A Beautiful Heart – The Acquisition of Grace

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil 4:8 +++ Some people tell me that they are scandalized because they see many things wrong in the Church. I tell them that if you ask a fly, “Are there any flowers in this area?”…

The Verbal Icon of Christ

Any number of times, the late Fr. Thomas Hopko recounted how his predecessor as Professor of Dogmatics at St. Vladimir’s, Serge Verhovskoy, extracted an oath from him prior to signing off on his assuming that position. The oath was straightforward: never to present his own opinion as the dogma of the Church. If you’ve ever listened to any of Fr. Tom’s lectures (something I highly recommend), you’ll note how careful he always…

Stumbling Toward Salvation

On occasion I have written on topics that seem to scandalize readers, or certainly cause difficulty for many. Some of those topics have been articles on the wrath of God; the radical forgiveness of everyone for everything; the commonality of our life and our salvation; and various posts on giving thanks always for all things (there are others as well). I am not intentionally contrarian – I do not write in order…

“Make It So!” vs. “Let It Be!”

Abba Poemen said, “Teach your mouth to say that which is in your heart. +++ Some years back, while driving through the mountains here in Tennessee, with an out-of-date GPS system in my car, I was instructed to take a particular turn and cross a bridge. Something inside me (guardian angel?) whispered a word of caution (it was night as well), and so I took the turn carefully and slowed. It was…

This Is My Body

The most fundamental experience of being human is biological. We enter the world in a state of biological dependence, having left an utterly symbiotic existence in the womb. Parents’ first thoughts about a child are consumed with biological issues. Nursing, digestion, sleep, and various discomforts rightly occupy the often sleep-deprived parents of newborns. Conversations among young mothers tend to circle around those issues. Biology is primary. When something is biologically amiss, everything…

Knocking Down the Gates of Hell

The Swedish Lutheran theologian, Gustav Aulen, published a seminal work on the types of atonement theory in 1930 (Christus Victor). Though time and critical studies have suggested many subtler treatments of the question, no one has really improved on his insight. Especially valuable was his description of the “Classic View” of the atonement. This imagery, very dominant in the writings of the early Fathers and in the liturgical life of the Eastern…

The Bridegroom and Judgment

Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching; and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.  Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.  But rouse yourself crying: Holy, holy, holy, art Thou, O our God.  Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us. +…

Lazarus Saturday

Largely ignored by much of Christendom, the Orthodox mark the day before Palm Sunday as “Lazarus Saturday” in something of a prequel to the following weekend’s Pascha. It is, indeed a little Pascha just before the greater one. And this, of course, was arranged by Christ Himself, who raised His friend Lazarus from the dead as something of a last action before entering Jerusalem and beginning His slow ascent to Golgotha through…

The Limits of Holiness

I saw a commercical recently that proclaimed, “Freedom has no limits!” It sought to capture the modern imagination with what is a patently absurd statement. Everything in creation has limits – that is the nature of created things. It is nonetheless the case that we can imagine our life without limits – a shameless existence where nothing impedes our pleasure. This was the inner world of a young woman in Alexandria who…

The Mythic Character of Reality

The friendship between CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien is well-known, as is Tolkien’s role in bringing Lewis to Christ. Less well-known (unless you dig a bit further) is Tolkien’s role in bringing Lewis out of a rigid and flat understanding of the world and into the rich possibilities afforded by “myth.” Without this conversion, Lewis would likely not have become a Christian, and certainly would not have authored the fiction that is…