Prudence True

The Heart of Wisdom

through Ancient Words

A Path to Your Heart:



Church Sub-Culture


5 May 2011

Dear Souls -

         The culture of church is odd, it's an awkward subculture of society. This was not always the way of church. There was a time when the culture of church was the culture of society. The two were friends way back when, and they've had a falling out of epic proportions over the centuries. And now the culture of church and society are enemies.

         Rather than ramble on about how unfortunate this current unfriendly state between Christians and society, I prefer looking ahead. The culture of church must retain it's flavor (I'm Orthodox through to my cellular level), but must not be an enemy of the world. I happen to sit smack dab in between these two strange worlds, and always have. It's not all that complicated.

         In America, the culture of church has gotten out of hand. Maybe it started out in this country on rocky terms with the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock. And when the first Orthodox wandered in from Alaska nearly 200 years ago, they established the Church here as humble Christian neighbors. Orthodox Christians continued setting up parishes across this country for the next 200 years, living alongside other Christians without trampling through their fields. But sometime following World War II, Christianity and society began moving apart and now they hardly speak the same language.

          I won't take sides (remember, I sit smack dab in the middle of these two worlds), and I believe both groups have behaved poorly. Crazy Christians (forgive me) have alienated the world of Christianity from society at an alarming rate. No one (read NO ONE) likes being tackled by anyone about their faith. Christianity sets itself apart and speaks it's own language, while a humble heart befriends others and speaks the language of the world . Christians may disagree with much in the world, but it's still the world. We must live as Christians right here in this world and make it a better place. Setting ourselves apart as a separate subculture alienates us from society and does nothing for our neighbors. The world is not an us and them world, it's all of us together. We must live alongside our neighbors as Orthodox Christians and not build an elaborate fortress around a subculture. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your humble heart will be an example for all, Christian or not.




Cultural Humility


7 May 2011

Dear Souls -

         For some time now I've waited for other born and raised Orthodox Christians to trample over me and share their thoughts on Orthodoxy. But so far, cyber-Orthodoxy remains a very lonely place for this ordinary soul. I'm willing to wait a while longer, but I won't wait forever. Where are you? Why are you so quiet?

         The breadth and depth of Orthodox Christianity is comprised of talented and motivated individuals, but they will not blabber on about their faith in public. They are capable of blabbering on in very loud voices on any subject at any time, but their faith is for private discussion. This is not the culture of Christianity in America with its big screen faiths. For those who have migrated from larger louder Christian faiths, the quiet tones of Orthodox Christians is puzzling and often misunderstood as apathy. There is a cultural difference in the mindset of Orthodox Christians and other more outspoken forms of Christianity.

         Within the tradition of Orthodoxy there is a culture of humility. While all Orthodox Christians are not humble souls, the tradition instills a humility of faith. An arrogant Orthodoxy is improperly packaged and stands out more than you would imagine. It's noticeable and awkward to those accustomed to the traditional humility of Orthodoxy. Please understand, I'm not saying Orthodox Christians are all humble souls. I'm saying their faith is practiced from an interior place of humility and not externally visible to the casual observer. It's impossible to have a big, loud Orthodox faith, and a heart of humility. The culture of humility requires a quieter tone. Not silent, but quieter and more subtle. If you're looking for a humble heart then Pride is your biggest enemy, and running from Pride requires the most high tech training gear available on the market in any country. 

          Blending cultures within Orthodoxy happens over time, and this tradition of humility passes  through generations all the way back through the centuries. And today humility has its place, even here in cyber-space.






Does it Matter?


9 May 2011

Dear Souls -

          A Protestant theologian speaking at a well known Protestant seminary made clear his understanding of Orthodox Christianity. After the lecture someone approached and asked if it was true he believed Orthodoxy was the original Church.  He agreed it was. Then why, he was asked, was he not an Orthodox Christian? Because, he answered, it depends on whether or not you believe it matters.

          Does it matter?

          Some time ago I attended (for a few weeks) an Evangelical Bible study organized by a friend. They began the study group with music. When I asked why we stood for the music, I was told they always stood for worship. I don't worship with rock music.

           Does it matter?

           Another friend remembers her mother saying on Sundays, "God is everywhere. Grab your swimsuits and let's go to the beach."

           Does it matter?

           Yesterday I attended Divine Liturgy at a church where most of the service was in Greek. The choir (dressed in red robes with white collars) sang puzzling Western tones accompanied by an organ. The traditional Orthodox church and its Greek language were a cultural mismatch with the liturgical hymns. Most of the people in the half-filled pews were born circa World War II.

           Does it matter?

           The child next to me in church yesterday kept poking me and whispering there were a lot of puff balls around (her description for a particular hairstyle). I was distracted, restless, and it was difficult for me to find God during Liturgy.

            Does it matter?



               It matters to me.





Happy Church


12 May 2011

Dear Souls -

          Yep. I'm a sheltered soul. Of course, I've already admitted I love living under my cozy rock, but it takes work. And sometimes when I stumble into the real world it's shocking. Yesterday evening as I strolled through a building on an errand I heard music coming from a large room. I peeked through the window and saw a large group of twenty-somethings with their arms outstretched. It was church, and the lyrics were all about Jesus. A friend of mine calls this Happy Church.

          The contrast with my visit on Sunday to the Greek language Orthodox Church with the WWII era parish was too much. It was apparent from the swaying and outstretched arms that their experience was far different than Divine Liturgy in Greek. For a moment I imagined them trading places with me in the pews at the Greek parish on Sunday, and I knew they would feel as stunned as I was peering through their window at Happy Church.

           I wondered if these happy people had any knowledge of Eastern Orthodoxy. I've been told by some newer to the Orthodox faith that they never knew Orthodoxy existed (it is a well kept secret by 250 million people). But when I asked if perhaps they saw Orthodoxy, but did not see Orthodoxy they agreed. Without placing Orthodox billboards alongside freeways how do those at Happy Church find the Orthodox faith, and when they wander into a parish will they wander right back outside when they hear a foreign language?

           I love happy music, but Happy Church is not for me. Happy music wakes me up with a smile to start my day, but the beautiful hymns of Divine Liturgy resonate through my heart in a deeper way.

                                                              (happy song) Glow



                            p.s. Just Church




14 May 2011

Dear Souls -

          There exists an emerging subculture within the Orthodox Church: Momodoxy. Mothers have raised children within the tradition of the Orthodox faith for around 2000 years; it's an ancient faith. The distinguishing feature of Momodoxy is fresh perspective. Within Orthodoxy there is a deep component of tradition . . . or the handing on of the Faith. Mothers within a home hand on their faith to their children, who hand it on to their children, and this is all done with a heart full of love. The fuller the heart is with love . . . the stronger the tradition sticks within the heart of the children.

            Momodoxy draws on traditions which lie beyond those of the Orthodox faith. It's the repackaging of an age old tradition into a present day commodity, and it lacks the wisdom of generations of mothers. In itself Momodoxy is not harmful, but it is misleading. Without the time tested, enduring tradition of raising children within the Church, Momodoxy is a single snapshot of Orthodox child-rearing.

             If you are unsure whether or not what you see is Momodoxy, you will know it by its fruits. With a heart of love, generations of Orthodox mothers have raised children who are now here circulating in Orthodox parishes across the country with their own children and grandchildren. There exists a wealth of Orthodox parenting knowledge perfused by generations of true Orthodox experience, and it's not Momodoxy. Love within the heart of one, moves the hearts of others all around . . . you will know the love of a mother not by her words, but by her fruit.

photo by Misha Maslennikov






16 May 2011

Dear Souls -

                                                     My hope is the Father,

                                                      My refuge is the Son,                

                                                 My protection is the Holy Spirit.

With Patience . . .




Grandmother's Theology


17 May 2011

Dear Souls -

          All I know is Grandmother's theology. When I try and distill down the teachings of my grandmother, it's difficult. Her teachings did not come from Orthodox theology texts. They came from her mother, who received them from her mother . . . you get the idea. But, they contain the same teachings I heard yesterday when I listened here Met. Kallistos Ware: Word and Silence in the Philokalia

          My grandmother never met Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, and I'm sure she never read his book  The Orthodox Church (which took me only two decades to finish). But, I believe my grandmother knew how to find God in the stillness without ever reading the Philokalia (which I've never bothered to read).

Met. Kallistos is clear the Jesus Prayer is not the only way to find God in silence, and I know this was not the way of my grandmother, or her mother, or her mother . . .  you get the idea. I suspect they never even knew the Jesus Prayer, which I confess I only learned a few years ago.

          Maybe I should ask another question: Why is it that the only writings available on stillness are by men? If I cruise cyber-Orthodoxy I find two selections of writings: priests and Momodoxy. Current Orthodox publications are the same: new books by priests and Momodoxy. How will Grandmother's theology diffuse into the souls of the current generation of Orthodox Christians without grandmother (who I will suggest often taught the clergy as well)? Momodoxy does not contain the stillness of my grandmother, or her mother, or her mother . . . you get the idea.  Many of the woman in these prior generations knew where to find God in the silence of their hearts. Grandmother's theology is a knowledge of the presence of God. This was the culture of their childhood, and it seeped deep into their souls.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 45

               Someday my grandmother and Met. Kallistos Ware will meet in Heaven
               and find they have much in common.




Watch It!


18 May 2011

Dear Souls -

          My mind travels at a rapid pace and my mouth keeps up just fine. The challenge is moderating my tongue (and my tapping fingers on this keyboard) at all times. The censor's job is never finished . . . and my guards must be well fed to keep up their stamina for this tedious work. I've suffered the consequences for my unruly tongue on countless occasions, and I've even suffered when my mouth was under control but the expression on my face revealed what my tongue did not. My difficult lessons are not finished, of this I'm sure, and when my guards go on break there is always trouble. Speaking the truth is better than not, but without my guards I must not.

"He who guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from tribulation." Pr 21:22




The Camel, an Eye of a Needle,

and Grandmother


19 May 2011

Dear Souls -

         During the deep dark hours of night I found myself thinking about a camel squeezing himself through the eye of a needle. Perhaps the camel was really entering through the gate of a walled city loaded with heavy baggage. Either way, the image of a camel was sticking in my mind and with it the struggle with riches . . . both the riches of money and of knowledge.

         Laden with heavy baggage the camel cannot squeeze through the narrow city gates. And so also, laden with riches it's difficult for a man to enter the Kingdom of God. While it's clear distilling down the Word and neglecting Tradition is a dangerous path, carrying the heavy baggage of knowledge may also carry risks. My grandmother's theology was simple God knowledge carried in her heart . . . it was the living tradition of ordinary souls passed through generations.

         Growing up within the walls of Jerusalem, my grandmother may have seen an occasional camel in her time, but her heart was full of living tradition of everyday life. She gleaned her knowledge of God from daily life with God everywhere all the time. She carried this awareness with her and shared it with others in her life. Grandmother's theology is not laden with the riches of knowledge accumulated through reading the Church Fathers, it's laden with knowledge of Love and living tradition within the Church.






The Weigh . . .

23 May 2011

Dear Souls -

                                          By Caring

                                               By Helping

                                                   By Giving

                                                      By Praying

                                                         By Listening

                                                            By Knowing

The Weigh




Generic Grandmother


25 May 2011

Dear Souls -

         You may find my rambling about a saintlike grandmother tiring. Your own grandmother is perhaps a cranky, foul-mouthed atheist, and so this blabbering about grandmother does not touch your heart at all. Please let me clarify: Grandmother's Theology is based on a generic wise soul who has spent decades within The Church. Her heritage is irrelevant, and she may or may not have grandchildren by birth. For this generic grandmother believes everyone is her child, and her heart is full of love for all souls. She is the quiet smiling woman in line for Communion with a sparkle in her eye (although she will smack you with her heavy purse if necessary).

        Can grandmother really be a grandfather you ask? Yes, of course anything is possible. But from my experience this role is most often fulfilled by grandmother. I don't know why, but it's the nature of women to acquire grandmother qualities, while men acquire grandfather qualities. . . . You may have noticed all priests are men. God did not create worthless women, He gave them another role within the Church. Women nurture souls, but in a different way than the clergy standing near the altar. Grandmother's heart sits right at the altar, but you cannot see her standing there with your eyes. She gives plenty of sermons, but not up at the front of the church.

         You will not find this generic grandmother in a book purchased from the back of the church bookstore. The Church Fathers speak a lot like grandmother, but hearing their words spoken today brings you closer to their meaning in a living way. Sometimes I wonder if those who bury themselves in the depths of study find this safer than circulating amongst living tradition. An imaginary Christian world found on the pages of texts does not require the same effort as interacting with the Spirit of the Church. This living tradition is present today within the Orthodox Church and must exist at all parishes. An Orthodox parish comprised of only those newer to the Orthodox faith is at risk for wandering into Happy Orthodoxy . . . which is a spinoff of the faith taught by the early Church Fathers. The Orthodox faith is a living faith and wise Orthodox souls are a source of this living tradition. You will know them by their fruits . . .

An Old Soul




There and There and There . . .


28 May 2011

Dear Souls -

         Forever I will remember my seven year old niece saying, "God is everywhere . . . He is there, and there, and there." She swung around in a circle with her outstretched arm pointing toward the corners of the room. God was there, and she felt His presence in her life. From birth on, her experience in the Orthodox Church instilled within her heart a knowledge of God. Perhaps over the years she will feel less confident about the presence of God in her life, but as a child she senses God everywhere.

         Children see with their soul, but adults see with their eyes clouded by the world. I know for certain few children say the Jesus Prayer over and over throughout the day. But they often know God and experience His blessings in a direct way. When they share their experience of God with those older and wiser than themselves, they receive a pat on the shoulder and a chuckle. Adults have lost their ability to see God everywhere . . . and it's a struggle to regain this sight.

         The experience of God belongs among simple folks, and is not reserved for a few living in seclusion and praying unceasingly. God is for everyone everywhere, just ask a small child.

         "He is there . . . and there . . . and there."

                          The Cutest Groms