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,…

Scripture, Icons, and the World We Know

I ask for grace in writing this, lest I go beyond my ability. It seems to me well worth saying as discussions of the relationship between Scripture, dogma and science have surfaced. I offer this as food for thought as well as a ground of discussion. First, I will note an American Protestant tradition (somewhat thin these days but still present in plenty of places within our culture). What I have in…

St. Isaac on Humility

Humilty is the raiment of the Godhead. The Word who became human clothed himself in it, and he spoke to us in our body. Everyone who has been clothed with humility has truly been made like unto Him who came down from his own exaltedness and hid the splendor of his majesty and concealed his glory with humility, lest creation be utterly consumed by the contemplation of him….Wherefore every man has put…

Through the Prayers of Our Holy Fathers…

It is a phrase that is heard frequently in Orthodox services: “Through the prayers of our holy fathers, have mercy on us and save us!” The meaning of that phrase is enlarged and enlightened in the writings of the Elder Sophrony. The following excerpt is from his book, St. Silouan the Athonite. Prayer for the whole world, for all Adam, in many instances distracts the monk from putting himself at the service…

What Is Good for Us?

We live in a culture that has a fairly clear idea of what is good for a human being. We have notions of the “American Dream” and other ideals. Self-help books abound, each with its own understanding of what it means to be healthy, successful, well-balanced, etc. Frequently these cultural norms run counter to the writings of the Church fathers – sometimes scandalously so. Consider the following excerpt from the Desert Fathers:…

Scripture and the Church

I recently encountered a use of Scripture in a web posting that was alarming to a degree. The writer (who was not apparently a believer) sought to use Scripture to prove that God was a murderer and that the Bible was an immoral book. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on why certain approaches to Scripture will never be productive of a proper understanding and why the Bible is not a…

Work Out Your Salvation

…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) What does it mean to ‘work out our salvation’? It means that among all the things that we see in cosmic existence, we choose what is pleasing to God and separate ourselves from what goes against God. Then, little by little, we see our life changing. But be patient. God can, of course, visit us and in an instant open our…

St. Isaac the Syrian and the Door of Heaven

Be at Peace with your own soul; then heaven and earth will be at peace with you. Enter eagerly into the treasure house that is within you, and so you will see the things that are in heaven; for there is one single door to them both. And another: If you do not strive, you will not find; and if you do not knock eagerly at the door and keep long vigil…

It’s Really All About Being

I wasn’t sure how to title this post. One part of me wanted to say, “It’s really all ontological,” but that would lose half my readers in the maze of theological/philosophical vocabulary. I also thought about entitling it, “It’s not what you do but what you are,” and that might have been better than what I chose. My podcast this weekend on Ancient Faith Radio will also touch on this same subject.…