Eating Your Way to Paradise

It is interesting that the story of mankind’s first sin involved eating. We didn’t eat too much, only the wrong thing in the wrong way. But as sins go, it seems rather mundane. Murder is more dramatic (that was a second generation sin). Betrayal makes for a better novel. But there it was – we ate our way to perdition. It’s not widely known, but you can eat your way to paradise…

Living in a Strange Land

The Scriptural narrative is littered with stories of “strangers in a strange land.” Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Israelites and Moses in Egypt, Israel in Babylon, even Israel under the Greeks and Romans – beyond the Scriptures – Israel in the diaspora. It is perhaps among the most unifying threads in story of the people of God. Only the later flirtations of Christian empire have ever made believers think themselves…

Shame and Envy – Our Secret Sins

Several years back I stumbled on a book about the sin of envy. I was struck by what I read and realized that I had never heard a sermon on the topic (nor preached one). Though a number of the Fathers cite envy as the first and greatest sin, it never seemed to come up as a spiritual topic. I also realized that it was almost never mentioned in confession. A strange…

The Narrow Road

There is a small collection of Christ’s sayings that center on the topic of the “narrow road.” The heart of the topic is that the way into the kingdom of God is difficult and very few will find it. The sayings are troubling. Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because…

Shopping for God

It is unfair that I write this post on the evening of “Black Friday.” This is the day in the American vernacular (always the day after our American Thanksgiving holiday) when the Christmas shopping season officially begins. It is marked by many enticing sales and stores opening at Midnight of Black Friday (and now increasingly earlier – so that Black Friday is beginning to start on late Thanksgiving Day). It is the…

Godless Morality

Is it possible to be moral without believing in God? I would venture to say that moral is pretty much all there is without God. To be moral requires that we have some understanding of the rules governing our behavior and a willingness to live by those rules. I have pondered many times why someone has rules if they don’t believe in God (though a culture without rules would be decidedly against…

Passionately Drunk

The Philokalia, that wonderful collection of writings by the fathers on prayer of the heart, has as its full title, The Philokalia of the Neptic Saints gathered from our Holy Theophoric Fathers, through which, by means of the philosophy of ascetic practice and contemplation, the intellect is purified, illumined, and made perfect. Little wonder it is known popularly as the Philokalia. That word, Philokalia, means “the love of beautiful things.” It is not…

The Greatest Generation

A recent conversation within the comments gives the occasion for this post. The heart of the question – which is more difficult – marriage or monasticism? My own thoughts are that everything is extremely difficult. In our modern world, even the most fundamental structures of society have been eroded. In American culture we have re-imagined the family – with the result that today a majority of children grow up in a non-traditional…

The Luck of the Draw

I have heard Fr. Thomas Hopko quote his father-in-law, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, many times as saying: “Spirituality consists in how you deal with what you’ve been dealt.” The image, of course, is of playing cards. Fr. Alexander’s point is that the circumstances of our lives are beyond our control – our spiritual lives consist in how we respond to what is beyond our control. It is home-spun wisdom. There is another image that…

The Long Journey Home

It’s not getting to the land of the dead that’s the problem. It’s getting back. – Capt. Hector Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribbean at World’s End It is possible to speak in great detail about the origins and problems of the “false-self” (ego). Once the characteristics of the ego, it’s narrative, defenses, aggression, and unrelenting dominance of the mind are identified, it is not only easy to see, it is difficult not…