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…

When an Icon is not an Icon

When is an icon not an icon? There are several answers to the question. Some of them would be technical, even somewhat argumentative as the strict canon governing icons gave way to more “Westernized” styles in the 17th century and beyond – but there have been notable “icons” among even very “Westernized” icons. St. Seraphim of Sarov prayed before such an icon – and some have been known to weep and many…

Icons and the Scriptures

I have had many thoughts this week about problems within the modern academic study of Scripture. An inherent problem is that scholars of Scripture lack both imagination and experience. I do not mean to impugn the intelligence of any particular academic – indeed, I have known many interpreters of Scripture whose work was almost pure imagination. What I am alluding to is a limit of imagination to see the many layers, the…

Being Formed in the Light – Icons and Salvation

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.John 3:29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” One of the…

Windows to Heaven Are Not One Way

I am participating in an icon workshop this week. Lectures, slides, and the slow process of learning how icons are painted, by painting one yourself under the guidance of an accomplished master. My experience is that you very quickly see that here you can only be pupil (at least at this stage of my life).  A small but interesting point worth sharing this evening, is in the process of writing or painting…

Icons – A Room with a View

Dreams are interesting things – our modern age either makes too little of them or too much of them – but mostly, we believe our dreams are about us and about the inside of our heads. Those who make too little of their dreams write them off to anxiety or other stresses of the day – wish fulfillment – or a variety of other mundane causes. Those who make too much of…

Face to Face with God

2 Cor. 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 1 Cor. 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 2…

Icons in a One-Storey Universe

I’ll ask my readers to forgive me as I look at yet another aspect of the Christian life when the idea of a two-storey universe is jettisoned and we come to realize that we are living in a one-storey world: that God is with us. Readership has remained very high over the past week or so, so I will take that to mean that many people are interested in this approach and the…

Where Have You Seen Beauty?

Within the bounds of propriety I will pose the following question: Where have you encountered Beauty and how did it relate to God? I’m just interested in hearing some stories. Be reasonable about length. But bear witness to what you have seen. I’ve written about “music from another room,” my first encounter with Rachmaninov’s Vespers. I could add to that my first encounter with a couple of famous icons. In each case,…

Reading and Being Read

There is one experience (at least) of reading Scripture, there is another altogether different of being “read by Scripture.” Both are quite valid but very different things. Reading Scripture is, of course, something we do all the time – perhaps so much so that we rarely stop to think about what we are doing. It is never a simple gathering of facts (like reading a newspaper article), nor is it like reading…