Icons and the Fullness of the Faith – A Story

In 1988 I began studies at Duke University in the Graduate School of Religion. My intention at the time was to complete a doctorate and look for a teaching position. I had served for eight years in the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church and was headed for what I hoped would be a deepening of my understanding of the faith and of my ministry. I had an interest in Orthodox theology…

Communion with Christ and the Union of Marriage

One of the clearest images of the relationship we have with Christ is that of marriage between a man and a woman. St. Paul makes reference to this in Ephesians 5: So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are…

What Does It Mean to Have Communion with God?

I am sure that the title of this post seems obvious and as though I had pulled a question out of a catechism. And yet, my experience tells me that things that seem as though they ought to be obvious often are not, particularly the more basic and fundamental they are in our life as Orthodox believers. In an earlier post I noted that the world fellowship is often found in English…

Knowing the Personal God

The word personal has a commonplace meaning in English. If I have personal knowledge of an event, it means that I was actually there and saw what took place. Personal knowledge of another person, means that we have actually met, spent time together and shared information. Difficulty arises when this commonplace use of the phrase is mistaken for its theological meaning. The word person, is pretty much a Christian invention, or certainly…

Is Fellowship with God Possible?

Too little has been written about the politics (and theology) of Bible translations. From the very first instance, the goal of English translations has not been a primary concern with a faithful rendering of the meaning of the text. Much of the history of the English Bible has been precisely over the agenda carried by the translation itself. Most readers remain unaware of such issues. Most will not notice that the King…

Christian Atheism

The title for this post sounds like an oxymoron, and, of course, it is. How can one be both an atheist and a Christian? Again, I am wanting to push the understanding of the one-versus-two-storey universe. In the history of religious thought, one of the closest versions to what I am describing as a “two-storey” world-view, is that espoused by classical Deism (the philosophy espoused by a number of the American founding…

The Blessed Virgin Mary Compared to the Air We Breathe – Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was a Jesuit priest (a convert from Anglicanism) and perhaps the greatest modern (?) poet of the English Language (ok, he’s my favorite). My second daughter, Khouria Kathryn, made me aware of this poem. Hopkins is wonderfully sacramental in his poetry – God permeates his words and the world his words come from. Thank you Kathryn. Wild air, world-mothering air, Nestling me everywhere, That each eyelash or hair Girdles;…

Speaking of Christianity – Part 4 of the Meaning of Words

Some years back, the Evangelical-convert-to-Rome, Thomas Howard, wrote a book, Splendor in the Ordinary. In it he argued for a sacramental world view and spoke of how that might effect the local home. I recall the book because it came out while I was in seminary and caused a minor stir. Some of us were interested in a more sacramental life – but we as yet had no idea either of the…

Finding the Problems at Home – Its All in Your Mind

If you like history (as I do) then there is always a temptation to look to history for answers. It is certainly the case that the present has much of its situation from the givens it inherited in its history. But we are none us completely explained by our forebears. I certainly have aspects inherited from my parents, but my personal world is still not the sole result of long historical forces…

Theology, the Slavophiles, and the Parish Church

Ivan Kireevsky was born on April 3, 1806, and became in the course of his lifetime one of the leading intellectual forces in the group who would later be called the Slavophiles. They were interested in a revival in Russian thought, particularly along lines they considered distinctly Russian – in comparison to Western thought. Many have noted their errors: sometimes they went too far in making distinctions with the West; sometimes they…