The Secular Challenge

Fr. Alexander Schmemann held that secularism was the single greatest challenge of the modern era. I took up this understanding and made it the heart of my book, Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe. It is at the heart of every serious challenge the Church faces in our time. The news is not so good. A recent article by Damian Thompson in the British publication, The Spectator, estimates that at the…

Truth, Lies and Icons

As verbal beings, we live in a world of icons. We experience the world in an iconic fashion. A major difficulty for us is that we have lost the vocabulary of iconic reality. We have substituted the language of photography. The dissonance between reality and our photographic assumptions has led us to doubt both. Man is an iconographer and needs to re-learn what that means. +++ Franz Kafka famously wrote: “The Lie…

A Tendency to Beauty

Evolutionary theorists have a very difficult time suggesting a mechanism for life. How do plain chemicals – minerals and dissolved substances – combine in a manner that constitutes a living thing? In fact, why would they? I have no interest in discussing the pro’s and con’s of evolutionary theory. It is not interesting to me if you think Darwin was wrong or the devil incarnate. I want to think about some other…

Face to Face

Nothing about the human body is as intimate as the face. We generally think of other aspects of our bodies when we say “intimate,” but it is our face that reveals the most about us. It is the face we seek to watch in order to see what others are thinking, or even who they are. The importance of the face is emphasized repeatedly in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, it…

An Artist’s Eye and the Kingdom of God

Eyes they have but do not see. I have a daughter who is an artist. Her art is a gift that eludes me. The wonder is not so much in the skill of her hands but in her eyes. For having watched this phenomenon grow up and mature, I am certain of one thing: she sees the world in a way I do not. It is not so much that she sees beauty…

The Icon of Music

This Sunday, the First Sunday of Great Lent, marks the return of the holy icons to the Churches in 843 A.D.  It is celebrated as the “Sunday of Orthodoxy.” This article offers a reflection on a different form of the icon – of equal importance – and equally worth protection and care. Orthodox theology is a “seamless garment”: no part of Orthodox doctrine, worship, prayer or life stands in a category of…

The Smashers Are Back – Lord Have Mercy

The Smashers are back. The news is carrying photos of the wanton destruction being wrought in the Middle East by ISIS. Churches, Mosques, and human beings are being subjected to a new round of destruction at the hands of one of the most iconoclastic groups to have risen in the past century. One of their leaders has even vowed to destroy the Kaaba in Mecca if they succeed in conquering Saudi Arabia.…

Face to Face – Beholding God

My mind wandered back to these thoughts as I pondered the growing phenomenon of “selfies.” Even the President cannot resist making them. Of course, the “selfie” is the passion-driven distortion of the theology of the face – existence as ego. For the mystery of the face is not to look at myself, but to look at the other. You are God’s “selfie.” Ponder it. Nothing about the human body is as intimate…

Depth Perception

One of the great blessings of the human brain can be found in its ability to take two things and make them one. We have two eyes, which means they necessarily see things differently. Look at the world with one eye open and switch to the other eye. Things appear to move. Viewing the world through one eye also makes things appear somewhat “flat.” The wonder of “stereo-scopic vision” (seeing through two…

A Particular Scandal

A character in a Peanuts cartoon once declared, “I love mankind! It’s people I can’t stand!” The statement accurately describes our problems with the particular. It is easy to love almost anything in general – it is the particular that brings problems. Nowhere could this be more true than with God. Speaking about God in the abstract is extremely common – after all – He is “everywhere present, filling all things.” He is…