Mystery as Reality

C.S. Lewis once discussed the question of how angels (and such things) could pass through a wall. His response was intriguing: he suggested that they could do so not because they were less substantial, but because they were more substantial. Just as a rock is more substantial than water or air, so, he posited, an angel (or such) is more substantial than our materiality. Of course, this is completely arguable and unprovable. But…

The Mystery of “Mystery”

Few words can be more misleading to the modern ear than the Orthodox use of the word “mystery.” It’s a fine New Testament word and is (technically) the proper name for the sacraments in Orthodoxy (though we most often say ‘sacrament’ in English). Its root meaning is that of something “hidden.” In our culture’s language, mystery is more a matter of a who-done-it or a reference to something so puzzling or beyond…

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…

The Essential Goodness of All Things

There are certain foundational matters within the Orthodox teaching of the faith that should be settled in our hearts as we think about the faith, or even as we go through our day. Among those is the simple affirmation that all of creation is inherently and essentially good. We hear this first from the lips of God as He creates all things: Gen. 1:4 And God saw that the light was good.…

Does Goodness Require the Possiblity of Evil?

  In a world in which the action of choosing is exalted above all else, it is not surprising to hear that “evil is necessary in order to have the good.” I have seen this conversation, cast in a number of ways. It is stock-in-trade for some quasi-religious systems. I have seen it in spades in Jungian and Depth Psychology circles. No doubt, some bring this set of ideas along with them…

The Meekness of God

When Cecil B. DeMille cast Charlton Heston in the role of Moses in the 1956 film, The Ten Commandments, he had in mind a very American version of the central story of the Old Testament. The 50’s were deep in the heart of the Cold War with Communism. The film became a vehicle for America’s own cultural mythology. The Ten Commandments turned on the theme of freedom. As such, Hollywood was following…

The Last Temptation

I have pondered, from time to time, the oddity of Christ’s “last” temptation. The first temptation was that of turning stones into bread, the second, that of throwing Himself down from the Temple. The third and last temptation, however, was to be given “all the kingdoms of this world.” I understand hunger. Fasting for 40 days easily explains that the first temptation surrounds food. I have less comprehension regarding casting oneself down…

Into the Heart of the Capitol

The love of truth is similar (and related) to the love of beauty. The truth is not found through suspicion, anger, hearsay, or such things. The truth ultimately is a gift from God and strengthens the heart. It is better, when we cannot arrive at the truth because of suspicion or such, to say, “I don’t know,” than to grasp at things we suspect or imagine. The origin of conspiracy theories begins…

Being Found by God

I was flying into Denver a year or so back to speak at a conference. Seated next to me on the plane was a very well-dressed Muslim woman, who looked quite professional in her outfit and her demeanor. About 45 minutes away from landing, she turned to me and spoke: “Are you a Christian priest?” I was wearing my cassock. “Yes,” I responded. “I have never met a Christian before,” she said.…

The Walls of Paradise – and the Fire of God

I love walls. Perhaps the most charming aspect of medieval cities are their use of walls. Some surrounded the city and served as protection. Others surrounded smaller areas and prevented easy access and egress (perhaps understandable in a world with lots of animals present). There were other walls that signaled “higher” boundaries. In a medieval world, the “order” of things was thought important: kings and commoners, high-born and low-born, masters, yeomen, and…