Me and my shadow

“What pleasure in life remains without its share of sorrow? What glory stands on earth unchanged? All things are feebler than a shadow; all things, more deceptive than dreams. One instant, and death supplants them all.”

Excerpt from the first of the funerary hymns, composed by St. John of Damascus

I saw my shadow once while at a cemetery, and it reminded me of this, one of my favorite hymns. 

The lived experience of the Church recommends a healthy remembrance of our own mortality (μνήμη θανάτου, memento mori), for it is the common and inescapable lot of us all. Another great Syrian saint, Isaac (7th c.), said: “This life is given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.” 

How are you dead?

Mural in the guesthouse at Holy Protection Monastery, White Haven, Pennsylvania.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God”

Psalm 50 (LXX)

Are we dead in sins, or dead to sin?

Christ resurrects us from the “death” of sinful living and constantly giving into temptations, and helps us put sin to death (cf. Colossians 3:5) in us. He cleans our pierced hearts of the poison deposited there by the arrows of temptation.

St. Syncletica on thoughts

“The soul, like a ship, when it is swallowed up by external waves, is overwhelmed by internal bilge water. Certainly, we are destroyed sometimes by external actions, and other times we are led astray by internal thoughts. Therefore, we must watch out for encounters with external spirits, and drain out the impurities of internal thoughts; and always be vigilant of thoughts, for they occur continuously. In reference to the external waves, when sailors cry out, often their salvation occurs by means of the nearest boat. But the bilge waters, often while the sea is silent and the sailors are sleeping, come in and drown them.”

“Endeavor, O Priest…”

“Endeavor, O priest, to show yourself to be a blameless worker, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

The opening line of St. Basil’s admonition to priests, paraphrasing St. Paul (2 Timothy 2:15), included in the Hieratikon, the priest’s service book.
A depiction of St. Basil, by Kontoglou, found in the Hieratikon (Apostoliki Diakonia). The scroll reads “No one bound by carnal desires and pleasures is worthy to approach, draw near, or minister to you, the King of Glory. For to serve you is great and awesome [, even for the heavenly powers.],” from the priestly prayer read prior to the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy.