Prudence True

The Art of Wisdom

through Ancient Words

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 Raising Orthodox Children

6 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        The secret to raising Orthodox children is not a secret at all. In fact, families have done it for countless generations, although I'm sure some would argue not always with optimum skill. Traditional Orthodox Christians have a rather relaxed approach to leading their kids to the Faith.

        Similar to table manners, Orthodoxy is perhaps best taught by example. If Orthodoxy is a Living Faith, then as parents Live the Faith. Most striking and difficult for me as an Orthodox child were the strict Sunday morning fasts (no secret, as an adult I struggle with die-hard fasts). And Orthodoxy seeped into my heart, without long hours of diligent tutoring from my parents. 

        Infants are infants, and toddlers are toddlers, for those who wonder, small children observe Liturgy with all their senses. They hear, smell, and even peek now and then at the service, but they will not focus on an entire Liturgy despite your dedication to the task.

        Infants, toddlers, and preschool children have an attention span similar to a sparrow, but somehow God understands and allowances are made for this in the overall plan for a soul. 

        School-age children out-perform smaller children by a narrow margin, but don't fret, God understands and allowances are made for this in the overall plan for a soul.

        The secret is not a secret.

         Raising Orthodox children is a series of tiny steps taken as children watch their parents Living the Faith each day right before their eyes.

A Russian Secret
     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 A Faith for Children 

7 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        All I can share with you is my own limited perspective, and from this small view raising children as Orthodox Christians is nothing new; my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents . . . all raised Orthodox children. The twenty-first century offers new challenges for parents, but Orthodoxy as a faith is unchanging. Finding a constant in a world of change provides stability in a rocky world.

        Children accept the faith of their parents, perhaps kicking, screaming, and dressing for Church at the slowest speed imaginable, but Church shopping is not on their mind. Parents who accept their Faith without Church shopping, perhaps transfer this confidence to their children. Children raised attending Orthodox Liturgy do not understand the simple atmosphere of non-Orthodox worship. They miss the incense, the icons, the priests, the communion. Church to an Orthodox child includes these elements, and removing them from worship is taking the chocolate out of chocolate cake.

        This is not specific to ethnic families, although ethnic families may have more confidence in the simplicity of raising Orthodox children. The children I see integrate Orthodoxy into their lives and into their heart with a natural ease. There isn't any question, and the Orthodox faith is part of their identity from birth. Children born Orthodox, are children born Orthodox, no matter which paths their parents traveled prior to their birth.

        My knowledge is limited to children raised with a balanced Orthodox faith, and I'd imagine children raised with an over-zealous Orthodox perspective will resemble children raised by other over-zealous Christian groups - perhaps fleeing Orthodoxy at the first opportunity. The tried and true techniques for raising children as Orthodox Christians are drawn from ethnic groups who passed Orthodoxy along in their family for generations. Bring children to Divine Liturgy and introduce the Orthodox faith in an age appropriate manner. The slow path of Orthodoxy is a comfort for children, and learning the faith is a lifetime endeavor.

    There is not a gifted program for the Orthodox faith.

     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence



8 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        While considering the development of children within the framework of The Church, I realized there is another important component to the maturation of an Orthodox Christian.

     There must be a blending of generations

            Young and old . . .

        Mature and less so . . .

                Experienced and not . . .

                  Wise and not so . . .

                     Traveled and untraveled . . .

                        Raveled and unraveled , =  .

            There must be a blending of generations

                                  For the benefit of us all
    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 On the Resurrection

9 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        "Now if by the sign of the Cross, and by faith in Christ, death is trampled down, it must be evident before the tribunal of truth that it is none other than Christ Himself that has displayed trophies and triumphs over death, and made him lose all his strength. 

     And if, while previously death was strong, and for that reason terrible, now after the sojourn of the Saviour and the death and Resurrection of His body it is despised, it must be evident that death has been brought to nought and conquered by the very Christ that ascended the Cross. 

     For as, if after night-time the sun rises, and the whole region of earth is illumined by him, it is at any rate not open to doubt that it is the sun who has revealed his light everywhere, that has also driven away the dark and given light to all things...."

On the Incarnation of the Word - St. Athanasius, 318

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 Thinking Eastern in a Western World

10 April 2010

Dear Souls -

Pause and Reflect
    But, here lies a simple path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 A Simple Message

11 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        Sunday morning.

     Someone far wiser than myself about The Church came to dinner the other evening and spoke with me about their personal message; the message he tries to communicate when given the opportunity. His message was simple, succinct, relevant in all situations, and for all people. I know some prefer to share this message with the appropriate passage from Scripture. And, in fact this wise soul and I discussed how the direct source of this message was Scripture (although neither he, nor I at that point quoted Scripture).

        Perhaps I'm defective in some way, perhaps as a result of my unorthodox Orthodox upbringing. But messages conveyed over and over with the perfect quote from Scripture, bounce off me easier than they should. Maybe the message is lost in the repetitivenes of the sound bite. Or perhaps overexposure to agressive Scripture quoting Christians has had a lasting negative effect on my ears.

        The truth is, messages conveyed in a unique manner stick with us for a long time, and the association of a message with our own life gives a message even greater stick power. This message requires Super Glue to stick in my heart forever - though living the message is the true task.

                                                                 See the image of Christ in others,

                            and reflect to others the image of Christ from within yourself.
    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence



13 April 2010

Dear Souls -

                                There has arisen for me

                                        a simple opportunity

                                               although I'm not sure

                                                    what the result

                                      shall be...

                                                But while I consider

                                        this opportunity

                                              here are some further

                                          thoughts from me...

Prudence - Giotto di Bondone, 1306

In seventeen hundred seventy-two

Did the good matron, Prudence True,

A saintly soul devoid of guilt,

Begin her famous crazy quilt,

And told her helpmeet, Goodman True,

She'd finish in a month or two;

And Goodman True, as good men do,

Believed his good wife,

Prudence True

Whiffs from Wild Meadows - Sam Walter Foss, 1896

    There are some who long to know for the sole purpose of knowing, and that is shameful curiosity; others who long to know in order to become known, and that is shameful vanity.

   There are others still who long for knowledge in order to sell its fruits for money or honors,

        and this is shameful profiteering; others again who long to know in order to be of service,

 and this . . . is charity.

    Finally, there are those who long to know in order to benefit themselves,

 and this . . . is prudence.

Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153


And of course

    we can't forget

        Dear Prudence

         link here:  DEAR PRUDENCE

        But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 Just is . . .

14 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        Sometimes I wonder about things which just are

                         then at times I realize 

               those things which are the way they are

                            don't require the fuss which takes them way too far

                        And if you're wondering about the things which just are

                       I suspect you've befuddled things that are

                       Because you see

                       they are what they are

                          and need not be taken

                            so far as they are

As it is . . .
    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence

        Thank you Misha Maslennikov for your beautiful photographs taken on your travels through Russia. Your heart shines through your art . . .


 Becoming Eastern Orthodox

15 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        For some children, becoming Eastern Orthodox begins at birth. These children learn Eastern Orthodoxy in parallel with an array of other life skills. Others begin their Eastern Orthodox journey later in life, perhaps when the array of other life skills has settled deeper under their skin. Becoming Orthodox, is rather simple. Becoming Eastern Orthodox is not.

        The Eastern element of Orthodoxy is unnatural to our Western life. This all took a complicated twist sometime after the establishment of five patriarchates and a heated quarrel over the first among equals. But from that point on confusion reigns supreme, and only the detail driven hang in for the whole story.

     There is a sticker I see on the rear windshield of cars: Not of this World (NOTW). Why not I wonder? Of which world are you, I ponder. And if you are Not of this World, then why is there a sign on your car? Perhaps I'm more foolish than your average fool, but I'm confused by Not of this World paraphernalia.

        My confusion rests, I believe, with the difference between Eastern and Western thought. Raised by Eastern Orthodox parents, who were raised by Eastern Orthodox parents, who were raised by Eastern Orthodox parents (you get the idea) leaves me with an  innate Eastern mind. My Eastern mind is with me when I walk to the mailbox, load the dishwasher, and talk on the phone. The Eastern portion of  Orthodoxy is not just worn with your Sunday shoes. And the Eastern portion of Orthodoxy is not placed on the rear windshield of a minivan.

        Children absorb culture as they are raised, and this is why Indian children become Indian, and Chinese children become Chinese (in fact, Chinese toddlers eat Chinese food, and not macaroni and cheese). Eastern Orthodoxy involves Eastern thought, and this is the challenge for a soul reared within the Western world. Becoming Orthodox for some involves hearty soul searching, but becoming Eastern Orthodox involves releasing the grip of rational Western thought. Finding your Eastern soul, I believe, requires closing your eyes and moving by touch. Learning to live by feel is not accomplished overnight, but requires decades surrounded by those with a mature Eastern Orthodox mind. Surrounding yourself with Western thinking Orthodox Christians does not assist you with becoming Eastern Orthodox.

        Finding a mature Eastern Orthodox Christian in your parish is easier if you attend an Orthodox Church, and impossible if your worship service consists of impressive rock music. But finding the mature, seasoned Eastern Orthodox Christian to guide you with unlearning your hard-earned rational Western thinking is trickier than you may imagine. The mature Eastern Orthodox Christian is not necessarily standing closest to the altar, or on the Parish Council; they may be someone you've hardly noticed at all. They may be quite old, or maybe younger than you'd imagine.

    They may even wear a disguise. 

    Becoming Eastern Orthodox is learning the language of the heart. And you need a qualified tutor.

     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 Living Stillness

16 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        First let me say, there are those who dedicate their lives to living stillness and we call them monastic. I'm not monastic, though seeking stillness to me defines the Eastern Orthodox life. For most of us living stillness is chasing a moving target. We flit about from here to there distracted by the excessive motion of our over-stimulating, fast-paced, hyper-charged, twenty-first century existence.

       The other day I had lunch with a very wise soul (Thank you, Father) who quoted this to me,

            "Be still, and know that I am God."

Psalm 46:10

   And he placed the emphasis on know. To know God, we must find inner stillness. And the path to inner stillness is not crowded here in the Western world. The hub-bub of modern existence driven by the Protestant work ethic and a consumer dominated society clashes with inner stillness. Our inner stillness falls silent to the whirl of activity. 

   There are those I see who manage to find stillness in their daily life, although they are not obvious to everyone. They move at a slower pace, find time each day to enjoy life, and take time to connect with others. They are not all about me. There isn't a sticker on their car proclaiming their faith, and they don't have a prayer rope in their hand. But they manage to find inner stillness by swimming against the tide around them.

    Finding inner stillness requires scheduling time for stillness every day. Each and every day, despite the whirl of available confusion. Turn off the tv. Set down the cellphone. Pause, reflect, and pray. Seek quiet and you will find peace. Inner stillness travels with you wherever you go; it's a blanket which surrounds your life. But, you won't find stillness without looking hard at your life and the choices you make each day.

"Be still, and know that I am God."

Psalm 46:10

Be Still
    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


  An Eastern Mind 

17 April 2010

Dear Souls -

         Continuing from above, I left a few thoughts on the subject of becoming Eastern Orthodox, dangling. Now, I imagine if you spent years entrenched in the world of solid Western thinking, then hanging around Eastern minds strikes you as odddd. Perhaps you grasp the form and concepts of written Orthodoxy, and love to ponder the depths of the Faith. But cloaking your heart in Eastern Orthodoxy is another matter, and isn't found at either Barnes and Noble, or Amazon (sorry). There is only one accelerated program, and this is a gift from God. Otherwise, you are left with the rest of us humans to slog along the slow path with patience.

        Perhaps I'm entirely wrong, but this is what I've seen from my years (somewhere between the age of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa) in the Orthodox Church. Some who seek the fast-track Orthodox faith, also tend towards tables, rules, and gatherings of fellow Western minds. They seek comfort and companionship in the foreign land of Eastern Orthodoxy, but must widen their lens. In fact, I see their Westernisms going unnoticed by their friends and family. And I sometimes wonder if they're perplexed by the Eastern aspects of Eastern Orthodoxy. Maybe Eastern Orthodoxy feels more familiar when given a Western twist. But Orthodoxy does not conform well to twists and tweaks (even if they were retrieved from the Middle Ages).

        Can you become Eastern Orthodox and maintain a Western mind? I don't believe this is possible, but you can become Orthodox with a Western mind and then with concerted effort acquire an Eastern heart.

But only after years of letting go of Westernisms, even if they mold to you like your favorite slipper. Look around for the mature Eastern Orthodox Christian and study their heart.  Use caution when modeling your heart after the Westernisms of Orthodoxy, because this leads you Westward, not toward the East. 

        And unless you live in a monastery, avoid monasticsm.

        You Live in the World, so now make it a better world. Because it's not all about you.

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence



18 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        Sunday morning.

     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 A Small Quaint Church

20 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        When traveling I look for unique churches, maybe because I've never considered serious Church shopping and this for me is window shopping. The more unique the church structure, the better, and I have a distinct bias toward small quaint churches.

        Below is one of my favorite travel churches. The service is Unitarian, though I'm not sure what this means, I figure it's a Protestant blend of some sort. The priest (pastor) wears a Hawaiian shirt and they skip communion, incense, and most everything else included in Divine Liturgy, but I still enjoy attending and listening to the hymns in Hawaiian. The people are friendly and welcoming, and I love the feeling of anonymity in a church.

    The church below I visited this past summer and attended Mass in the chapel. Their service had striking similarities to the Church above, though I also recognised traces of our Divine Liturgy when I payed close attention. The priest was a Priest, he didn't wear a Hawaiian shirt, and they had communion. Most surprising to me, though, was the number of people attending Mass on a weekday morning at 7:00 am.
      When I visit a small chapel I'm touched in a way which I rarely feel in a bustling large cathedral, so I'm always on the search when I travel for hidden chapels. Below is a small chapel I discovered on an early morning walk in Mexico. 

    Visiting a small quaint Orthodox church while traveling is challenging unless you're in a country with a large Orthodox population. With a big Orthodox family, attending a number of different Orthodox churches each year here at home is my norm, and after ?? years I've visited many.  

        Funny though, or not so, my dream church is still just so . . . 

Small and Quaint
    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 The Church on the Corner

22 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        Though I prefer a small, intimate church, a large bustling church may give some a feeling of parish success. But the success in building small quaint churches goes beyond praise for the number of vehicles in the church parking lot. A bigger church is a bigger church, but smaller churches set in various neighborhoods builds local ties to the parish. I imagine this is the reason Starbucks chose smaller locations every few blocks in New York City, and not just one giant FAO Schwarz sized location. With more locations, Starbucks serves lots more coffee, to lots more people. When you want Starbucks coffee in NYC you don't spend time searching, it's just around the corner...any corner.

        My dream church is a Starbucks model church, it's on this corner, and the next corner. When building large, multi-domed churches we are building a self-limiting model Orthodox Church. There is a large parking lot filled with cars, but they drove from across the city to get there. Wouldn't a short drive to a neighborhood church have made better sense? At church you'd see your friends and neighbors, and those at the Orthodox church around the corner would see their friends and neighbors - more locations, serving more people. 

     Small quaint Orthodox churches, or large "central" parishes - which best fits The Church?

     Just ask Saint Paul. 

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 How to Find

 the Church on the Corner

24 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        The Church on the corner is simpler to find than you may imagine. Taking a complicated system and simplifying, takes a reversal of thought. I've often wondered why each parish recreates their own systems of operation. Divine Liturgy follows a format, but building a church takes off flying in all directions. Some insist Orthodox Churches must have domes, and then spend decades worshipping in a business park without a dome.

        The Church needs an established vision of growth. Maybe each Church on the Corner should establish a sister parish, on the next corner. Each parish consumed by their own operation and growth, leaves the thought of helping a neighbor tucked away at the back of their mind. Each parish is a small business set up to operate on its own, with its own infrastructure. Over and over again all across the country parishes struggle to run their own small business.

        With an overall plan, The Church on the Corner has a chance for success.

                - Help your neighbor

                - Establish a sister parish

                - Share designs

                - Pool resources

                - Create business models 

                - Keep the church small (just ask St. Paul)

     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 Built with Faith

26 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        "It is incontestably necessary for us first of all to lay the foundation of Faith securely in the depths of our souls, then through manifold forms of virtue to erect inward piety as a kind of fortress wall,

    and then, the soul having been walled all around and virtue, as it were, planted within it as on a solid foundation,

    then indeed one must raise the roof of this edifice,

    the roof which is the divine knowledge of God, and so complete,

    the whole house of the Spirit."

    The Ethical Discourses - St. Symeon the New Theologian, 949-1022

     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 Seeing Light

27 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        Sometimes my inspiration stems from others, other times an idea stems from a series of events which intersect in an unusal way. Today my thoughts rest with a photograph I first saw yesterday.

          Seeing light shining through darkness requires a focused eye.

      Noticing the light is a matter of choice.

      Dissecting the light, reduces it to a series of particles.

      Living in the light, is a blessing.

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 Thine Eyes

28 April 2010

Dear Souls -

        Thine own of thine own

                we offer unto thee,

                    in behalf of all,

                        and for all.


In Prayer
    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 Faith (things that just are) 

29 April 2010

Dear Souls -

    "And faith is produced by the truth;

     for faith rests on things that truly are.

    For in things that are as they are, we believe. 

    And believing in things that are as they ever are,

    we keep firm our confidence in them.

    Since faith is the perpetuation of our salvation,

    we must bestow great pains on the maintenance thereof,

    so we may have a true comprehension of the things that are." 

 Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching - St. Irenaeus, 130-200

Just Is
    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence

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 Wisdom and Piety  

30 April 2010

Dear Souls -

    "I cannot say, my dearest son Laurence, how much your learning pleases me, and how much I desire that you should be wise—though not one of those of whom it is said: 'Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputant of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?' Rather, you should be one of those of whom it is written, "The multitude of the wise is the health of the world" and also you should be the kind of man the apostle wishes those men to be to whom he said, "I would have you be wise in goodness and simple in evil." Human wisdom consists in piety. This you have in the book of the saintly Job, for there he writes that Wisdom herself said to man, "Behold, piety is wisdom." If, then, you ask what kind of piety she was speaking of, you will find it more distinctly designated by the Greek term theosebeia, literally, "the service of God." The Greek has still another word for "piety," ensebeia, which also signifies "proper service." This too refers chiefly to the service of God. But no term is better than theosebeia, which clearly expresses the idea of the man's service of God as the source of human wisdom.

When you ask me to be brief, you do not expect me to speak of great issues in a few sentences, do you? Is not this rather what you desire: a brief summary or a short treatise on the proper mode of worshipping God?

If I should answer, "God should be worshipped in faith, hope, love," you would doubtless reply that this was shorter than you wished, and might then beg for a brief explication of what each of these three means: What should be believed, what should be hoped for, and what should be loved? If I should answer these questions, you would then have everything you asked for in your letter. If you have kept a copy of it, you can easily refer to it. If not, recall your questions as I discuss them.