This second article on warfare and Orthodoxy plans to focus on the warfare that every baptised Orthodox Christian is called to engage in, the spiritual warfare. Many great books have been written on this very subject, and this author would recommend the four volumes of the Evergetinos, Unseen Warfare by St Theophan the Recluse, and The Field and The Arena by St Ignatius Brianchaninov. These provide step by step methods by which we can start to take our spiritual lives seriously and engage in spiritual exercise. First among these books is the Ladder of Divine Ascent of St John Climacus, which is traditionally read during Great Lent. What follows is but a brief summary of the idea of spiritual warfare.
St John of Damascus was born in 675 or 676 in Damascus to a family of civil servants. His father and grandfather were notable administrators in the Muslim court at that time and it is possible that St John also occupied this role for a time. Brought up with a Hellenic education as well as one in the culture of the Muslim Caliphate, St John used both in the service of Christ. The first was used to defend the veneration of icons when he was a monk at the Mar Saba Monastery near Jerusalem, and the second used to critique and highlight the inconsistencies within Islam. He reposed in the Lord in the year 749 at the Mar Saba Monastery.
"What do I need?" A Lenten reflection on passages from the spiritual diary of St John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ
St John of Kronstadt, a saint of the 19th century, made some Lenten reflections on the things that are necessary in this life. He starts, “What do I need? I need nothing upon earth besides the indispensable. What do I need? I need the Lord, I need His grace, His kingdom within me.”
In the year 626, the Byzantine Empire was experiencing political turmoil. The emperor Phocas had recently been overthrown by a young general, Heraclius, and the empire had been invaded by both the Persians to the East and the Avars to the West.
The topic of why we fast in the Orthodox Church was touched on in the previous article (see here) but was not completely explained. The reasons why Orthodox fast during certain periods such as Great Lent or on Wednesdays and Fridays were dealt with in Part 1. Here, we will examine why we fast at all.
The aim of this short article is to explain how we Orthodox Christians fast. It should be stated upfront that fasting is not mandatory for Orthodox Christians. Unlike Islam, it is not a sin if one does not fast. Having said that, fasting is one of the best weapons in our arsenal in dealing with the struggles and the temptations which we face.
St Ephraim the Syrian was a fourth century deacon, hymnographer and theologian. He wrote on a variety of themes and was extremely prolific. His hymns alone cover topics ranging from the Nativity to refuting heresies, and his prose writings on the books of Genesis and Exodus are still read.
Before closely analysing the words of this Lenten Prayer, it is necessary to go into why this Prayer is recited during the Lenten period. Our Church understands that this Prayer captures the penitent aspect of the spirit of Great Lent, and this is prayed in the weekday Lenten services.
This Sunday is the Second Sunday of Lent, on which the Orthodox Church commemorates St Gregory Palamas. This staunch defender of our faith and Father of the Church lived from 1296 to 1359. Over the course of his life as a monk and a bishop he fought against thinkers who wished to drag the Church away from its tradition and towards a Western, reason-based mode of thinking in comparison with traditional Eastern thought.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy, also known as the Feast of Orthodoxy or the Triumph of Orthodoxy has a backstory which should be remembered by all Orthodox Christians. Whether they know it or not, it impacts their daily life.
As our society approaches December 25 each year, we hear about the spirit of Christmas and we know what that means. It is a spirit of joy, a spirit of love extended to everyone around you. Some might say that it is a spirit of giving, and many Orthodox would probably agree with that to the extent that it is not a consumeristic spirit. What then is the spirit of Great Lent, the most important season on the Orthodox calendar?