Remember why we work

Remember why we work

They call it a “livelihood” or “making a living” for a reason. Mostly because of the money we earn, but also because of the energies we expend, the sacrifices we make, and the lessons we learn, we depend upon on our work for life. We also resent it sometimes, maybe a lot. (Just typing those words brings to mind the lyrics of David Allan Coe’s most popular song.)Resenting our work is the result of our forgetfulness, according to the Serbian priest and monk Thaddeus of Vitovnica. While speaking … [Read more...]

Following Jesus in the Psalms

Christ Preaching at Capernaum

Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow him, and he makes a striking provision for us in the Psalms to do so. The Psalter—in its own way as much as the Gospels—sums up Christ’s life and work while also making that life and work something with which we can identify in a powerful way. … [Read more...]

Praying the Psalms

Praying in the Synagogue

I wonder how often we find our prayers dead and lifeless. I wonder how often we come up dry and dumb with no words, no thoughts, no way of formulating the feelings, frustrations, and various shades of grief that we bear. Burdened and distracted, we can hardly remember to pray, and when we do we have nothing to say.What if someone could guide you to God in those moments, could take you before the throne, lean over and whisper, “Just say it like this,” and then unfurl a stream of words that mea … [Read more...]

The Psalms in Christian life

Icon of the Psalmist, King David

The American patriot leader Joseph Warren was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775. Coming upon his bloodied and fallen body, a British soldier plucked a small psalter from his pocket.Warren had carried the little book into battle, a volume whose pages declare that God “maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the world: he breaketh the bow and cutteth the spear, and burneth the chariots with fire.”It is fitting that a soldier should carry such comforting lines -- those from Ps … [Read more...]

The saintly imperative

The Saintly Imperative

I think that the concept of personal holiness is a bit misleading.In the Orthodox chrismation (or confirmation) service the priest prays over the person being confirmed, “Keep him ever a warrior invincible in every attack of those who assail him and us; and make us all victors, even unto the end, through thy crown incorruptible.”This prayer comes after the priest prays, “keep him in thy sanctification.” We usually think of sanctification as our daily walk, increasing in holiness and sain … [Read more...]

Weeding and cultivating life

Creeping thistle

When I was a boy I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandfather. He was something of a recreational farmer, and we spent most of our days working in his gardens and fields. Once, while weeding a certain patch of something, he asked me if I knew what a weed was. I recall trying to fabricate an elaborate definition featuring thorns and thistles and the like.“No,” he corrected (something I frequently forced him to do). “It’s any plant growing where you don’t want it.”I thought about tha … [Read more...]

How to avoid ineffectual prayers

St. James the Less

James, the brother of Jesus, was serious about his prayer. He used to go to the temple and kneel in prayer so often and for so long that his knees were reputed to be as calloused and tough as a camel’s. He was bishop of Jerusalem then and was martyred several years before the temple was ultimately destroyed, but as long as he had life he could be found, as one ancient writer put it, “bending the knee in adoration to God, and begging forgiveness for the people.”Given his intense practice, it c … [Read more...]


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