Tag Archive: Jesus Christ


Teachable Moments

An old man said: “If you fall ill, do not be a weakling. If the Lord God has willed that your body be feeble, who are you to bear it with grief? Does he not look after you in all you need? Surely you do not live without him. Be patient in your illness, and ask him to give you what is right—that is, that you may do his will, and abide in patience, and in charity eat what you have.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 7.45

It is easy, perhaps even justified, to dismiss a saying like this one as simply one of the less sensitive sayings of the fathers. However, I think a more charitable reading can be quite fruitful. The monk who said this wants those who ponder it to question their perspective on life, particularly suffering. Too often people presume that all suffering is a bad thing. This old man reminds us that even those who suffer have much to be thankful for, that all things happen in accord with God’s will, and that every moment of our lives is thus a teachable moment. Continue reading

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Journey to the Cave

When they came to the middle of the journey, Mary said to him, “Joseph, take me off the donkey, the child [is] pushing from within me to let him come out.”

So he took her off the donkey and said to her, “Where will I take you and shelter you in your awkwardness? This area is a desert.”

And he found a cave and led her there and stationed his sons to watch her, while he went to a find a Hebrew midwife in the land of Bethlehem.

~ Protevangelium of James, 17.3(10)-18.1(1)

Last Friday, Orthodox Christians like myself began the liturgical season of Advent (most Christians have a few more weeks to go). For the Orthodox, this season is comparable to Great Lent. We fast through the whole period, but it is a lighter fast until the last two weeks. Basically we eat fish instead of being totally vegan, but it is a wonderful season of spiritual reflection nonetheless. Continue reading

Fish Out of Water

Abba Antony said: “Fish die if they are long out of water. So monks who dally long outside their cell or with men of the world, lose their will to solitude. As a fish can only live in the sea, so we must run back to our cells. Perhaps, if we dallied outside, we might lose our inner guard.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 2.1

Abba Antony offers a wonderful analogy for those of us whose lives sometimes seem so full. Just as “[f]ish die if they are long out of water,” so “monks who dally long outside their cell or with men of the world, lose their will to solitude.” Now of course, as “men [and women] of the world,” we cannot and should not avoid human contact, but neither should we neglect solitude. The difference is one of degree, not of kind. None of us live in a monk’s cell, but all of us require an “inner guard” to keep our hearts from falling to temptation. Continue reading

Fruit Among the Thorns

Further, when we are on the way, and that not a way that lies through space, but through a change of affections, and one which the guilt of our past sins like a hedge of thorns barred against us, what could He, who was willing to lay Himself down as the way by which we should return, do that would be still gracious and more merciful, except to forgive us all our sins, and by being crucified for us to remove the stern decrees that barred the door against our return?

~ St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine 1.17.16

Tonight Orthodox Christians like myself commemorate by anticipation the Great and Holy Friday upon which Jesus Christ was crucified. I had meant to write a reflection, but poetry seems far more appropriate. Continue reading

The following severe saying is reported of St. Basil, the Bishop of Caesarea: “I know not woman and yet I am not a virgin.” By this he means that bodily purity consists not so much in foreswearing women but in integrity of heart. For it maintains a perpetual incorrupt holiness of heart whether from the fear of God or from love of purity.

St. John Cassian, Institutes 6.19

A little while back, I mentioned the three monastic virtues of poverty, virginity, and obedience. In that post, I wrote specifically about poverty. While I have written about virginity or chastity before, it is my conviction that such an important and unpopular subject really can’t be talked about enough today, and I was encouraged to revisit it through a recent conversation with a friend. While one could decry the evils of a secular culture that treats sex like candy, to do so would miss, to me, a much more severe problem: a Christian culture that treats sex like candy. Continue reading

The Practice of the Cross

Of his diligence in prayer, we shall try to write down only a few details out of the many things that might be said about Patrick. Daily, whether he was staying in one place or traveling along the road, he used to sing all “the psalms and hymns” and the Apocalypse of John “and” all “the spiritual songs” of the scriptures. No less than a hundred times in each hour of the day and each hour of the night he made the sign of the triumphant cross upon himself; and at every cross he saw as he traveled, he used to get down from his chariot and turn toward it in order to pray.

~ The Life of Patrick 2.1

For St. Patrick the saying of St. Paul, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2), was a matter of daily practice, a matter of spiritual discipline. He did not reduce it to a matter of theological speculation. That is not to say that we ought not to think philosophically about the cross, but that it is a danger to reduce it to that. It is also, importantly, a present reality. The cross of Christ becomes our cross as we “take up [our] cross daily, and follow [him]” (Luke 9:23). Continue reading