Why Not Beauty?

Someone emailed me to ask: When did people start to expect worship to be something that would benefit them? Something that will inspire them, resonate with them, give them strength for the week ahead, etc? When did it stop being something we render to God for his own sake, to express our gratitude and awe? He notes that all the things he loves about high-church worship, the music, solemnity, the processions, even the architecture, though they move him deeply, the friends he brings to church just shrug them off.

The Good Samaritan, by Patriarch Narses Snorhali

The Good Samaritan Written by Armenian Patriarch Narses Snorhali (1102-1173). From Jerusalem, our Paradise, guilty like AdamI went down to vile Jericho,And fell into the hands of the Brigand. They stripped me of light;They covered my soul with sores of sin;They did not depart leaving me half dead;But after death,…

The Benedict Option and Retreating from Politics

I haven’t done much writing about “The Benedict Option” by my friend Rod Dreher, but this image gave me some things to think about. It’s the cover of the French edition of “The Benedict Option,” which comes out in September, and it’s better than the original cover, isn’t it? It expresses the central concept better than the original cover did, though that is admittedly a beautiful photo. The original cover shows Mt St Michel, literally a monastery on a hill, so is it any wonder people think that’s what the book is about?

How to Revive a “Dead” Church

Here’s something I hear from time to time: “I’d like to join the Orthodox Church, but I visited a local church and it just felt dead.” When I hear this it’s about Orthodox churches, but that needn’t be the case. It could be any church or denomination; it might sound good on paper, but the local church on Sunday morning feels empty and drained. It’s tempting to say, “That shouldn’t make any difference. Focus on your own prayer life.” But, actually, I know what these people mean. Sometimes, when you visit a church, something just feels “off.” It makes you really eager to get out of there.

Why It’s Hard to Accept God’s Forgiveness

My daughter-in-law, Khouria Jocelyn Mathewes, has a good column today on repentance, as we head into Great Lent. She makes a point about accepting forgiveness for past sins (not the ones that continue in the present, but completed deeds in the past.) She reminds us that we must accept forgiveness and move on, and not keep revisiting them and “beating yourself up.” I think that, when we continue to be distraught over a forgiven sin in the past, it’s linked to our pride. It’s that we can’t believe we would ever do such a thing. It doesn’t fit our sense of the “kind of person” we are. So we can never quite assimilate it; we keep being startled by it, and regard it as strange and appalling. We think of it as something inexplicable that “happened,” rather than something we did.

We Call Ourselves “Pro-Life”

Here is why abortion is the most important justice issue of our time. 1. It is wrong to discriminate, and worse to persecute, still worse to imprison, even worse to torture, and worst of all to kill. Abortion kills. 2. It is wrong to kill violent adults, if they can be stopped any other way. It is worse to kill non-violent adults. It is even worse to kill children. Abortion kills children. 3. In 2011, there were 908 child fatalities from car accidents. There weere 1620 child fatalities from abuse and neglect. And there were 1,058,490 child fatalities from abortion. Abortion kills children in overwhelming numbers.

The Unborn Person

In the Roe v Wade decision, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote that, if the fetus is a person, the right to abortion collapses. (Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 [1973] Section IX.) How can we tell whether it is a person or not? Here’s what science shows. From the beginning, the unborn is:1. Alive. It is living and growing, always increasing in size and complexity.2. Human. Its body is composed entirely of human cells.3. Individual. It has unique DNA. If a cell from the mother, the father, and the unborn child were examined side by side, it would reveal that they came from three different people.

Old Age and Illness

I was just writing to a friend who’s had a hard diagnosis: When I was young I noticed how all older people have something physical to complain about, sometimes something very serious. Each one had a body part that was failing faster than the rest. A part that had been set, like a clock, to be the first to give way. And we don’t know what they are, when we’re younger. We carry them around unknowing, while the clock steadily circles around to the time they are set to bloom forth—“booby traps” that we don’t know about and can’t anticipate, but every day get closer to being activated.

A Litany to St. Michael

Chief Captain of the Angels, pray for us Angel of fiery appearance, pray for us Angel of miraculous beauty, pray for us First-formed star of the world, pray for us Traverser of Creation, pray for us Fulfiller of the Creator’s commands, pray for us Mighty and powerful, pray for us Minister, spirit, and flaming fire, pray for us Leader of the thrice-holy hymn, pray for us Greatest of Archangels, pray for us

He asked “Am I autistic?”

A young man sent me an email saying that he was wondering whether he was autistic, and wether he should get himself evaluated by a doctor. I asked an autistic young man I knew to reply. ***** I’m a thirty-year-old man, Orthodox since infancy, diagnosed with Aspergers before age ten.  I’ve been married for four years, and have a young child.  I haven’t been all that professionally successful myself, for various reasons which can be summarized as “grew up lazy and got a useless degree.”  I should note that I have a very mild form of Asperger’s (I can pass for an extrovert), and every case is different anyway, so not everything I say will necessarily apply.