The Silent Song We Need To Hear

Music has its own “music.” There are the notes written on a page, and the notes played by an intstrument. It is a particular quality of instruments, however, that they not only play a certain note, but that “note” itself plays other “notes.” In general, these other notes are called, “overtones.” When ‘Middle C’ is played on a piano, every other ‘C’ on the keyboard will vibrate gently in harmonic sympathy. Indeed,…

Orthodoxy, Systematic Theology, and Music

I have heard it said, numerous times, that Orthodox Christianity “does not do” systematic theology. Having done my graduate studies in systematic theology, I occasionally bristle at the comment, particularly when those making it have never actually studied the subject. It is true that Orthodoxy does not do “systematic” theology, as such, but the statement can be quite misleading, implying that there’s no place for systematics in Orthodoxy and that studying it…

Museums, Churches, and My Back Yard

A great cry went up from Orthodox throats across the globe earlier this year when the Turkish government repurposed Hagia Sophia from museum to mosque. The cry was an echo of May 29, 1453, when the city of Constantinople fell to the forces of Sultan Mehmed II. That day, and its pain, have remained an iconic tragedy of a lost world and an abiding sadness. No one dared ask that the Church…

Providence and the Music of Creation

God’s being and actions are one. This is essentially the teaching of the Church on the topic of the Divine Energies. When I read discussions about the Divine Energies – things seem to get lost in the twists and turns of medieval metaphysics or pass into the territory of seeing the “Uncreated Light.” Both approaches are unhelpful for me, and both obscure something that should be far more transparent. Some of the…

What a Caveman Said: To Perceive That Which Is Eternal

Fr. Alexander Schmemann described “secularism” as the greatest heresy of our time. He didn’t describe it as a political movement, nor a threat from the world outside Christianity. Rather, he described it as a “heresy,” that is, a false teaching from within the Christian faith. What is secularism? Secularism is the belief that the world exists independent of God, that its meaning and use are defined by human beings. Things are merely…

Seeds from Different Worlds

God took seeds from different worlds and sowed them on this earth, and His garden grew, and everything came up that could come up, but all growing things live and are alive only through the feeling of their contact with other mysterious worlds. If that feeling grows weak or is destroyed in you, what has grown up in you will die. Then you will become indifferent to life and even grow to…

Beholding God Face to Face

During this season of mask-wearing, we have become weary of a “faceless” existence. I can think of nothing that is more de-personalizing that the hiding of our face. I respect the science (and certainly would not want a surgeon operating on me without a mask). But I lament our common experience even as I pray for this time to pass. I also think, however, of how many masks we have all worn…

The Poetry of God

Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet. – St. Pophyrios of Kavsokalyvia St. Porphyrios made this statement in the context of love and suffering: That’s what it is! You must suffer. You must love and suffer–suffer for the one you love. Love makes effort for the loved one. She runs all through the night; she stays awake; she stains her feet with blood in order to meet her beloved.…

Doors, Windows, Mirrors, and the Secret Place

My first impression of the monasteries on Mt. Athos began with their doors: massive, thick, iron and steel configurations with bars and locks. They are not decorative in the least. They are meant to keep out marauding Turkish pirates and the like. The walls of the monasteries are similar in their function. The whole structure, complete with the crenelations on the tops of the walls are more castle-like than anything else I…

Forged in the Fires of a Dying Sun

Today I stood at the altar and marveled at the gold of the chalice. It is, of course, supremely blessed, holding (as it does) the very Blood of God. But I was simply thinking of its journey to that altar, its transformation, indeed, its transmutation. If the science of cosmology is followed, then heavy elements such as gold have a very unique origin. The free elements of the universe such as simple…