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…

The Kingdom of God – One-Storey in Time

Among the stranger phrases found in St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy is this: It was You Who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away [past tense], You raised us up again [past tense], and did not cease to do all things until You had brought us up to heaven [past tense], and had endowed us [past tense] with Your kingdom which is to come [future tense]. It is…

Life in the Fog of the World

  In December of 1990, fog rolled into a stretch of I-75 between Knoxville and Chattanooga. Visibility quickly became a problem. The result was a fiery 99 car pile-up with 12 deaths and 42 injuries. Such tragedies are repeated from time-to-time across the country, with fog, rain, snow, and ice as the primary culprits. If you have ever been involved in such road conditions, then you probably remember something of the panic…

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…

How Powerless Are You Willing to Be?

“My spiritual efforts don’t do anything, they merely bring me to the place where I know I can’t do anything, to the place where I am utterly naked before God!” -Fr. Silviu Bunta Sometimes I run across a quote that strikes my heart so deeply that I’m surprised it wasn’t me who said it. The quote above is from Fr. Silviu Bunta, Associate Professor of Old Testament at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, in…

The Fullness of Lent

This article comes to mind as we celebrate the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts on these Lenten Wednesdays and Fridays. There is nothing to compare to them in the Christian liturgical world. It’s hard to think of fasting in the midst of such a feast. Orthodoxy has a number of “favorite” words – all of which fall outside the bounds of normal speech. Though we commonly use the word “mystery” (for example),…

Repentance for the World – Prayers by the Lake XXIX

This XXIX prayer of St. Nicholai of Zicha from Prayers by the Lake, echoes the prayers of Pentecost. It teaches us a profound way of praying for the world. In our days, such a prayer is deeply needed. For all the sins of men I repent before You, Most Merciful Lord. Indeed, the seed of all sins flows in my blood! With my effort and Your mercy I choke this wicked crop…

Judgment and Apocalypse – The Tale of Two Parables

“He came to himself.” These words form the turning point in the story of the Prodigal Son. They are words of judgment, apocalypse, and revelation. When the younger son demanded his inheritance from his father, he was not himself. When he traveled to a far land and wasted everything in wild pleasure, he was not himself. Only when everything was lost and what was in front of him became disgusting do we…

When Death Dies

Christianity is not reconciliation with death. It is the revelation of death, and it reveals death because it is the revelation of Life. Christ is this Life. And only if Christ is Life is death what Christianity proclaims it to be, namely the enemy to be destroyed, and not a “mystery” to be explained. Religion and secularism, by explaining death, give it a “status,” a rationale, make it “normal.” Only Christianity proclaims…

The True Dignity of Human Beings – Nyssa on Slavery

One of the most rewarding aspects of reading historical material is how it reveals the human mind even at a great remove from our own. There is a myth in our culture that history is the story of progress. It presumes that only in our modern times have we begun to free ourselves from the false ideas of the past. What you discover when you actually read historical materials is that many…