Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.

According to Saint Peter of Damascus, the commandments of Christ are precious gifts that can deliver our souls from both traps of the enemy and those of our own making by teaching us to be watchful about our inner state (On Discernment). Doing as Christ suggests in the area where our free will is strongest—the attention we give to a thought— in turn makes keeping the ancient commandments of the law as epitomized in the Ten Commandments nearly effortless. This is especially clear in Christ’s commandment about anger. As Saint John Chrysostom notes, “He who is not stirred up to anger, will much … [Read more...]

Insomnia and the Art of Learning to Relax

Saint Gregory of Nyssa once remarked that nature “finds the body tense through wakefulness, and by means of sleep devises relaxation for this tenseness, giving the sense perceptions rest from their activity for a time, loosing them just like we release horses from the chariots after the race” (On the making of man, 13). Can there be a more apt analogy to the simple and natural art of falling asleep? Making use of this analogy, learning how to fall asleep is about learning how to let go of one’s thoughts, to let go of movement, to let go of winning, and to let go of purposeful activity just … [Read more...]

Blessed are the Meek for they Shall Inherit the Earth

When Christ Jesus preached the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, they were never intended to be saccharine, “greeting card” sentiments that warm the heart and tickle one’s fancy.  Rather, they were shocking statements that shook people out of the complacency of fulfilling the Mosaic law and enabled them to see how to live according to the Spirit. They were radical, difficult, seemingly contradictory pronouncements concerning true Christian life and the nature of genuine happiness.  They were intended to be challenging and to challenge our conventional understanding of the good life and … [Read more...]

And His Reign Shall Have no End

In an earlier post concerning the importance of precise terminology, I noted the value of communicating with clarity especially in spiritual matters. This is manifestly evident in today’s post concerning the creedal statement: “His Reign shall have no end,” which is often poorly translated into English as His “Kingdom shall have no end.” Although the term for kingdom (βασιλείο) appears in the Greek Old Testament that relates the vicissitudes of the Jewish nation, it does not appear even once in the original Greek of the New Testament. Instead, another related Greek word meaning reign or … [Read more...]

Hostility, Anger, and the Type A Personality

In reflecting upon Type A behavior patterns (TABP), I have offered a summary of the potential causal connection between TABP and coronary artery disease as well as the spiritual harm that such a way of engaging with the world may engender. I’ve also spoken about the need for self-knowledge to guide the choices of those who exhibit type a behavior. In this post, I would like to outline a few of the outward manifestations of TABP such as hostility and anger that stem from a lack of self-knowledge. It’s not accidental that Saint Hippolytus spoke of self-knowledge and hostility in the same passage … [Read more...]

Finding the Place of the Heart Through Praxis and Theoria

Some years ago, there was an interesting study that measured how helpful were individuals in various groups by using a psychometric test known as the Social Interest Scale with potential values ranging from 0 to 15.  The mean scores hint at an underlying relationship between a stance towards God, a stance towards others, a stance towards self, and finally actual behavior in the world. The highest scores were found among nuns (13.3), adult church members (11.2), and charity volunteers (10.8). The lowest scores were made up of professional models (7.1), adult atheists and agnostics (6.7), and … [Read more...]

Vigils: Training in Patience

Time moves differently in a vigil than it does outside of liturgical services. It slows down as psalm after psalm after psalm is read and peace descends upon Israel. And then it speeds up like rapids approaching a roaring waterfall as it draws closer to that mystery before which Angels shield their hallowed eyes. And then, when the Lord so wills, it as though time stops entirely and eternity enters the soul filling her and the darkened Church with another light, not from the candles, not from the oil lamps, but from the presence of the Giver of Light Himself in the midst of His faithful. And … [Read more...]