The Peaceable Kingdom in a World at War

The English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, described the world as composed of autonomous, competing self-interests. We are at war with one another, a reality, he said, that can only be controlled through external force. The state serves as the enforcer of a negotiated peace agreement, a social contract, in which we legitimize its use of force in order not to kill one another. Hobbes himself preferred a strong monarchy. Certain times in our…

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…

Talking to Fish

I have sleep apnea. When I fall asleep, I stop breathing at certain points. According to the sleep study I endured, it happens over 90 times an hour. Sleep apnea can kill you. And so, I sleep with a “sleep machine,” a device with a mask through which a positive air pressure is maintained so that you don’t stop breathing. It was a godsend. When I visited Mt. Athos last year, one…

Walking In A Lost World

I have been engaged in an interesting reading project. The first part started with the travel accounts of Patrick Leigh Fermor, who made a walking journey from Holland to Constantinople (as he always called it) in 1933. His work (3 volumes) is considered one of the best of its genre in our times. He was only 19 when he started and was far from being settled and mature. However, he had a…

A Single Moment

Grushenka, a character in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, relates a now-famous fable about an old woman: Once upon a time there was a woman, and she was wicked as wicked could be, and she died. And not one good deed was left behind her. The devils took her and threw her into the lake of fire. And her guardian angel stood thinking: what good deed of hers can I remember to tell…

A Full Life

What constitutes a full life? In a consumer culture, I would suppose a full life to be one of maximum consumption, enjoyment, and productivity. We like being happy. Would a full life include suffering? The answer to such questions, for Christians, are found in Christ Himself. Christ alone fulfills what it means to be truly human. So, what does that mean? Christ does not flee from suffering. We are shown a number of…

Drag My Soul to Paradise

A Prayer to Our Lord Jesus Christ My most merciful and all-merciful God, O Lord Jesus Christ! In Thy great love, Thou didst come down and become flesh in order to save all. Again, I pray Thee, save me by Grace! If Thou shouldst save me because of my deeds, it would not be a gift, but merely a duty. Truly, Thou aboundest in graciousness and art inexpressibly merciful! Thou hast said,…

The Power in Thought – It’s Not What You Think

Among the dark little corners of the Orthodox world, particularly in its ethnic homelands, is a left-over trace of witchcraft (I don’t know what else to call it). It consists of a collection of superstitions, often mixed with semi-Orthodox notions. There are concerns about the “evil-eye,” “curses,” “spells,” and such. These things are “left-overs” in that they likely predate Christianity, having never disappeared from Europe’s earlier pagan past. These are not practices…

Bookends and the Resurrection

A series of recent conversations with a parishioner turned up the problem of “bookends,” that is, questions of the beginning and the end. It is only natural in our day and age to attack problems in this manner. “How did it start?” is  a way of saying, “What is it?” The end, of course, is not so obvious, other than its connection with our insatiable desire to know how things will turn…

Unbelief and Good Friday

  Christmas and Easter are often difficult days for those who do not believe in God. Christians are more public about their faith than at other times of the year and this brings with it an annoyance. Christmas bespeaks the birth of God as a human being. Easter bespeaks a resurrection from the dead. For those who do not believe, such miracles, spoken of so glowingly and with such assurance by Christians,…