Learning Like a Saint

Slow-Down1The preparation for Baptism in the early Church often lasted as long as three years. Of deep significance is the fact that during that three-year period, many basic doctrines were not explored. The “mystagogical catechesis” (instruction in the sacramental mysteries of the Church) did not begin until after Baptism. What, we may wonder, were they doing for those first three years, and on what basis were individuals making lifetime conversion decisions? If you read a classic set of catechetical instructions such as those of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, you will discover that the point of almost all the instructions prior to Baptism were moral – the point being to repent from sin and to keep the commandments of Christ.

CS Lewis’ conversion represents a contemporary example of the ancient path. His questions were relatively simple: Is there a God and, if so, is Jesus Christ truly God-become-man? The story of his conversion, in the autobiographical, Surprised By Joy, relates in great detail the inner and outer workings of those questions. But once those questions were answered for Lewis, he turned to the matter at hand: “Now that I am a Christian, what do Christians believe?” He never treated the Christian faith as something to be formed and shaped according to his own private opinion, nor to be weighed and measured for its relative merit. He described what he called “Mere Christianity,” meaning, those things universally believed by Christians across time. His instinct for this was spot on. It is also worth noting that Lewis did not set himself the task of writing and explaining mere Christianity until some years after his conversion.

What is jarring about this is how counter-intuitive it seems to our consumer-information culture. We assume that the right way to go about doing anything is to collect information, study it, weigh it and then make a reasoned decision. There are however, a good number of false assumptions in that model.

The first false assumption is that human beings are more or less neutral collectors and judges of information. There is no room for the role of character in this process. For example, if I were to tell someone, say an inquirer, that they were not morally competent to have a valid Christian opinion on a certain topic, they would doubtlessly be offended and leave. But this is generally the case for most people: we lack the character required to know the goal. We understand this with regard to children. There are situations that are morally and intellectually beyond their means of understanding or deciding. The early Church took this for granted. It began a process of moral teaching and formation precisely because the candidates for Baptism were not capable of saying yes to God in a proper manner.

A second false assumption is that making decisions is largely an intellectual activity. Imagine that I set two servings of food in front of you. You are not allowed to taste or smell either one. But you are told that you must choose one or the other, and that the choice you make will be your food for the next month. The fact is, you cannot make a competent decision. You can make a guess, but, really, you’re just being asked to roll the dice and take a chance. Information and decisions are properly the work of the whole person.

I have been approached (or rather reproached) more than once over the question of the Orthodox Church’s ordination of only males in the priesthood. For outsiders, the question seems clear, and the Church seems bigoted, patriarchal and stubborn. Most often, I explain that I cannot even discuss the question with them if they are not Orthodox, because they lack the experience required to understand what we are doing. We certainly are not doing what they think we are doing, but they have no basis for me to explain that to them. For example, I believe that unless and until you have a long working experience of the Church’s veneration of the Theotokos and the other saints, you cannot begin to understand the nature of the priesthood and the role that male and female play within the Church.

Most people in our culture have had their minds and their character formed and shaped by the practices of the modern consumer state. The role of human beings is understood to be production and consumption. There is an accompanying extreme value placed on the illusion of free-choice and a good life defined by self-fulfillment (meaning being pleased with myself for the choices I have made). In our world we are taught to ask, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and mean by it, “What do I want to do when I grow up?” But the more proper question for a Christian is, “What kind of person do I want to be when I grow up?” and, “How is that possible?”

One of the primary benefits of the early catechumenate was humility. If you are told it will take three years of formation before you are Baptized, the message is clear: you are not ready. What is not ready cannot be hurried. In Orthodoxy, the most important mode of learning is doing. Learning to pray is not an intellectual exercise, and thinking that it is reveals that we do not yet understand prayer. Prayer is formed in the heart and the heart is formed in the crucible of action.

The great wilderness experiences in the Tradition point to this formation. Moses must leave Egypt and find God in the wilderness. The children of Israel are made to wander forty years in the Sinai. Christ Himself symbolically spends forty days fasting in the wilderness (and we can only wonder if that were the first or only time). It is believed that St. Paul, after His conversion, spent years in the desert (Galatians 1:17). The Church bids us to a forty day fast twice a year (Advent and Lent). The realization that I not only do not know something, but am not yet capable of knowing it, is a humility rarely found in the contemporary world. If I don’t know it, then I simply haven’t found the right book yet.

It is strange that our culture acknowledges that our inner experience shapes our perception of the outer world, but then goes on to assume that we are capable of knowing and deciding everything in our lives. This notion, interestingly, is believed by a large number of contemporary Christians. The idea of “soul competency” holds that every soul is capable of reading the Scriptures and understanding them through the Holy Spirit. It is a bedrock notion behind many schemes of Sola Scriptura. The resulting chaos of Christian thought is ample evidence that this is patently untrue.

I am not here advocating a return to the three-year catechumenate of antiquity – our culture cannot bear such humility. But learning how to learn should be a fundamental aspect of the spiritual life. I noticed recently a complaint that the Holy and Great Council, set to meet at Pentecost this year, needed the “voice of women” in order to do its work. It is the cry of modernity. It assumes a sort of “native competency,” much like the modern ideas within our democracies. What Councils actually need are the “voices of the holy,” regardless of anything else. The tower of Babel is the worldly version of Pentecost. However, at Pentecost, those who spoke did so by the Holy Spirit, not by virtue of their biology.

Being formed into the image of Christ is not primarily the product of choice or decision. It is the work of the Holy Spirit as we keep the commandments. Being formed in the image of Christ is not the same thing as forming an opinion. Orthodoxy is not just something you think, it is mostly something you do. You pray. You pray in this way. If you do not pray these prayers, then it is because you have learned to pray prayers like them. We learn to use our bodies. We subject them to disciplines of fasting, vigils and self-control. We give alms. We learn not to be consumers but givers of thanks. “In patient endurance you acquire your souls” (Luke 21:19)

And it takes a while.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.


50 responses to “Learning Like a Saint”

  1. Levi Avatar

    Wow! Christ is Risen! Timely and powerful. Wow again.

  2. Alan Avatar

    “In Orthodoxy, the most important mode of learning is doing.”

    “It is the work of the Holy Spirit as we keep the commandments. Being formed in the image of Christ is not the same thing as forming an opinion. Orthodoxy is not just something you think, it is mostly something you do. You pray.”

    Father, thank you so much for this article. I’m also reminded of your great post from 12/13/2013 entitled “Do faith to have faith.” The two quotes above from you are sweet music to my soul and speak to perhaps the prime reason for me leaving the Evangelical world and seeking to become Orthodox. I grew weary of being told that DOING pretty much any Christian practice amounted to legalism and was me trying to earn my salvation.

  3. Gary Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,
    I know this is not related to today’s post, but on Monday evening my Mother died.
    Would you consider writing something on coping with the death of a loved one?

    God bless

  4. Chris Avatar

    I think this has powerful ramification for the way talk with non-Orthodox about Orthodoxy. I know from experience that presenting “facts” about the Church to those who are not living it is sometimes an exercise of futility.

  5. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    Father Bless, Christ is Risen. I must attest to the truth of your post. I have learned more since I became Orthodox than I could have ever learned as a Catechumen. Most of my learning has been either through prayer or in worship. I have come to learn that one of the tragedies in Orthodoxy in the US in this time is that we have trimmed services back to the bare minimum. Many never experience Matins or Compline and yet I find those particularly good for learning the theology of the Church. I recently changed parishes and the one I came to had a much more complete Lenten service cycle and a particularly intense Holy Week schedule. I was acutely aware how we were submerged in the experience of the Passion and our beliefs surrounding it as an experience, not a classroom lecture. Your post brought this all into focus. Thank you.

  6. Bernard Brandt Avatar

    Thank you, Fr. Freeman. This is a truth I have needed to hear for some time.

  7. Paddy Avatar

    Fr. Stephen, I think you have once again really hit the nail on the head.

    Concerning catechism pre/post baptism & chrismation:

    I have noticed a common behavior and resulting posture among the many converts and catechumens I’ve come in contact with (including myself). The behavior is–out of best intentions and desire, I’m sure–to immediately begin digging into the rich archives and deep theology of the Church found in the writings of the Fathers, various elders, modern academics, etc. and doing so without any guidance, or sometimes very much so by the casual encouragement of clergy/others. For many it seems, catechism is either a hands-off DIY for the catechumen, or it is a doctrinal and technical instruction coming from the clergy or whoever runs the catechism that is often framed in contrast to Protestantism/Roman Catholicism. In both cases, there so often seems to be the assumption that reading more “Orthodox” literature=all the better. Only occasionally does someone say something like “Stay away from the Philokalia, you’re not ready.”

    From my limited viewpoint, the resulting posture is one of–as Saint Paul might say– puffed-up knowledge that is lacking the foundation of humility, repentance, and as Fr. Stephen said, moral instruction. Don’t get me wrong, I am the chief of sinners! But I find something’s off when a catechumen or fresh convert is rattling off their opinion on the Toll Houses, pronouncing judgment on one of the more “ethnic” jurisdictions or nearby parishes, using abstract sayings of some Elder to justify a particular theological position, etc. when I know they are coming fresh from, or are still in, a life of moral and spiritual brokenness (as most of us are). More than off, I find it dangerous. Orthodoxy becomes a set of binoculars with which to assess the world and others, and not first a mirror to see ourselves as we truly are before God.

    I think we would greatly benefit from returning to something more inline with the early-Church model of catechism. It seems better to me that we should become intimate with the [synoptic] Gospels, the Proverbs, and the Psalms before we move onto anything else (I’m thinking of Fr. Thomas Hopko’s podcast on “How to read the Bible”). What good is it to ponder the more lofty sayings and teachings of the Fathers if we have not done what they first did: ponder and imitate the actions, teachings, and commandments of the Teacher himself as found in the Scriptures?

    I’ll think on this more.

    Your thoughts, Fr. Stephen?

  8. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    We live in such information-filled culture that, as I noted, humility is very difficult. We do not want to think that there is anything we do not yet know, or that we cannot yet learn. And, of course, the fruit of it all is pride. Pride goes before a fall, the Scriptures say, and so, we fall down a lot, needlessly, and often cause our brothers to stumble as well.

    Most importantly, I think, is the slow unlearning of the habits of the heart acquired in our consumer culture. How refreshing are the frequent words of my late father-in-law, “I don’t know about that…” He avoided almost every argument I ever tried to draw him into when I was young with those very wise words. How great his humility had to have been to say such a thing to a young know-it-all!

  9. Alan Avatar

    “I don’t know about that.” Outstanding. For anyone looking for further commentary on that, see Father’s post from 3/27/2014 entitled “There are no opinions in this article.”

    @ Chris, I totally hear you on that. I have some extended family members who wonder why on Earth I’m now attending that “weird” church. I’m at the point where I prefer not to even discuss it with them because as you said, it ends up being an exercise in futility.

  10. EPG Avatar

    Excellent piece, sir.

    It helps me understand why my approach to Orthodox Christianity was, in the end, unfruitful, and also why, in the end, the attempt to approach Orthodox Christianity through the particular parish I was attending was probably bound to be unfruitful.

  11. Janine Avatar

    “In Orthodoxy, the most important mode of learning is doing. Learning to pray is not an intellectual exercise, and thinking that it is reveals that we do not yet understand prayer. Prayer is formed in the heart and the heart is formed in the crucible of action.” I remember being in class once with a very new convert to Orthodoxy, trying to explain how we are always “becoming” Christian. Well, of course, I’m always having to learn humility. Thankfully it is an ongoing process; it’s a great relief to understand “I don’t know” is an important answer, not just “yes” or “no.” On the other hand, my old opinions sure can be embarrassing sometimes. I have studied some of both Western and Eastern theology (emphasis on *some*) and I keep thinking the real separation is that in the West there are often “either/or” debates, while in the East the answer could be sometimes both, and also “I don’t know” (it is a mystery). One thing is for certain as far as I am concerned, an intellectual answer was never enough to teach me. It is only experience that has illumined or made sense out of aspects of Scripture and teaching, and that hard-won and long in the making, and ongoing.

  12. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Hmmm… I wonder how many would make it for three years these days. Our parish has a 9-10 month preparation, but very little is spent on morals per se.

    If faced with the following I wonder how many would enter:
    1. Do you believe in “a woman’s right to choose”?
    2. Do you believe it is OK to have sexual relations prior to marriage?
    3. Do you believe it is OK to divorce?
    4. Do you give alms?
    5. Are you willing to forgive you enemies?
    6. Are you willing to acknowledge and confess your own sins with the idea of changing your behavior?
    7. Do you believe that same sex sexual relations are OK?
    8. Do you believe Same sex couples should be married?

    Seems as if quite a course could be constructed on these alone with explanations of why we are to do and believe in certain ways.

    Still, when so many are coming out of life-long heretical belief systems that seem to hang on, there is much to be said for the approach of: This is who God is, who Jesus Christ is plus how and why we worship the Holy Trinity; what the Orthodox Church is and how we got here; Saints and their intercession, etc.

    There are quite a few life long Orthodox who no longer agree with the moral teaching of the Church.

  13. Byron Avatar


    Blessings to you and your family. Please know that I will be praying for your mother and her loved ones.

  14. Manuel Petavrakis Avatar
    Manuel Petavrakis

    Christ is risen.
    Truly inspired and very important words, Father.
    I am beginning to see the most important benefit of our modern technology is to be able to receive such teachings so easily.
    Thank you
    God bless you.

  15. Gerasimos Avatar


    My condolences on the death of your mother. I will be praying for her and for you.

  16. Thomas Avatar

    Your mind isn’t the right shape yet.

  17. Thomas Avatar

    Or some such.

  18. Michael Avatar

    While I hear the truth of whats being said here; “it takes a while”, I also think the Church needs to be sensitive to those who have been made ready in a relatively short period of time. Holding one in limbo when the Sacraments are needed for a continuance in motion can also be dangerous. Right?
    I think that discernment of individuals is extremely important in the inquirers / catechesis process.

  19. Byron Gaist Avatar
    Byron Gaist

    I always enjoy your articles, which are eloquent, helpful and filled with insights, Fr Stephen.

    Here I find it interesting that you write “we subject” our bodies (to fasting, vigils and self-control). This seems a rather ‘negative’ approach – in the apophatic sense – to the body; a matter of control, rather than freeing the body to its fullest expression. My question is, given keeping of the commandments, what can an Orthodox Christian do to set the temple of the Holy Spirit free, to raise it to its original dignity?

  20. Sunny Avatar


    Couple thoughts/question:

    1). For the whippersnappers like myself who were received into the Church more quickly than may have been good for us and have all this “knowledge” of things we aren’t ready for, how do you recommend we move forward?
    The first answer I wold think of to this question is something I have read about before (heh), how monastics have to renounce “wealth of the mind” and acquire “poverty of the mind.” The only problem with this is that I don’t see how I can do this and enjoy your blog posts at the same time since all your posts are meat for the mind to say the least. I have probably gotten more glimpses of things too marvelous for me from your blog than from anywhere else. These experiences are similar to Lewis’s description of his experiences of “joy”—like a vision of your true country that flees from your memory as suddenly as it appeared.

    2). Help me if I am missing something, but I don’t see how morality would be enough of a motivation for people to convert to the Faith. I have a hard time seeing how even the commandments of the Gospel when practiced would be enough to convert people if they didn’t have any knowledge of their significance… It seems like there had to have been some sort of instruction beyond this.

    This entry was very helpful to me. Thank you.

  21. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael, of course.

  22. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    My use of the term “subject,” reflects St. Paul’s language. We cannot do anything ourselves to raise ourselves up. Only the grace of God does that. Synergy is about humility, emptying ourselves. Only God fills us and raises us up.

  23. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I’m the poster boy for quick reception. I was received one week after my last Mass as an Episcopal priest! It was the decision of the bishop. And, I was immediately placed in charge of a beginning mission. I was plunged into a form of internal suffering as a result – largely of my own sins. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but it was what God saw fit to do with me. Used to “knowing everything,” suddenly I knew nothing. And I knew that I knew nothing. It was embarrassing and shameful (and that was part of my sin as well). But I stayed put. I had written a fair amount before my conversion and had been a “public” person. I suddenly went silent. I wrote nothing for 8 years. I did services and read and tried to pray. Five years in, I was appointed as a Dean over a number of other Churches. The Diocese of the South has a great fervor for missions. I think I floundered a bit during that period, though I helped with starting other parishes.

    When I write and say it takes time…it does. Grace does its work. The desert Fathers say, “Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” My saying is, “Ninety-five percent of Orthodoxy is just showing up.”

    I had “read” Orthodoxy for nearly 20 years before coming in – but only “doing” Orthodoxy ever made all of that reading to slowly become understanding.

    As to your second question. I’ve wondered about that as well. Obviously, the fundamental stories of the gospel were preached to them. The promises of Christ were preached to them. The lives of the Christians around them pointed to Christ. There’s a lot of instruction we undergo today that is not catechesis, but comparative denomination stuff. We have to spend more time helping people unlearn bad theology. It’s a different situation.

    As I look through the comments, it seems that everyone has been drawn to the catechetical matter, which was only an illustration of the point I wanted to make in the article…thus I did some bad writing. That point has to do with how we acquire saving knowledge of Christ. St. Paul said to the Galatians, “I groan until Christ be formed in you!” and he obviously couldn’t hurry the process.

    It is our own humility that is important – it draws down the grace of heaven!

  24. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Sunny, catechesis aside we learn the faith by doing and being in the context of the Church. We are drawn to the person of Jesus Christ to that context, His Body. Conversion does not happen from the outside in, nor does it happen, usually, all at once.

    We need each other, in Christ, to be converted. Don’t be too sure that you are just feeding your mind reading this blog. What Father writes, to the extent it is of the Holy Spirit, goes much deeper and will bear fruit in due time.

    As to moral instruction–all morality assumes a cosmology. Proper moral teaching is not simply a list of dos and don’ts but is the explanation of that cosmology, how a person fits in creation and in conmynuon with the creator.

  25. Dino Avatar

    I also consider the habit of the Jesus Prayer –especially in the middle of the night- as a significant share of this unhurried ‘learning like a saint’. Just ‘showing up’ in God’s presence and expecting nothing from Him yet desiring in goodwill to somehow fulfil ‘His expectation of me’ to “show up before His Face” (this expression often emerges in the Septuagint version of the Psalms) and utter His Name, waters the soul like the best rain. It can take some time, but it eventually positively transforms and heals a person beyond recognition.

  26. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    As we discuss catechesis, I think it also is important to remember that the method used in the Early Church was not classroom instruction. The catechumens became the disciples of their sponsors and the most attractive thing of the process was the witness of the sponsor through their behavior and character of the presence of Christ within them. Even pagans remarked as to the differences between themselves and the Christians. Look at the number who converted during the death of a martyr knowing that they would be next.
    As Father Stephen says we are not quite in that same situation today. First, we are culturally adapted to classroom experience. We grow up in school. Those of us who converted from Protestantism or the Roman Catholic Church we educated about the faith mostly in a classroom setting. Certainly a 40 minute sermon is more like classroom experience than not. We are not coming to faith in Christ from a pagan background but from one that has errors and we, the converts, expect and explanation so we can understand the difference.
    As a Seminary graduate with an M Div in Evangelism, I find it far easier to deal with people that have no faith and are seeking it than those who are already either Protestant or Roman Catholic. The first type of person is more interested in the content of our characters and how they have been changed for the better. The latter category of people tend to be intellectually argumentative and demand explanations and argue with those explanations.

  27. Alex Volkov Avatar
    Alex Volkov


    Please accept my condolences for the loss of your mother. I lost my Mom two years ago, so I know how wretched one can feel.

    The only means that has helped me to cope with it is prayer. Private prayer at home and Church prayer during the Divine Liturgy (if the departed person is Orthodox) and Panikhidas.

    Please keep in mind that 40 days after death are extremely significant. Here is what you can do during these days:

    – Commemorate your mom during the Divine Liturgy (if your Mom was Orthodox) and Panikhida. Do it every day if it’s possible. You can also ask your friends from other Orthodox churches, parishes and monasteries to commemorate your Mom.
    – Remember your Mom in your evening and morning prayers.
    – Read psalms from Psalter.
    – Pray unceasingly during the day. It can be just a short prayer for your Mom or the Jesus prayer. (Pray with attention, humility, reverence, and repentance).
    – Give alms in your Mom’s name.
    – Help the Church, make donations, buy food, candles, oil, etc. for the church in your Mom’s name.
    – Try to improve yourself, pay more attention to the spiritual warfare, fight against your passions and draw near to the Lord. They say our deceased parents always feel the change.
    – Try to do certain things from the list more than 40 days… till your last breath.

    Gary, if you want, you can tell us the name of your Mom. If she was Orthodox, we (the readers of Fr Stephen’s blog) will commemorate her at Proskomidia during the Divine Liturgy. If she was not Orthodox, we will pray for her at home.

    Please also check out this link:


    God bless.

  28. Margaret Avatar

    Fr. Stephen, thank you so very much for this post. I receive these words as great encouragement to my journey in this world as an Orthodox Christian. I certainly realize that the way I was raised as a Protestant would not allow for three years’ catechesis because of the time frame of “believer baptsim” and “being born again” as those terms are used in a few of the Protestant traditions that I attended as a child, and was baptized into at the age of 14 on Mother’s Day 🙂 I thank God daily for the Orthodox Christian Church and pray for it and all our priests and all who serve, including the laity. During this past Great Lent I was allowed to see how much I do not know of an area I thought I knew a lot about and so I am grateful for this experience and try to not wish it would go away too much, but I do pray and ask God to show my heart what He will and that I be accepting. Humilty is not something I have ever claimed, although I have prayed to be humble and keep the commandments of Our Lord. Forgive me for rambling here and thank you again for this post and for your comments here in the comment section. Glory to God for All Things!

  29. Alex Volkov Avatar
    Alex Volkov

    PS Gary, if you are Orthodox, please confess your sins and receive the Holy Communion every Sunday during the 40 days period. After that, do this at least once within 3 weeks.

  30. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I’ll see what I can do, article-wise. The advice others have offered here is good. Be sure and give her name to your priest, regardless of whether she is Orthodox. Most priests have a manner in which they offer prayers for all of the departed in a liturgy – though it varies somewhat. Everyone and everything can be prayed for in the Church. Regarding the departed, we pray for everyone from Adam to the present in the kneeling prayers of Pentecost.

    Grief can be very difficult, and sometimes it becomes “complicated” (the term used by psychologist when grief is tied up in broken relationships). I’ll give some thoughts and try to write a bit. May her memory be eternal!

  31. Janine Avatar

    BTW I am cradle Orthodox. My journey is still lengthy, lifelong. I had to undo a lot of the way I received my faith, only to be led back again to all the treasure that was there. Long story 🙂 We all have the logismoi / filters of the world. At least I do.

  32. Alan Avatar

    This is simply an outstanding post and there have been so many comments that have been incredibly beneficial to me. Thank you all so very much!!

  33. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Gary what help me immensely when my wife reposed is to meditate on the Resurrection. Prayers, as others have said, especially to Mary, the Theotokos. She knows your grief and, as a mother, will comfort you in special ways.

    Allow your grief to come as it will. The tears themselves are often healing.

  34. Dino Avatar

    I would repeat Michael’s words once more. There’s something remarkable about reading and singing the Cannon of the Resurrection of St John Damascene again and again concerning any problem – but most especially the death of dearly loved ones. “From death unto Life and from Earth unto Heaven”

  35. Gary Avatar

    Father Stephen, Byron, Gerasimos, Alex, Michael and Dino,

    Thank you for your comforting words/suggestions. Yes, my mother was Orthodox. The Trisagion service was last evening and the Funeral Liturgy this morning. Father Stephen, my relationship with my Mother was not broken. In fact, I was her sole caregiver and companion for several years which makes it more difficult.

    Thank you again and God bless you.

  36. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    That you had a good relationship with your mother makes for great sadness. God give you comfort in your loss!

  37. Gary Avatar

    My Mother’s name was/is Mary.

    Thank you all

  38. Janine Avatar

    Gary, I am sorry for your loss — eternal memory and peace

  39. Chris Avatar

    Memory eternal for the handmaiden Mary. So sorry for your loss, Gary.

  40. Jane Avatar

    Memory eternal.

  41. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    Memory Eternal. I have added your mother to my prayer list. May His Peace fill your heart.

  42. Dean Avatar

    The nuns at St. Paisius Monastery have a series of akathists they have published. I have several, including one dear to me written by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, to Jesus Conqueror of Death. . Another is Akathist to Jesus Christ for a Loved One Who Has Fallen Asleep. It can be ordered from Stpaisiusmonastery.org. Perhaps it could help in healing your grief. I’ll pray for your mother Mary and you.

  43. Alex Volkov Avatar
    Alex Volkov

    Gary, thank you. We will commemorate your mother in our church. I’ll be praying for her, too. May her memory be eternal!

  44. Gary Avatar

    Dear Janine, Chris, Jane, Nicholas, Dean and Alex,

    Thank you for your prayers. Dean, I will look into getting the Akathists from St. Paisius.

  45. Alan Avatar

    Gary, may her memory be eternal. Praying for you and your mother.

  46. Agata Avatar


    Memory Eternal to you Mother. May God grant her rich entrance into His Eternal Kingdom!

    Here are some beautiful words on death by Fr. Alexander Schmemann:


  47. Gary Avatar


    Thank you and God bless you.

  48. David Kontur Avatar
    David Kontur

    Father Stephen,
    What you are talking about in this article is something that has come as a hard, but very good lesson in my own life. I just turned 55 and it seems like there is so much that I read 20/30 years ago in the Scriptures and other writings that is only now starting to make sense… and even now I realize that I am just scratching the surface. The “knowing” that I am talking about is not simply rational/intellectual knowing, but a “lived knowing”. There is a great German Poet, Ranier Maria Rilke who had an exchange of letters with a young poet and he gave the young poet the following advice:

    “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” excerpt from Letters to a Young Poet.

  49. Fr. Mark Avatar
    Fr. Mark

    I am a Lutheran pastor (LCMS – let the reader understand) and I have to say that you are spot on with the critique of Sola Scriptura.

  50. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Fr. Mark,
    I was with a group of Lutheran clergy this week as a speaker (Society of the Holy Trinity retreat). We had some good conversations viz. Sola Scriptura. I was blessed.

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Latest Comments

  1. Father, reading the Gospel for today “John 17:18-26” got me thinking again on the question Dee asked. It seems to…

  2. Thank you, Father. Dee, I have personally seen and venerated a weeping icon that came to my parish many years…

  3. Good question Dee. The most common phenomena associated with Orthodox saints of which I am aware is the weeping of…

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