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…

Feeling Like a Fool

No one wants to feel like a fool. When it happens, our faces flush, we turn our eyes away (usually towards the ground). We usually want to hide or disappear, and, just as likely the burn in our face quickly passes to the hot burn of anger. Often what follows are words or actions we regret later. Having felt like a fool, we often act like one, unable to muster the calm…

Unity, the One Cup and the Fire of God

Ecumenism is back in the news and with it comes a deluge of misunderstanding and theological confusion. For while “unity” and the very concept of “one” are actually inherently mystical, most who write about and discuss the topic substitute a merely human, political and administrative notion. Two key verses are frequently drawn from the 17th chapter of St. John’s gospel:  Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in…

The One Thing Progress Cannot Do

It is common among Orthodox teachers to identify prayer with the “one thing necessary” that Christ speaks of in John 11. This emphasizes prayer as communion with God – for communion with God is the very source of our life. I will expand this meaning of the “one thing necessary” to include the very “mind” required for its practice. And, as we shall see, it is strikingly at odds with the habits…

Three Things and the One Thing

In a comment, I recently described three dominant concepts in our modern culture. They are so dominant that questioning them can actually be disconcerting. I have questioned them before and been hammered more than once as a result. But I am sure of my ground and offer these thoughts for however they may be of use. The ideas: We define ourselves and our world by the choices we make. We have the…

The Purpose of Mystery, Paradox and Contradiction

Orthodox Christianity is deeply associated with the word “mystery.”  Its theological hymns are replete with paradox, repeatedly affirming two things to be true that are seemingly contradictory. Most of these things are associated with what is called “apophatic” theology, or a theology that is “unspeakable.” This same theological approach is sometimes called the Via Negativa. This is easily misunderstood in common conversation. An Orthodox discussion takes place and reaches an impasse. Inevitably,…