The Greatness of a Lesser World

Be an ordinary person – Fr. Thomas Hopko’s Maxim #18 Nothing could be more “cozy” than Tolkien’s description of the Shire. Many think the Shire is an idealization of rural England, and, no doubt, it certainly resembles it. Though the English do not seem to live in holes, they, nevertheless, do like their gardens. And though their major cities resemble major cities elsewhere, rural villages are like nothing so much as themselves.…

A Better World is Within You

“We must eliminate poverty, oppression, racism…” How is it possible to disagree with the demand for justice? Who would not agree to end all suffering? How can we not commit our lives to bringing about a better world? The desire for justice and an end to suffering are deeply seductive in our modern world. Being told that these are false desires flies in the face of almost everything that characterizes our present…

The Spiritual Life in Depression and Anxiety

A very poignant question was sent privately to me after my last post. It asked how I was able to go about my parish work when I was battling with depression and anxiety. I have pondered the question over the past week. On one level, I felt a sense of personal astonishment that, in hindsight, it had all been possible. There were very few days through the decades where I was unable to…

Giving Thanks for All Things – The Cruciform Life

  “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live…” The Cross is the heart of our salvation. It is on the Cross that we see the fullness of God’s love and it is in the Cross that we are united to that same love. Every Christian shares the commandment, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) This commandment long…

Weak, Sick, Poor, Tired: A Story for Losers

Nobody wants to be sick. The dependence it fosters, the way it changes and shapes a life are a form of powerlessness that holds no attraction. Poverty (however it is measured) is a massive struggle against forces that steal human dignity. Most homes in poverty include children and are headed by women. Their daily efforts to pay the rent, work a job (or two or three), tend to childhood needs and face…

The Work that Saves

“Do not be careless. Pray as much as you can – more frequently and more fervently. Prod yourself – force yourself to do so, for the Kingdom of God is taken by force. You will never attain it without forcing yourself.” ~ Saint Innocent of Alaska Do we cooperate in our salvation? Do our efforts make a difference? These questions lie at the heart of a centuries-old religious debate in Christianity. Classically,…

Saving My Neighbor – Just How Connected Are We?

If you are in the “helping professions,” confronting problems in people’s lives, it doesn’t take long to realize that no one is purely and simply an individual. The problems we suffer may occasionally appear to be “of our own making,” but that is the exception rather than the rule. Whether we are thinking of economic or genetic inheritance, or the psychological and social environment, almost all the issues in our lives are…

Hell, Justice and the Heart of Prayer – Thinking Like a Slave

In the third kneeling prayer of Pentecost, there is a boldness in which the Church pleads for the souls in Hell (Hades). It is a boldness that can stun the one who prays, easily wondering, “Are we allowed to ask for these things?” In general, all my life I have heard a rehearsal of the boundaries of hell. I have heard about who goes there, why they must stay there, why it…

Entering Hell on Pentecost – With Prayer

Pascha (Easter) comes with a great note of joy in the Christian world. Christ is risen from the dead and our hearts rejoice. That joy begins to wane as the days pass. Our lives settle back down to the mundane tasks at hand. After 40 days, the Church marks the Feast of the Ascension, often attended by only a handful of the faithful (Rome has more-or-less moved the Ascension to a Sunday…

The Sacrifice of Worship

When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22), there was no questioning on Abraham’s part about what was intended. He understood precisely what was involved in such a thing. There was wood to be gathered, an altar of stones to be constructed, the victim to be bound, and then the slitting of its throat with the gushing forth of blood, all consummated in the burning fires of the now-completed…