I took quite a break from this blog after my last post. Part of my reluctance to post stemmed from events in my own life. I lost my job earlier this summer and entered a period of mild depression as a result: I was overwhelmed by the sense of having nothing to do and nothing to say. I became despondent in my everyday life, slept a lot, and felt I had little to contribute to conversations about faith, culture, politics, &c. But I don’t want to overstate the severity of my low mood over the past couple months. Indeed, part of my reluctance to post stemmed from this particular phase of my spiritual journey: I’m learning the virtues of silence, not in the old Quaker sense of silent worship or the mystical sense of silent contemplation, but silence with regard to my own condition, growth, and struggle. I’ve embraced uncertainty and confusion (which have been quite pervasive this summer, both in my personal life and in the world at large). I’m reminded of the wisdom of St. Nikolaj Velimirović in a passage I’ve quoted more than once on this blog: O proud man, if only your guardian angel would somehow remove the veil from your eyes and show you the endless open sea of all that you do not know. You would kneel before every man before whom you have exhibited pride and kneel before every man whom you have belittled. You would cry out lamenting: “Forgive me, forgive me! I do not know anything!”
I’ve been reading Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander, an Orthodox classic, and it is having a profound impact on me. I recommend it to Christians of all traditions. Way of the Ascetics is a kind of informal compendium of Orthodox teachings from over the centuries. It’s a slim volume with very short chapters, and I’ve been reading it slowly each day, like a devotional. I’ll probably continue reading and rereading it indefinitely.
One of the things Colliander captures so well about Orthodoxy is the importance of those parts of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus warns against praying, fasting, and giving alms in the open, where everyone can see. For this reason, I’ve been keeping myself and my faith practices relatively hidden over the past couple months. I haven’t talked about it as much as I did last winter and spring, and I haven’t felt moved to write about it. But that is slowly changing. I’m opening back up, and I feel I will have more to say on this blog very soon.