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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...


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...


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....


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...


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...


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...


Recognizing Empty Deceits

If deception is so deceptive, how does one know if one is being deceived?


Abbot Chapman Prays in the Rain

Spiritual Letters is a collection of letters written in the early part of the twentieth century by a Roman Catholic priest—and I highly recommend it to English speaking Orthodox Christians who want to be encouraged in prayer.


Being of One Mind: What It Is and Isn’t

"As Christians we are all called to be of one mind, but that one mind is not your mind or my mind or somebody else’s—no matter how holy or important that person is or how much authority he or she has. The one mind we are called to have is Christ’s."


Admitting That We Hate

"Even if I feel I must oppose in some specific ways someone whose sin, for the sake of Christ, I cannot tolerate; still I must weep, weep as one who also is laden with sin—even if my own particular sins, at least the ones I recognize in myself, are not so socially repugnant."


Concern Over God’s Judgement: What Does It Look Like?

Concern over God’s judgement has nothing to do with striving to be better. Concern over God’s judgement is to continually strive to enter God’s rest, to humble ourselves and feel sadness over our wretchedness, and to offer that wretchedness to God as prayer. This is what concern for God’s judgement looks like according to St. Isaac the Syrian.


A Priest’s Rights

What should lay people do when they have a priest whose words or behaviour is unworthy of the grace of the priesthood? What should any person in authority do to better hear the voice of those under their care, especially when that voice is critical of them?


Reforestation and the Healing of the Soul

"Most of us most of the time will be attending to the first stage of the spiritual struggle: the purification of our senses through ascetic discipline, the control of the passions and developing the habit of attention. But even as we are focused mostly on this first stage, it does not mean that, by God’s Grace, we might not also have small clumps, small glimpses of illumination here and there growing in the field of our soul also. And who knows, maybe with time and continued struggle, deep...


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