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…

Get Real for Lent

According to St. Basil, God is the “only truly Existing.” Our own existence is a gift from God who is our Creator. None of us has “self-existing” life. We exist because God sustains us in existence – in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Sin is the rejection of this gift of God – a movement away from true existence. +++ Much of our attention in the modern world is engaged…

St. Mary of Egypt and Moral Progress

The suggestion has been made several times recently that my criticism of moral progress is not supported by the example of the saints. Surely, it is said, the transformations we read about in the lives of the saints are clear examples of moral progress. A noted such example, perhaps the greatest story of repentance and asceticism known in the Church, is that of St. Mary of Egypt. It is worth looking carefully at her…

Let’s Get Physical

If you go to the self-help section of a bookstore, any bookstore, you see row upon row of books, all promising another method to change or fix how you think, feel or imagine. It is as though we were certain that our lives would be great if only we could think feel or imagine better than we do now. Even Orthodox titles can hold a certain promise: Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives…

Saintless Christianity

What would Christianity mean if there were no saints? To rephrase the question: What would be the meaning of the Christian gospel if there were no wonderworkers, no people who had been transfigured with the Divine Light, no clairvoyant prophets, no healers, no people who had raised the dead, no ascetics living alone in the deserts for years on end, no beacons of radical, all-forgiving love?  What would be the meaning of…

Whose Psyche Is It, Anyway?

When we discuss our psychological state, what are we talking about. Better yet, who are we talking about? What is the identity of the guy in my head? Generally, such questions are not asked. They can become important in certain dissociative disorders. If I have two guys in my head, there is clearly an issue. Is what I identify as my self – the sum of my life experiences, memories, decisions, opinions,…

Finding the God Within

Popular New Age thought postulates that everyone has a “god within.” It’s a pleasant way of saying that we’re all special while making “god” to be rather banal. But there is a clear teaching of classical Christianity regarding Christ within us, and it is essential to the Orthodox way of life. We should not understand our relationship with God to be an “external” matter, as if we were one individual and God…

There Are No Opinions In This Article

There is a name for the Orthodox way of life: hesychia. In Greek, the word means “silence.” It could also be rendered “stillness,” or “quiet.” Far more than simply refraining from speech, it is the quiet of the heart, the stillness of the mind at rest in God, dwelling in peace. It is in this place that we primarily encounter God. God certainly makes Himself known even in stormy circumstances. But when the…

A Modern Lent

Few things are as difficult in the modern world as fasting. It is not simply the action of changing our eating habits that we find problematic – it’s the whole concept of fasting and what it truly entails. It comes from another world. We understand dieting – changing how we eat in order to improve how we look or how we feel. But changing how we eat in order to know God…

Singing and Dancing through Great Lent

I grew up in a rural American Protestant culture. In many ways there was a level of piety that was beneficial. God’s name, particularly the name of Christ, was held in great reverence.  Stores closed on Sundays – and if many people used the afternoon for recreation – most used the morning to attend Church. The knowledge of Scripture, though somewhat superficial, was still widespread. The first psalms I memorized were in…