Prudence True

The Art of Wisdom

through Ancient Words

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   A Well Traveled Path

1 June 2010

Dear Souls -

     A long walk is fun as I start out, and grows tedious as I walk on and on . . . And then as my energy lags, hunger and thirst hit, and I begin searching for a simpler route home.

    This morning I was lucky, very lucky. After walking a few miles and climbing down a long steep path to the ocean, I began imagining a simpler route home. The path back up the hill looked long, steep, and exhausting, but I was somewhere new and unfamiliar.

     Looking around I saw locals who clearly knew the terrain well. Did they take the same path down the hill I did, or was there another path which wasn't outlined in the guidebooks. Was there an alternate path those with wisdom and experience knew by heart?

     Starting up the trail I veered onto another path, seeking the well traveled path taken by those who spent years accumulating local knowledge of the area. I found a well traveled path which led me home, and this path was hidden; it was not obvious. Knowledge of this path passed between locals familiar with the area, and was left out of the guidebooks. 

    The well traveled path was not the most obvious, but it was the most direct.

A Different Angle
   But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   A Wise Soul

5 June 2010

Dear Souls -

      There is a friend of mine I'd like you to meet. He is rather a new friend, although our paths have crossed a few times in the past. The other day he sat down at the next table while I was eating at a local Hawaiian fish market. As we looked at each other I wondered if there was more to our paths crossing than I understood, but I'll never know for sure.

      This man, whom I'll call Man, is well known across the Hawaiian islands. He was recently one of  nine individuals honored by the Hawaii State Legislature as surfing cultural icons. The nine local Polynesians were recognized for their pioneering work in the sport, and for contributing to the popularity of surfing. He is a respected elder within the Hawaiian islands, though he is in his late fifties, and he is an unofficial mayor on one island.

      It's clear other Hawaiians respect him and seek his wisdom and knowledge. As we sat talking a parade of locals came by his table and greeted him with a Hawaiian version of the Kiss of Peace. But he never veered far from his conversation with me, which struck me as odd. The Hawaiian elder had something he wanted me, a non-local, to hear. I didn't ask him about his faith, and he had no reason to believe I had a faith of any sort. But he shared his wisdom, knowledge, and faith with me.

     His family roots are Hawaiian, and Christian from the time of missionaries to the islands. He recounted the history of Christianity in Hawaii, but I can't repeat it back. He knows it, and I don't. Then he began talking about the Bible (which he called Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth), saying too many have given it their own slant. But it's all there, he said, if you looked, and he believed the Septuagint was too often overlooked. (If you know me, you know with confidence, I didn't start a conversation about critical versions of the Bible.)

     About atheists, he said, it's simple. Just ask them who they start calling out for when a twenty foot wave breaks in front of them.

    "God exists, and is everywhere. You'll see, if you just look," he assured me with confidence.

     As he spoke, he quoted Scripture here and there, but not in an overbearing rote manner. Sometimes he referenced the verse, but he mostly just slotted in the wisdom at the right moment. I'd give you an example, if I could. But I know when a conversation about faith strikes me right, and when it's just receiving my polite, quiet attention.

    "It's all about the Spirit," he said, as he made a wide gesture with his arms. And he began telling me about the Holy Spirit.

     I listened.

     "People come to me asking for advice," he lowered his voice.

     "And I always tell them the same thing."


     "You need to pray more, I tell them," he sighed and looked down.

      I'm not sure if he attends Church or not. And if he does, I'm sure it's not an Orthodox Christian Church, since there isn't one on the island. But, it doesn't matter at all to me.

     He is a wise soul. He lives on an island.

     And the island is not Mount Athos.

   But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   Conversing with a Soul

6 June 2010

Dear Souls -

      Sometimes God plunks down interesting characters in my path. Yesterday a Cheery Pastor with a big smile landed right in front of me. I should have ducked away, but I didn't. Raised as an Orthodox Christian I was taught to pull the pebble from your eye, but never to heave it back. Yesterday, I launched the rock.

      We were floating next to each other in the water, staring into the horizon waiting for waves. At some point he asked me what I did for a living, so I returned the question. That's when I learned he was a Cheery Pastor.

       "What Church are you with," I innocently (blindly) asked.

        "Church of Such and Such and So and So," he answered. And this is when I blundered.

        "Are you an Evangelical?" No nonsense, from me. My knowledge of Christian faiths beyond Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy is minimal - it's a big Protestant smorgasbord.

         "Yes, most definitely."

          I should have paddled off into the horizon, but instead I went for the shock effect. "I'm an Orthodox Christian," I boasted. (sin #1)

         Followed by, "Do you know what that is?" I was looking for trouble, and I found it.

         "Yes," he said, "like Greek Orthodox. And what does that mean to you?"

          I wasn't sure we were speaking the same language, so while I paused he repeated the question.

          "Do you believe in all the Sacraments?" he asked. But this translated to me as, "Do you believe in God?"   

          "Of course."

          He then pulled out his sling-shot and heaved a large pebble into my eye. "But you are deceived. The Sacraments are all false."

          I removed the pebble from my eye and failed to set it down alongside me (sin #2), as I'd been taught by generations of faithful Orthodox Christians. Instead I took out my needle and thread, prepared to sew the severed limbs back onto his garments with some well placed stitches. It was clear to me he was wearing his garments inside out and backwards, and he had slashed off the sleeves and pant legs.

        "Do you read the Bible?" he asked, looking me directly in the eye. I felt the challenge, and squirmed until I realized he hadn't asked me if I read the Bible every minute of every day and could recite it all like I could the Pledge of Allegiance.  

       "Yes," I answered, returning his gaze with confidence.

        "Then you must know this is not what The Word says." Oh dear, his garments were also upside down.

        I placed my first stitch using a thimble to get the needle through the thick fabric. "Have you read any of the writings of the early Church?" I asked."And tell me about the worship of the early Church," I prodded.

       "The Sacraments were created by Catholics," he informed me, so I decided to provide him with the full tutorial.

       "After the death of Christ, what did the Apostles do and where was The Church started?" These were leading questions, and he supplied the correct answer.

       Now I placed my second stitch with care. "For the first 1600 years the Sacraments were a part of Church. Were they confused, and now here in the 21st century you've got it right?" He looked away.

       "Do you live a sinless life?" He launched a new approach.

        "Yes," I lied (sin #3), after deciding he was asking if I was a common criminal who belonged behind bars. I'd never heard of sinless humanity.

        We both realized this could continue for hours, and floating in the water we were starting to get soggy. As we headed up the beach I introduced him to my husband, who immediately grasped the Cheery Pastor's hand with a firm handshake and said with a smile,

        "Oh, you've got the stripped down version of Christianity."

        I started digging a large hole in the sand to bury my head, just as I'd been taught by generations of wise Orthodox Christians.      

   But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


   A Living Faith

9 June 2010

Dear Souls -

       While considering the wisdom passed on to me by the generations of Orthodox Christians I've known over the years, there is one simple and consistent message.

       "But for the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures, there is need of a good life and a pure soul and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word.
        One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life. Anyone who wants to look at sunlight naturally wipes his eye clear first, in order to make some approximation to the purity of that on which he looks.
       And a person wishing to see a city or country goes to the place in order to do so.
(I love this!)
       Similarly, anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying their deeds. Thus united to them in the fellowship of life, he will both understand the things revealed to them by God, and escaping the peril that threatens sinners in the judgment,
       he will receive that which is laid up for the saints
       in the kingdom of heaven."

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

       The consistent message from wise souls, Orthodox Christian or not, is to live your faith.           Talking about your faith is fine. Reading about your faith is good. Sharing your faith (aka evangelizing) is okay, unless you're in someone's face, and then it's not.
       But the whole point is Living your faith. Otherwise in the end, your pockets are empty.
Photo by Misha Maslennikov, 2010
     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence



11 June 2010

Dear Souls -

     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence



12 June 2010

Dear Souls -

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence



13 June 2010

Dear Souls -

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence



14 June 2010

Dear Souls -

    Here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence



15 June 2010

Dear Souls -

    Here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence



16 June 2010

Dear Souls -

    Here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 Knowing Your Faith

17 June 2010

Dear Souls -

    Some time ago a well known priest gave me some advice about blogging.

    "Write what you know."

    To which I responded, "I best not blog about my Faith." But I know this isn't the truth,

    because knowing comes in at least two forms.

    In search of knowledge about my Faith, I selected a well known title from our parish back-table bookstore this past Sunday, and I've spent the week wondering why I'm reading this book and not Gone with the Wind, which is also perched on my night stand (to reread for at least the third or fourth time). The small overpriced book I purchased, Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World, reads rather like a Neurosurgery textbook - perfect for someone who needs hairsplitting knowledge on an obscure subject. Thus, I ponder, why is this sold on the back-table of our modest church? 

   I learned my Faith through experience, not through obscure knowledge. And, obscure hairsplitting study is a poor substitute for experience. Reading about Neurosurgery is fine, but you're not a Neurosurgeon unless you have experience. I'd rather not have an armchair Neurosurgeon come near my brain, under any circumstances.

   "Fine for you cradle, ethnic sorts," says the Other, "but I don't have generations of Orthodox ancestors to infuse me with their wisdom."

   Yes, you do. But you're busy reading hairsplitting Neurosurgery textbooks, and missing the point.

    The Orthodox faith is a simple living faith. Attend Divine Liturgy. Look around and live your faith, everyday. It's not about sitting, standing, singing or fasting. It's about something much more . . .

   Living your Faith.

    "And it is indeed ironic, but not at all accidental, that psychologically the most 'Western' among the Orthodox today are precisely the ultra-conservative 'Super-Orthodox,' whose whole frame of mind is legalistic and syllogistic on the one hand, and is made up, on the other hand, of those very 'dichotomies' whose introduction into Christian thought is the 'original sin'  of the West."

For the Life of the World, Alexander Schmemann, 1963

    For me, knowing my Faith is living my faith, as did generations of Orthodox Christians before me.

    So on Sunday, I'll return the book to the back-table of our church.

    Because my knowledge of Faith,

    lies within.

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 Knowledge of Faith

18 June 2010

Dear Souls -

    "The ultimate problem of all theology is that of knowledge and, more precisely, of the possibility and nature of the knowledge of God. If the Fathers hold together in a living and truly 'existential' synthesis, on the one hand, the absolute 'otherness' of God, the impossibility for creatures to know Him in His essence, and, on the other hand, the reality of man's communion with God, knowledge of God and 'theosis,' this synthesis is rooted primarily in their idea or rather intuition of 'mysterion' and of its mode of presence and operation - the symbol."

For the Life of the World, Alexander Schmemann, 1963


   Knowledge of God is not found in overpriced books purchased from the bookstore on Sunday.

   The Knowledge of God, lies within.








    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 A Quiet Way

20 June 2010

Dear Souls -


           So now I've said

              most of what I've

                  wanted to say . . .

               And I long to return

                 to my comfortable

                     quiet way

                     To be honest

                        I'm not sure

                           it makes a difference

                              either way,

                                except for me

                                  who craves

                                    the quiet


                                        each and every



                                         You see,

                                             I believe

                                                many prefer

                                                     The Church



                                                        their most



                                                               which follows the form

                                                                 of their Church

                                                                      from yesterday

                                                          Otherwise they'd

                                                                  consider with care

                                                                      the way

                                                                          of people

                                                                         whose history extends

                                                                             out beyond

                                                                                 the time



                                                                           Watch and See,

                                                                                 if you will,

                                                                                    how others

                                                                                       did this

                                                                                         in the time

                                                                                           prior to



                                                                                             Because change

                                                                                                is good,

                                                                                                   but only if it's done

                                                                                                       in a tasteful        




                                                                                                            I belong

                                                                                                              to the

                                                                                                                time of



                                                                                                                       Way . . .

         Your friend,


 The Big Screen Way

22 June 2010

Dear Souls -


              There is another Way

                   I call it

                      The Big Screen Way

                          it has Flash

                             Bells and Whistles

                                 Attracts Attention

                                    with its Splash

                                        looks Corporate


                                               and Capitalist

                                                  Maybe this is

                                                      more a




                                                                  But I Pray

                                                                     this is


                                                                           the New

                                                                              American Orthodox


                                                                                       Or As I call it




Photo by Misha Maslennikov, 2010
    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence

               P.S.   Maybe I can't stay Quiet, though I wish I could . . .


 The Afghanistan Way

25 June 2010

Dear Souls -

      An article in The Word magazine June issue caught my attention this morning. Fr. David Alexander, an Orthodox priest serving in Afghanistan, tells of Easter services held in a small Orthodox Church built by the Romanian armed forces serving in Afghanistan as part of the NATO troops following 9/11. The Romanians were not to be without their Orthodox Church, so with the help of a U.S. Army Engineer they built a replica of a central Romania monastery.

     In the middle of Afghanistan, Romanian troops built a small, quaint Orthodox Church.

     Fr. Alexander shares his experience here:

     "As I walked toward the Church, I marveled more and more at its size and beauty, but nothing could have prepared me for what I felt walking inside. After holding services every week in tents, with makeshift altars and some small portable religious items, I entered a Church lined with beautiful  frescoes and icons (some three feet high), plants and flowers lining the center aisle, and even a little bell-house outside, for letting the community know when Church is being held. Entering the altar I found all of the implements and accoutrements I would find in any Church, and a picture of a Romanian bishop blessing and consecrating the Church several years earlier." 

     It is rare for me to uncover an article of depth hidden within The Word magazine (a monthly publication of the Antiochian archdiocese), but this article touched my heart. Later Fr. Alexander writes,  

     "I will never forget the joy of that service. I nearly broke down in tears while reading the sermon of St. John Chrysostom, and again while giving communion to a newly chrismated member of my battalion for the first time."

    And I believe Fr. Alexander speaks the truth; difficult times tug at the heart in a way you may not see (feel) in the cozy comfort of everyday life.

    There is an Orthodox parish I know well here in cozy America, which has struggled for over a decade to find a "temple for worship". They have money, but not enough (they believe) to build an Orthodox Church. They can't find the right building or land. They can't decide on a plan. They need a larger parish. They need a larger parcel of land. They need a building large enough to fit 400-500 people. They need...

    Starting with a picture sent from their homeland in Romania, Romanian troops built an Orthodox Church in war torn Afghanistan, which touched the heart of an American priest

    in a way he will never forget.

    Thank you, Fr. David Alexander

   But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 A Different Reality

26 June 2010

Dear Souls -

    Yesterday I had an experience I want to describe for you. Most of us never have the opportunity to see what I witnessed right before my eyes. And I wasn't alone. Others with me saw exactly the same sight, but if we all told the story you would hear it a bit different from each of us; we each saw it from our own angle, and it was spectacular.

    As I watched a friend catch a wave, he had an amazed look on his face and was skirting around his surfboard doing an odd dance with his feet. He pulled out of the wave and shouted over to me, "There were three dolphins right under my board!"

    He began paddling towards me and just then a dolphin surfaced a few feet from my board, startling me with it force and size. I've had dolphins circle me before, and each time a large dolphin surfaces from the deep blue depths of the ocean right beside me, it frightens me!

    The dolphins caught the next wave, surfing the wave toward the shore. Suddenly one of the dolphins cut out of the wave and jumped through the air; I could see the white underbelly as it turned to dive back into the depths of the ocean.

     And then the dolphins were gone, and around us was once again the few bits of scattered kelp, a lonely large purple jellyfish, and deep blue ocean. We sat there stunned by the sudden appearance of an unexpected vision from the otherwise opaque sea.

     Sitting out there in the ocean, staring at the horizon waiting for waves day after day, I forget there is an entire world of sea life just beneath my board, circling around unseen. And when it makes a sudden appearance, I know it's really there all around me, at all times.

     Don't forget, it's a different reality, but it's still a reality.

A Different Reality
     But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 A Glare of Light

29 June 2010

Dear Souls -

      There is a lot I don't pay attention to: politics, professional sports, t.v., and...most of popular culture. I'm not ignorant, I'm selective. Some say I bury my head in the sand, but that's not true; I avoid brain clutter.

       There are things I pay attention to which others may miss. I don't know why, it's just the way I am. On Sunday a visiting priest was serving at the altar alongside our parish priest. He was in a glare of light, since the tinted stained glass window was out for repair, and I couldn't see his features. But I knew he was someone I didn't know. After watching him a bit, I leaned over and whispered to my husband, "This priest is a good man." Sorry, this is not a given, all priests are not good men.

       After church my path crossed with the priest (we crashed in a small doorway), and we spoke. He told me he was with the OCA (Orthodox Church of America), and we agreed the differences between this and our Antiochian parish were insignificant.

      "It's all the same," I said, and to this he nodded.

       And he offered, "One of our bishops says we're separated by our common liturgy."

       A wise bishop. "At some point we'll get this sorted out, we're really one Church," I tend toward the simplistic, and the optimistic.

        He told me his history with the Orthodox Church; he was one of the group of two thousand who entered the Orthodox Church in 1987.

       "The Church is different now from The Church I grew up with," I confessed, "but I like it better."

        He looked surprised.

        "Our Church reflects America, with people of varied backgrounds."

         He smiled and said with a steady look in his eye,

         "And that is what it will look like in Heaven."

         I knew I liked this priest...even from a distance and blinded by a glare of light.  

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence


 Being An Orthodox Mother

30 June 2010

Dear Souls -

      Last night I finished a book passed on to me by my mother. I'm not sure she ever read the book, and she didn't purchase the book; it was a free giveaway with a donation. Though Fr. Alexander Schmemann is a respected Orthodox theologian, Celebration of Faith, Volume 3: The Virgin Mary taught me the word Mariology (biology, neurology, psychology . . .  Mariology?), and not much else.

      Where did I learn my knowledge of the Theotokos, I wonder. I've never poured over Orthodox texts; I've read the Bible, but I never memorized it; I attended Sunday school on occasion, but I never received any Sunday school awards; my family attended Church, but not every single Sunday. How then did Orthodox knowledge infuse into my heart?

      As a child, I spent lots of time around Orthodox Christian families of all shapes and sizes, most of them related to me in some complicated way. The mothers (my aunts, grandmother, or cousins aunt, grandmother . . .) treated us all as their children. You did well, you got praise. You ran amuck, you got scolded. But they never drilled us on Sunday school knowledge, or praised us for quoting Scripture (since we didn't, and they didn't).

     The Orthodox culture raised Orthodox children without force feeding the Faith. Orthodoxy infused into our souls through the experience of other mature Orthodox Christians. One way these women of all ages, shapes, and sizes modeled Orthodoxy was through their love for the children around them, and through their actions:

     caring, helping, giving, praying, listening, and knowing.

     Fr. Schmemann taught me the puzzling term Mariology, but he also validated for me that knowledge of the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, is a mystery revealed through the Traditions of the Church in its hymns and prayers.

      The Theotokos was a young girl when she became the Mother of God, too young by today's standards for motherhood. But she affected history for all time for all mankind. Today we experience her as stated by Fr. Schmemann:

     "She is the Church as prayer, as joy, as fulfillment. It is this combination of beauty and humility, matter and spirit, time and eternity, that is the real experience of the Church and of that experience, Mary is the focus and life."

            One of my grandmothers, from the area of Bethlehem, married young (fourteen years old), had her first child soon after, and then later came to settle here in America. She went on to have four more children born as American citizens; all the while she spoke mostly Arabic, never drove, and as far as I know never read English. But, she raised five Orthodox Christian children, supported the establishment of an Orthodox Cathedral, and networked with an extensive community of Orthodox Christians new to this country. These Orthodox women in a foreign land gathered together to play whist, and encourage each other in their lives and faith. And women such as these were the foundation of the Orthodox faith here in America.

     Our world today as mothers is different, and maybe more complicated in some ways. We fold laundry in a rush, monitor computer screen time, drive kids around town, but we still want to see the Orthodox faith infused into our children. Knowledge of the Theotokos must somehow infuse into their souls, even though they're listening to iPods, chatting on cellphones, or scootering around the neighborhood with friends.

    And our children watch us;

    they watch and see how we live our faith and then follow our example.

    Being an Orthodox mother is not only in our thoughts or words, it's in our living.

    But, here lies a path towards wisdom.

        Yours, Prudence

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