Acceptance or Cynicism in Type A Behavior: A Matter of Life or Death

In previous posts, we have spoken about how free-floating hostility, materialistic values, and time-urgency are manifested in the Type A-behavioral pattern. Studies have show how hostility in particular involves an attack not only directed outwards, but also directed inwards on one’s entire body. In his doctoral dissertation entitled, “Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Type A Behavior Pattern”, Tony John Sorensen notes, “Hostile people have greater elevations in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress-related hormones following the introduction of an emotional stressor relative to other … [Read more...]

How to Approach the Lord with the Faith of the Centurion

In dealing with others, we often wonder how to approach them when we wish for them to hear our request and act upon it. We, likewise, may wonder how to approach the Lord Christ with the various problems that beset us. In the Gospel concerning the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13), we are given some very clear instructions. In reflecting upon this Gospel passage, many often point to the great faith of the centurion, a faith so great that Christ Himself marveled at it. So, clearly approaching Christ with such confident faith was instrumental in the healing of his servant. But the question … [Read more...]

So Much More than Healing: Newness of Life Through Obedience

“He has renewed the heaven, because foolish men had worshipped all kinds of stars; He has renewed the earth which had grown old in Adam.  With his spittle there took place a novel fashioning: He who is capable of all things puts aright both bodies and minds.  He is the Creator’s Son, whose treasure stores are filled with every benefit.  He who needs pupils, let him approach him: He will fashion mud, and transform it, fashioning flesh and giving light to the eyes.  With a little mud he showed how, through Him, our dust was fashioned; the soul of the dead man, too, bore witness to Him how, by … [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...]

The Beauty of Synergeia

For the farmer who has labored over plowing the field and planting the seed, there is nothing so welcome as the seasonable warmth of the sun and coolness of the rain that contribute to the new plants growth. This is the very image that Saint John Chrysostom uses to explain what is meant by synergeia or synergy, the collaboration and cooperation between God and man in salvation (Homily 6 on Genesis). According to Saint Athanasios the Great, only with the synergy of the Lord is it possible for us to grow in virtue and acquire purity of heart. In a previous post, I referred to a book entitled … [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...]

Great Lent: A Time for Morality or a Time for the Heart

There is certainly nothing wrong with people trying to do the right thing and to be moral and upstanding citizens. The problem is that salvation and transfiguration are not a matter of morality. The publican and the prodigal were not moral people. They did all the wrong things, but yet they came to themselves, they discovered their hearts, and in so doing found the way, not just to moral goodness, but to holiness, to righteousness, and to feasting in the Father’s household. In the West, many speak about Lent as a period of struggle whose goal is for Christians to become better people. For the … [Read more...]

Two Kinds of Stillness: Be Still and Know That I am God

The sublime task of the spiritual life is expressed concretely in the words of the Psalmist. Interestingly enough, the Septuagint word for stillness employed in this verse, σχολάσατε, is not the familiar root for hesychasm with images of stillness, quiet, and solitude of a hermit monk, but the Greek root for the English word school with the connotations of setting aside day-to-day tasks in order to listen and garner knowledge by sitting like Mary at the Master’s feet. In other words, there are two kinds of stillness in the Christian life, both of which are important: a preparatory stillness … [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...]

When Sickness Heals Sickness: The Podvig of Illness Healing the Illness of Egocentricity

Podvig is a Russian term that is used to describe struggle, ascesis, and quite literally, hard work that become spiritual offerings by virtue of the orientation of the soul from self to God.  In the previous posts concerning egocentricity, Elder Sophrony noted that harmful self-love can be overcome only through much struggle and effort.  According to Saint Theophan the Recluse, “all the saints accept the only true path to virtue to be pain and hard work... lightness and ease are a sign of a false path. Anyone who is not struggling, not in podvig, is in prelest” [spiritual delusion] (The Path … [Read more...]