Perceiving God’s Presence in the Present

Free choice, a gift to human souls and angelic beings, needs to be exercised wisely in order to lead us not only to a flourishing life, but also and more importantly, to lead us to God Himself. The Fathers were well aware of the importance of free choice. Saint Gregory the Wonderworker noted that people become irrational or without the Word (ἀλόγοι) by the inclination of their will, but Christ came to grant them the ability to perceive reasonably (Homily 1 on the Annunciation, PG 10.133). To make good choices, we need to be able to perceive what the choices are and enough reasoning to trace … [Read more...]

The Dangers of Being a Literalist with our Thoughts

In this past Sunday’s post on ACT, I made a list of six fundamental choices we have regarding thoughts.  In this post I would like to say a few words about the second of those choices, “We can choose to fuse with the thought and make it into the Truth about us or we can defuse from the thought realizing that a thought is an idea, a word, and a sound among other ideas, words, and sounds.” Now, there are times when this is a good thing to do such as when a car is coming and we are about to cross the road. The thought, “Watch Out,” had best be heeded, taken literally, and followed rigidly. But … [Read more...]

Keeping an Even Keel in the Spiritual Life

In Ancient Christian Wisdom I employ many nautical metaphors and apply them to the spiritual life.  There are many similarities between a healthy life of the spirit and navigating a body of water. In both the spiritual life and nautical expeditions a course must be charted, adjustments must be made, and the craft must maintain an even keel—a nautical term for keeping a boat upright—so that it does not heel over on this side or that.  So too in the spiritual life, the ship of our soul must be kept at an even keel by not allowing our emotions or life circumstances to heel us over to either … [Read more...]

Taking Some Pills, Changing Our Thoughts, or Purifying Our Heart

In life, there are certain inner difficulties that spawn a host of enduring, dysfunctional patterns causing continual distress and constituting new, serious problems in their own right. And although the Christian faith advises looking within to the thoughts of the heart, we often shift our focus from the inner difficulty to the warning signals of distress and naively suppose that if we take care of the distress by external means such as taking the right kind of medication, things are as they should be. In fact, we are simply becoming dependent on other external supports without any deeper … [Read more...]

Life is Not Always As It Appears

For Christians, the title of this post speaks to divine faith and the spiritual realm, which is just as real as the empirical world, although not as readily evident for those who rely solely on their physical senses and whose spiritual senses are so dulled that their noetic eyes cannot see by the light of faith and the light of Christ.  This may be seen in today’s Gospel concerning the Myrrh-Bearing Women.  They were relying on more than their senses in the midst of unspeakable grief. Their Beloved Master whom they had followed and on whom they had set all their hopes had been crucified and … [Read more...]

The Anxiety of “What-if” Thinking and the Calmness of Seeking First the Kingdom of God

Sometimes, in this fallen world when it is as though God is far off, there seems to be plenty of reasons for fear. In that context, which is the context of our disconnection with a loving God, the basic emotion of fear is a powerful and all-too frequent motivator, subconsciously directing our thoughts and our actions. Thinking about fears that have been realized in the past may make us feel depressed, but thinking about fears in the future, that is what can really fill us with dread. Fearful emotions often rise to the surface when we engage in “what-if” thinking, with thoughts such as “what if … [Read more...]

When the Heart Beats, the Lungs Breathe, and the Nous Prays: Christian Life without Fear

Anxiety and fear seem to be everywhere we look, everywhere except on the faces of the Saints. Sacred Icons of the Martyrs even during their martyrdom have not a trace of fear or anxiety. Why is fear and anxiety so present in our world and so absent in a world of genuine and proven holiness? Father John Romanides provides an answer from the position of Orthodox anthropology: “While the brain is the center of human adaptation to the environment, the noetic faculty in the heart is the primary organ for communion with God. The fall of man or the state of inherited sin is: a) the failure of the … [Read more...]

The Imagination Gone Awry

Based on an incisive comment from a reader of this blog regarding the role of the imagination in anxiety, I think it could be worthwhile to turn our attention from the issue of fear to that of the imagination and its role in mental health, sin, the spiritual life, and one’s daily life.  Imagination has its bright and its dark sides in all these areas and is a topic so immense that it will no doubt require a number of blog posts in order merely to touch on these themes. Technology, inventions, works of art, works of literature, and quality research all involve a healthy use of the imagination … [Read more...]

Peace, Be Still

And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.  And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.  And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?  And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great … [Read more...]