The Soul Is a Mirror

There are meditations and insights that simply change your life. I recall walking across the campus at Duke some 30 or so years ago. I had been plowing through a book of Orthodox theology (very thick reading). I would read a page and think, and read it again. But I recall very plainly a moment of insight – it regarded some paragraphs surrounding a statement of St. Basil’s. The “coin dropped” as…

The Paschal Gift

It is impossible to describe the joy of Pascha, particularly as I experience it as a priest. This year, I was deeply aware that I stand in a place that was both created for me, and for which I am unworthy. The joy of such a combination is the realization of the Gift. When you are trying to find a gift for someone, the most difficult part, it seems to me, is…

The Fiction of Relationships and the Fullness of Life

It is very interesting that we use the word “relationship” to describe everything from God to our lifestyle. More interesting still, is that, used in this manner, the word dates back to only around the mid-20th century. There are older examples, but the psycho-social meaning that it carries today does not appear until around 1940. This also means that no one, prior to that time, spoke about having a “relationship” with God.…

To See Him Face to Face

  “The self resides in the face.” – Psychological Theorist, Sylvan Tompkins +++ There is a thread running throughout the Scriptures that can be described as a “theology of the face.” In the Old Testament we hear a frequent refrain of “before Thy face,” and similar expressions. There are prayers beseeching God not to “hide His face.” Very clearly in Exodus, God tells Moses that “no one may see my face and…

The Divine Compass

I was in a small shop yesterday in a coastal town. Among its many knick-knacks were a large variety of compasses. We have become a compass-driven culture today, after a lull in which they were largely passé. Of course, the compass is now a very passive thing, hidden within the workings of the resident GPS system in our phones. There has long been a debate about the presence of an “inner compass”…

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…