Prudence True

The Art of Wisdom

through Ancient Words

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   Oh! the Simple Soul . . .

6 July 2010

Dear Souls -

         "For it is written, 'Blessed is every simple soul.' And again, 'He that walks simply, walks surely.'       'True,' you will say, 'but prudence also is needed.' Why, what is simplicity, I pray you, but prudence?

       For when you suspect no evil, neither can you fabricate any: when you have no annoyances, neither can you remember injuries. Has anyone insulted you? You were not pained. Has anyone reviled you? You were nothing hurt. Has he envied you? Still you had no hurt.

      Simplicity is a high road to true philosophy.

      None so beautiful in soul, as the simple."

 Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles (VII) - St. John Chrysostom, 347-407

   But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Oh! the Simple Soul . . .

8 July 2010

Dear Souls -

     "For with regard to personal appearance, he that is sullen, downcast, and reserved, even if he be good-looking, loses much of his beauty; while he that relaxes his countenance, and gently smiles, enhances his good looks.
    So with respect to the soul, he that is reserved, if he has ten thousand good points, disfigures them, but the frank and simple, just the reverse.
   A man of this description may be safely made a friend, and when at odds easily reconciled. No need of guards and outposts, no need of chains and fetters with such a one,
   but great is his own freedom, and that of those who associate with him.
   "But what, you will say, will such a man do if he fall among wicked people?
    God, who has commanded us to be simple-minded,
     will stretch out His hand."

Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles (VII)- St. John Chrysostom, 347-407

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Oh! the Simple Soul . . .

9 July 2010

Dear Souls -

    "Let us not, I pray you, give over at the beginning of the story, and if one has named some particular achievement of virtue, and then has dropped it for awhile, let us begin over again. If we get into the right mood, we shall soon arrive at the end, soon reach the summit."

  "For earnestness, it is said, begets earnestness, and dullness begets dullness. He who has effected some little change, thereby receives encouragement to approach greater things, and thence again to go on with something more.

   And just as it is with fire, the more wood it lays hold of, the more vehement it becomes; so likewise with a fervent mind, the more pious reflections it kindles, the more effectually is it armed against opposites."

Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles (VIII)- St. John Chrysostom, 347-407
   But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Oh! the Simple Soul . . .

10 July 2010

Dear Souls -

    "For say, whom would you rather call Blessed? Those who find themselves at home and near to virtue, or those who stand aloof?

    Of course, those who are near.

    Say then, which of the two is the one to learn anything profitable and to shine with true wisdom? The former, or the latter?

    The former, all must see.

    If you doubt it, satisfy yourself in this way:

   Fetch from the market-place any of the poor wretches there; let him be a cripple, lame, or maimed. And then produce some other person, comely of aspect, strong in body, full of life and vigor in every part, overflowing with riches; let him be of illustrious birth, and possessed of great power."

   "Then let us bring both these into Christian philosophy. Which of them, I ask, is more likely to receive these teachings?
    'Be lowly and moderate' (for this is Christ’s command); which will be most able to fulfill it, this one or the other?
     'Blessed are they that mourn'; which will most receive this saying?
     'Blessed are the meek'; which will most listen to this?
     'Blessed are the pure in heart'.
     'Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness'.
     'Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake'.
     Which will, with ease, receive these sayings? And, if you will, let us apply these rules and see how they will fit.
     Is not the one full of pride, while the other is ever lowly minded and subdued in his whole bearing?
      It is quite simple."

Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles (XIII)- St. John Chrysostom, 347-407
   But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   A Simple Church

11 July 2010

Dear Souls -

     Sunday morning.

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Blossoming Humility

12 July 2010

Dear Souls -

     "It is one thing to speak humbly, another to think humbly,

      and humility is one thing while the blossom of humility is another,

      and yet another the latter's fruit and the beauty of that fruit,

      and still another the energies which come out from the last."

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

     (And I do believe this is one of my favorite quotes.)   
     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Spiritual Footwear

16 July 2010

Dear Souls -

     The past few days I spent away in a quiet peaceful place. On Sunday, before I left, I selected a rumpled new book with dog-eared pages from our church back-table bookstore. I gave serious consideration to the purchase, not just because it was the most rumpled "new" book I'd ever seen, but because I'd planned on finishing Edith Wharton's classic, The Age of Innocence.

      I bought the book and spent a quiet few days with an anonymous pilgrim on his meandering journey through spiritual thought. Here, from the back cover:

     "This enduring work of Russian spirituality has charmed countless people with its tale of a nineteenth century peasant's quest for the secret of prayer. Readers follow this anonymous pilgrim as he treks over the Steppes in search of the answer to the one compelling question: How does one pray constantly? Through his journeys, and under the tutelage of a spiritual father, he becomes gradually more open to the promptings of God, and sees joy and plenty wherever he goes. Ultimately he discovers the different meanings and methods of prayer as he travels to his ultimate destination, Jerusalem."

    The Way of a Pilgrim is an endearing story and rings loud with strong tones of an allegory. The peasant's emphasis on the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me) is his spiritual footwear, but his footwear is not necessarily the footwear for all. Throughout his journey he receives nourishment from the Philokalia (which I've never read), though I believe this fare is too hearty for my average, simple soul.

    In some circles the way of the pilgrim is trendy. Prayer ropes and mutterings of the Jesus Prayer are spiritual footwear, but without spiritual muscle building the footwear won't perform.

    The spiritual journey includes muscle training, as well as appropriate footwear for optimal performance, and as conditions vary the type and quality of footwear needs fine tuning.

    The anonymous Russian pilgrim made his point, and I know the spiritual footwear he preferred.

     But that doesn't mean I'm going to change my shoes.

     Besides, while reading The Age of Innocence all my shoes fit fine.
     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence



18 July 2010

Dear Souls -

     Sunday morning.

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   A Second Anonymous Russian Pilgrim

20 July 2010

Dear Souls -

    After reading The Way of a Pilgrim I've spent time pondering the anonymous pilgrim's spiritual footwear. As a simple ordinary soul I've no right to challenge the suppositions of this long dead peasant, but I do have a twenty-first century opinion. His traditional footwear is long supported as the spiritual footwear of choice by the Orthodox Church. But perhaps another story written by another long dead Russian peasant has gone unnoticed.

   If the story by this second anonymous nineteenth century Russian pilgrim were discovered languishing in the Siberian church pictured above, I believe we would hear a different side of the spiritual journey.

   Because this second anonymous Russian pilgrim was,

   born with spiritual feet.

   God gave him his spiritual footwear at birth.

   It was a gift.

   If this second pilgrim chose, he could recite the Jesus Prayer twenty-thousand times a day and put more mileage on his prayer rope than a commuter in Los Angeles does on his car in a year.
   His spiritual path also requires heavy muscle building exercises, but his high performance footwear he acquired at birth. In The Way of a Second Pilgrim, he states that many peasants have his similar gift of spiritual feet, but over the years they developed calluses from poor fitting footwear. My favorite quote in this yet undiscovered book is:

    "Those with spiritual feet are sensitive to pebbles and small bits of gravel which others never notice in their shoes. Many pilgrims believe their footwear is the only footwear, while those with bare feet stay silent and hidden. Sometimes we hear the most from those wearing ill-fitting shoes."

     A simple Russian pilgrim sometimes knows more than you think . . .
     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Being Eastern Orthodox

22 July 2010

Dear Souls -

     Being Eastern Orthodox here in the Western world is confusing at times . . . well most of the time. As a child I remember trying to explain my Faith by what it wasn't. I wasn't Catholic, I wasn't Protestant, I wasn't Jewish, but I was Eastern Orthodox.

     For children today I'm not sure their experience is much different. Here is a conversation I had the other day with a seventh grader.

     "Why do we say we're Orthodox Christian; why not just say we're Orthodox?" she asked me.

      "Because many times people misunderstand and think we are Orthodox Jews."

       "Then we should say we're Eastern Orthodox."

       "But people don't know what that means; they will misunderstand."

        "In my World History class when we got to the Great Schism . . . poof . . . Eastern Orthodoxy disappeared; they went on about Western Catholicism and Protestants. We spent three months on Religion and I never heard anything about Eastern Orthodoxy," she explained with a sigh.

         "It's public school . . ." A grown up, poor excuse.

          "At our table in art class I sat with two Evangelical Christian friends. They talked a lot about their Faith."

          "Did you tell them you are Orthodox Christian?"

          "Yes. I said Orthodoxy was just like their Faith, only it has been around the longest."

      But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   The Way of the Clearing

24 July 2010

Dear Souls -

     Some may misunderstand my purpose in writing, because writing about my faith is not my nature. I'd much prefer to stay silent and hide in the comfort of my life. But for now I've chosen to leave my comfort zone, though I'm hoping others much more talented than I, and raised in the Orthodox Church will trample over me in a rush to share their own thoughts. As I see it, even the anonymous Russian pilgrim shared the story of his way. Those of us who have spent our life living in the clearing are not nearly so vocal about the experience of our way, as those who have come from the forest. But just as I have something to gain from hearing about a long dead Russian peasant and his way, the story of the way of the clearing is also of value.

    I recently wrote to a priest who has a new website and was seeking the "conversion" stories of those from the forest for his "evangelism". He didn't want to include stories of those who spent their life in the clearing, because this did not serve his purpose of "evangelism". But, I'm sorry Father, the stories of every way are of value, and God is the ultimate Evangelist, not ourselves.

    Reading through blogs written by those who have left the forest is not all that fun. But I'm an eavesdropper and peeking into the minds of others, I learn a lot. Having spent my whole life in the clearing I know very little about living in the forest, and I'm fascinated by the exposed root system. All the trees in the forest overwhelm me, though I don't try all that hard to sort out the roots.

     When someone leaves the forest and enters the clearing they often hang near the edge of the clearing for a while. The edge of the forest meanders and blurs; it's easy to dart back into the comfort and familiarity of the forest. But from the center of the clearing, the edge of the forest is more distinct. If you have lived only in the clearing, the way of the forest is a huge unknown. You know the difference between the forest and the clearing, it's distinct.

     In the clearing there is room for everyone. Sometimes those new to the clearing tread with heavy steps, but this can stir up a lot of dust. In the clearing there is sunlight, and others from the forest will wander into the clearing, as they watch those of us living at peace in the sunshine.

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   With a Grateful Heart

26 July 2010

Dear Souls -

     When you stop and inspect life it is easy to get picky about the details and overlook the big picture. Most of the time we focus on teeny-tiny stuff, because the big stuff is too large for close examination. Family and faith for me are big stuff. In my world they go hand in hand, although I recognize for most Americans this is not true.

     Today as I sat and ate breakfast at a local legendary cafe, I overheard a guy at the table behind me say, "If that story changed so much in a few days, then what is the chance a story from two-thousand years ago is at all true?"

      Oh, dear.

      I know for a fact his world is vastly different from my world, and I don't even know what he looks like . . . he sat behind my back. And the world I know best is my own world, though in this crazy world it's sometimes awkward living in my world. The range of opportunities available for witnessing worlds different than my own are endless. Most of time I avoid vast segments of modern culture, for me it's a toxic wasteland. Some other Christian worlds intrigue me, and I dabble at observing from a distance, though when I get too close these can also feel toxic for me. The world I know best is my own sheltered life of Orthodoxy. But here within our varied American culture, having a large family deeply rooted in an ancient faith is unusual.

      It's not ordinary; it's extraordinary.

      Spending time with my large family is a blessing; they are my best friends . . . and we share the same faith. No one tries to convert anyone, no one argues about faith, our faith just is and has been for-ever.

      And I'm grateful from deep in my heart.

      My family immerses itself on various levels to giving and nurturing The Church, and I'm grateful for the gift of a family deeply rooted in faith.

      It's a blessing from above, which lies way beyond the teeny-tiny stuff of life.

Family and Faith
       But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Fixing a Broken Church

27 July 2010

Dear Souls -

     When a simple conversation lingers in my mind I'm surprised. An average conversation can grow more striking over time. Then for some reason the idea gains momentum . . .  and here I am in the unlikely spot of sharing thoughts on fixing a broken Church (which, no doubt, requires the abilities of others more far reaching than myself).

     A few days ago a wise soul and I touched for a moment on the sensitive and often avoided topic of burial. His wisdom extends beyond mine on all things "Church," so I asked him about the Roman Catholic views on cremation which differ from the Orthodox views. 

     "The Churches would have to settle this difference for a Reconciliation," I said, in my infinite ignorance.

      His smile was wise and humble with twist of wry, "That wouldn't be near the top of a list of issues between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches."

       "What do you suppose would top such a list?" I asked in a futile attempt to mitigate my ignorance.

       The wise soul's answer (loosely quoted, but accurately translated):

           "The true topic topping the list,

            though most wouldn't admit it is

            at the top,

            is the issue of who will sit

            at the Top." 

       And this got me thinking, not at the time, but later . . .  Maybe I can help.

       Hierarchical men of all sorts have pondered this issue for centuries, and as far as I can tell haven't made significant progress. If after one thousand years you haven't found viable solutions, it's time to get creative.

      I'm willing to help. If not me, then perhaps other women in the Orthodox Christian and Roman Catholic world can lend a hand and help look beyond ordinary solutions. We need minds of all sorts to tackle the issue of Reconciliation from all angles, and not limit our solutions to those proposed by male religious minds.   

    Talking together is good. Debating intricate details will last centuries (even more than the current ten centuries). And to be honest, I'm not sure most average souls follow all the intricate details . . . couldn't we solve them later, in the next millennium?

    Working together makes sense here in the modern Christian world; now is the time for Reconciliation.

     I'm sure Pope Benedict XVI agrees.

     But, I'll check with the other Patriarchs,

     and get back to you . . .


   St. Peter and St. Paul envisioned Peace.
    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Finding an Authentic Heart

29 July 2010

Dear Souls -

      Not everyone knows where their heart is, or so I hear. A close friend of mine insists he has no idea what I mean when I speak of the heart; this is difficult for me to understand. Explaining heart in simple terms and without fancy theological language is tough. Sometimes I give my best explanation, rambling on a bit too much, and in the end my friend says, "I have no idea what you're talking about." I groan with frustration.

      Our modern culture, I believe, values layers and layers piled on top of the heart. In the end, if you've successfully adapted to American culture, you haven't any idea that deep inside lies your heart. After years of piling layers on top of your soul, your soul yields to the accumulation of clutter. The heart is a treasure buried deep inside a closet cluttered full of junk. Clean the closet, and you'll find your heart.

      "Fine," I hear my friend say, "But why?"

       Because when you find your authentic heart, you find the authentic you. If you are on a path to finding God, you first have to find yourself. God isn't obvious in the closet cluttered full of junk.

       Just ask the long dead Russian peasant from The Way of a Pilgrim . . . he knows. He cleaned his closet and his knapsack, then set out on a long hike with his heart as his only companion. And he found God everywhere on his hike, even when he was tackled by hoodlums who stole his precious Bible.

        But, this way of the Russian peasant is definitely not the way of Fifth Avenue, Hollywood, or CNN. The heart is not on display for modern American culture. And, I'm sorry to say, I don't believe big screen Faiths give the heart a spot up front. The spot up front in many Faiths goes to the Word. The Russian peasant and I both agree, without finding your heart the Word goes in one ear and out the other, bypassing the heart completely. And some who know nothing of the Word, know tons about their heart.

        Of course, I know the next question. "How do I clean my cluttered closet and find my heart?"

        Oh, dear.

         Let's refer to something I've spoken of before.








         Your heart creeps out of the cluttered closet when you live by a way counter to the modern All About Me culture.

         Spend less time worrying about yourself,

          and more time worrying about others . . .

All he has is his Heart
      But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Initial Plan for a Reconciliation Treaty


30 July 2010

Dear Souls -

     Average souls have average thoughts, so there isn't any reason for me to believe mine are outstanding. I've pondered the reasons for a Reconciliation between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, and it's clearly the best option for The Church. Also, Reconciliation would be the ultimate in massive media coverage for The Church.

     Initial Plan for Reconciliation:

          - Pray for Peace and Reconciliation of The Church.

          - Sign a Letter of Intent between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

          - Set a deadline  . . . maybe 2030 for obvious reasons.

          - Overwhelm the media with coverage of the Pope and Patriarchs of your choice.

          - Publicize interviews and meetings of Catholic and Orthodox Hierarchs of all shapes, sizes, and flavors.

           - Identify a Transition Team

           - Outline a Transition Program (the date for complete Transition should be realistic, maybe after we're all long dead and only vaguely remembered like the Russian pilgrim from The Way . . . )

           - Set realistic goals

           - Don't put too many Hierarchs in one room and let them debate for hours about obscure intricacies of the Faith.

           - Look ahead and not back (if it happened before the typewriter, then let it go).

           - Forgive!

           - Remember who is the head of The Church, and it's not any of you.

           - Print up lots of Reconciliation T-shirts and bumper stickers designed in a contest run by the Vatican (I don't think the merchandise will be allowed in Istanbul).

            - Take pictures of cute Orthodox Christian and Roman Catholic children from around the world bonding together, because this is for them and their grandchildren, not for us.

            - Sign a Reconciliation Treaty, (similar to the United States Constitution) include lots of important signatures, and put it under glass for centuries.

   But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence

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