Category Archives: Seeking and FInding

“Enter into thy closet and shut the door.” Matt. 6:6, The first in a Series on Internal Prayer


St. Veronica

 

Internal Prayer

and

Finding One’s Deep Heart

 

 

 

St. Veronica

When I wrote this post it was my name’s day old calendar!

“Those who only hear about spiritual meditation and prayer and have no direct knowledge of it are like a man blind from birth, who hears about the sunshine without ever knowing what it really is.”  St. Dimitri of Rostov

Please join Veronica Hughes, St. Dimitri of Rostov, and Elder Zacharias for the first of several podcasts on the art of prayer and finding one’s deep heart.

Today we will begin our deeper exploration into the art of prayer. Yes, prayer is an art, which like any other art requires diligence and practice for us to master…

My resources for this podcast are:

The Art of Prayer

by Igumen Chariton of Valamo

1. Quoting St. Dimitri of Rostov (1651–1709): one of the most celebrated preachers in the history of the Russian Church. His chief literary work was a great collection of the Lives of the Saints.

2. Remember Thy First Love, Elder Zacharias

So let’s pick up where we left off in our last podcast about levels of knowledge and the way we can deepen our faith, transforming worldly knowledge into spiritual knowledge by following our Lord’s words…

“Enter into thy closet and shut the door” (Matt. 6:6)

“…Those who only hear about spiritual meditation and prayer and have no direct knowledge of it are like a man blind from birth, who hears about the sunshine without ever knowing what it really is. Inner spiritual training begins with the words of Christ, ‘When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret’.(Matt. 6:6)

Man is dual: exterior and interior, flesh and spirit. The outer man is visible, of the flesh; but the inner man is invisible, spiritual– what the Apostle Peter terms… ‘the hidden man of the heart, which is not corruptible,… a meek and quiet spirit’ (1 Pet. 3:4)… the works of the outer man are visible, but those of the inner man are invisible, according to the Psalmist: ‘The inner man and the heart are very deep’…

This is my first mention of what some elders call one’s deep heart – finding Jesus in our heart is one of the primary goals of our prayer life.

Here is what Elder Zacharias says about our finding our heart in Christ:

“…God may well seek man’s heart. But because man uses his freedom wrongly and has become enslaved by so many attachments, God’s grace is prevented from entering man’s heart and dwelling there….”

Part of the purpose of prayer is to draw us away from that first degree of knowledge – worldly attachments and thoughts, then to help us find the strength to turn our will to God and develope a healthy fear of God.

Back to Elder Zacharias

“…And once the fear of God lays hold of our heart, we begin to see how unable we are to pursue a relationship with God.” Veronica again… Why? Until our development of a healthy fear of God moves out of fear of condemnation or punishment and into wanting to please and then love God – there is no possibility for intimacy with God. Intimacy with God is accomplished by means of prayer and love…. Back to Elder Z…

“It is by His grace alone that we are rendered able to pursue a relationship with God… How do we attract the grace of God to help us? Contrition humbles the heart of man and humility opens the heart to receive the Holy Spirit, the grace of the Comforter, which is man’s only true consolation…. (Vs worldly consolation, which is temporary and part of the first degree of knowledge we spoke of in our last 2 podcasts) …the Holy Spirit then provokes man’s heart to contrition… It melts the mountains of impurity that sit upon the heart. It breaks the rocks of the hardness of man’s inner being, and helps him to find his ‘deep heart’.

How might this finding of one’s deep heart come about? So man undergoes a primordial ‘earthquake’ when he suffers such trials as are necessary to teach him that one thing alone is needful–the discovery of his heart.”  And I will add – for in the heart we find God. Elder Zacharias, Remember Thy First Love. 

In continuation of our study about our regeneration by grace, here we see again repeated the necessity of the fear of God – not just for discovering faith, but for finding our heart in Christ, as well as contrition, which melts our heart and makes it receptive to God. When entering our closet to pray, the awareness of both help to focus our minds in our heart.

Back to St. Dimitri…

“Training, then, must be twofold, outer and inner: outer in reading books, inner in thoughts of God; outer in love of wisdom, inner in love of God; outer in words, inner in prayer; outer in keenness of intellect, inner in warmth of spirit; outer in technique, inner in vision…

Both internal and external have a place when used to support our relationship with God vs the acquisition of worldly knowledge. Our strivings for attracting the grace of the Holy Spirit come through acquiring the virtues. St. Seraphim of Sarov said that the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the most important striving we must have.

Prayer is likewise twofold, exterior and interior. There is prayer made openly, and there is secret prayer; I will add that the secret prayer most recommended is the Jesus Prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.’… prayer with others and solitary prayer; prayer undertaken as a duty and prayers that are voluntarily offered. Prayer as a duty, performed openly according to Church rules, in company with others, has its own times: the Midnight Office, Matins, the Hours, the Liturgy, Vespers and Compline.

Voluntary prayer, which is in secret on the other hand, has no fixed time, being made whenever you wish, without bidding, simply when the spirit moves you… Though I will add that most elders recommend a structure for our inner prayer during specific times of the day to start to develop the practice of unceasing prayer mentioned by St. Paul.

The first kind is performed aloud by the lips and voice, the second only in spirit. Once more I will also add here that many elders recommend beginning our practice of the Jesus Prayer aloud at first. The first is performed standing, the second, not only standing or walking, but also lying down, and in a word, always–whenever you happen to raise your mind to God.

This is very good news for those of us with infirmities or age related challenges. What do we do when we cannot go to Church as often as we would like or stand to do our prayers… we do them however we can and whenever we can. My internal prayer life has replaced my external attendance in Church, which has turned out to be such a blessing!

The first, made in the company with others … but the second is performed when you are alone in the shut closet, according to the word of the Lord.

The closet is twofold, outer and inner, material and spiritual: the material place is of wood or stone, the spiritual closet is the heart or mind…. Therefore the material closet remains always fixed in the same place, but the spiritual one you carry with you and you wherever you go. Wherever a man is, his heart is always with him, so having collected his thoughts inside his heart, he can shut himself in and pray to God in secret, whether he be talking or listening, whether among few people or many… All that is necessary is to raise your mind to God, and descend deep into yourself, and this can be done everywhere… according to the Gospel words of Christ himself: ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ (Luke 17:21). Explaining this text, St. Markarios of Egypt writes: ‘The heart is a small vessel, but all things are contained in it; God is there, the angels are there, and there also is life in the kingdom, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace.’

Our new frontier in our regeneration by grace is the discovery of our deep heart! How inspiring!

Man needs to enclose himself in the inner closet of his heart more often than he need go to church: and collecting all his thoughts there, he must place his mind before God, praying to Him in secret with all warmth of spirit and with living faith.”

I want to add that many of us must first do our prayers more externally – those of us that are converts or returning to the Church – for that is where we begin our work in reestablishing our communion with God through confession and Holy Communion. Once a solid foundation of regular church attendance has been formed, the Lord will call us to a deeper level of prayer.

Thank you St. Dimitri and Elder Zacharias! Our next podcast will focus on practical steps to take to anchor our prayer life in the loving union with God.

God bless you!

In Christ,

Veronica

 

 

Faith vs. Knowledge Part 2, Podcast airing July 16th on Pearls of Great Price, OCN


 

 

Faith vs. Knowledge

Part 2

It is not that knowledge is blameworthy, but that faith is higher…

 

 

What are the distinctions in knowledge; in which degree (when knowledge returns to its primary aim – the spiritual life) it comes into its nature and by its good discipline (fasting, alms, vigils, holiness… love for one’s neighbor, humility of heart, forgiving those who have sinned, recollection of good things, investigation of the mysteries concealed in the Holy Scriptures, the mind’s occupation with good works, the bridling of the soul’s passions, and the rest of such virtues) becomes a stepping–stone for faith…. when it is that knowledge unites with faith and becomes one with it… when it is inflamed by the Spirit, acquiring the wings of dispassion; and when it is exalted above servitude to things earthly into the realm of its Creator?

If only more folks that are into seeking in the New Age and Eastern religions knew about the depth of our faith! That is why I wrote my first book, The Pearl of Great Price. Orthodoxy is the fulfillment of all my seeking thanks to saints like St. Isaac the Syrian. 

“There are three intelligible degrees in which knowledge ascends and descends…. and becomes the cause of either harm or help.

The first degree of knowledge (Common Knowledge):

When knowledge cleaves to the love of the body, it gathers up the following provisions: wealth; vainglory; honor; adornment; rest of the body; special means to guard the body’s nature from adversities; assiduity in rational wisdom, such as is suitable for the governance of the world and which gushes forth the novelties of inventions, the arts, sciences, doctrines; and all other things which crown the body in this visible world. This is called common knowledge, for it is naked of all concerns for God. And because it is dominated by the body, it introduces into the mind an irrational importance, and its concern is totally for this world.

It is not that most of us purposely exclude God, but we are so programed by our worldly knowledge that we forget about God. We think our survival is dependent on us! Part of this is true, for we need to work and be responsible in life, but how hard it is to remember that all is created and sustained by God – not us. When in our survival mode…

This measure of knowledge does not reckon that there is any noetic power and hidden steersman over a man whatsoever, nor any divine care that shelters and takes concerned for him… Nevertheless, it cannot be without continual cares and fear for the body. Therefore it is appraised to faintheartedness, sorrow, despair, fear of the demons, trepidation before men, the rumor of thieves and the report of murders, anxiety over diseases, concern over want and lack of necessities, fear of death, fear of sufferings, of wild beasts, and of other similar things that make this knowledge like a sea more turbulent by great waves at every hour of the night and day.

When we are thinking in the above manner this should be a clear tip off to us that we have stepped out of connection with God and have fallen into worldly knowledge and concerns without turning to God first.

The tree of knowledge of good and evil, the tree that uproots love, is planted in this very knowledge. In this knowledge are produced and are found presumption and pride, for it attributes every good thing to itself, and does not refer to God.

The second degree of knowledge (the knowledge of actions):

But when knowledge renounces the first degree and turns toward deep reflections on the love of the soul, then it practices the aforementioned good deeds with the help of the soul’s understanding, in co-operation with the senses of the body, in the light of the soul’s nature (this knowledge takes into account the existence of God and the soul). This knowledge makes straight the pathways in the heart which lead to faith, wherewith we gather supplies for our journey to the true age.

We are learning to act for and with God. We are being purified of that knowledge that obstructs faith – memories, beliefs and patterns of behavior that we learned.

But even so, this knowledge is still corporeal and composite; and although it is the road that leads us and speeds us on our way toward faith, yet there remains a degree of knowledge still higher than it. If it goes forward, it will find itself raised up by faith with the help of Christ… it is called the knowledge of actions, because by concrete actions, through the senses of the body, it accomplishes its work on the external level.”

I think that most of us are waging our spiritual battles in the mist of these first two degrees of knowledge. To achieve the third degree of knowledge, St. Isaac says we need to leave the world, but if we have families and work in the world, how can we do so? By entering the closet of our soul in prayer. My next several podcasts will focus on prayer and practical suggestions from the Holy Fathers about how to enter the closet of our soul and find our deep heart in Christ. Then we can begin to access…

The third degree of knowledge, which is the degree of perfection where:

“…knowledge becomes more refined, acquires that which is of the Spirit… When knowledge is raised above the earthly things and the cares of earthly activities, and its thoughts begin to gain experience in inward matters which are hidden from the eyes; and when in part it scorns the recollections of things (whence the perverseness of the passions arises), and when it stretches itself upward and follows faith in its solicitude for the future age, in its desire for what has been promised us, and in searching deeply into hidden mysteries: then faith itself swallows up knowledge, converts it, and begets it anew, so that it becomes wholly and completely spirit.

The Fathers call these stages natural, supranatural, and contranatural. These are three directions in which the memory of a rational soul travels up or down So long as a man still abides in the nature of the flesh, he is in continual transition from one (state) to another…”

I will add that as the soul travels up and down this journey in faith, we are also simultaneously experiencing purification, illumination and maybe even God given moments of theosis. I know we all would prefer to be done with our struggles, but the challenging news is that for most of us, the process of regeneration by grace will continue until our last breath. That is why we need faith and hope. We can begin to understand the process of regeneration by grace more clearly in hindsight, in God given moments of illumination and consolation we can see what God was teaching us. Then we fall back into our trials and struggles for a time with worldly knowledge and our passions. This is the cycle that is repeated over and over again until our soul is perfected in God.

But we call faith that light which dawns in the soul by grace… This faith manifests itself not by the tradition of the hearing of the ear, but with spiritual eyes it beholds the mysteries concealed in the soul, and the secret and divine riches that are hidden away from the eyes of the sons of the flesh, but are unveiled by the Spirit to those who are brought up at Christ’s table in the study of His laws. He said, ‘If ye keep My Commandments, I will send you the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, and He shall teach you all truth.’

The Comforter shows a man the holy power that dwells within him at every moment, and the protection, of the noetic force that shelters him always and drives away from him all harm, that it should not touch his soul or his body. The luminous and noetic mind visibly perceives this (holy power) with the eyes of faith… This power is the Comforter Himself Who, in the strength of faith, consumes the soul as with fire. The soul then rushes forward, despising every danger because of her trust in God, and on the wings of faith she soars aloft, taking leave of visible creation… she is ever found in the awestruck wonder of solicitude for God…

Thank you St. Isaac of Syria and by your prayers may we too experience the gift of faith.

If you missed my podcast – Part 1 of Homily 52 – I encourage you to listen to it when you have the chance.

Here is the Link to the second half of the full text of Homily 52

May God bless you!

In Christ,

Veronica

What motivated me to write about my life and conversion to Eastern Orhtodox Christianity?


Early morning sunrise

Why did I write my Pearl of Great Price?

This passage is taken from the sequel to my Pearl, In Christ, I am a New Creation. I hope to finish and begin the process of publishing my second book this year.

Since all illness has a spiritual component to it, I understood that I was in yet another deep cycle of spiritual purification as well. For the first time I consciously started praying and asking for illumination about my spiritual illness. “Can you open my heart and mind and illumine the eyes of my soul dear Lord? What are You attempting to reveal to me this time through my illness? How and from what is my spirit suffering?” I was not clear how God would answer my prayer. I put my hope in God’s mercy and waited. Soon after I felt compelled to start writing about my conversion in earnest.

I was quite hopeful. Though I had repented for my past New Age and occult activities, I felt I had to counter my past with a book that would lead modern seekers to Christ and the Orthodox Church. Writing about my life prior to becoming Orthodox was challenging and at times cathartic. Part of me did not want to return to who I was back then. I was ashamed and judgmental of my past actions and activities. I lacked structure and writing skills, but I forged my way onward despite my inadequacies.

Shed light on my past actions and help me to heal from my bodily and spiritual illnesses dear Lord. Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy…’ Newly reveal to me my unconscious state of sin as I write. Open my heart to examine my past once more. Once again purify my soul, ‘Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.’ Illumine the eyes of my understanding as I write, ‘For behold Thou hast loved Truth, the hidden and sacred things of Thy wisdom hast Thou made manifest to me.’ My hope rests in You, O Lord.” “Thou shalt make me to hear joy and gladness, the bones that be humbled they shall rejoice.” (All the Scripture passages in this paragraph are from Psalm 50.)

What a blessing writing has been for me – in ways I never would have imagined. May God bless all our efforts to heal and find comfort in Him!In Christ,

Veronica

Whatever prompted two people with fibromyalgia to move to a wilderness mountain top?


Image

This is one the exquisite mountains we gaze upon from our mountain home overlooking the “Valley of the Dancing Angels (My husband gave this valley that name. When it is a cloudy day wisps of clouds float and dance in the valley resembling dancing angels.) We moved here in May to retire and deepen our spiritual life. Both my husband and I suffer from fibromyalgia and are following a medical protocol that over time will hopefully reverse most of the chronic and limiting symptoms of this disease. (For info on this protocol read: What your doctor may not tell you about Fibromyalgia, by Dr. Paul St. Amand, 3 edition. Since beginning this protocol a year and a half ago, my husband and I have seen a 50% reduction in our large visible fibro nodules, many of the smaller ones are completely gone!)

In the mean time, while attempting to tame our land, integrate a more consistent prayer regime and prepare for winter, both of us have been pushing the limits of what we can do physically. Whatever possessed me to agree to move here at the age of 60 being disabled?

I look normal until I have to sit or stand for any length of time. Then out comes my portable zero gravity recliner or memory foam pillows! I did experience a grace when we arrived here to help us accomplish our move and get through our initial struggles to settle in. But now that grace has departed.

Moving here has been a blessing and tremendous struggle for me. There were times when I just could not understand how – given my health issues – this is where I would wind up? I would get really angry with God and my husband! Yet in my heart I truly love being here.

Since we moved, I have had repeated meltdowns as my knowledge of what I could deal with came up against my husband’s faith and the fact that we are here, for better or for worse. I had some faith or I would not have agreed to this move, but it was being trampled down by my knowledge of what was reasonable for someone my age and with my health issues. I also have a terrible case of Marthaism, I get caught up in doing too much and forget the one thing needful.

Then, after the worse meltdown yet last Monday, one that I committed never to experience again, in answer to my prayer, ‘Please Lord, help me to understand what has happened to the innocent child/woman within me that wanted to live a life in the world, but not be of the world? What is hardening my heart and causing me such pain and anger? How can I regain my zeal for our task here?’, my husband read this passage and more from Homily 52 by St. Issac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies of St. Issac the Syrian.

May this reading prove to change your life as much as it changed ours/mine! Knowledge will never be able to answer those questions, but faith will!

Glory to God for all things!

Veronica Hughes

Homily 52, Knowledge vs Faith, by St. Issac the Syrian

The soul that journeys by the pathways of discipline upon the road of faith, and has often made great progress therein, if she returns once more to the ways and means of knowledge, will straightway be crippled in her faith, and will be deprived of the noetic power of faith, which with diverse forms of (divine) assistance manifests itself in a pure soul that unquestionably has recourse to it with simplicity in all her concerns.

For the soul that once and for all has surrendered herself to God in faith, and has received through much experience the taste of His help, will not take thought for herself again, but rather, she is stilled in the awestruck wonder and silence, and has no power to return to the ways and means of her own knowledge and to be engaged in them. And this is so lest, on the contrary, she should be deprived of God’s providence, which secretly shelters her unceasingly, cares for her, and everywhere cleaves to her incessantly. For the soul would be foolish to suppose herself sufficient to provide for herself on the strength of her own knowledge.

Those upon whom the light of faith has dawned are no longer so audacious as to pray for themselves; nor do they entreat God, saying, ‘Give this to us’, or ‘Take that from us.’; nor do they in any wise care for themselves. For every moment, with the noetic eyes of faith, they see the fatherly providence which comes from the true Father to shelter them: He Who in His great and immeasurable love surpasses all in fraternal affection and Who, more than all, has the power and might help us exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask, or think, or conceive.

For knowledge as opposed to faith; and faith, in all that pertains to it, is the breaking of the laws of knowledge (we do not, however, speak here of spiritual knowledge). For such is the definition of knowledge–that without investigation and examination it has no authority to do anything, but it must investigate whether that which it considers and desires as possible. But as to faith, what shall we say? If yes and no approach it at the same time, it will not be persuaded to remain in such a position.

It is well known that knowledge cannot exist without investigation and the employment of its means of operations; and this is a sign of hesitation regarding truth. But faith requires a way of thinking that a single, limpidly pure and simple, far removed from any deviousness or invention of methods. See how faith and knowledge are opposed to one another! The home of faith is a childlike thought and a simple heart. ‘ In the simplicity of their hearts,’ it says, ‘they glorified God.’ And, ‘Except ye be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens.’ But knowledge conspires against and opposes both these qualities.

Knowledge keeps within the boundaries of nature in all its paths; but faith makes its journey above nature. Knowledge does not allow itself to experience anything that is ruinous to nature, and it keeps far away from it; but faith readily submits itself to this and says, ‘Upon the asp and the basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and the dragon.’ Fear accompanies knowledge; but confidence accompanies faith. The more a man journeys in the pathways of knowledge, the more he is shackled by fear and cannot be found worthy of freedom from it; but he who follows faith straightway becomes a free man and a ruler of himself, and as a son of God he freely wields all things with authority. The man who has found the keys of faith weilds all the natures of creation you can as God; for by faith comes the authority, after the likeness of God, to create a new creation.  ‘ Thou didst so well,’ it says, ‘and all things were present before Thee.’ And oftentimes, out of things that are not, faith can do all things.

But knowledge can do nothing without matter. Knowledge is not so bold as to attempt anything that has not been given to nature. How so? The liquid nature of water cannot support upon its back the footsteps of a body; the man who comes too close to fire burns himself; and whosoever should rashly oppose nature in this fashion brings himself into peril.

Knowledge watchfully guards itself from such things and will in no wise be persuaded to overstep their boundaries. But faith transgresses them with authority, saying: ‘If thou go through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, and the rivers shall not overflow thee.’ Faith has many times worked such things before the eyes of all creation. If knowledge were given the opportunity to attempt such things, it would in no wise be persuaded. For it is by faith that men have entered into the flames and bridle the burning power of the fire, walking unharmed as the midst thereof, and they have trodden upon the back of the sea as on dry land. All these are above nature and opposed to the ways and means of knowledge.

Do you see how faith has shaken the foundations of knowledge and proven it futile in all its ways and laws? Do you see how knowledge keeps within the limits of nature? Do you see how faith passes above nature in traveling on the pathway of its journey? The ways and means of knowledge governed the world for a little more or less than 5000 years, and man was in no wise able to raise his head from the earth and perceive the power of his Creator. For this was not until our faith shone forth and freed us from the gloom of earthly labors and futile slavery that seeks fruitless distraction. And now we have reached the unfathomable sea and the unfailing treasure, we desire once again to turn aside to miserable little brooks. There is no knowledge that is not needy, however rich it might be; but heaven and earth cannot contain the treasures of faith. The man whose heart is upheld by the confidence of faith will never be in want; and when he has nothing, by faith he possesses all, as it is written: ‘All things whatever you shall ask in prayer, ye shall receive’, and again, ‘The Lord is at hand, have care for nothing.’

Knowledge always seeks means to safeguard those who have acquired it. But what says faith?  ‘Except the Lord build the house and guard the city, in vain does he labor that buildeth it and watch that guardeth her.’ The man who takes refuge in faith never employs or is engaged in ways and means. For knowledge everywhere sings the praises of fear, as the man said, ‘He that feareth in his heart is blessed.’ But what says faith? ‘He was afraid and began to sink’; and again, ‘For ye have not received the spirit of bondage unto fear, but you have received the Spirit of Sonship unto the freedom of faith and trust in God; and again, ‘Fear then not, nor flee from before their face.’

Fear is always followed by doubt; doubt, by investigation; investigation, by ways and means; and ways and means, by knowledge. And in examination and investigation, fear and doubt are always made known–for knowledge does not always succeed everywhere, as we showed in the beginning. Often calamities, grievous adversities, and many occurrences filled with peril befall the soul, wherein knowledge and the devices of wisdom are utterly unable to provide help against these difficulties that defy the whole power and limit of human knowledge. But faith is never vanquished by anything. For what help can human knowledge offer in open conflicts or in war against invisible beings, against incorporeal powers, and many other things of this kind?

Do you see the feebleness of the power of knowledge and the strength of the power of faith? Knowledge prevents its disciples from approaching anything alien to nature. But see here the power of faith and what it commands its pupils: ‘In My Name,’ it says, ‘ye shall cast out demons, take up serpents, and if ye drink poison, it shall not hurt you.’

Knowledge enjoins all who journey in its path to investigate according to its laws, the end of anything before making a beginning, and thus to commence; lest the end of the thing proves unachievable by the limit of human ability, and labor be spent in vain, and lest the thing proved difficult and impossible to realize. But what says faith? ‘All things are possible to him that believeth,’ for to God nothing is impossible. O unspeakable wealth, O ocean rich in its billows and its marvelous treasures and mighty floods of power of faith! How filled with boldness, how replete with sweetness and hope is the journey accompanied by faith! How light our faith’s burdens, how sweet its labors!

Now and then….


IMG_0104

I am writing my sequel to the Pearl of Great Price – hopefully I will not need 9 drafts and 6 years to finish my sequel! I am amazed that when I am writing a book , I will be living similar experiences in the present that mirror what I was going through years prior that are the subject of my writing. My new book is about my struggles to reconcile my past in the light of my baptism as an Orthodox Christian, find Christ in my heart and become more deeply Eastern Orthodox in terms of my world view.

Fifteen years have past since that time. My husband and I recently moved to our home and land overlooking the “Valley of the Dancing Angels (My husband gave this valley that name. When it is a cloudy day wisps of clouds float and dance in the valley resembling dancing angels.) We felt called to be here to deepen our spiritual life and experience as Orthodox Christians. What I am struggling with now is quite similar, yet different, to what I grappled with in my early years in Orthodoxy,  Our spiritual challenges here are helping me to remember who I was back then.

Now as then, I am in a new environment. Then we moved back to San Francisco, my home town. I had not lived there for 25 years. While our land is not unknown to me, for we have spent many weekends here over the nine years it took for us to build our home, living here is quite different from visiting.

Then as now I feel my soul’s salvation close the the heart of my motivations for moving. I know a lot more about Orthodoxy now than I did in 1997-99, but for all I know, I feel as if I have begun newly to view who I am and what I am doing in the light of Christ. I feel quite humbled by the task of truly being an Orthodox Christian. I am now 60 years old. Then I was 45. Then I was literally going through the ‘change of life’. Now I am looking at what will I do with the rest of my life?

In the stillness of the wilderness, having more time to devote to our prayer life, what is it that really matters in life? I can see how far I have to go and as most saints have said as they approached their death – they had hardly begun to live in Christ! Moving here required a huge leap of faith on my part.

I am so glad we are here now – as I was in 1997 when beginning our new life in Christ. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to focus more of my attention on my prayer life and writing in the quite and stillness of the years of prayers that have made this mountain holy. Even if I cannot attend church due to my physical limitations as often as I would like, God is more closely with us here. May I make good use of the gifts given to me O Lord!

In Christ,

Veronica

Mesmerized by the story…


5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, February 10, 2013
By mom
Amazon
This review is from: The Pearl of Great Price: The Spiritual Journey of a New Age Seeker to the Light of Christ and the Eastern Orthodox Church (Kindle Edition)

Mesmerized by the story, enjoyable and easy to read, good for seekers (must read) especially for New Age, and also an eye opener.

About Labyrinths… Question from a reader to Veronica Hughes


This is the labyrinth I wrote about in my book.

This is the labyrinth I wrote about in my book, in the Catholic Cathedral in Chartres, France.

Question: About Labyrinths

Veronica,

After a long journey I find myself at the doors of Orthodoxy. I will soon be a catechumen. The Labyrinth has long held a place in my heart and helped me through my spiritual journey. We had planned on constructing one in our back yard. My question does this in any way conflict with Orthodox practices?

Veronica’s Response:

Hi Kyle,

Labyrinths are not part of Orthodox worship, prayer, or contemplation as in some Catholic/protestant/ or New Age traditions.

I used the labyrinth in my book for I found its meaning quite connected to my wanderings prior to Orthodoxy. I was in a maze of false spirituality and a labyrinth best explained where I had been. The only time I walked one was at Chartres Cathedral in France. At the time I was really into energy vortexes, etc.

I do not think a labyrinth in your garden is a problem unless you want to use it as part of a ritual, prayer practice or something you used to do spiritually – then I would suggest talking with your priest about it or even better – waiting a while before acting on this thought.

I found that a lot of things that spiritually feed me in the past naturally faded from use or were replaced by traditions in Orthodoxy as I matured into my faith. So perhaps waiting for a while after you are received into the Church would be a way to see if you feel the same way about putting a labyrinth in your garden? It takes time to see who you are becoming in Christ in Orthodoxy and what will best serve you.

God bless,
Veronica

More interaction:

Veronica,

Thank you so much for your quick response and your sound advice. The labyrinth played a large part in leading us to Orthodoxy and I myself have many time asked myself if I am hanging onto something from my past or if it something I need to grow beyond, so I have taken your advice and contacted my priest to help guide me in this.

Kyle Boyd-Robertson

Hi Kyle,

You are welcome! I think that running most things like this by your priest at this stage of your journey is the best. I am in the process of writing my second book about the struggles and challenges of converts after being received into the Church. Integrating an Orthodox world view and truly becoming Orthodox takes time and patience. Even if we have ‘put off the old man’, the process of illumination and purification is ongoing. Christian conversion is something that continues until we die.

God bless you,
Veronica

Review of Inner River, the latest book by Kyriacos C. Markides


I have read several of the books written by Kyriacos Markides. What I love the most about his books are his conversations with Fr. Maximos, an Athonite monk, now a bishop. Fr. Maximos is able to summarize matters of faith with the wisdom of an Athonite elder in a manner modern seekers can hear. He incorporates the wisdom of the Holy Elders and Fathers of the Orthodox Church with compassion and humor completely compelling and disarming the listener at the same time. One can easily relate to the spiritual adventures and struggles of the author, Kyriacos, as well.

In his latest book, Inner River, Fr. Maximos walks us through the fruits of the Holy Spirit, “Starting with self-control and climbing the ladder all the way up to love.” My words fall short of the sweet flowing manner in which Fr. Maximos relates these virtues to our everyday life. It was said by St. Seraphim of Sarov that the acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the goal of Chrisitian life. Well, Fr. Maximos takes us through those fruitful steps essential to the acquiring of the Spirit and the grace-filled transformation of the soul experiences in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

A book well worth reading, though I confess, I skipped many of the personal sharings by Kyriacos at the advice of my husband. “The heart of the book lies in the words of Fr. Maximos for those who are already Orthodox.” For those folks not yet Orthodox, the personal aspect of Inner River shared by Kyraicos on his pilgrimages in this book may be of interest, as he himself is actively engaged in the process of discovering the hidden treasures of  Eastern Orthodox Christianity and brings a few friends with him along the way.

Veronica Hughes

Inner River by Kyriacos C. Markides, Image Books, New York

Elder Paisius of Greece has a new disciple! Recommended reading, The Gurus, the Young Man and Elder Paisius


Bubba and Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos

Our little dog, Bubba, loves to sit on the stairs in our cabin in process in Platina, CA, right above the icon of Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos.

If you would like to read a remarkable book related to Orthodoxy and Eastern Religions and Gurus – in addition to my book – look no further!

My experiences were quite tame in comparison – thank goodness!

Veronica Hughes

The Gurus,
the Young Man
and Elder Paisius

by Dionysius
Farasiotis

This powerful memoir tells the story of a Greek youth who, out of a desire to know the truth empirically, began to experiment in yoga, hypnotism, and various occult techniques. Eventually drawn back to the Faith of his forefathers—Orthodox Christianity—he visited the ancient monastic republic of Mount Athos in his native Greece, where he was brought to a knowledge of the Truth of Jesus Christ by the saintly Elder Paisios (1924–1994). Nevertheless, believing he had only found “part of the truth” on the Holy Mountain, he chose to give the “same opportunity” to Hindu yogis that he had given to Elder Paisios and other Orthodox monks. Thus, at the age of twenty-five, he embarked on a trip to India, where he undertook his search in the ashrams of three famous gurus, one of whom was worshipped as a god. His experiences in India, along with his subsequent encounters with Elder Paisios on Mount Athos, are recounted in the present book in vivid detail.

Popular in Greece since its first publication there in 2001, The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios is a page-turning narrative of both outward adventures and inward struggles. What stands out most in this book, however, is the radiant image of Elder Paisios, possessed of divine gifts, laboring in prayer for his fellow man, and overflowing with unconditional love. Through this, one sees the uncreated Source of the elder’s love and of the author’s spiritual transformation: the true God-man Jesus Christ, Who honors man’s personal freedom while drawing him, through love, into everlasting union with Himself.

Softcover, 320 pages, $17 US
ISBN 978-1-887904-16-2

Historical Comment about the New Age from my You Tube Channel and my response:


Comment:

New Age practices and philosophies sometimes draw inspiration from major world religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism; with strong influences from East Asian religions, Gnosticism, Neopaganism, New Thought, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Universalism and Western esotericism. The term New Age refers to the coming astrological Age of Aquarius.

My Reply:

This is an accurate summation of the movement. After twenty plus years of spiritual searching in a New Age and Eastern religions and practices, I am so grateful to now be Eastern Orthodox. There were partial truths in all that I participated in, but now I realize that most were a distraction and some were spiritually dangerous! I was slowly being seduced to the dark side in the guise of enlightenment.

By the grace of God my soul was preserved!. The Eastern Orthodox Church is the ancient Church. If one is searching for mystical fulfillment, sound spiritual doctrine and communion with God – all this can be found in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. All else pales in the Light of Christ and His Church.

Veronica Hughes