The Mystery of Providence

  The entire mystery of the economy of our salvation consists in the self-emptying and abasement of the Son of God – St. Cyril of Alexandria +++ Among the most troublesome thoughts to my modern mind are those surrounding God’s providence. A popular morning prayer from the Elders of Optina reads: O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I…

The Despair of Modernity – It Might Not Be All Bad

It is a commonplace in the Fathers to describe despair or sadness as the result of failing to get what we want. It sounds quite simple, but it cuts to the very heart of our sadness. There is a melancholy of our age that is born from the expectations of modernity. The mantra of progress and our belief that no matter the problems confronting us, there is always a solution, are an…

When Chaos Ruled the World – Part II

  The imagery of a cosmic battle with chaos described in part one, is properly the foundation for the Christian life. “Chaos” is a metaphor for so much that threatens God’s good creation and makes war against His saints. It is also an understanding that is almost completely lost in the modern world. We generally fail to notice that modernity is a phenomenon of the “first world.” It is an understanding that…

When Chaos Ruled the World – Part I

In the ancient civilizations of the Near East there were strange stories about the place of chaos in the beginning of all things – and the chaos is specifically located in water. It seems odd to me that people who largely lived in arid countries should imagine the world beginning as a watery chaos – but that is certainly what they did. The Egyptians imagined the world’s beginning as a watery chaos…

Theophany – The Waters Were Afraid

When I was seven years old, I “went forward” one Sunday morning in response to a preacher’s invitation. I wasn’t at all certain what was going on, but I mostly thought that I was “choosing sides.” Later that week, the preacher came and visited my home. He met privately with me and plied me with questions. When he was done, he shook his head and said to my mother, “He’s only seven…

At the Name of Jesus

On the eighth day after His birth, the eternal Son of God, in accordance with the Law, would have been circumcised and given His name. The name He received was quite common. It is the same Hebrew name as “Joshua.” It means, “God saves.” No other name is spoken as often with such tenderness and devotion. The name itself has become a prayer. We are told that “whoever calls on the name…

Christ is Born! The Angels Sing!

A Serbian Christmas Song – lyrics by St. Nikolai Velimirovich Andjeli Pevaju Noć prekrasna i noć tija, nad pećinom zvezda sija, u pećini mati spi, nad Isusom andjel bdi. Andjeli pevaju, pastiri sviraju, andjeli pevaju mudraci javljaju: Što narodi čekaše, što proroci rekoše, evo sad se u svet javi, u svet javi i objavi: Rodi nam se Hristos Spas za spasenje sviju nas. Aliluja, aliluja, Gospodi pomiluj! (deep voice) no matter what…

I’ll Be Small for Christmas

Children today are raised with dreams of greatness. Cultural affirmations of our limitless potential, well-intentioned, have not produced a generation of over-achievers, but have indeed brought forth hordes of great dreams. This is nothing new in American culture. We are the world’s longest sustained pep-talk. Ronald Reagan loved to quote the 1945 Johnny Mercer hit: You’ve got to accentuate the positive Eliminate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don’t mess with…

A Secular Kingdom…Where Christmas Never Comes

  Two people are working at a soup kitchen, feeding the poor. One of them is a Christian, the other an atheist. The Christian is doing what he does out of obedience to Christ, in order to serve Christ “in the least of these my brethren.” The atheist is doing what he does because he thinks that generosity is a good thing and that the world would be a better place if…

Sacrifice and Worship

In the 1970’s, the BBC did a series, “The Long Search,” in which Ronald Eyre explored various religions. To my mind, it remains the best such series I’ve seen. When it came to Christianity, the series wisely presented three separate treatments: the Orthodox, the Catholics and Protestants. In its program on Orthodoxy, Eyre traveled to Romania, which was then under the boot of Ceausescu and official “atheism.” The persecution only allowed the…