The Breastplate of St. Patrick

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through a belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness Of the Creator of creation.I arise today Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism, Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension, Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom. I arise today Through…

Signposts

I have spent my day traveling by car to the heart of South Carolina where my parents are now living, having moved to an “Assisted Living” Center recently. I have a brother nearby. “Going home” to South Carolina has become a sort of barometer of sorts for me in the past 20 years (it’s how long I’ve been gone). There have been vacations, funerals, weddings, graduations – all the events that mark…

Reverent Audaciousness

From Fr. Sophrony’s We Shall See Him as He Is Divine Love begets reverent audaciousness. Thus a handful of Apostles, hitherto faint-hearted, after the descent of the Holy Ghost were filled with courage and took on the whole of the rest of the world in spiritual struggle. Nearly all of them suffered martyrdom. When the governor of Patras threatened St. Andrew with crucifixion the latter made the marvelous reply, “If I feared…

Pray for Catechumens

In this season of the year it is traditional for Catechumens to be preparing for reception into the Church. My experience is that for anyone preparing to be received life gets a little tougher. I suspect the enemy to be the culprit behind this and therefore think it all the more incumbent on all Orthodox to remember and pray for Catechumens. The Fathers wisely gave us such prayers for every liturgy (though…

Icons and the Heart

My maternal grandparents’ home had an array of popular religious art: Jesus knocking at the door (as discussed in the previous post’s comments), the guardian angel and the children, prayer in the garden of gethsemane. They were country Baptists, and yet religious art (I suppose some would call it kitsch) was an important part of the home. My first encounter of the Theotokos was with a Raphael Madonna that was the frontispiece…

The Door of the Heart

If there is anything about our life that captures my attention (indeed some days I think of little else), it is the heart. There is a clear sense in the writings of the Fathers of what is meant by the heart and Scripture has much to say as well. Christ said about the heart: “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil…

Smashing the Gates of Hell

Perhaps it seems early to be talking about smashing the gates of hell (isn’t that something to be left until Pascha?), but the Church engages us as “gate smashers” much earlier in the Lenten season than just Pascha itself. The memorial Saturdays (“Soul Saturdays”) that we observe in which we pray for the departed (it’s nearly every Saturday in Lent) are small reminders that the Pascha of our Lord has smashed the…

Encountering God

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, in his little classic, Beginning to Pray, focuses first on the absence of God rather than His presence – which is helpful for me since that’s starting where I have to start (as do almost all of us). He grounds this in God’s personhood and His freedom. God is not some object that we always have at our beck and call. Though He is indeed “everywhere present and filleth…

At the Edge of Heaven

In writing about the Iconostasis in the previous post, I wrote of “boundaries,” and how the definitions that exist in the Church reflect even greater realities. I believe those realities are two-fold. The first reality is to be found within ourselves. Fearfully and wonderfully made, created in the image of God, there is a spiritual reality to our composition and inner relationship that is far too easily overlooked in our materialistic age.…

The Iconostasis and Modern Piety

This is meant as a follow-up with more personal reflections to accompany my earlier post on the Iconostasis in Orthodox Churches. I know from my many conversations with bright young seminarians (two of whom are married to my oldest daughters) that there is much, much more to know about the history and development of Eastern liturgical practices than I begin to know, despite my years of reading. But I do know something…