Some Poems for Pentecost

St. Porphyrios said that to become a Christian one needed first to be a poet. This has nothing to do with arranging words, but everything to do with hearing words. Words, like everything else in our world, hide far more than they reveal. God has so arranged His world that its treasure is reserved for those who seek it. In words, the treasure belongs to those who listen. Among the many friends I…

The Erotic Language of Prayer

The very heart of true prayer is desire, love. In the language of the Fathers this desire is called eros. Modern usage has corrupted the meaning of “erotic” to only mean sexual desire – but it is a profound word, without substitute in the language of the Church. I offer a quote from Dr. Timothy Patitsas of Holy Cross in Brookline: By eros we mean the love that makes us forget ourselves…

The Song of A Good Universe

“My whole life is a mess…” I am a priest and I have heard statements to this effect any number of times in my ministry. It usually comes not after a single misfortune, but after multiple problems. It also reflects that the problems have moved beyond their external boundaries and have now become the framework of a person’s whole experience. It is not a statement to be taken lightly. The Scriptures do…

A Particular Scandal

A character in a Peanuts cartoon once declared, “I love mankind! It’s people I can’t stand!” The statement accurately describes our problems with the particular. It is easy to love almost anything in general – it is the particular that brings problems. Nowhere could this be more true than with God. Speaking about God in the abstract is extremely common – after all – He is “everywhere present, filling all things.” He is…

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. +…

The Fullness in Lent

This article keeps coming to mind as I celebrate the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts on these Lenten Wednesdays and Fridays. There is nothing to compare to them in the Christian liturgical world. It’s hard to thinking of fasting in the midst of such a feast. Orthodoxy has a number of “favorite” words – all of which fall outside the bounds of normal speech. Though we commonly use the word “mystery” (for…

The Ecstasy of Knowing God

Consciousness is something of a constant in our lives (even when we sleep there is a level of consciousness). We do not think about it very often – since it is simply our awareness of the world outside (as well as the world inside). It is not what we are a ware of – it is the awareness itself. Our attention is usually focused on the object of our awareness rather than the…

Singing and Dancing through Great Lent

I grew up in a rural American Protestant culture. In many ways there was a level of piety that was beneficial. God’s name, particularly the name of Christ, was held in great reverence.  Stores closed on Sundays – and if many people used the afternoon for recreation – most used the morning to attend Church. The knowledge of Scripture, though somewhat superficial, was still widespread. The first psalms I memorized were in…

Nostalgia for Paradise

Recent conversations have brought up the name of Dr. Alexander Kalomiros.  Author of the River of Fire and other well known Orthodox writings, his work was no stranger to controversy. But his work also came from a wonderful heart. Here is a short offering from the small book, Nostalgia for Paradise. When the ascetical life of a Christian and the privations that he imposes upon himself are beyond the measure of grace…

Saving the Atonement

I am speaking this week in Mississippi, in a place where Orthodoxy is thriving, but not a place where you would expect to find it. The parish (a former Presbyterian facility) has a sign with variable letters, where a changing “message” can be displayed. It reads something like, “Father Stephen Freeman speaking Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on Salvation, Heaven and Hell.” Those are indeed the topics, but the sign fits so well…