Glory to God for All Things

Prayers and the One God of All

allrussiasaintsThrough the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!

So runs a common exclamation in Orthodox services of prayer. And so begins another offense for those who wonder why the Orthodox “don’t pray directly to God”…or “why do you pray to the saints”…or, worst of all, how do we dare to say, “Most Holy Theotokos (Birth-giver of God), save us!” For “there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1Timothy 2:5)… and “surely only God can save us!”

These are common questions in the modern world – both from Protestants as well as from the general public. Many members of the Orthodox Church ask the same questions – they, too, are products of a culture that has great difficulty with such things. What is the great difficulty? I believe the problem can be found in a misunderstanding of who God is as well as what it means for us to be in union with Him.

To a degree, questions about prayer and saints reminds me of a common question I’ve heard from children (and some concerned adults): “Which member of the Trinity should we pray to?” When I have responded by trying to ascertain what the nature of the problem was, I have discovered that some are concerned that if they talk to Jesus, exclusively, they will offend the Father and the Holy Spirit. But if they talk exclusively to the Father, it feels less intimate than it does when they speak to Jesus. And they have no idea what to say to the Holy Spirit. So, the question becomes, “Should we just talk to all of them, or if I just say, ‘God’ can they figure it out?” And so the conversation goes.

It is perhaps the case that most of my readers will have wondered the same thing at some point in their Christian lives. For many, the Trinity is not so much a theological problem as a matter of spiritual etiquette. But the problem reveals a great deal – Christians may say they believe in the Trinity – but are largely clueless or simply confused about what it means. Is there an etiquette of prayer?

Of course, an etiquette of prayer presumes that we actually know what prayer is. I have always had difficulty in small groups of people. I can speak to thousands without difficulty (with a good sound system). Speaking to thousands is quite similar to speaking to one. But in a group of say, six, I am at a loss. To whom do you speak? Whose face doyou look at when you’re speaking? And on and on the questions go. For a man who was nurtured in the old Southern culture of the US, being “polite” is ranked among the commandments.

Speaking to God is not speaking to a group – for though God is Triune or Trinity, He is One. To speak to God is to speak to God. There is a typical manner in which most formal prayers are written in Orthodoxy – addressed to the Father, closing with a glorification of the three persons of the Trinity. But this only describes the most common form. Prayers are also written that are addressed to Christ and a few are addressed to the Holy Spirit (“O Heavenly King,” comes to mind). I should add that when Orthodox prayers begin with the general address, “O God,” it is speaking to the Father – something that generally becomes clear during the body of the prayer.

But this is etiquette and not the meaning of prayer. Prayer is active communion with God. Plain and simple – it is nothing else. When we pray we are uniting ourselves to God in thought, word and deed. We yield ourselves to Him and unite our will to His will, our life to His life. Because it is communion, and not just a conversation, it is reciprocal: God unites Himself to us. He yields Himself to us. He unites our will to His. He unites His life to our life.

Thus St. Paul says:

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ (Gal 4:6).

And,

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs– heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Rom 8:15-17).

St. Paul’s references to the cry of “Abba, Father,” most likely have in mind the “Lord’s Prayer,” the “Our Father,” as it is known in most languages. The prayer in many languages (both Hebrew and Greek) begins with the word “Father” (rather than “Our”). Thus it would be the prayer known as the “Abba.”

But St. Paul’s discursus makes clear the nature of our prayers and their essence. Prayer is active communion with God – it indeed is such active communion that he describes it as the Spirit speaking with the voice of the Son to the Father. Prayer is the life of the Triune God on our lips. This is true whether we are saying, “Abba, Father,” or whether we are saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.” It is also true if we are saying, “O God, heal my daughter!” It is still true if we are saying, “O God, why did my child die?” Many such expressions of the heart can be found throughout the Psalms. They are the voice of God in the heart of the Psalmist written to teach us to pray. If the Psalms can say it, so can we!

Prayer is active communion with God regardless of the words we use. Very often people worry themselves about the content of a prayer. They think, “I cannot possibly say that!” Some become superstitious and think that if they say the wrong thing in the wrong way, bad things will happen. These are understandable thoughts, but they are simply the reflection of our own neuroses (some of them taught us by our own religious culture). Prayer is active communion with God and whatever you think, say or don’t say, it is you, yourself that is being united to God. If you think it, believe it, fear it, wish it, whatever, it is you, and you are God’s. God is not offended with us and our prayers.

The content of our hearts is simply an illustration of the content of our lives at any given time. If I am filled with fear, it’s no good pretending that I am not. God isn’t impressed with my ability to pretend things that are not true. Over the decades of my life as a believer, I have said some very terrible things to God. But there have been some very terrible things in my life. Christ God became man and united Himself even to our sins -  (“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” 2Co 5:21). Thus Christ has taken on Himself my anger and my cursing, my doubts and my questions, my rebellion and the secret sins of my life that fill me with self-loathing. All of this He has made His own and nailed it to the Cross that I might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Prayer is active communion with God and this is our salvation. We are saved through union with Christ. Every sacrament, or mystery of the Church, has as its purpose our union with God. In Baptism we are united to Christ’s death and resurrection. In marriage a man and a woman are united and become one flesh in Christ for their salvation. In the Holy Eucharist, whosoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood has Christ’s eternal life in them. And so it goes. Everything is about communion with God and communion with God is the content of our salvation:

God has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the economy of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth– in Him (Eph 1:9-10).

This communion (gathered together in one) is salvation – again, pure and simple. This is our paradise, our peace, our resurrection, our hope, our triumph over death and hell, the forgiveness of our sins and our eternal life.

So, why do we pray, “Through the prayers of our holy fathers…”?

The most straightforward answer is that “this is what communion sounds like on the lips of the Church.” We can also say that “through the prayers of our holy fathers…” is the content of the word “our,” in the “Our Father.” For those who wonder why we invoke the saints when we pray, we do so because we were not taught to pray as individuals (except in the admonition to pray in secret). But the content of our prayer, in the words of Christ, always include others. Our Father…our daily bread…our debts. I have known of some who objected to the Lord’s prayer because we ask God to forgive our debts, arguing that they have no idea what others might have done or whether they are sorry, etc.  Such thoughts betray a misunderstanding of God and of the nature of our salvation.

“No one is saved alone…” the fathers have said…”but if we fall, we fall alone.” Whoever would ask God to forgive his own private sins, but not intercede for others’ forgiveness, will find that he remains unforgiven – not from his own sins – but unforgiven for the sins of others. Because the nature of communion as salvation – is that we cannot be saved alone. Salvation is communion, and communion requires the other. God is Other, but so is everyone and everything. To seek to unite myself to God apart from all of creation is to wish the destruction of everyone and everything.

Part of the language of communion that the Church has developed over the centuries (and quite early I might add), is the language that is described as “prayer to the saints.” There are many ways to do this wrongly (just as there are many ways to pray to God wrongly). Just as God is not rightly conceived as a “supreme personal being” (this is a caricature of the One God), so it is not right to conceive of our prayers to the saints as getting powerful friends to intercede on our behalf because God likes them more than he does me. I was the younger of two sons for most of my childhood. My older brother would urge me, “You go ask Dad! He’ll listen to you.” My father was indeed a tender-hearted man and was very generous to my young intercessions. But God is nothing like this, nor do such examples have anything to do with prayer.

In a culture that has become deeply individualistic, the view of what it is to be human is profoundly flawed. Our relationships to others have been reduced to moral obligations (etiquette) and contracts. St. Paul’s teaching that in the Church  “if one member suffers, all the members suffer…or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice…” (1Co 12:26), is absurd in a world of individuals. There is no communion of individuals and can be none (it is contrary to the notion of the individual). This same culture thinks of God as individual (a Supremely powerful being). If it is incorrect to say this of human beings, it is heresy to say it of God. God is a communion of Persons – One God – Three Persons.

“Prayer to the saints” is, of course, misunderstood by some. Prayer to God is misunderstood by most. Learning that prayer is active communion with God is a great step forward for everyone. To say, “Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us,” is to embrace the communion that is our life. It is the voice of creation being united in the One God who draws all to Himself.

90 Responses to “Prayers and the One God of All”

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  1. Rhonda says:

    Fr. Stephen,
    Oh, this is a keeper! Beautiful!

    Prayer = Communion = Salvation! I have tried so very often to explain to the non-Orthodox how we understand communion, the saints, salvation & Church. Usually the results have been slim as the mindset of individualism is so dominant. Most assume that salvation (when understood as communion with God) means giving up their individuality, not to mention their individual rights.

    You also inadvertently answered a question I had not yet had a chance to discuss with my priest resulting from my current Psych class. Thanks.

  2. Michael Bauman says:

    Wow. Thank you. Father.

  3. Byron Gaist says:

    I can only concur with the two previous comments, Fr Stephen. One of the paragraphs in the above post touched me so much, I have printed out and put it next to my computer at work (in reasonably discrete view). Thank you for putting into words so much that troubles and baffles me about the Christian life.

  4. Dino says:

    How glorious to see the things that need saying being said!

    I was reminded of this extraordinary story from Elder Sophrony, while living in the ‘desert’ (in a cave) of the Holy Mountain (in the 40′s).
    He would sometimes start his all night vigil with “Our Father” (“Отче на́шъ” and “Πάτερ ἡμῶν” in Slavonic and Greek start with the other way round ‘Father of us’), and after many hours the sun would come out in the morning and he hadn’t managed to get to “Who art in…”. Standing in front of God as “all of Adam” with just two words was a prayer that took up all night long!

  5. Dino says:

    Similarly Elder Porphyrios would spend many hours with the words of Christ “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you”…
    Of course those edlders had far more than the ‘natural’ communion that a human can feel with all through deep pain – as mentioned earlier in the comments- although this is very valid, theirs, was a communion of a far higher state through the Holy Spirit.

    “Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on me/us” is a great step to that direction. Monastics know the immense power that this prayer which contains within it the communion with the ‘fathers’ as the first stepping stone against the devil who constantly strives to divide and conquer.

    This Communion=Salvation is evident in Elder Paisios’ metaphor (which I have mentioned here many times before) about paradise:

    In Hell there is a gigantic table at the centre of which lies a huge Chalice containing the most desirable drink, the most desirable Light… All who sit around this table have a single gigantic ladle ‘attached’ to their hand. But they are unbelievably miserable, utterly desperate and lonely: No matter how hard they try, they know the ladle is too long to ever reach their own mouth and they are in unbearable darkness and dryness.

    In Paradise the situation looks similar…! People around the same enormous table, the same immeasurably long ladles attached, but with one key difference: They are not trapped inside, “enclosed” in their selves, through thinking of the Other first, they enjoy THAT drink, Paradise itself, the love of God, the ‘First Commandment’ (Light and Love quenching their thirst from that “Chalice”) through the ‘Second Commandment’ (communion with all others) by feeding each other lovingly…

  6. Joel Christian says:

    “In a culture that has become deeply individualistic, the view of what it is to be human is profoundly flawed. Our relationships to others have been reduced to moral obligations (etiquette) and contracts. St. Paul’s teaching that in the Church “if one member suffers, all the members suffer…or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice…” (1Co 12:26), is absurd in a world of individuals.”

    Beautifully said, very clear. Thanks for the many well articulated thoughts in this piece. I was just having this discussion with a dear brother who is struggling deeply trying to reconcile the teachings of this more traditional youth and his now anti-traditional church he has been attending. I’m glad to see that I, a Baptist Preacher’s kids haphazardly stumbling somewhere near Canterbury, was edified and encouraged to find my answers, though less articulate, in line with your wonderful defense of prayer. Thank you again for your wisdom and willingness to share.

  7. George says:

    Thank You God for this blog!!!
    I know the fathers say “we are saved together, but fall alone”, but does not my sin affect those in communion with me, for example, the effect of alcoholism, how it affect family and friends. When I sin it affects my wife and all with whom I am in relationship, if nothing more than, in my selfishness, I am not there for them.

  8. PJ says:

    For the Christian, prayer is less an action and more a way of being in God. That is, when we pray, we stand in and, in a real way, as Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the loving gaze of the Father. Christian prayer is necessarily and inescapably trinitarian in its very essence. It cannot be otherwise. We needn’t mention the Spirit: we cannot utter a single syllable apart from Him. We needn’t specify “in the name of Christ”: we are His members. Of course our prayer is directed toward the Father: all things come from Him and return to Him. The entire point of the liturgical and ascetic life is the raising of this “trinitarian consciousness.” It is what makes Christian prayer so radically unlike the prayer of Jews, Muslims, and all other “religious.” The fact is, as Father Schmemann delighted in pointing out, Christianity is not a religion, but friendship with and life in God.

  9. PJ says:

    How can we *not* pray to the saints? Christ’s very body is comprised of His beloved brothers and sisters. The root of the all Protestant error is a basic failure to grasp the radical nature of the incarnation. They do not understand the incarnation, so they do not understand the Church, so they do not understand Scripture and the sacraments, so they do not understand salvation.

  10. mary benton says:

    Another exceptional post…Someone recently was asking me questions about faith and God. I asked, “why do we pray?” and the person responded, “because we want something”. I do not fault this person for their limited understanding of prayer (given their background) but it strikes me that this is an all too common understanding of prayer in our world.

    To know prayer as communion, with God, with others, with all of creation, is so exciting – how can we not want to “pray without ceasing”? This life is indeed the way of Beauty.

    (With Father Stephen’s permission, I would like to invite you to a special post on my blog, on Seeing with the “Eyes of the Heart”. The link is below. Help counteract the crisis of beauty!)

    http://findhope-mary.blogspot.com/2013/05/seeing-with-eyes-of-heart_30.html

  11. PJ says:

    Mary,

    I say this with all due respect: Be careful with that “Abbey of Hearts.” Anything that has the approval of Fr. Richard Rohr must be handled with great, great care. I realize it’s not always easy to find a forum wherein one can mix art and spirituality, but there seems to be more than a little gnostical, New Age spiritualism floating around that site. Just take care.

    I like your photos, by the way. Especially the squirrel. It looks like my cat. ;-) Spring has sprung!

  12. fatherstephen says:

    Mary,
    My approach on these matters tends to be generous. I will offer this caveat. I do not support nor endorse non-Orthodox spiritual sources, simply because I find them either unreliable or not accountable to Orthodox authority. In Roman Catholicism, though there has been some “tightening” under the last Papacy, there is still so much stuff that is simply beyond the bounds of traditional Orthodox Christian practice. I add to that the plethora of “spiritualities” in Rome, i.e. Franciscan, Benedictine, etc., which I think of as simply more fracturing and distraction, a kind of “Protestantism” within the walls of Rome. It began a long time ago, but is among the many things that separate the ethos of Rome from the ethos of Orthodoxy. Of course, Orthodoxy is invited to bring its ethos into the “fold,” but then it would no longer be Orthodoxy and the world would come to an end.

    So, forgive me, but I needed to over that caveat.

  13. fatherstephen says:

    PJ,
    cf. my note to Mary.

  14. PJ says:

    I regret to say that you are largely right, Father. Over the last fifty years, myriad false prophets have arisen in the western precincts of the Catholic Church, and especially in America. I am regularly horrified by the contents of church libraries. There are whole parishes seminaries, monasteries, retreats, and chanceries overrun by outright heresy. New Age and gnostical spiritualities have seeped into and perverted the faith. One finds priests promoting mediums, drum circles, faith healing, enneagrams, palmistry, A Course in Miracles, yoga, Reiki, tarot, Gaia worship, the Feminine Principle, Sophiology, theosophy, and all matter of superstition and rank paganism. The Catholic landscape is a spiritual minefield. Thank God for Pope Benedict, whose long term as Grand Inquisitor and all too brief reign as pope helped improve matters, but there is still much danger. God help us.

  15. fatherstephen says:

    PJ,
    At a certain point in my Anglican years, I finally quit “exploring” and began to read only Orthodox sources. It took time for the cobwebs to get cleared out – and on this side of things now – I can see just how much nonsense I entertained, and just how much danger I was in from time to time. Orthodoxy isn’t perfect – but usually if it’s strange – it tends to be strange in a legalistic direction (that’s my take on it). But the spooky stuff is generally removed. It is interesting to me that although all monasteries are, theoretically “under their own typicon,” and the monastic life does vary somewhat, my experience is that Orthodox monasticism is the same everywhere you go. Some are more rigorous and ascetical (this was true already in the time of the desert fathers), but the character of the life is the same everywhere. It is interesting that this is so in that there is no central controlling authority. And although in Rome there is a central controlling authority, the range of “spiritualities” is vast. In Orthodoxy, there is, more or less (literally), only one “spirituality.” It is ascetical, apophatic and hesychast, and liturgical. You can see differences between idiorhythmic monasteries and cenobitic, but even then, there’s the one spiritual life. It is back to the theme of the “One.” And that is quite significant. The “smorgasbord” approach tends, I think, to nurture the scattering of the mind and the fragmentation of the soul rather than gathering it together in one. Thus I often respond to the ecumenical question viz. Rome, “which Rome?”

  16. PJ says:

    It’s an interesting critique.

    Ironically, the religious orders have perhaps fared the worst. The Franciscans are in the dreadful state. I am sad to say that I literally cringe when I hear that a Franciscan will be saying Mass. You never have any idea what to expect. More often than not, it’s a disheartening experience. The canon becomes a game of liturgical ad lib. And the Jesuits … well, need I really speak of the Jesuits? I must say, I’ve been holding my breath since Francis was elected. And I haven’t exhaled yet.

  17. Michael Bauman says:

    . The root of the all Protestant error is a basic failure to grasp the radical nature of the incarnation. They do not understand the incarnation, so they do not understand the Church, so they do not understand Scripture and the sacraments, so they do not understand salvation.

    P.J. Hit the nail on the head but it is, unfortunately, not limited to Protestants as it is the root, IMO, of secularism as well and many type of messianic political ideologies as well and has done much mischief in both of our communions I fear.

    It is a hard thing to accept: “Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man” even as a statement let alone the ramifications of it. Our inability to rest in that riddle is also our inability to accept and live in oneness.

    St.Athanasius’ book “On the Incarnation” ought to be required reading for everyone who thinks they want to be or claims to be Christian. It is a deceptively small book.

    The three times I’ve read it is barely enough.

  18. Jeremiah says:

    This was powerful and inspiring. Thank you, Fr Stephen.

  19. fatherstephen says:

    Michael,
    I should probably apologize ahead of time for the feathers I might rustle out there – but the extrinsic versions of salvation, however they are couched, are basically Christianized paganism (of the classical sort). It suits the State extremely well in that its goals are essentially similar, to live and die in a basically moral manner. The State today, however, is redefining “moral manner,” hence the official unpopularity of some versions of Christianity – but they are on the same playing field.

  20. mary benton says:

    I must confess that I am feeling a bit hurt by the responses above. (I DO appreciate, Fr. Stephen, that you allowed my post to go through and I understand that you do not endorse non-Orthodox sites – you have no time to check them out. That part does not hurt me.)

    I do not write my blog for an Orthodox readership but I wanted to share with all of you, my brothers and sisters, what was for me a beautiful experience – both the reading of the book I reviewed and the contemplative walk with my camera. I’m not trying to change anyone’s theology but inviting people to learn to see with the eyes of the heart. Is that so different from what you have been writing about?

    PJ – I feel like you jumped to a lot of conclusions based on a superficial glance. I have learned a great deal at this site and I have learned a great deal at Christine’s site (Christine is the author of the book I reviewed).

    Next thing I know, I’m reading you insulting the Jesuits – I have learned a great deal from them as well – I served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps 35+ years ago. (And I personally have just started breathing since Francis became pope.) We don’t have to agree on this but I found your words disrespectful of some really wonderful people.

    We should all be careful, of course, from whom we take our learning. I did not review this book without having quite a bit of experience with the author. I don’t agree with her on everything – nor do I agree with everyone here on everything – because we are not yet fully One. We still see things differently because we only see dimly. Some day, may we see Him together in a Truth that far exceeds any of our personal ideas.

    I realize that I am likely overreacting – I tend to be sensitive. It was only my intent to share a gift.

  21. Jeremiah says:

    Fr Stephen, I’m not sure you take requests, but perhaps you could consider doing a couple of podcasts on Oneness. These blogs have been wonderful, but for whatever reason, I seem to better grasp your message when I feel as though you are talking to me. Maybe a bit silly, but I thought I’d throw that out there.

  22. fatherstephen says:

    Mary,
    Sorry for touching on sensitive places. I welcome everyone here, but I tend to draw the boundaries of Orthodoxy carefully – there are many, many readers (most of them never comment) and its a very active religious blogosphere out there – most of it decidedly not Orthodox. I draw the boundaries carefully because I don’t consider other things to be safe (and it’s hard enough within the boundaries of Orthodoxy). There can be good will in Christ – but I probably don’t have an ecumenical bone in my body – while the world outside of Orthodoxy is generally in love with most things ecumenical. Many within Orthodoxy consider ecumenism to be one of the great modern heresies. If it is defined as they define it, I would agree – though none of that is what I hear you saying. But I intend no offense – but because many readers are also inquirers, looking for safe information – or trusting what guidance may be offered – I’m quite careful on things that may test the boundaries. It’s just that kind of world.

  23. mary benton says:

    I appreciate your words, Fr. Stephen. I understand you want to give your readers a clear boundary on Orthodoxy. While I don’t think most people would assume that you are endorsing what is in my blog (or the links in my blog, in this case), I certainly don’t mind you adding a disclaimer to that effect. As I said above, I thought it kind of you to allow me to share with your readers.

    I did feel a bit disheartened by your comparing different religious orders within Catholicism to Protestant “fracturing and distraction”. I do not experience it that way at all, having been taught by Dominicans and Sisters of Charity, having had retreats with Jesuits and Franciscans. I have a good friend who is a Sister of St. Joseph and another good friend who is a Diocesan priest. For me, it is/was seamless transitioning from one to another.

    I am not suggesting that there are no factions or problems within the Catholic church – of course there are. I don’t see them as having much relationship with my experience of photography and contemplation. But, more than enough said. I thank you again for your kindness in letting me be a part of your forum.

  24. Karen says:

    Mary, beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing them.

  25. Michael Bauman says:

    Mary, sometimes the warnings are well meaning but delivered artlessly because the one giving the warning has been adversely affected by the same or similar situation or thinks they have. Out of care for you, they want to save you the same pain and danger.

    Having experienced the destructive power of seemingly beautiful ideas before I came to the Church, I know the impetus to warn.

    I concur with Fr. Stephen in that I have only found safety in the Orthodox Church, but I have also found that my well meant warnings oft fall on deaf ears and/or other people don’t need to be warned because they don’t face the same danger.

    It is difficult to know for sure with specific people. However I can attest that PJ’s warning is, in general, quite true. I am also quite sure he did not want to see you hurt.

    A friend that did not want you to run head-long into what he perceived as a busy street.

    May our Lord protect us all from un-truth and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  26. Photini says:

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen! I had conversations with two friends this week and you touched on both topics, and helped me as well.

    :-)

  27. Dino says:

    Hieromonk Gabriel Bunge (a Catholic ex Benedictine) who converted to Orthodoxy at 70 (now a hermit) with a tempered and very interesting explanation of his journeys here that some might be interested in:
    http://philotimo-leventia.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/catholic-hermit-converted-to-orthodoxy.html

  28. PJ says:

    Mary,

    I don’t mean to offend you. I’m not anathematizing the site or anything — just urging caution. Neither Jesus Christ, nor His Church, nor the Holy Trinity are mentioned in the organization’s “Manifesto.” We should be wary of any spiritual association or discipline that does not clearly affirm our Lord and the Holy Trinity.

    Have you read “Jesus Christ: Bearer of the Water of Life,” the Vatican’s official statement on the New Age? It is very useful in discerning the line between orthodox and New Age mysticism, which is often difficult. It really helped me.

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html

    As for the Jesuits: It is no secret that the order is in serious turmoil. Just look at the state of their universities, which were once shining beacons of orthodox Catholicism, and are now breeding grounds of heresy. The Jesuits were largely responsible for one of the great heresies of the South American church: liberation theology, which was roundly condemned by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Now, there are plenty of good, solid, orthodox Jesuits. Father Hardon, for instance. But they are the first to shake their heads at the state of their order.

    As for Pope Francis: He is a saintly man, no doubt. But saints don’t always make great popes. I’m not certain that he is willing or able to undertake the vast renewal of the liturgical and theological life of the Church. I only hope that he relies upon the advice of Pope Benedict.

    Again, forgive me if I offended you. You’re right: One needn’t agree with another person entirely in order to learn from him. There is plentiful wisdom in other spiritual traditions. I just know from experience that it is easy to misjudge the soundness of spirituality outside the mainstream of the ancient catholic, orthodox faith. Be careful — that’s all I’m saying.

    God bless.

  29. drewster2000 says:

    Hi Mary,

    Often I feel in agreement with your statements, and I appreciate your tender heart. Therefore I think I might be able to add some insight to what others have said, since I imagine that we are often in the same place. My part would be to remind you of something you already know: there are limits.

    Not only are there denominational boundaries that remind us that we are not yet One, but everyone here comes from a certain place, with certain baggage – and limitations. Everyone has different things they focus on, which causes them to necessarily narrow their scope in order to achieve those things that they focus on. And all this causes limits when connecting to others.

    However, we are all looking for home. We all want to arrive at that place where we can let our hair (and our guard) down and stop having to use filters and armor and being ready to deflect and parry all the time. We know from countless experience that there really is no place like that in this broken world, but we desire it so badly that we find ourselves looking around every corner for it – and being ready to believe we found it at every chance. Maybe if we just go ahead and open up this time and let our hair down – maybe others will respond in kind and it will after all, through some miracle, turn out to be that happy place. And we’re always disappointed for one reason or another.

    For example: I have drunk deeply at the well of Fr. Stephen’s blog for some time now, but every once in awhile I get irritated because it seems like there are periods where post and comment alike has to be laced so thickly with the term “Orthodox”. And every time this happens I eventually step back and realize that this is because I’m at an Orthodox website. They haven’t changed; I simply forgot where I was.

    There are limits. Just as with the Jesuits or the author of that book, so with everything one in this life. The greatest pain we experience in this world is perhaps that of separation from our God and each other. The miracle of course is that as we allow God to heal us, at that rate do we come to return to that state of communion which we shall all enjoy again some day.

    Don’t lose heart. Life is good and God is continuing to His good work in us, despite how it feels sometimes.

  30. PJ says:

    You’re not Orthodox, drewster? Catholic?

  31. Lina says:

    Whatever happened to John 14:13? “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

    I was taught early on to pray in the Name of Jesus. It is a habit long established. Therefore I have found it strange in Orthodoxy, that we seem to be always asking the saints to intercede for us. How does one mix the two ideas?

  32. fatherstephen says:

    Lina, to pray “in the Name,” is to be in Christ Himself – to dwell “in the Name.” The way we were taught as children to pray “in the Name,” was a treatment of that verse that sort of made it like a magical formula. It is still perfectly fine to say, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.,” but when the Church gathers it gathers “in the Name.” All that we do is “in the Name.” In the act of worship, and prayer in worship, the Church has tended to follow the model in Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” That liturgical formula, invoking the names of the Trinity, became the dominant and preferred form of liturgical prayer, particularly as the various anti-Trinitarian heresies arose.

    It is interesting that Acts 8:16 speaks of a Baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” It describes the early mission to Samaria in which people had come to believe, but had not yet received the Holy Spirit:

    For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Act 8:16-17 NKJ)

    A few Pentecostal groups (who love the book of Acts) have, in a few cases, adopted a pattern of Baptism in the Name of Jesus only – a practice that is generally not accepted by other Christian groups. Many administer a “conditional” Baptism, correcting this error. The book of Acts loves the phrase “the name of Jesus,” using it many times in places where you would expect to see the word “gospel.” It’s an interesting feature of that book.

  33. drewster2000 says:

    PJ,

    The short story is that I’m a member of the EOC, the organization that Fr. Peter Gilquist came out of.

  34. fatherstephen says:

    Drewster,
    I did not know that there were still EOC congregations. I have many friends from that background…my second daughter’s father-in-law is a former EOC priest (now Antiochian). I worked with an EOC congregation about 10 or 12 years back as they were preparing to be received into the OCA. Interesting!

  35. drewster2000 says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    I’m originally from the Indianapolis congregation, Holy Trinity. The remaining churches are small congregations: Indianapolis(IN), Sioux City(IA), here in Saskatchewan (CAN) and Halmstad, Sweden – and now some African churches. So the original group is greatly dwindled but still here.

    I’m guessing the group you worked with was either Nicholasville, KY or Toccoa GA. I found friends both places. They are good people full of personality – but aren’t we all, really? (grin)

    I also keep in contact with Fr. Paul Coats, a priest in Rock Hill, SC, a good man and also a former Holy Trinity member.

  36. Brian says:

    Drewster,

    I had no idea. I’ll bet we have numerous friends in common -some of whom are my relatives. We probably even know each other, albeit by a name other than Drewster. Give all the good folks in Indy a hug from me.

  37. drewster2000 says:

    Brian,

    No doubt you’re right. I believe you may have been the one to give me (and others) the lesson about how to hold the gifts God gives us, passing out dollar bills and then coming later and taking them away only from those who gripped the bill vs. holding it in an open palm. I’ll never forget that lesson.

    My folks are still in the Indianapolis parish but I’m now part of the one up here in Saskatoon, Canada. However I stay in close contact and will pass on the hugs. (grin)

    You perhaps remember me as Andrew Hunt.

  38. Brian says:

    Drewster/Andrew,

    I do indeed. Well then, that calls for even more hugs for all my beloved Canadian friends! Please pass them along.

    Fr. Steven,

    I know your daughter’s father-in-law and mother-in-law from way back. I remember when (now Fr.) Philip was born. He was also a classmate of my son at St. Vlads.

    As an Orthodox Christian, I am certainly not put off by the use of the word “Orthodox.” But in common parlance it has become something of a ‘noun’ rather than the adjective that it actually is (much like the word Catholic, I might add). Although I am in no way ashamed of being an Orthodox Christian, I confess that I sometimes wonder if the use of the word as a noun rather than an adjective is helpful to anyone – within the Orthodox Church or without.

  39. mary benton says:

    Thank you to all who offered kind reflections, including those who felt a need to caution me (I appreciate the loving spirit behind that, though it felt unnecessary to me).

    Drewster – your comment about “home” is well made. I often write a bit poetically on my blog. In finding “home”, my meaning was one of having found kindred spirits. In much of my early life, I had few peers that I could relate to spiritually and so I rejoice now when I discover them. I feel that same sense of “home” here. At neither site am I completely “at home” because my only true home is in God. There will never be a website, friend or even church that will ever replace that truth – may God help me (church with a small “c”, meaning the human organization).

    What I had most hoped to share in sharing my blog post was how a heart open to God, a camera and nature can lead to an experience of Beauty. Photography has been a great gift to me because, approached spiritually, it teaches an awareness and presence that may be similar to the Orthodox concept of nepsis (of which my understanding is limited). It deeply enriches my spiritual life and creates a connection with some of my patients. True Beauty brings healing.

    I also love sharing images (photos) that I consider gifts from God. I know very little about photography and do not consider myself “good” at it. Yet there are moments in which, when I have moved from my head to my heart, Beauty appears before my camera lens and it is sheer grace. How I would love for everyone to have this experience! And so the invitation. (The book and the linked website are incidental – a help to me but certainly not for everyone.)

  40. fatherstephen says:

    Mary,
    Despite your protests to the contrary – you seem to be “good” at photography. Your images are stunning and clearly come from “paying attention.” Thank you.

  41. PJ says:

    The photographs are excellent, Mary. Quite stunning. And, as I said, I quite delighted in the one of the squirrel. They’re truly preposterous creatures. God has an interesting sensibility. I look forward to those of autumn, my favorite season.

  42. mary benton says:

    Though my ego (false self) basks in compliments, I truly believe the images are gifts. I do not create the beauty. I am simply learning to see it. Glory to God for all things…

    (PJ – I love the squirrel picture too – he/she appears to be praying!)

  43. Westy Goes East says:

    Father Stephen, I have a question that is slightly, but not completely, off-topic. Quite awhile ago I heard a podcast from Father Thomas Hopko (either on his “Speaking the Truth in Love”, or “Worship in Spirit and Truth” series, I can’t remember which, because I’ve listened to every single one of his podcasts) where he said that when we pray “Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers …”, that doesn’t refer to the saints, but to our priests. Do you know anything about the origin of that? I’m not trying to start an argument, I’m just wondering.

  44. Dino says:

    That is certainly how a monastic in obedience would first and foremost perceive that Westy! and he ‘knows’ its power empirically…

  45. fatherstephen says:

    Westy, Fr Thomas is correct. I’ve always seen that stretch back through time as well. It speaks of the mystery of salvation – no one is saved alone.

  46. Michael Bauman says:

    I was reading on Journeys to Orthodoxy about the Buddhist Chinese man who is now an Athonite monk. His reason for becoming Orthodox was for divine companionship-smeone to share the spiritual struggle; to talk to about everything.

    My dear wife thinks we make prayer too complicated but she has enjoyed a special relationship with Jesus since she was as five. One reason she embraces Orthodoxy is because she recognized Him in the icons. She just talks to Him.

  47. Michael,
    Tolstoy’s short story on the three fishermen:

    “You are three, so are we, Lord have mercy.”

    Do you know the story?

  48. Michael Bauman says:

    No Father I don’t know the story. I’ll see if I can find it.

  49. Michael Bauman says:

    Found it on line: The Three Hermits. “Three are ye, three are we. Have mercy on us.”

  50. Michael,
    I made it rhyme, because it rhymes in the Russian!

  51. Michael Bauman says:

    In any case the story sheds light on oneness including the canon that bishops are not to do anything without the consent of the other bishops and how Holy Synods are supposed to work but seldom do: “It seems good to us and the Holy Spirit….”

    And of course the celebration of the Eucharist.

    Thank you for mentioning the story.

  52. Mary-Emily says:

    Dear Father Stephen,

    I am new to your website, and also a recent convert to Orthodoxy, so please forgive my ignorance. As someone with a Protestant background, prayer to the saints has understandably been a difficult concept for me, but one that I have embraced. However, I had a hard time with this statement you made above:

    “…it is not right to conceive of our prayers to the saints as getting powerful friends to intercede on our behalf because God likes them more…”

    If this is not the case, then why, especially, to we pray to the saints? If the saints, having led holy lives and having attained a certain affinity with the Creator, don’t have any more heavenly “pull” than a regular person, then why don’t we also ask our dead grandparents to pray for us — or any other dead Christian?

    It’s heartening to think of the saints as my powerful pals, and I don’t want to be disabused of this notion!

  53. Rhonda says:

    Mary-Emily,
    Focus on the “…because God likes them more than he does me.…” to see what Fr. Stephen alluding in this statement. God is not a respecter of persons (prejudicial). Rest assured, Fr. Stephen is not taking away our “powerful pals” :-) On the contrary the point is that we have “access” to the Saints because we too are in communion with God just as they are in communion with God. They have finished the journey we are still on & we can ask for their assistance & prayers just as we can our best friend bodily standing next to us.

    An evangelical & his wife once attended a Vespers service with me. I introduced them to a couple of people. I then excused myself saying I had to go say hello to my friends. I venerated the Holy Icons & quickly returned. After service the gentleman asked me why I had “kissed those pictures”& instead of “greeting my friends” as I had said. I explained the communion of the Saints to him. He had never heard that the Orthodox consider the Saints our living friends. Ironically, it also never occurred to him that when I excused myself that I had left him & his wife with the only 2 other people in the room (the priest & matushka), so he should have wondered at the time just who I was going to greet ;-)

  54. Michael Bauman says:

    In addition to asking for their intercessions we often pray with the saints and they with us. That is part of the oneness.

  55. fatherstephen says:

    Mary-Emily,
    Indeed, the key phrase in my statement was “because God likes them more…” We pray to the saints because they are in communion with God, and in a closeness of communion that is helpful to us and our prayers. A deceased relative might indeed be a friend, but are generally as in need of prayer and help as are we ourselves. Thus the recognize the communion of saints and their assistance to us in drawing near to God – in very profound ways, I might add. Generally, we pray for those whose communion with God is not yet like those of the saints.

    During the course of services in which a saint is “canonized” in the Orthodox Church, a number of panikhidas (memorial services) are offered. Eventually there is the “Last Panikhida.” After this, we no longer “pray for” the saint, but now offer a molieben (service of supplication) in which we ask their prayers for us. By God’s grace, I would like to attend these one day. They are not common events.

  56. mary benton says:

    This is an interesting discussion. In the Catholic Church, relatively few people are canonized and declared “saints”. While I ask these canonized saints to pray for me, I do ask for prayers from my deceased friends and family who lived deeply spiritual lives.

    I am interested, Fr. Stephen, is how the Orthodox Church determines that it is time to stop praying for someone and start asking their prayers. If these services are not common events, then how does the average person know how to proceed? (I am asking this with genuine interest – not challenging the process.)

  57. Karen says:

    Mary, I have read in an Orthodox source (no longer remember where, sorry!) that in regard to this subject, it is perfectly natural for an Orthodox child to entreat the prayers of a deceased Orthodox parent as well as those of the Saints.

  58. fatherstephen says:

    Mary,
    In the Orthodox Church “canonization” of saints is the prerogative of the “Local Church,” of which there are 15 (although some would say “14,” since the status of the Orthodox Church in America as a local, autocephalous Church, is a matter of debate in world Orthodoxy). A Local Church would in non-ecclesiastical parlance be called a “National” Church, more or less.

    The local synod of bishops of that land, investigates, debates and decides on canonization of the candidates within their lands. In America, there are two or three persons whose lives are currently under consideration. The Synod does not “make” anyone a saint. All the Church can do is to decide to recognize someone whose life has clearly manifested the holiness of God. After the Synod does this, these persons are added to the calendar with a feast day, normally the day of their death, sometimes otherwise. Other Local Churches take up these celebrations as seems popular. There are many modern saints in Orthodoxy, some have devotion that has spread far outside their lands. St. Seraphim of Sarov was not canonized until around 1903, but is extremely popular across the world. The same is true of the very newly canonized Tsar-martyr Nicholas of Russia and his family. There have been over 2000 canonized martyrs so-far from the Communist Yoke period of Russia, though the true number would likely be hundreds or thousands of times that many. But Moscow is taking each case quite individually. There is a feast day, however, for the “New Martyrs of Russia,” that would be inclusive of the larger number, known only to God thus far.

    These paragraphs, by Fr. Lawrence Farley are helpful (glorification and canonization are used interchangeably):

    While the glorification of a saint may be initiated because of miracles, it is not an absolute necessity for canonization. The Roman Catholic Church requires three verified miracles in order to recognize someone as a saint; the Orthodox Church does not require this. There are some saints, including Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain (July 14) and Saint Innocent of Moscow (commemorated March 31), who have not performed any miracles, as far as we know. What is required is a virtuous life of obvious holiness. And a saint’s writings and preaching must be “fully Orthodox,” in agreement with the pure faith that we have received from Christ and the Apostles and taught by the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.

    Can the Church “make” a saint? The answer is no. Only God can do that. We glorify those whom God Himself has glorified, seeing in their lives true love for God and their neighbors. The Church merely recognizes that such a person has cooperated with God’s grace to the extent that his or her holiness is beyond doubt.

    Are saints “elected” by special panels or by majority vote? Again, the answer is no. Long before an official inquiry into a person’s life is made, that person is venerated by the people where he or she lived and died. His or her memory is kept alive by the people who pray for his or her soul or who ask him or her for intercession. Sometimes people will visit his or her grave or have icons painted through their love for the person. Then a request is made, usually through the diocesan bishop, for the Church to recognize that person as a saint. A committee, such as the Orthodox Church in America’s Canonization Commission, is formed to research the life of the person who is being considered for glorification and to submit a report to the Holy Synod stating its reasons why the person should or should not be recognized as a saint. Then the Holy Synod decides to number that person among the saints and have icons painted and liturgical services composed.

    The formal Rite of Glorification begins with a final Memorial Service for the person about to be canonized, after which Vespers and Matins with special hymns to the saint are chanted and the saint’s icon is unveiled. The saint’s life is published and the date of his or her commemoration is established. The other Orthodox Churches are notified of the glorification so that they can place the new saint’s name on their calendars.

    Individuals are indeed free to pray as they will in private. There are some whose intercessions I ask in my private prayers who have not been glorified by the Church. I do not invoke them in any public manner – it’s not my right as a priest.

    North America now commemorates: St. Herman of Alaska, St. Innocent of Alaska, St. Peter the Aleut (Martyr), St. Juvenaly of Iliamna (Martyr), St. Tikhon of Moscow, St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, St. Alexis Toth, St. Nicholai of Zicha (Serbia), Priestmartyrs John Kochurov and Alexander Hotivitsky (Martyred by the Bolsheviks). Sts. Nicholai, John and Alexander “labored” in America but were canonized in their home Church. Canada, I’m told, has a local commemoration and Matushka Olga is popularly commemorated in Alaska.

  59. Michael Bauman says:

    My home parish had a hand in the glorification of St. Raphael as it was he who sent us our first priest and we have living memebers who met him while he was in the flesh. Our Associate Pastor at the time, Fr. Paul Hodge, wrote his Vita. He was cannonized jointly by the OCA and Antiochian Archdiocese of North America with the blessings of the Holy Synod of Antioch at St. Tikon’s Monastary in PA. His relics currently reside at the Antiochian Village in PA.

    We had an icon of him on our back wall before he was canonnized (without the halo) and have always venerated him.

    Recently we had a bishop from the Georgian (the country) Orthodox Church visit and Bp. Basil gave the Georgian bishop a copy of the life of St. Raphael and a copy of his hymns as well. That is one way the knowledge of the saint spreads.

    There are several accounts amongst parish members of the postive effects of St. Raphael’s intercessions (healings and the like), but mostly it was the heroic manner in which he served the people of this country at a time when there were few priests available. His full title is St. Raphael of Brooklyn, the Shepard of the Lost Sheep of America.

    The relics of St. John, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco reside in Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral(ROCOR) in San Francisco. St. Herman’s relics are on Kodiak Island and there is a pilgrimage there each May, I believe.

    BTW, my son was honored recently to be the Godfather to a young man who’s baptismal name is Peter, the Aleut because the young man is part Native American.

    I thought St. Tikon was also part of the North American panetheon too. Am I wrong?

  60. fatherstephen says:

    Michael,
    I kept thinking there was someone whom I left out! Yes, St. Tikhon of Moscow – who was jointly canonized by America and Russia. Forgive me.

  61. mary benton says:

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen, for your helpful explanation.

    Although the RC church makes a bigger production of trying to verify sainthood, I think the underlying meaning is quite similar. We are blessed in this age to know of holy people from other places and eras in ways that would not have been possible in earlier times.

    This question is a bit off topic – but are there any Orthodox saints about whom I might readily find a biography (that wouldn’t be hugely difficult for me to read and understand)? Thanks.

  62. Rhonda says:

    Mary Benton,

    The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has daily saints here:
    http://oca.org/saints/lives

    You can look up saints by name or date. I also think the Greek Orthodox & Antiochians have something like this on their websites as well though I don’t have the links…

  63. drewster2000 says:

    Mary,

    Everyone has their favorites. My suggestion is St. Theophan the Recluse:
    -The Spiritual Life: And How to be Attuned to it
    -The Heart of Salvation: The Life and Teachings of Russia’s Saint Theophian the Recluse

  64. Rhonda says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    Sterling commentary on Conciliar Anglican Satisfaction’s Guarantee (http://conciliaranglican.com/2013/05/18/satisfactions-guarantee/)!

    I know you’re busy, but can we get a heads-up on the topic of your next blog? It seems like most of the blogs I malinger around are very quiet currently; hmm…weather??

  65. Michael Bauman says:

    Father, I was re-reading the first couple of chapters of your book, Everywhere Present, over lunch. I think they simply and adequately explain the existential reality of both our culture and the reality as at Mar Saba.

    It also reminded me that death does not separate us from our loved ones exactly. Both my wife and I lost our spouses and it is obvious that they had a hand in us getting together somehow–they are still with us and we remember them with a fond mixture of both sorrow and joy.

    Both my wife and my son are much more consciously aware of that kind of thing than am I, but I know it is real nonetheless.

    It is not always easy this continuing communion, but the nothingness that hangs over those who don’t embrace it is mind-numbingly cold in its contemplation.

  66. Michael Bauman says:

    Mary Benton, as Rhonda mentions there are many short bios of numerous Orthodox saints on line as well as in the four volume set of books entitled: Orthodox Saints by a Greek man whose name I can’t remember. There is the Prolog of Ochrid which is more devotional in nature and the 12 volume set that takes each month beginning in September.

    All of these and more are available from Eighth Day Books: http://eighthdaybooks.com/index.php

    A wondrous book store full of knowledge, peace and a spirit of service.

  67. fatherstephen says:

    Rhonda,
    By God’s grace ill be blogging again soon. I was treated for a light heart attack earlier today. I’m in hospital (Internet in the ICU!), and doing much better. We are trusting for a good recovery. I would greatly appreciate the prayers of readers for my health, for my parish and family, and for the blog family across the world. God’s mercies are beyond measure.

  68. mary benton says:

    Father Stephen,

    Many prayers and blessings to you as you recover. May God be with you and those who care for you.

  69. Patty Joanna says:

    I will pray for you. I’m glad you are doing well, considering. You have a special place in my heart.

  70. Niphon says:

    God bless you Father, and all those in your care.

  71. TLO says:

    Fr. Stephen – All my best thoughts are with you. Selfishly, I hope the medical treatment gives you many years of life yet. I have very much enjoyed your writings and our discussions.

    Please know that you have been a great blessing to me.

    -John

  72. Old Toad says:

    Father Stephen: This blog is indeed a great blessing. I pray for your speedy recovery and return. In the meantime, get lots of rest.

  73. Rhonda says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    “internet in the ICU”

    Now that’s funny! May God bless you for your devotion & love to us! Our prayers shall surely be with you :-) Please get well soon.

  74. Mgtpgh says:

    I know we have never met but reading your blog every day has made me feel that you are a part of my family. I’m praying for your full and speedy recovery. Your hard work and dedication to this blog has blessed myself and so many others. Now is the time for you to rest and take care of yourself.

  75. Dino says:

    “internet in the ICU”!
    the phrase reminded me of the words of Met. Hierotheos when he last saw F. John Romanides in ICU, (connected to tens of pipes etc…) and he asked “How is your health F. John?” only to get an ‘irrelevant’ question in response – about Theology of course – signifying his genuine constant preoccupation with the matter!
    :-)
    Lord have mercy on our Father in Christ, Stephen…!
    May our Lord and His all Holy Mother keep blessing you (and through you us too) always!
    Thank you.

  76. Marjaana says:

    You are in my and many others’ prayers! Speedy recovery!

  77. María Gutiérrez says:

    May the Archangel Saint Raphael brings healing to you, dearest father.

  78. LI says:

    God bless you, father, I pray for a full and speedy recovery!

    You’re a father to many, more than you know, please make sure you stay with us long.

  79. Karen says:

    Prayers assured! Speedy recovery.

  80. Lorraine Hines says:

    Dear Fr Stephen
    God bless you. May you have a speedy recovery.

  81. Gene B says:

    Dear Father Stephen,
    Christ Is Risen!
    Your blog has continually been an inspiration to me, especially when I travel which is often. I will keep you in my prayers. God Bless You!

  82. Herb says:

    God bless you, Father Stephen. You are in our prayers.

  83. Anglican Peggy says:

    God bless you, Father Stephen. I am praying for a speedy and full recovery for you!

  84. kay says:

    Dear Father – you are in our prayers for a quick recovery; your blog brought us to the Church, and are continually educating us – we can’t begin to thank you. Get well soon!

  85. Rd Andrew says:

    Fr Stephen
    May the Lord bless you and keep you;
    May the Lord make His face shine upon you,
    And be gracious to you;
    May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
    And give you peace.
    Both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen
    One of my favorite blessings

  86. Phil says:

    Fr. Stephen, God bless you and I hope you have a full and quick recovery.

  87. claire says:

    Prayers, definitely, and with many thanks for your blog and book.

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