Face to Face

Nothing about the human body is as intimate as the face. We generally think of other aspects of our bodies when we say “intimate,” but it is our face that reveals the most about us. It is the face we seek to watch in order to see what others are thinking, or even who they are. The importance of the face is emphasized repeatedly in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, it…

Boundaries, Borders, and the True God

Years ago, as a young seminarian, I wanted to paint icons. I knew nothing about icons, only that I liked them and that they were holy. The vast wealth of books and materials on their meaning and even on the technique of painting them simply did not exist. My knowledge of painting was also non-existent. But rushing in like a fool, I bought materials (none of which were correct) and stretched a…

Veneration and the Heart

  No doubt, reaching for words where few exist, the Seventh Ecumenical Council made a careful distinction between “worship” (latria) and “honor” (proskynesis or dulia). Latria, it is said, has the character of sacrifice and is due to God alone. English, perhaps among the least precise of all languages, has used the word “worship” for both concepts. Thus, certain positions within the state are addressed as “your worship.” The old English service of…

The Whole Adam

Mt. Athos, in popular treatments, is often described as a “male enclave,” a place where no woman has set foot in a thousand years (this is not actually true). The exclusion of women from the Holy Mountain is deeply offensive to some (cf. European Union) and is imagined as a bastion of machismo in a cassock. It is therefore strange to discover, when you visit the Holy Mountain, that the central figure…

Healing the Soul and Unbelief

I have long been convinced that “believing” is grounded in something other than intellectual activity. I am simply unimpressed by most of the intellectual arguments that I see regarding both belief and unbelief. In both, I hear so much that is unspoken, and even much that is likely hidden from the speakers themselves. That being the case (if I am right), then conversations about belief require great patience and not a little…

A Difficult Beauty

It seems to me that bad things come easily. Whether it is ugliness, anger, or every kind of darkness, we not only see such things, but seem  “bound” to see them. Why are we “hard-wired” for such observations? The answer is really quite simple: we are hard-wired to see things that are potentially dangerous, and for obvious reasons. When my son was in his early years, his complete joy and wonder at…

The World as Grand Opera

  Towards the left-hand side of the FM dial (yes, I’m so old I think of radios as having dials and linearity) there have always been one or two “classical” stations in the places I have lived. Often, they provide a welcome relief from the noise and bump of the neighboring stations to the right. I like most classical music, unless the composer forgets that melody and harmony are useful parts of…

When Belief Is Complicated

“It’s complicated.” This statement sums up much of the modern experience. I don’t think the world we encounter is actually complicated – but our experience is. Simplicity is the reflection of an inner world free of conflicts and undercurrents. The truth of the modern inner-world is that it is generally pulled in many directions. Modernity is a juncture in history – a place where many rivers meet to form one raging torrent. The…

I Will Go Into the Altar of God

Most of my early Church memories center around Sunday School (I think that we did not “stay for preaching” very often). The small Baptist church that we attended was about a mile from our house and was conveniently connected by a railroad track, generally inactive on Sundays. My older brother and I often walked along the track on Sunday mornings when the weather was pleasant. The earliest Bible verses I can recall…

Music to Die For

Living in the South, I am confronted with the reality of American Country music whether I want it or not. Of course, I’m confronted with all of the other genres as well, though Classical and Jazz seem to be less ubiquitous than Rap and Country. However, I was making my way through a public venue recently (I can’t remember which one) when I began to listen to the song that was being…