An Avalanche

Last summer I read Kyriacos Markides’ book “The Mountain of Silence”. I greatly enjoyed his journey with the spiritual elder, Father Maximos. At one point, they are discussing what Christ came to do while He was here and what His real mission was. Father Maximos says:

What the Ecclesia primarily teaches is the means through which a human soul may attain Christification, its saintliness, its union with God. The ultimate goal is to become perfect in the same way as our Heavenly Father is perfect, to become one with God. Christ didn’t come into the world to teach us how to become good fellows, how to behave properly, or how to live a righteous life in this world. Nor did He come to offer us a book, even if this book is called the Bible or New Testament…He came to the world to give us Himself. To show us the Way toward our salvation.”

Kyriacos remarks having heard this before and mentions that it is Satan who seeks to prohibit us from communion with God and seeks to prevent us from reaching our destination of union with the Holy One. Kyriacos is curious as to how Satan does this, what are his means and ways to prohibit us from reaching union with God. Father tells Kyriacos that the most used tool of Satan is preventing us from union with God is what the holy elders have called “logismoi” (sounds like ‘logos me’). A simple reading and understanding of this Greek word would render it “thoughts”. However, Father Maximos has this to say:

Logismoi are much more intense than simple thoughts. They penetrate into the very depths of a human being. They have enormous power. Let us say…that a simple thought is a weak logismos. We need to realize, however, that certain thoughts, or logismoi, once inside a human being, can undermine every trace of a spiritual life in its very foundation. People who live in the world don’t know about the nature and power of logismoi. That is, they don’t have experience of that reality. But as they proceed on their spiritual struggle, particularly through systematic prayer, then are they able to understand the true meaning and power of this reality” (page 118).

I for one have found the language I need to describe my crazy thoughts within the Orthodox spiritual life. Have you ever laid in bed at night seeking to fall asleep, perhaps praying while trying to fall asleep, and just get bombarded by thought-after-thought? Sometimes these thoughts are intentional thoughts: what to do the next day, reflection upon events from the past day, agendas, etc. Sometimes these thoughts are not thoughts we think. Evil thoughts even! If you have experienced the bombardment of crazy thoughts at any time then you have experienced what the holy elders call the logismoi.

The Holy Fathers speak of the Fall of man creating a divide, a chasm, between man’s mind and man’s heart. This divide is what brings about the logismoi. Our mind is a crazy house while living disconnected from the heart, what the Fathers call the Nous. The Nous is the source of our being, our personhood as I wrote in my previous blog. The logismoi constantly bombard our hearts and minds to prevent us from experiencing union with God. Father Maximos is sure to point out that not all logismoi are bad. He speaks of how it is wise to speak with a experienced spiritual elder who can guide one in the discernment of one’s logismoi.

Kyriacos ask Father how it is that the logismoi can prevent us from reaching God. Father says:

Let us say that a logismos is a thought of a special quality and power intensity…There is something mysterious about a logismoi. Its impact is similar to the sting of a needle when you go to the doctor to receive a shot. When negative logismoi manage to enter into your spiritual bloodstream they can affect you in the same way that a needle, full of poison, penetrates you and spread the deadly substance throughout your body. Your spiritual world becomes contaminated and you are affected on a very deep, fundamental level. Your entire spiritual edifice can be shaken from its very foundation” (page 119)

We can see from this wise Father’s words that these thoughts can be very destructive, very detrimental to our spiritual well-being. A logismoi can be so powerful that it can leave us feeling helpless against its power. These thoughts are faced by all! Even the Saints throughout the ages. They have become masters over their logismoi through Theosis and spiritual regimens prescribed to them by their spiritual leaders.

Our logismoi pushes us towards committing a sinful act! The demons haunt us with the logismoi and compel us to commit these sins because God is gracious and loving and will forgive anyways. Then when this sin comes about and we have committed it we feel the wild, crazy thought that says God is a mean kid in the sky waiting to burn up dirty little sinners with His holy wrath. This is the crazy world of crazy thoughts, crazy logismoi!

Things were not always like this! Prior to the Fall we lived in a state of constant prayer, constant union with God. Once the Fall occurred and the rift between man and God came into existence so came with it the logismoi to replace what was continual, constant prayer. This is the existential crisis of our existence today! Our hearts were once innocent and pure, but once the rift came to be the heart became bombarded by these logismoi, which are themselves the barrier between us and union with God.

The best way to combate the logismoi is through ceaseless prayer. The lives of the Saints and holy elders testify to this. They also identified for us the 5 stages in the development of the logismoi that goes contrary to God’s law and goodness. I believe that Father Maximos points out the stages in order for us to be aware of how these crazy logismoi can destroy us. Knowing your enemies tactics is half of the battle, right?

5 Stages of Development for Logismoi

Assault Stage- this is the stage where the logismoi first attacks our mind. We must take care to know that this do not leave us accountable. Everyone in history of mankind since the Fall experiences the logismoi. Father Maximos says, “The quality of our spiritual state is not evaluated on the basis of these assaults.” We will always be attacked by myriads of logismoi. We do not sin in this at all. We have no need to feel guilty for these thoughts plaguing us. Pleading questions like “Why do I have these thoughts?” and “Why me?” are born out of our egoism. This obsession, Father says, is a tool used by Satan to bring us down. These logismoi come to us because we are humans……period! Do not beat yourself or obsess over these logismoi. You are human; you will experience them always.

Interaction Stage- this is what I call the conversation stage. This is where we begin to open up a dialogue with the logismoi. If the logismoi engaged you to lust after someone, which may be a bombarding thought that I and other men can and do face, then in this stage you begin to say, “Should I or shouldn’t I?”, “What will happen if I do?”, “Who will know?”, or “Who is gonna get hurt?”. Father Maximos points out that even in this stage there is no accountability or sin, but that if one is weak to begin with then the actual sin is not far from being committed.

Consenting Stage- this is the stage where you give the logismoi your consent to do what it urged you to do like in our case above, lusting. We make the decision that brings about the beginnings of guilt and accountability. We say, “Okay, I am going to do this!” Father Maximos says, “It is the beginning of sin. Jesus was referring to this stage when he proclaimed that if you covet a woman in your mind you have already committed adultery in your heart. The moment this decision is allowed to take root in your heart, then you are well on the way to actually committing the act in the outer world.” He says that this stage is still consent and desire; no action has yet to be taken. If we pray and ask for God’s help and invoke His name we can defeat this stage without going on to the next.

Captivity Stage- if we aren’t able to be freed from the previous stage then defeat has come and the act has been committed. Father says we become hostage to the logismoi. The power in it is seen in the moment of succumbing to the logismoi. Once that happens the logismoi comes back in greater power the next time and is harder to resist, which just goes on and on getting harder to resist each time. This is called captivity because it takes a hold of us in a way we have a hard time being freed from.

Passion/Obsession Stage- “The logismos has become an entrenched reality within the consciousness of the person, within the nous. The person becomes a captive of obsessive logismoi, leading to ongoing destructive acts to oneself and to others…” says Father Maximos. The holy elders say that this stage is “like giving the key of our heart to Satan so that he can get in and out any time he wishes.” This stage is the stage of self-destruction. We can reason and understand, but we are helpless for our hearts are captive to the evil. The logismoi possesses and controls us.

These are the 5 stages: assault, interaction, consent, captivity, and passion. Father Maximos says that “they unfold and grow within us sometimes gradually, sometimes like an avalanche.” However, there is healing from these that come from the grace of the Holy Spirit and through cooperation with Him via asceticism.

These thoughts are indeed like an avalanche! I have witnessed all 5 of these stages; I have found the language of Orthodox spirituality to describe perfectly how our thoughts bombard us, sometimes for the good, but mostly for the bad. We are not held eternally by these thoughts. The avalanche does not cover us forever. The warmth of the Light of Christ burns brightly and reverently to melt away at this avalanche! It is not an easy battle, but there is a way of overcoming. I have not yet read further in the book, but Father Maximos does lay out a battle plan so to speak. We are not left hopeless in the wake of the avalanche of logismoi.

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica once said:

Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.

Everything, both good and evil, comes from our thoughts. Our thoughts become reality. Even today we can see that all of creation, everything that exists on the earth and in the cosmos, is nothing but Divine thought made material in time and space. We humans were created in the image of God. Mankind was given a great gift, but we hardly understand that. God’s energy and life is in us, but we do not realize it. Neither do we understand that we greatly influence others with our thoughts. We can be very good or very evil, depending on the kind of thoughts and desires we breed.”

Nothing speaks to the power of the logismoi like Elder Thaddeus’ wise words. We did not cover the spiritual regimen that Father Maximos goes into later in the book, but I feel that knowing that the logismoi is real and how it seeks to consume us is half of the battle. The regimen may not be something we need to cover, but something I urge you to speak about with your spiritual father and how to combat it. I will say that learning to pray and enter into one’s heart is the beginning of fighting the logismoi as Jesus gives you strength and light to climb out of the avalanche. He has given us tools to combat these bombarding logismoi. Take hold of the tools and wisdom of the holy elders given to the Church. The avalanche can be overcome!

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Sick at Soul

“There was a time:  I thought to rise

Upwards in a jet like a fountain

But, having attained the crest,

I am cast down from the height.

                            ***

Perdition is near, – God is far

And, in my soul, I dare not pray

To Him.  I have not the strength.

I keep silence with lowered eyes.

You, meek one, lamb of God,

You pray, if you can,

Say a prayer in chaste humility

For those who are sick at soul.”

— Fr. Pavel Florensky

Why Millennials Long for Liturgy: Is the High Church the Christianity of the Future?

liturgy (1)Feelings-based, emotionally driven, stage centered “milk” has run its course. Which is a good thing! Some have noted about the intellectual pursuit the following stories have.  I see nothing wrong with the intellectual appeal to brings us to Orthodoxy. The life of the mind is great thing, and Orthodoxy has much to offer it! Orthodoxy is deeply intellectual, deeply spiritual, deeply ascetical. Some are attracted through the other paths, but as Westerners it is easy and most common for the intellectual to be a big draw. Of course if Orthodoxy is just another ideology we have adopted, and it doesn’t take root in the heart then we have a problem. It is both/and. Mind AND heart! Jesus said, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Nothing wrong with the intellectual approach nor the purely ascetical. We all come to Orthodoxy, but not on the same path.

Read and share how many Millennials are seeking after liturgy and spiritually edifying worship with symbolism and meaning. It is my sincere hope and prayer that this is a sincere move in the right direction for non-Orthodox Christians and not another fad. This could be a move towards healing schism. It is my prayer that many will unite to the holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, which is the Orthodox Church. Don’t stop at Canterbury and Rome just to stay, but come home oh weary traveler, come home! Cheers!

Why Millennials Long for Liturgy: Is the High Church the Christianity of the Future?

By Gracy Olmstead

America’s youth are leaving churches in droves. One in four young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion, according to a 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll, and 55 percent of those unaffiliated youth once had a religious identification when they were younger. Yet amidst this exodus, some church leaders have identified another movement as cause for hope: rather than abandoning Christianity, some young people are joining more traditional, liturgical denominations—notably the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox branches of the faith. This trend is deeper than denominational waffling: it’s a search for meaning that goes to the heart of our postmodern age.

For Bart Gingerich, a fellow with the Institute on Religion and Democracy and a student at Reformed Episcopal Seminary, becoming Anglican was an intellectual journey steeped in the thought of ancient church fathers. He spent the first 15 years of his life in the United Methodist Church, where he felt he was taught a “Precious Moments” version of Christianity: watered down, polite, and unreal. His family joined a nondenominational evangelical church when Gingerich was 16. Some of the youth he met were serious about their faith, but others were apathetic, and many ended up leaving the church later on.

While attending Patrick Henry College in Virginia, Gingerich joined a reformed Baptist church in the nearby town of Guilford. Gingerich read St. Augustine and connected strongly with his thought—in class from Monday to Friday, Gingerich found himself arguing for ideas that clashed with his method of worship on Sunday. Protestantism began troubling him on a philosophical level. Could he really believe that the church “didn’t start getting it right” till the Reformation?

The final straw came when a chapel speaker at the college explained the beauty of the Eucharist in the Anglican service. Gingerich knew this was what he was looking for. Soon after, he joined the Anglican Church.

For high-school English teacher Jesse Cone, joining the Orthodox Church fulfilled a deep yearning for community and sacramental reality. Cone grew up in the Presbyterian Church of America, heavily involved in youth group and church activities. While attending Biola University, an evangelical school in southern California, Cone returned home over the summers to help lead youth-group activities. He was hired as a youth pastor and “even preached a sermon.” But at Biola, Cone struggled to find a home church. There were many megachurches in the area that didn’t have the “organic, everyday substance” Cone was seeking.

He began attending an Anglican service, drawn to its traditional doctrine. He was a “perpetual visitor” over the next few years. A Bible study on the Gospel of John pushed him further towards the high church. Reading through the book with a group of friends, Cone began to notice the “conversational and sacramental” way Jesus related to people. “There’s a lot of bread, and wine, and water,” he says. From Jesus’s first miracle—turning water into wine—to telling his disciples “I am the True Vine,” the mundane, communal ways in which in which Jesus connected with people “confirmed in me a sense of sacramentalism—that everyday aspects of life are important, in a way the modern mindset doesn’t share,” Cone says. “I started looking at the world with more sacramental eyes.”

Cone became engaged to a woman who was also raised Presbyterian. In the weeks leading up to their marriage, they sought a church together, but none seemed to fit. Fundamental questions lingering in Cone’s mind—about church history, the importance of doctrine and dogma, what it means to live a full Christian life—came to a head. He told his wife, “I don’t think I’m comfortable being Orthodox, but I want to at least see one of their services, see what it’s like out there.” The next Sunday, they decided to attend an Orthodox Church with another young couple. By the end of the service, Cone says, “We were just blown away. Just blown away.” The worship, doctrine, and tradition were exactly what they had been looking for. “We were shell-shocked. And we haven’t stopped going since.”

PLEASE READ THE REST HERE! 

Living a Balanced Orthodox Life

dragonThis is a great video by Fr. John Moses. He presents how to live a balanced life between Hyperdoxy and Amorphodoxy (which is the extreme opposite of a Hyperdox). I liked how he refers to slaying the dragon in your own heart. Gave me a lot to think about spiritually this morning. The world, our marriages, our families, our jobs can all be our monasteries. Great food for thought; give this a watch. And arise everyday to slay the dragon!

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO!

N.T. Wright on the Gospel and Advice to Young Christians

wrightN.T. Wright says some extremely beautiful and prolific insights in this short video. I really wanted to share it because I think he challenges us on so many levels whether it be how to present the Gospel, presenting the Gospel in a 5 minute window if asked, where repentance comes into play, and what the Gospel of Paul has to do with the Gospel of Christ (hint: they are the same). However, at the end he has some sage advice, especially for those like me who love theology, that is deeply practical, but full of wisdom.

When asked what advice he has for young theologians he recalls an email to a young man wanting to pursue graduate studies in Pauline theology (which was fitting to me like a glove to a hand). He remarked that he gave the young man the same advice he gives every body who desires to be a theologian/teacher/professor.

  1. “You just have to soak yourself in the Scriptures much more than you ever imagined doing; preferably in the original languages.”
  2. “You have to soak yourself in prayer.”
  3. “You have to listen hard to the cries of pain that are coming from the people next door who are your neighbors or from people on the other side of the world.”
  4. And he didn’t say it exactly, but he said we have to basically immerse ourselves in community and in the Sacraments, which Christ gave us for life and for a way of life.

I love when he says, “Jesus Himself and the New Testament itself teaches that the way we get to know who we are and where we’re called to be is through Scripture, through prayer, through the Sacraments (Divine Mysteries)…, and also [through] the cry of the poor [where we meet Christ].”

He goes on to say, “God wants to do new things, but he people through whom He will do those new things are people who are Bible people, are people who are prayer people, are sacrament people, and are people who are listening to the poor people. And somehow Jesus will come afresh to them and please God through them in ways that at the moment we can’t imagine, predict, or control.”

N.T. Wright is a brilliant man whom I respect and admire. He is a holy man filled with the light and love of Jesus. I hope his wisdom here is as beneficial to you as it was to me.

N.T. WRIGHT ON THE GOSPEL AND ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE (VIDEO IS HYPERLINKED)! 

Church History Doesn’t Begin at the Reformation: Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology [A Review]

ImageScott Emery over at Storied Community as graciously allowed for his recent book review to be posted here! Make sure to go check out his page too!

Church History Doesn’t Begin at the Reformation: Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology [A Review]

I grew up in a rather conservative, Protestant, Evangelical (notice the capital “E”) church world. We took our cues predominantly from within the Fundamentalist movement of the late 19th/early 20th century, as we were its heirs. History wasn’t really a factor because it was mainly known as Tradition – again, take note of the capital “T” as it is typically indicative of all things Catholic within the aforementioned world. And when I say Catholic, I mean blasphemous. As in anti-Christ. As in world power pictured in the book of Revelation. There was no room for capital “T” within the capital “E.”

Church History 1 and 2 were classes I took while in Bible college and they, as far as I can recall, took a similar trajectory to the church world I grew up in. Basically, Jesus was born, died, resurrected and then the Holy Spirit started the church through particular acts of power. But don’t worry that stuff doesn’t happen any more. Wink, wink.

Fast forward from Jesus to the Reformation when Luther and Calvin took the world by storm. We left the heavy hand of the Catholic Church and now we are what we are today.

Not only was the gap between Jesus and the Reformation overlooked, it was so egregiously forgotten that there was not even a mention of the church fathers and mothers – the forebears of Eastern Orthodox Church and its theology. (And…shhh…the Church as a whole.) Thankfully, while in seminary, I was introduced to what has come to be known as the Patristic age.

And my world was changed.

This is why I am thankful for this little book by an amazing theologian, Andrew Louth:Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology. I had read some of Louth’s work while in seminary and was caught up in the lucidity and potency of his writing. This work continues in the same vein.

Within the pages of this book, he takes on the gamut of topics usually rendered by history as the spectrum of theology. Beginning with God (theology proper) and culminating with “the last things and eternal life” (eschatology), Louth gives us the Eastern Orthodox vantage point tying them all together.

Yet throughout the book, he is also cautious to remind us that these are the understandings of Eastern Orthodoxy mediated through his own experience. He doesn’t pretend to speak for all of Eastern Orthodoxy – for there is no inherent monolith – which makes room for the readers’ questions and personal inquiry. History is well represented, but it represented through a medium of humility allowing us to wrestle with the material being presented. “What we should hear from the chorus of the Fathers is a rich harmony, not a thin unison.” It is to this harmony that we are asked to participate.

What I loved about this book is its insistence on understanding through experience and prayer. These aren’t bifurcated realities; rather, they are one and the same: we live our lives as a prayer. Louth states,

An introduction to Eastern Orthodox theology, as I understand it, may well involve learning various facts and dates, terminology and concepts, but at its heart it is an understanding to a way of life. (p. 3)

And elsewhere,

The only knowledge that counts, the only theology that is truly Orthodox, is participation in God’s movement in love towards us in creation and Incarnation by our response of love. (p. 122)

And again,

First, the mysteries of theology are mediated by a prayer, not by a creed or treatise: we only understand by participating ourselves in prayer. Second, all that follows is seen in terms of engagement with God, flowing from prayer: accepting God’s gifts and using them, even more, imitating in our movement towards God, his movement towards us, so that the Word’s kenosis, self-emptying, calls forth our self-emptying…” (p. 123)

Thus, Louth encourages us, as has the history of the Church because of Jesus himself, to find our bearings in prayer. In an effort to aid in this, Louth has peppered the book with liturgical prayers. Many of these are breath-taking in their theological depth and candor. For those of us bereft of Tradition and liturgy, these prayers bring us into the heart of what both joy and sorrow look like; what petition and repentance can sound like; how both immanence and transcendence are found in Jesus. I found myself praying these prayers, not simply reading them off of a page.

For those of us who have grown up in Protestant saturated worlds, there will be plenty of material to truly wonder about. For instance, Eastern Orthodoxy’s place for Mary the mother of Jesus, their thoughts and uses of icons, and the thread of universalism found within their eschatology [NOTE: Orthodoxy actually condemns universalism and it was done so at a Church council]. How have these things been viewed throughout history? What did the early church say that has been carried through by the Orthodox?

All in all, I would certainly recommend this book. The clarity, thoroughness, and emphasis on prayerful participation make it well worth getting. In addition, I would particularly encourage those seeking a more historical approach to their Christianity, along with those who have perhaps grown tired of the pallid or historical short-sightedness common within much of the Protestant body to pick up a copy. The historical gold found within these pages is a much needed introduction – and, hopefully, encouragement to continue – to the vast wisdom and love given to us by those from the early centuries of the Church.

Spiritual…but Not…

frjimmartin-inside1A common phrase these days “I just don’t get it; I’m spiritual but not religious” brings to mind this blog by Father Stephen about that very subject. I hope you find it a challenging read that will aid you in your life and help you grow. Enjoy:

Spiritual…but Not…

By Father Stephen Freeman 

It has become a commonplace to hear someone say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Most people have a general understanding of what is meant. I usually assume that the person holds to a number of ideas that are considered “spiritual” in our culture, but that they are not particularly interested in “organized religion.” I understand this, because organized religion can often be the bane of spiritual existence.

I am an Orthodox Christian – which is not the same thing as saying that I have an interest in “organized religion.” There is much about organized religion that I dislike in the extreme, and I occasionally see its shadow seep into my experience within Orthodoxy. But I repeat unashamedly that I am an Orthodox Christian and admit that one clear reason is that I am not very “spiritual.” Without the life of the Church and its Tradition – I could easily drift into a shapeless secularism – living a mediocre existence, marking time until my time is done.

The shapeless contours of spirituality often reflect nothing more than the ego within. How can I escape the confines of my own imagination? It is, of course, possible to ignore the question of the ego’s input and be satisfied with whatever we find comfortable as our “spirituality.” But, as noted above, I do not think I am an inherently “spiritual” man.

The Church is spiritual – indeed it is far more spiritual than “organized.” It is standing in the midst of the holy (whether I am aware of it or not) and yielding myself to that reality that largely constitute my daily “spirituality.” I pray and when something catches my heart, I stop and stay there for a while.

In earlier years of my life, as an Anglican, I learned about a  liturgical phenomenon known as the “guilty secret.” It referred to the extreme familiarity that grows up between priest and “holy things.” Holy things easily become commonplace and their treatment dangerously flippant. More dangerous still, is the growing sense of absence in the heart of a priest as the holy becomes commonplace and even just “common.” Of course the things which God has marked as “holy” are just “common.” A chalice is holy though it is only silver or gold (still “common” material). God uses common things in the giving of grace.

The “guilty secret” can afflict anyone. It’s the old phrase, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” It is particularly dangerous on account of our secular culture which holds most things in equal contempt. Things are only things within our culture, and any value it may have is imputed and not inherent.

This same problem holds true with “spirituality” itself. Words easily revert to mere words; actions to mere actions; ideas to wispy drifts of nothing. I have written elsewhere that secularism breeds atheism. The guilty secret that stalks us all is nothing more than the suspicious voice of secularism whispering, “There’s nothing and nobody there.”

The life we are called to live as Christians is not one long argument with the voice of secularism. The voice of secularism is not the sound of our own doubt, but the voice of the evil one. He has always been a liar.

The essential question for us is clearly stated by St. John:

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (1Jo 4:2-3)

It is the question of Christ’s incarnation – but, in turn, it is also the question: “Is the flesh capable of bearing the Spirit?” Do we live in a world that is capable of God? There are many, who have partaken of a semi-gnostic spirit within modern secularism, who are not comfortable with Spirit-bearing material. Christ is someone whom we have fenced off, demarcated as a unique event such that He alone bears Spirit. He is the God who became incarnate in a world that was, by nature, secular. His incarnation would thus be a sign that does not confirm the world in any way, but by its very coming condemns all flesh.

This, according to St. John, is the spirit of the Antichrist. It is as though the evil one had said, “Fine. Take the flesh of this child born of Mary, but everything else is mine, and tends towards nothing.”

The Incarnate Christ is not only God with us, but reveals the true reason for all creation. “Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.” Nothing is merely anything. Everything bears the glory of God.

Thus my “spirituality” is to learn how to live in a material world that is everywhere more than I can see or know. For such a life I need a guide. Without a guide I am left to the devices of my own imagination. My parents were not raised in such a situation. They were not teachers in this matter. It is the life of the Church, the way of knowledge that is the lives of the saints that teaches me how to live. They help me eat (or not eat) in a manner that reveals God. They teach me to read, to honor icons, to forgive enemies, to hold creation in its proper, God-given place. I am an Orthodox Christian. Who else remembers how to live in the world, holding that Christ is come in the flesh?

Fr. Stephen is an Orthodox Priest under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America. He serves as the Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Churchin Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

He is the author of numerous published articles and the book, Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe. He is also the author of the popular podcast, Glory to God, on Ancient Faith Radio.

Fr. Stephen has a B.A. in Classical Languages from Furman University (1977), a M.Div. from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary (1980), and a M.A. in Theology from Duke University (1991). His thesis at Duke was entitled 
The Icon as Theology.