The Act of Veneration

No spiritual activity permeates Orthodoxy as much as veneration. For the non-Orthodox, veneration is often mistaken for worship. We kiss icons; sing hymns to saints; cry out “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” And all of this scandalizes the non-Orthodox who think we have fallen into some backwater of paganized Christianity. It is not unusual to hear Orthodox who more or less apologize for this activity and seek to minimize it. “We are…

Love Has No History

St. Nikolai Velimirovich’s Prayers by the Lake are a theological feast. St. Gregory the Theologian wrote wonderful theological poems – it is a form deeply suited to theology but too little used. I first heard this poem on a broadcast from Ancient Faith Radio – it came at a very timely moment and allowed me to see and pray. Images such as “wandering through my soul like a wayfarer in the night,”…

To Guard One’s Heart

The heart is a precious thing. The term can sometimes be confusing for people reading Orthodox writings. On occasion it almost sounds synonomous with the soul. At other times, it is identified with the nous, that organ of perception by which we know God. The Scriptures use the term (especially in the Old Testament) but never clearly define what it means. Some number of the Fathers make a literal identification with the…

Only Love Knows Anything

  Only Love Knows Anything There’s a part of us that is wired to be careful. It senses danger and hunkers down. It looks for danger. It can easily become the dominant mode of our life. Anxiety and depression, are among the most common noises of this internal warning system. When it comes to dominate, we see the world through fear-colored glasses. In the classical language of the Church, we describe such…

The Mother of Us All

  A young friend recently lost his mother. It has been an occasion of reflection for me, thinking about the emptiness created by such a loss. Despite all of the confusion and conundrums in our contemporary culture surrounding gender issues – they only serve to underscore the fact that male-and-female, on the most fundamental level of the human psyche, are core realities – subject to debate, but not subject to dismissal. We…

The Scandal of the Transfiguration

My Archbishop (Alexander Golitzin) shares the story of a young man whom he taught some years ago. He was Orthodox from Estonia. He grew up in the Soviet era and had come to hate all things Russian, including the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, he saw an Orthodox procession in the streets of his city one year, a procession that included the Russian bishop (whom he also hated and believed to be a KGB…

The Path of the Good, the True, the Real

Imagine a character in a story who is wraith-like, barely existing. His every move threatens to draw him deeper into non-existence. As it stands, others around him are only able to see him moments at a time. He often disappears for whole days at a time as he lapses into such ghostly non-being that he cannot be seen at all. Each step he takes either diminishes his existence or establishes it. As…

The Way of Shame and the Way of Thanksgiving

The language of “self-emptying” can have a sort of Buddhist ring. It sounds as we are referencing a move towards becoming a vessel without content – the non-self. Given our multicultural world, such a reference is understandable. It is, however, unfortunate and requires that we visit the true nature of Christian self-emptying. Our self-emptying is deeply tied to shame and the Crucified Christ. As a touchstone, I cite the primary passage (Philippians…

Asking the Right Questions

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7) I believe that among the most central things in our life are the questions we ask – or even the question we ask. This is far removed from our passions…