Prudence True

The Art of Wisdom

through Ancient Words

A Path to Your Heart:



The Well


6 June 2011

Dear Souls -

          A friend sent me a note which struck me rather hard. This dear friend mentioned feeling "dry and unfed" after Divine Liturgy yesterday. The image of the Samaritan woman at the well resonated through my mind with the story of Christ conversing with a simple thirsting woman. I understand this conversation with St. Photini is one of the longest dialogues recorded with Christ, but it is not for this reason that the image of a thirsty woman drawing water from a well resonates with me. Today we approach the well seeking nourishment for our soul . . . and this well where we find God is the Church.

          I don't believe we find God in the machinations of church, but in the prayer of Church. But over the centuries this well on Sundays has become much more than a simple place of prayer. It is an institution with a complicated social structure hinging on an even more complicated political structure. Under all the layers lies prayer . . . and the living well.

           Orthodox Christians believe the Kingdom of God lies buried deep within, and you cannot reach this Kingdom without the Church. Wading into the depths of your heart requires sorting through undesirable layers of church to find pure water. Drinking water from this living well forever quenches thirst, and is not the same as drinking water from the tap.






9 June 2011

Dear Souls -

         Yesterday I met someone who radiates peace . . . even from a distance. He has grace, humor, and wisdom infused throughout his soul. This peace in his heart was the fruit of years spent living in the desert as a monk at St. Catherine's monastery, Mount Sinai, but he shares this peace with us all through his prayers.

Father Pavlos




Desert Wisdom


12 June 2011

Dear Souls -

        With a simple mind, I have only a surface understanding of complex Church politics; they hurt my heart and clutter my brain. But I know peace and wisdom when it's right in front of me. . . . I love the past, though I live in the present, and I treasure ancient wisdom in the here and now. We can travel to Mount Sinai for a brief visit with Fr. Pavlos at St. Catherine's Monastery, but his wisdom is the sort we seek in our everyday life.

         So, with the help of Sister Joanna (who works with Fr. Pavlos and provides brilliant translation from Greek to English and back again), I posted the first in a series of articles offering insights by Fr. Pavlos on the winding path to inner peace.

                                                                 Desert Wisdom




A Guiding Heart


13 June 2011

Dear Souls -

         This morning a friend, while dripping wet and holding a 9 foot surfboard poised on her hip, confessed for the first time in her life she was confused by her heart. She felt her heart was abandoning her, or perhaps leading her astray . . . and without her heart as a guide, she was lost. This friend is not an Orthodox Christian: you could even say she is a remote Christian. But she listens to her heart.

          Today I received a letter from Istanbul, Turkey: the return address was The Ecumenical Patriarchate, Holy and Sacred Synod. The Chief Secretary of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew wrote me a personal note. In the kindest words, which conveyed love and respect, he explained why my visit to the Holy Mountain was impossible (and he also wished me well with my writing endeavors).

           Other wise souls tell me a visit by a woman to Mount Athos is impossible . . . and I understand the word impossible. But my faith is large, and I pray it will move a Holy Mountain.

           Please forgive my persistence; my guide is a simple, foolish heart.

           (And, thank you for the kindest rejection letter I've ever received.)




An Ordinary Soul


16 June 2011

Dear Souls -

        For me every day is an ordinary day. Last night I heard my favorite song played by one of my favorite musicians, and I felt lucky. Today I ate lunch at my favorite local spot and had my favorite soup of the day. As I sat at my table eavesdropping, I heard the woman at the next table talking to her male friend, who looked vaguely familiar, and I pondered over their appearance. . . .

        No one other than me paid much attention to the couple: I paid attention to them, though if I were more considerate I would have ignored them entirely. I know what they ate, I know what they wore. I know more than I'm supposed to know about them. And then someone approached the man saying, "Are you Bono? I'm a huge fan of yours!"


         Oh yes, I thought, this ordinary man I've been spying on is Bono . . . one of the most famous rock stars in the world. But he is no different than any other ordinary soul. He can sing, he has far reaching influence, and he is an ordinary soul. 

                I find that if you look closely, you see the extraordinary right there in the ordinary.



In the Middle


18 June 2011

Dear Souls -

          The middle of the year is the perfect time for a midyear review. This is what I've covered since January:

             Cardiac Output = Heart Rate x Stroke Volume (CO = HR x SV)

              And now you wonder,

             "What is Cardiac Output, and why do I care?"

               Cardiac Output is the volume of blood pumped by your heart each minute, every minute of every day you live. If your heart does not pump blood or your Cardiac Output is insufficient you will no longer inhabit this earth in the way you do right now (as you sit here wondering why you're reading this silliness).

               It's simple . . . just as your heart pumps blood each minute to maintain your Cardiac Output, your heart must pump Love each and every minute you exist.

                         Love God with all your heart; love your neighbor as yourself.






A Prayer


26 June 2011

Dear Souls -

         Are you familiar with the saying, "Be careful what you wish for"? I'm wondering if the same applies with, "Be careful what you pray for."  If you have read here for any length of time, then you know I love small Orthodox churches, and I believe they should be scattered throughout communities on every street corner following in the footsteps of Starbucks coffee. (Maybe we should position them near Starbucks and simplify the coffee service after Liturgy.)

         The most beautiful and prayerful Divine Liturgy I've attended in years was at a small, very old home church and was all in a foreign language. I loved the Liturgy (even standing for the whole time)! For me, Liturgy is not the priest, choir, iconography, or people . . . it's the whole package working together at one time. The place doesn't matter, the spirit makes all the difference.

          Starting an Orthodox church is complicated. I prefer simple and have an aversion to church politics and church infrastructure. I prefer Divine Liturgy served without an array of lavish garnishes on the plate. Church for me is not Sunday school, Ladies Society, or  Parish Council (all of which I avoid like a contagious disease). For these reasons, I'm the single least likely candidate for starting a mission church.

           With a few others, I'm starting a mission church.

           And I'm chronicling this process here for you to follow over the days, months, and . . .

           I will not share every detail.

           Be Careful What You Pray For!

           Joining in this process is a highly motivated new priest, several families . . . and God. We have the blessing of the bishop, a place to meet, and our prayers. My hope is with these tools we will travel far, climb large mountains, and grow as a community in an uncomplicated small way.

           This is my prayer.





The Saints


27 June 2011

Dear Souls -

         The great joy of writing here is this is my home . . . and you're my guest. Thus there exists a certain freedom for addressing difficult topics. You may remember me mentioning this before, but I'm not a theologian in the St. Vladimir's Seminary sense. (I've read ten or so books on Orthodox theology and learned a smidge from each.) My Orthodox heart has emerged slowly over the decades since my birth and baptism growing up surrounded by faithful and committed Orthodox Christians.

          In a limited amount of time with music blaring, children swirling, and laundry spinning I will share my perspective on the Saints. (These are not optimal writing conditions!) I briefly reviewed some controversial writing by Fr. Schmemann on the Saints, but this was unnecessary. I'm struck by the need to share my own perspectives here for various reasons.

         As I understand it my grandmother, who I dearly love and respect, lived a saintly life and is considered by many to be a saint. She is not a Saint. If an icon were written of her, it would not be a window into Heaven as is the icon of the Theotokos or St. Mary of Egypt. And an icon of someone other than a Saint is not a true icon, it's a nice painting. There is a difference between an icon of my grandmother (if one existed) and the icon of a Saint. Random icon production is random, and random icon veneration of non-Saints is poor form. As Orthodox Christians, our reverence for the Saints is more than superhero recognition.

         I have a difficult time understanding overzealous superhero veneration of icons. A Saint is a Saint and warrants more reverence than bumper sticker style veneration. And, from my perspective, overzealous piety is irreverent and puzzling. I was raised with a clear understanding of Orthodox Christian reverence for Saints . . . and I'm offended by both the Protestant phobia of Saints, and ex-Protestant superheroification of Saints. (How does one soul traverse this abyss from phobia to superheroification in just a few years?)

         If you're still reading, then I know by now you're either angry with me, or understand my perspective. And this perspective is the living spirit of Orthodox Christianity, which I've learned over decades from my ancestors from the Holy Land, who learned if from their ancestors. We call this tradition and  hand it on, and on, and on . . .

A Painting of a Woman