Be Still and Know God

260474_280705148697909_1416414726_nThere is a point of stillness within us, though we rarely recognize it. We inhabit the world of our thoughts and feelings and rarely find them to be quiet. Almost nothing challenges the “normalcy” of this noisy world – almost everything we encounter is aimed towards it and markets itself with this reality in mind. Not so the gospel.

Christ consistently and persistently speaks past the noise in a person’s head. He addresses the point of stillness.

The noise of our thoughts and feelings is described by the fathers as “the passions.” They are the products of our inner distortions.

We do not actually “choose” most things, that is, what we acquire is not in fact a product of the will. Rather, what we experience and call “choice” is simply the work of desires – mostly for pleasure or to avoid an undesired pain. Many of the desires we experience simply “occur.” We are not at all aware of having willed to have them – they present themselves as facts within our awareness.

The same is true of many things that we say we “think.” Many of our thoughts are not rational products in any true sense. Like our desires, they often present themselves as facts within our awareness. 

Occasionally we search through our desires and weigh them and compare them – and then prefer one over another. But this should not be confused with rational thought. It is more like shopping: which passion do I prefer?

This constellation of desires and feelings is a constant swirl within the mind. Since it consists of desires and feelings, it is extremely ineffective in guarding against outside desires and feelings. We are deeply vulnerable. Contemporary human beings are perhaps the most manipulated population in history.

It is this passionate vulnerability that we present to the world. The world, in turn, “markets itself” to that same vulnerability.  Our culture maintains a rhetoric of choice and free will, but these are slogans rather than commonly experienced realities. Sadly, a great amount of popularly believed and preached theology is captive to the same slogans, engaging in an unreflective religious process.

The gospel is not a message among many. It does not compete with the noise of the market. The gospel is not information about something such that it can be compared to information about anything else. Instead:

We are begotten through the gospel (1Cor. 4:15); the gospel can be veiled from some (2 Cor. 4:3); the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ shines on us (2 Cor. 4:4); we can be obedient to the gospel (2 Cor. 9:13); the gospel is a mystery (Eph. 6:19); we can have communion in the gospel (Phil. 1:5); the gospel is not just word but power (1 Thess. 1:5). the gospel is everlasting (Rev. 14:6).

The gospel, even as words, is better thought of as sacrament than as rational exposition or information. It is received spiritually and transforms and saves the one who truly hears and receives it. That work of transformation does not come as a process of consideration and decisions based on information. The gospel, like the sacraments, has a power within itself that itself is transformative. The gospel, rightly presented, is Christ Himself, Christ crucified.

Any presentation of the gospel that does not require a transformation of the person, even in the very reception of the gospel, is offering a counterfeit, or a distorted version. The transformation required by the gospel is described quite clearly: repentance (Mk. 1:15).

The Scripture describes repentance as a “broken and contrite heart.” It is the genuine and complete apprehension of ourselves as bereft of God with the realization of our utter emptiness apart from Him. It includes the willingness to give ourselves over to God for the working of His will in our lives.

In Eastern Orthodoxy, the life of repentance is understood to be the common life of every Christian. True repentance is not an emotion, nor a desire, nor any set of feelings or thoughts. Repentance is a condition of the heart itself, a condition related to that very point of stillness within the human being.

In popular Christian culture, the meaning of repentance has been distorted. It has come to be a description of a particular set of passions, thoughts and desires. It has been translated into the language of morality and comes laden with guilt and remorse. Thus the Orthodox call to true repentance sounds like an invitation to a life of constant guilt and remorse. Who would want such a thing?

The gospel offers many powerful examples of true repentance at work. The most profound of these examples has no guilt or remorse even remotely associated with it. It is the response of the young Mary to the words of the angel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy word.” These are words of repentance in Orthodox understanding – indeed of perfect repentance. Mary is not confessing sin (the Church holds that she was without sin), and yet she makes herself lower than anything in all of creation. With such a heart, the Word could “take flesh.” 

Some might argue that this confuses repentance with humility with. I am not confusing them – I am equating them: “A humble and contrite heart, Thou, O God, wilt not despise.” 

The vision of the love of God given to us in the fullness of the gospel – when it is rightly apprehended – calls forth true humility and contrition. In the face of such love, I am empty. In the face of such true Being and Goodness, I am nothing. Beholding the Face of Christ, my emptiness and my nothingness do not disappear – they respond with true desire (eros) and open themselves to the Fullness and Being of God.

But being raised to such a Fullness does not subsequently change my emptiness and nothingness. Rather, they are sustained by the grace of God in a life of thanksgiving (evcharistia). With joy the now-stilled heart hears the words of Jesus: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

The noise of our disordered desires and thoughts can never “hear” the word of the gospel. Christ’s word to the passions is His word to the storm: “Peace. Be still.” 

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


54 responses to “Be Still and Know God”

  1. James Thompson Avatar
    James Thompson

    The photo alone urges me to seek stillness, let alone the fine article. Where is this church?

  2. David Avatar

    I think of the words of Psalm 46: “be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted over the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Truly, this is the Gospel: that Jesus Christ is the eternal and uncreated Word of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, who because of God’s great love for men was made incarnate from a young Virgin Jewish girl named Mary. He was a descendant of King David and heir to his royal throne and it’s cosmic reach; he truly ate, drank, and lived as a man. When he was grown, he was anointed by God the Father with the Holy Spirit to proclaim that God’s kingdom had come in him through an itinerant rabbinic ministry of teaching, healing, miracle, and exorcism, and took to himself twelve disciples to symbolize that he was renewing Israel and that membership in the covenant was redefined around the community forming around him. When the time was right, he went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, he judged the Temple as it’s replacement and instituted the Eucharist as the new sacrificial worship for God’s people, and was ultimately betrayed to the chief priests by his disciple Judas Iscariot and was handed over by them to Pontius Pilate. He was beaten and scourged and ultimately crucified for being “King of the Jews,” establishing the Kingdom through his self sacrifice, died for sins in harmony with the scriptures and was buried. But on the third day, he was vindicated by being bodily raised from the dead by God the Father working through the Holy Spirit, in harmony with the scriptures, in new, glorious, immortal life and granted all power in heaven and earth. After forty days, he ascended into the heavenly realm and was enthroned over all creation, where he will remain until his lordship is proclaimed to all the nations and until God puts all enemies under his feet. He sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to empower and guide into all truth his students and to entrust apostolic ministry to them. He is coming again soon to resurrect all the dead, judge all men according to their works, renew heaven and earth and cleanse them of all sin and death, and establish his government over all creation, enthroning his Mother, apostles, his saints and martyrs, and his Church alongside him, forever. This Gospel is God’s power to save people (Romans 1.16). This is the Good News to Zion that “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52.7). This is a Gospel that should shut us up in its majesty and it’s glory. It appeals to our stillness because it is the story of how God has begun to establish his Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” It is meant to evoke worship, and it is meant, like all sacrament, to be a message in and through which God’s saving and transformative divine life is communicated and made available to us. Indeed, one could argue that all sacraments gain their sacramentary from the proclamation of the Gospel and the Triune God made present in it that rests at their heart.

  3. davidp Avatar

    Still trying to learn this at my age (74).

  4. Dino Avatar

    Outstanding article!

  5. MichaelPatrick Avatar

    Thank you Father.

  6. fatherstephen Avatar

    My first five or six drafts (and don’t know why I struggled so), had a lot of reflection on monasticism. This is the great heart of the Orthodox life of repentance. I had written that it was the “living Tradition of the science of repentance.” But I think I’m glad to have kept the focus as it is now. Later I will write on monastic repentance.

  7. Dino Avatar

    Monastic methods or not, that singular focus on ontologically becoming such that we “do nothing ‘apart’ from Jesus” comes across very well here.

  8. Cuthbert Avatar

    Father, would it be accurate to say that our passions are “outside assaults” rather than something that springs up from within us, from who we are? I am often wracked with guilt and self-condemnation when certain recurring passions flare up; “Why are you like this?” “How awful you are!” “Why can’t you get it together?”

    Are these things true of me? Or can I claim to really be a new creation in Christ?

  9. George Engelhard Avatar
    George Engelhard

    George Engelhard
    C 1998

    Verse 1
    I have died with You and You live in me
    I surrender all and You set me free
    In Your Presence filled with Holy Fear
    I am silent knowing You are near

    Dying daily
    In each hour of the day
    I surrender in each step of the Way
    In each moment my spirit made new
    And my heart heals and my mind is made true
    By Your Love

    Verse 2
    You have died for me and I live for You
    And I find myself with Your Grace endued
    In Your Presence I am shaken down
    To my spirit where Your Love abounds


    In this mystic sweet Communion
    Your Spirit touches me
    And fills me with Your Spirit
    And will not let me be
    Until I plainly see
    You are Love

  10. Mary Bongiorno Avatar
    Mary Bongiorno

    Thank you pray for me.

  11. fatherstephen Avatar

    They are not “outside” assaults – but the passions are not springing from “who we are.” It would be perhaps more accurate to say that they are springing from “who we are not.” The distorted thoughts, feelings, desires, etc., create a false identity. We spend a lot of time believing that this false identity is ourselves – we try to reform it – make it behave. St. Paul rightly tells us that it needs to die with Christ. It is the “old man” it is the “false man.” It is not the true self. This article might be helpful.

  12. Allen Long Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    Thank you. This article was/is so very helpful to me in understanding. Pray for me to grow in finding this stillness.

  13. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Fr. Stephen,

    If you can forgive me for saying so, you struggled with your first 5-6 drafts because this is what you were supposed to write. Thank you for letting go of the other and writing this. (The other may be good too, in which case it will come forth when it is its time.)

    In the face of such love, I am empty. In the face of such true Being and Goodness, I am nothing. Beholding the Face of Christ, my emptiness and my nothingness do not disappear – they respond with true desire (eros) and open themselves to the Fullness and Being of God.

    This is the point of stillness where nothing else matters.

    Sadly, in our sinfulness, if we are blessed to know this point even for a moment, we quickly lose it. We become distracted by stuff or we think we created it ourselves (or whatever flavor of passion appeals to us at the time).

    Repentance is a great gift, as it draws us back again and again to that point of stillness. For all the things that we things we think we want, nothing else will do…

    “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Mt 13:44)

  14. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    I am humbled by my typos 🙂

  15. fatherstephen Avatar

    Thank you. Your remarks made me think of this: It is vital that we understand that our emptiness and our nothingness are not our sinfulness. Our sinfulness is when we try to fill our emptiness ourselves or to pretend that we are something rather than nothing. But in our brokenness we often mistake this empty-nothing for sin, and the shame that comes with it is made into our enemy and we run (and hide). Instead we have to be “naked and unashamed.” We could also put this in St. Paul’s language, “being found with a righteousness which is not my own…”

  16. Albert Avatar

    I’m with David, but even older. I should read this entry every day, and more than once. Thank you for your work, Father.

  17. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Fr. Stephen,

    Thank YOU. I fully agree.

    I also think it is vital that we understand that our emptiness and our nothingness is not something “bad” in any other manner either.

    If I say, “I am nothing”, others may take that to be synonymous with feelings of worthlessness or some other psychologically pathological state – when nothing could be further from the truth. Similarly, chronic feelings of emptiness can be a sign of psychological disturbance but are something totally different than what is meant here.

    Failing to distinguish between these meanings leaves people vulnerable for “spiritualities” that are self-glorifying – as the presumed healing for their pathological feelings of worthlessness and emptiness becomes a form of self-promotion.

    I read a book not long ago that recounted the author’s extraordinary experience with physical healing and a near-death experience. It was very moving and inspiring until I came to her advice to others: to be wary of any religion that promoted a god that is greater than oneself (!)

    Sadly, I think she mistook the magnificence of her experience of God as being her own magnificence. She apparently did not recognize the Other as All and herself as nothing – essential for experiencing the gift as the fullness of a Love poured out totally free and undeserved.

    I cannot be filled if I am not first empty.

    May I be empty. May I know that I am nothing. (And rejoice.)

    To Him be glory.

  18. Karen Avatar

    I recognize I struggle constantly not to equate repentance with a certain set of passions (guilt, remorse, etc.). A part of me suspects it is too good to be true (too simple) that repentance = humility. Another part of me sees nothing but hope in that message because I notice it is when I am focused on Christ and on discerning and responding to His will (which is not other than His all-merciful love) that I am most free to follow Him–that is, free from myself and self-conscious guilt (“What will others think if they know who I really am?!”) that keeps me in bondage to my sin. These are also those moments when overwhelming joy wells up within me. These “noticings” are as of yet very tentative and fleeting glimpses because I so easily fall back into old habits of thought that are the formation of a lifetime.

    I thank God for the vision of Christ in His love given us in Holy Orthodoxy.

    This is a bit off-topic, but Dino, Father, or others–have any of you read Christ the Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene (making use of Fr. Seraphim Rose’s study of Chinese philosophy in college)? I have been reading that and found it very, very helpful. Its amplification of the meaning of Christ as Tao (Logos) and the nature of stillness/repentance as simply being conformed/reconciled to this Tao (my own vocabulary here summarizing some of the content), which necessarily involves shedding the false self of the ego and its thoughts. I’d be interested to hear feedback from any who have read it–especially if any have also had personal experience of both Orthodox monasticism and Taoist philosophy.

  19. Dino Avatar

    I did read “Christ the Eternal Tao” by Hieromonk Damascene when it first came out. All I remeber now is that I was positively impressed, folding a few pages with little gems I wanted to go back to. Some parts of it were perhaps weaker than others (for my taste that is), but I could not really find any fault with it overal. It was also my first introduction to the magnificent Fr George Calciu – I remember those particular pages intensely…

  20. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton


    I love that book! It was my first Orthodox reading (after Fr. Stephen) and was for me quite life-changing. I’m sure that I cannot totally summarize how/why it had that impact on me but I will share a few words.

    “The Way” (Tao) is everywhere, in all things, in all times – and all of creation follows the Way – except the creature, Man, who has used his freedom not to. Others around the world (e.g. Lao Tzu) recognized the Way long before Christ, though they did not know its name and did not know it was Personal.

    And then the Way became flesh (“I am the Way…”) that we who are lost might know how to return to the Way.

    This helps immensely in my understanding of repentance and sin (and many other things). My old forensic understanding of sin would either have me steeped in guilt over little things or feeling a curious lack of contrition because I hadn’t done anything “that wrong”.

    However, seen in this light, it is not hard for me to understand that I am not in full harmony with the Way – I have not emptied myself fully and I remain attached to my way. Repentance is my calling whether I have committed major offenses or simply allowed my gaze to turn away from Christ.


    Dino – I was also captivated by Fr. George Calciu. Have you read “Father George Calciu: Interviews, Talks, and Homilies”? (I would like to learn more about him and am keeping a “wish list” – so many good books…)

  21. fatherstephen Avatar

    Mary Benton,
    I did not ever get to meet Fr. George Calciu. But he was the spiritual father of my friend, Frederica Mathewes-Green. He had a real impact on the lives of people around him.

  22. Peter Avatar

    Perfect, Father:
    “It is vital that we understand that our emptiness and our nothingness are not our sinfulness. Our sinfulness is when we try to fill our emptiness ourselves or to pretend that we are something rather than nothing.”

  23. Karen Avatar

    Thank you, Dino and Mary. I haven’t gotten to the part with Fr. George yet, but I recently watched this short documentary about the sufferings of Romanian political prisoners under the Communists of which he was one. He is interviewed in the documentary as is Fr. Roman Braga:

  24. Dallas Wolf Avatar

    Great word, Father, I reposted this to over 100 “renewal” Roman Catholics and Protestants. Western Latin Christianity really needs to hear it lost tradition.

    Thank you.

  25. George Engelhard Avatar
    George Engelhard

    Peter, very well said.

    The feeling uppermost in our minds is the humbling consciousness of our utter unworthiness.

    — Michael Sendivogius

  26. Fr. Daniel Findikyan Avatar
    Fr. Daniel Findikyan

    Bravo Father Stephen. If you have not already, please read the Book of Prayers of the great 10th-century Armenian mystic St. Gregory of Narek. He illustrates quite powerfully the fulness of the notion of repentance as a humble state of mind and heart by which, and only by which one can enjoy true communion with the transformative, healing power of the Son of God. Many thanks once again.

  27. fatherstephen Avatar

    Fr. Daniel,
    Christ is in our midst! I’ll will track it down. Thanks.

  28. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Fr. Daniel,

    Is this the text you were referring to? (Not that I am claiming that I could understand it…but I am always in need of humility and repentance.)

  29. Panayiota Avatar

    Thank you Father. Stillness is so difficult. We are so used to running, we run far from ourselves.
    I couldn’t help but think about the Gospel read during orthos yesterday. Christ asking Peter if he loved him. I think Christ was tring to get Peter to be still and know.

  30. Dino Avatar

    What you said is dreadfully frequently true… Watchful stillness is at first little more than a progressive revelation of the repugnant ugliness of ourselves. An ugliness from which we’d rather (alas) run away from, we’d rather be distracted from. But it is only within that stillness, and after that ‘ugly’ revelation of ourselves that the respectfully (with a respect that passes all human understanding) hidden Lord, starts to reveal Himself to those who choose to stay undistracted in His presence (hidden -out of extreme respect- though it may at first be). The choice of loving Him or not, emerges as loving only Him (or not) within that context.

  31. Bruce Newman Avatar
    Bruce Newman

    This culture we live in does all it can to keep the tumult of passions at a boil. In my struggles to become more inwardly quiet I’ve encountered a fear. After contemplating it for some time I believe that fear is the fear of death of the false self – a continual process which, as you pointed out, must start with repentance. Thank you for this article that really helped me focus my thoughts.

  32. Fr. Daniel Findikyan Avatar
    Fr. Daniel Findikyan

    Yes indeed. Father Stephen, I shall send you a copy of the prayer book as a gift in appreciation for your wonderful ministry.

  33. Panayiota Avatar

    Thank you Dino for your comment.
    As a young woman, in my early twenties, (30 or so years ago) when I was in the throws of addiction, I tried many ways to heal myself. One way was through guided meditation, ” Transcendental Meditation”. I remember trying to relax and release into this state of calmness. I never could. I would panic and run so far just at this critical point. I ran scared from that point for years, thinking I was afraid to be alone with myself. That thought alone evoked terror inside of me.
    Later, I realized I had every reason to feel terror inside myself. Being open to myself in that sort of way, just fills me with myself, which is and will always be isolating and terrifying. I thank God everyday for that terror. It lead me to Christ.
    I find that when I am truly in prayer, when I am open and empty, is when I am able to approach God in humility.
    This emptiness is humility and repentance. The only place where I can truly be myself.

  34. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
    No Traveler returns, Puzzles the will,
    And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
    Than fly to others that we know not of.

    Even though Hamlet is meditating on physical death even suicide, it has application here too, I think. The putting to death one’s false self, a self that one has both known and built for a long time out of will, fear and the whirl of passions, must give us pause when the real self seems but a shadow. There is an abyss full of darkness that one must cross that seems deep and impenetrable and yet…..a voice from the other side keeps whispering “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Come, follow me, fear not.”

  35. Dino Avatar

    Indeed, without the Christ the Conqueror of Death, Whose voice “keeps whispering “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Come, follow me, fear not.”” there is no way to triumph over darkness.

  36. Alan Avatar

    Thank you Father for another excellent post.

    I totally get what the message is. We’ve crowded our lives with far too much noise. We can’t stand to not be doing anything (talking, music, E-mail, txt, social media, TV, and on and on).

    I feel though like I’m so far down this road, that as stupid as this sounds, I don’t even know how to go back.

    I tend to focus on the practical side of things (not sure if that’s good or bad). So, can you tell me how to begin to practice stillness and silence? Is is just spending more time praying? Is it sitting (or standing) still and just actively trying not to think about anything? Is it meditating on the Psalms?? I feel totally lost.

  37. Panayiota Avatar

    I find it so ironic that you mentioned the Psalms. Just a couple of nights ago, husband and I watched the movie “Ostrov”. It told my husband that it made me want to memorize Psalm 50. I don’t know if you have seen the film, but I recommend it.

  38. Dino Avatar

    The Psalms is a great way, especially for those in the world who have difficulty, guilt even, when they “stop doing stuff”. The watchful praying of the Jesus Prayer can seem less ‘dry’ after them (to those that are put off more than they can bear by this dryness).

  39. Dino Avatar

    But it can work the other way around too: spending an hour or more on the Jesus Prayer would certainly ‘open’ one’s understanding of the Psalms…

  40. OldToad Avatar

    I second your recommendation of Ostrov (English title: The Island).

  41. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton


    I am not qualified to guide others spiritually but I will share some ideas that I use myself and offer others in my work. ***Fr. Stephen or others, please correct me if needed.***

    I find the Jesus prayer very helpful and use it with my breath (inhale first part, exhale second part, allowing the words to find a pace that is a comfortable rate of breathing – which will probably get slower with practice). However, other short repetitive prayers can be used – the repetitive is helpful because the mind doesn’t get “busy” trying to be creative yet is prayerfully occupied.

    If you are not used to stillness, start with a small amount of time and gradually expand it, but do it regularly. Even doing 5 minutes every day faithfully is good to begin with as you become familiar with the terrain. Trying to force yourself through an hour (or even 15 minutes) may be too hard or anxiety-provoking for some people – and lead to giving up. The position you assume (sit, stand, etc.) is not as important as good posture which enables your organs for function well, helping your mind to remain alert and watchful.

    Remain in the present moment. If your mind wanders into the past or future, gently draw it back. Notice whatever you experience without judgment, i.e. do not label yourself as “unable” to do it or “bad” at it simply because your mind is active or you are uncomfortable. Expect that. Accept it when it happens. Notice the noise within as well as the still points within and allow them both to be part of you as God moves you toward greater and deeper stillness.

    Allow God to be in charge – so that you don’t have to be. We don’t achieve stillness – we make room for it. God gives – and sometimes it seems that He withholds – but always for our good. I hope this helps a little.

  42. Brian Avatar


    Some thoughts for whatever they may be worth.

    Try fasting from the ‘noise.’ Noise, like food, is not in and of itself a bad thing, but we are not made to be immersed in it constantly. There is a time for noise, just as there is a time to eat. I often think of what life must have been like for people before there was radio, television, or music available on demand in the form of recordings. It had to have been far more human, far more truly personal, and far more contemplative.

    Commit to turning off the television for an entire Lenten season. It’s interesting how utterly assaulted by it you will feel (especially by the commercials) when you turn it back on. You could also fast from social media, from music, or from the radio for a time. Again, these are not bad things in and of themselves, yet they steal away our humanity.

    But if your mind is anything like mine, I would not recommend prolonged periods of absolute stillness in the beginning. It was simply too much for my weak, undisciplined nature. Trying to do too much too fast is a recipe for failure and frustration, a temptation to simply give up and return to the noise. The Jesus Prayer and the Psalms are good, of course; but don’t hesitate also simply to read a good book or have a good personal conversation. Build something, create something artistic, garden, wash the car – whatever suits your temperament. In my (again weak-natured) experience, prayer becomes easier when the mind is not assaulted by the noise and my hands occupied in a way that doesn’t require intense concentration.

    Above all, remember that God loves us. We may never attain to the stillness of monastic life, but He loves us nonetheless.

  43. Alan Avatar

    Wow, I’m very grateful for the helpful comments. Thank you so much Brian, Mary, and Dino! Panayiota and OldToad, thanks for the recommendation on the movie. Can’t wait to watch it. Thank you all, I’m very appreciative!

  44. Dino Avatar

    All this great advise reminds me of something:
    One reliably measurable element, which remains reliably measurable even in small doses – unlike faith, love, humility etc-, is joy. It signifies clearly whether we are on the right path or not. Coupled with tears, it becomes doubly certain. For someone who lives a “referenced” life (to an Orthodox Spiritual Father that is), these provide great certainty – even in uncharted waters and during apparently ‘Grace-less’ periods.

  45. jacksson Avatar

    Father, I went back and read (reread) your previous article that you mention, “The True Self and the Story of Me.” It brought to mind the following which I posted to my FB site:

    When I read the following article by Father Stephen, I am reminded of the book by Watchman Nee (Chinese pastor – “The Spiritual Man”) that I read many years ago. Pastor Nee commented on what he called “the chattering of the demons” which produced a daily tarnish on his soul. When he finished a day of ministering, he would return to his place of rest and pray all night if necessary to remove the tarnish (of the world). His belief was that the chattering was an ever-existent event, we are always surrounded by it, demonic noise and we do not recognize its existence because it is a constant background noise kind of like a fan or other common appliance in our homes; we are used to it.

    I instantly related to this chattering as “background noise” because of my electronics training/background in the military. As a radar technician, one of my daily duties was to measure the power output of our search radar to make sure that it was at full power (output). We would send out a signal, intercept it in the waveguide, and feed it back into the radar receiver to check its level against what we knew as the background noise of the universe (seen on an oscilloscope as a signal that looked like grass on a mowed lawn. We would gradually decrease the power of the output signal until the returning (intercepted) signal disappeared into the “grass.” At that point we could distinguish what we called the “minimum discernible signal (MDS)” and record the output power capabilities of the radar. This “grass” (electronics noise) is always there in a similar manner to Watchman Nee’s constant chattering of the demons. This tarnish on the soul has to removed on a daily basis, not just on Sunday at church.

  46. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    “The chattering of the demons” What a trenchant phrase it is probably literally accurate too. What must it be like to no longer hear that noise because one’s spirit is no longer tuned to that frequency.

  47. jacksson Avatar

    Michael, your phrase is very apropos too; “one’s spirit is no longer tuned to that frequency.” I hadn’t thought about the frequency aspect of the matter. The grass of the universe is very high frequency and the chattering of the spirits might just be above our audio frequency spectrum, yet in the range of the spirit which has an infinite frequency range. Hmmmm!

  48. Karen Avatar

    I don’t do it nearly often enough, but I can affirm, as Dino suggested, that praying the Psalms is a good alternative for those for whom praying the Jesus prayer is too “dry” or difficult (this is often the case for me). If one has enough time, praying a section of Psalms can leave one in a more composed and watchful state of mind where praying the Jesus prayer becomes possible for a while.

    Jacksson, Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green has a good little booklet on learning to pray the Jesus prayer. In it she compares quieting the heart through the prayer in order to discern the presence of God to tuning a radio transmitter into the correct frequency.

  49. jacksson Avatar

    Thank you Karen,
    I have been praying the Jesus Prayer since Jan 1996 when my spiritual father, now Metropolitan Jonah received me as a catechumen into the Orthodox church in Merced, CA (his first assignment and I was his first fruit as a priest when he baptized me). I have pretty well read Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green writings, but I am not sure about this booklet. But, it may be in my extensive library and I have forgotten about it – my wife will have read it, I am sure, I will ask her. Thanks again.

  50. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    jacksson, it is frequency and harmony together. As the opening of the Silmarillion points out. The “chattering of demons” is an intentional disharmony introduce by the demonic to disrupt, corrupt, annoy and destroy (if possible).

    The Word of God is continually vibrating throughout His creation the more we are ‘in tune’ the less we are distracted by the disharmony and the easier it is to see it as disharmony.

  51. Sophia Avatar

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen. This post is very helpful and what a beautiful picture! It makes me want to dive into my computer screen. 🙂

    May I ask, is this point of stillness related to discerning God’s will in a given situation? I would be grateful for anything you might write on this topic of discerning God’s will. Thank you!

  52. fatherstephen Avatar

    I will write soon on discerning God’s will. They are indeed connected.

  53. Sophia Avatar

    Thank you, Father!

  54. Jana Avatar

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  1. I didn’t realize these might be called “arrow” prayers. While I have said something like them (that I’ve made up…

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