The Wheel of Thoughts and Virtues

This post is part of the Desert Prayers Project, a component of my doctoral thesis work through Virginia Theological Seminary.

April 5, 2022 · 20 words

God's Love Letter

One of Evagrius’s lesser known writings is his Letter to Melania. A “Desert Mother,” Melania managed a monastery in Jerusalem and is credited with inspiring Evagrius to embrace a monastic life in the Egyptian desert. In this eloquent and tender letter, Evagrius expounds on some of his mystical, “gnostic” insights–he had come to understand creation itself as a love letter, chronicling God’s desire for us. “Just as those who teach the alphabet to children trace the letters on tablets, so too, Christ, in order to teach his wisdom to the rational beings, has inscribed it into corporeal nature” (Harmless, William....

March 7, 2022 · 508 words

Virtues in Disguise

Reviewing your day and prayer experience to identify interruptions by the various “troubling thoughts” is not easy work. We can understand, on an intellectual level, the desert wisdom that thoughts are illusory and transient–that they don’t define us. However, sometimes it can be difficult to “feel” that truth after a long day at work or a destabilizing life event. Of course, prayer can and will help. If not silence, then direct petition to God for comfort and strength can often move us into a more objective mental space....

December 8, 2021 · 365 words

Virtue is Found in the Middle

“It is an old saying that extremes meet,” writes John Cassian in The Conferences. Cassian was a disciple of Evagrius, and is credited with introducing the West to the wisdom of the desert. This maxim refers to the Aristotelian idea that virtue is found in the middle; existing at either end of a spectrum can ultimately become harmful. As followers of the “via media,” Episcopalians ought to be familiar with this notion....

November 23, 2021 · 409 words

What is a Mystic?

This week I gave a morning chapel talk to the student body at a local Episcopal school. It had been awhile since I had been in front of a large group of discerning teens, challenged not only to say something meaningful, but also to merely keep their attention as they groggily awoke to the day. I chose to tell the story of a recent winter fat biking expedition I had undertaken in the mountains near Yellowstone....

February 5, 2020 · 918 words