Don’t Do That

A dear friend, who is a Russian monk, was among the earliest Orthodox clergy to visit in our mission in its first two years. Most of my parish had never met a monk, much less one who was as serious in demeanor. My son (now an adult) was then 11 years old and served in the altar. The monk had a simple way of correcting the altar servers (and occasionally parishioners who…

John Chrysostom on Romans 9

Many puzzle about Romans 9 and what some claim to see as a teaching of “double-edged” predestination, that is, that God predestines some for hell. It is useful to see what the Fathers do with such a passage. Here is an excerpt from John Chrysostom’s sermon on Romans 9 that addresses the subject well and demonstrates that God does not predestine anyone to damnation. The question was raised in a recent comment…

Reading Scripture in an Orthodox Manner

Recently my site has been visited with questions about Scripture, in particular (to start with) the Orthodox use of the title “Father” when Christ said, “Call no man on earth your father.” Actually I thought the response posted by William amply demonstrated how this verse should be understood. But there is a larger question – that of the use of Scripture and how it may be interpreted. The questioner claimed only be…

The Most Holy Mother of God

On August 15, the Orthodox Church (new calendar) commemorates the Dormition (falling asleep) of the Most Holy Mother of God. The feast is considered to be one of the 12 Great Feasts of the year and thus an integral part of the proclamation of gospel of Jesus Christ. Many who are not familiar with Orthodoxy, or its manner of understanding saints, easily see feast days and the veneration of saints as distractions…

In The Last Days

Abba Ischyrion was asked, “What have we done in our life?” He replied, “We have done the half of what our Fathers did.” When asked, “What will the ones who come after us do?” He replied, “They will do the half of what we are doing now.” And to the question, “What will the Christians of the last times do?” He replied, “They will not be able to do any spiritual exploits,…

Risky Business

Amoun found Abba Poemen and told him, “When I visit a neighbor or he visits me, he hesitate to talk with each other. We are afraid that we might bring up a worldly topic. The old man replied, “Yes, young people need to guard their mouths.” Amoun asked, “But how do old men handle this problem?” Abba Poemen said, “Those who have advanced in virtue no longer have any worldliness in them.…

True Knowledge of God

The Elder Sophrony made a strong distinction between the knowledge we gain by rational speculation and the knowledge of God that comes as a gift of grace. He used the term “dogmatic consciousness” to express the knowledge of God as found in the lives of the saints and great ascetics. It is not a contradiction of the dogma of the Church, but an existential encounter with God that ineffably confirms the teaching…

The Depths of the Personal

I have written on modern distortions of “personal relationship” in which “private” relationship is one of its corrupted meanings. I have also noted that, properly understood, “personal” always carries a meaning of “corporate” as well. To be in personal relationship with Christ necessarily means that I am in relationship with His Body, the Church. There is a mutual sharing of life – my life becomes Christ’s – His life becomes mine –…

Grace and “the Inverted Pyramid”

Fr. Sophrony [Sakharov], in his book on St. Silouan, presents this theory of the “inverted pyramid.” He says that the empirical cosmic being is like a pyramid: at the top sit the powerful of the earth, who exercise dominion over the nations (cf. Matt. 20:25), and at the bottom stand the masses. But the spirit of man, by nature [unfallen nature as given by God], demands equality, justice and freedom of spirit,…