Friday, March 2, 2018

Gregory Palamas on Noetic Prayer - Foundation of Orthodox Spirituality

Saint Gregory is one of the great heroes of the Orthodox faith. He stood against the logic of western scholastic thinking and defended the age old truth that man can know God through His energies. While the West rejected this reality in man and put all their faith in reason and philosophy, in the East knew that man can seek and have an intimate real experience in union with God's energies. This is commonly called noetic prayer. His teaching was confirmed in a council and is in agreement with the earlier Church Fathers.

Below are three videos that explain in simple terms ;what Saint Gregory taught.

Reference for this series of videos is the article by Metropolitan Hierotheos: Rationality & Mysticism

Monday, February 26, 2018

Why Do We Fast?

Fasting is an essential and important discipline for Orthodox Christians. We find the importance of fasting taught by Moses, the Prophets, Jesus Himself, His Apostles, Church Fathers, Church Canons, and reaffirmed in the recent Great Synod of the Church.

The reason it is so important is that it is an essential exercise to strengthen the soul, the will to do God’s will. 

Fasting is aimed at control of one of the most powerful bodily passions, hunger. What is it like when you hunger? We say we have hunger pangs. This pain in our stomach moves us to eat something. When we deny this pain or desire, what part of us is acting? It is our soul, our will. As we engage in this discipline out of our love for God and our intense desire to do His will, our soul becomes more capable of controlling the passions of the body that keep us from doing so. As we fast with faith and love of God we attract divine Grace that nurtures our soul and makes it stronger to do His will. Our connection with God is strengthened. In this way we become better able to overcome all the passions of our body, not just hunger.

This is why fasting is such an essential spiritual discipline.
In athletics, preparation is necessary to compete. Exercises are required to develop the muscles of the body. The same for the soul. Exercises are needed to develop the will of the soul to do God’s will. It must become strong enough to overcome evil forces and the temptations of our current day culture.

We are all fallen beings and find ourselves separated from God, struggling to regain our soul’s control over the body so we can live in union with Him. Our aim is to be reunited with God with eternal life in His Kingdom. To do so we must overcome our sinful nature and live according to His commandments. But we are like Paul who wonders why it is that he does what he does not want to do, and what he wants to do he does not do. He also says, using athletic analogies, that he must harden his body like a boxer to compete in the struggle he calls Spiritual warfare.

With our intense love of God, our desire to be untied with Him and to do His will, we are taught to fast regularly on Wednesdays and Fridays and participate in four fasting periods during the year.

It is important to see fasting as a positive effort in cooperation with God. It’s a proven means to bring us closer to Him when done out of our love for Him. If you make a commitment to follow the teachings of His Church you will experience how your soul is strengthened by this discipline.

Fasting cannot be seen as a virtue. It is the control of the passions that are virtues. Fasting is only a means necessary to develop virtues with the help of God’s Grace. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Watchfulness - Foundations of Orthodox Spirituality 3

Watchfulness is how the Church Fathers teach us to purify our heart so we can see God as Jesus told us. This is the third video in the series on the foundations of Orthodox spirituality.

Complete series

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Way of the Heart - Foundations of Orthodox Spirituality 2

This is the second video in the series on Orthodox Spirituality. This video discusses the heart, the center of our soul. It is what Jesus was referring to when He told us that to see God we must have a pure heart. Too often we find our spiritual heart clouded by our intellect and all our desires and passions. The heart is the entrance for the uncreated energies of God, His grace, the Holy Spirit.

The next video will be on Watchfulness - Orthodox Neptic Theology

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Spiritual Nature of Man - Foundation of Orthodox Spirituality

This is a 10 minute video from a recent class at Saint George that explains the foundation for Orthodox saying they have the fullness of faith. It explains the fullness of our understanding of human nature which is basis for our Orthodox way of life as taught throughout the centuries by the Church and the Church Fathers.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Faith and the "Light"

Through the grace of God we are blessed with the Incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ. Now we are able to have the fulness of the faith through Him. In our Baptism and Chrismation we are united with Him and become joined with His Body, the Church. This faith needs to be continually developed and nurtured through the sacramental life in the church and our own efforts guided by Grace seeking always Grace and our union with Him.

This faith is dynamic and ever growing. It is a continual process. As it increases we receive more Grace and powers. But we cannot just sit back in our own glory or comfort of our faith but we must also show it through our actions. These actions exemplify Christ Himself as we act according to His will, submitting our own will to His. This demands a complete cooperation, synergy, of our will with His.

As our faith matures and we are able though His grace to act like Him, experiencing our union with Him, there will be a loving presence that we acquire. This is the light that Jesus is talking about when He says, 
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
We do not seek to gain attention through our enlightened works but glorify the Father who is in heaven. Nurture your faith and let your light shine.

Ten Points of an Orthodox Way of Life

Monday, December 18, 2017

Seeking His Mercy

"Have mercy on us.”

This is most common prayer in the Orthodox Church. Most of us have come to know it as the Jesus Prayer, ”Lord have mercy on me a sinner.” In Orthodox teaching God is not looking to punish us for our sins but He wants to help us overcome our sinful tendencies. He sent His Son because of His love for Mankind so we could be healed and learn to love God as He loves us. This love is best expressed in this prayer, He is all merciful. He will forgive us our sinfulness as He knows our condition and wants us to be perfected so that we can have eternal life in His kingdom forever. This is His plan for all of us.

Many people in the Church will practice this prayer daily by repeating it over and over in quiet in the morning and evening. It is a powerful discipline when we engage in it prayerfully and with love of our merciful God. We are not always aware of how sinful we are but any action that is not taken to glorify God is an error and misses the mark for what we are intended. If we engage in this regular practice of saying the Jesus prayer daily over and over we will eventually have it in our mind all the time and will be repeating it continually. 

How does  this help us you ask? How can we sin when we continually have God in our mind and are seeking His mercy. It is only through His mercy that we can be healed of this infirmary of sinfulness. We should not despair in our condition but recognize it and seek His love and Grace so we can continually grow to become closer to His image. 

More on the Jesus Prayer