Welcome to the Orthodox Church excerpt (What does it mean to be unchanging?)

…Next come three short hymns known as the “Antiphons.” In the earliest centuries, these hymns were sung by people as they were on their way to worship, or waiting outside church for the official entrance of the clergy. The hymns (which, despite the name, aren’t necessarily sung antiphonally) are composed of verses from the Psalms or Beatitudes, or offer brief prayers of intercession (such as, “Save us, O Son of God, who rose from the dead”). After the second antiphon we sing a hymn attributed to the emperor Justinian (AD 483–565). O Only-begotten Son and immortal Word of God, Who for our salvation willed to become incarnate

Why I Haven’t Spoken Out — More Thoughts

Here are some other points, which didn’t find a place in the main essay. They are just random thoughts, and not arranged in any particular order. (I’ve included here the main points from three rambling essays on the topic that I posted in 2013, and taken down the latter.) 1. After Rod Dreher posted a link to my essay, “Why I Haven’t Spoken Out on Gay Marriage—Till Now,” a flood of comments flowed in to his blog. Several people rejected my statement that gay sex is damaging to the soul, saying that there was no reason people in a gay marriage couldn’t have a close relationship with God.

A Sacrifice for a Friend

 I recently received an email from a young man, an Orthodox catechumen, who is concerned about his best friend. This friend recently came out as gay and, after being scolded by family and church friends, has joined an “affirming” church that will endorse his choices. The young man writing to me said he was encouraged by something in one of my podcasts. I had said that there is room in our faith for people of the same sex to form loving relationships. This kind of love is called “friendship.” It has always been held in honor, and appears in the Bible and throughout Church history.

A Summary of Orthodox Spirituality in St. Maximos

Every day I get an entry from the writings of St. Maximos the Confessor, from his Four “Centuries” (four sets of one hundred short sayings) on Love. They come in Greek and English. I don’t know who sends them; I expect someone has set himself a task of translating one a day. As I read today’s I thought how absolutely mystified I would have been by it, a few years back.

St. Mary of Egypt (for all ages)

St. Mary of EgyptFeasts: April 1 and 5th Sunday of Great Lent About 500 years after the Resurrection of our Lord, a holy monk by the name of Zosimas lived in a monastery by the Jordan River. He had lived as a monk since childhood and when he was about 50 years old he began to think that he had surpassed all the other monks in virtue and that no one could teach him anything he didn’t already know. To prevent such a prideful thought from taking root, God taught him a lesson.

Unforgiveable

[St Seraphim Prison Fellowship; Winter 2013] Are there crimes that cannot be forgiven? Apollo was a shepherd, and had been hardened by his rough life. One day he saw a pregnant woman alone in the field, and was seized with curiosity to know how the unborn child lay in the womb. So he killed her; there was no one there to help her. He opened her body and looked upon the dying child.

A Miracle of Flowers

Wes Smith’s column this week for First Things is about the flowers at his church that continued to be fresh, after a parishioner poured out the last of his holy water into one of the vases. The comment of a skeptic at that site clarified for me a point of miscommunication. The skeptic seems to think we are claiming that holy water is magic, and if we tested this in a controlled environment it would have this effect on flowers every time. There would be a pattern, one that kept appearing in any place and time.

The Public Atheists Refute an Imaginary God

Oliver Burkeman, a blogger for The Guardian, says that proponents of the atheist side of the God debate (where, he says, his sympathies lie) are being intellectually lazy. They attack a concept of God which imagines him as a sort of superhero, rather than grappling with the classic monotheistic view of God as the source and ground of reality. This is like anti-evolutionists refuting a distorted and absurd concept of evolution. Burkeman recommends David Bentley Hart’s “The Experience of God” so that they might grasp and then grapple with a more theologically-accurate concept of God. 

The Great Blessing of the Waters by St. Sophronius of Jerusalem (AD 634-8)

Priest: O Trinity, transcendent in essence, in goodness and in divinity, O Almighty, invisible and incomprehensible, who watch over all, O Creator of intelligent essences, of natures endowed with speech, O Goodness of utter and unapproachable brilliance, who enlighten every person who comes into the world: enlighten me also, your unworthy servant! Illuminate the eyes of my mind, that I may venture to praise your immeasurable goodness and your might; may the prayer that I offer be acceptable for the people here present. Let not my sins prevent the descent of the Holy Spirit upon this place, but permit me now without condemnation to cry out to You, O all-good Lord, and to say: We glorify You, O Master and Lover of Mankind, Almighty King before eternity! We glorify You, Creator and Maker of all!

The Heart of the Scriptures

Surprisingly, the Bible treats the heart as the place where we do our thinking—we think in our hearts, not our heads. And, as Matthew 15:19 shows, those thoughts are not always noble. In our culture we regard our ability to reason as one of the highest aspects of human personhood, but forget how often we employ that faculty in less-than-noble pursuits. The biblical Greek word for thinking actively, like when you’re thinking something through, is dianoia, and it includes selfish fantasies, plotting, and scheming: “The imagination [dianoia] of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21) “He has scattered the proud in the imagination [dianoia] of their hearts” (Lk 1:51)