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The Manuscript of Our Life

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.


Everyday Ironies: Finding Salvation In The World

"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. "


Reading Spiritual Texts: Knowing That You Don’t Know

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.


On Perceiving God’s Glory in Another

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.


Response To A Question on Buddhist Meditation

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.


Some Thoughts on Anger

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."


On Closed Communion

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...


Hosea 14:2 and Blood Atonement

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...


Behold the Goodness and Severity of God

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...


St. Maximus the Confessor, part 2

Fr. Michael continues discussing the teachings of St. Maximus the Confessor.


St. Maximus the Confessor, part 1

Fr. Michael begins a series discussing St. Maximus the Confessor's 400 chapters about love.


Why We Have To Suffer

Indeed, from whence does the strength of God and the knowledge of God come? I think I have always imagined a kind of magic wand that God waved over those He loved so that they would be full of His virtue. Even the Apostle Paul tells us that his own humility came from a messenger of Satan sent to beat him up (2 Cor. 12: 7). If St. Paul had to learn humility through suffering for Christ’s sake, should we expect anything less? No, there is no magic wand. We grow in Christ as we love what He...


Turning Earth into Heaven

"And because such suffering is a temptation to sin, it is also an opportunity to deny Christ. It is an opportunity to curse God or curse man made in the image of God. It is an opportunity to become lost in self pity and never-ending introspection. It is an opportunity to become engrossed in the immediate human or demonic or biological causes, and to ignore God almost completely, as though our suffering and difficult circumstance were happening behind God’s back. The same difficult or painful...


Tools for Theosis

The spiritual tools of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving are connected; they flow into one another. And all three have one goal, have one purpose, have one thing that they are supposed to do in our life. All the tools that the Church gives us exist to make us more like Christ.


Rationalizing the Supra-rational

"The that any systemization of spiritual realities is both wrong and thus misleading. Systems, definitions and diagrams of the inner life are, in a sense, by definition wrong because they are an attempt to reduce to something that is merely rational that which transcends our rational capacity. The spiritual life is known and experienced, but because it is supra-rational, it cannot be spoken of in rational categories. Which does not mean that it cannot be spoken of at all. Irony,...


Shame and Forgivness and God

"The experience of forgiveness is much more organic, more relational. Forgiveness is actually something that grows. St. Theophan says that it is necessary to develop the hope that comes from working on our salvation (i.e. cooperating with God’s Grace through repentance and spiritual disciplines). And it is this hope that begins to release us from shame and is the evidence of growing or maturing forgiveness. 'Without it,' St. Theophan says, 'there can be no beginning of the work of salvation;...


Love is Enough

Fr. Michael discusses how to relate our faith to those who need to hear it: spreading the crumbs that have fallen from our master's table (Mt. 15:27). How do we share our talents with those in need?


The Least of These

"In our awkward attempts to love the needy, we discover our own poverty. They may hunger for bread, but we hunger for righteousness. In clothing the naked, we see our own nakedness, our complete lack of virtue. In visiting the prisoner or the sick we discover that we are imprisoned by habits of prideful and judgemental thought; we are sick with selfish passions and desires. When we do the outer work that Jesus speaks of, we discover the inner meaning that Jesus is referring to." Here is the...


Advice On Psalmody

In the middle of Homily 54 of his Ascetical Homilies, St. Isaac gives specific advice on how to do this, how to take delight in psalmody. He begins by saying that one should disregard both the quantity of verses and the beauty or skill with which one recites them. According to St. Isaac, delight in psalmody has nothing to do with how beautiful the reading sounds nor with the amount of verses one recites.


The Trouble with Balance

You will often hear people speak of the importance of having balance in our lives. And generally speaking, it is a good idea to have a balanced life. This is especially true if by having balance in our lives we mean that we try to avoid extreme attitudes or behaviours. However, the trouble with the concept of having balance in our lives is that it is not a Christian concept. That’s not to say that the concept is not useful to Christians. It can be quite useful in some contexts to think of...