The Mystery of “Mystery”

Few words can be more misleading to the modern ear than the Orthodox use of the word “mystery.” It’s a fine New Testament word and is (technically) the proper name for the sacraments in Orthodoxy (though we most often say ‘sacrament’ in English). Its root meaning is that of something “hidden.” In our culture’s language, mystery is more a matter of a who-done-it or a reference to something so puzzling or beyond…

Healing the Inner Pharisee

I cannot remember the name of my kindergarten teacher. I cannot remember the names of any of my first grade classmates. However, I have a very vivid memory of the only word I messed up in a first grade reading group: cupboard. I read, “Cup board.” Old Mother Hubbard would have been dismayed. In the same manner, I remember the word that brought my spelling bee prowess to an end in sixth…

Hope: The Unashamed Virtue

This past year, my wife and I developed a delightful habit of “Monday’s with Eli.” He is my soon-to-be 5 year-old grandson. He has a nearly 4 month-old baby brother, whose time in the womb was the occasion for our weekly baby-sitting duties. With my retirement, his presence was a new challenge to “find things to do.” He is an energetic boy, bright, with quick interest in almost anything around him. Our…

The Religious Nature of Modern Life

On a daily basis, I have become increasingly aware of the “religious” nature of almost the whole of modern life. That might seem to be an odd observation when the culture in which we live largely describes itself as “secular.” That designation, however, only has meaning in saying that the culture does not give allegiance or preference to any particular, organized religious body. It is sadly the case, however, that this self-conception…

The Essential Goodness of All Things

There are certain foundational matters within the Orthodox teaching of the faith that should be settled in our hearts as we think about the faith, or even as we go through our day. Among those is the simple affirmation that all of creation is inherently and essentially good. We hear this first from the lips of God as He creates all things: Gen. 1:4 And God saw that the light was good.…

Does Goodness Require the Possiblity of Evil?

  In a world in which the action of choosing is exalted above all else, it is not surprising to hear that “evil is necessary in order to have the good.” I have seen this conversation, cast in a number of ways. It is stock-in-trade for some quasi-religious systems. I have seen it in spades in Jungian and Depth Psychology circles. No doubt, some bring this set of ideas along with them…

The Meekness of God

When Cecil B. DeMille cast Charlton Heston in the role of Moses in the 1956 film, The Ten Commandments, he had in mind a very American version of the central story of the Old Testament. The 50’s were deep in the heart of the Cold War with Communism. The film became a vehicle for America’s own cultural mythology. The Ten Commandments turned on the theme of freedom. As such, Hollywood was following…

Doing the Good You Can Do

I re-publish articles from the past from time-to-time. Usually, they are from years back. This post is from last August. However, in light of recent conversations, it seemed worth re-posting much sooner… +++ St. John the Baptist confronted a difficult question. Soldiers came to him (it’s not clear what kind of soldiers these were). We are told: Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them,…

The Last Temptation

I have pondered, from time to time, the oddity of Christ’s “last” temptation. The first temptation was that of turning stones into bread, the second, that of throwing Himself down from the Temple. The third and last temptation, however, was to be given “all the kingdoms of this world.” I understand hunger. Fasting for 40 days easily explains that the first temptation surrounds food. I have less comprehension regarding casting oneself down…

Into the Heart of the Capitol

The love of truth is similar (and related) to the love of beauty. The truth is not found through suspicion, anger, hearsay, or such things. The truth ultimately is a gift from God and strengthens the heart. It is better, when we cannot arrive at the truth because of suspicion or such, to say, “I don’t know,” than to grasp at things we suspect or imagine. The origin of conspiracy theories begins…