An Owl in the Desert

In Psalm 102:6-7 (LXX Ps 101) we read “I am like an owl of the desert; I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.”  The context of these verses is that of the suffering servant crying out to God for salvation as his enemies surround him.  This is an apt description of an Orthodox Christian today.  Political and social forces seek to subdue the Church and bring her to heel.  False religion and counterfeit spirituality seeps into the lives of her members as they tarry in Babylon.  Dissension wells up from within, putting brethren in opposition.  It can seem, at times, as though the waters will never cease to rise, and we shall thereby be swept away into the abyss.

And yet the Scriptures assure us of two things.  First, that the “gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church” (Matt 16:18).  As a wise priest once told me, “The Church exists to save us; we do not need to save the Church.”  And second, that Jesus Christ has already disarmed and triumphed over the demonic forces, having “made a public spectacle of them” (Col  2:15).  The world will continue to drum up fear and anger, but we who call ourselves by Christ’s name are invited to share in the joy and peace of the Spirit, knowing that God has already judged—and will judge once more on the last day.  “‘Vengeance is mine, I will recompense’ says the Lord” (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19).  Like an owl in the desert, we must wait and watch as our enemies surround us.  But there is no need to despair, for “God is with us” (Is 7:14; Matt 1:23).

This entry marks the beginning of Prudence & Piety, where I will document my ponderings about Orthodox doctrine and praxis.  The fruit of my offerings are rooted in over two decades of studying the theological and cultural patrimony of the Church, of living in obedience to a spiritual father, of gleaning wisdom from the elders, of traveling and living in Orthodox nations, of pursuing the ascetical life, of being a husband and father, and of applying whatever small portion of wisdom I’ve gained to my vocation as a parish priest.  My intention is to lend a sober and cogent perspective to the ongoing conversation of Orthodox Christian life today, even while the world is on fire and subsumed by the passions.

The theme of this endeavor is reflected in the moniker I’ve chosen.  Prudence (Latin prudentia), as defined in the 1828 Webster Dictionary, means “Wisdom applied to practice [and] implies caution in deliberating and consulting on the most suitable means to accomplish valuable purposes, and the exercise of sagacity in discerning and selecting them.”  It is an accurate translation of the Koine Greek sōphrosynē, which refers to soundness of mind, temperance, and self-control.  And Piety (Latin pietas) means “veneration or reverence of God and love of his character… [and also] the exercise of these affections in obedience to his will and devotion to his service.”  In addition, piety refers to the honor and duty shown towards family and society, and so reflects the fact that no Christian exists in isolation from the world.  By setting our moral compass to prudence and piety, we are sure to traverse the waves of modernity without risk of shipwreck.

If you find something useful in what I write, then give glory to God.  If the fruit is not to your liking, then so be it.  But I say to all, pray for me the sinner.

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