To See Him Face to Face

  “The self resides in the face.” – Psychological Theorist, Sylvan Tompkins +++ There is a thread running throughout the Scriptures that can be described as a “theology of the face.” In the Old Testament we hear a frequent refrain of “before Thy face,” and similar expressions. There are prayers beseeching God not to “hide His face.” Very clearly in Exodus, God tells Moses that “no one may see my face and…

The Holy Name

In 1913, a small Russian fleet landed a contingent of soldiers who forcibly removed a group of Russian monks from Mount Athos. This action came at the end of a stormy controversy surrounding the name of God. The monks were known as the Imyaslavsy (“Name worshippers”) and were following ideas that had been promulgated in a text published in 1907. That work, On the Caucasus Mountains, written by the staretz, Schemamonk Hilarion, was…

The Communion of Friends

You meet someone and like them. You slowly get to know them. Conversation and sharing, listening and learning, a picture or a reality begin to emerge. You think about them when they’re away. You’re aware that you matter to them as well. The thought of anything hurting them is painful. This is friendship. We easily reduce friendship to a set of shared emotions. Why we like someone else, we can imagine, rests on…

A Faith You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

In a now-famous experiment, volunteers were fitted with inverting lenses, such that everything they saw appeared upside-down. In a few days their brains adjusted and what they saw appeared correctly. When the lenses were removed, their naked eyes now saw things inverted, though again, after a few days their vision returned to normal. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and created in such a fashion we adapt to even very strange circumstances.…

The Matter of our Salvation

Perhaps the most obvious thing for a visitor to an Orthodox Church are the presence and place of icons. They are literally everywhere. Some Churches are covered completely with iconography and no Orthodox Church is ever without them. That Churches are so decorated might not strike someone as unusual. After all, many Catholic Churches, particularly in Europe are highly decorated (think of the Sistine Chapel). But the difference is that a visitor…

The Act of Veneration

No spiritual activity permeates Orthodoxy as much as veneration. For the non-Orthodox, veneration is often mistaken for worship. We kiss icons; sing hymns to saints; cry out “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” And all of this scandalizes the non-Orthodox who think we have fallen into some backwater of paganized Christianity. It is not unusual to hear Orthodox who more or less apologize for this activity and seek to minimize it. “We are…

Looking like Christmas

One of the most striking features of the Gospels is the frequent response of the Disciples after the resurrection of Christ: doubt. I have always been sympathetic to the doubts and hesitations that accompanied their experience during the ministry of Christ. They are almost endearing in their inability to grasp what Christ is all about. However, the same inability to grasp things after the resurrection seems to carry with it all kinds…

God By The Numbers

Math is very strange stuff. A serious question within the community of science and math is whether math is an invention or a discovery. Is it something that we have just made up out of our head, or is it something we observed and discovered (because it is already there)? This might sound like a silly thing to wonder about, but it is indeed most serious. The ancients (Plato in particular) thought…

Care for the Soul

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 of compassion and kindness. A creature without a soul would be driven by something other – which can only be…

A Faerie Apocalypse

Somewhere in the late 60’s (my teen years), I found myself home recuperating from an appendectomy. In those days they actually recommended a period of convalescence before returning to normal activities (today’s medical advice, written in insurance offices, deems recuperation to be a needless bit of a money-drain). But I suddenly had extra time on my hands with little to do. I searched the bookshelves for something unread, or even worth re-reading.…