You Are Not Your Sin – Part 2…the Chains that Bind

Imagine that you have been shackled with chains on your ankles. The chains are heavy, make a lot of noise, and make it impossible for you to run. You cannot successfully climb over anything or dance. The chains are heavy enough that you quickly become exhausted and are limited in the things you can do and for how long you can do them. Imagine that not only are you shackled, but so…

Knowing Saints

There are many stories of saints in the Orthodox world, including contemporary ones. Their biographies are sometimes remarkable, sometimes not. Their stories are occasionally marked by miracles, but not always. I cannot think of a single characteristic that makes them like one another apart from their sanctity. And that quality does not make them so much like one another as so completely and truly themselves. I have had occasion to be with…

The Act of Veneration

No spiritual activity permeates Orthodoxy as much as veneration. For the non-Orthodox, veneration is often mistaken for worship. We kiss icons; sing hymns to saints; cry out “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” And all of this scandalizes the non-Orthodox who think we have fallen into some backwater of paganized Christianity. It is not unusual to hear Orthodox who more or less apologize for this activity and seek to minimize it. “We are…

A Dog’s Best Friend

I would like to suggest that dogs are perhaps the greatest things humans have ever accomplished. If my understanding is correct, dogs are essentially gray wolves, or directly descended from a wolf species, beginning somewhere between 60,000 to 100,000 years ago. At some point they were domesticated by us and used as aids to hunting. It has even been suggested that the domestication of dogs gave us an edge in our competition with…

Wrestling with God

One of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament is found in Genesis 32. There we hear the story of Jacob wrestling with God. Or is it the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel? Jacob had to face his brother Esau the next day. His anxiety comes through even in that ancient account. The text says that Jacob wrestled “with a Man.” But this is not the end of the…

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…

Becoming Personal

“Person” is among the most difficult words in the classical Christian vocabulary. It is difficult on the one hand because the word has a common meaning in modern parlance that is not the same meaning as its classical one. And it is difficult on the other hand even when all of its later meanings and associations are stripped away – because what it seeks to express is simply a very difficult concept.  Most…

No One Is Saved Alone

“If anyone falls, he falls alone. But no one is saved alone.” – Alexei Khomiakov Roughly 25 years ago I quit smoking. I never think about it now – it has become a thing of the distant past. But I can remember a period of about 10 years in which I struggled to quit. I would make up my mind, throw things away, make a clean sweep, and be back puffing away before…

Rational Sheep and the Word of God

I’m in a bit of a hiatus point in my summer. I am traveling and working, and even a little distracted. I will be posting a selection of articles reflecting on the nature of our humanity (in keeping with recent articles). For the doctrine of what it means to be human (anthropology) is as central to the Orthodox faith as the doctrine of God (theology). It is doubtless true that the modern…

Male and Female at the Cross – Part Three

In my last article, I reflected on the hiddenness of our identity, including the meaning of being male or female. Our true life is hid with Christ in God. There is more to be said on this hiddenness and its relationship to the image according to which we were created. In the Genesis account, when God created man and woman, He created them “in His image.” Most people fail to ask what…