Finding God Amidst the Noise

If I say one hundred prayers a day in the silence of Katounakia and you say three prayers amidst the tumult of the city and your professional and family obligations, then we are equal.   St. Ephraim of Katounakia I ran across this small quote recently and was struck by its insight and typical Orthodox generosity. The kindness of the saints is among their most encouraging aspects. It also echoes a theme that…

Healing the Soul and Unbelief

I have long been convinced that “believing” is grounded in something other than intellectual activity. I am simply unimpressed by most of the intellectual arguments that I see regarding both belief and unbelief. In both, I hear so much that is unspoken, and even much that is likely hidden from the speakers themselves. That being the case (if I am right), then conversations about belief require great patience and not a little…

What Exactly Is Changing?

The Catholic theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, in his magisterial work on St. Gregory of Nyssa, offers this observation: The journey towards salvation is marked by a successive elimination of all that we “have,” in order to reach what we “are.” The safest path and surest refuge is not to be deluded and fail to recognize ourselves – who we truly are. We should not believe that we are seeing our Selves…

The Truth of the Soul

“Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving, forever?” In the classic film, The Third Man, Harry Lime, a racketeer in post-World War II Vienna, quizzes his old friend, Holly Martins, about the value of an individual life. They are standing in the carriage of a Ferris wheel, looking down on the city scape. From Lime’s perspective, the distance provides a detachment that makes morality obsolete. “Have…

Thoughts and Prayers in the House of the Dead

The first time I saw my father cry was in 1963. I was nine years old. We had gotten word the day before that my mother’s oldest sister had been murdered while working in her husband’s law office. A stranger came in off the street and killed her in a deeply brutal manner. It became news across the state for nearly a year. I remember stepping into my parent’s bedroom. My father…

Is God a Fool?

Few things are as awkward (and even painful) as “feeling like a fool,” whether it is the mild thing we call “embarrassment,” or the stronger things that make us want to disappear or run away. No one wants to be the fool. Nevertheless, I have come to see God as a “fool,” and those rare saints whom we name the “holy fools,” to be amazing exemplars of this way of being. I…

Say Yes

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you … was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God …. (2Co 1:19-20) +++ It is very hard to say No, despite the fact that we say it all the time. The reason No is so hard is that it…

Good Friday and Unbelief

  Christmas and Easter are often difficult days for those who do not believe in God. Christians are more public about their faith than at other times of the year and this brings with it an annoyance. Christmas bespeaks the birth of God as a human being. Easter bespeaks a resurrection from the dead. For those who do not believe, such miracles, spoken of so glowingly and with such assurance by Christians,…

The Desert Struggle

One of the best-known sayings to have come from the Desert Fathers is: “Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” To a large degree the saying extols the virtue of stability. Moving from place to place never removes the problem – it only postpones the inevitable. Somewhere, sometime we have to face the heart of our struggle and by the grace of God overcome. Of course, not everyone…

God’s Tattoos

Call me a Boomer. Among the more surprising developments across my nearly seven decades of life is the now widespread practice of tattooing. As a child in the 50’s, the only tattoos I ever saw were on the occasional sailor, and we rarely saw many of them. Indeed, I don’t think there was a tattoo parlor anywhere in our city, and if there were, it would have been on the shady side…