Freedom and Fervor

261648.pFirst full day in Russia. We succumbed right away to our American need for daily coffee, although, when we are in Russia, we drink a lot more instant coffee because it is kind of a thing here if you drink coffee at all. To this day, no matter where I am in the world, if I drink freeze-dried, instant coffee, it takes me to Russia (even more than vodka or tea).

But seriously, I feel so grateful on my first day back after four years of being away. Grateful for this land and culture that raised my wife and, at least partially, is raising my children. Grateful for a local program here that allows families of our size discounts and perks to encourage others to have larger families. It is a very positive place to bring kids: visiting museums, traveling to interesting places, and eating authentic market-purchased food. We even toasted last night to Russian cows for their delicious dairy products, some of which Americans are just now discovering. Continue reading

Remembering Pastor Jim

0b0ef12A good and godly spiritual father of mine passed this morning. The thoughts and good wishes of so many of his spiritual children have been flooding the internet already, and I wish to add my remembrances to the growing chorus.

My parents and I met Pastor James M. Riccitelli at a moment of deep spiritual crisis, when the church that we had been attending gave my parents an ultimatum that drove them out of the fellowship. It was unfortunately not a new experience for us. I was in college at the time, and by then, my family and I had been a part of not less than 10 different churches. But this loss felt different than the others. I remember that I had a key to this church because I had become a member of her, not merely adhering to my parent’s wishes. When it was clear that we were not going to be able to go back, I looked with weariness toward the next fellowship of believers in Christ. What would they be like? Would we be welcome with all our brokenness and failed dreams?

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Care for the Soul, a Thing Immortal

Frs.-Herman-and-SeraphimA1Test thyself, who thou art; come to know thy nature; come to know that thy body is mortal, while thy soul is immortal, that our life is two­-sided: one side, proper the flesh, is transitory, while the other, related to the soul, does not admit limitation. Therefore, take heed to thyself, do not dwell on the mortal as eternal, and do not disdain the eternal as transitory. Do not care about the flesh, because it passes away; take care for the soul, a thing immortal.

— Saint Basil the Great

Fr. Herman (Podmoshesky), sometime abbot of St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, died today after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease and diabetes. While his wish was for his body to lie in the ground close to his friend and co-struggler in the monastic life, Fr. Seraphim Rose, his precious soul, which he poured out on behalf of so many, will still be alive in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved him. He is one of the first Orthodox pastors to teach me the true place of beauty in the spiritual life and how important it is to feed one’s soul with truth, beauty, and goodness before ever aspiring to things of the spirit. Continue reading