The Translation of the Faith

There is an Italian proverb: Traduttore, traditore. It means, “translator, traitor.” It is the observation that no matter how hard one might try, the translation of one language into another is never more than approximate: there can be no “literal” translation. Every language is, within itself, a universe of relationships between words. There are shades of meaning and associations that simply cannot be moved into another language. When we study a new…

Entering the Mystery of Christmas

Orthodox Christianity is deeply associated with the word “mystery.”  Its theological hymns are replete with paradox, repeatedly affirming two things to be true that are seemingly contradictory. Most of these things are associated with what is called “apophatic” theology, or a theology that is “unspeakable.” This same theological approach is sometimes called the Via Negativa. This is easily misunderstood in common conversation. An Orthodox discussion takes place and reaches an impasse. Inevitably,…

The Morality of Christmas

Morality is tricky business in what is an extremely moral society. I pray my readers to be patient with me as I explain what I think is the problem. First, I will note that morality is all that is left when the most fundamental grounds of a culture have been destroyed. We indeed live in just such a time, hence the rise of a vehemence in the moral life. Second, I will…

God’s Un-American View of the Poor and Why It Matters

America has an odd view of the poor. It is a view that reveals much about the underlying theological assumptions that create and support our culture. I will quickly quell any protests about the mixing of theology and politics by saying, everything, even politics is rooted in theology. More about that later on… In general terms, when Americans encounter the poor, our first thoughts go to the individual and his/her story. What…

A Secular Kingdom…Where Christmas Never Comes

  Two people are working at a soup kitchen, feeding the poor. One of them is a Christian, the other an atheist. The Christian is doing what he does out of obedience to Christ, in order to serve Christ “in the least of these my brethren.” The atheist is doing what he does because he thinks that generosity is a good thing and that the world would be a better place if…

A Difficult Orthodoxy

The difference between “right glory” and “right doctrine,” noted in my previous article, goes much deeper than services of worship. It is true that the Church has, throughout her history, taken great care with liturgical practice so that what is done gives expression to what is believed. The two should be seamless. This, however, becomes ever more difficult when it extends to our lives. Frequently, we settle for “right doctrine,” and “right…

Sacrifice and Worship

In the 1970’s, the BBC did a series, “The Long Search,” in which Ronald Eyre explored various religions. To my mind, it remains the best such series I’ve seen. When it came to Christianity, the series wisely presented three separate treatments: the Orthodox, the Catholics and Protestants. In its program on Orthodoxy, Eyre traveled to Romania, which was then under the boot of Ceausescu and official “atheism.” The persecution only allowed the…

Why Does God Hide?

God hides. God makes Himself known. God hides. This pattern runs throughout the Scriptures. A holy hide-and-seek, the pattern is not accidental nor unintentional. It is rooted in the very nature of things in the Christian life. Christianity whose God is not hidden is not Christianity at all. But why is this so? In a previous article, I wrote: Our faith is about learning to live in the revealing of things that…

The Senselessness of Suffering and Death

I recently posted a note on social media in which I said that Christ’s death and resurrection changed the “senseless” character of death. Therefore, Christians need no longer fear it. I got a bit of push-back. What is senseless about suffering and death? There are two aspects of suffering and death that are particularly felt to be senseless. The first is suffering that seems to have no purpose: the death of a…

Care for the Soul

This article first appeared in 2015. It seems very apropos to our present moment. Glory to God for all things. I do not understand Zombies. When I was a child, Zombie movies were virtually non-existent. The word referred to something like a Golem in Jewish thought – a creature without a soul. It is properly a frightening thing – for that which we think of as the soul, is also the seat…