New Beginnings


Fresco of the Throne of Preparation (Bucovina)

Pentecost blessings, T.S. Eliot malaise and a little city hermit’s new beginnings, and I Have a Question!

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

(“Little Gidding” ― T.S. Eliot)


Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling (…)

(“East Coker,” from *The Four Quartets* East Coker —T. S. Eliot)


+ Monday of the Holy Spirit

Dear Friends in Christ
May the Holy Spirit give you the fruits of His grace this Pentecost!

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.


I can’t believe May flew by so fast! Little did I know when I wrote on May 1st that my Bight Week pilgrimage “felt like a landmark and a watershed” that so many things in my life would change at such a dizzying speed! Thank you for staying in touch through my inbox. So many emails to reply, questions to answer, stories to be told … I honestly feel surprised and deeply humbled by your love and encouragement. Please be patient with me, as I am simultaneously moving on to new ministries, a new home and a new job!!!. More in the posts to follow…

I need your help in another matter too. Please send me your questions–preferably practical questions that impact you personally in a real way but more theoretical ones too–ideas, topics etc about WHAT you would like me to blog about. Would you be more interested in …

a.Saint’s lives, homilies, holy men’s lives and teachings yet untranslated into English?

b.Vignettes, stories and photos from pilgrimages and Orthodoxy all over the world?

c. Conversion stories, especially from Protestantism to Orthodoxy?

d. ‘Missionary’ vignettes from my life and ministry here?

e. Differences between ‘American’, ‘British’ , ‘Greek’, Russian’, ‘African’ Orthodoxy, if I am allowed to make use of such terms and offer some poor reflections based on first-hand experience?

f. Witnessing in a multicultural and secular country?

g. Differences between a ‘Cradle’ Orthodox person and a ‘Convert’? (Although I personally shun such labels for various reasons)

h. “Questions and Answers”, ‘Erotapokriseis’ ‘literature’? I have received numerous questions over the years, which I have primarily answered in private, but maybe I should make these public. (Anonymously of course) (If one person has a question, most likely many more have the same question.) Witnessing in a multicultural and secular country?

i. … ???

All of the above? None of the above? Please respond at either the Comment section below or at my email – Your suggestions to my previous question–whether this blog should become bilingual etc– have been such a great help! Thank you ever so much for your love and encouragement! I really need to decide where to lay emphasis on.













Waiting and Watching

 No, NOT this kind of nightmarish waiting, this living death.
But this:
waiting and watching orthodox church
Some years ago a close family friend passed away in a nursing home. She spent the last months of her life in what appeared to be a state of semi-consciousness, rocking back and forth in her chair and muttering to herself, “Waiting, waiting…”. We never did learn just what she was waiting for, other than death. She was, though, a fervent and faithful Christian, and her “waiting” seemed very much akin to “watching.”

Her Protestant background gave her little in the way of initiation into “spiritual warfare.” Yet instinctively—by grace—she understood what that struggle was about. She had seldom read writings of the Church Fathers, so she had little in the way of a vocabulary to express the inner meaning of “waiting.” Nevertheless, she seemed fully aware that the word does not imply what we usually think it does: an inactive state of expectation for something to come, something that is not yet present or available. It describes, rather, a pathway that leads toward fulfillment of that expectation. Insofar as it is grounded in “watchfulness,” the act of “waiting” is an inner dynamic of the heart or soul, which offers us immediate experience of the object of our most fervent longing. This our friend understood. And it seemed to transform her days and months of waiting into a true pilgrimage.

Waiting and Watching Old Age Depression Pilgrimage

As it is used in patristic tradition, “watchfulness” implies an inner attentiveness or vigilance. It requires wariness in the face of attacks from both within and without, from our worst inner impulses and from the onslaught of demonic temptations. Accordingly, watchfulness is a key element in spiritual warfare.

The eighth century ascetic writer Hesychios of Sinai composed a remarkable treatise on “watchfulness and holiness,” included in the Philokalia. He begins with this description:

“Watchfulness is a spiritual method which, if sedulously practiced over a long period, completely frees us with God’s help from impassioned thoughts, impassioned words and evil actions. It leads, in so far as this is possible, to a sure knowledge of the inapprehensible God, and helps us to penetrate the divine and hidden mysteries. It enables us to fulfill every divine commandment in the Old and New Testaments and bestows upon us every blessing of the age to come. It is, in the true sense, purity of heart…”.

This is an extraordinary statement that at first reading seems highly improbable. According to Hesychios, watchfulness or spiritual attentiveness can liberate us from destructive thoughts, words and deeds; it makes it possible for us actually to know the unknowable God and the “mysteries” of the spiritual world; it equips us to respond with perfect obedience to all of the biblical commandments; and it conveys to us—in the here and now—“every blessing of the age to come.”


We bury our seeds and wait,
Winter blocks the road,
Flowers are taken prisoner underground,
But then green justice tenders a spear (Rumi)

Waiting and Watching

If the personal experience of this holy monk enabled him to make such a remarkable affirmation, it is only by virtue of the key phrase, the key reality: “with God’s help.” If watchfulness, termed also “noetic stillness” or “guarding of the heart,” can lead in this life to such a state of beatitude, it is only because God wages spiritual warfare on our behalf. The rewards of that struggle—freedom from destructive passions, knowledge of God, and every eternal blessing—are not our doing. They are not the result of our own initiative or spiritual power. They are a gift, wholly gratuitous and unmerited. They require on our part only an attitude of repentance, an inner openness to grace, and the desire to share, now and forever, in God’s own holiness.


Old men ought to be explorers

Here and there does not matter

We must be still and still moving

Into another intensity

For a further union, a deeper communion

Through the dark cold and empty desolation,

The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters

Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

( T. S. Eliot, “East Coker,” from *The Four Quartets*)


For most of us, whether we are conscious of it or not, life consists essentially in “waiting.” The hyper-activism that characterizes the life of most Western societies today, distracts us enough from what is essential, that we have lost touch with the real meaning and value of being alive. We are “waiting for Godot” rather than for “the one thing needful.” To acquire that “one thing,” however, we need to shift our focus, reacquire a sense of genuine value (and civility), reorganize our priorities, and reject the artificial virtues society inculcates in us: aggressive competition, perfectionism, status, and material gain. We need to discover once again the truth that the wealthiest among us is the monk who has renounced every possession and obtained the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” We need to find peace and happiness not in the marketplace or in accumulating “stuff,” but in assuming the inner struggle of attentiveness, of watchfulness, which alone leads to “every blessing of the age to come.”

Some day we may well find ourselves sitting in a nursing home or some equivalent, rocking back and forth, and waiting. For many people of any age, that is a description of their daily existence, whether at the office, or at home, on the playing field or in the trenches. Their waiting can be filled with boredom or anxiety, or with a gnawing conviction that their personal ambitions are meaningless and their hopes empty and vain. To people like this (and it may be a temptation for all of us) waiting can easily lead to despair.

Waiting with watchfulness, though, can become a pilgrimage. It can take us on an inner journey that leads us through the rough places of passions and temptations and on to every blessing of the world to come. All it requires is an attitude of repentance, an unquenchable thirst for those blessings—and an abundance of help from God.