Everywhere Present

Everything you do, all your work, can contribute towards your salvation. It depends on you, on the way you do it. History is replete with monks who became great saints while working in the kitchen or washing sheets. The way of salvation consists in working without passion, in prayer…. May God give you the strength to keep your spirit, your mind, and your heart in the spirit of Christ. Then everything that…

Loving an Angry God

I am both opposed to theological systems that have at their heart an angry, wrathful God whose justice much be satisfied – but I am also understanding of those who, having been raised or nurtured in pious settings, take theHoly Scriptures pretty much at face value and are thus discomfited by people like myself who seek to give an account of God that does not include God angrily and wrathfully punishing the…

The Kingdom of God is Within You

Again, some thoughts from Kalomiros’ Nostalgia for Paradise. This particular selection is on the reality of the Kingdom of God within us – and the particular importance of Hesychasm, the practice of inner stillness and the knowledge of God dwelling within us. I have written myself about the utter centrality of communion with God. His work underlines and expands this in a marvelous way. God is the place, the means, and the…

Dostoevsky on the Individual

The following passage from The Brothers Karamazov is taken from one of the “Talks and Homilies” of the Elder Zossima – one of the key characters in the novel. His thoughts echo earlier articles here that contrast man as “individual” (isolation) to man as Person (brotherhood and communion). Look at the worldly and at the whole world that exalts itself above the people of God: are the image of God and his…

Salvation in a Cloud of Witnesses

Perhaps more than any culture in history – America has championed the individual. The context for this cultural development was the nation’s historic resistance to the class structures of 17th and 18th century Europe (and later) as well as a positive response to certain intellectual concepts that were popular at the time of the nation’s independence. The European settlement of America in its early modern history was largely accomplished by individuals or…

Understanding the Incarnation

Of words that have been important in my life in Christ I cannot omit “incarnation.” Of course, the word refers to the doctrine of God become man, the Word made flesh. I wrote previously about the importance of reading St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and its impact on my life as an Orthodox Christian. Of course, Orthodox Christianity does not have a patent on the word “incarnation.” It is a favorite as well…

The Absent God – Introibo ad altare Dei

Children in Church have a marvelous innocence – one that often sees past the barriers which we adults erect in our own ignorance. One of the children in my Church, young daughter of a Catechumen, has what I can only describe as a “devotion” to me as priest. I’ve never questioned her to see precisely who she thinks I am (some children, early-on, can make the mistake of thinking that the priest…

The Freedom of Love – Two Selections

“God created man like an animal who has received the order to become God,” says a deep saying of St. Basil, reported by St. Gregory of Nazianzus. To execute this order, one must be able to refuse it. God becomes powerless before human freedom; He cannot violate it since it flows from His own omnipotence. Certainly man was created by the will of God alone; be he cannot be deified by it…

Give Thanks In All Things

I heard this from Archimandrite Zacharius, the disciple of the Elder Sophrony: The Elder Sophrony once said that if a man would give thanks always and for everything, he would have kept the saying which Christ gave to St. Silouan: “Keep your mind in hell and despair not.” I pondered this statement for a long time. For more than 30 years I had been aware of the famous dictum of St. Silouan…

Faces in the Dark

  One of the finest short contemporary classics of Orthodox spiritual writing is Tito Colliander’s Way of the Ascetics. The following excerpt is from his “Chapter Thirteen: On Progress in Depth.” THE external rudiments lead us now to the welfare that goes on in the depths. As when one peels an onion, one layer after another is removed, and the innermost core, out of which growth reaches up toward the light, lies…