Broken Communion

The holidays can make it all too poignant: the terrible fact of broken communion. Often, our festivities bring us into close contact with some (few or many) whom we most commonly avoid. An uncle, an aunt, a brother, a parent whose relationship is marked with pain, misunderstanding, shame, and various other torments. Statistics say that these times (particularly Thanksgiving to Christmas) are frequently marred by things we would otherwise avoid. The holidays…

Conformed to His Image

One of the most distinctive doctrines in Orthodox theology is that of theosis – divinization – becoming “like God.” Those who inquire into the faith likely stumble across this teaching fairly early, and, no doubt, some are drawn to it. Of course, there are those who run away from it and fear that it is saying something that it isn’t. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of theosis is the unabashedly positive note…

A Cultural Feast

I read somewhere that, prior to the Protestant Reformation, there were over 50 feast days in England on which people did no labor (these were in addition to Sundays). If you do the math, it adds up to over seven weeks of vacation per year. The Reformation abolished all but one or two. I have often thought that this was one of the sources of Protestant economic success – abolish seven weeks…

It’s a Lying Shame

The story of the first sin begins not with a choice, but with a lie. As much as we tend to emphasize “free-will” as the origin and dominant factor of human sin, we do well to remember the true nature of our lives. Things are much more complicated than freedom can account for. Rather, we act in the context of lies and deception, some from outside and some from within. It is…

The Ascetic Imperative – A Matter of Communion

Among the more interesting experiences in my life was the two years spent in a Christian commune. It was not West Coast fancy, much less connected to anything historic such as the Bruderhof. It started with two very zealous Jesus freaks (myself and a friend), an apartment, and something of a necessity thrust on us by accident. The accident was a housefire where two other young Christian friends were living. The fire…

The Whole Adam

Mt. Athos, in popular treatments, is often described as a “male enclave,” a place where no woman has set foot in a thousand years (this is not actually true). The exclusion of women from the Holy Mountain is deeply offensive to some (cf. European Union) and is imagined as a bastion of machismo in a cassock. It is therefore strange to discover, when you visit the Holy Mountain, that the central figure…

The Communion of Tradition

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life–the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us–that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also…

Abraham, the Righteous, and the Prayers of Our Holy Fathers

Many services of the Church conclude with this prayer: “Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and save us!” Since we ourselves are praying directly to Christ, why do we invoke the prayers of others? Are our prayers so weak, or is His mercy so hard to come by? Like so much else in the Church, the answer reveals an even greater mystery. In…

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…

Finding God Amidst the Noise

If I say one hundred prayers a day in the silence of Katounakia and you say three prayers amidst the tumult of the city and your professional and family obligations, then we are equal.   St. Ephraim of Katounakia I ran across this small quote recently and was struck by its insight and typical Orthodox generosity. The kindness of the saints is among their most encouraging aspects. It also echoes a theme that…