It's Nothing Personal

One of the most frightening phrases in the English language is: “It’s nothing personal.” It almost always precedes something bad. For someone to tell me that what they are about to do is not personal is already a confession of sin. But why should the word personal carry such weight? In the life of the Eastern Church few words could be more important. Oddly there is not a single definition for the…

Of Whom I Am First

In the Divine Liturgy, it is customary for this prayer to be offered by all who are coming to receive communion. I quote a portion: I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. Of course the prayer is a reference to St. Paul’s self-definition as the “chief of…

Dostoevsky on the Individual

The following passage from The Brothers Karamazov is taken from one of the “Talks and Homilies” of the Elder Zossima – one of the key characters in the novel. His thoughts echo earlier articles here that contrast man as “individual” (isolation) to man as Person (brotherhood and communion). Look at the worldly and at the whole world that exalts itself above the people of God: are the image of God and his…

Favorite Thoughts

Any reader of this blog will very quickly notice certain ideas and words that come up repeatedly in my writings. Some of my parishioners say that I only have one sermon – so perhaps it’s also true that I only have one blog article… But I have been meditating on some of my favorite words or thoughts and why they are as important to me as they are. The first that comes…

What Is Man – That Thou Art Mindful of Him?

In 1839 the eighteen-year-old youth Dostoesvsky wrote to his brother: “Man is a mystery: if you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery, because I want to be a man.” From Konstantin Mochulsky’s Dostoevsky: His Life and Work A short time ago I wrote about the “soul as mystery” – the fear and wonder…

Beauty and God

This is a reprint of an article from earlier this year. I found it worth re-reading. 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 I come to the end of a day that has been filled with other activity and little time for writing. But in my reading at bedtime I came across the above…

Crises, Dostoevsky and the Gospel

There is something of a common thread that runs throughout the novels of Dostoevsky, the 19th century Russian writer: personal crises. Dostoevsky has long been recognized as a genius of psychological perception, writing at a time before psychology was a formal academic discipline. Many of his novels carry a relgious theme, particularly Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. There are other personal crises in many of his other works – though…

The God Who Is Beautiful

I suggested this as reading in a comment yesterday and decided to re-post it so that it would be more readily available. It belongs with the question of God and beauty that I started in yesterday’s post. 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 I come to the end of a day that has…

Grace and “the Inverted Pyramid”

Fr. Sophrony [Sakharov], in his book on St. Silouan, presents this theory of the “inverted pyramid.” He says that the empirical cosmic being is like a pyramid: at the top sit the powerful of the earth, who exercise dominion over the nations (cf. Matt. 20:25), and at the bottom stand the masses. But the spirit of man, by nature [unfallen nature as given by God], demands equality, justice and freedom of spirit,…

The Passion to Consume

I have mentioned the role that the passions play in our consumer culture. I would like to write in greater depth about that phenomenon. It permeates our culture – and yet, strangely, I do not find it to be a dominant concern of people when they think about their sins or when they think of our culture and its sins. In that sense it reminds me of a study I did several…