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…

Prayers By the Lake – I

Saint Nicholai Velimirovich, of whom I have written before, is the author of the wonderful, Prayers By the Lake, which he composed on the shores of Lake Ochrid. They are a treasure of modern Orthodox verse. His first poem in the cycle reflects a sense of the creation as God’s own, rather than an inert arena for secular life. I offer this poem and a link to an online edition of His…

Sacraments: The World as Mystery

My recent post on Pentecost and Evangelism occasioned several thoughtful responses. One of the responses seemed to me particularly worth further reflection. I start with an excerpt: Truly it is God we need and want, nothing less. I experienced in my heart, but didn’t realize in my head until I began to study Orthodoxy, that in my evangelical world we affirmed “by faith” having God living by His Spirit within us and that…

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,…

More on an Orthodox Hermeneutic

It is the common witness of the gospels that the disciples seemed to have no clue when it came to the death and resurrection of Christ – until after the resurrection. The classic story of this is to be found in St. Luke’s gospel: Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these…

An Orthodox Hermeneutic

Is or can there be such a thing as an Orthodox hermeneutic (method of interpretation) of Scripture?  I asserted in a recent post that there was such a thing and that the Orthodox would do well to work towards its recovery rather than using the hermeneutics of others who do not hold the Orthodox faith. I will make a small suggestion for how this may be understood. St. Paul, writing to the…

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…

The Truth About the End Times

I live in the South – which means plenty of bumper stickers warning, “In case of rapture this car will be unmanned.” I grew up surrounded by preaching on the last days in a context that was decidedly Dispensationalist, Pre-Tribulation, etc. If you are a reader who does not know what all that means then you’ve missed a huge part of our American Culture. It means one believes that time is divided…

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…