Fr. John established Stillpoint Contemplative Ministries on May 15, 1995. On this day the Orthodox Church commemorates Our Holy and Venerable Father Pachomius the Great who is regarded as founder of the monastic communal life. He entered peacefully into the Lord's rest in 346, at the age of sixty.
Stillpoint Contemplative Ministries is our retreat format which utilizes Spiritual Direction in the Tradition of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Our monthly newsletter INSCAPE reflects the Orthodox teachings on the Christian Spiritual Life and Contemplative Prayer. We come to know God's Wisdom through the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul reminds us of the meaning of the spiritual life:
"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For this Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit Who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor 2: 7-13).
It is the Holy Spirit that offers direction in the souls of sincere people when they journey inward to the core of their innermost being to meet God in faith, hope, and love. Sacred Scripture calls this placeless place and vital encounter point the "HEART". "The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us" (Rm 5:5). This enlightenment is not guidance where we are told what to do. But we are to be lead by the movement of the Holy Spirit to unveil our spiritual senses and see with new interior eyes and hear with new interior ears while "acting in all things according to His Holy Will". "I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put My spirit within you and make you live by My statutes, careful to observe my decrees" (Ezekiel 36: 26-27).
A spiritual retreat is a "call to conversion by the Holy Spirit" whereby one's entire life becomes transformed by strict inner discipline. In order to experience God's healing love, we must be aware of our psychological and spiritual brokenness, our sinfulness, our emptiness, our meaninglessness, and our loneliness. In the illusory world we create, we become slaves to our own fears and we are unable to free ourselves of our separation from God and neighbor. This is sin! Sin which manifests the distortion of our relationship with God, our true-self, humanity and the cosmos. When we miss the mark and go astray, then we fail to achieve the purpose for which we were created. The goal and destiny of the Christian Life, the goal of all humanity, is THEOSIS...DEIFICATION IN CHRIST!
Our Creator will never force His love on us or coerce us to love Him. He has given us the "dreadful freedom" to turn away from Him if we wish to do so. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Rev 3:20). Yet, not only should we be aware of our sinful tendencies but must make an intentional effort, a metanoia, and begin our movement toward God. This conversion is not just a change of belief, nor sorrow or contrition or regret but the beginning of turning one's whole life to God and living that new life in Christ. We truly become participators in the very life-giving uncreated energies of the Trinity (2 Peter 1:4). Then we can experience God's incredible mercy and love which is always available in the essence of our being. "Come back to Me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, and mourning" (Joel 2:12). "When you seek Me, you will find Me. Yes, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).
In coming back to God, each of us must consider our own unique journey and spiritual growth. God moves toward all His children as He knows the spiritual care each soul requires for salvation. The essence of this spiritual direction is offered to everyone through the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This Divine Physician speaks to us directly by means of Sacred Scripture, Holy Tradition, and the wisdom of the Desert Fathers. We must go to this Healer for the critical diagnosis and therapeutic treatment of all the innermost aspects of our body---soul---spirit relationships. He is the only one Who restores the entire fallen human personality that has become separated and isolated from God. "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" (Matt 9:28).
Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophy, but belief in God as Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sharing Their Life and Love with all humanity. Only by the Grace of God can our inner world be transformed and unified. "...first cleanse the vessel from within, that the outside may be clean also" (Matt 23:26).
The Saints of the Church including the Founding Fathers and their teachings offer us guidance by example as they lived out their entire earthly existence in total surrender to God's will. Their words and actions echo throughout the ages and, if we choose, have the potential to intensify our personal reflection and renewal in our daily lives, "...bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ...(2 Cor 10:5).
In order to search and discover the inner beauty of man's existence created by God, it is imperative that we return to the Biblical and Patristic view of humanity. Only here do we find the "person" as fully functional and integrated. "Persons" become "who they are" only through relationships with the "Other", and thereby resulting in Communion and ultimately Union without loss of identity.
Authentic Spiritual Direction consists of the Biblical Teachings and Sacred Tradition where Jesus Christ is Lord (Kyrios). Moreover, the sovereignity of God and the cooperation of human responsibility (Synergy) are preached. Ultimately we learn to share and live out the great command to "love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength" (Deut 6:5) and "to love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev 19:18). Then and only then do we comprehend "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13: 34-35).
The total message of Christianity throughout all the ages is summarized in Fr. George Maloney's expression:
"As you relate to God, so you relate to your neighbor; and as you relate to your neighbor, so you relate to God"