Friday, December 31, 2010

Calling Runners Athletic Supports and Orthodox Christians

Running can be a lonely time it can be difficult to get motivated. This is a commonly occurring phenomenon for individual sport participants like runners.
Part of the mission statement of Run for Religious Freedom is to build a closer knit sense of community amongst Orthodox Christians and individuals genuinely concerned with religious freedom as a human right.
It is with dedication to this cause which keeps me moving. I want to encourage all who visit these pages to leave a comment ask a question and come out of the abyss. Your thoughts and encouragement can extend to the visitors who pass through this technological field.

Prayer and The Wall

Do you ever wonder if your actually communicating a thought, feeling or need beyond your own consciousness? Do you ever consider whether the manner of speaking is often confused with prayer? Praying for discernment the ability to know, to sense, to understand the distinction between talking essentially to oneself and  addressing God. I wonder whether we are all somehow play acting looking on at ourselves posturing the prayer the inquiring the petitions.

Sorting through this inauthenticity even within the closet of our hearts is difficult. I find the most real moments I've had was when I run  marathons; any mile after 20. It gets real and all self conscious pretentiousness is washed away. With each mile with each step there is a peeling away of the facade, the personas; in the end you are simply the person who is searching for strength, direction,  for an internal connection. By moving forward in an fundamentally human way through introspection, upright on two legs and in forward motion we are unique from all other creation.  This is very much an act of faith especially the first time you complete a full marathon. The next time it is about the determination to revisit such escasty and finish again in spite of the pain. Then each subsequent time you subject yourself to the daunting task it is to revisit that place where you are authentically moving through and into an honest space. The fatigue or the wall as it had been called is very telling. You pass through the permeable boundary of the wall of egotism where you leave behind perhaps only through desperation or exhaustion to find who you are really.

Have we become incapable of true honesty? We are perhaps in some ways sincerely desperate but what about honest? When we are ill and pray in the stillness of the night, privately begging cloaked in the darkness are we actually praying then? When we 'feel' connected or heard is that we have reached our own conclusion of apathy or acceptance or is it simply a healthy does of cognitive dissonance. 

 Prayer must be more then a muttering to oneself. This of course doesn't prohibit God from continuing to reach out to us but it also doesn't mean that we are getting any of it right. The beauty and perfection of the Orthodox Church is how it accommodates us understanding we are unpracticed and clueless as to what to actually do. It has established the essentials Confession, Communion the Liturgy to bring us all along. Like good fishers of men they cast these spiritual nets by which to catch us all.

Run for Religious Freedom

There was a fairly recent Facebook discussion on Religious Freedom. In about a week I'll be running my third Marathon. I have run them in support of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the plight of all humans whose dignity has been insulted by religious oppression.

The Run for Religious Freedom has stood as an expression of my commitment to the cause to the basic human right above all others: to worship God as each person understands. It is not about conversion that is between you and God but it is about the basic protections which should be afforded all men (and women). Governments should help to create equality under the law and not seek to control and punish anyone for their religious identification.

I maintain the position that our Creator God has endowed mankind with the basic freedom of religious expression. It's not clear of course that there was in fact religion as we have come to know it. But suffice it to say that we do know that we were given a small freedom called free will. This term free will is intended to describe the freedom or liberty given mankind to worship God or not. This free will by its very nature affords man the  free choice and individual volition without God (the omnipotent divinity) to  assert  power over individual. That's huge.

This endowement is something we must embrace. The tragic fact that governments now seek to use policy to limit such expression or to suppress the spiritual needs of their population notwithstanding. This position seemed so foreign to people that I was very surprised. It would seem that we have been corralled so often and in so many ways that we fail to claim our right to worship to believe and to self identify just what our faith is. The gross violations around the globe and throughout history doesn't altar the reality of man that we are given the free will to choose to commune with God or not. This freedom is so sacred that God Himself does not seek to compell us beyond an invitation.

 In fact, government tyranny can only take our breathing body but not our identification with God with Christ with our service. We lose only when we concede our love of God for something else, anything else. Are we really infidels lacking fidelity to our God? What are we doing to protect the rights of others? I am very much concerned with the religious freedom of all peoples in all places. Let's remember the crimminal who sits in prison for his/her religious belief.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

dehumanization is an affront to God

Recently the national media picked up a local human interest story about a man arrested for tampering with his (ex-)wife's email. The national media raised the question about the legality of such tampering comparing it with other privacy protections and the impracticality of such charges.

Questions regarding that need or justification for snooping are plentiful. Excusing away inappropriate behavior and obsessive thinking is a national pass time. I places the investigator in a superior posture with the other in a subservient position. Citing fidelity  concerns or health and safety issue are the smoke screen for the dominance of one spouse over the other.

It is not as if I don't perceive the temptation for such behavior but my sympathies it is not relevant to the case at hand. Being a parent of two teenagers I monitor much of what they do to head off possible risks to their welfare. The Internet and this technological age presents a learning curve which is non-forgiving and can have long reaching impact. But this discussion is concerned with adults.

But I digress, the more fundamental issue here: Does a spouse have the moral, legal or ethical right to  violate the privacy or personal space of their significant other. The first red herring to be thrown into the argument would be: "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear". This however doesn't address the issue at its core. But to avoid the question would appear as weakness to my position so let us first explore the parameter issues.

Attorneys, law enforcement, doctors, therapists, priests, professors, board members, CEO's protective servic workers, etc. can't discuss their cases or work in detail with their spouses as it violate the tenants of their professions. It would be unethical, illegal and immoral to do so.  What is more it is unnecessary and unreasonable to maintain such an expectation. Such privacy issues do present certain stressor and can strain the marital relationship if partners are only a half of the whole.  Similarly in the personal arena, the confidence of a trusted friend or extended family, should not be betrayed in some fained attempt to appease one's spouse. Such an overture would be misplaced loyalty and again unethical.

Now that those arguments have been put forth let's explore the core of the issue. When individuals marry they commit themselves to the sovereignty of the marriage and in doing so pledge complete fidelity; forsaking all interests that would be contrary to the marriage. Understanding fidelity over simplified terms like with regard to the martial bed negates the nature of the matter. Now back on point, these individuals to not suddenly become two halves united; but two are rather two whole autonomous individuals with distinct roles and personalities, coming together for their union. Each remains autonomous and unique and unconfused. The need to demand an unhealthy codependency is driven by misunderstanding and insecurity.

This need to overly extend or encroach on the independence or autonomy of the other is an abomination. IN the not so recent past women were so objectified that they were passed from father to husband along with their worldly pocessions.  It objectifies the partner and reduces them to marital property. This dehumanization is an affront to God as we are all from our creation made in the image and likeness of God and this is never surrendered or forsaken. To objectify another individual as a mandate of a Holy Mystery is a gross misunderstanding of the Rite. If one cannot trust the other all the control in the world will not alter that fact. Very often it has the contrary effect pushing the partner into a deep internal secrecy where communication is further hampered by the need to prove one's honesty. At what point does the individual legally, ethically or morally forfeit their right to privacy? Never. The liberty of being an citizen in the broad sense does not cease.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

‎"The opposite of faith is fundamentalism which is a mistrust and a loathing of liberty and creativity wrapped in laziness initiated by their (a terrorist or an atheist's) Attachment Disorder (unable to connect with their father and because of this being unable to relate to God as Father) which finds its toxic "fulfillment" in despair, relational and personal suicide and, ultimately, in nihilism."

One Body Many Members Not Murderers

A unified Church is non-negotiable. It is as fundamental as the nature of the Holy Trinity. Just as the Trinity is Three Persons One but not confused so to the Church with the Bridegroom as the Head is able to accommodate diversity. To sequester one member of the Church is not to offer an unfair advantage to the other members but rather to place all at a disadvantage. It is a way of cover controlling and contriving the Church as one's limited vision can accommodate. The diversity of the Church and its members not matter how colorful or diverse cannot compare with the fullness of God and should not attempt to limit the Glory that is God's.

We fail to recognize that the Holy Orthodox Church proper is not a religion it is not a territorial jurisdiction but the movement of Christ and the only jurisdiction is the globe. There needs to be order and anything resembling confusion or disunion considered an affront to Almighty God. It is a destructive diversion from Truth and from what is pre-ordained. Of course there are practical applications and the institutional body of the Church provides the safety and assurance for the laity by adhering to Order and Tradition. We cannot dispense with the structure of the Church without destroying the beauty and Majesty of what is Orthodoxy.

Let's not forcefully or artificially however impose lesser understanding to the Church of Christ. We are on a journey in this life and we move closer to the Light of Christ. We cannot control the Light we can only be enlightened by it. We have to turn from the darkness. The drama of it all is a shame we can check out of  "the crazies" anytime we wish with each small step each small commitment to awake to find that we have move closer to God and further from the painful abyss of brokenness.

Additionally we must be vigilant against despising our brother or sister who have been given the more honorable seat. We must not resent being the toe or the bowel of the Body. We are each as individuals and collectives given tasks according to our need according to our talent. If we become puffed up with conceit and pride then we might find ourselves placed in the back of the Church not because of a lacking in skill but temperament. We pray for all things which benefit our soul not our status. If our brother or sister succeed for the glory of the Church then we should rejoice and back there play not murder them in our thoughts.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ironically Moronic

First I'd like to say that there is much to do perhaps about nothing when we talk about the lack of inclusion in the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church has a standard of personal choice which exceeds all other Christian groups and sub denominations. It states little publicly about private personal matters and has a strong tradition of leaving personal issues to the parties involved. The wave of converts in America who have yet to shake their heretical mindset fault leadership for not going public in secular forums to denounce the obvious like abortion. The Orthodox don't get preachy to non orthodox but pastor and council those in the faith or of the faith. To denounce or disparage an entire religious group for the bigotry of a few vocal morons seems ironically moronic. In the same vain to relish one's sin and bask in the stench to prove some loyalty to the brotherhood is equally moronic. We are called to put off our old nature and put on Christ. "Those who have been baptized in Christ have put Christ on". We don't just sin against each other or our selves but against God. To remain a prostitute in a fained attempt to show God loves the sinner is missing the point entirely. Seek righteousness by seeking the Kingdom. Love above all but love doesn't lead to debauchery but to purity in communion not in isolation. Nihilist need not apply.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

GEICO May Have A Point

On Keeping Our Peace

There is so much division, so much animosity among the faithful each proclaim rights, entitlements and grievances. With so much back biting and double-mindedness it is unbelievable we should find any stability.

We have no blessed assurance, certainly not. We have blame for every charge we can make; name-calling, creating new categories and subcategories finding new ways to demean one another.

There are the canonical anomolies, immoral behavior of other groups, the ethical decline of anothers and the calls to arms of novices. We are one Church united in Christ where people who were riddled with death, rise. We debase ourselves with small minded bickering which amounts to merely hosing down the floor with testosterone. Let's all pray for proper communication.

Let's be charitable to one another and keep our peace: shaking the dust from our shoes.

Therapeutic Trappings

     Maintaining the primary distinction between Orthodox psychotherapy and secular therapies is central to healing; this distinction directly effects methodology. This understanding was pivitol and undeialble the more cucial element in my clinical practice and the defining moment in my professional career.
      While both Orthodox psychotherapy and the human sciences are aimed at helping individuals how that assistance is operationalized is pivital. It is more then simply a nueanced or stylistic difference in approach it is critical in setting the tregectory and course.  Diagnostics and assessments are  determined by key concepts based on the personhood of the individual.  Human sciences seek out flank intellectually metaphysical  presuptositions and understanding regarding cause and effect. Wile iproving the quality of someones life may be a given for the modern counselor it may not be necessarily the best course for the Orthodox clinician based on deeper more pressing concerns dealing with the complexity of the person and not simply superficial comforts. Orthodox psychotherapy liberates both the practioner and the participant from the modern mechanistic interpretation of the human condition with its pathology based underpinnings and trappings. There is a natural inclination to feel more at ease with Orthodox psychotherapy as a preferred treatment type because it embraces the totality of the person .  it is a more respectable approach to suffering demonstrating how spiriutality transends the materialists one sided needless questioning as if deciefrering a code of what they deterine to be logical constants. Orthodox Christians are interested in asking the larger questions of purpose which defers the natural  inclination to shore up one's defenses to avert blame and guilt. This more user friendly holistic approach lends itself  to a more fulfilled existence and because this the process has been liberated from secular traditionalism.
      It is about more then simply reframing the sessions. It is about its mission and function. I hope to provide the language with which to assist Orthodox brothers and sisters the tools to explain what they already know to battle the rhetoric of the world. This birds eye view is a more liberating and empowering way of viewing your life. My professional work both in the privacy of the office and in more public settings like church halls has served as a way to encourage and build up for the journey to reclaim our birthright (baptismal rebirth) as Orthodox Christians which has freed us from the bondage of zombie like living where humanistic impositions and limitations are banished. Together we raise the bar of expectation for wonderful things in your life.
      The fear of the unknown keeps people from getting want they want personally and professionally. It is a way of settling for what you have out of a fear of what should or could be. Augment your skill set and your support system. Move through your fear learn more effective problem solving techniques. With each success your confidence and momentum will build.
      By identifying what you value you will prioritize more effectively and will learn true gratitude and inner peace.

So Do You Want to Be Healed

YOU CAN'T HOLD TIGHT TO YOUR SIN, YOUR ADDICTION, YOUR ISSUE AND HAVE HOLINESS, SOBRIETY, WHOLENESS We cannot serve two masters the Lord and ourself. Do you wish to be healed?

JOHN 5:6-9 "And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked"

"τοῦτον ἰδὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς κατακείμενον καὶ γνοὺς ὅτι πολὺν ἤδη χρόνον ἔχει, λέγει αὐτῷ· θέλεις ὑγιὴς γενέσθαι; ἀπεκρίθη αὐτῷ ὁ ἀσθενῶν· κύριε, ἄνθρωπον οὐκ ἔχω ἵνα ὅταν ταραχθῇ τοͅ ὕδωρ βάλῃ με εἰς τὴν κολυμβήθραν· ἐν ᾧ δὲ ἔρχομαι ἐγὼ, ἄλλος πρὸ ἐμοῦ καταβαίνει. λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἔγειρε ἆρον τὸν κράβαττον σου καὶ περιπάτει. καὶ εὐθέως ἐγένετο ὑγιὴς ὁ ἄνθρωπος καὶ ἦρεν τὸν κράβαττον αὐτοῦ καὶ περιεπάτει."
Η γέννηση το Χριστού

να σας φέρει Ειρήνη και Ευτυχία

και να μείνουν μαζί σας

και το καινούργιο χρόνο.

Καλές Γιορτές.

Με τις πιο θερμές ευχές

για ευτυχισμένα Χριστούγεννα

και Καλή Χρονιά.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dalai Lama, Mohammad, Heretics, Ecumenical Patriarch

There are more Dalai Lama sympathizers amongst orthodox activists then genuine supporters of the Ecumenical Patriarch. There is more tolerance for Hindu believers then for the adherence to orthodox doctrine. There is more attention payed to rearing our children for social and economic success then true orthodox piety. We respect more the Muslim rites of worship and their religious dedication to their ancient heresy while  practicing orthodox laity everywhere are met with critical and disapproving nods. Heterodox and heretics alike quote three or four references to assert fallacious and inane arguments to justify schismatic and unholy self serving ends.
Know this we are being sifted separated one from another like wheat from the shaft. To paraphrase  a notable church father 'one who has no help during time of war (to include spiritual warfare and territorial power grabs) should take no comfort in times of peace'.  I am sad to see so many bend to their knees to offer worship to temples dedicated to their own ego. They justify divergent positions on some higher kind of thinking. Something which alludes the rest of us. 
Saint Paul was big on order deciding who and where and when churches were to be established and led. The litmus test for correct praxis is multidimensional not flat. If I am wrong I suffer no ill or at the most suffer well; if you are error on this point all could possibly be lost for you. Don't let your super-intellect be a stumbling block.

The Agonas (the games)

Greeks understood thousands of years ago about the personal and social benefits of "the games" or agonas. The psychological and sociological wide reaching effects are still applicable to modern times. The solidarity amongst competitors, the basic respect, and the understanding how the greatness in others inspires and encourages greatness within ourselves is central to competition. Similarily the Holy People of God the Saints illicit the same response for the believers being the role models and coaches for the christian. the individual battles the inertia which can be like quick sand and sets sights on the goal of victory. Personal victory in a particular event or victory in Jesus. There is no secret formula for christian success just as there is no secret to winning an athletic event.
How does running really enrich your prayer life and make you a better follower of Christ? it trains the mind and teaches the will to focus on the task at hand. It demands dedication, commitment, stamina, consistency in a daily renewal and of course one's time. good runners are able to remain faithful and fully engaged at the task at hand. Christians likewise are taught to resist temptation to flee from it; to be delivered. Both running events and christian living does not seek a multitasker who fits running or religious life into what's left. It requires one who is completely present with the task at hand. An overall perspective on what's expected. It's why runners think about nutrition and their next training session the other 23 hours in a day. The commitment is complete and extends beyond the run. Additionally a dedicated christian is consumed with the details of christian living, fasting, love kindness and acts of charity beyond the confines of the Divine Liturgy.
This clarification puts into place the task at hand the work to be done the joy of the run itself. And in running the body comes under submission but also more loudly proclaiming its wonderful design. The repetitive nature of running is symbiotic with the repetitive nature of prayer. Breathing, the heart beating and repetitive nature of the cadence all can be said for continuous prayer.
Running puts the focus into my life like nothing else. it is a lightening rod against which and in I find my direction and read my compass. sometimes I consider the state of my life. and many more times then not, i am grateful and loving it. there are those times when I am less productive generally that I wonder what am I running for: what do I hope to accomplish and can my time be better spent? and no... my time spent in motion running can not be better spent it is good medicine. alone time, in the presence of my God, or at a minimum a time when i can't escape 'continuous me time'. Don't get me wrong the run is not all prayer and hymns. I would be hard pressed to get through a run without some Santana playing. Or me replaying a scenario in my 'thoughtful spot' to work through an issue or feeling.
Remaining on task is difficult even for most pleasantly rewarding task. Distraction is one of the greatest tools of the enemy. Do not take your eyes off the prize a crown of glory. like a cat on the hunt don't take your eyes off the mouse it requires concentration, patience, and more patience. The agility of the mind and body to move in an instant but only for the prize. to remain silent and for the mind to move slowly. Running reminds me of what I need to focus on. At times its speed and how much my lungs burn and at other times amazement that I push through barriers. Sometimes its time barriers and other times the barriers of temptation.
I have exceeded the expectations of my parents and i have proved my temperament useful. I have a place to maximize my bold character without having to temper it. While running determination not stubbornness is what harnesses the energy. then there are those runs to clear my thoughts and get some alone time with God and my running reminds me to get back on task to see everything as a path back to God; a way back. The tenacity to remain a faithful orthodox christian is the same which gets me off the couch to run. It curbs my religious pride and clarifies words like love, forgiveness, acceptance and justice. It takes to heart the higher Christian standard that we are called to. It is a consistent environment and setting in which i look inward to the Kingdom that is within.
As i put on my running gear or uniform it is a reminder of the spiritual armor which i am dressed in always. running gives me the mindset and determination to move through the difficult times and draw closer to God. The point of all this hard work and effort? Having a competent captain during the storm. I have relied several times on the lessons learned during the persistence of training, the hard runs and the good runs. I am better able to handle the difficulties that come. I have walked through process before and have come to anticipate the dynamic of growth. The difference between the wise and foolish virgins was preparation, activity; not just intent. they were all chaste but the work of the faithful is time with God in contemplation and devotion. It is not something that can be portioned off to someone else. It is the work done for oneself. We must learn to recognize the voice of our Lord . Learn to hear and listen. One is to perceive; the other is to obey.
Jesus prayed that His Apostles not be taken from this world but delivered from he evil one. As even in the Lord's Prayer he prayed and taught us to pray for deliverance. Yet, all but one of his Apostles were martyred. Yet, they were also completely delivered from the evil because they even unto death in the face of unspeakable things they did not fall or fail to complete the race. It is conditioning and practice of Biblical principles which are embodied in the ancient rites of the games which prepare for the sad and turbulent items in your life. It shapes celebrations so that they are not confused with an excuse for dereliction. it is a wonderment how God established this symbiotic relations between activities which engage the body which bring the mind into focus. The way to salvation is not denying the body which God formed but using it to set the stage for discipline and spiritual and physical health and communion. Then when all the work is done you can relax and trust your training your conditioning your preparation and time spent in attention to God. I haven't mastered as yet the skillful art of complete engagement in a task but is is a more natural inclination now. Give each task the full measure of my ability and dedication and the payoff will be there. Christian living is the map for this life and living it.
Lastly and on a slightly different point, we need to understand that we are already in eternity. it is not something that is triggered by death which would be contrary to eternity. we have an immortal soul through the gift of God in our creation and with that creation he gave us this body. At the commencement of our conception we have already begun our journey through immortality which too often we confuse the the afterlife. by pushing eternity into the future in another lifetime, we removed it from our self and our consciousness it is easy to lose perspective. the monks caution us to remember our death to embrace it to understand that what is done now even in our relative youth is vital. what kind of eternal life do you want because you are in it already living it creating it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Orthodox Vocab 101 For Your Edification

Vocab 101

These are the basics the terms we embrace and which should be understood so that we can infuse our understanding with correct or orthodox understanding. This is not so that it can be put behind us but so that we may live more fully our praxis.

Ascesis: It is so called man's effort as well as the method he uses to pass through the three stages of the spiritual life: purification of heart, illumination of the nous and theosis. Since this is achieved through the commandments of Christ, ascesis is man's struggle to keep the commandments of Christ. Thus ascesis is connected with the keeping of the commandments and the healing of man.

Discernment (diakrisis): A spiritual gift through which one discerns the inner states. It is not a sharpness of mind but the energy of the grace of God. It is a gift which pertains to the pure nous. It is mainly the ability to distinguish between uncreated and created things; between the energy of God and the energy of the devil but also between the energies of God and the psychophysical energies of man. Thus, one distinguishes emotional states from spiritual experiences.

Disciple (hypotactikos): In the narrow sense of the word it means the monk who obeys a Gerondas so that he gets healed and acquires theosis in the grace of God. In the wide sense of the word “disciple” means every Christian who receives spiritual guidance by his spiritual father.

Dispassion (apatheia): The soul has three powers aspects, that is: the intelligent power, the appetitive and the irascible power. The last two constitute what is called the passible aspect of the soul. Dispassion, then, is not the mortification of the passible aspect of the soul but its transfiguration. Generally, when all the powers of the soul turn to God and are directed to Him we have the state of dispassion.

Ecstasy (ekstasis): It is not the “going–out” of the soul from the body but it is the detachment of the nous from the reason and the surrounding world and its return to the heart. It is not a respite of the energies of the soul and intellect but it is a respite of physical energies like sleeping, eating etc.

Imagination – Phantasy: The covering of the noetic energy of the soul. It is an after–the–Fall phaenomenon. It is an energy of the soul which covers the nous and darkens it. The ascetic endeavour consists in purifying the nous from the energy of imagination–phantasy.

Gerondas: The priest or monk who has been healed by the grace of God and helps effectively his spiritual children –disciples– to be healed, that is to go through the purification of heart, the illumination of nous and to attain to theosis divinization.

Heart: The spiritual centre of man's being. It is the do main which is manifested through ascesis in grace and within which God Himself is manifested. It is also called the centre of the powers–energies of the soul (intelligent power, appetitive and irascible power).

Hesychia: The peace of the heart, the undisturbed state of the nous, the liberation of heart from the thoughts (logismoi), from the passions and the influence of the environment; it is the dwelling in God. Hesychia is the only way for man to attain to theosis. External quietness is helpful so that man can reach the noetic hesychia. A hesychast is one who struggles to achieve the returning of the nous back into the heart, following a specific method.

Illumination: When all thoughts–logismoi come out of the heart the nous returns within it and the prayer operates unceasingly. This is called illumination of the nous. Thus the illumination of the nous is closely connected with noetic prayer.

Knowledge (gnosis): It is neither the intellectual engagement with God nor the knowledge of the reason about God but it is the personal experience of God. The knowledge of God is closely connected with the theoria (vision) of the uncreated Light. This knowledge is beyond any other created knowledge. It is achieved through man's theosis. Theosis is man's communion and union with God. And it is this union which engenders knowledge of God, which is of a higher order than and above any other human knowledge.

Mourning (penthos): Deep sorrow of the soul. The mourning according to God is an energy of the divine grace and is closely linked with repentance, weeping, tears. It is called gladdening sorrow because it does not cause any psychological anomaly but it brings inner peace and man's yearning to adjust his life to the commandments of Christ.

Noetic Prayer: The prayer which is done with the nous. When the nous is liberated from its enslavement to reason, to the passions and the surrounding world and returns from its distraction within the heart, then noetic prayer starts. Thus noetic prayer is done with the nous within the heart, whereas the prayer of the intellect is done within the reason.

Nous: The word has various uses in Patristic teaching. It indicates either the soul or the heart or even an energy of the soul. Yet, the nous is mainly the eye of the soul; the purest part of the soul; the highest attention. It is also called noetic energy and it is not identified with reason.

Passion: The last stage of the development of sin. The stages of sin are: provocation through the thoughts, joining, assent, desire, action and passion. Passion is a repeated action which dominates man. In ascetic theology the movement of the powers of the soul contrary to nature is called passion.

Pleasure: The pleasure that man feels enjoying an object, an idea etc. There is sensual pleasure and spiritual pleasure corresponding to the body and soul accordingly. The pleasure which derives from God is connected with peace whereas the pleasure which derives from sin and the devil causes disturbance. Also, a pleasure which causes pain and guilt comes from the devil and is connected with the passions.

Practical Man- Praxis: Praxis is the struggle to purify one's heart and that is the first stage of spiritual life. Practical man is one who struggles to purify his heart. In patristic theology the practical man is also called a breeder because he tries to tame his passions, which are like animals.

Purification (Katharsis): Purification refers mainly to the soul. In patristic theology the term “katharsis" –purification– is employed to denote three states. The first one is the rejection of all thoughts (logismoi) from the heart. The thoughts-logismoi are so called because they must be in the reason (in Greek: logiki- logismoi). The second state is the ascetic effort so that the powers of the soul, intelligent, appetitive, irascible move in accordance with nature and above nature –which means they must turn towards God– and not contrary to nature. The third state is the ascetic method by means of which man reaches from selfish love to unselfish love.

Reason (logiki): The power of the soul through which we perceive the surrounding world and we develop our relation with it. We aquire experience of God by means of the nous and we formulate this experience, when required, by means of reason, in so far as it is attainable.

Remembrance of Death: It is not just the feeling that the end of our biological existence will come but the feeling of mortality –the garments of the flesh that man wore after the Fall. The remembrance of death is activated by the grace of God and creates desire for repentance. Remembrance of death is also the experience of the loss of the grace of God.

Remembrance of God: The incessant remembrance of the name of God. It is not just calling God to mind but it is a state attained through the purified nous. It is achieved and expressed by means of noetic prayer.

Sin: In theological terms sin is the darkening of the nous. When the nous goes away from the heart and ceases having remembrance of God and is distracted to creation through the senses, then it commits sin. This distraction is manifested in actions which are, thus, called sin. Sin starts with assent and evolves to desire, action and passion.

Slothfulness (acedia): The spiritual paralysis of the powers of the soul. It is this state during which there is an absolute indifference to prayer and fasting and, in general, an inertia about the keeping of the commandments of the gospel. Since man is a psychophysical being, spiritual slothfulness is reflected in the body too. It is a psychophysical weakness and slackness. A psychophysical paralysis.

Sorrow: The inner pain of the soul. There is sorrow ac cording to God and sorrow according to the world. The former creates spiritual inspiration, that is it moves within an atmosphere of hope in God and urges man to spiritual struggle. It gives great strength and energy. Sorrow according to the world leads man to despair and to a psychophysical paralysis.

Theology - Theologian: Theology is the knowledge of God. It is not a result of studying books or exercising the reason; it is on the one hand a fruit of the knowledge of God and of the personal experience of Him; on the other hand it is the way which leads to the healing of man and the knowledge of God. A theologian is one who has passed through the purification of heart to the illumination of the nous and to theosis. Thus, he has acquired the knowledge of God and speaks about Him in an authentic way. A theologian can be even called one who accepts the experience of the saints, not having himself a personal experience of God. “He whose prayer is pure is a theologian”.

Theoria -Theoretical Man: Theoria is the vision of the glory of God. Theoria is identified with the vision of the uncreated Light, the uncreated energy of God, with the union of man with God, with mans theosis. Thus, theoria, vision and theosis are closely connected. Theoria has various degrees. There is illumination, vision of God and constant vision (for hours, days, weeks, even months). Noetic prayer is the first stage of theoria. Theoretical man is one who is at this stage. In patristic theology the theoretical man is characterised as the shepherd of the sheep.

Theosis - Divinization: It is the participation in the uncreated grace of God. Theosis is identified and connected with the theoria (vision) of the uncreated Light. It is called theosis in grace because it is attained through the energy of the divine grace. It is a cooperation of God with man, since God is He Who operates and man is he who cooperates.

Thoughts - Logismoi: The thoughts which are connected with images as well as with the various stimulations originating from the senses and the imagination. The thoughts logismoi evolve to sin through the stages of desire, action and passion. They are called logismoi because they act in the reason (logiki).

Uncreated Light: It is the energy of God which can be seen as Light many times. This energy of God is the glory of divinity. It is called uncreated Light because it is divine and thus, uncreated. It is not the energy of a created being.

Watchfulness (nepsis): Spiritual alertness, constant attentiveness and readiness so that the thought won't progress from the reason and enter into the heart. It is only the nous that must be within the heart and not the thoughts-logismoi. This spiritual alertness is called nepsis.

The Magnificent Bridge

This photograph is to be contemplated and we are left to digest this image. I don't quite know how to express myself but somehow the struggle of this life made plain and the cost of being an Orthodox Christian less obscure.

I am grateful that I belong to a Church which serves as the most sound and magnificent bridge to my God, my Redeemer and the Holy Spirit. The Church in all Her wisdom even in this place of attempted desecration has again presented us with a bridge through the filth to our destination.

The lost souls who did this unconsciously has recreated the way of the cross, which perpetually rescues, in their own lives. This photograph is disturbing yes but it also is triumphant. Iconographer Elias Damianakis, Archon Maestor, pointed out that even when you attempt to desecrate the sacred image and seek to bring humiliation to the cross it takes you through (the mud). The sacrificial nature of the cross can't be removed as it is the very nature of the artifact.

I was reminded that we are in a spiritual war and the warfare continues. We cannot escape our calling to take up our spiritual armor and engage. We are soldiers in the militant Church and are fighting as privilaged members of the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

skepticism doubt and being mental

Sometimes there is simply nothing that alters our fractured existence, loniless, social isolation and feelings of helplessness and skepticism. It is difficult to affirm with sincere confidence that God Almighty will do anything to intervene on our behalf. It seems completely delusion, shallow and narcissistic to expect our needs will garner mercy or intervention in light the millions of nameless captives of world trapped by tyranny, oppression and poverty.

Although vital to us, our psychic tyrade obviously pales in comparison to world hunger, disease, trafficking or homelessness. I think it is more likely that we'll wake to find Him beside us consoling but not rescuing. Perhaps He waits for us to figure it out or to be grateful for not suffering worse things. Maybe all of our give me prayers are disappointing.

For the time being what we suffer may be in our heads and simply a personal problem. This entry is though lacking in optimism is vital if this blog is to be candid and an authentic expression of the doubt we all experience. Sometimes optimism is fleeting and personal strife, doubt and lethargy is our only company.

Charity Begins and Ends with Individuals

Ba Hum Bug.
Charity begins at home. This Christmas Season I'm reminded of how institutionalized we have become. All charitable giving has been defaulted to corporate offices. Non-for-profit charter regulations and everything business as usual. 

Retail chains simply offer drop locations in their stors with the hope that it will mean an increase in revenue as families shop for the unforunate. Nationally recognized holiday charity fund drives merely collect donations to assist in the facilitation of gift distribution for nonprofit organizations to give to needy families already served by their companies. Essentially they have the private sector underwrite their charitable work.

Countless children and families who are not currently or chronically served are omitted. Let us take responsibility for our good works. Let us commit to finding the needy and the less fortunate in our own parishes and neighborhoods. We tend to buy that toy and drop it off to relieve ourselves from a case of the guilts.

Give donations to individuals who do good works to continue their effort to express our gratitude. I try and match need for youths who demonstrate initiative and dedication to developing their talents. If you would like to find out how drop me an email. Do good don't pass your buck. Find a child or adult and adopt them this Christmas help become a Secret Santa Remember the Salvation Army is not a charity it is a denomination.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Salt of the Earth

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea." Isak Dinesen

Sodium + Chloride = Salt Sodium is the essential element necessary for every electrical impulse in the nervous system. There is no action potential in neurons without it and synapses simply wouldn't fire.

Another interesting fact is that sodium or salt is generally never manufactured or destroyed. It simply gets recycled or passed along. Sodium is always sodium. We are called to be the salt of the earth. We find salt in our tears, in the sea and in our sweat. Start sweating your cure and over time. Our Lord will make repeated visits and heal us according to His abundant mercy.

Having said all that take a two pronged approach to self discovery change your actions and change your thinking. By repeatedly doing you transform into what you aspire. Remember foremost that being an Orthodox Christian is not about cramming dogma into one's mind but to enter into a relationship with God Himself; to have a conviction beyond measure about who Christ is; and unashamedly confess the Trinity.

The Great Escape

To overcome inertia and create momentum perhaps the greatest challenge. What do we do when we just don't feel like doing much of anything? How do we escape resistance, the emotional inertia and psychological cement to forge ahead?

Running can be brainless and emotionless devoid of any productive thought. More then a release valve, running may be not only a metaphorical escape but quite literally a running away from the pressure of life to the numbing abandonment of the road. We runners learn to disregard physical pain and practice with percision the avoidance of psychic discomfort.

As with many things this too cuts both ways and can become that place of emptiness. That which protects closes us off and can be too much of the right thing misapplied. Sometimes running is the ego's way to literally get out get away, fueling the run by feeding the psyche indifference and converting the energy of anger to mechanically coast. (Sorry no picture my computer died so I'm reduced to the cell).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Know Your Limits

Guard your salvation with all you have.  Know when too much is too much. In the words of Saint John Climacus  (John of The Ladder of Divine Ascent):  "It is a good thing to admire the labors of holy men; to imitate them procures salvation. But it is unreasonable and impossible to wish to imitate, on a sudden whim, every aspect of the way the live".  This cautionary note by this beloved church elder is vital to our spiritual health. If we set out too fast and assign unreasonable tasks and goals for ourselves we will become injured. Setting expectations which greatly exceed our capability demonstrates an immaturity, poor judgment and  an idealism of limited understanding of the task itself; which ensures we will fail.

This overreaching is indicative more of ambition closely knit with false piety; to be found worthy of stretching beyond reasonable limits. The pairing of  an inferiority complex infused with arrogance leads to such a profound fragility that the path is laid with all the trappings of dark forces. This perilous approach of dismissing the warning of saged men will lead to frustration and discouragement as the ill prepared inevitably fall short. Biting off more then we can chew is a prideful assertion and results in a vainglorious demonstration. 

Saint Paul also echos this cautionary note by  likening the good race for the crown of life to a long race. He points out that the goal is not to win but to finish.  The character of a Christian is summed up by terms which indicate an enduring spirit,  a long term condition and not a sprint.  Too many of us enter into theosis binges which are full of stringent regulations and devoid of understanding, gentleness or mercy.  Many pilgrims to monasteries leave recharged spiritually and rededicate themselves to 'walking the walk" which may be quite the point. But to leave and attempt to create a marriage on monastic ideals is an obvious error in good sense.  Likewise attempting to stress the body with rigid fasting ideals of a monastic will eventually prove too unreasonable for many and wear your nervous system leaving you irritable.

Yesterday I completed my eighteen mile training session in preparation for my Run for Religious Freedom Marathon less then a month away. It was a very good session overall but this wear and tear on my muscles have me thinking a lot about what is too much. There is the actual workout all good; then the delayed onset muscle soreness which is not so good. I have another eighteen miler next week before I taper my  mileage for the race. I know this pace will lead to injury so after my race I must return to moderate running. Ten to fourteem mile long runs are optimal. My purpose is to be able to be race ready and to continue to use the runs for my private devotional time.

Knowing how to stress just shy of the breaking point is key. Push too far and you end up on the couch. Go too easy and improvement is slow almost static. Find that right groove and your break-through is right there on the horizon.  We must not allow our zeal to design a poor plan for us or else over time and with repeated failure or disappointment we fashion it as a crutch of excuses. Look inward for your path. We may find mentors, teachers and good examples like in the Saints but we should not 'mimic' in an artificial way another's path. Know your limits if you want to do more then you must have a plan, begin, and  be consistent. As your strength grows your stamina increases, your form improves (regardless of the task) you will have greater endurance and be able to assert these skills to greater challenges. This is how we can set super-goals which can be a catalyst for change. To be an effetive a change-angent in your own life begin always with a plan and continue sweat equity. It takes practice and faith. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mystical Labor (yes it is a poem)

Transitive logistics.
Commune with agents of love.
Engage with Holies,
yield sustainable change;
a catalyst for believers.
Thresholds of renewel,
behave rightly.
Declare Truth boldy.
Mandates of extreme change,
metonia; Mystical labor.
Abandon mediocrity.
Journeyman: centered,
introspective and strength based.
Learn to self love,
in turn loving neighbors fully.
Pressure and trials shape anew.
Exstinguish habitual sin.
Accept redemptive power.
Forgive. Live by faith,
astutely attuned:Orthopraxis.

Pathos of Superficiality

Essentially we are constantly and perpetually embarked on quest of self discovery. This personal Odyssey takes us from our everyday happenings to a strange new land where we find ourselves alone without personas and confront our temptations in the solitude of the dessert. To get to our destination we need to travel by our own power.

Repetitive physical motion is hypnotic, to borrow a secular term and is stillness-creating.  This process is one which frames a spiritual place of receptivity; where we can empty the mind from its congestion and traffic; and enter into (or at least approach) a state of hesychiasm. There is a quieting which allows the mind traffic to recede and prayer to come to the forefront. Essentially it is the wide expanse of the private closet to our hearts in which we cultivate our personal relationship with God. It is the place where social status, education, pay grades and bills recede into nothingness.

During stillness-creating labor (for me running)  individuals who are engaged in physical activity of a moderate intensity, for a prolonged time (in excess of an hour),  experience an intense psychological response. Intense feelings of tranquility and universal insight are commonly noted. This profound sense of harmony, emotional tranquility and insight are not exaggerated responses to physical exertion. They seem to be indicative of the satisfaction which stems from being self-motivated and demonstrate a shift in self-identity from the ties and trappings of the world. It is the time where we unplug from the matrix of lies and false assertions about our role and value. It is one way we refrain from being complicit in the charade and break free, if only for a while, to return cleansed and truer somehow. It is the repeated affirmation that we subscribe to an alternate perspective.

As Orthodox Christians our lives are spent distinguishing our personal value from the pathos imposed by society. The Church assists us with establishing beneficial parameters and all Rites of Passage begin with a service and prayer. Running in many ways takes us to the dessert which provides the workplace to sort through the pathos of superficiality like the economic ranking of self-worth and the preoccupation with youthful beauty. Long distance running and other prolonged activities appeal to the pioneer in all of us. It is the path of discovery of what lays inside of us. It enables the participant to rebuke mediocrity and strive for the gold standard. It is was we learn about ourselves during these hours remain with us to offer a counterweight to the weight of the world.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christ's Life Was Not Fortuitous

The actual objective of the run is the disruption of inertia; more specifically spiritual inertia. Rather then blame our bodies for its imperfections  or life for its trials, collaborate with your physical nature to break the cycle of inactivity and learned helplessness. We have been plagued with a superficiality, a dismissive arrogance and have neglected our personal duty.

It may be argued that much is beyond our immediate control and that life's circumstances have the upper hand. In reality this external locus of control is a fallacy, self-limiting and feeds a defeatist ideology. It does more than give permission for inaction but actually encourages a state of paralysis and a renunciation of personal accountability.

Through a change of heart and attitude we can learn to refute the entrapment of the enemy and come to the realization about what is fundamental to our personhood; our free will and personal volition. This liberty bestowed from our Creator is the basis for the premise and principle of an internal locus of control.

Christ the true wounded-healer was a revolutionary. He taught during his three year public campaign and ministry that God lives within each of us that we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit; the Sanctuary.  He empowered each of us teaching that there is no situation, not even the circumstance of our very personhood which overtakes the will of the individual. He detailed that there was neither male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free man that could limit an individuals quest or run for the crown of glory. We are actually free to chose to overcome circumstance and adversity in our attitude. Our Lord overcame homelessness, ridicule,  false witness, imprisonment, torture and death. Christ's life was not fortuitous by our modern sensibility and yet he brought peace, joy and salvation.

We may not be free to change the world as it is but we are free to change how we understand it. It is about how we interface with the world and with God. If you spend your time convincing me or yourself of your tribulation you leave no room for anything good to enter. Even if you succeeded in convincing me of your tragic circumstance I have done nothing to assist you.

Attitudes and reactions are attracting forces. Especially once we reach the age of accountability we invite our own conditions through our frame of reference. We need to quit right now practicing negativity put off the childish things. We are called to be as children but not childish. How empowering to have the faith, innocence and trust of a child with the skill set of an adult.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Homeward Bound

The momentum of the run; the story of being homeward bound. It is a spiritual time of uncompromising honesty. There is no room for vainglory only a modest understanding of what it means to respect the mile and respect the process. It demands the time, effort and commitment to afford one the luxury of aptitude and freedom to run beyond the limits of conversation, mediocre bantering and encroaching social chatter. It very much is a use it or lose enterprise. Because it cannot be cheated or faked its membership is purely merit based. It is the road of the journeyman; the way inward, the way to the sound of silence and wordless communication.

Yesterday's run inspired this entry and this evening's run. It was cold, dark and glorious. Running through the night air is exhilarating especially when shaking off the cares of the day. With each step my feet alternating their calling to the asphalt. The anonymity of running cloaked in the winter night was liberating, vanity a useless commodity in the night. Xena my wonderful trusted, four legged pal, affords me the luxury of running securely. The tonic level or flow was abounding; the superfluity of my stride lasted miles not moments. This is the Christian runner's high which takes your breadth away while delivering oxygen rich blood to each cell. It is a cosmic renaissance a molecular meditation. In complete control the experienced practitioner relaxes between each contraction. The hitting of my feet punctuated the time spent leaping through the air. There is nothing quite like partnering up with what God provides: the sea of stars, the waves of clouds, the breezy brisk blanket if a December night. Much of the climate of the run is established by the weather God provides. What a cathedral!

In order to maximize the impact from yesterday's run I recreated the conditions during today's eight miler: night run with the dog, correct audio tracks, the same general route though augmented, even the same clothes (yes, they were laundered). The result was incredible transcendental mystical and revitalizing. It is the stuff great runs are made of. Use audio cues and descriptive language to create these conditions at other times too. There is a controlled release a san chin (hard soft) approach where you remain completely relaxed and tighten only on impact. The moments of flight and relaxation are actually far greater then the brevity of impact.

This is where prayer transcends time pulling me into the moment and all other sensations, feelings and big ideas fall away freeing me up to be present. During this prayerful time there are no 'give me' prayers, no regret, no anticipation, only a stepping up and into the sacred. The invitation presents itself as I prepare each run and and sometimes through preparation it becomes plain and I begin to understand intuitively "thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path". It is in the gladsome light of the night's darkness where free from pretention and prying eyes where I find my host "The Lord of The Dance".

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deciding, Doing, and Documenting

Calling all runners all Orthodox Christians to run the good race. I am currenly providing a nation-wide, free of charge, team-in-training program for Orthodox Christians. Its purpose is to create a presence of Orthodox Christians in the running community by networking through the internet, assisting local communities begin small running groups to address our common need for koinonia (fellowship).

As the founder and team leader I provide a four day a week beginner training schedule to anyone  interested in beginning to run. The main function of this forum will be to share Orthodoxy with fellow runners (matyria, witness) to create a real sense of community (koinonia, fellowship) and to ultimately raise awareness of religious freeedom abuses (diakonia, service).
I am willing to help each of you with whatever your personal training needs are.  The move of the run is flowing and therapeutic, the work of the run will subside. It is still labor, but not work, not tedious or arduous. By employing basic principles of conditioning you will get conditioned. Operant and Classical Conditioning, Continuity and Tokens approaches to behavior modification can help move you through your training. Working for tokens for example setting goals and short term objectives, gives payoffs and increases motivation. The Continuity or Ritual Type is a set-up which increases the likelihood that once you begin the process the domino effect takes place. Operant conditioning is simply reinforcing positive behavior with reward and extinguishing negative. As for classical conditioning you pair pleasure with sensory input.

By taking serious note of what you feel and experience you tag your own currency or payoffs. For me sweat is as trigger a payoff a tonic level of exerersion. I realize I'm making a differenceas evidenced by a lowered resting hear rate, a smaller pant size, an internal locus of control. This is my fountain of youth where wisdom replaces the aches of aging. Increase your measure of success by deciding, doing, and documenting.
training needs are. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reshaping Cultural Identity

Greatest determining factor for successful Marathon racing, to use the term loosely, is how well you have managed your mental variables. Have you adequately analyzed your self concept, honestly took a personal  inventory and trained to do something about them? This is where most come up short and remain feeble minded they fail to improve deficits and clear the killing field of emotional impediments.

Reshaping your cultural identity (the folklore of can't),  controlling arousal levels (mood swings), practiced mental imagery (renewed self-concept) and prayer relief (connecting with the supernatural) is the stuff of stamina which is what gets you over the finish line. This is why even seemingly most unlikely participant with inadequate training will themselves over the finish line. 

Suffice it to say the Marathon is rigged to be a spiritual experience and Odyssey not a physical challenge. The body merely takes you through the labyrinth on race day with the road the cathedral. More then acclimating your body to heat or cold, you are acclimating your spirit to get real and to look inward and dig deep. It is totally mystical and paradoxical because you go inside to have this out of body experience As the body is kept busy (very busy),  the mind is yielding and bending to what is now amounting to surrender as logic has taken a back seat to volition, and the spirit can finally soar unencumbered and free of self conscious inhibitions.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reckless Endangerment

I spent the better part of my life believing strongly in a religion. Defiled  repeatedly  by self loathing and a reckless disregard for fellow man; I cleaved to my religiosity as a child clings to a baby blanket (transitional object) for comfort. I affirmed my loyalty and devotion to "the church" rebuking my sinfulness ever attempting to distance myself from my personal disgust and failings. This fervor was simply a way of strong arming my passions (vices) and imposing my rigid worldview concerning morality on others.
Religiosity is the very construct that the mind imposes on faith, on belief and on others. It is imposing ourselves on God by our limited understanding through the minds eye. The fall concerned itself more with giving the mind independence from the heart wisdom forsaken for linear knowledge. The abandonment of wisdom which is a function of the heart or nous which was in constant communion koinonia with God and which now is exiled by the mind. The mind is self serving, narcissistic and fearful while the heart is communal, endearing and not defensive.

I have spent my life pursuing knowledge and acting in defense of my ego and sense of individuality which has left my existential self in the place of nothingness. If I go into my heart my nous and live in the moment which is not relegated to the past or the future but in true existence and being or becoming then I (WE) can commune with God the person; not the impersonal force or 'act of nature'.

I don't have to  impose my worldview on anyone else of any persuasion because I don't have to be right. We don't have to wage war on the world religions, sects, denominations, peoples, cultures, genders, orientations or vocations. I only have to bring myself to the now and listen and commune. I'm sorry that I have so poorly instructed and conveyed Orthodoxy, the Great Faith, to my friends, family and the community at large. I practice a structured belief system who accepts, even welcomes, the Mystery of God and who has established a venue to meet Him in our hearts the place of the publican. Humility in private devotion. Wholly personal and sublime.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Physician Heal Thyself

When pastoring or counseling there is no need for a diagnosis but there is a real need to be aware of the various conditions and subset of conditions. In fact diagnosis is dehumanizing and obstructs the process. Fortunately when engaging in Christian counseling and pastoring there is no clinical barrier there is only the journey. Depression seems to be a pandemic in the states but in fact it is endemic in our society (Abbot Meletios Webber). It functions as a disease and a bi product of affluent living. There is a luxury associated with the condition.

We are all plagued with such introspective waste. Depression is expected to cover an enormous range is it acute or chronic? Is it a normal malaise or is it more conditional? There is a normal reaction to certain events like death and transitional periods of grief resolve over time. If there is no disruption in the course of the life of the person then its more organic or more likely a learned condition a learned helplessness. 

In the social sciences, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel drives the methodology of the diagnosis and therefore drives treatment. There is the debate over the actual conditions sited. For example, if the conditions are so pervasive that the larger population has it then you are not describing illness but sociological conditions or states or characteristics. Lethargic heaviness or slothfulness, laziness is the dominant factor of depression. (Think the Prayer of Saint Ephrem to find spiritual warfare). When you fail to recognize the need for intervention then you are out of your mind. 

Clinical or therapeutic approaches take it for granted that it is organic but that is a huge 'leap of faith'. It is maintained that medications can manipulate the problem. Medication or even self medicating is a natural result of this thinking. Psychotropics do not cure the condition but rid the person of the symptoms. The symptom however can be helpful to the person because it forced there hand to deal with the condition. Removing the emotional pain is not the cure or answer. Think and heal the cause of the pain root out the cause. Get the message and then do something about it. "Physician heal thyself". 

The chasm between the mind and the heart is to pray.  The isolation and fractured existence of individuals removed from a community creates existential anxiety. Communal life and even parish life is a way of controlling the existential anxiety: isolation from others opens the individual to many malformities which include, meaningless, alienation, purposelessness, pain as an inevitability. We are broken but we are glorious.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pastoral Inoculations

God doesn't fit neatly into our flimsy notions about what is proper or distinguished. I don't think he cares if we belch at the table. I don't think he is concerned about the length of our skirt any more then the designer label. I don't believe that all world religions lead to the same destination; though they utilize similar imagery or have altars or religious text and prophets. I don't believe that all religious thought is on equal footing. Not all is beneficial to the person or to the race of man or for creation. I do believe most often it is true that false world religions take us from our destination, God.
However He (God) is not locked within the limits of the Bible or Holy Tradition. He cannot be contained by any fashioning of His own hand. No creature has a box large enough or collar fitted for God. He is ever expansive and has power and dominion. As a race of people we have sought to confine God to His creatures to race, culture, civilization, institution, gender, to species, to space. Interestingly, Christians as a very general demographic group however are willing to throw the God-bearer under the proverbial bus, unwilling to accept her Majesty containing within her womb undefiled (as God defiles nothing as there is no corruption in Him) the Creator of all that is or ever was or ever will be. Of course that impossibility is made real by God's will. When we think of God's sacrifice we think of the crucifixion but I believe that taking on flesh must have been difficult, more then painful, seemingly impossible.
Christianity is triumphant in the paradoxes and not contained, not even in reason which will not be enumerated now. So as we sit in our dwelling places we pronounce the excellence of our manners and the print on our diplomas; we have failed to recuse ourselves from adjudicating cases against fellow man and against the Holy Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Throne, The God-bearer (Theotokos) and God himself. I have come to understand through interactions with learned men of God how we are called to love; to censor ourselves not others. 
Through a return, u-turn (metonia) we can be refashioned. The Holy Orthodox Church contains within her Sacred Traditions and paid for with the blood of the martyrs the way back to God;  the path markers, the light for our journey and the Life Giving Font and Manna. All that is necessary for our journey is contained and open for all to receive no matter how dull our intellect or how immature our spirit. It doesn't rely on the sanctity of the man holding the chalice but on the Chalice. Although all is set before us for our journey, it is not all that is, only what is necessary for us. 
The desire to limit God to our limited understanding and need is insane. To borrow an analogy from Chesterton a circle is infinite yes but it is also finite; limited as is our understanding. But the cross is infinite and ever expanding extending its four arms to include not only the four corners of the globe but all of creation. For years I have been trying to put distance between who I am becoming and how I behaved decades ago. I believed I was misled by popular psychology (as I was) into thinking that the past is somehow behind us and has little bearing on our present. That forgiveness means forgetting or that the devil won't use it to get his tail into today. The reality is closer to the truth that God is with us when we are at our worst our most vulnerable most grotesque. It is a testament that even a wretch though we may be He has not abandon us, he did not forsake us, but loved us before we loved Him.
Though we may leave a sizable wake of destruction, pain, betrayal, perversion and sorrow in our path like Mary of Egypt there is the road home. There is our prayer not for ourselves but for those we have wounded. There is the current responsibility that we share to bring people to the truth to God's mercy and love. We are commanded to 'love one another as I have loved you'. God loved the murders, the perverse, the harlots and the drunkards. He was there in the midst of their despair and defilement. He made them clean he didn't tell them to get right, get clean and then come forth. He told them after their cleansing, their epiphany 'go and sin no more'. Their sin their disease was part of their testimony to the curative nature of Christ of the church. Their fallen nature or immorality has not been left out of the story for it is the contrast by which we understand their rebirth. I have always tried to hide my sin remove myself from my behavior but I should embrace it because it affirms the greatness of God the remembrance of God for all His creatures the lost, the blind and deaf.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Going Through The Motions'

Many people attend church for reasons completely unrelated to prayer or worship. Some attend simply because they are forced by their parents or because they are looking to mingle or network. There are many secular reasons why people  choose to go to church but that doesn't mean that they can be changed despite their spiritual blindness. 

Perhaps you may have thought Church and its Traditions overly structured, kind of artificially 'put on', even tedious. Then as you practiced participating by attending services with some regularity or with renewed intent to be totally present during the services, that trying to pray turned to praying.  What once seemed contrived was now a sacred zone, reliable and true. Attending Church or reading Scriptures is a spiritual experience even when done so in a mindless way.

Prayerful running is quite literally 'going through the motions'.  With practice and effort this behavior will shape the moments where you make the shift from 'acting as if' to actually living the prayer. You will know or rather notice the shift. As you become practiced you will recognize the experience and learn to anticipate it. If you tag the experiences and use the descriptive language you will be able to give rise to this state at others times.  You will be able to tap into this proficiency.  Because our Lord has wired us for prayer for devotion for love He can utilize even the most mundane to reach us. Our Lord is not confined to Sunday mornings.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lord of The Dance

By stepping into the run, this activity of children will change you.   If you set out to run prayerfully you will be suprised at what unfolds. The invitation to "Come and See" is open. "Seek and you will find" is promised to us. As you set your course in search of this spiritual experience there will be times when if feels like a guessing game.

I am reminded of the last week of my first pregnancy when I thought every cramp was the onset of labor. I was told, as are all first time mothers, "You will know" (and I did). You will know when the synergy of the run overtakes the tedious preoccupation with running.  Being fixated on the running, to the point of distraction is transitional you will move past it. It is merely part of starting, of beginning and you will move through this like you will move beyond other distractions. Use running to find time alone with God  begins simply by lacing up and putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly.

Your intention sets you apart from your sedandary friends and from others runners. Remember not to obsess about trying too hard; you are not actually practicing the run but being mindful of your objective to pray. The run is the vehicle which has a host of secondary gains to be sure, but they are secondary. Your committment to consistently set time aside to run out to meet God will take you there. You will find yourself praying often times without words but with awareness.  With each step you set out to meet The Lord of The Dance: "'Dance there whereever you may be I am The Lord of The Dance' said He and 'I'll lead you all wherever you may be. And I'll lead you all in The Dance' said He".