Category Archives: Healing the Heart

Do Not Grudge Anything

“Remember that the Lord is in every Christian. When your neighbour comes to you, always have great respect for him, because the Lord is in him, and often expresses His will through him. ‘ It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure’ (Phil. 2:13). Therefore, do not grudge anything to your brother, but do unto him as unto the Lord; especially as you do not know in whom the Lord will come and visit you; be impartial to all, be kind to all, sincere and hospitable. Remember that sometimes God speaks even through unbelievers, or disposes their hearts towards us, as it happened in Egypt when the Lord gave Joseph favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. (Gen. 39:21).”

—St. John of Kronstadt

The Key to the Kingdom

“Offer a pure repentance to the Lord God Who is powerful to cleanse us of our sins; for there is no sin which conquers God’s love of mankind. Wherefore, brethren, let us fall down before Him often with tears and confess to Him our sins, and He will save us with eternal salvation. For repentance is the way and the key to the Kingdom of Heaven, without which no one can enter into it. Let us keep to this path, O brethren; for the path now in this short life is narrow and sorrowful, but later in that endless future life there shall be abundant and unutterable rewards.” -St. Alexander of Svir

(via Salt of the Earth)

Shielding the Glowing Heart

“You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.” -St. Seraphim of Sarov

God knows how I fail to be gentle and kind. My wife and friends and family know too. I realize more and more how much I swim in judgment, and at best lift my head above its surface on occasion. More often, I’m about as aware of the condemnation welling up in my heart as a fish is conscious of water.

I keep coming back to this quote to remind myself of the high calling we have in making the Truth incarnate through our lives. That it’s better to give than to receive. To remind myself of the great blessing of kindling joy in another through truth spoken in love, and love shown by actions.

I don’t think being gentle and kind means being a pushover or turning a blind eye to wrongs committed. Neither do I think St. Seraphim means that we should never speak up, but rather that we should do so with a right heart—one heavy with the Spirit’s blessed fruit. How else will those who don’t know Him taste and see that the Lord is good?

I have so far to go.

O Lord and Master of my life,
Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
of discouragement,
of lust for power,
and of vain speaking.

But bestow upon me, Thy servant,
the spirit of chastity,
of meekness,
of patience,
and of love.

Yea, O Lord and King,
grant that I may perceive
my own transgressions,
and judge not my brother,
for blessed art Thou
unto ages of ages.
Amen.

-A prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

To Whom Much Is Given

“If we as Orthodox Christians cannot have unity of heart, soul and mind, how can we be surprised at or judge others who do not have the spiritual riches given to us for our salvation in the Church? The Lord said: “But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” (Mt 5:22). I would submit that it is a far greater sin for Orthodox to engage in party spirit, whether it be on the level of party politics or ethnic-jurisdictional differences or within jurisdictions, which seminary or monastery is “more truly orthodox,” than it is for Jewish Israelis and Moslem Arabs to be killing one another with external weapons of violence. “He who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).
-Mother Raphaela (via In Communion)

Help Me to See

Lord, I do not know what to ask of You. You know better than me what my needs are. You love more than I know how to love. Help me to see clearly my real needs which I do not see. I open my heart to You. Examine and reveal to me my faults and sins. I put all trust in You. I have no other desire than to fulfill Your will. Teach me how to pray. Pray in me. Amen.

At the Fragrance of Humility

“My children, desire to purify your hearts from envy and from anger with each other, lest death should overcome you, and you will be counted among the murderers. For whosoever hates his brother, kills a soul.”
-Abba Anthony the Great.

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“One must by every means strive to preserve peace of soul and not be disturbed by offenses from others; for this one must in every way strive to restrain anger and by means of attentiveness to keep the mind and heart from improper feelings. And therefore we must bear offenses from others with equanimity and accustom ourselves to such a disposition of spirit that these offenses seem to concern not us, but others. Such a practice can give quietness to the human heart and make it as a dwelling for God Himself.”
-St. Seraphim of Sarov

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As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats; so, at the fragrance of humility, all anger and bitterness vanishes.
-St. John Climacus

Suggestions Wanted

As an Orthodox catechumen, I often find myself in conversation with friends who would like to know more about the Orthodox Church. I’m thankful for that, yet I hesitate to recommend many of the offerings available. Too many of the books coming out in English are geared toward persuading converts into the faith. There’s nothing wrong with such books, but I find they aren’t always appropriate for what my friends need or want to read. Often, what I’d rather recommend is a book that is decidedly more devotional in nature–something that communicates the heart and essence of Orthodoxy without polemics or vast history lessons. Rather than a catechetical selection, I want to give something inspirational and stirring. So far, I’ve found the books of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom (“Beginning to Pray” and “Courage to Pray”) to be along these lines. Vigen Guroian’s books about theology and gardening are also a good match. But the others in my library are either conversion books or are too academic.

So, dear readers, I turn to you. Do you know of any books that fit the bill of what I’m looking for? What books do you recommend to curious non-Orthodox friends? (If anyone has insight into the writings of Matthew the Poor or Mother Raphaela, I’d love to hear from you about those.)