The Singular Goodness of God

It has long seemed to me that it is one thing to believe that God exists and quite another to believe that He is good. Indeed, to believe that God exists simply begs the question. That question is: Who is God, and what can be said of Him? Is He good? This goes to the heart of the proclamation of the Christian faith. We believe that God has revealed Himself definitively in…

Face to Face – Without Shame or Fear

We are apparently living in the age of the face, and I don’t think it’s necessarily bad.  I know all the complaints about our culture of “selfies,” and there are certainly many things in that to make us wonder, but our fascination with our faces long predates the technology of our phones. In the usage of the early Church, the word for face (prosopon) is also the word for person. It is…

The Peaceable Kingdom in a World at War

The English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, described the world as composed of autonomous, competing self-interests. We are at war with one another, a reality, he said, that can only be controlled through external force. The state serves as the enforcer of a negotiated peace agreement, a social contract, in which we legitimize its use of force in order not to kill one another. Hobbes himself preferred a strong monarchy. Certain times in our…

Providence and the Music of All 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 this – it seems to get lost in the twists and turns of medieval metaphysics or passes 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 obscurity comes…

Walking In A Lost World

I have been engaged in an interesting reading project. The first part started with the travel accounts of Patrick Leigh Fermor, who made a walking journey from Holland to Constantinople (as he always called it) in 1933. His work (3 volumes) is considered one of the best of its genre in our times. He was only 19 when he started and was far from being settled and mature. However, he had a…

Pentecost Is Not the Church’s Birthday

It is a commonplace in some circles to celebrate Pentecost as the Church’s “Birthday.” It is well-intentioned, perhaps even true in some sense, but tends to render the Church as something it is not. St. Paul calls the Church the “pillar and ground of truth.” The sort of institutional concept that would mark some date in 33 AD as a founding date (like the founding of Rome or Coca-Cola), would make St.…

Bookends and the Resurrection

A series of recent conversations with a parishioner turned up the problem of “bookends,” that is, questions of the beginning and the end. It is only natural in our day and age to attack problems in this manner. “How did it start?” is  a way of saying, “What is it?” The end, of course, is not so obvious, other than its connection with our insatiable desire to know how things will turn…

A Pascha of Beauty – In a Soviet Prison – 1928

Serge Schmemann, son of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, in his wonderful little book, Echoes of a Native Land, records a letter written from one of his family members of an earlier generation, who spent several years in the prisons of the Soviets and died there. The letter, written on the night of Pascha in 1928 is to a family member, “Uncle Grishanchik” (This was Grigory Trubetskoi who had managed to emigrate to Paris). This…

Unbelief and Good Friday

  Christmas and Easter are often difficult days for those who do not believe in God. Christians are more public about their faith than at other times of the year and this brings with it an annoyance. Christmas bespeaks the birth of God as a human being. Easter bespeaks a resurrection from the dead. For those who do not believe, such miracles, spoken of so glowingly and with such assurance by Christians,…

The Mystery of Holy Week and Pascha

This past weekend, Orthodox Churches began the observation of Holy Week. The services are long and plentiful. In my parish, from Lazarus Saturday to Pascha, there will be somewhere on the order of 40 hours of services. It is a large parish effort. Most of the services have the participation of the full choir. Last night, I had the anxious face of a young server in the altar who politely wanted to…