Reading by the Light of Christ

  Let us suppose that you have heard the story of Jesus, in a fairly bare form, nothing like as complete as any of the gospels – just a general outline. And then let us suppose that the only Scriptures you have access to are the Old Testament. You have never seen a New Testament and do not have its phrases in your mind. And then let us suppose that you sit…

The Greatness of a Lesser World

Nothing could be more “cozy” than Tolkien’s description of the Shire. Many think the Shire is an idealization of rural England, and, no doubt, it certainly resembles it. Though the English do not seem to live in holes, they, nevertheless do like their gardens. And though the major cities resemble major cities elsewhere, rural villages are like nothing so much as themselves. You cannot blame a man for loving something that is…

The Renunciation of Reason

I grew up in a house of contradictions. We loved each other and we fought. I had a brother who was five years my senior, and we somehow developed a style of contradiction. If he said white, I said black. If I said red, he said blue. Or after either of us made a perfectly reasonable statement, whatever exceptions might exist, the other was sure to note them. It came to be…

The Holy and Great Council and the Hidden Work of God

The science of psychology had its beginnings in the 19th century. It has since gone through many changes, complete with clinical science of the brain and its chemistry. However, in its earliest days it had something of a mystical twist. Freud, Jung and their cohort could see the surface of the personality and the various disorders it presented. Their instinct was that the causes of those disorders lay somewhere beneath the surface.…

A Simple, Great Soul

For a variety of reasons, I have been spending a fair amount of time with A.I. Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian writer who died in 2008. I am working through a collection of his writings and have been watching videos on his life along with detailed interviews. If any man lived through the maelstrom of the 20th century, it was he. Born in 1918 to a pious, Orthodox family, he was raised by…

A Festival of Celtic Orthodoxy

My parish is having its first festival this Saturday (May 14). It was decided that since it fell on St. Brendan’s Day, we would make the festival a celebration of Celtic Christianity. It has given the parish an opportunity to study and think about the wonderful Orthodox history of the British Isles and to think about Orthodoxy in a context beyond Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. One of the great champions of…

Coercing Reality

One of the most comforting things about gravity is that you don’t have to argue about it. Now that might sound strange were we not living in a time in which ideas are increasingly used as assertions of reality. From gender politics to the multitude of psychological triggers, how our fellow citizens experience the world is being asserted as the world itself. In a society with a history of politeness and kindness…

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…

It’s A Crying Shame

Orthodox Christians make a beginning of their Lenten discipline with the forgiving of everyone for everything (theoretically). This is expressed in the rite of forgiveness which is part of Vespers on the Sunday of Cheesefare. The ritual expression of forgiveness can easily and often be little more than a ritual. It reminds us of the need to forgive, but does not, on its own, achieve what it expresses. This should not be…

Self-Emptying Prayer

We are told that Christ “emptied Himself” in His death on the Cross (Philippians 2:5-11). Further, we are told that this self-emptying is to be the “mind” that we ourselves have. It is possible to grasp that such self-emptying can be practiced in our dealings with others when we place them above ourselves – when the “other” is our greater concern. But how is this possible in prayer? How do we empty…