Transcripts

Praying in the Rain

Praying in the Rain

The Manuscript of Our Life

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Fr. Michael Gillis shares from St. Isaac the Syrian (homily 62), in which St. Isaac offers us the metaphor of a manuscript in rough draft to help us understand why on-going repentance is important for Christians regardless of their real or imagined state of spiritual maturity.

In St. Isaac the Syrian’s homily 62, St. Isaac offers us the metaphor of a manuscript in rough draft to help us understand why on-going repentance is important for Christians regardless of their real or imagined state of spiritual maturity.  Here is the paragraph that uses the metaphor:

Life in the world is like a manuscript of writings that is still in rough draft.  When a man wishes or desires to do so, he can add something or subtract from it,…

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Praying in the Rain

Everyday Ironies: Finding Salvation In The World

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"Those in the monastic life have spiritual fathers and mothers to help them in obtaining humility. We in the world have the very life in the world itself to humble us. "

One of the biggest stumbling blocks many of us in the world face (by “in the world” I mean “not in a monastery”) is that almost all of the Orthodox spiritual advice written in books is written by monastics for monastics.  Therefore, a certain amount of discernment is called for, a certain amount of adjustment is needed, a kind of returning of the material to fit a different key.  Those who are successful in this endeavour (usually with the help of…

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Praying in the Rain

Reading Spiritual Texts: Knowing That You Don’t Know

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Many holy fathers and mothers of the Church have pointed out that spiritual words are like powerful medicine. If taken inappropriately, what was designed to heal ends up causing harm.

“What brings sweetness is harder to perceive than that which brings bitterness”

Abbess Arsenia

I am reading a collection of letters by Abbess Arsenia, a nineteenth century Russian nun who acted as a spiritual mentor for Peter Brianchaninov, brother of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov.  St. Ignatius Brianchaninov is perhaps most famous today for his book, The Arena, in which he lays out some very practical and insightful advice for monks and anyone…

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Praying in the Rain

Who’s Got Talent?

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Fr. Michael addresses what the word "talent" means (and doesn't mean) in Christ's Parable of the Talents.

What’s a talent? Who’s got talent? Generally speaking nowadays, a talent refers to a special ability someone has. This meaning of talent actually developed from the ancient meaning of the word, which had to do with weighing or scales and money. In biblical times, a talent did not refer to someone’s ability; it referred to a certain weight of gold or silver. The exact weight varied over time and by culture. It was a large amount, somewhere…

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Praying in the Rain

On Perceiving God’s Glory in Another

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Those whose minds are set on the good and the holy, tend to see goodness and even the glory of God in just about everyone they meet. A holy man or woman feels compassion and love for everyone, even those who to most of us seem to have nothing about them worthy of love or compassion. They can see the glory of God in a very broken human being because they themselves have been illumined and shine with God’s glory.

According to Serafim Seppälä*, St. Isaac the Syrian understands the perception of the angelic orders to be limited by their own natures.  That is, each rank of the heavenly orders—angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, powers, etc.— is able to perceive a higher rank, but only in so far as its own nature, it’s own ability to perceive God’s glory, allows it. 

I admit that this is a rather esoteric observation, one that seems a matter of…

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Praying in the Rain

Response To A Question on Buddhist Meditation

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A reader wrote to Fr. Michael Gillis that he had begun to discover himself through Buddhist meditation despite 25 years of Orthodox Christian practice. The reader asked for Fr. Michael's perspective.

A reader wrote that he had begun to discover himself through Buddhist meditation despite 25 years of Orthodox Christian practice.  He asked for my perspective.  This is what I wrote him.

Dear E,

I don’t know enough about Buddhism or specifically about Buddhist meditation to make any sort of intelligent comment.  Neither do I know you personally nor your experience as an Orthodox Christian nor your actual practice of meditation. …

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Praying in the Rain

Some Thoughts on Anger

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Fr. Michael Gillis shares about anger. "If I were to venture a guess as to the most commonly confessed passion that I hear in confessions, I would say that it is anger. Just about everyone is angry. According to many of the saints, anger and misdirected desire are the two main passions from which all vices and passions come."

If I were to venture a guess as to the most commonly confessed passion that I hear in confessions, I would say that it is anger.  Just about everyone is angry.  According to many of the saints, anger and misdirected desire are the two main passions from which all vices and passions come.  The sources of anger can be varied, but I think there are two sources of anger that are most common in the people here in western Canada whom I confess and with whom…

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Praying in the Rain

On Closed Communion

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The following is my response to one of my catechumens to the question of why the Orthodox Church practices a closed communion:

Basically, Communion creates and defines our community, our being one with one another in Christ—i.e. eating of the one bread and of the one cup. Historically, some people/groups separated themselves from the communion of the Church through heresies or immorality or aligning themselves with a heretical bishop. Therefore, they are not in communion, not part of the one Church—at least as far as we can identify the Church as a concrete divine/human institution (not to be confused with “all who will be saved in heaven,” which only God knows). Anyone can return to communion with the one Church through repentance and Chrismation (or whatever specific rite the bishop decides). We do not have open communion because we don’t want to say people are part of the Church who are not part of the Church—or at least whom we can’t identify as part of the Church. This would be dangerous for them (eating and drinking condemnation to themselves) and dangerous for us (through Communion we become one with one another.

The following is my response to one of my catechumens to the question of why the Orthodox Church practices a closed communion.

Basically, Communion creates and defines our community, our being one with one another in Christ—i.e. eating of the one bread and of the one cup.  Historically, some people/groups separated themselves from the communion of the Church through heresies or immorality or aligning themselves with a heretical bishop.  Therefore,…

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Praying in the Rain

Hosea 14:2 and Blood Atonement

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Sometimes letters are sent to AFR addressed to no specific person. In such cases various authors, podcasters or bloggers are called upon to respond to the letter. The lot fell to me for this one. Of course, in selecting a person to respond to a question, you don’t necessarily get the best or even most correct answer to the question. You get that person’s answer—given his or her current understanding, knowledge, ability to communicate and level of sleep deprivation. I share the question and my response with you-all in the hope that some of you might find it interesting and even a little helpful—even if you have never wondered about the Hebrew rendering of Hosea 14:2.

Sometimes letters are sent to AFR addressed to no specific person.  In such cases various authors, podcasters or bloggers are called upon to respond to the letter.  The lot fell to me for this one.  Of course, in selecting a person to respond to a question, you don’t necessarily get the best or even most correct answer to the question.  You get that person’s answer—given his or her current understanding, knowledge, ability to communicate…

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Praying in the Rain

Behold the Goodness and Severity of God

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And those who are outside the Orthodox Church, even those outside any kind of Christian faith whatsoever, what about these? Could these be the poor, the blind and the lame of today? As the Gentiles were outside the ancient covenant with Abraham, yet were invited, even compelled into the Kingdom of the Messiah because of the unbelief of many of the Jews, will we Christians be spared if we do not ourselves put on Christ? Is it possible that those not so nearly blessed as we are, those blind to the Creed, poor without the Divine Liturgy, and lame in regard to faith, will not these, perhaps, be the ones compelled into the Kingdom of Heaven while those of us with every blessing, yet distracted by every worldly concern, are left outside? St. Paul tells us to consider both the goodness and the severity of God.

In Jesus’ parable about those invited to the King’s wedding dinner, we are both terrified and comforted by the fact that those who were invited did not come because their refusal makes room for us.  We the poor, the lame and the blind are ushured into the wedding hall, both the good and the bad (Matt. 22:10).  In most commentaries we are told that the invited guests refer to the Jewish people who through the Law and the Prophets received invitation,…

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