The Tangled Web

Sir Walter Scott (1808) famously wrote: “O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” A modern pundit has rephrased it: “Always tell the truth…it’s easier to remember.” Lies inevitably create a web of false narratives. In many ways, it’s a metaphor for sin itself. Sin begets sin that begets sin and the web ensnares us into a world of un-truth. A single thread of a spider’s web…

Abraham, the Righteous, and the Prayers of Our Holy Fathers

Many services of the Church conclude with this prayer: “Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and save us!” Since we ourselves are praying directly to Christ, why do we invoke the prayers of others? Are our prayers so weak, or is His mercy so hard to come by? Like so much else in the Church, the answer reveals an even greater mystery. In…

How Powerless Are You Willing to Be?

“My spiritual efforts don’t do anything, they merely bring me to the place where I know I can’t do anything, to the place where I am utterly naked before God!” -Fr. Silviu Bunta Sometimes I run across a quote that strikes my heart so deeply that I’m surprised it wasn’t me who said it. The quote above is from Fr. Silviu Bunta, Associate Professor of Old Testament at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, in…

The True Dignity of Human Beings – Nyssa on Slavery

One of the most rewarding aspects of reading historical material is how it reveals the human mind even at a great remove from our own. There is a myth in our culture that history is the story of progress. It presumes that only in our modern times have we begun to free ourselves from the false ideas of the past. What you discover when you actually read historical materials is that many…

Shame in the Public Arena

In 401 AD, twenty-nine Saxon “slaves,” strangled each other to death with their bare hands in their prison cells. They chose this death rather than being forced to fight one another in Rome’s arena. Better death than shame. Their “owner,” the Senator Symmachus (famously known as the “Last Pagan”), wrote of them that they were a rebellious “band of slaves, worse than any Spartacus.” In the pages of the New Testament we…

Over Come Evil By Doing Good

Drawing on the Book of Proverbs, St. Paul offers a simple admonition to his readers: “…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20) He then adds: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. It is a very simple statement. However, when anyone begins to suggest what…

“Make It So!” vs. “Let It Be!”

Abba Poemen said, “Teach your mouth to say that which is in your heart. +++ Some years back, while driving through the mountains here in Tennessee, with an out-of-date GPS system in my car, I was instructed to take a particular turn and cross a bridge. Something inside me (guardian angel?) whispered a word of caution (it was night as well), and so I took the turn carefully and slowed. It was…

The Ladder of Your Daily Life

Perhaps the most prominent ladder in our culture is the one associated with careers. It is an image of the American road to success. We begin at or near the bottom and, step by step, make our way towards the top. It is a metaphor that works well with our modern notions of hard work, persistence and reward. It also serves as a justification for many of the structures in our society…

Christianity in a Plain Brown Wrapper

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2Co 3:18) Among the many losses within modern Christianity has been the place of transformation. Nineteenth century revival movements and theology emphasized a single experience that was associated with salvation. Those who concerned themselves with what came…

Healing the Inner Pharisee

I cannot remember the name of my kindergarten teacher. I cannot remember the names of any of my first grade classmates. However, I have a very vivid memory of the only word I messed up in a first grade reading group: cupboard. I read, “Cup board.” Old Mother Hubbard would have been dismayed. In the same manner, I remember the word that brought my spelling bee prowess to an end in sixth…