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Truth Is A Person

Posted by Father Michael on  July 7, 2023
Category: Ascesis, Spirituality

What does “Truth Is A Person” mean? This question can be answered on different grounds. These grounds can be Revelation, Scripture, Religion and Philosophy.

Revelation

At every morning service we chant “God is is the Lord and has appeared unto us. Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.” This troparion involves us in the Theophany that the Lord always reveals Himself to us. We participate in this Theophany when we chant this daily, noetic prayer.

Scripture

At John 14: 6 we hear the Lord inform the Apostle Thomas “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Scripture attests to these titles or names that the Lord applies to Himself for our sake. The “Way,” “Truth” and “Life” are titles or names of the Lord by which we may come to understand and perceive the Lord noetically.

Religion

“Truth” (spelt with an upper-case T) is a religious term. It is distinct from “truth” (spelt with a lower-case t) which is a philosophical term. “Truth” as a religious term refers to a title or name of the Lord that uses Biblical language. The noetic understanding and perception of the Lord is a religious phenomenon.

Philosophy

The philosophical term“truth” (spelt with a lower-case t) is distinct from the term “Truth” (spelt with an upper-case T.) As a philosophical term, “truth” is generally used and understood in a logical sense. For example, “A is A.” This can be expressed negatively, for example, “A is not not-A.” For example, if A is “truth,” then “truth” is not “not-truth.” Another term for “not-truth” is “falsity.” No-one would deny that “true” and “false” are generally used and understood as logical opposites of each other.

There are many other philosophical approaches and practices besides logic that apply to “truth” when used as a philosophical term. I will not discuss them here. I will just say that philosophy is distinct from Revelation, Scripture and Religion. Whoever does philosophy should do it well. An Orthodox Christian may practice philosophy if he wishes. An Orthodox Christian should know the difference when he is noetically involved in Revelation, Scripture and Religion and when he is instead just practicing philosophy.

Noetic understanding and perception occur in the nous which is the faculty or part of the soul whereby a man may understand and perceive divine activities and energies. Noetic undestanding and perception are a direct comprehension of the Lord through His divine activities and energies. Noetic understanding and perception occur by divine Grace. In other words, Revelation, Scripture and Religion are understood noetically by divine Grace. An Orthodox Christian should be doing what he can to involve himself in Revelation, Scripture and Religion. He will do so in repentance. He will do so by the Lord’s Grace. He will do so in his nous. This is the normal practice of standard Orthodox Christian life.

When an Orthodox Christian practises philosophy, he is not doing so in his nous, he is doing so in his dianous. The term dianous refer to what is generally used and understood by the word “mind.” Revelation, Scripture and Religion are not understood or perceived in the dianous. Revelation, Scripture and Religion are understood or perceived noetically, in the nous, as we have said. But instead, philosophy is done in the dianous or “mind.” It is in his dianous or “mind” that an Orthodox Christian practises speculative, reflective, abstract thought. This is the work of philosophy. An Orthodox Christian practises philosophy in his dianous or “mind.”

An Orthodox Christian who practises philosophy should do it well. He should do it well for his own sake, so that he is not confused or deceived in his dianous or “mind” by the philosophy or sophistry of others. He should also do it well when he engages philosophically with others. An Orthodox Christian must engage philosophically with those who lack a noetic understanding and perception of the Lord in Revelation, Scripture and Religion because they have no other way to engage with him.

An Orthodox Christian would do well to be clear when he is practising philosophy with others when all are referring to Revelation, Scripture and Religion. If he himself refers to Revelation, Scripture and Religion, it should be clear to him that those who lack a noetic understanding and perception of Revelation, Scripture and Religion will not be able to make sense of what he is saying noetically. That is fine and ok, but it should be understood that this is the point of disengagement between those who understand noetically and those who only understand dianoetically. An Orthodox Christian should know that the noetic understanding and perception of Revelation, Scripture and Religion is not accessible to those who only understand dianoetically. It is fine and ok for an Orthodox Christian to let those who only understand dianoetically know that this is a point of difference and disengagement between them.

When an Orthodox Christian tries to explain what “Truth Is A Person” means to those who only understand dianoetically, he should explain to them that the noetic understanding and perception of this phrase is inaccessible to them. All the same, he and they can still engage philosophically with this phrase, but all should be clear that those who only understand dianoetically will miss the noetic understanding and perception of this phrase.

There is still value in speculative, reflective, abstract thought in the dianous or “mind,” even when engaging philosophically with this phrase, but there is is a problem here. The problem is that the noetic understanding and perception of this phrase, of the Lord, of Revelation, Scripture and Religion has a built-in sense of reverence.

This sense of reverence is a Grace of the Lord. Whoever engaging philosophically with Revelation, Scripture and Religion, but lacks a noetic understanding and perception of these things, also lacks this sense of reverence. This reverence is a Grace of the Lord that is given to an Orthodox Christian so that he may not be damaged or harmed by the holiness of Revelation, Scripture and Religion.

For this reason, it is spiritually dangerous to engage philosophically with the term “Truth is a Person.” That is not to say that this danger cannot be negotiated. An Orthodox Christian may retain his reverence even while engaging philosophically with the term “Truth is a Person.” However, those who lack a noetic understanding and perception, those who lack the in-built sense of reverence given by Grace, may be damaged or harmed by irreverently engaging philosophically with the term “Truth is a Person.”

Where is the liability for this damage or harm? Those who engage irreverently with the holiness of Revelation, Scripture and Religion through their own ignorance may or may not be liable. The Lord will decide. But an Orthodox Christian who has received the Grace of reverence is not ignorant of the risk of spiritual danger or harm. An Orthodox Christian is aware of his liability if he engages in irreverently with the holiness of Revelation, Scripture and Religion. But there is more.

An Orthodox Christian is also aware of his own liability if he allows or enables others to engage irreverently with the holiness of Revelation, Scripture and Religion through their own ignorance. He is himself not ignorant of the risk of danger or harm that they pose unto themselves. An Orthodox Christian knows that he should not allow or enable others to damage or harm themselves through their own ignorance by engaging irreverently with holiness of Revelation, Scripture and Religion. An Orthodox Christian should be aware of his own liability in such a case.

Is philosophy the same thing as apologetics? Of course not. The role of apologetics is rightly given to our Bishops (and by extension, their designated priests.) Our Church blesses them with this charism so that they may not be damaged or harmed, or allow damage or harm to come to others, when they engage in apologetics.

Laymen do not engage in apologetics. Does that mean that laymen may not philosophize with others? Of course not! Of course, laymen may philosophize with others. When laymen philosophize with others, they are aware that they are not engaging in apologetics. They are aware that they are only practising philosophy. Laymen are also aware of the risk of danger or harm that they pose unto themselves or to others if either they who are Orthodox Christians or those others who are not Orthodox Christians bring a sense of irreverence to any philosophical activity that engages with the holiness of Revelation, Scripture and Religion.

An Orthodox Christian knows that a philosophical discussion of the phrase “Truth is a Person” is also an engagement with the holiness of Revelation, Scripture and Religion. In such a case, an Orthodox Christian knows that he is himself definitely liable for any damage or harm caused either to himself or to those others who themselves lack a noetic understanding of Revelation, Scripture and Religion, even if that irreverence is caused by their own ignorance.

An Orthodox Christian does not judge, blame or condemn those others for their their ignorance. Even God the Father does not judge, blame or condemn anyone for his ignorance, for God the Father has given all Judgment to His Son. The Son is He Who has appeared unto us so that we may not be ignorant of Him, so that we might chant every morning “God is is the Lord and has appeared unto us. Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Shelter from Sin

Posted by Father Michael on  February 26, 2023
Category: Ascesis, Grace, Repentance
Tags: ,

Grace can rescue a fallen man. He can recover from his sins and be rehabilitated into a good moral condition. The Lord can restore a man from his fallen condition into a state where he can freely make his choices and freely implement them in a state free from passion and compulsion.

Such a man will be grateful to the Lord. He will recognise what the Lord has done for him. He will be thankful to the Lord and will count himself blessed by his God.

But this is not enough. Many non-Orthodox stop here. For them, they think it is sufficient to show gratitude for what they consider to be benefits and to petition the Lord for more of these benefits. This is the practice and the extent of their piety.

But an Orthodox Christian knows that gratitude is just the beginning. He knows that he must use his freedom to remember his repentance. He knows that his glorification of the Lord must be grounded in his own sorrow for his sins.

When that happens, his sorrow doesn’t go away. Instead, his sorrow takes on a joyous quality. This joyous quality is an effect of his repentance, for when the Lord accepts his repentance, then a man understands that he is reunited with his Lord in the Body of the Church, and he is grateful for this acceptance of his repentance.

Even if a man does not sense that the Lord has accepted his repentance, he is still content to repent even without the consolation of this joy. He knows that repentance is still the primary activity of his life. He doesn’t repent so that he might receive consolation and imagine that he is being soothed. He repents because he knows that he must. He has no other reason to live rather than to live out his days in repentance. This is the purpose of his life.

Yet the Lord will rarely withhold the consolation of His joy from a repentant man, because He knows that most men are too weak to do without His comforts. These comforts fortify a man. When the Lord does console us with the experience of his joy, He is condescending to our weakness. Why? Because He knows that we will reject His yoke, even though it is lighter than sin, because we cannot even bear a slight trial or temptation. The Lord knows that a man will choose to damn himself and will lose himself in his own sin if he even just slightly tastes some of its temptation.

When a repentant man realises that the Lord is shielding him from sin and temptation, then a man will become even more grateful than before. Such a man sees his own corruption in the weakness of his will. He understands that his salvation is at stake. He relies on the grace of the Lord to shelter him from temptation. When he sense that grace, a repentant man’s joy takes him out of himself.

This is a very dangerous condition. When a man does not know how to guard and treasure this kind of grace, he will lose this grace. Sooner or later, it will leave him. This grace departs from a man because, little by little, he inevitably gives himself over to his sins and temptations, however small they may be at the beginning. Little by little, he loses grace, his joy, his gratitude, his spiritual balance and his good, moral condition.

He may not even be consciously aware of the cooling of his heart, but his soul is always aware. His soul is aware of the choices that he makes in his heart. Here he alienates himself from his Lord. His mind becomes cloudy, his perceptions faulty. He starts to misunderstand his situation. He gives himself over to thoughts that he likes. He develops an appetite for such thoughts.

Such a man who turns away from the consolations of the Lord starts to rely on the pleasure and compensations that his thoughts afford him because these thoughts please him. Soon, he is acting out his thoughts and his fall becomes bodily as well as psychical. He becomes hedonistic and self-pleasing.

The non-Orthodox are particularly susceptible to this tempation, for they lack the ascetic, Orthodox praxis that preserves one’s spiritual balance. However, even Orthodox Christians face this risk as well. It may go even worse for Orthodox who turn away from the ascetic praxis that they have been granted. In either case, the fall into this tempation is the same for both non-Orthodox and Orthodox, but the latter face greater condemnation for failing to guard the grace that they have received.

In summary, a man rescued from his sins is in the most dangerous situation because now he needs to make his choices. He must choose to return to his repentant condition, and let the Lord accept his repentance, if the Lord so wills. Then he may be able to preserve his gratitude, guard the grace that blesses him. He forgoes the pleasure of this world in order to receive the joy that the Lord might share with him.

There were two monks on Mt Athos that shared a cell their whole monastic life. They knew each other so well. They never had an argument. Everything was so good that they thought something was missing. They felt that there was no temptation or provocation in their situation with each other.

One day, they decided to have a mock-argument in order just to test themselves, so that they might profit spiritually from the exercise. The topic in itself wasn’t important to them. They believed their spiritual balance was stable enough to undertake the exercise without harm to their spiritual condition. 

However, it secretly allowed the evil one to introduce a contentious spirit into their situation. This contention didn’t go away. It eventually led to disrespect and condemning of each other. The rift widened to the point that they could no longer live together. They were not in fact able to preserve their spiritual balance. What started as an exercise became a real fall for both of them.

What can we say? We can say they were correct that things were indeed originally missing in their original situation when everything on the surface seemed fine to them. But they were wrong.

Firstly, they had stopped relying on the providence of God Who knew they were so weak and were unable to bear certain temptations and Who was shielding them from these temptations all the while. Then they prescribed spiritual medicine to themselves without a blessing, listening to no-one.

All of this came about through their inner negligence, their forgetfulness and through their spiritual insensitivity. Step-by-step, they fell into a fall because they were not faithful to their cenobitic way of life that was designed to shelter them from their own presumption and delusion. Their lack of inner vigilance was at the root of their fall. It allowed the evil one to whisper into their hearts that same temptation of our Lord in the Desert (Mt 4: 5-7) Who said, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Deut 6:16.)

What are virtues and passions and what is the the relationship between them?

I don’t find useful the idea that a passion is just a virtue-gone-wrong, i.e. into its negative mode. I’ve seen many heterodox charts displaying this idea.

I prefer to think that virtues aren’t transmutable, as being solely divine energetically, incapable of losing their divine character. I think that divine virtues ground good, downstream moral actions.

I’d say virtues are always divine and never human.

Using this language, then one won’t make the mistake of considering those purely human, so-called ‘good’ morals (that even atheists and heretics agree upon) to be good in a divine way (that is, there is  no imitatio possible in my orthopraxis.)

In my orthopraxis,  of course we do everything we can. That is no credit to ourselves. We don’t even notice it. It’s automatic. But I ask the Lord to do everything. I don’t even ask the Lord to help me to do things. I just do everything I can, automatically and unthinkingly. I consider my efforts to be nothing.

Some people ask the Lord for help and strength in undertaking. That’s fine. I ask the Lord to do everything after I do everything that I can but account it as nothing. The Lord takes all the credit, all the glory, whatever the outcome. It’s His providence. It’s His grace, if He grants it, or grants something else I could not have imagined.

The corollary is that I get all the blame if I do not do everything that I can. Immediately, I have no way to avoid this blame and am presented with the necessity to repent, regardless of the outcome. Even if I exert myself fully, repentance is still an outcome of the failure in the shortfall of my efforts exerted to their maximum degree.

In simple summary, when virtues are considered to be solely and exclusively divine, and not a humanistic property, then a man will take no credit for any so-called ‘good’ he does.

Someone recently related to me his recollections of Geronda Makarios at skete Marouda on Mt Athos about 10 years ago. Here is what he remembers:

I turned up at skete Marouda with a letter of introduction from a Serbian monk who knew Geronda Makarios. I was a novice at that time in Serbia with the blessing to make a pilgrimage to Mt Athos. Geronda Makarios received me graciously. I stayed there for a week or so by his gracious hospitality. He had 2 or 3 monks with him.

While I was there, Geronda Makarios was serving at the Protaton in Kareyes. One of his brethren, the young Hieromonk Pavlos, stayed behind at the skete to do the services while Geronda was away.

Fr Pavlos was of a very quiet and self-controlled disposition. He had the unusual blessing to go unshod, in any weather, including snow. His feet were in terrible condition and looked like cauliflowers.

The other young novice brother, forgive me, whose name I forget, was required by Geronda to telephone his mother. This was clearly extraordinary, but that day was his mother’s birthday. He clearly didn’t ask for this blessing on his own behalf, but also clearly obeyed Geronda with unquestioning alacrity. It seemed like Geronda was sensitive to the psychological bond between such a young novice and his presumeably pious mother.

Geronda Makarios was extremely popular with the troubled youth of Greece, especially those mixed up by and recovering from the disturbances of hedonistic life. His skete was full of young, urban men seeking his guidance. They were clearly able to find a way out of the mess of their lives by his counsel. They also gladly lent their strength to the labours of construction at the skete, as a new chapel was being built at that time. Constructive, physical work as an indispensible accompaniment to repentant prayer is ideal for men, especially young, modern men who often lack such opportunities in typical city life.

Geronda’s disposition was very quiet and he had a direct way of listening. When he spoke, he was very frank and matter of fact, often with a light touch of humour that dispelled anxiety. He always quickly found a point of view that psychologically pierced the heart of the matter. He seemed to dispense with worries that were of a neurotic concern, say, with social pressures within Church life, etc.

His fluency in English displayed a high degree of functionality. I understood that he entered monastic life on Mt Athos when he was 17 years old. I wondered how he could develop such fluency in language except by the Lord’s providence and grace. One felt an ease of expression and communication with him. This aspect no doubt contributed to his popularity as a confessor and spiritual guide.

Geronda hardly seemed to eat yet was solicitous of his guests and brethren at trapeza. He was as generous with his food, time, hospitality and counsel as he was in strict in ascesis towards himself. He tried not to draw attention to his oikonomia towards others and his akrivia towards himself but it is something that a novice like myself who was seeking to learn from the example of his elders would definitely notice.

Geronda’s quietness and brevity of speech was reflected in the disposition of his few brethren. In spite of the sheer number of visitors, the brethren were themselves very laconic and able to guard their inner solitude. Their love and obedience to their elder was palpable. They knew what was needed of them at any time, seemingly without ever being told. They seemed to be able to practise their inner quietness even while the skete was full of guests and visitors.

This is not an easy thing to do. I think that maybe the Lord rewarded Geronda’s disciples with this grace of inner quietness as a response to their love for their elder in the conformity of their disposition towards his wishes. This is a rare grace and probably accounts for the small number of his disciples. I am grateful for having witnessed it in action. Usually, novices like myself fail to love and are bound up in our own selfish concerns. We deprive ourselves of such grace and would not allow ourselves to bear such privations.

The obedience of which I had the privilege to share was to make komboskini using the seed “Tears of the Virgin” https://athosgifts.com/products/Tears-of-Virgin-Mary-prayer-rope-50-beads-p456135014 that grows exclusively on Mount Athos. This small, grey seed has a natural channel in the centre that easily takes a wire through it. The work is a little painful to the fingertips, which seems appropriate somehow.

There was a long-standing, returning guest present while I was there. A Greek layman, iconographer, married but whose family was disunited, and who himself lived in the world like a ‘secret’ monk, obviously under the guidance of his Geronda. This man had had the blessing to restore and regild the Portaitissa icon of the Panaghia at Iveron monstery which I had just visited and venerated a few days before.

Years later, I had some historical information from a monk who knew Geronda Makarios from their mutual days together at Philotheou monastery. This monk had been there for 17 years. Geronda was part of that generation of elders from Philitheou monastery that fanned out into the rest of Mt Athos and elsewhere, bringing with them the grace, influence and charism of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. For example, as we know, Elder Ephraim eventually went to Arizona, Elder Joseph went to Vatopedi while Elder Makarios went to Marouda, etc.

This dramatization https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ii1OsrpeFSQ&feature=youtu.be shows the Elder to be a lot older from what I remember, but with that same frank but gentle touch in his dealings with people, always going to the main issue in a practical way whereby we have the real opportunity to express our will in a concrete and constructive way for the improvement of our spiritual condition.

Here he is https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodoxengagement/proskynima_pilgrims_on_athos dealing with a group of American, probably ex-Protestant clergy. Geronda’s novel use of language, i.e. so-called “Protestantism” within Orthodox Church life as an expression of an overly-prescriptive approach to piety, would have cut to the core of his sensitive guests but without antagonizing them or provoking resistance in them.

Geronda seems to allow others to grant licence to themselves to be themselves because, quite frankly, no progress can even begin except from a sure and honest appraisal of one’s own fundamental, psychological formation.

Maybe for this same reason, the licence to begin spiritual life each day on the basis of one’s present but deplorable condition, that Geronda received an injection https://athosweblog.com/2021/11/24/2224-latest-news-about-covid/ not out of concern for his own mortality for his own life’s sake, but as a show of trust, whether guided or misguided, in the teaching of his present medical authorities on Mt Athos, while still attributing all factors and circumstances to the providence of the Lord.

I remember myself experiencing a severe bout of influenza in Serbia at the time of the so-called “Swine Flu” in Europe. I very nearly died at that time. I had no-one dependent on me and could have died with no regrets, but I can believe that Geronda Makarios would choose to maintain the conditions of his life, as much as he understood them to be, according to the circumstances of his responsibilities towards others.

Although I perhaps differ from Geronda in my understanding of pharmakeia, I believe his motivations maybe sprang from his own taste of death, especially if he had experienced a flu more severe than mine, and that he in his compassion towards others would hope to shield them from the taste of such corruption.

This taste of death and corruption is a bitter and ugly thing, with no goodness in it. I can believe that if a soul can return itself to the Lord without knowing such bitterness directly or too soon, then perhaps a Christian can mature in his life without being crushed by the despair from which we all generally emerge. Bitterness and despair is the secret food of monks, and is entirely appropriate for them, for they live as dead men. But monks will not expose frail laymen to this experiential knowledge of death, because most laymen, especially the mixed-up, modern youth of contemporary urban culture, are so defective in their formation that they have not yet even begun to live and do not know how to begin.

Geronda Makarios in his compassion understands this psychological condition, and it is his great gift to help another man to locate within hjmself that exact point from where his spiritual life might necessarily have to start.

On Being Lukewarm

Posted by Father Michael on  November 16, 2021
Category: Lukewarm, Repentance

An Orthodox Christian who knowingly sins for some material reason – i.e. for the sake of maintaining the status quo regarding his job, his family situation, his house, etc. – such a man knows that he is doing something wrong. He knows his reason is not divine but is secular and merely human. He knows that he is acting materially in a way that is not divine. He know this is a sin.

He can either admit this sin, or he can deny that he is sinning. If he admits this sin, he can either stop sinning or he can continue sinning. If he continues sinning, then of course the evil one will dominate him in his mind and body. This domination will be visible to others. He will look and sound different from before.

On the other hand, if he stops sinning, and stops benefitting from the evil fruits of his wrong-doing, then now he will have an opportunity to repent. Simply refraining from sin is not yet repenting. This is the character of the lukewarm.

Will he take his opportunity to repent?

It looks to me like some Orthodox Christians who commit sin for some temporary, material benefit – i.e. to maintain the status quo of their current life conditions, for example – these ones have taken a pragmatic position. They know they are doing something wrong to just to ‘get by’ for now. The Lord will judge them. The Lord will judge us.

My point is that there are two ways that some Orthodox Christians are currently sinning here, and both of these ways are bad.

The first way is that those who agree to this sin for the sake of temporarily maintaining the status quo in their lives do it but without having much appetite or much attachment to the conditions of their life. They are being pragmatic and practical. They plan to change and do the right thing as soon as they are able.

I think this is wrong. The evil one will gain rights over them. They should do the right thing now. They shouldn’t wait. Neither should we wait. The time for our ongoing repentance is always now.

The second way is even worse. These ones start to justify themselves. Their passions run wild. They foist their sins onto others. They try to hurt, exploit and injure others. They try to benefit materially, more and more. So their sins also increase, more and more.

Anyway, after we stop sinning, we all know that then comes the time of repentance. This fact of repentance-time is unavoidable. Unavoidable. Repentance is a hard fact, and it can go either well or badly. This time of repentance is now. Only now. There is no time for repentance after this time.

This is our Orthodox dogma.

To embody this Orthodox dogma and to always be actively repenting is to be Orthodox. It is our orthopraxia. To practise anything else is to not be Orthodox. To practise something else is to embody some other, strange doctrine.

I think that some Orthodox Christians who take a pragmatic position by agreeing to do sin are being visibly ‘lukewarm.’ Other people can see their ‘lukewarmness.’ But there is more to it.

As we have said, ‘lukewarm’ Orthodox Christians are also operating from some hidden, strange secret dogma in their hearts. This secret dogma will affect them. Their personalities will change. Their behaviour will change. They will seem different from before.

Of course, the way of repentance is always open to them. But repentance, if and when they experiment with it, will seem very difficult to them. They will not want to repent. They don’t like it and will not like it. Just as they don’t want to repent now, neither will they want to repent later.

They don’t understand that repentance cannot be forced. Nor can it be faked.

The belief that repentance can be forced by their natural antipathy to discomfort is a mistake. To understand this point is key: repentance is only ever voluntary. They mistakenly believe that repentance might issue from them by force of circumstance or condition. No. Repentance can only issue forth from them voluntarily – and never in a fake way – when there is correct, Orthodox dogma in their hearts.

This correct, Orthodox dogma dictates that acting materially, for purely secular and human aims, is a sin because it is not partaking of divine energy. Correct dogma will also say that the only time for repentance is now – in the ongoing, continuous sense – in these few years granted to us.

Whoever embodies these points of correct, Orthodox dogma will never be lukewarm.

A friend of mine who is a priest told me that the injunction to “…love the Lord your God from your whole heart, and from your whole soul, and from your whole power” (Deut 6:5) includes all the powers of our body and of our soul. That is, all the powers of our whole being, both materially and immaterially.

For this reason, dogma is not just for the intellect alone, but it is also for our physical nature. Dogma is physical as well as being psychical.

We don’t just contain correct dogma in our mind, but we also contain it in our body. The divine, energetic grace and virtue of the Lord is containable in both our minds and bodies. Or, more correctly, we can say that the divine, energetic grace and virtue of the Lord is containable in us as created men and women. We don’t need to distinguish the material and immaterial aspects of our being while regarding this question.

If someone has sinned against the Lord for the sake of his material status quo, well, he can repent, theoretically speaking. No one but the Lord will judge him. We cannot do his repentance for him. We can barely repent for even our own sins.

The question is whether we, who are ourselves lukewarm, will take our own opportunity to repent right now?

On Nature

Posted by Father Michael on  November 1, 2021
Category: Dogma, Metaphysics, Nature

Nature as Character

A man’s personality or character is sometimes described as his “nature.”

Nature as Environment

All flora and fauna, and their habitats, is sometimes describes as the “natural” world, as opposed to being synthetic or man-made.

Nature as Genus or Class

A genus or class is sometimes defined in natural terms, i.e. by the phrases “human nature” or “divine nature.” for example. Vladimir Lossky, in his Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, uses the word “nature” in this sense. Lossky usually takes a Platonic position when he talks of a man’s participation in being, by sharing in “human nature” or “divine nature.”

Nature as Essence

Essence is sometimes used as the defining criterion of a thing. This defining function can be applied to a genus or class, or to a single noun-object or entity. Aristotle has used the word “essence” to apply in both these senses at different times in his categorising, pedagogic works.

Nature as Physis

Physis (φυσις) sometimes refers to a single, concrete noun-object or entity; say, a specific creature of God. This is especially true in Alexandrian metaphysics.

On the other hand, in Constantinopolitan metaphysics, the word “physis” is applied to “essentially” define a genus or class. Constantinopolitan metaphysics uses a further word, hypostasis (υποστασις) to explain that by which a single, concrete noun-object or entity has its being.

The historical argument between Constantinople and Alexandria hinged on the misundertanding of the word “physis” in their communications. Numerous times the parties came close to rectfying the misunderstanding, where either side acknowledges the linguistic formulations of the other as alternative expressions of the same, single dogma that they both share, yet political issues always impeded the formal remediation of the controversy.

In Constantinopolitan thought, the term “hypostasis” is a speculative term that is useful for rational, cogitative reflection and rationcination, when considering a man as an “anthropos” (ανθροπος).

Alternatively, Alexandrian metaphysics does not require the word “hypostasis” in its anthropological consideration of a single man.

Alexandrian metaphysics prefers to limit itself to the concrete, perceptual recognition of a single man, rather than consider the “essential” characterstics of the genus or class of man considered in an abstract sense.

Constantinople finally arrived at the verb “to enhypostasize” in its Christological formula, to explain how Christ has “enhypostasizes” both “human nature” and “divine nature” in Himself.

Alexandria, on the other hand, reaches the same dogma, but without using the concept of “hypostasis.” Instead, Alexandria remains concrete in its description of Christ as a single “physis” to refer to that which the Constantinopolitans refer to as a single ”hypostasis.”

Thinking and perceiving in concrete terms, Alexandrian thought uses the word “physis” to perceptually acknowledge that Christ is one, Christ is human, and Christ is divine.

Simply put, where the Alexandrian Christological formula is apperceptive in its language, the Constantinopolitan formula is speculative in its language.

In no sense is the repudiation of abstract reasoning a defect in Alexandrian systematic theology, or a primitive retardation of intellectual ability. Rather, it is a disciplined and cautious reticence to avoid the error, as they see it, of substituting the perceptual engagement of real things with the parsing of representative, mental objects.

On Worship

Posted by Father Michael on  July 21, 2021

To give glory to God is to know Who He is.

He reveals Himself in His glory to you.

You acknowledge His glory back unto Him.

Your worship is collective. All the saints and angels bear witness to your praise.

If you haven’t seen, then maybe you have heard? That’s fine.

Your worship is noetic. The glory of the Lord will enter your soul through your spiritual senses. It will permeate your highest intellect, your nous. You magnify His appearance in yourself.

Don’t turn your back. Don’t stop looking.

Worship is instant, immediate, a single process, a fully functional expression of a man’s telos. Worship is the purpose of a man’s formal design.

When that happens, a man’s telos shines in the luminance, in the phanos of the Lord’s glory.

When a man lacks worship, and claims that he perceives nothing of God, it is because he insists that the reflection of God’s glory in the darkness of his intellect is just a phantasm.

For such a man, this fantastic self-object becomes his only point of reference, an idol in his imagination. Now he will guard his idol unto death. Such men refuse to take their spiritual senses seriously. They make this choice in the pride of their limited, human, speculative, abstract reasoning. Their fault is not in their senses as they claim, but in their intellect and will.

But worship is not an epistemological matter. Worship requires δοκεω, an action of the mind and heart of processing information into understanding and choices. This information is apparent to our senses. It is perceptual.

Worship begins as a matter of seeming.

On Sinfonia

Posted by Father Michael on  July 20, 2021

Sinfonia is a political theory. It is not a religious doctrine. A religious man needs no secular partner, yet a secular man values Christians for their sanity.

Sinfonia is a purely political decision. The political creature does well to populate its society with highly moral citizens.

Christians are productive and fertile. They pay their taxes.

If the ruling, executive power is also a religious, Christian man, at least he might not sin.

But if his Christian subjects absorb a measure of secularity and declare it holy, they are beginning to lose their sanity. They are operating out of fear.

Sinfonia marks a degradation in Christian consciousness. A marked indifference to Mammon indicates a healthy, Christian mind.

A healthy, Christian mind is impervious to ideology.

On Synods

Posted by Father Michael on  July 20, 2021

A committee is not a council.

A permanent synod, or a boutique one, is not a free expression of holy inspiration.

A holy council is a spontaneous response to a crisis.

An abbot, an arch-hierarch, will take advice is he is sensible and wise.

Oneness of mind lacks intent; that is, a council of elders consents to the indications of wisdom. Its members do not collude with each other in order to enact the intentions of a secular design.

An arch-hierarch has no arch-arch-hierarch above him. Arch-arch-arch… this is impossible.

A bishop needs no overseer.

On Preparation for Communion

Posted by Father Michael on  July 12, 2021
Category: Church Life, Communion
Tags: 

Preparation is key for both frequent and infrequent Communion.

Obviously, the more that someone Communes, then the more that he should prepare himself. However, we often see the opposite happen. That is, those who Commune infrequently often prepare themselves more assiduously that those who Commune frequently.

The temptation from the right for infrequent Communion is that their preparation is never good enough, no matter how stringent.

The temptation from the left for frequent Communion is that their preparation is always good enough, no matter how meagre.

The end result is that infrequent Communers might never receive Communion unto life, and frequent Communers might always receive Communion unto judgment.

In its extreme form, this temptation might cause both infrequent and frequent Communers to judge each other. Judgmentalism is an end-goal of this temptation.

There is a further, unique temptation especially for frequent Communers. Some of them become obsessed with receiving frequent Communion. This obession can cause them to seek Communion in irregular and uncanonical ways, situations and places, seeking special concessions and arrangements for themselves. At the same time, they are invariably not leading ordinary, regular, Church-going lives.

We often accommodate their requests out of pity and compassion for them because we hope to lead them back into ordinary Church life. But this is a mistake. It reinforces their prideful, narcisstic obsession for bizarre, special arrangements for Communion outside of regular, Church-going life.

Rather, we should continue to offer them a normal, traditional experience of Church and simply leave it at that.

That’s all.

On Sanctifying Marriage

Posted by Father Michael on  July 12, 2021
Tags: ,

The purpose of marriage is sanctification.

The domestic household is a Church temple.

Just as the Most-holy Theotokos was raised in a Church temple, so are all the children that the Lord grants to a married couple raised in the Church temple of the family.

As a means to sanctification, marriage has many unique strengths that many religious writers and saints have already outlined elsewhere at length.

A less well-known point is that a family rich in children is likely to connected to its wider family that will also be rich in children. This greater household becomes a means of shelter for all of its members.

Whoever does not marry for some reason, nor seeks the monastic life, may find shelter in his greater, extended, Christian family. This in natural and good. For example, he may contribute to the well-being of his family, assisting in labour, child-rearing, and prayer.

Perhaps a childless marriage can be sanctifying? I do not know. I am only a monk. I am not talking about satisfaction here, I am talking about sanctification.

In the same way, perhaps a childless, married couple disconnected from wider family might be sanctifying? Again, I don’t know.

On the other hand, perhaps a married couple despises each other? I have seen it many times. Sin can be found anywhere.

It seems to me that families that lack sanctification are in a pointless, doomed situation. If it is by their own choice to forego the sanctifying strengths of having children, of being connected to wider family, then it seems that they are choosing to descend into eventual boredom, hatred, and resentment towards each other. I have seen it happen often.

But if it is by the providence of our Lord that a married couple is living without the sanctifying strengths of an abundant and fruitful marriage that is not embedded in a viable, extended family, but crucially they give glory to the Lord for their situation, then even a marriage such as theirs might still be for their sanctification?

On Invincible Might

Posted by Father Michael on  July 2, 2021
Category: Dinamis, Hell, Theotokos
Tags: ,

Spiritual power disolves violence.

Humility disarms the evil one.

The Mother of God undoes force.

Our martial saints are sanctified not by their military successes, but rather by the embrace of their own, unnecessary martyrdoms.

The Queen of the heavenly array has a glance that is unbearable to our enemies, for in her eyes is seen the glory of her Son.

This glory pierces all upon whom she gazes.

Her purified, human will focusses this radiance.

Evil melts away.

Similarly, evil perpetrators flee before they suffer collapse.

Just as a martial saint chooses eirenic calm, so as to be with his Lord, so do sinners choose the outer darkness, so as to be without Him.

This is the secret of infernal life. The milder shores of hell are insufficent for its immigrants. The tedium is pointless. Their only magnetic pole of attraction is the promise of more pain.

There is a willing, downward migration to the centre, to the uttermost offer of torture. The hope is that the maximal possibility of pain will justify their self-condemnation.

This hope is vain. Pointlessness is not burnt away by fire.

Hell cannot be bad enough for its citizens.

On Imposture

Posted by Father Michael on  June 28, 2021
Category: Church Life, Repentance
Tags: ,

Strike a pose and call it repentance.

The repentant pose can be dry. The dry, Christian pose of repentance reads like a pamphlet or brochure, much like some other Christians issue daily press releases on how ‘saved’ they are.

The repentant pose can also be wet. The wet, Christian pose of repentance is purely psychological, as a neurotic, mental affect in the mind. The wet Christian must perpetually advertise his anxiety and distress.

However, true repentance is not a posture but a position.

The truly repentant position is characterised by nothing short of maximum, spiritual grief, 100% pain of heart. Anything less is just an illusion or dream.

After a struggler finds himself located in 100% spiritual grief and pain of heart, then something strange happens: he is no longer affected by despair.

Unlike breezy, Christian poseurs, a truly repentant man is not menaced or consumed by secret despair. Rather, he himself has ‘eaten’ or consumed his own despair. He is beyond despair.

At this point, full lamentation can take hold.

This is not pretty. It’s an appalling, horrifying sight. We would recoil, aghast in fear and distaste, should we encounter a saint in the throes of his repentance.

For this reason, the saints avoid our company, or play the fool with us, because they do not want to impose the horror of their condition upon us.

Did you taste this horror? Do you remember the turning-point in your life, when the Holy Spirit whispered salvation into your ear?

A memory of a grace-filled moment is also a present illusion. That same grace-filled moment of our repentant conversion can and should be a present reality once again. It should not be written into the memory-hole of our publicized, psycho-social history. It should be vivified in secret by our hidden grief.

These things are veiled and invisible.

Repentance is not a dream, and a saint is never an imposter.

On Deficient Faith

Posted by Father Michael on  June 27, 2021

If faith is measurable, then it is deficient.

The monk who keeps not his cell-rule. The layman who avoids Church services. The ortho-internet personality curating his brand. The bishop as a law-clerk.

It is so simple. Their deficient faith is measured by their want of prayer.

And even if they do pray? Well, to the extent that their prayer might be mechanical and lacking pain of heart, then that prayer is null.

And if their prayer is contaminated by delusion? If they take pride in their piety? If they are satisfied in their spiritual work? If they are not driven to pierce the essence of their prayers?

Impurity is unaware of its own presence in a soul. Whoever is deficient in faith is oblivious to his lack of prayer, and insensible to its low quality.

Such a man is easily deluded. He automatically accepts reasons, rationales, interpretations, excuses, etc., that justify his undeveloping, spiritual praxis.

See how his life gets more bizarre, more eccentric, more characteristic, more idiosyncratic. The more overt his personality, the more degenerate becomes his soul.

And then the more he masks this degeneracy through the social activity of his monastic life, or family and professional life, or digital life, or hierarchical life.

And no-one notices.

Whoever is faithful to seeking the truth at all costs does well, but not well enough. It is not enough to merely embody correct dogma, even when one does so by divine grace.

A man also needs to pierce the truth of his own sin. The monk, the layman, the virtual man, the hierarch. Everyone needs to continually start at the beginning because, for everyone, the beginning of faith is repentance.

For faith to live in a man, the struggler needs to forever stop in his spiritual tracks and go back to the beginning where he finds his repentance.

Repentance is the beginning of faith. Faith is always deficient when it lacks repentance.

This is good news, for where repentance is, then even a man’s apparently absent faith is entirely sufficient for him.

Repentance is the sign of even an absent or atrophied faith’s efficiency.

This fact causes more sorrow to the penitent man, and rightly so, when he realises the fragility of his faith. Yet it also provokes gratitude to the Lord Whose providence has so arranged it that a man’s fragile faith is contained in and covered by his ever-deepening repentance.

Yes. A deficient faith can be a cause for joy.

On English

Posted by Father Michael on  June 17, 2021

An Anglophone must do without a Bible.

An English speaker needs to access the Bible in Greek, Slavonic, Latin, and the semitic languages.

He must understand Holy Writ, including the Desert Fathers, Church Councils, canons, letters, etc.

He must grasp history, and sense the shifting, linguistic usages across place and time.

He must know heresy, distinguishing it in its thousand forms.

He must be a critic of politics, society and monastic life.

But, finally, he must himself be a theologian. He must noetically understand by grace what is unsayable in the life of the Holy Spirit.

Then the English thinker can float in the vagaries of his own language without doing harm to the aeternal truths that wordlessly touch his soul.

On the Libellum

Posted by Father Michael on  June 17, 2021
Category: Church Life, Dogma

Can a man consciously reject what he doesn’t understand? If he never consciously subscribed to a heresy, how can he conscientiously reject it now?

If a man cannot distinguish between false heresy and true dogma, why should he sign anything?

How much catechesis can a man take? Just enough to repeat dogma? Would we catechize a parrot?

The answer lies in a man’s heart, the core of his soul.

Here, a man senses spiritual life from spiritual death. He does so by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

The sensate knowledge in the depths of his heart is transferred to his nous, and from there it is noetically interpreted into forms and symbols which are intelligible to his dianous, his mind.

Now he is able to conjugate further pictorial symbols and verbal formulae in a rational way. Now he can sign statements.

A man first needs the illumination of the Holy Spirit before he can sign any libellum.

On Monastic Writers

Posted by Father Michael on  June 12, 2021

A monastic writer is an anomaly. He writes apologetically. His words are pedagogic.

The desert fathers write briefly. Their words are lapidary. Their aphorisms and narratives are memory-pegs, and are merely complementary to personal, verbal instruction, as from an elder to his disciples. Under his direct guidance, misinterpretation is avoided.

The elders structure their sayings to be understood on two levels. They can be received without harm by the simple and inexperienced, whose comprehension is shallow; and they can be understood by grace when disciples are making progress in the depths of practical life.

The same holds true when monks write for general, popular use, although this is an extraordinary and dangerous situation, both for him and his readers. Such books should be read under instruction, along with empirical knowledge gained through liturgical experience.

Even rarer are holy monk-philosophers who can write true theology, explaining dogma with precision.

The best that bloggers (like myself) can do is be a cautionary presence in the internet’s wastelands, warning you to leave this place. There is no Church here, neither in books, videos and podcasts.

Without Church life, without spiritual instruction, all monastic literature is vainly imaginative, conceptual and figurative, wherever you find it.

On Monastic Artists

Posted by Father Michael on  June 12, 2021
Category: Art, Icon

A monastic artist is a craftsman. His art is for liturgical use. He filters his art through prayer.


He forgoes his psychological idiosyncracies. Instead, he ensures that his art coheres with the direct contemplation of divine grace.


To the degree that a monk is passionately attached to his idiosyncracies, the purity of his contemplation of divine grace is obscured.


However, the reverse is also true. For this reason, the best icons make us want to pray. We see divine grace in them directly being imaged-forth before us.


This image is concrete, and the experience is concrete. No abstract thought or reasoning is required.

On Cleaning One’s Mind

Posted by Father Michael on  June 11, 2021
Tags: , ,

A clean mind is not an empty mind. Our mind can never be entirely empty of thoughts, feelings and ideas. Curating one’s mind requires experience and discernment.

Our mind (or dianous) is the instrumental part of our psyche. The highest part of our psyche is our intellect (or nous).

It is through our nous that we perceive and experience divine nature.

Our nous manages our dianous. When our nous is illumined by the divine grace of the Holy Spirit, then we manage our minds well.

Our nous is clarified by divine grace in worship and prayerful attention. When that happens, then we are able to manage ourselves with discernment and discretion in the field of our mental activity.

Our choices regarding what sensations to experience, activities to engage in, ideas to reflect upon, emotional responses to make, etc., will all become morally virtuous when guided by a godly light in our nous.

Then our mind will be a well-functioning tool, a cleaned instrument.

To “cut off one’s will” is to forego the objects of one’s desire.

To “cut off one’s will” does not mean “to not have a will”. That’s clearly impossible. A man whose memory, reason or will are not functioning is not functioning as a man.

Our mixed desires reflect the cross-currents in our will. We drift away from the Lord in those desires that are private to ourselves alone. The Lord cannot share such desires with us. If we persist in those desires, they become habitually compulsive, yet their objects fail to satisfy.

This is hell, but it is not the worst hell. A worse hell is the loss of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.

But when we maintain the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, then we are comforming ourselves to the Lord’s will.

When that happens, then sinful objects lose their appeal. We see them for what they are.

This is freedom.

To”cut off one’s will,” in this sense, is to enter into freedom, the kingdom of heaven.

This is the blessing of the Lord.

On Neutrality

Posted by Father Michael on  May 28, 2021
Tags: 

There is no neutrality in spiritual life. Idleness is a passive sin. There are no by-standers in the kingdom of heaven.

Although we heard the Word of God, we have not yet obeyed His words. This “not yet” is a form of paralysis. The neutral man who, in his own opinion, commits no active sin is actually a paralyzed, inactive man.

Despite what he thinks about himself, the paralytic man is not, in fact, coolly indifferent to the kingdom of heaven. Maybe he imagines that he is weighing his options, waiting for the opportune moment to make spiritual progress, etc., but this is a mistake.

A man cannot bear his own burdens, for the deadweight of his sins fall upon others’ shoulders.

Whoever refuses to make progress is rejecting his own nature. His delay is his rebellion against God, for the Lord created us for life and joy in the kingdom of heaven. The neutralized man continues to reject this life and joy.

After our repentance, the Lord showers us with further gifts. He does so even before we begin to shoulder our own burdens.

After repentance rightly comes the struggle: the struggle to regain our nature and, by the mercy of the Lord, to enter into the joy of the kingdom of heaven.

The real gift is when we, dynamic creatures that we are, realize and activate the struggle to be ourselves.

On Happiness

Posted by Father Michael on  May 12, 2021

In pagan terms, μακαριος refers to the effortless self-sufficiency of a god in the plenitude of his power.

In the same way, but in human terms, this effortless self-sufficiency is echoed in, say, Billie Holiday’s “God bless the Child that’s got his own” or even in the easy, downward stroll of Albert Camus’ Sisyphus.

But in Christian terms, blessedness is always recognised externally. It is not an interior, emotional affect. It is always outward sign of grace.

These signs of grace are always spiritual, but may be exhibited materially or even immaterially.

Whoever enjoys the presence of the Holy Spirit will sense the peace and rest of the Kingdom of Heaven within him. Virtue will flow from such a man by divine energy and power. All the circumstances of his life, no matter how deplorable they might be, will be sanctified by the virtue that comes to him from the Lord his God.

In other words, we are not blessed by fortunate circumstances, but rather the Lord our God blesses the circumstances of our life through the virtue that He grants to us in the power of our soul.

In the same way, in the interior landscape of our soul, the presence of the peace and rest of God will not remove the defects of our soul. Rather, the energy of God’s dynamic love for us with quieten the effects of our sins in our heart, and will shield our will from the temptation to sin.

When that happens, the interior objects of our soul receive the blessing of the Lord, for now even the thorns in our side point us towards the keeping of God’s grace.

On the Trinity

Posted by Father Michael on  April 28, 2021

Can I worship the Holy Trinity without understanding the Holy Trinity? Of course I can. In fact, I can do nothing else.

In order to do so, I don’t need to philosophize about it. I don’t need words like, for example, kataphasis or apophasis, etc. I will simply pray to the Holy Trinity in the traditional, orthodox way, using the service-books of the Church, in accordance with Her customs.

When I do so, my nous will start to recognise God and my dianous will realise what is happening.

However, it is still good to understand metaphysics, as much as I can, but even if only to reject metaphysics. Why? For the sake of apologetics; and to avoid making mistakes in one’s own reasoning.

Orthodox worship is pragmatic, tried and true. I receive it through the Church from the saints, those experts in prayer who have gone before me. I don’t care about any systematic description of this orthodox way of prayer. Rather, I let this pattern of prayer inform my soul and body.

When that happens, I praise and glorify God the Father, my Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the All-Holy Trinity. I give thanks, I confess my sins, I ask for all the things we need. This is not a performance.

If, sometimes, with the powers of my soul and body, I do not praise or glorify God, nor be thankful, nor be penitent, nor ask for what we need, but am only going through the motions of prayer, with neither understanding nor comprehension, then at least let me be honest about it. Let me not be a hypocrite. Without the engagement of the powers of my soul and body, I am only ‘acting-out’ being a man at prayer.

Let me not claim any virtue in such an act, such a vain enactment of theatrical dogma. At such empty times, let me not stuff my head with with any systems of dogmatic thought that justify my emptiness. If I cannot recognise God with my nous, then at least let me recognise my own sin.

When that happens, then at least prayer might begin again, and the powers of my soul and body begin to get involved with God the All-Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit once more.

On Bad Rhetoric

Posted by Father Michael on  April 12, 2021

Polemics and slogans are woven into bad rhetoric. Group identity (ethnos) underpins ideology in bad rhetoric because someone, or some group, is struggling for worldly power.

Bad rhetoric pretends to be good rhetoric by pretending to use reason and logic (logos) when engaging in dialectics, in a conversational exchange, which outcome supposedly depends on the course of the conversation. But don’t be fooled by the pretence. Bad rhetoricians offer a statement, a proposition, that they pretend is open for debate, but really it isn’t. Such ‘statements’ or ‘propositions’ are simply gambits in order to enter into an exchange. Bad rhetoricians enter into an exchange with a whole set of ‘statements and propositions’ that they continually recycle, shifting ground, whenever you counter them with a logical reply. Such “statements and propositions’ are effectively no more than slogans. These slogans are markers of their group identification. Your counter arguments to these slogans, no matter how reasonable your statements are, are taken by them to be markers of your supposed, alternative group identity. That’s all.

Bad rhetoric pretends to be good rhetoric by pretending to use ethics (ethos). Their slogans might sound like they are based in issues of justice, fairness, social values, etc. However, the riddle in this tactic lies in its frame, which is an absolutely worldly frame. Their specific vision of social organisation and order hides behind their ethical statements. They are trying to assert their own vision of social order and to privelege their own group in that social order. Don’t be fooled by this tactic.

Bad rhetoric pretends to be good rhetoric by resorting to emotion (pathos). Fear is a powerful emotion because it suspends one’s ability to use abstract reason and reflection. People may fear not just violence, or the loss of freedom, but also the loss of access to food, housing, etc. Fear becomes 1000 times more powerful in the imagination that it could ever be in reality. Empathy is another powerful, weaponised emotion (especially when used against women). If you can instigate fear or empathy in someone’s imagination, it will be extremely debilitating for their normal functioning.

I am surprised how many Christians with faith are immune to bad rhetoric. It seems that a life led in the Church teaches the soul to know instinctively what is true. Many such Christians spontaneously tell me in their own words how they are dealing with what they hear, what they see, and what they deal with in their lives right now. Each soul finds a slightly different way to describe it. But each Christian soul cleaves unto the Lord, each Christian soul knows what is right and what is wrong, and each Christian soul bypasses the traps of bad rhetoricians. Such Christian souls avoid dialectical exchanges based in logical arguments, they disengage from debates regarding socially fluid, moral values, and they are not easily scared nor manipulated by sentimental feelings. Life in the Church provides immunity to the poisons and evil of bad rhetoric.

Vanity is self-idolatry. Vanity is a self-reflection. Vanity esteems itself as beautiful and worthy of display. This reflection of self is an empty thing. However, the naricissist cannot see his own emptiness. The vain man can only see his own surface. For him, his surface appeal is compelling. This is a passionate delusion.

Vainglory is empty glory. The vainglorious man doxologises himself. His thoughts, words and deeds are an ongoing eulogy of self-praise based on false appearances. There is no substance to his appeal. He has only enchantment. He enchants himself and tries to bewitch those around him. He is diabolically captivated, for the demons do not want him to realise his own substance.

Futile activity cannot last. A man will come to his senses. He will cease working in vain because he will see a problem with his aims and goals. Then, perhaps, he will begin to work for the Lord. When a man works for the Lord, he loses his vanity and vainglory. He achieves everything by the providence and grace of the Lord. Then he knows himself in his own substance.

Righteous anger is an energetic and focussed opposition to sin. It involves a hatred for the evil one and all his ways. When the evil one suggests a sin, the righteous mind immediately reacts against it with dynamic strength. As one holy father said somewhere, such an incensed reaction shocks the demons, stopping them momentarily in their tracks. It buys the righteous mind a little time, so that a Christian man might prepare himself for the next temptation that will surely come.

Righteous anger is the sudden expression of a man’s will. When a man desires to live righteously, he desires to rely on his Lord in all things. Usually, the temptation away from the Lord is presented to his mind as a picture, a sentiment, or a word-phrase. The righteous mind immediately recognises the blasphemy inherent in such things. The righteous mind loathes blasphemy, and repels these temptations in an habitually reflexive way.

Righteous anger is a two-step process. Having projected himself outwardly – “Get behind me, satan!” – a righteous man returns to himself in prayer, seeking the rest and peace of the Lord: “Maranatha! Come, Lord!” and “Lord, have mercy!”. The peace and rest of the Lord is infused with a man’s fervent love for the Lord. This fervent love is the source of a man’s strength, of his incensive power. Such love is dynamic. Why? Having returned to himself, a righteous man prepares himself for the next temptation that will surely come. He prepares himself by renewing his repentance, and his repentance is always an active process.

Righteous anger is grounded in a man’s dynamic love for his Lord. He does not want to lose this love, nor his connection to his Lord. He will bear with no blasphemy against his Beloved. He knows that the assault against himself is an assault against the image and likeness of his Lord that forms him. This blasphemy shocks and disgusts him. It offends his dignity, the nobility of his creation, as the work of God’s hands. If he is a repentant man, his indignation will then give way to sorrow, the memory of his own death, for he knows that he deserves his temptations and he deserves his death. But he knows that these temptations are permitted by the mercy of the Lord for the correction of his own soul, so that he may not die, but find life in the peace and rest of the Lord. His sorrow then gives way to gratitude to the Lord. Other graces, gifts of the Holy Spirit, may then quickly follow. He reforms in himself the image and likeness of his Lord. He restores unto himself the dignity and nobility of his own created nature, a work of God’s hands.

Without repentance, anger against the evil one is not righteous, but merely human. Such human anger will not repel demons nor shield one from their temptations. But when anger is righteous, and a man’s repentance has been rewarded by fervent love, sorrow, gratitude, and the memory of death, then a righteous man returns to himself in the life, peace and rest of the Lord.