Form and Conformity – How Tradition Saves Us

When C.S. Lewis tried to describe the nature of reality as undergirded with order and discernible principles (The Abolition of Man), he looked for a term that would be more easily palpable to a secularized audience that was already becoming highly resistant to Christian terminology. He chose the Chinese term, the Tao, as a disarming approach to the question. Modernity is, strangely, far more receptive to the “wisdom” of non-Western cultures, while…

The Despised God

  In his On the Orthodox Faith, St. John of Damascus declares: “The Son is the image of the Father, and the Spirit the image of the Son.” Such statements are easily read and passed over as among the more obvious Trinitarian statements. I add to this statement another from St. Irenaeus: “That which is invisible of the Son is the Father, and that which is visible of the Father is the…

The Good That Lies Within

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. Solzhenitsyn’s statement that “even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained,” is,…

The Space Between

Is there a God “out there”? God is “everywhere present and filling all things,” we say in our Orthodox prayers, but is He “out there?” For what it’s worth, I want to suggest for a moment that He is not. Largely, what I am describing is what takes place in our imagination – that is, what we picture when we pray and how we think of God as we seek Him. There…

The Management of the Soul

For who knows the things of a man except the spirit of that man, which is in him? So also no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb: One. But the lightbulb really has to want to change. I like lightbulb jokes. Occasionally, as in the example above, they contain wisdom as well as humor. There was once…

What Is Beneath the Universe?

In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. John 1:1-3 +++ Throw a blanket over a chair. In all likelihood, you would recognize immediately that there is a chair beneath the contours of the fabric. The blanket is not the…

Justice, Temperance, Prudence and the Virtue of “No”

I have sometimes quipped that children are born lawyers. Their cries of, “That’s not fair!” would be at home in any court in the world. Children reveal our instinct for fairness, the root concept in the virtue of justice. Of course, as every parent knows, that instinct is often distorted, with the desire for fairness being expressed only as “fairness for me.” Justice is a virtue with deep, visceral content. Whenever it…

Mary: The Blessing of All Generations

In my childhood, it was not unusual to hear someone ask, “Who are your people?” It was a semi-polite, Southernism designed to elicit essential information about a person’s social background. The assumption was that you, at best, could only be an example of your “people.” It ignored the common individualism of the wider culture, preferring the more family or clan-centered existence of an older time. It was possible to be “good people”…

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 Kingdom Within

In December of 1849, the Russian author, Fyodor Dostoevsky, stood waiting his turn for execution, having been found guilty of plotting against the Russian Tsar. At the last minute, under instructions from the Tsar, the sentence was commuted from death, to four years in a Siberian prison. Later that day, Dostoevsky wrote a famous letter to his brother, describing the experience. He was shaken and changed to the very core of his…