Saving Mary

“Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” At these words, heard frequently in an Orthodox service, Protestant visitors often have fear and trembling in their limbs. “How can this not be idolatry?” they wonder. “How can a mere human being save me? They are worshiping Mary!” The language of Mary’s role in the life of salvation is certainly scandalous. But the reaction reveals not the error and idolatry of the Orthodox, but the great…

The All Consuming Vocation

“To the extent that man does not use his freedom, he is not himself. In order to emerge from that indeterminate state, he must utilize his freedom in order to know and be known as himself.” – Fr. Dimitru Staniloae Vocation is a luxurious word. The very heart of the consumer economy is its ability to offer the individual a wide array of choices. We perceive those choices as yielding power and…

There Is No Such Thing As Secular

Just so that we can be clear: there is no such thing as a secular world. By that, I mean that there is no such thing as the world apart from God, a world without God, or a world existing in a “neutral zone.” The good God who created the heavens and the earth, sustains them in their very existence. He has not made Himself absent, nor so endowed the world that…

A Secular Orthodoxy

Within Orthodox Christianity, the faith is generally “encultured.” It does not exist apart from the culture, but within – transforming, shaping and making the faith of Christ incarnate in the world. Christianity first expressed this model in the context of first-century Judaism. The disciples in Jerusalem met together on Solomon’s Porch. Small asides in St. Paul’s writings and in the book of Acts, show that despite dropping the requirement for circumcision, early…

It Is Not Good to be Alone

One of the greatest tragedies of the modern world is the continuing collapse of social systems. The most prominent and important of these is the family itself – but many other social systems, including the Church, are equally in collapse. Our consumer culture seeks to maximize our individuality (individuals buy more than groups) and false ideologies of freedom stress the priority of individual over group demands (with the exception of groups chosen…

God’s Absence on the Cross

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The cry of Christ on the Cross, quoting Psalm 22, could also be the cry of modern man in his daily life. We generally experience the world as a place devoid of God’s presence. When we are aware of Him, it is by special effort, and most often by reference to ideas and not to the world itself. Modern Christians are decidedly non-sacramental.…

Get Out of Your Mind!

I am not certain at what point modern Christians began to believe that “spiritual” and “mental” were the same thing. I know that it is a commonplace to interpret John 4:24 (“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”) to mean that outward actions and locations are of no value – only those things that take place in the mind are truly spiritual. The older English…

Are We Connected?

How connected are we? Do your actions, thoughts, feelings, have an effect on me even if I am unaware (or on the other side of the world)? Is my existence bound within the existence of other human beings, or are we simply sharing the same planet for a period of time? Connections between people, particularly of a spiritual nature, were declared to be mere superstitions in the march of modern rationalism. To…

Obstacles to Faith

My writing and thoughts often carry me to the “edges” – to the edge of unbelief and to the edge of the depths of belief. My instinct for these places is an instinct for the obstacles to faith. Why do some believe and others not? And what is the exact nature of belief and unbelief? There is a form of belief familiar to everyone. It is simply the manner in which we…

Modern Loneliness and Staying Put

This article is among the first written for the blog. There is something to be said for the blog itself  having “stayed put.” The internet is an ephemeral creation. I hope to be providing a stable platform for learning, for questioning, for conversation. With a few emendations, I offer this reprint. That the article is still useful after an entire 6 years is astonishing! In monastic tradition, a monk makes four vows:…