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...]

Divergent Interpretations of the Same Statistics: Differing Suggestions from Christianity and Sociology

Statistics often present a sobering mirror of our society and the problems that people face. A friend of mine recently sent me an interesting New York Times article by Ross Douthat entitled, “All the Lonely People.”  Douthat notes that since 2000, the suicide rate among men aged 35-54 in the United States has increased 30% while the rate for men in their 50’s increased 50%.  This is indeed a disturbing trend.  Douthat cites University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox who perceives a link between the rise in suicides and weakened social ties as well as economic difficulties. While … [Read more...]

Moving out of Depression and into Hope in Christ

In our contemporary age, the term depression is ubiquitous.   The word has become so common in our everyday parlance that we have come to view it as a normal part of life.  We may hear things such as “everyone gets depressed” or “he’s depressed about losing his job”.  We’ve become so accustomed to the word that it’s become a given in everyday human life. And it is certainly true that we lose many things that are precious to us, people and things that we are attached to, abilities and health that make up our identity, and dreams of who we can become. And these losses do make us sad, or to be … [Read more...]

Understanding Bloody Struggles, Despair, and Freedom on the Spiritual Plane

“These are the times that try men's souls...the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.  What we may obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: 'tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods.  It would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.” — Thomas Paine “Without a struggle and shedding your blood, don’t expect freedom from the passions. Our earth produces thorns and thistles after the Fall. We have been ordered to clean it, but only with much pain, bloody hands, and many sighs … [Read more...]

Patristic Induced Imagery as an Antidote to Despondency

In the day-to-day struggle, it is easy to fall into a rut in which further effort seems pointless and the reasons for going through the motions become unclear to the person making them. The fathers knew full well that such an experience could take the life out of the struggler and leave the soul bored, despondent, and thoroughly unmotivated. At times like this, the soul needs to be shaken up or drenched in cold water: anything to wake herself up from such a malignant slumber. Saint Paisius Velichkovsky, the father so instrumental in rekindling hesychasm in the Slavic lands, offered an … [Read more...]

The Nihilistic Worldview and Its Spiritual Consequences

If the contemporary era can be characterized by a particular worldview, that guiding template would have to be nihilism born out of centuries of arrogant philosophical and scientific thought laden with an excessive rationalistic empiricism that was supposed to find the cure to every ill and take the mystery out of every experience.  In chapter 2 of my book I describe the onset of this worldview in these terms, “If anything was “reborn” during the Renaissance, it was the pre-Christian philosophical position of humanism, namely, that ‘man is the measure of all things.’” There are real … [Read more...]

Despondency and the Application of Biblical Parallels to Personal Experiences

The initial stages of the spiritual life resemble the experience of falling in love for the first time. Being with one’s beloved makes everything beautiful. During such periods, many people experience an abundance of divine consolation. Prayer is effortless and the benefits derived therefrom seem endless. This stage is marked by the grace given by God in order to attract the soul to spiritual concerns and draw her away from sin and the transitory, sham happiness offered by the world.  However, this initial grace is withdrawn in order that a deeper, more profound purification can take place.  … [Read more...]