The Whole Adam

Mt. Athos, in popular treatments, is often described as a “male enclave,” a place where no woman has set foot in a thousand years (this is not actually true). The exclusion of women from the Holy Mountain is deeply offensive to some (cf. European Union) and is imagined as a bastion of machismo in a cassock. It is therefore strange to discover, when you visit the Holy Mountain, that the central figure…

The Communion of Tradition

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life–the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us–that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also…

Saving My Neighbor – Just How Connected Are We?

  If you are in the “helping professions,” confronting problems in people’s lives, it doesn’t take long to realize that no one is purely and simply an individual. The problems we suffer may occasionally appear to be “of our own making,” but that is the exception rather than the rule. Whether we are thinking of economic or genetic inheritance, or the psychological and social environment, almost all the issues in our lives…

Finding God Amidst the Noise

If I say one hundred prayers a day in the silence of Katounakia and you say three prayers amidst the tumult of the city and your professional and family obligations, then we are equal.   St. Ephraim of Katounakia I ran across this small quote recently and was struck by its insight and typical Orthodox generosity. The kindness of the saints is among their most encouraging aspects. It also echoes a theme that…

Healing the Soul and Unbelief

I have long been convinced that “believing” is grounded in something other than intellectual activity. I am simply unimpressed by most of the intellectual arguments that I see regarding both belief and unbelief. In both, I hear so much that is unspoken, and even much that is likely hidden from the speakers themselves. That being the case (if I am right), then conversations about belief require great patience and not a little…

What Exactly Is Changing?

The Catholic theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, in his magisterial work on St. Gregory of Nyssa, offers this observation: The journey towards salvation is marked by a successive elimination of all that we “have,” in order to reach what we “are.” The safest path and surest refuge is not to be deluded and fail to recognize ourselves – who we truly are. We should not believe that we are seeing our Selves…

The Truth of the Soul

“Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving, forever?” In the classic film, The Third Man, Harry Lime, a racketeer in post-World War II Vienna, quizzes his old friend, Holly Martins, about the value of an individual life. They are standing in the carriage of a Ferris wheel, looking down on the city scape. From Lime’s perspective, the distance provides a detachment that makes morality obsolete. “Have…

Pentecost and the Liturgy of Hades

Pascha (Easter) comes with a great note of joy in the Christian world. Christ is risen from the dead and our hearts rejoice. That joy begins to wane as the days pass. Our lives settle back down to the mundane tasks at hand. After 40 days, the Church marks the Feast of the Ascension, often attended by only a handful of the faithful (Rome has more-or-less moved the Ascension to a Sunday…

Life in the Fog of the World

  In December of 1990, fog rolled into a stretch of I-75 between Knoxville and Chattanooga. Visibility quickly became a problem. The result was a fiery 99 car pile-up with 12 deaths and 42 injuries. Such tragedies are repeated from time-to-time across the country, with fog, rain, snow, and ice as the primary culprits. If you have ever been involved in such road conditions, then you probably remember something of the panic…

Mary: The Blessing of All Generations

In my childhood, it was not unusual to hear someone ask, “Who are your people?” It was a semi-polite, Southernism designed to elicit essential information about a person’s social background. The assumption was that you, at best, could only be an example of your “people.” It ignored the common individualism of the wider culture, preferring the more family or clan-centered existence of an older time. It was possible to be “good people”…