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…

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…

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…

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…

It Is Good to Be Here

A few days ago, after hearing a very distressing bit of social news, I found myself saying, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” It was a voice of despair and sadness. The occasion had been a public altercation in which a stranger spat at a woman. It was the sort of thing that belongs among the lowest of human actions. But it happened. My topic is my own reaction. I found…

The Quiet Centrality of Healthy Shame

“For there is a shame that brings sin; and there is a shame which is glory and grace.” (Sirach 4:21) I have written previously about shame (and will continue) and its importance in our life. Despite the crippling effects of shame in its toxic form, shame also has an important healthy aspect that is necessary for our lives. The toxic form tends to overwhelm us and to dominate the popular understanding. Healthy…

Life as a Creator (or sub-creator)

The first time I heard the suggestion that human beings should think of themselves as “co-creators” with God was in a liberal, mainline, seminary (Episcopal). This was in the 1970’s. The meaning at the time was something of a mish-mash of culture-notions that was little more than a way of underwriting the myth of cultural progress as a God-given program, as well as a windfall of new-age silliness. We were not only…

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,…

Finding God in the Heart of the Soul

  The Prodigal Son is said to have “come to himself” when he was feeding the pigs in a foreign land. Hungry, lonely, having wasted his inheritance, it is said that he envied the pigs for their food. But, what does it mean that he “came to himself?” This is one of the primary stories of repentance in the Scriptures, as well as a primary story of forgiveness and restoration. If it…

Everybody is an Expert

  The spirit of democracy runs deep in the modern world. I describe this as a “spirit” in that it is clearly a passion, a delusional state of mind in which we imagine something to be true when it is not. One simple example of this delusion is the level of expertise imagined across the culture on pretty much every topic. The vast majority of such expertise is nothing more than opinion,…