How Big Is Your Christmas?

We have entered the days when news pundits are asking, “Will Christmas be big this year?” When individuals ask one another, “Are you having a big Christmas this year?” It is understoood that economics are involved (as with the media). Our modern economies are greatly dependent on the massive buying that occurs between late November and late December. Christmas shopping is so good for the economy (as presently constituted) that if Christ were…

An Illegal Christmas

The great advantage to thinking about God in legal terms, is that nothing has to change. If what happens between us and God is entirely external, a matter of arranging things such as the avoidance of eternal punishment or the enjoyment of eternal reward, then the world can go on as it is. In the legal model that dominates contemporary Christian thought, the secular world of things becomes nothing more than an…

The Earth Stood Still

Orthodox Christians commemorate the death (Dormition) of the Virgin Mary during the month of August (New Calendar, the 15th, Old Calendar, the 28th). For those for whom such feasts are foreign, it is easy to misunderstand what the Orthodox are about – and to assume that this is simply a feast to Mary because we like that sort of thing. Flippant attitudes fail to perceive the depths of the mystery of our…

Keeping Christmas

It is not unusual to give thought to how we keep a fast. Will it be in a strict manner? How will my fasting be possible when I’m at work or at school? How will I teach my children to fast?  When we ignore the fast, we feel guilty and the need to confess. It is strange, however, that we do not give similar thought and time to what it means to…

God’s Absence on the Cross

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The cry of Christ on the Cross, quoting Psalm 22, could also be the cry of modern man in his daily life. We generally experience the world as a place devoid of God’s presence. When we are aware of Him, it is by special effort, and most often by reference to ideas and not to the world itself. Modern Christians are decidedly non-sacramental.…

Get Out of Your Mind!

I am not certain at what point modern Christians began to believe that “spiritual” and “mental” were the same thing. I know that it is a commonplace to interpret John 4:24 (“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”) to mean that outward actions and locations are of no value – only those things that take place in the mind are truly spiritual. The older English…

The Death of God and the Transfiguration of Man

Among the most lucid Orthodox thinkers in the contemporary world is Fr. John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary. I recently listened to him for several days during a conference in Florida. He has a new book coming out this fall in which he takes his readers to the place of death – the death of Christ – and shows there the truth of our union and our resurrection in Him. I…

“Hail, Mary, Full of Grace,” – the Cause of All Things

I treasure the small volume of George Gabriel,  Mary the Untrodden Portal of God. Gabriel occasionally strikes hard at the West and the book would perhaps be strengthened with a less combative approach to the differences of East and West in the faith (my own opinion), but I liked the book and found Gabriel addressing many things, well foot-noted, that are not found in many other places. I share an excerpt. +++ From…

Unspeakably Speaking

Eastern Orthodoxy commonly describes its theology as “apophatic.” The word means, “Unspeakable.” It is perhaps the most important point within Orthodox thought: when speaking of God, we are always saying things that cannot be said. It does not mean that nothing should be said (though this is often a good idea). It means that no matter what we say, the subject that lies at the heart of our speech is not the…

The Fire of Christmas

As a child of the South, accustomed to the tones and the tales of my region, I was well aware of the”fires of hell”. Roadside signs proclaimed the eternal destiny of those who were not saved. I have discovered in later years, that many adult Christians remain committed to the most literal possible version of the fires of hell and will argue as though heaven itself depended on the burning flesh of…