of conflict – the gifts of God are never measured by “absence.” It is evil that is measured by absence (“the absence of good”). Rather, peace is substantive – a true gift of the Spirit. Thus St. Seraphim of Sarov can say, “Acquire the Spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you shall be saved.”

To make peace it is necessary to be at peace – and this again requires the healing of our soul. The acquisition of the Spirit of peace is the fruit of repentance and humility.

I have a strong memory from my teenage years. We had a guest speaker in one of my classes – someone who was well-known for his opposition to the war in Vietnam (which was at its height at the time). We were discussing the various issues surrounding that national debate when the discussion rose to the level of argument and beyond. I was an advocate of peace in those years (I was 17 at the time) but also quick to leap to an argument. Mine was probably the loudest voice in the room, my points as sharp and well-aimed as any.

After the class (if it can be called that after the near brawl), the guest speaker took me aside: “Stephen, there is more than one way to do violence to a man.” It would be another five years before I would read the words of St. Seraphim about acquiring the Spirit of peace. Another 33 years have passed and I am waiting to acquire that same Spirit.

Blessed, indeed, are the peacemakers.

To Live Without Distraction

October 27, 2009

MonkPrayerAbba Arsenius avoided discussion of the Scripture, even though he was an excellent expositor. He was also reluctant to write letters to anyone. When he attended public worship, he sat behind a pillar to prevent himself or others from being distracted.

Writing as I do is a great distraction (sometimes for me, sometimes for others). To speak is also to offer a target (for criticism, for disagreement or worse). For a variety of reasons, I have more distraction than usual of late. Most of that distraction has come from within myself and very little from without. There are seasons in life. I daily give thanks for what has been given me, both expected and unexpected, including those things that are associated with writing. I have noted in a recent article that one should “not read more in a day than one prays.” That standard also applies to writing. Write less, pray more.

From one of my earliest articles I offer the following. I wrote it as I began the work of this blog, lest at any time I forget what I am about. As I read it, nothing has changed. For those who pray, remember me. For those who do not pray, I will remember you. May God remember us all.


What matters:

God matters and what matters to God matters. I know that sounds very redundant, but I’m not sure how else I want to say it. There are many things that do not matter – because they do not matter to God. Knowing the difference between the two – what matters to God and what does not requires that we know God.

And this is theology – to know God. If I have a commitment in theology, it is to insist that we never forget that it is to know God. Many of the arguments (unending) and debates (interminable) are not about what we know, but about what we think.

Thinking is not bad, nor is it wrong, but thinking is not the same thing as theology. It is, of course, possible to think about theology, but this is not to be confused with theology itself.

Knowing God is not in itself an intellectual activity for God is not an idea, nor a thought. God may be known because He isperson. Indeed, He is only made known to us as person (we do not know His essence). We cannot know God objectively – that is He is not the object of our knowledge. He is known as we know a person. This is always a free gift, given to us in love. Thus knowledge of God is always a revelation, always a matter of grace, never a matter of achievement or attainment.

It matters that we know God because knowledge of God is life itself. “This is eternal life,” Jesus said, “to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”

The Orthodox way of life is only about knowing God. Everything we do, whether it is prayer, communion, confession, forgiveness, fasting – all of it is about knowing God. If it is about something else, then it is delusion and a distraction from our life’s only purpose.

Knowing God is not a distraction from knowing other persons, nor is knowing other persons a distraction from knowing God. But, like God, knowing other persons is not the same thing as thinking about them, much less is it objectifying them.

Knowing others is so far from being a distraction from knowing God, that it is actually essential to knowing God. We cannot say we love God, whom we have not seen, and hate our brother whom we do see, St. John tells us. We only know God to the extent that we love our enemies (1 John 4:7-8).

And this matters.

This blog does not matter – except that I may share something that makes it possible for someone to know God or someone may share something that allows themselves to be known. This matters.

Hopko on the Wrath of God

October 26, 2009

SpeakingTheTruthI have a very high regard for the work and thought of Fr. Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary. He has influenced much of my thought for a number of years both directly and indirectly. I am particularly pleased that Ancient Faith Radio offers two podcasts series by Fr. Tom. It is a great gift of the Church.

I have been listening recently to two podcasts on the subject of the Wrath of God (a topic on which I have written and done podcasts myself). Both are very worth hearing. In particular, I find that he is much more comfortable in his treatment of God’s wrath in both Scripture and human experience than I have been. I commend his podcasts to my readers and welcome any conversation they might engender.

Hopko – The Wrath of God

Hopko – The Wrath of God – Part 2

Glory to God for all things!

The Geography of Hell

October 25, 2009

RelativityThe parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) has a long history of teasing Christians into dangerous territory. I suspect that many if not most Christians have more than a little curiosity about life after death. We want to know what happens. We want to know “how things work.” And this parable – at least on its surface – seems to give more indication of “how things work” than almost any other passage in Scripture.

It gives us a geography of sorts: Lazarus is in “Abraham’s bosom” apparently enjoying good things; the rich man is in Hades and in torment; we are told that there is a “great gulf fixed between the two” so that no one can come from Hades to Abraham’s bosom and no one from Abraham’s bosom can go to Hades.

It interests me that many Christians use this parable as a “map” of the after-life, or at least as a story that supports their own “map” of life after death.

The most important feature of such maps is the very “fixed” character of their geography. What seems most important to them is that one character is in one place and the other character is in another place and there is no traffic between the two. (To read some useful Orthodox thought on life after death and Christ descent into Hades – the following article is of interest.)

It would seem that the reason some Christians like this is that it fits their own map of God and life after death. There are those who seem to like things to be stable and unchangeable – by this I mean they want a life after death (and a life before death) with clearly defined rules, boundaries, unbending laws and the like.

In such a map of things – those who obey the rules, observe the boundaries and master the laws do well. Those who do not – are punished. Such a world, it seems to them, is the way things ought to be, and to be the best way to either reward the good, correct the bad, or punish the incorrigible.

I might add that if you want a world like this – then it is even better if you can find a way to secure God as its underwriter. Many people do this under the heading of the “justice of God.” They will say that “God is just and He cannot deny His justice,” thus forcing God to have very clear rules and guaranteeing that He cannot break His own rules.

Several things to note:

1. There are no maps of the afterlife. Regardless of the descriptions in this parable – the purpose of the parable is not to teach us the topography of heaven and hell. Where, I will ask, is Abraham’s Bosom? How do we think of this as a place? Hades has the same problem – where do you place it? As for the Great Gulf – of what does the gulf consist? What sort of obstacle is insurmountable in these circumstances?

The point of the parable is found in its end: “If they have not listened to Moses and the Prophets, neither would they listen to someone even if he came back from the dead.” It is not a parable about the topography of the after-life, but a comment about our present life and our unwillingness to hear the gospel.

2. Important, and please note carefully: no matter how much some may want the world – particularly God’s world –  to be describable in clearly defined rules, boundaries and unbending laws – it’s just not the case. If there is a “rule” of any sort – it is God Himself – it is Personal – and is defined only by mercy, love and kindness.

And so it is that the “Way” forward, backwards, up or down, however you want to describe our travel in the Kingdom of God – the Way only follows the map of the heart of God. If you want to know the way to go – if you want to know how things work – then you have to know the heart of God. You have to know God Himself.

And this is all that we need to know for life here – and life hereafter. God Himself is our heaven – and in the teachings of the Fathers – God Himself is our hell – for hell is nothing other than our self-imposed refusal to accept the love of God. It is that refusal that brings its own torment.

If we have the eyes to see – we are already traveling the roads of heaven and hell – already dwelling in the bosom of Abraham or in the torments of Hades. The geography of that journey is the geography of love and mercy, kindness and forgiveness – or contrary – hatred and judgment, violence self-conceit, slander and calumny.

Judge for yourself – for we’ve all experienced both. Where do you want to dwell? The good news is that whatever gulf is fixed in our heart – whatever wall or chasm has been erected within us – Christ has gone there. He descended into Hades. If you will look within yourself – into the darkness of your own private hell – you will find Christ there – for He has gone there to look for you. And as sure as He trampled down death by death – He can trample down your own hell and translate you into the Kingdom of light.

Soul Saturday – And Forty Days

October 23, 2009

IMG_1007In my early exposure to Orthodoxy, I became intrigued with the term, “Soul Saturday.” My family would visit an Orthodox monastery not too far away from here for their annual pilgrimage that occured on one of the weekends of a “Soul Saturday.” This is term from popular parlance – the more proper English title of the event is a “Memorial Saturday.” These occur at a number of times during the year, mostly during Lent. They are days set aside to pray for and remember the departed.

After becoming Orthodox in 1998 these Memorial Saturdays became supremely important in my life. Our congregation suffered two very unexpected deaths (both in car crashes) in the course of our first two years that left all the devastation that grief can wreak. For a congregation that was young, we were suddenly faced with that which faces the old with great frequency.

Had you told me we would have buried our first member within our first year I would never have thought of the young woman taken from us. But such is our power over our own life. We control virtually nothing.

My first two years as an Orthodox Christian I supported myself by being employed in the local home hospice program. Thus I was no stranger to death. Nor had I been in my last Anglican parish, where I had buried over 100 people in my years there. I knew the power of grief and how helpless people can be when it comes.

Thus it was that “Soul Saturdays” became times of deep importance for me. The population of my “grief world” was far larger than I would have expected by that time in life. Praying for the departed, and doing so with such frequency was a part of the Tradition of the Church that seemed in my first introduction – not only wise, but completely essential. I was no stranger to prayers for the departed (I had always prayed for the departed as an Anglican). But never had I prayed so much with such fervency.

The bright sorrow of the Russian tune, “Memory Eternal,” that closes a memorial service, took up a place in my heart that no other song will ever have. I often couple it with “Christ is risen from the dead,” lest I be lost in my own grief.

But in a world where so little is remembered it is of supreme comfort that the Church pauses these many Soul Saturdays and says: “Remember.” And not only to us but to God, “May their memory be eternal.”

There is no purgatorial teaching in Orthodoxy,  just the simple assurance that our prayers “are of benefit” to those who have died. Of this I have no doubt. But I also know just how great the benefit is for those who are still remembering from here.

Grief is strange stuff. I was taught, when I was doing hospice work, that each grief is really every grief – that one small grief will open up the vast pool of grief that lies within us. Thus none of us is ever just grieving one person or event. Blessedly, it is all in the hands of the good God who loves mankind and who Himself bore our grief.

This weekend (on the New Calendar) is the weekend of a Soul Saturday, according to Russian usage. Saturday also happens to be the 40th day of my mother’s passing – an event that is always marked with a memorial service. Something is completed and something begun in that mystical number of forty days. I bought flowers today for this evening’s service, and immediately remembered the many occasions on which I gave my mother flowers (or failed to). And the tears of 40 days greeted the thought.

Tonight (Friday) I will have gathered in the Church to sing Vespers, and to offer the memorial service. In the morning we will offer the Divine Liturgy for the blessed repose of those who have gone before. We will sing again “Memory eternal,” and know that there is a deep promise at the heart of our prayer, a promise that was ratified at the resurrection of Christ.

I know as well, that our feeble prayers here are joined to the mighty chorus that ascends to God from those who have gone before us and remember and pray for us. That “great cloud of witnesses” sustains the living though we too easily forget this. How is it that the living pass their days with no thought of those who stand witness before God?

Memory Eternal for us all, until the battle is done and everything has found its rest.

It is this kind of rhythm, found in the liturgical life of Orthodoxy, that has been lost from so much of Christianity, where the grief is certainly as great. I know that I could not bear the weight of all I remember were I not able to stand with others and pray God’s eternal remembrance. There are times as an Orthodox Christian that I am not just grateful for the grace God has given, but wonder how I ever tried to live without it.

Finding God in Abundance

October 20, 2009

Another simple thing that is quite difficult:

From Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

paisius_athosI have realized that the destruction of man lies in the abundance of material goods, because it prevents him from experiencing the presence of God and appreciating His benevolence. If you want to take someone away from God, give him plenty of material goods. He will instantly forget Him forever.

I realized this when I was younger. When I was on Mount Sinai [at St. Catherine’s Monastery], I lived in a place that had no water. I had to walk for two hours to get to a rock where water was leaking from its side. I placed the jug underneath and waited about an hour until it was filled up. The limited amount of water created in my soul various feelings:

Every day I was in agony: “I wonder, will the water be dripping from the rock?” I prayed to God to continue to make it drip. As I was walking towards the rock, I was anxious to see whether I would find some water and I prayed. When I could detect from far away the water glittering as the sun beams were falling on the rock, I glorified God. On my way back, I constantly thanked and glorified Him for the water He gave me. So, the small amount of water impelled me first, to constantly pray to God to make the rock drip and secondly, to thank and glorify Him, as He is the giver of all good things.

When I left Sinai, I went to the Scete of Iviron [on Mt. Athos], where there was no shortage of water. We had plenty of water, which was sometimes wasted, as it was left running for no reason. At some point, I felt that I had developed a different attitude inside my soul. I realized that during my stay at the Scete, I hadn’t said, not even once, “Glory to God.”

While the small amount of water became a reason for me to pray and glorify God, its abundance made me forget that water is indeed a gift from God and I should be grateful to Him. The same thing applies to material goods.

I will give you another example. I could never feel the need to thank God for giving me the opportunity to sit down and rest, as I thought it was natural for me to do so. Now, I suffer from hernia and I cannot make myself comfortable while sitting down; the moment I find a comfortable position, I glorify God for giving me the opportunity to feel at ease. This led me to the conclusion that being able to sit down is also a gift from God and we should thank Him for it.

The same thing applies to everything. If we are found in a difficult situation, we must not be upset; instead we should realize this is God’s way to make us feel closer to Him and become aware that He is the grantor of everything in our lives.

The Poor in Spirit

October 18, 2009

Russian_PeasantFew passages of Scripture are more familiar in the Orthodox Church than the Beatitudes – Christ’s sayings from the Sermon on the Mount which begin, “Blessed are….” With familiarity comes the occasional lack of attention, in which we forget to ask, “What does that mean?” I think this is particularly the case with the saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

There is no particular help to be found by going back to its original language – for it is a pretty literal rendering (in English). “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” is exactly the same statement in the Greek. Oddly, there is a more paraphrastic rendering in the New English Bible that I find helpful – “Blessed are they who know their need of God.” It is not literal – but, I believe, it captures the sense and meaning of the statement.

The poor in spirit are those who know their need of God. And this is a very profound thing.

Sometime in this past year I had a short exchange on one of the blog posts on the topic of “necessity” or “need.” The point was made (not by me) that to need anyone or anything was the utter destruction of freedom. A relationship that had “need” at its core was dysfunctional and “co-dependent.” I continue to maintain that Freud is not among the fathers – and thus do not give much concern for psychological treatments of theology. But there is a point that is valuable and worth noting in the sentiment expressed: need can be the destruction of freedom. I come back to this point.

But I want to think first about the question of need – our necessity. “Blessed are those who know their need of God.”

The truth is – we are born into necessity. We are contingent beings – creatures and not gods. We cannot live utterly independent lives. We are born helpless and totally dependent. Our species has among the weakness of all newborns. And though our dependency weakens and changes as we grow – it does not cease. Indeed, as we age, our necessity often comes back with a vengeance.

Necessity is a difficult thing. There is an aspect of our need that plays a part in what it means to love – but it can also be a part of what it means to be a slave. Those who have suffered the extremes of modern prison camps know what it is to be reduced to utter necessity. That reduction is an effort to destroy the humanity of a prisoner – to remove any sense of freedom whatsoever. That it sometimes fails is a remarkable testimony for the grace of God at work in us. Our necessity can be the weakest and most vulnerable aspect of our lives as creatures.

This “weakness” becomes an important theme in the writings of St. Paul.

Necessity is a difficult thing. It can be part of what it means to love – but it can also be part of what it means to be a slave. It is, perhaps, the “weakest” thing about being a creature. St. Paul, confronted with an affliction (unknown to us) described by him as a “messenger of Satan sent to buffet me in the flesh,” says that he “besought the Lord three times” that the affliction might be taken away. He was told in response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The apostle adds: “Therefore I will most gladly prefer to boast of my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The revelation given to St. Paul is profound. Our weakness is precisely a point of necessity. We cannot handle our weaknesses by ourselves. Our weaknesses reveal the fact that we are not self-sufficient. They frequently leave us feeling vulnerable.

And this weakness, St. Paul says (quoting God), is the very place where God’s strength is made most perfect.

In truth, I need God because I cannot manage my life alone; I cannot solve my own problems; I am captive to sin and death – even my strengths often lead to alienation and estrangement; I cannot raise myself from the dead; I cannot see the world correctly (I am blind); I cannot rightly love even the most obvious things and people.

But, of course, the experience of necessity can also be the experience of slavery. It is not unusual for people to live in relationships of mutual slavery – with very little (if any) true freedom. Necessity, emotional or otherwise, drives them into such relationships and makes their existence into an image of hell.

How do we avoid this with God?

First off, God will not allow us to have a true relationship with Him that is destructive. People have imaginary relationships with God that become destructive. But the imaginary part of it is precisely the problem.

St. Paul writes in another place: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Our relationship with God is always a relationship of freedom. Without freedom the relationship would have no possibility of love. Thus we find that even if we curse God and deny His existence, we do not cease to exist. Though our very existence is dependent upon Him from moment to moment, He does not take it from us. Our “necessity” is not forced upon us within the context of our relationship with God. We may acknowledge it in freedom and take it up in an act of love, or ignore it precisely because God has given us such a frightful freedom.

Thus our necessity, our weakness, does not force us into relationship with God. I am free to deny Him, and to deny my weakness. But it remains true, that “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” For our sake, God himself, entered into the human world of necessity.

In becoming man, God freely became subject to necessity. His birth, His nurture, His education, His vulnerability within our world were freely taken on in His act of “self-emptying” (Philippians 2:5-11). The God Who lives beyond necessity hung lifeless on the cross without even a grave to call His own. He gave Himself to us in weakness – others had to remove the nails in order to free His most pure body from the cross.

The same way of the cross, freedom-in-necessity, is the invitation that is daily extended to us in our relationship with God – and one another. For those who love God, who will in return for His act of self-emptying, give themselves in weakness – he will not helpless. He will not use our weakness to crus us but will lovingly take us down from the cross on which we die daily, wrap us in fine linen, and place us in His own new tomb.

And there we will trample down death by death, and discover that in our weakness, God’s strength is made perfect.

-from a recent sermon

Pray for your Accusers

October 18, 2009

porphy_flowers_blPray for those who make accusations against you. Say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’, not ‘have mercy on him’, and your accuser will be embraced in this prayer. Does someone say something to you that upsets you? God knows it. What you have to do is open your arms and say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’, and make your accuser one with yourself. And God knows what is torturing your accuser deep inside of him and, seeing your love, he hastens to help. He searches the desires of hearts. What is it that Saint Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans? He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because in accord with God He makes intercession for the saints.

Pray for the purification of each and every person so that you may imitate the prayer of the angels in your life. Yes, the angels don’t pray for themselves. This is how I pray for people, for the Church and for the body of the Church. The moment you pray for the Church, you are released from your passions. The moment you glorify God, your soul is calmed and sanctified by divine grace. This is the art I want you to learn.

The Elder Porphyrios from Wounded by Love.