Doors, Windows, Mirrors, and the Secret Place

My first impression of the monasteries on Mt. Athos began with their doors: massive, thick, iron and steel configurations with bars and locks. They are not decorative in the least. They are meant to keep out marauding Turkish pirates and the like. The walls of the monasteries are similar in their function. The whole structure, complete with the crenelations on the tops of the walls are more castle-like than anything else I…

Fleeing Paris with Vladimir Lossky

Times of relative peace and prosperity are far more rare than we realize. Our present difficulties reflect stresses and strains that have been common in many parts of the world and through time. I have found some comfort in reading lives and stories from those times and places, particularly those accounts that point towards a reminder that God is always and everywhere at work for our good. Recently, I returned to a…

Every Generation

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”…

The Light of Christ and the Transfiguration

My attention was drawn to the event of the Transfiguration during my college years. It was then that I first read a book on St. Seraphim of Sarov, who himself was transfigured in a famous incident in his conversation with Motivilov. There, on a snowy winter’s day, the saint shown with a brilliant light, and Motivilov felt effused with warmth and joy. It caught my attention in the most obvious way. I…

Hagia Sophia and the Evil Eye

The opening psalm of Great Vespers sings: “O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom have You made them all!” It is a line we hear so frequently in the Church that it is easy to overlook its significance. The universe of all created things does not simply exist – it exists in a manner that reveals a wisdom beyond our understanding. Nothing in modern science has diminished the wonder that…

Singing the Lord’s Song

In my first parish as an Anglican priest, I approached my first Midnight Mass with eager anticipation. I was trained “High Church,” with a very traditional liturgical emphasis – but I was serving in a “Low Church” parish. I was the first priest in their history to wear Eucharistic vestments as a normal practice. But it was common, even in Low Church areas, for the Midnight Mass to be “High.” Thus, I…

Praying God Within Us

As a follow up to my last post (God Within Us), I offer this ancient prayer. Most people are probably familiar with it, and some may very well use it in their daily prayers. It began to appear in Orthodox books of prayer over the past few decades, reflecting a rediscovery of the Orthodox Church in the ancient West. This prayer is known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” I’ve seen numerous translations. There…

God Within Us

Popular New Age thought postulates that everyone has a “god within.” It’s a pleasant way of saying that we’re all special while making “god” to be rather banal. But there is a clear teaching of classical Christianity regarding Christ-within-us, and it is essential to the Orthodox way of life. We should not understand our relationship with God to be an “external” matter, as if we were one individual and God another. Our…

And Justice for All – The Heart’s True Desire

The scene was clear: three men were beating another man who had been handcuffed. The injustice of the situation was clear. No danger could possibly be seen coming from the handcuffed man, and no reason could be discerned for the beating. The man with the handcuffs was black, though he need not have been. The officers were white, though they need not have been. It made me feel sick. I recall a…

The Importance of Failure

Everybody fails. Imagine sitting in a classroom and being told at the beginning of the term that everyone in the class will fail. There would probably be a dash to the registrar’s office in order to drop the class. But, imagine again, that dropping the class is not an option. You are going to take the class and you are going to fail. Will you listen to the lectures? Will you bother…