Living in the Real World

Nothing exists in general. If something is beautiful or good, it is manifest in a particular way at a particular time such that we can know it. And this is our true life. A life lived in a “generalized” manner is no life at all, but only a fantasy. However, this fantasy is increasingly the character of what most people think of or describe as the “real world.” A monk lives in…

Atheism and the Imagination

Einstein was famous for his “thought experiments.” He worked his way into radical new insights, not through careful research in a laboratory, but through careful work in the imagination. The same is true for almost all work in cosmology. You cannot simply observe the data generated from particle experiments and announce a conclusion. What is required is a work of imagination to describe a universe in which what has been observed makes…

A Gifted Existence

You cannot give thanks for what has not been given to you. This simple maxim goes to the heart of the Christian life. If I steal your money and burn down your house, I cannot offer thanks for what I have done. It was not given to me from God. Anything that is not a gift has the nature of sin. I can give thanks to God that He meets me in…

Understanding Evil and Doing Good

The Fathers commonly spoke of three things together: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. The three are related. And it is necessary to understand these three in order to understand the nature of evil – both why it is evil and how it behaves. The root of Truth, Beauty and Goodness in the Fathers is Being and Existence. God alone has true Being and all things exist and have their being as a gift…

The Soul and the Hidden Weight of Glory

Everyone likes things for various reasons. This is perhaps my favorite piece that I’ve done this year. I’m not entirely certain why. I think that in some way it touches on the fragility of our existence and even of our belief. I hope that rereading it might be a blessing for you as well. From a Facebook conversation: Though I wish I believed otherwise, in the depths of my being, I do…

A Matter of Life and Death

There are very few categories more basic than life and death. For Classical Christian thinking, they are essential. There has also been a tendency in both theology and philosophy, however, to move away from these fundamental categories and become lost in the complexities of other language. Thinking about the moral life is a prime example. A word like “sin” becomes an obscure subset of legal wrangling and tortured logic. The legacy of…

Begotten of the Father

No revelation is more central to the Christian faith than God as Father. Some might immediately respond that the Trinity should be seen as the central revelation. But, in Orthodox understanding, the Trinity has its source (πηγή) in the Father.  We should understand this not only as a matter of Trinitarian thought, but as the proper grounding of the spiritual life as well. To be a Christian in the proper sense, to…

Male and Female – Part Two

The truth of our existence is largely hidden. Much of what we do know is fleeting, restricted to the surface of our lives and subject to constant revision. Both St. Paul and St. John reflect this reality in their writings: Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also…

Through the Prayers of Our Holy Fathers

It is a phrase that is heard frequently in Orthodox services: “Through the prayers of our holy fathers, have mercy on us and save us!” The meaning of that phrase is enlarged and enlightened in the writings of the Elder Sophrony. The following excerpt is from his book, St. Silouan the Athonite. Prayer for the whole world, for all Adam, in many instances distracts the monk from putting himself at the service…

The Hidden Soul and the Weight of Glory

From a Facebook conversation: Though I wish I believed otherwise, in the depths of my being, I do not believe any part of us survives death. I am, at the center of my consciousness, a materialist, and a reluctant atheist still. I fight this disposition daily, and it is becoming an enormous burden that I wish I could throw off. There are days where my doubt and despair far eclipse my hope…