The Greatest Battle Is at Hand

In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul warns of the dangers of being “tossed about with every wind of doctrine.” Early Christianity had very little institutional existence or stability. Churches met in homes (usually those of the wealthy). They gathered around their Bishop (or Bishops) with their Presbyters and Deacons. They were grounded in the Eucharist. When we think about these things in hindsight, we too easily project the institutionality of…

Praying God Within Us

As a follow up to my last post (God Within Us), I offer this ancient prayer. Most people are probably familiar with it, and some may very well use it in their daily prayers. It began to appear in Orthodox books of prayer over the past few decades, reflecting a rediscovery of the Orthodox Church in the ancient West. This prayer is known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” I’ve seen numerous translations. There…

God Within Us

Popular New Age thought postulates that everyone has a “god within.” It’s a pleasant way of saying that we’re all special while making “god” to be rather banal. But there is a clear teaching of classical Christianity regarding Christ-within-us, and it is essential to the Orthodox way of life. We should not understand our relationship with God to be an “external” matter, as if we were one individual and God another. Our…

The Sins of A Nation

This is a reposting of an article from several years back. Its thoughts seem appropriate for our present time as a nation. I pray it is of some help. Can a nation ever sin? If so, how can it be forgiven? The stories and prophetic writings of the Old Testament are replete with examples of national sin. There are certainly stories of God dealing with individuals, but, on the whole, His attention…

Magic, Superstition, and the One-Storey Universe

Over the years, in thinking about the here-and-now presence of the Kingdom of God, I have pondered about what it actually looks like. Its nemesis, the modern version of secularity, is easy to picture (we unconsciously do it all the time). That picture is of an utterly material world, governed by material laws, with possible (and rare) interventions by God. Mostly, the things that belong to God dwell in the rarified atmosphere…

The Community We All Need

I am publiishing this from the archives of the blog. During a time when many are practice “social distancing” in the face of the Covid19 virus, we do well to think about the nature of what we have lost (temporarily). Individualism feels easy until loneliness begins to set in. I pray this will find you well and be of use.   I once read that the Russian instinct, when under pressure, was…

“That Which is Lacking” – Is Jesus Enough?

The average Christian, reading his Bible in happy devotion, stumbles across this passage: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church… (Col 1:24) The passage is particularly disturbing for a certain strain of Protestant thought that emphasizes Christ’s sufficiency for all things. Christ has accomplished all things…

The Holy Name of Jesus

  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,…

Entering the Mystery of Christmas

Orthodox Christianity is deeply associated with the word “mystery.”  Its theological hymns are replete with paradox, repeatedly affirming two things to be true that are seemingly contradictory. Most of these things are associated with what is called “apophatic” theology, or a theology that is “unspeakable.” This same theological approach is sometimes called the Via Negativa. This is easily misunderstood in common conversation. An Orthodox discussion takes place and reaches an impasse. Inevitably,…

Shadows, Icons, and the Age to Come

What will heaven be like? It is not an unusual question. Sometimes it is asked with all the freshness of a child, other times with the anxiety of the old. It is not a question that admits of easy answers, nor a question for which language is sufficient. The cynic says, “Nobody knows.” That attitude falls short of the fullness of human experience. There are stories. There are also things that point…