The Sweetest Name of Jesus

Some years back, I was given instruction on saying the “Jesus Prayer” by Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex. We spoke about the form of the prayer, and the pace it should be prayed. But it was his final instruction that touched my heart: “Pay particular attention to the Name when you pray it.” It is, after all, the Jesus Prayer. The Scriptures have much to say about His holy name. We pray “in His name.” We speak to the Father, in the name of Jesus. The name is “above all names.” “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow”… The list goes on and on.

In the early years of my time in the “Jesus Movement,” I shared an apartment with a dear Christian brother. We developed a very sweet practice at bedtime. The apartment we shared had two bedrooms. But one of us would call to the other in the dark with a “name” of Jesus. “Lion of Judah,” one would call and the response would come, “Honey in the Rock.” We would go on like this, slowly exhausting every “name” image we could remember from the Scriptures. My experience at the same time was one of increasing ecstasy as the “Name” worked within our hearts and pushed us ever further into the heights.

Devotion to the name of Jesus is widespread in Christianity and takes many forms. There are evangelical hymns. There are mystical treatises, both Orthodox and Catholic. In Orthodoxy, there is the Akathist Hymn to the Sweetest Lord Jesus that, like my late teen ecstasies, presses deeper and deeper into the mystical imagery of the Name.

The Scriptures say,For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”(Romans 10:13) This statement, I think, is most often treated in a “legal” manner, that is, as a statement of a minimal requirement for Christian salvation. As such, it becomes like a magical password, guaranteeing deliverance from future punishment and promising future reward.  That understanding, it seems to me, trivializes what is taking place in salvation and diminishes our understanding of the holy Name.

If we remember what it means to be “saved,” then we can better understand what St. Paul is saying regarding the name of the Lord. Salvation is much more than a heavenly reward or the deliverance from hell. Rather, salvation is the transformation of the whole person and their ultimate transfiguration into the image of Christ. Salvation is becoming eternally and truly what we were created to be – the very image of God.

With this in mind, it is possible to see that “calling on the Name” is a profound act of the heart, soul, mind, and body. To call on the Name is, in this sense, not unlike receiving Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  He says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in them” (Jn. 6:56). This is not a legal status – it is a matter of our entire being. Calling on the Holy Name of Jesus is similar – it is a “communion” with Christ Himself.

Devotion to the name of Jesus has had its own controversies over time. In the first couple of decades of the 20th century, a Russian controversy erupted in what today is called the Imyaslavie Controversy (Imyaslavie=Name Worshiper). In a very popularly read book of the time, the hermit schema-monk, Hilarion, wrote: “The name of God is God Himself.” Over time, there came to be a push-back, particularly in some of the higher circles of the Church. The truth is that Fr. Hilarion’s simple statement lacked definition and could easily be miscontrued in a magical manner (or some such thing). Perhaps the most refined response to that charge can be seen in the works of Aleksei Losev, Russian philosopher and defender of the teaching: “…The exact mystical formula of Imiaslavie will sound like this: a) the name of God is an energy of God, inseparable from the essence of God itself, and therefore is God himself. b) However, God is distinct from His energies and from His name, and that is why God is not His name or a name in general.” Nonetheless, the Imyaslavie teaching was condemned by the Holy Synod of Russia at one point, with monks on Mt. Athos who adhered to it being expelled. The doctrine was slated to be re-examined at the Moscow Council in 1917, but was never undertaken due to the onset of the revolution. Prominent defenders of the Imyaslavie were Fr. Sergei Bulgakov and Fr. Pavel Florensky.

All of that seems to be something of a footnote in Orthodox history. What was under consideration was the statement that “the name of God is God.” Orthodox theology being what it is, I can easily see how such a statement could be reconciled with Orthodox teaching – though, on its face, it is certainly too susceptible to misunderstanding. What the controversy surrounding this did not do – was change the devotional life of the Church in any way. The Jesus Prayer, and devotions to the name of Jesus were and remain at the very heart of our Orthodox life.

For myself, I stumbled across all of this when I was doing doctoral studies at Duke. The question for me arose around the nature of language. What is it that words do? How should we understand them? My “clue” was a statement from the 7th Ecumenical Council that “icons do with color what Scripture does with words.” I followed that lead and spent time pondering the “iconicity of language.” I came to the conclusion then that this approach held promise in thinking about the Holy Name. We would certainly say of an icon of Christ that it “makes present what it represents.” However, we would never say, “The icon of Christ is Christ.”

More important than these theological speculations is the simple experience that I first learned in those late teen years. The name of Jesus is sweet. When spoken by a heart that loves Him, its invocation brings with it the presence of Christ Himself. It is Jesus that our hearts desire and Jesus whom we are given: in the sacraments, in the Scriptures, and in His holy Name.

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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.



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Comments

40 responses to “The Sweetest Name of Jesus”

  1. John Robert Jones Avatar
    John Robert Jones

    I am having problems getting on your subscription list. Maybe this work.

  2. glorytogod Avatar

    John,
    We’re trying to get the subscriptions thing fixed. It’s possible there’s a hold on adding subscriptions from WordPress until they get it straight. I’ll try to monitor it.

  3. glorytogod Avatar

    John,
    I think I got your subscription fixed.

  4. Daniel Rothamel Avatar
    Daniel Rothamel

    I very much enjoyed this reflection. I think it also hits at why we, as Roman Catholics, have so many names for the Theotokos. I find all of them to have their own flavor of sweetness.

  5. David Anthony Avatar
    David Anthony

    I find the appreciation of Jesus’s name to be a struggle. I’m not sure why; it may be something buried deep within the heart. For one thing, His name, at least among us English-speakers, sounds kind of funny. I’m hoping I can grow out of feeling that way some day!

    Having spent many years in an evangelical/Pentecostal context, I’ve heard (and still hear) the name of Jesus used like an exclamation point to a prayer — or like a red missile-launching button that one pushes to make the prayer effective (and pushes REALLY HARD for more effectiveness). “Lord, heal John, in the name of JESUS. In JESUS’ name!”

    Along these lines, I’ve frequently heard Christians rebuke the devil by adopting an intense and angry voice when doing it — just to make sure he knows we mean business, I suppose. My assumption is that one’s tone in such instances means nothing. But I still wonder. Maybe it does matter in that it trains our heart to resist and fight the enemy with intention.

    Aagh, more struggles…

  6. glorytogod Avatar

    David,
    Many things in our lives leave “toxic” traces. It is, of course, tragic that such traces should find the name of Jesus among them. I have practiced the Jesus Prayer for around 25 years – off-and-on throughout the day – and it has healed much within me. I sometimes pray the prayer in Russian (because I can), and sometimes in Greek (because I can). As much as possible, it is good to forgive and bless wherever you’ve come from – to let resentments go and to give thanks for whatever might have been good that it gave you. I have a deep love for the piety of simple Protestantism (as is commonly found among our Appalachian mountain folk hereabouts). I see their goodness and don’t judge it. It helps.

    I might add, that if you ever found yourself battling a demon – you might shout the name of Jesus in desperation or as a battle cry. It can be a very difficult experience. Most people don’t know it, but the name “Michael” is a Hebrew battle cry. The name means: “Who is like God?” and is a question (not a statement). It is a battlecry in that it challenges anyone who would dare to claim to be like God. May He intercede for us.

  7. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Ah, Father, I have not thought of the underlying meaning of my name for a long time. Thank you for reminding me.

  8. Anna Avatar
    Anna

    “like the sweetness after the rain…kings and kingdoms shall all pass away, but there’s something about that Name”

    That was one of my grandmother’s favorite hymns. I’ll be singing it all day now, thank you Father.

  9. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    For everyone – a quote from St. John Chrysostom:

    The remembrance of the name of Jesus rouses the enemy to battle. For a soul that forces itself to pray the Prayer of Jesus can find anything by this prayer, both good and evil. First it can see evil in the recesses of its own heart, and afterwards good. This prayer can stir the snake to action, and this prayer can lay it low. This prayer can expose the sin that is living in us, and this prayer can eradicate it. This prayer can stir up in the heart all the power of the enemy, and this prayer can conquer it and gradually root it out. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it descends into the depths of the heart, will subdue the snake which controls its ranges, and will save and quicken the soul. Continue constantly in the name of the Lord Jesus that the heart may swallow the Lord and the Lord the heart, and that these two may be one. However, this is not accomplished in a single day, nor in two days, but requires many years and much time. Much time and labor are needed in order to expel the enemy and instate Christ.   Letter to Monks (PG 60, p. 753).

  10. M. W. Avatar

    While I find it sad that all my favorite Orthodox bloggers have been cast out into a bit of a diaspora, as it were. I am glad that you continue your ministry unabated by the vagaries of earthly politics.

    Your words have been, and continue to be a balm as I struggle in this life.

    Thank-You for your ministry.

    Lord have mercy upon me.

  11. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    I am struck once again by the Father’s statements on how long and difficult actual penitential prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer is. Virtually impossible for any modern lay person to achieve. Yet I have known lay people who swear by the discipline and have, they say, reached a deep point of Grace (with much more indicated possible) in far less time and with much less diligence.
    That confuses me.

  12. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    It is grace. A gift.

  13. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Anonymous,
    Although occasionally Grace can indeed gift someone a state and an experience of prayer that is far more advanced than they themselves happen to be, the rule is that, as with all virtue, you need all three elements: Grace, effort AND time.
    However, it is fascinating (for the subject himself) to see how Grace works inside and all around the diligent practitioner of the Jesus prayer. How it teaches them not to rely on the self but on the invoked One, how it instructs them to valiantly wage war with the adversary while surrendering their constantly discovered helplessness to Christ, how it convinces them that the invoked One wages all battles on their behalf and protects them from the inconceivable webs of the devil they start to perceive. This way man realizes and is convinced all the more that, more or less, all that is needed is to try to remain under the presence of the Lord, who will fight all fights and reveal all His providence to those who humbly continuously call upon His name.

  14. Stan Freeman Avatar
    Stan Freeman

    I am happy to see this blog. I pray the Jesus Prayer a lot for myself and others . It seems to make it easier to deal with troublesome matters and people.

  15. Angie Avatar
    Angie

    Thank you for this! The Jesus Prayer has been so life-giving to me, especially in pondering on the name of Jesus as I pray the prayer.
    This may be off topic, but I hear many outside of the Orthodox faith single out the Trinity at certain times in prayer. I know we pray to the Father as Jesus prayed to the Father… but what about praying to the Holy Spirit? Or calling on the Holy Spirit in prayer? I understand that everything is done through the Holy Spirit…so not sure about praying to the Spirit as we pray to Jesus. Would love your thoughts on this.
    Thank you!

  16. Angie Avatar
    Angie

    To be clear, I mean singling out the Holy Spirit as the receiver of the prayer. Like “Dear Holy Spirit…”
    Not sure if that came across correctly in my previous question.

  17. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    Angie,
    The liturgical prayers of the Church most commonly are addressed “to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit” in various traditional phrases. However, there are examples of prayers addressed to the Holy Spirit – most famously – “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth…etc.” which is prayed at the beginning of almost every service, and is a standard part of most practices of prayer.

    The prayers of the Church, as written, have a couple of purposes. They serve to “teach us how to pray.” When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray – He gave them a prayer – the Lord’s Prayer. In the same manner, the written prayers of the Church serve to teach us the pattern of prayer. Secondly, the written prayers of the Church serve to preserve correct doctrine and teaching – There is an old rule-of-thumb that says, “lex orandi, lex credendi,” meaning, “The law of praying is the law of believing.” Our prayers teach our hearts how to believe.

    There is, of course, a freedom when we pray. It is necessary and important that we engage the heart when we pray – to speak to God from the deepest parts of our soul. The written prayers of the Church should never serve to eliminate that reality.

  18. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    Dino,
    I meant to say by “grace…it is a gift,” that “giftedness” is always an inherent aspect of grace. In many ways, it reminds us that our interaction with God is personal and not mechanical. Grace…effort…and time…in the acquisition of virtue – and the greatest action in this is humility. “He gives more grace to the humble.” There is something about grace – as it comes to the humble – that is always “surprising.”

    God give us grace!

  19. Justin Avatar
    Justin

    Fr Stephen,

    Following on your quote of +John Chrysostom, I don’t think an “amen” is the right response, but I can confirm that the Jesus Prayer does “stir the snake into action.” I have never had such difficult times in prayer and struggling with my passions as when I am praying the Jesus Prayer. At once my mind will explode with all manner of… stuff… and my habit is to begin sorting through it all. It so easily takes my attention away from Jesus. Every. Time. It’s exhausting. It is my shame that I oftentimes just give up.

    Thankfully I am prodded by the Spirit to begin again. Like the Saint says, I will likely be beginning again until my last dying breath. I am getting closer to being “okay” with that.

  20. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    Justin,
    One of the desert fathers said that “prayer is a struggle to a man’s dying breath”…so you’re apparently in good company!

    I have ADHD, which pretty much means that my mind is never “quiet.” It’s not unlike the tinnitis that rings in my ears 24/7. I work at “noting” it, and then at ignoring it. I think that one of the problems with thoughts is our mistaken notion that we can solve them by thinking. In many ways, it’s like trying to put out a fire by pouring gas on it. With the Jesus Prayer – I let the thoughts rattle on (cause that’s just what they’re going to do). I turn my inner attention to Christ and bring it back (again and again) as it wanders. The last thing I do (as in pretty much never) is to upbraid myself about all the distracting thoughts. They’re just noises – either from the adversary – or just brain artifacts – much like the pain signals from a broken arm.

    Sometimes I imagine myself on a battlefield – wounded, hurting, barely able to lift a sword. But standing by me is Christ and the angels, as well as all the saints in the battle. I am not the war – I’m just a wounded soldier. I’ll be glad to get in one more stroke of my blade. With each word of the Prayer, I strike the enemy. How effective I am is not really of great consequence – there are many mighty warriors around me. That I have been allowed to join the battle and that I am fighting on the side of Lord – it is enough. God give us grace and good strength!

  21. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    My own experience with Jesus Prayer was as spotty as everyone else’s until I was beset with a chronic pain disorder. I would wake up every night at about 3AM in pain. I had two choices: swear or pray. Finally one night I chose prayer using the Jesus Prayer. By His Grace it became something it had never been before. He opened my heart as never before. I have a sense that it is still just the surface though, it even has a physical focal point below and behind my physical heart.
    The pain is still with me but much more bearable and I still struggle with sin, but everything is in a new perspective. I have fewer excuses.

  22. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Philippians Chapter 2 seems to speak to this, esp verses 8-11

    Moderator’s Note (Phil 2:8-11)

    “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

  23. Matthew Avatar
    Matthew

    I love this:

    “The Scriptures say,“For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”(Romans 10:13) This statement, I think, is most often treated in a “legal” manner, that is, as a statement of a minimal requirement for Christian salvation. As such, it becomes like a magical password, guaranteeing deliverance from future punishment and promising future reward. That understanding, it seems to me, trivializes what is taking place in salvation and diminishes our understanding of the holy Name.

    If we remember what it means to be “saved,” then we can better understand what St. Paul is saying regarding the name of the Lord. Salvation is much more than a heavenly reward or the deliverance from hell. Rather, salvation is the transformation of the whole person and their ultimate transfiguration into the image of Christ. Salvation is becoming eternally and truly what we were created to be – the very image of God.”

    You have no idea how my heart warms when I hear again and again how the Orthodox understand and experience salvation. It draws me closer and closer to the Church.

  24. Jim Avatar
    Jim

    Just checking: Do online donations go to Glory For All Things, Inc. ?

  25. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    Jim,
    Yes, they do. Last year, I set up Glory for All Things, Inc., as a 501C3 (tax-exempt) entity to receive funds to support the blog and other elements of my ministry. None of the funds are used as income for me…all of them go to support the ministry. Expenses took an immediate increase with setting up the new site (still not finished) and paying for various hosting requirements. Donations are very welcome. They qualify as charitable giving if you use that option in your tax preparation.

    Deeply appreciate any gift.

  26. David Avatar
    David

    Father Stephen,

    As someone who also has ADHD (diagnosed as an adult), your reply to Justin moved me deeply. Thank you for that.

    Sometimes “the noise” is unbearable and I have had to learn how to forgive myself and see my situation as it is (I used to try in futility to pray Akathists and do the Prayer Book, but it doesn’t work for me. All I can manage is the Lord’s Prayer said as slowly and attentively as possible, day and night). St. Porphyrios is my favorite saint who I hold close, and his words on prayer (especially the Jesus Prayer) have been very helpful.

    I don’t know if I missed it, but have you ever written (or spoken) specifically on the Spritual life for Neurodivergent (ADHD, Autism) people?

  27. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    David,

    I have not done a “deep-dive” article on the spiritual life of the neurodivergent, but I do have a couple of articles that reflect on my experience:

    A Priest’s Thoughts on Depression, Anxiety, the Soul, Your Body, and Your Brain

    Living with a Brain

    As to the “spiritual life” – there really is only one spiritual life in Orthodox understanding – that is nothing other than the life of God within us. The point of all spiritual striving is nothing other than seeking to dwell in communion with Christ at all times and places. The monastic and the non-monastic have the same spiritual life – we differ only in the setting. Monastics have longer Church services and such, but they still wash dishes, hoe the garden, do laundry, deal with strangers, and daily struggle to love one another and to forgive everyone of everything. It’s not very esoteric.

    What can be said of the neurodivergent (autism, ADHD, OCD, etc.) is that the “landscape” of our struggle is made different and more difficult by certain handicaps. The largest problem with that, I think, is a kind of false explanation of how things “should be” and a frustration with reality when it does not match up with that – or, worse still, a self-condemnation that is useless and damaging.

    I liken brain-wounds (or whatever we might call them) to other physical ailments: pain, broken arms, etc. We do the best we can – and, as necessary, we adapt circumstances or ourselves to what is possible.

    You note the difficulty with Akathists and written prayers, etc. It might be that doing a single stanza of an Akathist would be possible (just as you do the Lord’s Prayer with care). The Jesus Prayer has been the great mainstay of my life – particularly with a prayer rope in hand (it’s sort of the “fidget spinner” for ADHD Orthodoxy). Indeed, there are times that I cannot manage the words of the prayer – but still can manage the knots of the rope. Like making the sign of the cross, or a prostration, that physical action is a prayer in itself.

    In all things, I work at banishing frustration. We “bear a little shame” in offering our half-hearted, broken attempts to God. Humility draws the grace of God to us in a way that a “perfect action” never will.

    God is with us in everything we do.

  28. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The world wants to keep all of us away from acknowledging and loving the Lordship of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Whether it is neurodivergence, chronic pain, other physical problems, or just the ordinary distractions of our fallen existence in body, mind and heart, we each have challenges.
    That being said, if we seek, God’s grace will open a way for us. Our very breath is the Jesus prayer if we but knew it.

    May Jesus calm our minds, bodies and passions so that we can acknowledge His ever presence, joy and mercy. Giving glory to him (as the blog says) in the midst of our struggles, especially when we don’t want to or it is difficult (whenever it is possible) does a lot.

    “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

    Even as the darkness surrounds us and seems to interpenetrate our bodies.

  29. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Humility draws the grace of God to us in a way that a “perfect action” never will.

    Amen Father!!!

  30. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    Dee,
    If we rightly understood God, we would see that humility is the fulfillment of “being like God” (“for I am meek and lowly,” Christ says). We are saved by our weakness, not our excellence. Love is the most complete fulfillment of humility – the emptying of the self for the sake of the other.

  31. Dana Ames Avatar
    Dana Ames

    Father, do you know the little prayer book “Light of the World” published a couple of years ago, compiled and translated by Fr M. Constans? It has some truly beautiful and soul-nourishing prayers of different lengths by different ancient authors. Even if I’m not intending to “officially” pray, simply the reading of the prayers becomes the prayer inside me. This is a new and delightful experience for me. I don’t want to stop reading, but I must because the expanse of Christ’s beauty expressed in the prayers begins to overwhelm me. I highly recommend this prayer book.

    Dana

  32. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    Dana,
    I am not familiar with it – but I love the work of Fr. Maximus Constans. I’ll track the book down for certain – tonight!

    Well, when I went to order it, a picture of it came up – and I thought – I think a copy was recently given to me at an OCF conference where I spoke. It was lying on my dining table…and lo! Now it’s in my hands. So, thanks for point it out, and I’ll peruse it a bit before bed!

  33. David Avatar
    David

    Father,

    Thank you for the articles. I think your answer is a good one for me, as for the longest time my ADHD was an excuse for a myriad of sins that I was slow to address (and am still fumbling with). What I didn’t see, is that God gives us our measure, and as you note, it is what we do with that measure which makes the difference (like the widow’s mite). I am the man with 1 talent, and more. Not only do I struggle with the temptation to bury it (due to my difficulties), but I also struggle not to be jealous of the man with 5 talents.

    Your words on humility are balm, as it is only something I am beginning to attempt. I was baptized 10 years ago, and this conversation reminds me of something that Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpatkos once said: It takes 10 years for a western convert to begin to fully think in an Orthodox way. For me that was about right.

  34. Matthew Avatar
    Matthew

    The sweetest name of Jesus. I heard the name of Jesus yesterday on the L train in my city. I was traveling to work, a man got on, and began singing loudly about the tribes of Israel, the prophets, and then Jesus. He did this for a number of stops. I don´t think most people even listened to him and those that did probably were annoyed that this man was greatly disturbing their morning commute. As a Christian myself who once was a member the fundamentalist tribe I wasn´t sure what to think. I know this man is my brother in Christ (at least I think he is if I take him at his singing word), but I couldn´t help but think he was doing more damage to the Gospel than actually helping to promote it. I wanted to say something to him, but I thought what good would it really do? When I myself was like him, I probably wouldn´t have listened to anyone either. How do Orthodox share the Gospel as they understand it? How do they proclaim the sweetest name of Jesus Christ?

  35. Mark Spurlock Avatar
    Mark Spurlock

    Matthew,

    Father Stephen and those who have been Orthodox longer than I can better answer your two concluding questions, but I will share my personal thoughts as someone often in your position. I work at a university that has public spaces, and these spaces are made use of by those who wish to engage students on religious and political matters. I frequently pass by people using the names of God and Jesus in ways that don’t accord with my own views. (Even speaking for God at all, which they do with boldness, is something I instead do so only with the greatest circumspection.)

    Without knowing firsthand what your fellow commuter was like, I’d say he at least accomplished some good in making you yourself think about some important questions. He reminded you that your struggle is not unique to you; countless others are working it out within their own lives. And that’s something I think we are all as Christians to practice: looking for opportunities to see and bring out the good in any events and people we encounter. Contrariwise, evil wants us to see the bad and amplify that. You are not responsible for how other commuters are reacting to him but only for your own response.

    Behaving in this way (removing the mote from our own eye) is always a prerequisite to being able to help our brother with the speck in his.

    You mentioned the L, so it’s very possible your commute is in Chicago. When I was a 14-year-old I worked during the summer as a “gopher” in Chicago and had to walk the area from 1150 North State down to about Grand Avenue many times a day. A parking lot along the way was attended by an elderly black man named Clarence, who might have fit the definition of one of God’s fools. He and I would chat about Jesus from time to time, and it was both a pleasant experience then (to find someone who wore his Christianity on his sleeve in a big, secular seeming city) and a warming memory now. So you even little encounters like that can make a lasting difference in someone’s spiritual journey.

  36. Matthew Avatar
    Matthew

    Thank you so much Mark. I know my fellow commuter made me think more about my own faith journey. Maybe my fellow commuter made others on the train think about their spiritual travels as well. At the end of the day, though, I wonder if these types of Christians are really the weaker brethren, those living on milk rather than meat, babes in the faith? Maybe some are even the wolves in sheep´s clothing that the Bible talks about?

  37. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    Matthew,
    It is best not to judge – we really don’t know enough to judge. However, Orthodox evangelism is mostly done through the establishment of parish communities – which is a slow and patient process. We’ve experienced great growth in the US over the past 30 years – and there is so much more to do. But, evangelism is most effective when it comes in response to questions that are being asked.

    St. Peter:
    “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”
    (1 Peter 3:15–16 NKJV)

  38. Matthew Avatar
    Matthew

    Thanks so much Fr. Stephen. That´s the kind of evangelism I try to do these days as well. I have said so much for so long I think now it´s time to let my actions speak louder than my words! It´s time to listen intently!

  39. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, one point I missed or ignored in the quote front St. John Chrysostom was the double edged sword of the Jesus Prayer. It exposes and arouses the evil in the heart of the one praying. Adherence to the Prayer and the Name of Jesus overcomes that evil but the evil must first be seen for who and what it is.

    I am sure such recognition can be challenging and, I am sure, part of the ‘time’ element. The flesh is stubborn.

  40. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Shameless plug: Next Sat. & Sun in Wichita, Is the Big Lebanese Dinner and Food sale. Any one who happens to be near “Y’all come by.”
    Tours of the Cathedral are also given.
    It is our 88th Big Dinner. The last several years we have fed 5000 to 6000 people.
    In Houston the same weekend is the gathering of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black with Mother Katherine Weston as the keynote speaker.

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  1. Matthew, “finding those firm foundations of goodness of which you speak can, sometimes, be difficult especially when we read something…

  2. Just want to add that I believe that Father has said many times (please feel free to correct me) that…

  3. Janine said: “How do you know God is not looking at you the same way you see your son?” Man…

  4. Thank you SO much Carlos! I really appreciate your thoughts and your prayers. Thanks also Fr. Stephen and Simon. Do…

  5. As I re-read the post and the comments, one word comes to mind as the fundamental reality and substance: Mercy.…


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