Fire and Light

Behold: I draw near to the Divine Communion. Burn me not as I partake, O Creator, For Thou art a Fire which burns the unworthy, Rather, cleanse me of all defilement. This short prayer, appointed for devotional use before receiving communion in the Orthodox Church, has always been one of my favorites. It draws out the great mystery of the Presence of Christ which is experienced both as threat and as consolation.…

Fullness and Reform

There is a certain givenness to life – at least a whole lot of it. I have gradually come to accept that thirty years, ok, forty years after my growth spurt, I will never be taller than 5’7″. I’ve even given up on adding the extra 1/2″ that I claimed for many years. You are what you are. There is something deeply anti-modern about such a confession. To agree that your gender…

Not the Fathers’ Christmas

Christmas [as a holiday] was long ago corrupted by our culture. Certain aspects of the story are too good to leave alone. The drama of Christ’s birth – the Virgin who has to explain the unexplainable – Wise Men looking for a King – a wicked old King looking for any challenge to his throne – no room in the Inn – and angels singing, “Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.” How…

The Praying Mind

Writing on the life of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, the Elder Sophrony said: The Staretz’ [Elder] life was spent, above all, in prayer, and the praying mind does not think – does not reason – but lives. Its activity does not consist in the manipulation of abstract concepts but in participation in being. The truly praying mind has to do with categories different in quality from those of rational reflection. It…

Of Apostles and Prophets

I am spending this weekend in Nicholasville, Ky, with my Archbishop and several clergy friends. We are saying goodby to Fr. David Rucker who will soon take up a position at the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, and we say hello, to Fr. Justin Patterson, my former assistant priest, as the new priest in charge of St. Athanasius in Kentucky. In addition tomorrow, we will see the tonsuring of two men as Readers,…

In a Single Moment

In Holy Week, the Church remembers the “Wise Thief,” the robber on the cross who asks Christ to “remember me in your kingdom.” In what has to be one of my favorite hymns of the week the Church sings: The Wise Thief didst Thou make worthy of Paradise, in a single moment, O Lord. By the wood of thy Cross illumine me as well, and save me. The striking part of this…

My Right Brain

Many people may be familiar with the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It’s sort of popular around my house, almost as a shorthand for a complete understanding of how we see the world around us. The author, Betty Edwards, demonstrates through art exercises what science has known for quite some time – that the brain is differentiated for various tasks. The verbal part of our life, including reasoning,…

How Hard Is It?

During the 1970’s through the 1990’s many of America’s mainline denominations experienced a frightening loss of membership. Every preacher worth his salt blamed the loss of members on whatever his favorite hobbyhorse was. It was the lack of this, or the presence of that. In Orthodoxy, particularly in parts of the Northeast and in some other parts, a similar decline occurred. The Eli Lily Foundation actually did some studies on this phenomenon…

Crowded Prayer

For reasons I won’t go into here, I am in Boston for the better part of the week at a conference with a group of priests. Many good conversations, to say the least. In the course of one I was reminded of how “crowded” Orthodox prayer is. The service in the Chapel was part of the reminder. The place was packed, like most seminary chapels, with an extra thirty priests thrown in…

Why You Can’t Do Orthodoxy By the Book (or the Blog)

There is a grave problem with Orthodoxy – you can’t do it by the book. Even less so, can you do it by the internet (he says as he types away at his blog). The reason for all this is simple: we teach that God has revealed Himself as Person. As I’ve noted before, God cannot be known in general or in a non-personal way. Indeed, it is God Who reveals to…