A Right Way to Worship God?

I recently read a blog post about worship styles in worship services and it launched me into deep thought. One of the observations made, which got me thinking, was this statement: “If Paul were to walk into a traditional Protestant service with the hymn singing, the reading of Scripture and the lengthy sermon he might think he was in a religious service much like the Jewish synagogue.  He may not have much trouble accepting it as a kind of Christian worship service, although he might question their understanding of the Eucharist.  However, if the Apostle Paul were to walk into a mega church with its praise bands and elaborate worship routine, he would likely think he was at some Greek play and seriously doubt he was at a Christian worship service.  If the Apostle Paul were to walk into a Pentecostal service he would probably think he had walked into a pagan mystery cult that had no resemblance at all to Christian worship”.

This is quite an indictment – and it led me to ask another question: If Paul might think these thoughts if he were to visit the church in the 21st century, I wonder what Jesus might think if he visited the churches today?

To read and interact with the full article, you can find it here:


Lamentations of Good Friday (stasis 1)

The Lamentations of Good Friday are both sad and hopeful. The male chanter chants from Psalm 118/119 recalling Jesus’ obedient life, while the female chanter laments Jesus’ death. The Lamentations of Good Friday were sung in all Eastern Orthodox churches the evening of April 6. To close one’s eyes and allow the words and rhythm of the chant to draw one in is to enter in part in to the sorrows Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, John the Apostle and the other disciples must have felt the night after Jesus had been laid in the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.


A Simple Guide for the Jesus Prayer

I recently read the post below on praying the Jesus Prayer and felt compelled to share it. May you be built up in faith to pray.

“A simple way for ceaseless prayer, if you want to you can use it too, which probably helps simple people who cannot get the true meaning of the neptic Holy Fathers, and run the risk of delusion.

Some (unfortunately) do not set the goal of putting off the old man (repentance, humility, and asceticism as a way of helping the sanctification of the soul) with a deep sense of their sinfulness. Then, they would naturally feel the need for God’s mercy, saying “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me,” often. This with pain in their heart and then the feeling of the sweetness of divine comfort of the most Sweet Christ within their heart.

But unfortunately some people (as I mentioned) start off with a dry ascetic practice and seek after divine pleasure and lights and continually multiply their prayer-ropes and are sanctified by their calculation, reaching that conclusion (about their sanctity) from the mathematical reckoning of the greater amount of prayer-ropes they say.

They also (naturally) make footstools to the exact inch and all the other things, the bending of the head towards the heart. They regulate their breath and whatever else the watchful Saint Kallistuses and Gregorys of the Philokalia say. Then they create the false sensation that they are somewhere near the measure of those Saints.

From the moment they believe that thought, the tangalaki (the demon) immediately appears and sets up a television for them (with their fantasies) and devilish prophecies etc. of delusion follow.

For this reason, only certainty is repentance and let every spiritual edifice be built upon it and let us continually seek repentance from God and nothing else except that.

We should not ask for lights or miracles, or prophecies, or gifts of the Spirit, only for repentance. Repentance brings humility; humility will bring grace from God, because grace always goes to the humble, of necessity. Therefore, repentance is necessary for our salvation and when we have it, the grace of God will come and it will teach us what we need to do for salvation even of our fellows too, if it is necessary.

In this way, which I mentioned (feeling the great need for God’s mercy), we will say the Jesus Prayer many times with our whole heart and we will feel, as I mentioned, the sweetness of divine comfort of the most sweet Jesus within our heart. The heart will (then) have our nous in tight embrace, as well as our whole being.

Then, and only then, will prayer not be tiring, but rather it will give rest, because we have grasped the true meaning of it. Only then do we pray without putting pressure on ourselves, but we are pressurised by our sense of honour and dignity (philotimo) , which gives rise to all our spiritual upstanding generosity (leventia) . This produces the fluttering of the heart. Then the heart (however stony it may be) breaks and tears burst forth from their ducts (without an effort being made to weep during the time of prayer).

You feel the need for this prayer like a hungry baby who opens its little mouth and runs into the arms of its mother to be suckled and at the same time feels very secure in its mother’s loving care.

Nobody doubts that the enemy will try to war against us and to disperse our thoughts. However, when preceded by a little bit of Patristic study (e.g. The Sayings of the Fathers) a lid is put on all our cares, great and small, and on the day’s temptations. So, it is transformed into another atmosphere, a spiritual one and you pray with concentration.

If the enemy wages war with blasphemous thoughts (from his usual wickedness and envy) do not get upset. Instead, use the demon as your worker in the following way, by not getting upset, but by saying to the enemy: “It’s a good thing that you brought me those thoughts so that I can say the Jesus Prayer, because otherwise I forget to pray without ceasing.” The enemy will then depart immediately, because he is only used to doing evil. I mentioned that because the enemy brings blasphemous thoughts to sensitive people (usually) to make them even more sensitive, to upset them and to cut them down.

The same applies to some that struggle in vigil over and above their strength, and with pride. When they slacken, and they do not have the strength to banish the thoughts of the enemy. They think that those blasphemous thoughts are their own, and so they suffer without reason, while the thoughts are not their own, but those of the enemy.

That is why young people should struggle in the matter of prayer with humility and discernment. They should prepare for the night. This, by not being distracted, by study and through moderate and simple food, which helps. As far as possible it should not be savoury, to avoid drinking plenty of water, because that, too, is an obstacle, with the bloating that it causes. In this way, the person is helped with prayer.

It helps a great deal if the light evening meal, however light it may be, takes place at around 4 o’clock (European time), after study, fathers and so on, or else 3 hours after the main meal. Small and great prostrations beforehand, and in between each prayer-rope, help a great deal, unfreezing the machine’s oil. Later, after getting quite tired, he should sit down and say the Jesus Prayer, since he brings to mind his wretchedness and the great favours of God that our good God has done for him.

Then the nous is collected (as I mentioned, in the heart, on its own) and seeks God’s mercy with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his mind, without making a great effort.

The three hours after sunset help a lot (having read patristic books before sunset), as well as after midnight until sunrise. For young people it is good for them to sleep one hour after sunset, with less prayer, and to get up after midnight, in order to avoid scandalous sleep of the morning.

Naturally, discernment is required and guidance from their spiritual father, who is a requirement.”

St. Paisios



What will it take before we speak out….?

79623‘First they came….’  is a poem written in post war Germany by Martin Niemoller, about the cowardice of German intellectuals in the face of Naziism and their purposed and systematic purges of all who opposed them – and in the wake of all the scandals surrounding election 2016 and the threat to religious freedom and potential loss of rights in our nation today, Niemoller’s words stand as a strong reminder that dissent is important, while non-socialists still have freedom under the 1st amendment to do so. Niemoller’s poem hauntingly lamented:

First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist; then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist; and then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

In our day there are many ways to speak out to our leaders about encroachments to religious freedom and other important human rights issues. The contact information for both federal and state level senators and congress people are available on line. In contacting leaders, we have the option of writing letters, sending faxes, leaving voice messages, sending texts, or arranging for appointments at local offices or the offices of leaders either in Washington D.C. or in Sacramento (for those loving in California – which is the state I write from). Carpe Diem! Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat!

Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) was a Lutheran pastor in Germany during World War 2. He was arrested by the Nazis 79 years ago in July 1937 for alleged pulpit abuse – a fact which shocked many in Germany and especially the Confessing Christians, who assumed the Nazis would avoid attacking a man of Niemoller’s stature. He was tried seven months later, fined and released, but his release made Hitler so angry that he had him arrested again. Niemoller spent the rest of the war first in Sachsenhausen and then in Dachau concentration camps. He wrote and delivered this sometime after the surrender of Germany.