The Practice of the Presence of God

Brother Lawrence was born Nicholas Herman around 1610 in Herimenil, Lorraine, a Duchy of France. His birth records were destroyed in a fire at his parish church during the Thirty Years War, a war in which he fought as a young soldier. It was also the war in which he sustained a near fatal injury to his sciatic nerve. The injury left him quite crippled and in chronic pain for the rest of his life.

The details of his early life are few and sketchy. However, we know he was educated both at home and by his parish priest whose first name was Lawrence and who was greatly admired by the young Nicolas. He was well read and, from an early age, drawn to a spiritual life of faith and love for God.

We also know that in the years between the abrupt end of his duties as a soldier and his entry into monastic life, he spent a period of time in the wilderness living like one of the early desert fathers. Also, prior to entering the monastery, and perhaps as preparation, he spent time as a civil servant. In his characteristic, self deprecating way, he mentions that he was a “footman who was clumsy and broke everything”.

At mid-life he entered a newly established monastery in Paris where he became the cook for the community which grew to over one hundred members. After fifteen years, his duties were shifted to the sandal repair shop but, even then, he often returned to the busy kitchen to help out.

In times as troubled as today, Brother Lawrence, discovered, then followed, a pure and uncomplicated way to walk continually in God’s presence. For some forty years, he lived and walked with Our Father at his side. Yet, through his own words, we learn that Brother Lawrence’s first ten years were full of severe trials and challenges.

A gentle man of joyful spirit, Brother Lawrence shunned attention and the limelight, knowing that outside distraction “spoils all”. It was not until after his death that a few of his letters were collected. Joseph de Beaufort, representative and counsel to the local archbishop, first published the letters in a small pamphlet. The following year, in a second publication which he titled, ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’, de Beaufort included, as introductory material, the content of four conversations he had with Brother Lawrence.

In this small book, through letters and conversations, Brother Lawrence simply and beautifully explains how to continually walk with God – not from the head but from the heart. Brother Lawrence left the gift of a way of life available to anyone who seeks to know God’s peace and presence; that anyone, regardless of age or circumstance, can practice -anywhere, anytime. Brother Lawrence also left the gift of a direct approach to living in God’s presence that is as practical today as it was three hundred years ago.

Brother Lawrence died in 1691, having practiced God’s presence for over forty years. His quiet death was much like his monastic life where each day and each hour was a new beginning and a fresh commitment to love God with all his heart.

Introduction

At the time of de Beaufort’s interviews, Brother Lawrence was in his late fifties. Joseph de Beaufort later commented that the crippled brother, who was then in charge of the upkeep of over one hundred pairs of sandals, was “rough in appearance but gentle in grace.”

First Conversation

The first time I saw Brother Lawrence was upon the 3rd of August, 1666. He told me that God had done him a singular favor in his conversion at the age of eighteen. During that winter, upon seeing a tree stripped of its leaves and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed and after that the flowers and fruit appear, Brother Lawrence received a high view of the Providence and Power of God which has never since been effaced from his soul. This view had perfectly set him loose from the world and kindled in him such a love for God, that he could not tell whether it had increased in the forty years that he had lived since.

Brother Lawrence said he had been footman to M. Fieubert, the treasurer, and that he was a great awkward fellow who broke everything. He finally decided to enter a monastery thinking that he would there be made to smart for his awkwardness and the faults he would commit, and so he would sacrifice his life with its pleasures to God. But Brother Lawrence said that God had surprised him because he met with nothing but satisfaction in that state.

Brother Lawrence related that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s Presence by continually conversing with Him. It was a shameful thing to quit His conversation to think of trifles and fooleries. We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of God which would yield us great joy in being devoted to Him.

He said we ought to quicken and enliven our faith. It was lamentable we had so little. Instead of taking faith for the rule of their conduct, men amused themselves with trivial devotions which changed daily. He said that faith was sufficient to bring us to a high degree of perfection. We ought to give ourselves up to God with regard both to things temporal and spiritual and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will. Whether God led us by suffering or by consolation all would be equal to a soul truly resigned.

He said we need fidelity in those disruptions in the ebb and flow of prayer when God tries our love to Him. This was the time for a complete act of resignation, whereof one act alone could greatly promote our spiritual advancement.

He said that as far as the miseries and sins he heard of daily in the world, he was so far from wondering at them, that, on the contrary, he was surprised there were not more considering the malice sinners were capable of. For his part, he prayed for them. But knowing that God could remedy the mischief they did when He pleased, he gave himself no further trouble.

Brother Lawrence said to arrive at such resignation as God requires, we should carefully watch over all the passions that mingle in spiritual as well as temporal things. God would give light concerning those passions to those who truly desire to serve Him.

At the end of this first conversation Brother Lawrence said that if my purpose for the visit was to sincerely discuss how to serve God, I might come to him as often as I pleased and without any fear of being troublesome. If this was not the case, then I ought visit him no more.

Second Conversation

Brother Lawrence told me he had always been governed by love without selfish views. Since he resolved to make the love of God the end of all his actions, he had found reasons to be well satisfied with his method. He was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of God, seeking Him only, and nothing else, not even His gifts.

He said he had been long troubled in mind from a certain belief that he should be damned. All the men in the world could not have persuaded him to the contrary. This trouble of mind had lasted four years during which time he had suffered much.

Finally he reasoned: I did not engage in a religious life but for the love of God. I have endeavored to act only for Him. Whatever becomes of me, whether I be lost or saved, I will always continue to act purely for the love of God. I shall have this good at least that till death I shall have done all that is in me to love Him. From that time on Brother Lawrence lived his life in perfect liberty and continual joy. He placed his sins between himself and God to tell Him that he did not deserve His favors yet God still continued to bestow them in abundance.

Brother Lawrence said that in order to form a habit of conversing with God continually and referring all we do to Him, we must at first apply to Him with some diligence. Then, after a little care, we would find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty. He expected after the pleasant days God had given him, he would have his turn of pain and suffering. Yet he was not uneasy about it. Knowing that, since he could do nothing of himself, God would not fail to give him the strength to bear them.

When an occasion of practicing some virtue was offered, he addressed himself to God saying, “Lord, I cannot do this unless Thou enablest me”. And then he received strength more than sufficient. When he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault saying to God, “I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss.” Then, after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.

Brother Lawrence said we ought to act with God in the greatest simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and plainly, and imploring His assistance in our affairs just as they happen. God never failed to grant it, as Brother Lawrence had often experienced.

He said he had been lately sent into Burgundy to buy the provision of wine for the community. This was a very unwelcome task for him because he had no turn for business and because he was lame and could not go about the boat but by rolling himself over the casks. Yet he gave himself no uneasiness about it, nor about the purchase of the wine. He said to God, it was His business he was about, and that he afterwards found it very well performed. He mentioned that it had turned out the same way the year before when he was sent to Auvergne.

So, likewise, in his business in the kitchen (to which he had naturally a great aversion), having accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of God and asking for His grace to do his work well, he had found everything easy during the fifteen years that he had been employed there. He was very pleased with the post he was now in. Yet he was as ready to quit that as the former, since he tried to please God by doing little things for the love of Him in any work he did. With him the set times of prayer were not different from other times. He retired to pray according to the directions of his superior, but he did not need such retirement nor ask for it because his greatest business did not divert him from God.

Since he knew his obligation to love God in all things, and as he endeavored to do so, he had no need of a director to advise him, but he greatly needed a confessor to absolve him. He said he was very sensible of his faults but not discouraged by them. He confessed them to God and made no excuses. Then, he peaceably resumed his usual practice of love and adoration.

In his trouble of mind, Brother Lawrence had consulted no one. Knowing only by the light of faith that God was present, he contented himself with directing all his actions to Him. He did everything with a desire to please Him and let what would come of it.

He said that useless thoughts spoil all – that the mischief began there. We ought to reject them as soon as we perceived their impertinence and return to our communion with God. In the beginning he had often passed his time appointed for prayer in rejecting wandering thoughts and falling right back into them. He could never regulate his devotion by certain methods as some do. Nevertheless, at first he had meditated for some time, but afterwards that went off in a manner that he could give no account of. Brother Lawrence emphasized that all bodily mortifications and other exercises are useless unless they serve to arrive at the union with God by love. He had well considered this. He found that the shortest way to go straight to God was by a continual exercise of love and doing all things for His sake.

He noted that there was a great difference between the acts of the intellect and those of the will. Acts of the intellect were comparatively of little value. Acts of the will were all important. Our only business was to love and delight ourselves in God. All possible kinds of mortification, if they were void of the love of God, could not efface a single sin. Instead, we ought, without anxiety, to expect the pardon of our sins from the blood of Jesus Christ only endeavoring to love Him with all our hearts. And he noted that God seemed to have granted the greatest favors to the greatest sinners as more signal monuments of His mercy.

Brother Lawrence said the greatest pains or pleasures of this world were not to be compared with what he had experienced of both kinds in a spiritual state. As a result he feared nothing, desiring only one thing of God – that he might not offend Him. He said he carried no guilt. “When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to do so. I shall never do otherwise if I am left to myself. If I fail not, then I give God thanks acknowledging that it comes from Him.”

Third Conversation

Brother Lawrence told me that the foundation of the spiritual life in him had been a high notion and esteem of God in faith. When he had once well established his faith he had no other care but to reject every other thought so he might perform all his actions for the love of God. He said when sometimes he had not thought of God for a good while he did not disquiet himself for it. Having acknowledged his wretchedness to God, he simply returned to Him with so much the greater trust in Him.

He said the trust we put in God honors Him much and draws down great graces. Also, that it was impossible not only that God should deceive but that He should long let a soul suffer which is perfectly resigned to Him and resolved to endure everything for His sake.

Brother Lawrence often experienced the ready succors of Divine Grace. And because of his experience of grace, when he had business to do, he did not think of it beforehand. When it was time to do it, he found in God, as in a clear mirror, all that was fit for him to do. When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of God a fresh remembrance coming from God invested his soul and so inflamed and transported him that it was difficult for him to contain himself. He said he was more united to God in his outward employments than when he left them for devotion in retirement.

Brother Lawrence said that the worst that could happen to him was to lose that sense of God which he had enjoyed so long. Yet the goodness of God assured him He would not forsake him utterly and that He would give him strength to bear whatever evil He permitted to happen to him. Brother Lawrence, therefore, said he feared nothing. He had no occasion to consult with anybody about his state. In the past, when he had attempted to do it, he had always come away more perplexed. Since Brother Lawrence was ready to lay down his life for the love of God, he had no apprehension of danger.

He said that perfect resignation to God was a sure way to heaven, a way in which we have always sufficient light for our conduct. In the beginning of the spiritual life we ought to be faithful in doing our duty and denying ourselves and then, after a time, unspeakable pleasures followed. In difficulties we need only have recourse to Jesus Christ and beg His grace with which everything became easy.

Brother Lawrence said that many do not advance in the Christian progress because they stick in penances and particular exercises while they neglect the love of God which is the end. This appeared plainly by their works and was the reason why we see so little solid virtue. He said there needed neither art nor science for going to God, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him and to love Him only.

Fourth Conversation

Brother Lawrence spoke with great openness of heart concerning his manner of going to God whereof some part is related already. He told me that all consists in one hearty renunciation of everything which we are sensible does not lead to God. We might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with Him with freedom and in simplicity. We need only to recognize God intimately present with us and address ourselves to Him every moment. We need to beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have completed them.

In our conversation with God we should also engage in praising, adoring, and loving Him incessantly for His infinite goodness and perfection. Without being discouraged on account of our sins, we should pray for His grace with a perfect confidence, as relying upon the infinite merits of our Lord. Brother Lawrence said that God never failed offering us His grace at each action. It never failed except when Brother Lawrence’s thoughts had wandered from a sense of God’s Presence, or he forgot to ask His assistance. He said that God always gave us light in our doubts, when we had no other design but to please Him.

Our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works. Instead, it depended on doing that for God’s sake which we commonly do for our own. He thought it was lamentable to see how many people mistook the means for the end, addicting themselves to certain works which they performed very imperfectly by reason of their human or selfish regards. The most excellent method he had found for going to God was that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing men but purely for the love of God.

Brother Lawrence felt it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times. We are as strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action, as by prayer in its season. His own prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of God, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine Love. When the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might. Thus he passed his life in continual joy. Yet he hoped that God would give him somewhat to suffer when he grew stronger.

Brother Lawrence said we ought, once and for all, heartily put our whole trust in God, and make a total surrender of ourselves to Him, secure that He would not deceive us. We ought not weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed. We should not wonder if, in the beginning, we often failed in our endeavors, but that at last we should gain a habit which will naturally produce its acts in us without our care and to our exceeding great delight.

The whole substance of religion was faith, hope, and charity. In the practice of these we become united to the will of God. Everything else is indifferent and to be used as a means that we may arrive at our end and then be swallowed up by faith and charity. All things are possible to him who believes. They are less difficult to him who hopes. They are more easy to him who loves, and still more easy to him who perseveres in the practice of these three virtues. The end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshippers of God we can possibly be, and as we hope to be through all eternity.

We must, from time to time, honestly consider and thoroughly examine ourselves. We will, then, realize that we are worthy of great contempt. Brother Lawrence noted that when we directly confront ourselves in this manner, we will understand why we are subject to all kinds of misery and problems. We will realize why we are subject to changes and fluctuations in our health, mental outlook, and dispositions. And we will, indeed, recognize that we deserve all the pain and labors God sends to humble us.

After this, we should not wonder that troubles, temptations, oppositions, and contradictions happen to us from men. We ought, on the contrary, to submit ourselves to them and bear them as long as God pleases as things highly advantageous to us. The greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is upon Divine Grace.

Being questioned by one of his own community (to whom he was obliged to open himself) by what means he had attained such an habitual sense of God, Brother Lawrence told him that, since his first coming to the monastery, he had considered God as the end of all his thoughts and desires, as the mark to which they should tend, and in which they should terminate.

He noted that in the beginning of his novitiate he spent the hours appointed for private prayer in thinking of God so as to convince his mind and impress deeply upon his heart the Divine existence. He did this by devout sentiments and submission to the lights of faith, rather than by studied reasonings and elaborate meditations. By this short and sure method he exercised himself in the knowledge and love of God, resolving to use his utmost endeavor to live in a continual sense of His Presence, and, if possible, never to forget Him more.

When he had thus, in prayer, filled his mind with great sentiments of that Infinite Being, he went to his work appointed in the kitchen (for he was then cook for the community). There having first considered severally the things his office required, and when and how each thing was to be done, he spent all the intervals of his time, both before and after his work, in prayer.

When he began his business, he said to God with a filial trust in Him, “O my God, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance. Receive all my works, and possess all my affections.” As he proceeded in his work, he continued his familiar conversation with his Maker, imploring His grace, and offering to Him all his actions.

When he had finished, he examined himself how he had discharged his duty. If he found well, he returned thanks to God. If otherwise, he asked pardon and, without being discouraged, he set his mind right again. He then continued his exercise of the presence of God as if he had never deviated from it. “Thus,” said he, “by rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state wherein it would be as difficult for me not to think of God as it was at first to accustom myself to it.”

As Brother Lawrence had found such an advantage in walking in the presence of God, it was natural for him to recommend it earnestly to others. More strikingly, his example was a stronger inducement than any arguments he could propose. His very countenance was edifying with such a sweet and calm devotion appearing that he could not but affect the beholders.

It was observed, that in the greatest hurry of business in the kitchen, he still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season with an even uninterrupted composure and tranquillity of spirit. “The time of business,” said he, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer. In the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Supper.”

Letters

Introduction

Brother Lawrence’s letters are the very heart and soul of what is titled ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’. All of these letters were written during the last ten years of his life. Many of them were to long-time friends, a Carmelite sister and a sister at a nearby convent. One or both of these friends were from his native village, perhaps relatives.

The first letter was probably written to the prioress of one of these convents. The second letter was written to Brother Lawrence’s own spiritual adviser. Note that the fourth letter is written in the third person where Brother Lawrence describes his own experience. The letters follow the tradition of substituting M— for specific names.

First Letter

You so earnestly desire that I describe the method by which I arrived at that habitual sense of God’s presence, which our merciful Lord has been pleased to grant me. I am complying with your request with my request that you show my letter to no one. If I knew that you would let it be seen, all the desire I have for your spiritual progress would not be enough to make me comply.

The account I can give you is: Having found in many books different methods of going to God and divers practices of the spiritual life, I thought this would serve rather to puzzle me than facilitate what I sought after, which was nothing but how to become wholly God’s. This made me resolve to give the all for the All. After having given myself wholly to God, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He, and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world.

Sometimes I considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of his judge. At other times I beheld Him in my heart as my Father, as my God. I worshipped Him the oftenest I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. I made this my business, not only at the appointed times of prayer but all the time; every hour, every minute, even in the height of my work, I drove from my mind everything that interrupted my thoughts of God.

I found no small pain in this exercise. Yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred. And I tried not to trouble or disquiet myself when my mind wandered. Such has been my common practice ever since I entered religious life. Though I have done it very imperfectly, I have found great advantages by it. These, I well know, are to be imputed to the mercy and goodness of God because we can do nothing without Him; and I still less than any.

When we are faithful to keep ourselves in His holy presence, and set Him always before us, this hinders our offending Him, and doing anything that may displease Him. It also begets in us a holy freedom, and, if I may so speak, a familiarity with God, where, when we ask, He supplies the graces we need. Over time, by often repeating these acts, they become habitual, and the presence of God becomes quite natural to us.

Please give Him thanks with me, for His great goodness towards me, which I can never sufficiently express, and for the many favors He has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. May all things praise Him. Amen.

Second Letter

Not finding my manner of life described in books, although I have no problem with that, yet, for reassurance, I would appreciate your thoughts about it.

In conversation some days ago a devout person told me the spiritual life was a life of grace, which begins with servile fear, which is increased by hope of eternal life, and which is consummated by pure love; that each of these states had its different steps, by which one arrives at last at that blessed consummation.

I have not followed these methods at all. On the contrary, I instinctively felt they would discourage me. Instead, at my entrance into religious life, I took a resolution to give myself up to God as the best satisfaction I could make for my sins and, for the love of Him, to renounce all besides.

For the first years, I commonly employed myself during the time set apart for devotion with thoughts of death, judgment, hell, heaven, and my sins. Thus I continued some years applying my mind carefully the rest of the day, and even in the midst of my work, to the presence of God, whom I considered always as with me, often as in my heart.

At length I began to do the same thing during my set time of prayer, which gave me joy and consolation. This practice produced in me so high an esteem for God that faith alone was enough to assure me.

Such was my beginning. Yet I must tell you that for the first ten years I suffered a great deal. During this time I fell often, and rose again presently. It seemed to me that all creatures, reason, and God Himself were against me and faith alone for me.

The apprehension that I was not devoted to God as I wished to be, my past sins always present to my mind, and the great unmerited favors which God did me, were the source of my sufferings and feelings of unworthiness. I was sometimes troubled with thoughts that to believe I had received such favors was an effect of my imagination, which pretended to be so soon where others arrived with great difficulty. At other times I believed that it was a willful delusion and that there really was no hope for me.

Finally, I considered the prospect of spending the rest of my days in these troubles. I discovered this did not diminish the trust I had in God at all. In fact, it only served to increase my faith. It then seemed that, all at once, I found myself changed. My soul, which, until that time was in trouble, felt a profound inward peace, as if she were in her center and place of rest.

Ever since that time I walk before God simply, in faith, with humility, and with love. I apply myself diligently to do nothing and think nothing which may displease Him. I hope that when I have done what I can, He will do with me what He pleases.

As for what passes in me at present, I cannot express it. I have no pain or difficulty about my state because I have no will but that of God. I endeavor to accomplish His will in all things. And I am so resigned that I would not take up a straw from the ground against His order or from any motive but that of pure love for Him.

I have ceased all forms of devotion and set prayers except those to which my state requires. I make it my priority to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I maintain a simple attention and a fond regard for God, which I may call an actual presence of God. Or, to put it another way, it is an habitual, silent, and private conversation of the soul with God. This gives me much joy and contentment. In short, I am sure, beyond all doubt, that my soul has been with God above these past thirty years. I pass over many things that I may not be tedious to you.

Yet, I think it is appropriate to tell you how I perceive myself before God, whom I behold as my King. I consider myself as the most wretched of men. I am full of faults, flaws, and weaknesses, and have committed all sorts of crimes against his King. Touched with a sensible regret I confess all my wickedness to Him. I ask His forgiveness. I abandon myself in His hands that He may do what He pleases with me.

My King is full of mercy and goodness. Far from chastising me, He embraces me with love. He makes me eat at His table. He serves me with His own hands and gives me the key to His treasures. He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways. And He treats me in all respects as His favorite. In this way I consider myself continually in His holy presence.

My most usual method is this simple attention, an affectionate regard for God to whom I find myself often attached with greater sweetness and delight than that of an infant at the mother’s breast. To choose an expression, I would call this state the bosom of God, for the inexpressible sweetness which I taste and experience there. If, at any time, my thoughts wander from it from necessity or infirmity, I am presently recalled by inward emotions so charming and delicious that I cannot find words to describe them. Please reflect on my great wretchedness, of which you are fully informed, rather than on the great favors God does one as unworthy and ungrateful as I am.

As for my set hours of prayer, they are simply a continuation of the same exercise. Sometimes I consider myself as a stone before a carver, whereof He is to make a statue. Presenting myself thus before God, I desire Him to make His perfect image in my soul and render me entirely like Himself. At other times, when I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit lifted up without any care or effort on my part. This often continues as if it was suspended yet firmly fixed in God like a center or place of rest.

I know that some charge this state with inactivity, delusion, and self-love. I confess that it is a holy inactivity. And it would be a happy self-love if the soul, in that state, were capable of it. But while the soul is in this repose, she cannot be disturbed by the kinds of things to which she was formerly accustomed. The things that the soul used to depend on would now hinder rather than assist her.

Yet, I cannot see how this could be called imagination or delusion because the soul which enjoys God in this way wants nothing but Him. If this is delusion, then only God can remedy it. Let Him do what He pleases with me. I desire only Him and to be wholly devoted to Him.

Please send me your opinion as I greatly value and have a singular esteem for your reverence, and am yours.

Third Letter

We have a God who is infinitely gracious and knows all our wants. I always thought that He would reduce you to extremity. He will come in His own time, and when you least expect it. Hope in Him more than ever. Thank Him with me for the favors He does you, particularly for the fortitude and patience which He gives you in your afflictions. It is a plain mark of the care He takes of you. Comfort yourself with Him, and give thanks for all.

I admire also the fortitude and bravery of M—. God has given him a good disposition and a good will; but he is still a little worldly and somewhat immature. I hope the affliction God has sent him will help him do some reflection and inner searching and that it may prove to be a wholesome remedy to him. It is a chance for him to put all his trust in God who accompanies him everywhere. Let him think of Him as much as he can, especially in time of great danger.

A little lifting up of the heart and a remembrance of God suffices. One act of inward worship, though upon a march with sword in hand, are prayers which, however short, are nevertheless very acceptable to God. And, far from lessening a soldier’s courage in occasions of danger, they actually serve to fortify it. Let him think of God as often as possible. Let him accustom himself, by degrees, to this small but holy exercise. No one sees it, and nothing is easier than to repeat these little internal adorations all through the day.

Please recommend to him that he think of God the most he can in this way. It is very fit and most necessary for a soldier, who is daily faced with danger to his life, and often to his very salvation.

I hope that God will assist him and all the family, to whom I present my service, being theirs and yours.

Fourth Letter

I am taking this opportunity to tell you about the sentiments of one of our society concerning the admirable effects and continual assistance he receives from the presence of God. May we both profit by them.

For the past forty years his continual care has been to be always with God; and to do nothing, say nothing, and think nothing which may displease Him. He does this without any view or motive except pure love of Him and because God deserves infinitely more.

He is now so accustomed to that Divine presence that he receives from it continual comfort and peace. For about thirty years his soul has been filled with joy and delight so continual, and sometimes so great, that he is forced to find ways to hide their appearing outwardly to others who may not understand.

If sometimes he becomes a little distracted from that Divine presence, God gently recalls Himself by a stirring in his soul. This often happens when he is most engaged in his outward chores and tasks. He answers with exact fidelity to these inward drawings, either by an elevation of his heart towards God, or by a meek and fond regard to Him, or by such words as love forms upon these occasions. For instance, he may say, “My God, here I am all devoted to You,” or “Lord, make me according to Your heart.”

It seems to him (in fact, he feels it) that this God of love, satisfied with such few words, reposes again and rests in the depth and center of his soul. The experience of these things gives him such certainty that God is always in the innermost part of his soul that he is beyond doubting it under any circumstances.

Judge by this what content and satisfaction he enjoys. While he continually finds within himself so great a treasure, he no longer has any need to search for it. He no longer has any anxiety about finding it because he now has his beautiful treasure open before him and may take what he pleases of it.

He often points out our blindness and exclaims that those who content themselves with so little are to be pitied. God, says he, has infinite treasure to bestow, and we take so little through routine devotion which lasts but a moment. Blind as we are, we hinder God, and stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favors plentifully. There they flow like a torrent, which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance.

Yet we often stop this torrent by the little value we set upon it. Let us stop it no more. Let us enter into ourselves and break down the bank which hinders it. Let us make way for grace. Let us redeem the lost time, for perhaps we have but little left. Death follows us close so let us be well prepared for it. We die but once and a mistake there is irretrievable.

I say again, let us enter into ourselves. The time presses. There is no room for delay. Our souls are at stake. It seems to me that you are prepared and have taken effectual measures so you will not be taken by surprise. I commend you for it. It is the one thing necessary. We must always work at it, because not to persevere in the spiritual life is to go back. But those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep. If the vessel of our soul is still tossed with winds and storms, let us awake the Lord who reposes in it. He will quickly calm the sea.

I have taken the liberty to impart to you these good sentiments that you may compare them with your own. May they serve to re-kindle them, if at any time they may be even a little cooled. Let us recall our first favors and remember our early joys and comforts. And, let us benefit from the example and sentiments of this brother who is little known by the world, but known and extremely caressed by God.

I will pray for you. Please pray also for me, as I am yours in our Lord.

Fifth Letter

Today I received two books and a letter from Sister M—, who is preparing to make her profession. She desires the prayers of your holy society, and yours in particular. I think she greatly values your support. Please do not disappoint her. Pray to God that she may take her vows in view of His love alone, and with a firm resolution to be wholly devoted to Him. I will send you one of those books about the presence of God; a subject which, in my opinion, contains the whole spiritual life. It seems to me that whoever duly practices it will soon become devout.

I know that for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things; because God will possess the heart alone. As He cannot possess it alone, without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there and do in it what He pleases unless it be left vacant to Him. There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Only those can comprehend it who practice and experience it. Yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive. It is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise. Let us do it from a principle of love, and because it is God’s will for us.

Were I a preacher, I would above all other things preach the practice of the presence of God. Were I a director, I would advise all the world to do it, so necessary do I think it, and so easy too. Ah! knew we but the want we have of the grace and assistance of God, we would never lose sight of Him, no, not for a moment.

Believe me. Immediately make a holy and firm resolution never more to forget Him. Resolve to spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence, deprived of all consolations for the love of Him if He thinks fit. Set heartily about this work, and if you do it sincerely, be assured that you will soon find the effects of it.

I will assist you with my prayers, poor as they are. I recommend myself earnestly to you and those of your holy society.

Sixth Letter

I have received from M— the things which you gave her for me. I wonder that you have not given me your thoughts on the little book I sent to you and which you must have received. Set heartily about the practice of it in your old age. It is better late than never.

I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of God. For my part I keep myself retired with Him in the depth and center of my soul as much as I can. While I am with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is insupportable. This practice does not tire the body. It is, however, proper to deprive it sometimes, nay often, of many little pleasures which are innocent and lawful. God will not permit a soul that desires to be devoted entirely to Him to take pleasures other than with Him. That is more than reasonable.

I do not say we must put any violent constraint upon ourselves. No, we must serve God in a holy freedom. We must work faithfully without trouble or disquiet, recalling our mind to God mildly and with tranquillity as often as we find it wandering from Him. It is, however, necessary to put our whole trust in God. We must lay aside all other cares and even some forms of devotion, though very good in themselves, yet such as one often engages in routinely. Those devotions are only means to attain to the end. Once we have established a habit of the practice of the presence of God, we are then with Him who is our end. We have no need to return to the means. We may simply continue with Him in our commerce of love, persevering in His holy presence with an act of praise, of adoration, or of desire or with an act of resignation, or thanksgiving, and in all the ways our spirits can invent.

Be not discouraged by the repugnance which you may find in it from nature. You must sacrifice yourself. At first, one often thinks it a waste of time. But you must go on and resolve to persevere in it until death, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may occur.

I recommend myself to the prayers of your holy society, and yours in particular. I am yours in our Lord.

Seventh Letter

I pity you much. It will be a great relief if you can leave the care of your affairs to M— and spend the remainder of your life only in worshipping God. He requires no great matters of us; a little remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration. Sometimes to pray for His grace. Sometimes to offer Him your sufferings. And sometimes to return Him thanks for the favors He has given you, and still gives you, in the midst of your troubles. Console yourself with Him the oftenest you can. Lift up your heart to Him at your meals and when you are in company. The least little remembrance will always be pleasing to Him.

You need not cry very loud. He is nearer to us than we are aware. And we do not always have to be in church to be with God. We may make an oratory of our heart so we can, from time to time, retire to converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love. Every one is capable of such familiar conversation with God, some more, some less. He knows what we can do.

Let us begin then. Perhaps He expects but one generous resolution on our part. Have courage. We have but little time to live. You are nearly sixty-four, and I am almost eighty. Let us live and die with God. Sufferings will be sweet and pleasant while we are with Him. Without Him, the greatest pleasures will be a cruel punishment to us. May He be blessed by all.

Gradually become accustomed to worship Him in this way; to beg His grace, to offer Him your heart from time to time; in the midst of your business, even every moment if you can. Do not always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules or particular forms of devotion. Instead, act in faith with love and humility.

You may assure M— of my poor prayers, and that I am their servant, and yours particularly.

Eighth Letter

You tell me nothing new. You are not the only one who is troubled with wandering thoughts. Our mind is extremely roving. But the will is mistress of all our faculties. She must recall our stray thoughts and carry them to God as their final end.

If the mind is not sufficiently controlled and disciplined at our first engaging in devotion, it contracts certain bad habits of wandering and dissipation. These are difficult to overcome. The mind can draw us, even against our will, to worldly things. I believe one remedy for this is to humbly confess our faults and beg God’s mercy and help.

I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer. Many words and long discourses are often the occasions of wandering. Hold yourself in prayer before God, like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man’s gate. Let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord. If your mind sometimes wanders and withdraws itself from Him, do not become upset. Trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to re-collect it. The will must bring it back in tranquillity. If you persevere in this manner, God will have pity on you.

One way to re-collect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and preserve it more in tranquillity, is not to let it wander too far at other times. Keep your mind strictly in the presence of God. Then being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its wanderings. I have told you already of the advantages we may draw from this practice of the presence of God. Let us set about it seriously and pray for one another.

Ninth Letter

The enclosed is an answer to that which I received from M—. Please deliver it to her. She is full of good will but she would go faster than grace! One does not become holy all at once. I recommend her to your guidance. We ought to help one another by our advice, and yet more by our good example. Please let me hear of her from time to time and whether she is very fervent and obedient.

Let us often consider that our only business in this life is to please God, that perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity. You and I have lived over forty years in the monastic life. Have we employed them in loving and serving God, who by His mercy has called us to this state and for that very end? I am sometimes filled with shame and confusion when I reflect, on the one hand, upon the great favors which God has done and continues to do for me; and, on the other, upon the ill use I have made of them and my small advancement in the way of perfection.

Since, by His mercy, He gives us yet a little time, let us begin in earnest. Let us repair the lost time. Let us return with full assurance to that Father of mercies, who is always ready to receive us affectionately. Let us generously renounce, for the love of Him, all that is not Himself. He deserves infinitely more. Let us think of Him perpetually. Let us put all our trust in Him.

I have no doubt that we shall soon receive an abundance of His grace, with which we can do all things, and, without which we can do nothing but sin. We cannot escape the dangers which abound in life without the actual and continual help of God. Let us pray to Him for it constantly.

How can we pray to Him without being with Him? How can we be with Him but in thinking of Him often? And how can we often think of Him, but by a holy habit which we should form of it? You will tell me that I always say the same thing. It is true, for this is the best and easiest method I know. I use no other. I advise all the world to do it.

We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him. And when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.

Tenth Letter

I have had a good deal of difficulty bringing myself to write to M.—. I do it now purely because you desire me to do so. Please address it and send it to him. It is pleasing to see all the faith you have in God. May He increase it in you more and more. We cannot have too much trust in so good and faithful a Friend who will never fail us in this world nor in the next.

If M.— takes advantage of the loss he has had and puts all his confidence in God, He will soon give him another friend more powerful and more inclined to serve him. He disposes of hearts as He pleases. Perhaps M.— was too attached to him he has lost. We ought to love our friends, but without encroaching upon the love of God, which must always be first.

Please keep my recommendation in mind that you think of God often; by day, by night, in your business, and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you. Leave Him not alone. You would think it rude to leave a friend alone who came to visit you. Why, then, must God be neglected? Do not forget Him but think on Him often. Adore Him continually. Live and die with Him. This is the glorious work of a Christian; in a word, this is our profession. If we do not know it, we must learn it.

I will endeavor to help you with my prayers, and am yours in our Lord.

Eleventh Letter

I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains; but I pray earnestly that God gives you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross. He will loose you when He thinks fit. Happy are those who suffer with Him. Accustom yourself to suffer in that manner, and seek from Him the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He judges necessary for you.

Worldly people do not comprehend these truths. It is not surprising though, since they suffer like what they are and not like Christians. They see sickness as a pain against nature and not as a favor from God. Seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress. But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of God, out of His mercy and as the means He uses for their salvation, commonly find sweetness and consolation in it.

I pray that you see that God is often nearer to us and present within us in sickness than in health. Do not rely completely on another physician because He reserves your cure to Himself. Put all your trust in God. You will soon find the effects in your recovery, which we often delay by putting greater faith in medicine than in God. Whatever remedies you use, they will succeed only so far as He permits. When pains come from God, only He can ultimately cure them. He often sends sickness to the body to cure diseases of the soul. Comfort yourself with the Sovereign Physician of both soul and body.

I expect you will say that I am very much at ease, and that I eat and drink at the table of the Lord. You have reason. But think how painful it would be to the greatest criminal in the world to eat at the king’s table and be served by him, yet have no assurance of pardon? I believe he would feel an anxiety that nothing could calm except his trust in the goodness of his sovereign. So I assure you, that whatever pleasures I taste at the table of my King, my sins, ever present before my eyes, as well as the uncertainty of my pardon, torment me. Though I accept that torment as something pleasing to God.

Be satisfied with the condition in which God places you. However happy you may think me, I envy you. Pain and suffering would be a paradise to me, if I could suffer with my God. The greatest pleasures would be hell if I relished them without Him. My only consolation would be to suffer something for His sake.

I must, in a little time, go to God. What comforts me in this life is that I now see Him by faith. I see Him in such a manner that I sometimes say, I believe no more, but I see. I feel what faith teaches us, and, in that assurance and that practice of faith, I live and die with Him.

Stay with God always for He is the only support and comfort for your affliction. I shall beseech Him to be with you. I present my service.

Twelfth Letter

If we were well accustomed to the practice of the presence of God, bodily discomforts would be greatly alleviated. God often permits us to suffer a little to purify our souls and oblige us to stay close to Him.

Take courage. Offer Him your pain and pray to Him for strength to endure them. Above all, get in the habit of often thinking of God, and forget Him the least you can. Adore Him in your infirmities. Offer yourself to Him from time to time. And, in the height of your sufferings, humbly and affectionately beseech Him (as a child his father) to make you conformable to His holy will. I shall endeavor to assist you with my poor prayers.

God has many ways of drawing us to Himself. He sometimes seems to hide Himself from us. But faith alone ought to be our support. Faith is the foundation of our confidence. We must put all our faith in God. He will not fail us in time of need. I do not know how God will dispose of me but I am always happy. All the world suffers and I, who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so continual and great that I can scarcely contain them.

I would willingly ask God for a part of your sufferings. I know my weakness is so great that if He left me one moment to myself, I would be the most wretched man alive. And yet, I do not know how He could leave me alone because faith gives me as strong a conviction as reason. He never forsakes us until we have first forsaken Him. Let us fear to leave Him. Let us always be with Him. Let us live and die in His presence. Do pray for me, as I pray for you.

Thirteenth Letter

I am sorry to see you suffer so long. What gives me some ease and sweetens the feeling I have about your griefs, is that they are proof of God’s love for you. See your pains in that view and you will bear them more easily. In your case, it is my opinion that, at this point, you should discontinue human remedies and resign yourself entirely to the providence of God. Perhaps He waits only for that resignation and perfect faith in Him to cure you. Since, in spite of all the care you have taken, treatment has proved unsuccessful and your malady still increases, wait no longer. Put yourself entirely in His hands and expect all from Him.

I told you in my last letter that He sometimes permits bodily discomforts to cure the distempers of the soul. Have courage. Make a virtue of necessity. Do not ask God for deliverance from your pain. Instead, out of love for Him, ask for the strength to resolutely bear all that He pleases, and as long as He pleases. Such prayers are hard at first, but they are very pleasing to God, and become sweet to those that love Him.

Love sweetens pains. And when one loves God, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage. Do so, I beseech you. Comfort yourself with Him. He is the only physician for all our illnesses. He is the Father of the afflicted and always ready to help us. He loves us infinitely more than we can imagine. Love Him in return and seek no consolation elsewhere. I hope you will soon receive His comfort. Adieu.

I will help you with my prayers, poor as they are, and shall always be yours in our Lord.

Fourteenth Letter

I give thanks to our Lord for having relieved you a little as you desired. I have often been near death and I was never so much satisfied as then. At those times I did not pray for any relief, but I prayed for strength to suffer with courage, humility, and love. How sweet it is to suffer with God! However great your sufferings may be, receive them with love. It is paradise to suffer and be with Him. If, in this life, we might enjoy the peace of paradise, we must accustom ourselves to a familiar, humble, and affectionate conversation with God.

We must hinder our spirits wandering from Him on all occasions. We must make our heart a spiritual temple so we can constantly adore Him. We must continually watch over ourselves so we do not do anything that may displease Him. When our minds and hearts are filled with God, suffering becomes full of unction and consolation.

I well know that to arrive at this state, the beginning is very difficult because we must act purely on faith. But, though it is difficult, we know also that we can do all things with the grace of God. He never refuses those who ask earnestly. Knock. Persevere in knocking. And I answer for it, that, in His due time, He will open His graces to you. He will grant, all at once, what He has deferred during many years. Adieu.

Pray to Him for me, as I pray to Him for you. I hope to see Him soon.

Fifteenth Letter

God knows best what we need. All that He does is for our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we would always be ready to receive both the bitter and the sweet from His Hand. It would make no difference. All that came from Him would be pleasing. The worst afflictions only appear intolerable if we see them in the wrong light. When we see them as coming from the hand of God and know that it is our loving Father who humbles and distresses us, our sufferings lose their bitterness and can even become a source of consolation.

Let all our efforts be to know God. The more one knows Him, the greater one desires to know Him. Knowledge is commonly the measure of love. The deeper and more extensive our knowledge, the greater is our love. If our love of God were great we would love Him equally in pain and pleasure.

We only deceive ourselves by seeking or loving God for any favors which He has or may grant us. Such favors, no matter how great, can never bring us as near to God as can one simple act of faith. Let us seek Him often by faith. He is within us. Seek Him not elsewhere.

Are we not rude and deserve blame if we leave Him alone to busy ourselves with trifles which do not please Him and perhaps even offend Him? These trifles may one day cost us dearly. Let us begin earnestly to be devoted to Him. Let us cast everything else out of our hearts. He wants to possess the heart alone. Beg this favor of Him. If we do all we can, we will soon see that change wrought in us which we so greatly desire.

I cannot thank Him enough for the relief He has given you. I hope to see Him within a few days. Let us pray for one another.


Brother Lawrence died peacefully within days of this last letter.


The Song of All Creation

“The world has been disenchanted.” This is a sentiment first voiced by Max Weber in 1918. Nothing since has been able to convince the world otherwise. There is, however, an increasing awareness that a disenchanted world is less than desirable. We want elves, orcs, wizards, and demons. We want magic.

This is an observation that can easily be made by looking at how we entertain ourselves. Movies, books, gaming, and more point towards a cultural appetite for fantasy. It is well-suited to a world in which much of our time is spent in front of a screen. You’re never more than few clicks away from Middle Earth.

What we fail to understand is that the life of Middle Earth (and any other well-crafted fantasy) is as far-removed from entertainment as possible. In Middle Earth, fighting dragons is not a form of entertainment – it is a matter of life or death. In the well-supplied world of modernity, we take life itself for granted, its only real problem being that it’s boring. All of our dragons are in books, movies, or games. Indeed, such distractions easily serve to help us ignore the true dragons that lurk in the heart.

It is interesting that Lewis and Tolkien, two writers who wrote brilliantly in fantastic fiction, both shared the common experience of the trench warfare of World War I. The brutality and futility of that war are beyond description. Some 20 million perished in its maw. Lewis was grievously wounded by shrapnel in the leg and abdomen. Both men lost their best friends and a large part of their generation in the struggle. At its end, there was no great sense of accomplishment – only a relief that it had ceased. Two decades later, the battles would begin again.

What is quite certain is that neither Lewis nor Tolkien saw themselves as entertainers. I suspect both would have been loath to have seen their work taken up by Hollywood. And though both clearly had children in mind as they wrote, they would have seen such story-telling as a very serious business.

G.K. Chesterton offered this observation:

Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon [G.K. Chesterton, writing the original lines, in Tremendous Trifles, Book XVII: The Red Angel (1909)].

From within Orthodoxy, it is possible to say that the world is more than enchanted. It is magical and wonderful, as well as dangerous and deadly. All of us will die at its hand.

The difficulty with a materialist account of reality is its total indifference to every form and instance of suffering as well as its emptiness of meaning (perhaps the greatest suffering of all). It is little wonder that entertainment (as a form of escape) is such a strong feature of our culture. It assuages the boredom of an empty world.

The classical Christian witness, though, is that the world is not empty. It is filled with a depth of meaning and witness, of presence and signification. As clearly as we are wired for hunger, for fear, for sight and sound, so we are wired for transcendence. Without it, our lives begin to shrink and we fail to thrive.

C.S. Lewis once said that it would be strange to find a creature with an instinctive thirst that lived on a planet without water. It seems clear from the evidence (including the Biblical evidence) that human beings were late in coming to believe in the One God. But we have no evidence of human beings without transcendence. It is only in our very latest years that so many of us have come to despair of anything beyond ourselves. And so we turn to fantasy of the most empty kind. One whose very emptiness and make-believe can only deepen our despair by its lack of substance.

I recall my first exposure to Tolkien and Lewis. The books amazed me, not because they suggested a world of fantasy that I could enjoy. Rather, it was the amazement of realizing that someone else had sensed something that I already knew was true. And I knew that they knew it as well or they could not have written in such a common language.

There has only ever been one door in all of history that truly mattered: the door of Christ’s Empty Tomb. It is that place where that which was hidden beneath and within showed forth into what is present and clear. The meaning of all things (the Logos) revealed Himself and spoke with us. If we saw Him then, or see Him now, then we are not wrong to see Him in every tree, rock, and cloud – in all created things.

St. Paul is among those who saw Him. Of Him, he said this:

All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Col. 1:16-17)

St. John who also saw Him, handled Him, and heard Him speak, said this:

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5)

The world is enchanted, but with a Magic deeper than our fantasies. In every individual, the drama of the Nativity, Holy Week, and Pascha are re-enacted, re-lived. We are baptized “into the death of Christ,” and “raised in the likeness of His resurrection.” Each moment of our existence is the life of Christ. St. Paul described it, “Christ within us, the hope of glory.”

Modern culture may indeed have become “disenchanted.” It represents a cultural amnesia, a forgetting of the fulness of our humanity. When we become lost in our entertainments, we become prisoners of the passions and seemingly immune to true wonder. The passions are an easy mark for a culture lost in commerce. Nonetheless, there remains within us a quiet suspicion that there is more to the world than meets the pocketbook. That suspicion, along and along, can blossom into faith when doors are opened, or we perceive the One Door that truly matters reflected in the world around us.

Within all things, there is the quiet hymn, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life…”


Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


Featured: Creation of the World, Stammheim Missal, ca. 1170.


Order, Disorder, and the Wisdom of God

Ordo ab chao—“order out of chaos”—is a motto used in various permutations of Freemasonry. It refers to the “new world order” that the revolutionary Masons will bring out of the chaos they create in their revolutions bent on first separating and then destroying “throne and altar.” At its heart, Freemasonry is diabolical, even if many of its adherents call themselves Christians. The devil being the simia Dei — “the ape of God” — many of the trappings of Freemasonry have been pilfered from that Christendom the Masons so hate: their degrees, their symbols, and even their name, that of the Catholic guild of the stone masons — all are stolen Catholic goods.

The concept of ordo ab chao, while it is a revolutionary motto put at the service of evil, is actually quite Catholic if we understand it correctly. How might we do that? When we Christians look at the world and see so much disorder, we can assure ourselves, by our divine and Catholic faith, that the Providence of the all-wise God is serenely seated above this madness and will bring an order out of it that will astonish us all — His friends and foes alike. We have good reason to believe this. “And we know,” Saint Paul tells us, “that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints” (Rom. 8:28). There is nothing omitted from those “all things”; Saint Augustine assures us that even our past sins are included.

Biblical Examples

Consider the revolutionary rejection of Jesus Christ by the official representatives of the true religion of the Old Testament. As wicked revolutionaries, they stirred up a mob and accomplished the mad crime of deicide. Yet, in God’s providence, that horrible crime was the very occasion of our salvation. (See this idea developed further in What Nobody Can Take from You, where I consider the patristic figure of Our Lord’s sacred humanity being a sort of “bait” or “trap” set by God for the devil.) Moreover, many members of that mob “had compunction in their heart” when they heard the preaching of Saint Peter (Acts 2:37); they did penance and were baptized. Later, as the nascent Church expanded, even “a great multitude also of the priests obeyed the faith” (Acts 6:7).

The revolutionaries became loyalists.

We can see a Christianized ordo ab chao even in the Old Testament. Consider the much beloved story of Joseph of the Old Testament, the son of Jacob who prefigured both his namesake, Saint Joseph, and Our Lord Himself. As literature, the true history of this amazing figure is a “comedy” in the sense that Dante and Shakespeare used the word, because, after all sorts of horrible things take place, it ends happily. These words of Joseph to his brothers are the revelation of just how happy an ending it is: “You thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present you see, and might save many people” (Gen. 50:20).

God transformed the evil of Joseph’s treacherous brothers into good. Not only that, but the evil occasioned Joseph being exalted and turned into a savior of “many people”—clearly prefigurative of Jesus, the Savior.

Harmony out of Dissonance

Dom Augustin Guillerand, the Carthusian spiritual writer, wrote thus in his wonderful volume, The Prayer of the Presence of God:

My God, You are infinite order. Now, such vestiges of Your order that we can find and perceive here below are marvelous and dazzle us — and we see so little!

You are so essentially “order” that even what we call disorder is made to serve Your designs. You possess the amazing power of making harmony out of dissonance. It is true: to recognize that supreme order, we must pass beyond the duration of time and present circumstances — in short, of what is not — and wait until the passing and superficial moment has produced what Your eternal gaze sees and Your immense love wills.

Your wisdom is this gaze, seeing far beyond time and distance. It emerges from a mind that creates order and a love that gives itself. The order is the outcome of the mind that loves, the proper name for which is Wisdom.

“You are so essentially ‘order’ that even what we call disorder is made to serve Your designs,” wrote the Carthusian. That sentence is worth savoring, reflecting upon, turning over in our minds and hearts, and discussing with Our Lord.

The sentence that follows gives us a glimpse the monk’s sensitivity to music. It is worth pondering: “You [God] possess the amazing power of making harmony out of dissonance.” Those who have elementary knowledge of music theory will know that it is the dissonances which provide much of the harmonic “motion” in music. For a trite example of this, the dissonant tritone at the word “two” in “shave and a haircut, two bits” resolves into the consonant major sixth at the word “bits.” While contemporary serious music often revels in the dissonant with no resolution to consonance — making most of it cacophonous claptrap — serious music of a bygone era, like Bach, used dissonances resolving to consonances all over the place to move the harmonic structure while supporting a beautiful melody. In the context of Dom Guillerand’s book, we can imagine that, if our life has occasional dissonances in it (troubles, crosses, contradictions), Our Lord can and will resolve them into harmonious sounding consonances. If we cooperate with His grace, we are making beautiful music with God.

Perhaps it is the idea of “life as music” that led Pére Jacques Marquette to beg of his Immaculate Mother that she, “make clean my heart and my song.”

Picturing Divine Order

Another artistic allegory that we might consider in connection with this theme of order and disorder, though not employed by our Carthusian writer, is life as a painting. Imagine, if you will, an enormous canvas upon which an exquisite work of art is painted by the skilled hand of a master. If we look through a magnifying glass at a tiny segment of the work, but are, at the same time, prevented from seeing the whole, we might only see what is dark or even ugly. Extrapolating from the tiny part we are allowed at that moment to set our gaze upon, we might reason that we are beholding something hideous, only to discover that we have been pondering a small section of the eyeball of the serpent in Peter Paul Rubens’ exquisite masterpiece, The Immaculate Conception.

We even have an expression for this in our common parlance; we call it, “seeing the big picture.” But here and now, as Dom Augustin says, “we see so little!”

God is an artist; and, more than any other artist, He loves the work of His craft. We are that craft, not only as individuals, but as a Mystical Body. If at times there are dark spots in our lives, let us strive to practice the Christian virtues, prayerfully calling upon the Divine Artist with confidence that when His full canvas is revealed — when we “pass beyond the duration of time and present circumstances,” in Dom Augustin’s words — what we thought were hopeless blots and spills were but the dark contrasts of His masterful chiaroscuro.

It behooves us to consecrate ourselves totally to Jesus through Mary, generously and penitentially accepting all the chaos that circumstances impose upon us, asking God only that this disorder be made to serve His loving designs. Then we can work with God, in our own small way, to bring order out of chaos.

As a “coda,” I present Brother Francis’ meditations on order from his wonderful book of meditations, The Challenge of Faith:

  1. The heart of wisdom is the appreciation of order: putting first things first.
  2. The mission of religious life is the restoration of order.
  3. God created the world for man, and man for salvation: all order serves this one end, the salvation of man.
  4. St. Teresa of Avila commenting on the text, “Thou hast set him over the works of thy hands: Thou has subjected all things under his feet” (Ps. 8: 7-9), says that this is true principally of the saints, because most men subject themselves to the things of this world. Only the saints are truly the lords of creation.
  5. Peace is the tranquility of order; beauty is its splendor.
  6. Order is the perfect disposition of means to the end. Only those who know the true end can work for order. He who knows not the true doctrines of salvation is like a captain of a ship who does not know the destination of his journey.
  7. The only first principle of order is the Apostles’ Creed; the best prayer for order is the “Our Father”; the best grasp of the means for order is the “Hail Mary”; the triumphant shout of order is the “Hail Holy Queen”.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel. This article appears courtesy of Catholicism.org.


Featured: Fiant luminaria in firmamento cæli (Let there be light), mosaic, Monreale Cathedral, created ca. 12th and 13th centuries.


Saint Michael, The Angel of Religion

The new esoteric fashions that are springing up to fill the void left by the retreat of Christianity and the forgetfulness of the sacred, feature angels who supposedly connect us to invisible energies. Far removed from such figures, and far from maintaining our tendency towards egocentricity, the Archangel looks upwards, and invites us to do the same. Saint Michael teaches us to rediscover our sense of God. Abbé Paul Roy introduces us to this Archangel, whom we can only invoke more fully if we know him better.

After the centuries of Enlightenment, rationalism, scientism and faith in progress, our era marks a return to the sacred. Alas, the eclipse of the religious has not come to an end—rather than returning to the faith of the ancients, people remain radically modern, willing to do anything but acknowledge themselves as heirs, and prefer to build their own spirituality. Consciously or unconsciously, most are joining the ranks of what used to be known as the New Age, and what some today refer to as magical thinking. Esotericism is on everyone’s lips, attracting many souls clumsily in search of God.

Angels, spiritual beings halfway between man and heaven, are making a strong comeback in the contemporary imagination. A quick search on the Internet, however, leaves us wondering about the contemporary conception of angelic spirits: angels—in particular the “72 guardian angels”—seem to have become a means of connecting to energies and to an invisible world in which we are bathed without being aware of it, of developing our capacity for empathy and personal creativity.

This is reminiscent of the emanatist doctrine of the Platonists, who saw man as a quasi-divine being fallen to earth and enclosed in matter, separated from the original One by a ladder of intermediate beings, to be traversed in an upward direction, by illumination, to return to fundamental harmony. Thus conceived, angels are no longer ministers or auxiliaries of God, but obstacles in man’s relationship with the true God. Like the esoteric doctrines that flourish everywhere today, they lead our contemporaries down blind allies, distracting them from the profound religious quest for the true light that leads to a profound change of life.

A Powerful Defender

We have come a long way from the true nature of angels, and the figure of their prince, Michael. Far from keeping us in the egocentric attitude that characterizes modern religiosity, the archangel looks upwards, and invites us to do the same. Mi-ka-El, in Hebrew: “who is like God.” His name is a program. Saint Michael is an effective intermediary, a powerful defender of the human race, but a messenger who steps aside, so that man can once again be directed towards his Creator. The archangel thus appears on mountain tops—theophanic places par excellence in the Old Testament—to remind us that his role is none other than that of a hyphen, a signpost.

From Mont Gargan to Mont Tombe, now Mont-Saint-Michel, the sanctuaries where the Prince of Angels is venerated are invitations to contemplation of celestial things. The Prince of Angels is named in the Old Testament as the one who fights for the people of Israel (Dan 10:13), the “one of the chief princes.” In the Epistle of Jude (Jude 9), he is mysteriously designated as the one who disputed with the Devil over the body of Moses, who expired on Mount Nebo, in sight of the Promised Land, without anyone ever finding his remains. In the Book of Revelation (Rev 12:7), he leads the angels to fight the dragon—despite the latter’s counterattack, he has the upper hand, and from heaven, hurls Satan down to earth.

Saint Michael’s role in the history of the Church does not end there—soon the object of popular veneration in the East (the Copts dedicated up to seven liturgical feasts to him), then in the West (with a few excesses that the authorities were obliged to curb, as witnessed by certain letters of Saint Augustine), he appeared at Mont Gargan in the 5th century; then at the beginning of the 8th to Bishop Aubert of Avranches, to whom he gave an indication, by means of a strong pressure of his finger on his skull (the relic preserved in the church of Saint-Gervais d’Avances still bears witness to this), to build a sanctuary at the summit of Mont Tombe, an isolated rock in the middle of the large sandy bay bordering his diocese.

Centuries later, Christian peoples’ veneration for the Prince of Angels has not waned, and God allowed him to continue to intervene visibly on their behalf. When France found itself in distress, he was the messenger sent to Jehanne, the Pucelle of Domrémy, soon to be the liberator of Orléans. To prepare the children of Fatima for the apparitions of Our Lady, the angel appeared to them three times, taught them to pray and mysteriously gave them Holy Communion. St. Michael’s close relationship with the Eucharist is still visible in the rites of the Mass, where the angel is invoked on numerous occasions—in the Confiteor, in the blessing of incense at the offertory in the traditional Mass, and even in the Roman Canon (implicitly in the Supplication prayer), where the holy offering is even asked to be carried by him to the heavenly altar. On the Last Day, Saint Michael will again be our intercessor, as well as taking part in the judgment (1 Thess 4:16), as he is often depicted holding the scales that weigh our souls by the weight of their charity.

Saint Michael thus has a dual function, which is an important teaching for our spiritual life: tradition identifies him among the seven angels who stand continually before the face of the Lord (To 12, 15), and his very name is a praise of God’s infinite glory; but the archangel also presents to Him the prayers of pious men (as Raphael presented the prayers and religious acts of old Tobias, cf. To 12, 12), and he willingly serves as a messenger and intercessor.

As a divine sign, Saint Michael shows us that there is no creature too high or distant to condescend to support our misery, since God Himself became man in Jesus. An angelic model, he teaches us to keep our eyes raised to heaven, full of gratitude and admiration for the Divine Majesty, proclaiming with him: “Who is like God?” In a world so far removed from religion and yet so versed in spiritualities, could St. Michael, duly presented and venerated, serve as a bridge to bring our contemporaries back to the unity of truth and faith?


Father Paul Roy is a priest of the Fraternity of Saint-Pierre, and moderator of the site and training application Claves. This interview comes through the kind courtesy of La Nef.


Featured: Saint Michael, by Guariento di Arpo; painted ca. 1350.


Orison

An ascent of the soul in search of God, a dialogue, a true encounter, “an intimate friendship in which we often speak alone with the God we know we love,” a test of solitude, diligence, interiority and faith… what exactly is an “orison?”

The word “orison,” unlike many others in the religious vocabulary, has retained its Christian specificity; yet its quasi-synonym “meditation” is used in other religious systems, and even in a context that may be areligious, such as “mindfulness meditation.” There is a kind of irreducibility to the word’s passage outside Christianity. To help us understand this, three traditional definitions of prayer are presented.

An Ascent of the Soul

Following Evagrius, the Fathers teach us that prayer is an ascent of the spirit, or soul, towards God. It is thus an activity that enables us to seek out a transcendent Being beyond the human sphere; but contemporary mentality, which refuses with Kant that God can present Himself to us as an object of knowledge, rejects this claim, stigmatized as a dream of selfishly sought union with a transcendent divine, and opposes it to prophetic prayer, where ultimately it is “man who expresses himself.” However, far from being a contamination of Christian thought by Neoplatonism, this conception of prayer is rooted in the Word of God: man must seek God, but his thoughts are not those of man (Is 55:8).

A Conversation

Prayer is also defined as a conversation with God, a dialogue. It is a relationship between two people: the one who prays and the living God, both transcendent and accessible. The Latins wanted to explain the word orison, derived from the verb orare, from the word, “mouth,” “bone;” even if the etymology is not confirmed by specialists, we can retain the idea: the one who prays speaks, opens his mouth to address God. This is only possible if God has spoken first, revealed Himself. Prayer, then, is a response to God’s first word, the beginning of a conversation. Prayer is thus a face-to-face encounter, so to speak, as Deuteronomy says of Moses (5:4). The mystery of prayer is that, although we cannot see God’s face, we can nevertheless enter into a relationship with Him. Is this not also where He gives us His Spirit, His breath of life? It is a kind of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for those of us who are drowning—we need his vital breath. In the desert of Egypt, Saint Anthony the Great already understood this, pointing out in his last exhortation that prayer is a kind of supernatural breathing (Life of St. Anthony by Saint Athanasius, no. 91). Pope Francis takes up the image himself: Christians “find an exclusive concern with this world to be narrow and stifling, and, amid their own concerns and commitments, they long for God, losing themselves in praise and contemplation of the Lord” (Gaudete et exsultate, n. 147).

The Secret

In Chapter 6 of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Christ gives us a valuable catechesis on prayer: “When you pray…” You must withdraw, close your door, pray to the Father in secret. You will not see Him, but He, your Father, sees in secret: He will hear you. Your Father knows what is best for you even before you tell Him. Could we not object that, in that case, there is no point in talking to Him? That would be a bit short-sighted, since our very relationship with God, regardless of what He may grant us, is already a great good for man. Dom Guéranger writes in the preface to his Liturgical Year: “Prayer is the first good for man, since it puts him in relationship with God, for there man is in his place before his Creator and Savior.” This is true of all prayer, of petition and thanksgiving, but more particularly of prayer itself.

Time

Saint Teresa of Avila formulated the classic definition: “it is an intimate friendship, in which we often converse alone with the God we know we love” (Autobiography, 8.5; Gaudete et exsultate, n. 149). Solitude, assiduity, interiority, faith—these are the characteristics of interior prayer. We have already seen the dimension of dialogue. Saint Theresa specifies that it should take place in solitude, a faithful translation of the Gospel text mentioned above. Above all, she insists on the frequency of prayer: we must “converse often with God.” Repetition itself shapes our soul, refines its orientation. For it takes time to become accustomed to God, to detach ourselves from the things of the world. And at the same time, we need to give God time to work in us. “The Word of God dwelt in man and became son of man to accustom man to grasp God, and accustom God to dwell in man, according to the mind of the Father,” writes Saint Irenaeus (Adv. haer., III.20.2).. Aristotle had already pointed out that friendship can only be established “when the measure of salt has been exhausted,” i.e., when we have eaten so many meals together that we have emptied the salt shaker. If we want to grow in charity, that divine friendship with God, we need to devote time to it.

Finally, faith. We “converse with the God we know we love” through faith, without feeling or experiencing the charity of God that envelops us and calls us to His intimacy. God is Spirit, and it is spiritually that we go to Him, even if sometimes our very sensibility can be touched. The Spirit prays within us with unutterable groanings, St. Paul tells us (Rom 8:26), and this prayer is not perceptible to the one praying either. St. Anthony the Great said: “Prayer is not perfect when the monk is conscious of himself and of the fact that he is actually praying” (John Cassian, Conference 9:31).

The practice of prayer is intimately linked to God’s self-revelation in Christ. Faced with an absolutely transcendent God, man is called to submission, not to a trade in friendship; in a religious climate dominated by law, he may be content to observe commandments; but if God reveals himself as Father in Christ, then it is a need to seek Him in secret, to take time for Him, to wait for Him.


This meditation is offered by a monk of Fontgombault Abbey. This article comes through the kind courtesy of La Nef.


Featured: Repentance, by Oleg Vishnyakov; painted in 1995.


About Dasha on “Tradition”: The Tears of our Resurrection

Dear friends! Dear participants of the Tradition Festival! Dear founders of the Daria Dugina Prize!

Unfortunately, due to circumstances, I was unable to attend the Tradition Festival this time, although I tried not to miss it before. Tradition is the main word in my life. It became the main and the last word in the life of my daughter, Dasha Dugina.

Only that for which people are ready to sacrifice their lives becomes valuable. Tradition is the highest value. It is what makes the Motherland the Motherland, the people the people, the Church the Church, and culture the culture.

I would like to say a few words about the Creative Award. This is a wonderful initiative. There is hardly a better way to honor her memory. After all, Dasha was the embodiment of creativity. She was a leap into the future. She lived in faith and hope. She was always looking forward and upward. Perhaps, she took it too steeply, as far as “up” is concerned… But her message lives on among us and is only becoming more and more distinct, focused and clear. Her message is an invitation to the Russian future. A future that has yet to come true.

Dasha always thought of herself as a project, as a burst of creative will. She was enflamed by philosophy, religion, politics, culture, and art. She lived so richly, so fully, precisely because she cared about everything. Hence such a range of her interests, her texts, her speeches, her creativity, her endeavors. She wanted very much during her lifetime that Russians would move, that our country and our culture would move from a standstill and take off.

She considered it her mission to live for Russia, and if she had to, to die for Russia. This is what she wrote in her Diaries, Topi i vysi moyego serdtsa (Drown and Rise, my Heart), which we have recently published. Dasha’s second philosophical book, Eskhatologicheskiy Optimizm (Eschatological Optimism) will be published soon—in several languages at once, because Dasha is remembered and loved in the world.

Living for Russia is her message, which should be passed on and on. Dasha’s award is more than a formal encouragement; it is a living vibrating impulse.

We have many wonderful true heroes, warriors, defenders, people of deep soul and pure heart. Some of them gave their lives for the Motherland. Some live with us now. The memory of every hero is sacred. And the memory of Dasha.

The fact is that Dasha is not just a model patriot and citizen, she is also the bearer of an incredible, though not yet fully revealed, only intended (but how intended!) spiritual potential. She sought to embody the grace of imperial Russia, the style of the Silver Age, and the deep interest in Neoplatonist philosophy with which she burned. Sincere and heartfelt Russian Orthodoxy and geopolitics. Modern avant-garde art—in music, theater, painting, film—and a tragic comprehension of the ontology of war. Sober and aristocratically restrained understanding of the fatal crisis of modernity and the fiery will to overcome it. This is eschatological optimism. To look into the eyes of misfortune and horror of modernity and to keep a luminous faith in God, His Mercy, His justice.

I wish that the memory of Dasha would not so much focus attention on the images of her lively, charming, filled-with-pure-energy girl’s life, but becomes a continuation of her ardor, the fulfillment of her plans, her far-reaching, pure imperial dreams.

Today it is clear to many that Dasha has objectively become our national hero. Poems and paintings, cantatas and songs, plays and theater productions are dedicated to her. Streets in towns and cities of Russia are named after her. A monument is being prepared for installation in Moscow, and possibly in other cities.

A young girl who had never taken part in hostilities, who had never called for violence or aggression, who was deep and smiling, naive and well-educated, was brutally murdered in front of her father’s eyes by a heartless, ruthless enemy—a Ukrainian terrorist who did it here, at the festival “Tradition,” not hesitating to involve her young daughter in the murder. She was sent to do this by the authorities in Kiev and the secret services of the Anglo-Saxon world—the staunch enemies of Tradition. A year ago, I gave a lecture here on “the Role of the Devil in History.” Dasha listened. So did the murderer. The Devil was listening to what I was saying about the Devil, preparing to do his diabolical work.

And sure enough, Dasha became immortal. Our people could not remain indifferent to this. And my tragedy, the tragedy of our family, Dasha’s friends, all those who communicated and cooperated with her, became the tragedy of all our people. And tears began to choke people—both those who knew this girl and those who heard about her for the first time.

And these are not simple tears. These are tears of our resurrection, of our purification, of our coming victory.

Dasha is becoming a symbol. She already is. But now it is important that the content of this symbol does not disappear, does not dissolve, does not fade away. It is important not only to preserve the memory of Dasha, but to continue her work. Because she had this Cause. Her Cause.

That is why this prize is so important, why it is important to work on the Daria Dugina Foundation, as suggested by my close and good friends Konstantin Malofeev, Eduard Boyakov and many others. Young philosophers, theologians, priests, musicians, politicians, scientists, poets, artists, journalists, military officers—all those who today are building the spiritual basis of the Russian World, reviving the depths and heights of our Empire. Dasha supports them, inspires them, helps them, protects them above all.

There are saints who help in certain circumstances—those in poverty, those in illness, those in wanderings, those in captivity. Even individual icons are distributed in God’s mercy in such a way that they care for people in different difficult, sometimes desperate situations. “Assuage my Sorrows” is the name of one of the images of the Mother of God. And there is one canon that is recited when it becomes impossible to live at all and everything collapses…..

Mother of God Assuage My Sorrows (a wonderworking icon, Church of St. Nikolaev Odrin Monastery, Karachev, Orlov province, ca. 1640).

And so are the protagonists. They are different, too. Some embody military valor. Others, sacrificial tenderness. Others, strength of mind. Others still, the pinnacle of political will. They are all beautiful.

Dasha embodies the Soul. The Russian Soul.

Both the prize named after her and the Foundation we are going to establish should be dedicated to the Russian Soul. This is the most important thing. If there is no Soul, there will be no Russia; there will be nothing.

Many good people have volunteered to carry the memory of Dasha. There is the People’s Institute of Daria Dugina. There are Daria Dugina’s Lessons of Courage. There is a new series in the wonderful publishing house, Vladimir Dal: “Dasha’s Books.” There are various awards and other initiatives. And let people do what their heart tells them to do. The main thing is to do it all with a soul.

Thanks be to Christ!


Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitica.


Apotheosis of the Warrior Yevgeny

Dasha, back at the very beginning of the Special Military Operation, once told me: “Prigozhin is so strong and confident, bold, sharp, that probably no one prays for him. It doesn’t even cross anyone’s mind. Let’s at least start praying for him.”

Today we commemorate (not according to the calendar, but according to the meaning) Moses of Murin, Barbara of Loukan, the seven martyrs of Kerkyra: Iakiskholos, Faustianus, Ianuarius, Marsalius, Euphrasius and Mammius, St. Anthony of Karea. And of course the one who was the first to be in paradise.

We did not notice how we moved from a giggling society to a people deeply immersed in the element of tragedy. Some had already, piercingly realized it in themselves. Some are on the way. Pain, sorrow, grief, anguish, suffering, deafening rage—this is the register of states of a normal person who has entered the structures of war. But also strong faith, quiet hope, a maturing will, a growing mind, a hardened spirit.

The very fact of the death of the heroes of “Wagner” is much more fundamental than the reasons, manipulations and speculations around it. There is no need to get bogged down in details and versions. We are at war, and war means death. And Prigozhin entered the war wholeheartedly, gave himself to it. No one can escape war. Prigozhin realized it before anyone else and did not resist. He acted like a man. And died like a man.

In general, the Wagner group had a special attitude towards death—just face it.

At some point, everyone’s death will come to them. And there is no use squealing about what I am in for. There is always a reason. Prigozhin knew exactly why. God rest the soul of your slain servant, the warrior Eugene.

You know best what to do with him. We only pray that Thy will be done. But still, if it is possible, forgive him. For the sake of Russia, Your country, Your people, forgive him. And forgive us.

If the diabolical enemy is targeting our heroes, it means that we have heroes.

Life, like death, can only be random in random people. There, perhaps, it is mechanical millstones and the sporadic intrusion of randomness. Real people have a destiny, which means a higher meaning, a deeper significance and a great logic—both in life and death. Meaninglessness is far worse than death. Prigozhin, Utkin and the other “Wagner” people were anything but random people.

The power of the people is that thousands take the place of one fallen hero. This is how the people testify that they are alive. Yesterday was the end of the age of technology. The era of ontologies—Russian existence and its laws—is beginning. From now on, it is necessary to speak responsibly and seriously about everything. As if in the presence of people, the tribunal, conscience, death.

The relation of Russians to each other goes not from person to person, but somehow otherwise. Maybe through the land. And, so, through the Russian land we understand, pity and feel each other. Both the living and the dead.

In our hell they were, indeed, the best.


Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitica.


Featured: Apotheosis of a Warrior, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, ca. 1696–1770.


Open Up to Wonder

Blanche Streb is a mother, essayist and columnist, who holds a doctorate in pharmacy. She has just written a remarkable book, Grâce à l’émerveillement (Because of Wonder) which invites us to rediscover our sense of wonder that can allow us to embrace life with enthusiasm, as we marvel at the mystery of being. Through the kind courtesy of La Nef, we are happy to bring you an excerpt.

The times we live in are fascinating and worrying. More and more technology, more and more speed, more and more so-called rights, more and more material goods. And yet… ever less time, ever less meaning, ever less hope. So much so that all around us, and within us, temptations to flee the present are multiplying—by becoming dizzy in the hustle and bustle or in front of our screens, by taking pride in our illusions of mastery and possession, by hardening ourselves in jadedness, by dozing off in the drone of what’s the point.

And then, one day, we come to realize that the misdeeds we deplore are first and foremost causes to be combated, rather than effects to be lamented. And we feel an inner act of resistance emerging. No! cries out our whole being. I don’t want to sink into indifference. I don’t want to miss out on my life. I don’t want to give in to swan-songs or those of sirens, I don’t want this ordeal to take everything with it. I’m here, alive. And I want to live fully, here and now.

In this world thirsting for meaning and hope, there is an eternal science of life to be (re)discovered today, a sovereign antidote to the disenchantment and cynicism that plague our times—Grace and the power of wonder. This intuition that precedes us, we all have already perceived its presence and active force in the corners of our lives. For this is a science reserved neither for the wise nor the learned, neither for children, nor for the spoiled-of-life. On the contrary, it is the inspiration of inspirations that wishes to pass through each and every one of us, whatever our gifts or what we do, in the brightness as well as in the discretion, in the small things and small nothings of everyday love.

Wonder is an innate disposition of the human heart. Some are richly endowed. Others are meagerly endowed. Some people, because they have lived through a profoundly “transforming” experience or even come close to the end, rediscover this science of life. It’s as if the nearness of death gives rise to an urgency to live. As if consenting to the end were in fact consenting to everything that needs to be lived.

Wonder seizes us, in the banality as in the extraordinary of our lives, and plants a seed of enthusiasm that delicately deflects our trajectory, breathing new life into us, giving a different consistency, substance and depth to what surrounds us, lives within us and around us. Wonder is not a simple, silly or childish emotion. It’s not an escape from the real world, but a doorway to the essential. It is lived in a sharpened awareness, capable of seeing beauty where it is, but also the goodness of acts and people, courage, fortitude. It doesn’t erase hardship or make the ordinary wonderful, but allows us to see the marvelous in the ordinary, the new in the familiar, the possible in the existing. It keeps our eyes from losing the grace to open up to the world each time as if for the first time. This gift of wonder enables us to see beyond what we see, beyond nature and its laws, to glimpse that the world is not limited to the visible, and that reality is vaster than we think. Through it, we gain access to another kind of Knowledge, far higher than the one lurking in our wherewithal—and to an encounter with the Other. This gift of wonder can be summed up in four words—do not be indifferent. And more than anything else, it’s up to us to open the door to it, to choose to live it, to cultivate it.

At the end of this month, the Church celebrates Pentecost. The coming of the One promised to us from all eternity. The One who strengthens and comforts us. He nurtures in us the spiritual flair that clears our path and helps us discern between what to seek and what to flee, what to love and what to hate. Where we must think big—for nothing is impossible for God—and where we must remain small—for we are neither perfect nor all-powerful. I deeply believe that many of the evils of our time would vanish if only our disposition served His gifts. In them lies what can heal so many wounds and think of ways to guard against them. These are not easy times. The moral and spiritual crisis we are going through is real and profound. It leads to so many lies, illusions, irresponsibility and absurdities. “This era demands of us a spiritual conflagration,” wrote Solzhenitsyn in 1978 in his famous Harvard speech.

Nothing counts more than human faculties and virtues, to steer our soul. Wonder is one of them. A powerful faculty. It gets us off the couch, out of our egos. We don’t marvel at ourselves, or only through a Grace we feel has passed through us, but for which we know we were neither the source nor the completion. Yes, let us dare to say to Grace—Come, enter my home! It’s at work, it’s (working) on us. These small steps of God in our lives can only make us more confident and “hopeful,”

There are so many aspirations that seek their way into the depths of our clogged souls—the desire for the good, the beautiful, the worthy; to be more, better, happier; to serve, to progress. Let’s set them aglow. Let’s turn them over to God. It’s going to be contagious.


Featured: Morgen im Riesengebirge (Morning in the Riesengebirge), by Caspar David Friedrich; painted ca. 1810-1811.


Hermits: The Christian Yogis

In his empty cave, the hermit faced the mother of all battles: sitting in solitude and fighting against himself.

After a long and expensive journey, a Western man arrived at a Zen temple in a remote Japanese village. Exhausted, he parked his huge backpack, passed through the entrance of the temple and, in broken English, asked the monk guardian for an audience with the master.

After a while, the guardian led him to an immense and almost empty meditation hall. On the waxed wooden floor, there was only an altar with a statue of Buddha, and, in one corner, a rustic wooden throne, where a skeletal old man with a shaven skull and black robe sat in the lotus posture. Following the guardian’s instructions, the Westerner gave the gassho—ritual salute with joined hands—in front of the altar, walked around the entire room and prostrated while n his knees—buttocks on his heels and insteps on the floor—before the master’s throne.

The conversation, which took place in English and Japanese, and thanks to the translation work of the guardian, went like this:

“Speak,” whispered the master, piercing the Westerner with his vacant gaze.

“You see, I come from far away and I would like to practice Zen with you,” muttered the Westerner, overwhelmed by the luminous energy of the master and pained by the uncomfortable posture.

“I see, soul of a fool. Have you really traveled so many miles to come here? Don’t you have any temples in your own country?” The master asked in a firm voice, still smiling.

“Well, I’m not one to go to Mass, sit with grandmothers, listen to the priest’s sermons while mumbling, “Amen.” I’ve tried that, but it doesn’t work. I’m looking for something else. A body-mind practice, asceticism, superhumanism, enlightenment. There is none of that in Christianity.”

“Yes, there is. Go to the desert.”

The Call of the Desert

In The Way of a Pilgrim, an anonymous Orthodox Christian text, it says that “those who truly practice interior prayer flee from human contact and take refuge in unknown places.” But the strange force that between the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century pushed thousands of men to leave their towns and cities to devote themselves to solitary contemplation in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, Arabia and Persia, remains a mystery.

The most plausible hypothesis holds that these men intended to flee from the mediocrity of the Christian communities of their time. At that time, the Roman Empire had decreed freedom of worship; and, being free from persecution, Christians rested on their laurels. There seemed to be more of the faithful than ever, but most were lazy and conformist.

The hermit went to the desert in search of that pure and ascetic spirituality associated with hot climates. And he would settle in solitude, in a sort of anarchic monasticism, to get away from the herd of the flock and the disturbances of the senses. His maxim was fuge, tace, quiesce: flee, be quiet and remain calm.

Thus, since after the Constantinian peace, blood martyrdom, the highest expression of faith in Christ, was no longer possible, the hermit opted for another type of martyrdom: bloodless martyrdom. An ascetic path that, with its privations, mortifications and body-mind disciplines, is linked to the practices of the yogis or Zen monks. In his empty cave, the hermit faces the mother of all battles: to sit in solitude and fight against himself. Overcoming his ego, the solitary walks towards an ambitious evolutionary horizon—to transcend the human condition and transmute into a new species: the saint.

“Sell What You Have. Give it to the Poor. Come and Follow Me”

This imperative Gospel sentence (Mark 10:21) triggered a real metanoia in Anthony, a 20-year-old man who, after the death of his parents, had inherited a large fortune. It was the third century when Anthony donated all his possessions and went to live in an abandoned tomb, where he ate only one meal a day and devoted the rest of the day to contemplation. In his retreat he suffered attacks of lust, gluttony, anger, boredom and that kind of spiritual anguish called “acedia.” After a time, he began to receive visits from people asking him for miracles, and was forced to flee to the Egyptian desert, where he occupied a ruined fortress, around which he built a high wall to keep out the curious. Hermits like him abhorred fame because they knew that it was accompanied by an ego boost, with the consequent spiritual setback. Therefore, they fled at the slightest gesture of veneration, and some even arranged for the concealment of their graves to avoid posthumous honors.

Immersed in desert solitude, Anthony had to survive extreme temperatures, wild beasts, vermin and hurricanes, as well as continuing to battle delusions and temptations; but eventually he experienced a sovereign peace. His face shone in the night and his solitude was like that described by Dionysius the Areopagite: “Superlatively abstracted from every habit, movement, life, imagination, opinion, name, word, thought, intelligence, substance, state, foundation, union, end, immensity; finally, from everything that exists.” Anthony’s brilliance attracted other men who also wanted to be saints. Thus, Christian monasticism was born.

Nudus nudum Christum sequi

The case of Anthony the Great is similar to that of many other solitaries who filled the deserts at the same time. In Scete alone there was a stable population of 40,000 hermits. It was, then, a multitude who, after distributing their goods among the needy, followed Christ into the desert, assuming the sequela Christi in the tradition of the nudus nudum Christum sequi, that is, to follow naked the One who goes naked. The hermit lived with the bare necessities: at most, a tunic, a staff, a crucifix and a skull. As Euprepius said, “belongings are nothing but obstacles.”

At first, the hermits were entirely independent, but in time they began to form small group, far enough away from each other so as not to disturb each other and close enough to help each other or celebrate Eucharist. There were no hierarchies in the desert either, until a few elders whose wisdom was based on their long experience began to stand out, and, much to their regret, they were set up as teachers. Most of the eremitic colonies were so discreet that there are not even traces of their existence. The most famous ones were established in the north, not far from Alexandria, in Nitria, Scete and Celsus, and in them lived anchorites like Ammon, the two Macarius, Arsenius, Sisoes or Paul the Simple.

Among the hermits there were also women. They tended to be of aristocratic origin and their number is difficult to determine, as many of them pretended to be men to avoid trouble. With time, female colonies arose, and steely old women who, like Sarra, gave hard advice to their disciples: “Be as if you were dead, without having any concern for the things of the world, practice hesychasm in the cell and remember only God and death.”

How to Practice Hesychasm

Christianity succeeds where paganism failed—in making man immortal. In the words of St. Augustine, “God became man so that man might become God.” Just as God took on a human body, man can verify God in his own flesh. The practices of the Desert Fathers go in this direction.

As in yoga or Zen, the basis of hesychasm—spiritual practice of the hermits—lies in breathing: what Nicephorus calls “breathing God.” Rather than mantras or sutras, the hermit pronounces prayers—short and deep, holding his breath as long as possible until he pronounces them—or exaltations of the divine name such as “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” The Pilgrim repeated this prayer 3,000 times a day, then 6,000, and later 12,000—until he no longer needed to repeat it, for he prayed with the beating of his heart. Ephrem the Syrian said that “a good word is silver, but silence is pure gold.” And thus, in silence, Hesychasm reached its apotheosis.

The posture of Hesychasm does not need to envy the asanas of the yogis or the full lotus of Zen. It is as simple—and as difficult—as sitting motionless on the floor with your legs crossed, your back slightly bent and your chin on your chest. This posture allows you to keep your attention on your heartbeat; your gaze on the center of your belly, your breath flowing in circles. If he persists in this practice, man achieves a state of perfect inaction.

This is How the Elders Spoke

The first men who left the city to go to the desert were true pioneers. They had no precedents or models to imitate, except for the remote example—through Scripture—of prophets, such as St. John the Baptist, Elijah, Elisha, or the primordial example of Christ, who was led into the desert by the Spirit of God to fast, meditate and fight the Evil One. Christ spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert; then he returned to civilization. The hermits never returned.

When there were elders, the Apothegms of the Holy Desert Fathers were born, ranging from brief advice from teachers to disciples, to long collective exhortations. For a long time, the apothegms were transmitted by word of mouth, but some solitary scribes began to compile them, giving rise to a unique sub-genre of monastic literature.

Since “for God there are only individuals”—Gómez Dávila dixit—the apothegms bring together very diverse individual doctrines, sometimes even contradictory, and rarely set collective norms that turn spiritual practice into a template. What they have in common is that, in them, the Desert Fathers distilled charity—correcting one’s own defects and ignoring those of others—humility—escaping all vainglory and hiding one’s good deeds—and vigilance—of one’s own mind, so as not to fall into dispersion.

The apothegms have reached our day after a long journey through codices, parchments and manuscripts, to be finally arranged in large collections by various Church historians. Since they are accessible to the general public, they are part of the perennial wisdom that, beyond creeds, helps the human species to live.

Let us see, as a sample, a handful of selected apothegms:

“In his blindness, the human being has tried to replace the vision of the spirit by the vision of thought, by abstract constructions of the mind, by ideologies, without these having led him to any result, as all the metaphysical theories of the philosophers prove” (Theophanes the Recluse).

“Being in prayer, he went into ecstasy, and had a vision. He saw the whole world as if it were an immense ball of tangled threads. Then he said: ‘Who will be able to untangle this?’ Suddenly, he heard a voice answering his question: ‘Humility’” (Antonio of the Desert).

“We learned in connection with a spiritual brother, that a viper bit him on the foot while he was praying. But he did not give up. He did not lower his arms before he finished nor did he move. And yet he was delivered from the poison because he had loved God more than himself” (Evagrius Ponticus).

“It seemed to me that every herb, every flower, every ear of grain whispered to me mysterious words about a divine essence very close to every man, to every animal, to each thing: herbs, flowers, trees, earth, sun, stars, to the whole universe” (Spiridon).

“They said to the old man: ‘What do you do so that you never show discouragement?’ ‘I wait for death every day,’” he answered (Anonymous).

Blood and Sand

One could call it a “miracle” that more than two millennia later, the echo of the Desert Fathers still resounds. Undoubtedly, hesychasm and apothegms can be very useful for the men of today who, by sheer definition and however “traditionalist” they believe themselves to be, are—we are—absolutely modern. But in the same way that the wine that is too much of a wine is diluted with mountain water, our absolute modernity—our absolute stupidity—is diluted, thanks to the practice of hesychasm and the reading of apothegms.

In addition to the teachers of the Church—Catholic and, above all, Orthodox—who transmit these practices, there are countless books that explain them. Among them, it is worth mentioning Eremitas (Palmyra, 2007) by Isidro-Juan Palacios, a powerful manual on the history of Hesychasm, its implementation and its connection with Eastern doctrines, which also includes a remarkable selection of apothegms. But the true hesicasta bible is Apotegmas de los Padres del Desierto (Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 2017), with introduction, translation and notes by David González Gude, who—although lacking the heroic and Mishimian verb of Palacios—did an excellent job of selecting apothegms, as well as the most complete eremitic history ever written in Spanish.

But we must remember that many hermits were illiterate. A spiritual path is not a matter of enlightenment, but of disposition. And all those who wish, here and now, to take action and abandon the “political city”—source of superficial conflicts—to devote themselves to the purest contemplation, have deserts everywhere: in Castile there have always been drylands suitable for these pursuits, and there are the testaments of Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross to prove it. Today, in that area they call “Empty Spain,” the population is scarce and abandoned buildings abound, in whose ruins the modern hermit can find the solitude necessary to embark on the only revolution that, in times of dissolution, makes sense—the inner revolution.


Luis Landeira Caro writes from Spain. This articles appears through the kind courtesy of La Gaceta de la Iberosfera.


Featured: Saint Anthony shunning Gold, by Fra Angelico; painted ca. 1435-1440.


A Happy Roman Holiday

Why are we Roman Catholics? Because Peter and Paul bore witness to the greatest love, in Rome. Because the Pope is Peter’s successor, charged with strengthening his brothers in the faith. Of course. The heart of the Church is not in Lausanne, where everything is regulated like a precision clock, where no pedestrians obeys crossing signals, or throws a piece of paper into Lake Geneva for fear of being denounced by a citizen mindful of his collective responsibility. It’s not in Berlin, where work is rigorous and the mind is not inclined to the unexpected or to whimsical mentalities. It’s not in the City of London, where frantic, ultra-connected men chase money like Speedy Gonzales, their eyes glued to screens, on which they monitor the course of the world.
No Fuss

Our Church is in Rome, where everything is never so dramatic, where the Tiber flows lazily through the creamy color of the old stones, like a hazelnut coffee. It’s Rome where Audrey Hepburn toured on a Vespa, where lovers throw coins into the Trevi Fountain, where we drink chilled limoncello on a summer’s evening. In Rome, it’s unthinkable to imagine waking a cardinal between noon and 4pm, or expecting an answer before time has largely resolved the issue. Only the Eternal City can manage temporal affairs without giving in to the spirit of haste. The Church has eternity, the world is running behind time. The tragedy is to lose the Roman spirit, i.e., fidelity to faith and the courage of witness, but also the dolce vita that makes life so beautiful. The risk is in forgetting that the Church leads to the port of the Eternal, just as a ship sails through the shores of the temporal, between the contradictions of the world and the consolations of God.

How many are busy “doing nothing” (2 Thess. 3:11). They imagine a Church that suits them, according to their all-too-human reforms, their worldly perspectives and their short-sighted orientations. They reduce it to a little traffic between friends, by dint of political calculations, vain slogans and power struggles. They no longer let God be God. We are in the world, but we are not of the world. We need to live ad orientem, without getting too agitated along the way, not placing our whole heart in the affairs of the world, “keeping our soul in peace and silence” (Ps 130).

Entering God’s Rest

“How many people work in the Vatican?”

“No more than half,” replied good Pope John. “You’re very lucky, I’m just Christ’s vicar,” he replied to La Madre, who introduced herself as the “Superior of the Holy Spirit.” He had that sense of humor that never takes itself too seriously, and teaches us the true measure of our days. Deep down, he knew that not everything rested on him, that it was necessary to know how to enter into God’s rest without pretending to govern, foresee and plan everything. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them” (Mt 6:26).

The darkest cloud always has its golden lining. He was no idler, however, and his reassuring build concealed a sharp conscience, attentive to the extreme in the care of his soul. He minded God’s business and God minded his own. He combined Augustine’s “cor inquietus,” the noble concern for salvation and the quest for a holy life, with the words of the great Thérèse: “Nada te turbe.. Let nothing trouble you, O Lord! Let nothing trouble you, O my soul. Let nothing frighten you. God alone is enough.” He worked tirelessly, but quietly took his siesta.

You have to be able to sleep a little, which means accepting God’s hand. Accepting that life is slipping away. Consenting to die in the end. Death is a habit to get used to. Learning to rest prepares our soul for the Requiem. There are many calls to watch in the Gospel, but there are two calls to rest: “Stand aside and rest a while” (Mk 6:31). And in the great violence of the Passion, this paradoxical word: “From now on, you can sleep and rest” (Mk 14:41). No doubt this vacation is a time to learn how to sleep. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

To sleep is to let go, in the humility of knowing that not everything depends on our actions, and that God Himself rested on the seventh day from the work He had accomplished. “He who does not sleep is unfaithful to hope,” writes Péguy in the Porche du Mystère de la deuxième vertu (Porch of the Mystery of the Second Virtue). Hope begins when man, that “well of anxiety,” can do nothing more than what he has already done. He then lets the Lord correct, sanctify and complete his work. He falls asleep “like a little child against his mother” (Ps 130), having played the beautiful game of his life all day long. Then “the seed grows,” day and night, “we do not know how” (Mk 4:26). So it is with the Kingdom, the Lord tells us. We collaborate in it, but it is not our work. The essential escapes us. Life always runs away from our tightly-knit hands.

Learning to Sleep

Let Péguy eulogize the night, “the dark and sparkling daughter”:

O Night, O my daughter night, the most religious of my daughters,
The most pious
Of my creatures the most in my hands, the most abandoned…
You glorify me in sleep even more than your brother the Day glorifies me in work.
For man in his work glorifies me only through his work.
And in sleep it is I who glorify myself in man's abandonment.

God watches in silence, in His eternal quietude. “He neither sleeps nor slumbers, the guardian of Israel” (Ps 121). Here’s the prayer for this summer: “Give me, Lord, to do what I must to the best of my ability. The rest is in your hands.”

“The glory of God is the living man,” said Saint Irenaeus. The glory of God is also the sleeping man. So, happy Roman vacation!


Father Luc de Bellescize is the Curate of Saint Vincent-de-Paul in Paris. This article comes through the kind courtesy of La Nef.


Featured: A view of the Vatican from the Medici Gardens, by Antonietta Brandeis; painted in 2018.