New Podcast! “Living Sacramentally” with Fr. Gabriel Bilas

New Podcast! Orthodox Apologetics: The Eucharist

OCFPodcastIn the latest episode of the OCF podcast, Media Student Leader Matthew Monos continues his conversation with Fr. Brendan Pelphrey about sharing Orthodoxy with others. In this episode, they talk about the Eucharist: what we think about terms like consubstantiation and transubstantiation, why we have “closed communion,” and more!

Click here to listen!

Time for Your Physical

Time for Your Physical

Well… it is cough and cold season again in America and the steady hacking of the afflicted provides a staccato soundtrack to daily life in schools, offices, and public places. I wouldn’t have imagined it possible to become so easily brought low by the so-called “common cold” in this place (Arizona) of palm trees and citrus groves but the cold virus is no respecter of persons or places.

I made the classic mistake this autumn of waiting too long to visit my doctor since I didn’t want to be a big baby about something as ordinary as a cold and thought it would surely abate in a few days. Weeks later and chronically ill, I belatedly exited the doctor’s office with a fistful of prescriptions to combat my ailments which if treated sooner would have required less stringent remedies!

King David's Repentance. Image from  Wikimedia

King David’s Repentance. Image from Wikimedia

Kinda like confession… Physical ailments cannot be ignored for long without escalating into more serious conditions, and spiritual ones seem to linger and linger if we don’t exercise the same care for our souls as for our bodies. “Routine” physicals are scheduled to assess the overall well-being of the patient as the vital signs (pulse, blood pressure, temperature, weight, etc.) are checked for potential issues and abnormal readings often prompt further rounds of testing.

And we accept this as necessary to promote and maintain health and vitality. But how eagerly do we embrace spiritual assessments of our souls through the ministrations of Holy Confession? How often should we go and how specific should we be in describing our spiritual maladies to the Physician of our souls? The answer to this depends on admitting to ourselves how healthy or unhealthy we want to be in our spiritual lives.

Health and Well-being expenditures in America run into the billions of dollars. A broken fingernail can be the ruination of an otherwise calm and peaceful day. Diets are tightly monitored to avoid sugar, HFCS, gluten, wheat, antibiotics, hormones, etc., and all for good reason. Yet we ingest numerous spiritual, emotional, and psychological substances which are as lethal to our souls as the above listed are to our body.

Holy Confession enables the penitent (that’s us!) to be cleansed from within of our sins and to be made well. The impurities to which we have been exposed, spiritual viruses like lust, envy, pride, anger, bitterness, etc. are flushed out through the grace of the Holy Spirit and our souls are detoxified of these lethal influences which, if left unchecked, can bring about spiritual death.

As a rule, I believe it is helpful to come to confession whenever the Church is fasting, e.g., Great Lent, the Apostles’ fast, the Dormition fast, and the Advent fast. However, inasmuch as Holy Confession is about wellness and not judgment, there may be periods in our lives when more frequent confession is needed. God’s grace flows into the hearts of the humble along with clarity and wisdom. There really is no downside here!

Likewise, the degree of specificity of what we confess correlates to how well we want to become. We ought to be at least as honest in confession as we are in the doctor’s office. Hence, one who has embezzled vast sums would be ill-advised to mutter a word or two about greed! And because God is a righteous and merciful Judge, He stands ready to forgive and to heal and (this is important) strengthen us to wage war against those temptations that threaten to wreck our spiritual health!

So as we approach the Lenten Spring together, may we all take advantage of the spiritual wellness “program” offered to us in our parishes through the Holy Mystery of Confession!

Love and blessings,

Fr. Apostolos Hill

About the Author


This is a guest post from Fr. Apostolos Hill at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, AZ. Fr. Apostolos has been active in OCF in a variety of areas; hosting regional retreats, leading OCF Real Break trips to Greece, Guatemala, and Skid Row, and in the College Conference West.

Gonna Coach You Up Good!

Gonna Coach You Up Good!

Here is a simple question (so don’t overthink it!): Who was your toughest teacher, professor, or coach? Got it? For me it was my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Lewis; a tough as nails, no-nonsense educator who knew that beneath my class clown exterior lurked a serious student in need of discipline. I actually thanked her years later for her tireless efforts in straightening me out.

Students and athletes understand the need for dedicated teachers and coaches willing to invest the time in our academic, athletic, and personal development and this principle is no less true in the spiritual life though it is frequently overlooked. Recent studies indicate that a key determinant in retaining our faith into adulthood is the influence of a non-family member who is serious about eternity.

In the Holy Orthodox Church, we are encouraged to place ourselves under the tutelage of a Spiritual Father or Mother; someone willing to establish a vested interest in our spiritual growth and to walk the path of salvation beside us. In the same way that we cannot effectively teach ourselves astrophysics or the nuances of a quality golf swing we cannot effectively be our own guide in the spiritual life.

Photo from  Ellie Davies

Photo from Ellie Davies

So how do we go about finding a Spiritual Father or Mother? Can almighty Google help us out here? Not so much; and there are a handful of basic points to consider as we begin our search. The first is that having a spiritual director is of limited value if we aren’t regularly engaging the divine worship of the Church. Just as students won’t learn very well if they skip class and athletes won’t improve if they bail out on practice, Orthodox Christians are hard-pressed to make spiritual progress estranged from Church.

Next, we must disabuse ourselves of our consumer mentality in searching out a guide. We are conditioned from our earliest memories to view everything through the prism of our likes and opinions, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. But as with teachers and coaches, the spiritual guide best for us is likely not one we would “select” for ourselves.

Nine times out of ten, (or more) the perfect spiritual father for each of us is simply our parish priest and particularly so if he has known you since your early childhood. Think about it, he will have baptized you, blessed you, communed you frequently, and anointed you when you were ill, heard your first confession, and encouraged you when you were low.

There is, in my observation, a very unhealthy “guru cultism” in our approach to this topic today that reminds me very much of the herd mentality of the 1960’s when young folk ran after one exotic guru after the next (and bonus points were awarded if the Beatles liked him!) And this is sad because in succumbing to this temptation we risk supplanting a healthy teacher/student relationship with a potentially idolatrous one; guided as much by conceit and a need to feel special than by the Holy Spirit.

Finally, proximity and access are really important considerations in finding a spiritual director. It makes very little sense to place oneself under the care of someone so distant from us that we cannot go frequently to him or her for advice and guidance. The most saintly father in Kiev or Kalavrita does me very little good if I live in Milwaukee.

But I am convinced enough in the immutable fact of God’s love for His children that He will bring into our lives the perfect Spiritual Father or Mother in that creative and often unexpected way that only God can do! Whenever I am able to visit with my geronda I run to him for confession and blurt out all my “stuff” because I trust him, I know that he loves me, he never judges me though he does push me, he is given insight into my soul by the Holy Spirit, and I absolutely know that he prays for me every day!

So please reconnect with your parish priest or spiritual father! They (that is to say “we”) reaaaally like hearing from you and knowing how better to pray for you in your journey to the Kingdom!

Love and blessings,
Fr. Apostolos Hill

About the Author


This is a guest post from Fr. Apostolos Hill at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, AZ. Fr. Apostolos has been active in OCF in a variety of areas; hosting regional retreats, leading OCF Real Break trips to Greece, Guatemala, and Skid Row, and in the College Conference West.