Tolkien’s Long Defeat and the Path of History

“Actually I am a Christian,” Tolkien wrote of himself, “and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory” (Letters 255). +++ History as a long defeat – I can think of nothing that is more anti-modern than this sentiment expressed by J.R.R. Tolkien. It…

The Best Place – The Worst Place – Orthodoxy in Location

From time to time, I read articles on the “10 Worst Cities in America,” or the State. There are similar articles on the “best.” The thoughts offered remind me of the article published earlier this year in which the Orthodox (worldwide) were described as the “least happy” people of any religious group. If you scratch the surface of these musings, you quickly discover that the scale of best and worst, happy and…

Hopko on the Cross of Christ

An excerpt from a commencement address at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in 2007, given by Fr. Thomas Hopko. It is deeply worthy of conversation. I first posted this back in June, 2007, when it was “new.” That which is true is always new and timeless.  …I can tell you that being loved by God, and loving Him in return, is the greatest joy given to creatures, and that without it there is no…

What’s with the Kingdom of God?

Thy Kingdom Come Blessed are You on the throne of the glory of Your Kingdom, seated upon the Cherubim; always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. It was You Who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away You raised us up again, and did not cease to do all things until You had brought us up to heaven, and had endowed us with Your kingdom…

An Atonement of Shame

Some decades ago in my early (Anglican) priesthood, a parishioner brought a crucifix back from South America. The question for me as a priest was whether I would accept the crucifix as a gift and place it in the Church. I like crucifixes, my taste was always towards the Catholic direction. But, you have to bear in mind that Spanish/Latin crucifixes have a tendency to be, well, rather gory. My congregation was…

Let’s Get Out Of This Place

The Saturday before Palm Sunday is known as Lazarus Saturday among the Orthodox, and they celebrate Christ raising him from the dead just prior to His entrance into Jerusalem (gospel of John). It is a feast that offers something of a preview of Christ’s resurrection, and a foretaste of the General Resurrection at the End of the Age. Some years back I sat in a cave that is purported to be the grave of…

A Cruciform Providence

The entire mystery of the economy of our salvation consists in the self-emptying and abasement of the Son of God – St. Cyril of Alexandria Trust in the providence of God is much more than a general theory of how things are arranged in our lives and in the world. We tend to discuss the notion in the abstract, wondering whether this action or event is to be properly attributed to God.…

Saved in Weakness – Redux

We are not saved by our talents and gifts nor by our excellence – we are saved by our weakness and our failure. I have made this point many times over the years – and the question comes up – but what does that look like? How do I live like that? The question can be urgent for some because the message is so utterly contrary to cultural assumptions that have been…

The Singular Goodness of God

It has long seemed to me that it is one thing to believe that God exists and quite another to believe that He is good. Indeed, to believe that God exists simply begs the question. That question is: Who is God, and what can be said of Him? Is He good? This goes to the heart of the proclamation of the Christian faith. We believe that God has revealed Himself definitively in…

The Meekness of God

“Brood of vipers!” with those words John the Baptist is often introduced in the movies and the minds of believers as a loud, nearly violent prophet of the desert. That Charlton Heston played him in one of those movies was almost type-casting, at least with regard to the popular imagination. And yet, St. John is an example of meekness. When confronted by the religious leaders of Israel he has little to say…