Beauty and the Face of God

Everything is beautiful in a person when he turns toward God, and everything is ugly when it is turned away from God. Fr. Pavel Florensky +++ As I am preparing for next weekend’s interview on A Crisis of Beauty, I am digging back through my writings on the topic. In Orthodoxy, all truth is one and the same truth, simply seen from various angles. Thus, beauty is a perfectly fine place to…

An Unnecessary Existence

In Dostoevsky’s The Demons, the character, Kirillov, is insanely fascinated with freedom. He cannot bear the fact that he did not choose his own existence. Life is a “given.” In what must be seen as a parable of the radical thought of the 19th century, Kirillov determines to kill himself, the only act of true freedom he can take. His insight about the necessity of his own existence and its lack of…

Harlots and Drunkards at the Last Banquet

Once a week I teach a class at a local alcohol and drug treatment program. It is on the “spirituality of recovery.” Recently I shared Marmaladov’s speech from Crime and Punishment (at the end of this article). There were tears in the room. For many, the version of the gospel they have heard only condemns. Most of the men I meet want to get well, to get sober. Not all of them…

From Mud to Light – the Saving Work of Christ

Man is mud whom God has commanded to become god. – St. Gregory of Nyssa +++ How do you create a God? How do you create a being that has true freedom, true love and thus, true existence? This is obviously not an entirely rational question – but it is a serious question for Christian thought. For, as St. Gregory of Nyssa notes, the creation of man is more than the story in…

Forgive Everyone for Everything

In Dostoevsky’s great last work, The Brothers Karamazov, the story is told of Markel, brother of the Elder Zossima. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, he is dying. In those last days he came to a renewed faith in God and a truly profound understanding of forgiveness. In a conversation with his mother she wonders how he can possibly be so joyful in so serious a stage of his illness. His response is illustrative of…

More on the "Justice" of God

I will add an additional thought (related to the previous article) on the future “justice” of God. There are many who imagine theologically that at some later point, a final judgment, God’s justice will be manifest. In this manifestation of justice, the punishments of hell figure prominently. Of course, this is simply poor theology. Eternity in hell is not a matter of justice nor can it ever be. Justice involves equality. For…

Personal Issues

The title of this post is quite misleading – for in proper theological language – there are no “personal issues.” Our culture is quite fond of issues – both the politico-entertainment industry – and many individuals. It is a word and a phenomenon that has been baptized by the culture such that “being concerned with the issues” makes someone sound as if things matter to them in a significant way. The Orthodox…

Conversion to the True and Living God

I grew up in a culture where religious conversion was frequent as well as often short-lived. Religiously, the only remedy to many of the ills of life was conversion. On the face of things I could hardly argue with that now. However, the deeper problem within that particular religious culture was a very truncated view of conversion. For many, conversion was accompanied by emotion (it should be truly “heart-felt”) as well as decision. But the only action…

Paradise in a Single Moment

The Exapostelarian for the Matins of Good Friday is the hymn, “The Wise Thief.” It draws our attention to the mercy of God – who promised paradise to the wise thief, “This day.” Thoughts on the nearness of paradise are also a theme in the writings of Dostoevsky. If paradise is so near – why do we settle for less? During Holy Week, one of my favorite hymns in the Church is…