Praying God Within Us

As a follow up to my last post (God Within Us), I offer this ancient prayer. Most people are probably familiar with it, and some may very well use it in their daily prayers. It began to appear in Orthodox books of prayer over the past few decades, reflecting a rediscovery of the Orthodox Church in the ancient West. This prayer is known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” I’ve seen numerous translations. There is one set to music that was popular in the Anglican Church (“I bind unto myself today…”). It was often sung as a processional at ordinations.

St. Patrick’s words reflect his profound Christianization of the British (Celtic) sense of things – particularly the relation between God and nature. This is in no way unique to the Celtic Christians other than in its flavor. Early Christianity represented the conversion of Pagans. C.S. Lewis noted that this was a much easier thing than converting modern post-Christians back to the faith. He wrote:

To say that modern people who have drifted away from Christianity are Pagans is to suggest that a post-Christian man is the same as a pre-Christian man. And that is like thinking … a street where the houses have been knocked down is the same as a field where no house has yet been built. [They do have something in common], namely that neither will keep you dry if it rains. But they are very different in every other respect. Rubble, dust, broken bottles, old bedsteads and stray cats are very different from grass, thyme, clover, buttercups and a lark singing overhead . . .

It seems to me that many Christians in the modern world have themselves lost what we once shared with Pagans, and in doing so, have impoverished the faith. The march of secularism has disenchanted nature, or misenchanted nature (today nature exists as a place inhabited by Mammon). Lewis opined that Europe might need to recover something of Paganism in order to become Christian again. I do not take that as a serious suggestion. However, Lewis’ own project in such works as the Chronicles of Narnia was a “baptism of the imagination” that some have criticized as an effort to “paganize” Christianity. It is worth noting that such critics would (and do) excoriate Orthodox Christianity as a vehicle of paganized Christianity. The truth is quite the opposite.

Lewis offers this observation:

It looks to me…as though we shall have to set about becoming true Pagans if only as a preliminary to becoming Christians. … For (in a sense) all that Christianity adds to Paganism is the cure. It confirms the old belief that in this universe we are up against Living Power: that there is a real Right and that we have failed to obey it: that existence is beautiful and terrifying. It adds a wonder of which Paganism had not distinctly heard—that the Mighty One has come down to help us, to remove our guilt, to reconcile us.

The disenchanted, secularized Christianity of the modern world, moves about in a world of things, empty and inert. The only “forces” that seem to garner any regard are those mysterious “market forces” that seem to guide the fortunes of the world. The world has become a commodity, measured by its usefulness for business. Of all the religions that have ever existed on the planet, it is perhaps the least attractive in the end. Its collapse will quickly follow (or even precede) the collapse of the present economic system – something likely at some point in the future. The growing number of “nones” represent not the collapse of Christianity, but the inadequacy of secularized Christianity. For those who would point to demographic losses within Orthodoxy as well, I would only suggest that the loss represents a measure of the extent to which even Orthodoxy has become secularized. The various voices that occasionally want to suggest that Orthodoxy’s future is best served by accomodation to modernity have nothing to show for such suggestions. Everywhere such a thing has been tried has only seen the cancer of unbelief and none-belief metasticize.

It is not paganism that Christians need. But we would do well to understand what our pagan ancestors saw in Christianity in the first place. They did not see the world emptied of its powers. Rather, they saw those powers rightly revealed through the Incarnation of the Logos. They did not abolish religious devotion at wells and hilltops or in the groves of England and Wales. The Slavs put away devotion to Perun (their sky god), but did not abandon the Thunder and Lightning and Storms that were once associated with Him. Today (the feast of Elijah), those very forces are recognized in an association with the saint who rode into heaven in a fiery chariot. Such “survivals” do not point to a paganizing of Christianity. They are the Christian fulfilling of every human longing through the ages.

“Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory!” It is right to recognize that glory and name it. Rocks and trees cry out. The whole creation groans. It is time for us to live as participants in creation rather than as its financial managers.

I offer St. Patrick’s hymn as a wonderful Orthodox prayer. May God teach our hearts to pray.


I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the threeness
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the creator.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgement of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim
In obedience to the Angels,
In the service of the Archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of Holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun
Brilliance of moon
Splendor of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind
Depth of sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s host to secure me
against snares of devils
against temptations of vices
against inclinations of nature
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me and these evils
Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of heathenry,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.

Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the Creator.

Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of Christ
May thy salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

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.


45 responses to “Praying God Within Us”

  1. Prior Peter Funk, OSB Avatar

    Amen. Thank you, Father.

  2. Paul Hughes Avatar

    Really enjoying — learning, finding within, being enriched by, &c — your writing.
    Typo in the Breastplate: ‘decent’ [ the strength of his decent ] shd be ‘descent’.
    Though there is surely strength in his [being] decent as well. : )

  3. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Beautiful article, Father, and beautiful (Irish Christian landscape and monastery) picture to match. The Irish indeed have a long Christian heritage. And of course the lands were originally Orthodox (predating the great schism with the west). I can’t help but love the countryside and the weather. Perhaps that has to do with my father’s Irish heritage. My grandmother never lost touch with her relatives there. My brother married there. And last, but not least ,I took an Orthodox Irish saint name in my conversion to Orthodoxy. St Gobnait is her name.

  4. Abigail Hatch Avatar
    Abigail Hatch

    This is beautiful. <3 I had read part of this prayer before, and this longer version is even more lovely. I will add it to my morning prayers. Thank you!

  5. Janine Avatar

    Thank you so much for this reminder that the ancients saw Christ as a fuller revelation. After touring various ancient sites in Ireland, it seemed apparent that the ancients there worshipped a pagan faith that importantly involved a concept of “3” or triangle or trinity, if you will. St Patrick’s preaching made absolute perfect sense in that context.

  6. Dana Ames Avatar
    Dana Ames

    Thank you, Father. I pray a small portion of this every morning.

    I read Thomas Cahill’s “How the Irish Saved Civilization” before I was Orthodox, but it was helpful for me in understanding how the Irish saw the “powers rightly revealed” over and against what we know about how they understood their gods and worship as Pagans. The rest of the book, mainly about how Irish monks copied the classics of the ancient world in their scriptoria, was also enlightening. It’s a good and not too long read, and probably available to check out from your public library system if anyone’s interested.


  7. Abigail Hatch Avatar
    Abigail Hatch

    Dee – I love that you took St. Gobnait’s name! I read quite a bit about her when I was converting to Orthdoxy as some sources say that her name is the Irish version of my name, Abigail. I was named after Righteous Abigail (one of King David’s wives) and have kept her as my patron saint, but I have a special place in my heart for St. Gobnait. 🙂

  8. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Dear Abigail! When I first saw your comment I wondered whether she might be your saint. In addition to her connection as an Irish saint, I took her name also because she was a beekeeper and so am I. We love our bees!!

    Father, I’m asking this because I’m reading von Balthasar’s Cosmic Liturgy and it seems to be an opportune moment to ask about an early medieval Irish Orthodox writer/theologian. von Bathasar references Scotus Erigena, and I’m wondering whether there is a current theological stance among Orthodox theologians regarding his works. Would you know of recommended readings on John Scotus Erigena (in English)? I’ve look online and found a few references but prefer not to go down a rabbit hole of reading that might not be fruitful. Apparently he studied Greek Christian theology (“theology of the East”) and Maximus and Pseudo-Dionysius were a few of the authors that influenced his writing. I appreciate any thoughts you might have about this.

    Last, I’ll add a beautiful Irish blessing, my dear to me sister-in-law’s sister Katherine (memory eternal) gave to me, when we were together for the last time in Ireland:

    May the road rise to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields.
    Until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

  9. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I’m sure that Orthodox scholars have a variety of takes on Dun Scotus – but, my own take is that he was largely condemned in the West because his views were quite Eastern. I’ve only read bits and pieces of him – though they were interesting.

  10. William Avatar

    I’ve been struggling to pray lately for various reasons. This morning–unaware of your article–I prayed the bits of St. Patrick’s Breastplate that I remember, particularly the first stanza. I hadn’t thought about this prayer in quite some time. As I read your article this afternoon, I was tempted to laugh off the mention of St. Patrick’s prayer as a coincidence! Suddenly I’m struck by how difficult it must be for God to get through to me, disenchanted modern that I am!

  11. Eric Avatar

    I love that hymn! We sang it on Trinity Sunday this year, although I must print off and read the words given here.

    I have associations with Christians in the far west of Wales, in an area that is still alive with the old things. A place of wonder and wonders. One hill I would frequently walk upon until we came to New Zealand was Carn Ingli, The hill of the Angels. There St Illtydd, a contemporary of St David would do battle with the pagan forces in the valley below (which have persisted down through the ages in this remote place) and be assisted by the angels which would like lightning bedeck the hill top. I have sat in his tiny cave on the rocky tor of the summit 🙂

    I would be very grateful if you could remind me of the source of the Lewis “It confirms the old belief that in this universe we are up against Living Power: that there is a real Right and that we have failed to obey it: that existence is beautiful and terrifying.” It resonates with much that I ponder at the moment.

    I wonder also, if you would be so kind as to say a few words on ‘individual conscience’, in the Orthodox tradition . . . the idea bothers me somewhat. I realise that the autonomous individual must ‘always let their conscience be their guide’ but to me it smacks of a world from which the Living Power has been evicted (or at least supposed to have been! 😉 )

    Blessings in Christ

  12. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Father, I probably steered you wrong with my frequent misspellings.

    I’ve discovered there are two John Scottus. John Dunn Scotus, is indeed the one I had originally thought von Balthasar referenced. But he was actually referencing John Scottus Eriugena, an earlier Irishman of the 9th century. I believe this Irishman is getting some attention in current Orthodox circles (but I don’t know how seriously he is taken), and he indeed was branded something of a heretic by Roman Catholic theologians, I believe, (if wikipedia can be trusted on this one) and his work ” was condemned by a council at Sens by Honorius III (1225)”.

    Again based only on encyclopedias and wikis:
    There seems to be God’s essence-energy misunderstandings in the western interpretation of his work (as far as I can tell). But I’m not sure whether his thinking actually reflects this or whether the western interpretation of his work is where the difficulties arise. But he seems to have ideas similar to but pre-date Gregory Palamas on this subject and he apparently borrowed heavily from St Maximus and Pseudo-Dionysius.

  13. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    I realize you’ve addressed your question to Fr Stephen, and I hope I’m not intruding to offer both a reference and personal insight.

    In the Philokalia, 4th Vol, St Symeon the Theologian, (the chapter “On Faith”) speaks of a young man (generally believed to be him–autobiographical) who was given a book by an elder (St Symeon the Studite), which mentions, “If you desire spiritual health, listen to your conscience, do all it tells you, and you will benefit.” And a second passage, “He who seeks the energies of the Holy Spirit before he has actively observed the commandments is like someone who sells himself into slavery and who, as soon as he is bought, asks to be given his freedom while still keeping his purchase-money”.—

    It goes on from there, but this is the passage I referenced when I spoke of listening to one’s spiritual father and one’s conscience, in a previous post.

    In my own experience, the two go hand in hand, spiritual guidance by a respected elder and/or ordained priest or pastor, and one’s own conscience. I don’t see one operating on their conscience independently of God as a viably healthy condition. Going against one’s conscience in obedience to an elder can be an unhealthy condition as well. For this reason, when I’m conflicted, I confide in a few elders looking for a kind of consensus. I’m not saying that’s the best way, but it has been my personal approach. And if my ‘elders’ are also conflicted, I wait and pray some more, looking and waiting for God’s guidance.

    I suspect this is also your thinking as well if I interpret your comment correctly. And I apologize if I’ve stepped in where I shouldn’t.

  14. biermonk Avatar

    It’s great how Orthodox folks are rediscovering and reclaiming the saints of western Europe. I was reading some of the older posts on this blog, where Fr Stephen posted that chunk of Fr Florovsky about Orthodoxy re-living the ‘tragedy” of the west. There was a link to a western rite Orthodox blog:
    that has some articles worth reading. A good one by Edith Humphrey of Ancient Faith fame about St Paul.

  15. biermonk Avatar

    Regarding a post-Christian return to paganism, I think Fr Pat Reardon said, No, not Pagan. Barbarian.

  16. Eric Avatar

    Thank you for your comments – most helpful. I shall go back to my copy of the Philokalia
    St Symeon’s two counsels speak a Wisdom rarely heard in these days. Following on from St Patrick’s breastplate they perhaps remind us that it is in communion with the Church that we know Christ.

    Thank you for your grace in stepping 🙂

  17. Jeff K Avatar
    Jeff K

    Father Stephen,
    I read (and re-read) your articles about this subject with fascination. Sometimes, I think I get a glimpse of what you are talking about. I wish I could see it more fully, and integrate it into my life . Having been born and raised in a secular culture, can I perceive the world any other way than as a secular Christian? These articles make for great intellectual exercises, but how do we change the way we perceive the world around us?

  18. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    It was my mistake – I meant to type Eriugena but sort went blank as I was writing.

  19. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I think we start small. Vladimir Lossky once described faith as a “participatory adherence.” That’s quite a phrase but suggests something of a path in this. For me, I like beginning with the larger picture of God’s providence, His faithful and loving care for the whole of His creation in which He works things for our good. Look up articles on the blog using the word “providence” on the search tool. They’ll offer some thoughts. The participatory adherence is an extending of the self towards that which we see in such an exercise of faith. I “give” myself to it – lean in to it. All of these things that we see around us are gifts of God given to us for our good.

    I often think of them “knowing” what it is they are good for – with a kind of knowing that is proper to them. A rock knows as a rock. A tree knows as a tree – and it’s “knowing” is written into its very being. The wind and the sea “knew” their creator and could obey His voice when Christ spoke to them. If you thought of it as their “purpose” or their “nature” it would not be wrong. But modern minds like to find words to say these things that rob them of any “knowing” as such. It’s a diminishment of knowing.

    In much of this, we are operating beyond the bounds of modern language. Poetry and the language of myth and such still retain something of useful language and – I think it’s ok to use it if it helps.

    Feel free to say more about what becomes difficult for you in this.

  20. Byron Avatar

    Dee, please forgive me for finding this statement both joyful and funny!

    it seems to be an opportune moment to ask about an early medieval Irish Orthodox writer/theologian.

    The first thing of which I thought: “I’m not sure anyone has ever used that sentence before!”. It struck me as both hilarious and as a wonderful statement concerning this blog, in general. This is such an edifying place where we can be taken in different directions–places other than anywhere else we might travel! Glory to God in All Things, indeed!

  21. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Byron your comment made me smile and brought joy. 😊 thank you!

  22. Jeff K Avatar
    Jeff K

    Thank you for your answer. I guess what I am trying to say that is difficult, is, how do we change our consciousness of the world?
    I can imagine traveling to Ireland and visiting a grove, or a well, or a hill top that has been ”perceived” by ancient pagans as sacred, and then absorbed by a Christian people that perceived its sacredness, and so they built a chapel there. I would ponder that fact, and find it interesting and stimulating to think about.
    I can not see myself being the kind of person that would come upon such a place, and without being told, ”perceive” that the place was sacred.
    I’m sure, as you have said other places, it is a slow, almost imperceptible work. I do try to ”lean in” to my icons, to be silent, and try to perceive with my heart the people made present by them.

  23. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I well understand your point – and share it. The inert sort of mechanical view of nature that is part of our modern mentality is extremely strong. I struggle with this – as would any of us. I have had more success by meditating on providence than the sort of focus on an immediate thing. The fathers (St. Dionysius is a good example) speak of a “natural contemplation” that is explained as a meditation on providence at work in all things.

    In Paganism, I think, there is almost too much focus on the isolated things – on the “magic” of a well or a grove, for example. As such, there is no salvation at work, no Divine Economy directing all things for our good. It leaves the temptation to want to “manage” the magic – which, oddly, is just pagan modernism (in the sense that modernity wants to manage all things). It yields superstition.

    In Orthodox societies where a one-storey universe is common, there is also plenty of superstition as well. I suspect it’s just a sinful side of the matter (we can sin even in a one-storey universe).

    It’s why I like starting with providence – an approach that is filled with wonder and gratitude for God-at-work-in-all-thing-for-our-good. As I attend to that, I have found the perception of things improves – slowly.

  24. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    In contemplating Jesus praying within me, I also realized that while temptations are also really there too even though sometimes triggered by things outside. Makes everything more real and immediate.

  25. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father don’t you think that the mechanistic view of nature also, perhaps mostly denies our humanity as well?

  26. Karen Avatar

    Did autocorrect perhaps change Threeness to “Thrones” in that last stanza of the prayer?

  27. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Jeff, we all share your circumstances.

    Father’s words are key. I’m saying this based on my own few experiences. If you haven’t already read his book I recommend it.

    I don’t know if what I write next will help. This is only an addition to what Father has already mentioned–a kind of “how to..” that I was taught which is really an attempt to unhook my mind and body from the tether’s of this culture.

    A physical prayer rule is something like the training wheels for physical awareness, this is how I interpret your words, “consciousness of the world” in which we see God –at least this is what I believe you seek.

    Archimandrite Sergius mentions a helpful and short (10 minute prayer rule) in His book the Mind of Christ. He highly recommends prostrations in prayer. And I’ll add lighting candles. These might seem trivial. But I don’t think they are. I believe they help to unite mind and heart physically and spiritually.

    Perhaps you already do these things. If so, I ask forgiveness for butting in.

  28. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Jeff, forgive me I’ll add one more thing, an icon of Christ with a large face. Here is one that I recommend:
    I have benefited from sitting with/before this icon in the mornings.

  29. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Oh dear here I go again. I hope this is my last comment for the day.

    Jeff, at the end of Father’s book is a chapter on devotion. It was very helpful for me as well.–a good’ how to’ regarding daily practice. I should have mentioned this earlier, but the devotional practice that he mentions (and taught me) has become such a habit, that I’ve forgotten where I had learned it.

  30. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dee, wonderful suggestions. Prostrations are wonderful if possible. My personal favorite icon is Jesus rescuing Peter as Peter is sinking into the lake( Lord Save Me) Not only does it clearly express Jesus’ mercy but the situation is analogous to our own trying to go to Christ in the midst of the storm (inside and out) of our culture.
    That icon expresses how He has always come to me. The central focal point of the icon is His hands
    Just noticed the scroll. Not sure what that is as it is not in all versions of the moment.
    My dear wife is Orthodox primarily because of the icon of Christ Enthroned. She calls Him, “my Jesus”
    Jesus can be encountered in any true icon. The Panocrator that is key for you is glorious but not as personal for me. The personal icons tend to sneak up on you in my experience. A bit like meeting an old friend for the first time in many years. There is a warm recognition and comfort and intimacy.

  31. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Michael you are right about the stress on the icon that speaks to one personally. For some it might be the Theotokos who helps in this regard. My intention however was to stress how helpful it was to speak to and venerate an icon with a large face. I believe a larger face can help one attend to an intimate encounter. I didn’t intend to mean that it must be the one I suggested.

  32. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Good catch! Thanks!

  33. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Your point is well taken and excellent in every way.

    My Godfather when I was about to be Chrismated, told me that no matter how much you know in the Church, there is always more. I nodded my head thinking I knew what he meant. I did not at the time.

    He is now a full time resident missionary in Romania married to a Romanian woman working with folks who have substance abuse problems. He is himself a recovering alcoholic with decades of sobriety. When he first went to Romania to see about doing the work (over 25 years ago now) he was quite concerned about learning the language. As he was out walking one day, he bought a small paper icon of a local Romanian saint from a street vendor. He took it back to his room and asked her help with the language. She promised she would help He has since authored two books on how to deal with substance abuse issues within the context of the life in the Church and trained many priests and lay leaders to help as well.

    So, that is another “more” that can be tapped into through icons. All true icons are windows into heaven, but some are doors through which one can enter.

  34. Nicole from VA Avatar
    Nicole from VA

    I love the children’s novels, gothic mysteries for 5th graders, written by John Bellairs. I read them intensely growing up and still read them now. They often feature a Catholic boy and his eccentric professor friend. There is real danger but also real faith, and they teach kids to notice that some adults are dangerous, like the apple giving witches in the fairy tales I never read

    In one of them a brief St. Patrick’s breastplate is prayed by the young boy in his moment of real danger

    It stuck with my, the snippet. I have it in my head as such

    Christ be with me
    Christ within me
    Christ behind me
    Christ before me
    Christ beside me
    Christ to guide me
    Christ to comfort and restore me

    I’ve only prayed it occasionally over the years, but it has been a help

    I decided to read Psalm 23 recently and the word restore stood out to me. I may have just added those last lines in

    Also, the author dedicated his first book to his wife

    ‘To Patricia, who let’s me be myself.’

    Just beautiful. Father, sounds like your wife as you have lovingly spoken of her

    Father, when the prayer speaks of the knowlege that harms I think of ripping off the top of mountains in WVA

    Does access to imply ownership of? We’ve got the technology to access what thousands of years of people couldn’t and it boils down to knowledge that harms

    I wish I knew which of the Bellairs mysteries has it, just wanted to share the quick thought now

    Thank you, Father. Trees do sing

  35. Renata Avatar

    Hello, Father,

    Another excellent posting! I had no idea this prayer was so long, and it’s more beautiful. Thank you.

    Wanted to mention on this line, the first word should be “I” not “A”: “A summon today all these powers between me and these evils …”

  36. Ziton Avatar

    Jeff, thank you for sharing your difficulties. As Dee said, we all share them.

    Some things I have found helpful are:

    1. As Father Stephen said, poetry of the right sort (as will be eye-rollingly apparent to many readers here) can help articulate things. Wordsworth in particular was attuned to this problem and how as we get older we sort of get drier for want of a better word. The secularizing process is perhaps in part a slow strangulation of the wondering child in us. Quite a few of his more famous poems articulate it directly. Tintern Abbey maybe best of all, but these opening lines from Intimations of Immortality (another good one, to be taken slowly) states it plain and simple:

    “There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
    The earth, and every common sight,
    To me did seem
    Apparelled in celestial light,
    The glory and the freshness of a dream.
    It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
    Turn wheresoe’er I may,
    By night or day.
    The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

    A single field which I have looked upon,
    Both of them speak of something that is gone;
    The Pansy at my feet
    Doth the same tale repeat:
    Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
    Where is it now, the glory and the dream?”

    Oh, for the glory and the dream!

    2. I rather suspect our ability to sense spiritually charged (numinous) aspects of things is primarily a matter of healthy and well functioning nous. The problem for those formed in the western intellectual millieu is that our very sharpness in that realm probably came at the unseen price of the nous being clouded over and shrunken. From what I can tell, the Church’s main recommended remedy for that particularly grievous problem is a disciplined and regular practice of contemplative prayer (of the Jesus Prayer type). Also, I strongly recommend pretty much all of Father Stephen’s writings on the nous. I credit my prayer practice as much as anything for the unexpected re-awakenings or in-seepings of numinous sensibilities and occasional clarity (as the Lord gifts).

    3. I have sometimes been to places that really have felt spiritually charged. There was a kind of other dimension or presence to them. Sometimes that was in places that native peoples thought was sacred, at other times not. In the past I think I would have rushed to intellectualize that in the manner you describe about the Irish hill. But now I don’t. If it happens, it happens. If it does not, it doesn’t. I listen to the stories, but as Father says, sometimes they become over-egged anyway in a way which is probably an obfuscation. But it’s entirely a matter of where the Spirit leads. I also rather suspect that places can lose their charge too. I remember the first time I went to Notre Dame cathedral in Paris it had “the feel”. But later visits it was not there. My sense of it was that the turning of what had been a sacred place into an industrial scale tourist attraction had sadly robbed it. My suspicion is that our prayers affect place too.

  37. Sunny Edgren Avatar
    Sunny Edgren

    Wanted to share this quote from C. S. Lewis’s “God in the Dock” that seems relevant.

    “When grave persons express their fear that England is relapsing into Paganism, I am tempted to reply, “Would that she were.” For I do not think it at all likely that we shall ever see Parliament opened by the slaughtering of a garlanded white bull in the House of Lords or Cabinet Ministers leaving sandwiches in Hyde Park as an offering for the Dryads. If such a state of affairs came about, then the Christian apologist would have something to work on. For a Pagan, as history shows, is a man eminently convertible to Christianity. He is essentially the pre-Christian, or sub-Christian, religious man. The post-Christian man of our day differs from him as much as a divorcée differs from a virgin.”

  38. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Beautiful Paula. Thank you!

  39. Ziton Avatar

    Yes, Paula. I had heard this piece before (love Arvo Pärt), but in the context of Father’s article it is particularly moving, and a wonderful meditation. Thank you!!

  40. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    As we appear to be adding to Father’s theme and as I’m still inspired by Jeff’s questions pertaining to this theme, I thought I might share a verse from Psalms I read this morning:
    (Psalm 79:20 Orthodox Study Bible; Psalm 80:20 other bibles)

    O Lord God of hosts, convert us,
    and reveal Your face, and we shall be saved.

  41. Matthew W. Avatar


    Please delete if this touches on areas you would rather not discuss. But at the risk of referencing something outside Orthodox Christian tradition – or even Christianity in general – I find it helpful to think of Modernity as a type of egregore – a self perpetuating thought form that has taken on a life of its own.

    I find it interesting that even protestant missionaries coming out of areas not heavily influenced by Modernity tell of cursed places, miracles, and other things we don’t hear of here in the West.

  42. Jeffrey Koach Avatar
    Jeffrey Koach

    Dee, et al,
    Thanks for your thoughtfull responses.

    Dee: I have implemented most of what you suggested…no candles though. A priest who has befriended me gave me my icon of Christ (pretty big face). He checks in on me occasionally to see how things are going, or to get together for lunch. (The priest, I mean).
    Father Stephen, you mentioned starting with the bigger picture. This has been helpful. I thank God for making me, to start…somewhere you advised considering the fact that if we can pray even one small prayer to God, it is a miracle. This is true. If I didn’t exhist, I couldn’t pray.

    Ziton: you wrote, ”The problem for those formed in the western intellectual millieu is that our very sharpness in that realm probably came at the unseen price of the nous being clouded over and shrunken. ”
    How true. I wonder about the role of technology in this too. I think it does strange things to us. I’m 56 years old, so about one third of my life has been with the internet, the first two thirds without. I sometimes try to think back to those times before the internet, and wonder what we did in the evenings? I’m not one to participate in social media (except this blog, of course), but I can still while away an hour or two with ”beneficial” Orthodox content on the internet. I try to be purposeful about eschewing my I-pad for a book on a regular basis. I’ll have to add more poetry to that, as well.

    Jeff K

  43. Ruth Ann Pilney Avatar
    Ruth Ann Pilney

    Dear Father Stephen,

    I have enjoyed reading your blog posts for what seems like many years ( I haven’t counted). I always feel that I understand what you write at it’s deepest level, although I am a lifelong Catholic, which I intend to remain. The previous post about God Within resonates with everything that I have been taught, believed and practiced—- even from my childhood. I am also of Irish descent and Celtic Spirituality also resonates with me. Your rendition of Saint Patrick’s Breastplate prayer, also known as the Deer’s Cry, reminds me of the one on Shaun Davy’s “The Pilgrim” album. Thank you for all your posts.

    Peace in Christ
    Ruth Ann

  44. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    Used to be part of my morning prayer. I will bring it back tomorrow. Thank you, Father.

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  1. Father, the “trouble with technology” is that it seems to becoming increasingly anti-human; created to replace humanity for the most…

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