The Truth of Mary

It is a commonplace among Christians to say that “truth is a person.” Of course, this is rightly drawn from Christ’s statement, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). However, most Christians fail to comprehend what it is that they have just said. That truth is a person is more than a convenient debating point. It says something about the nature of truth and how it is rightly…

A Light Thing

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (Joh 3:19) I have a vivid memory within my childhood of a serious sin. I was probably around seven or eight and an object had captured both my eye and my young heart: a baseball glove. It’s cost was probably less than ten dollars, and yet, a…

The Mystical Reality of Holy Week

As we journey through Holy Week… For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1Co 15:16-19 NKJ) Earlier this Spring, two Jehovah’s Witnesses came to…

The Doors and God

You cannot attend an Orthodox service and not be aware of doors. There are the doors that form the center of the icon screen, opening directly upon the altar. There are the two doors that flank them, one on either side, known as the “Deacon Doors.” Someone always seems to be coming out of one and going into another. One visitor to my parish confessed that the service reminded her of a…

Abraham at the End of the World

This is an exercise in the Orthodox reading of the Scriptures. My thoughts frequently return to this story and this line of thought. This article is greatly expanded from an earlier version. The habits of modern Christians run towards history: it is a lens through which we see the world. We see a world of cause and effect, and, because the past is older than the present, we look to the past to…

Fasting from the Sentiments of the Feast

I have a favorite Joni Mitchell song. In her very mournful style she sings about the season before Christmas: It’s comin’ on Christmas, They’re cuttin’ down trees, They’re puttin’ up reindeer and singin’ songs of joy and peace. Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on…I would teach my feet to fly! It is a melancholy tune, echoing the bittersweet experience of the culture Christmas. We love it.…

What Happens When We Play (Pray)

In my previous article I compared children’s use of play to the place of ritual words and actions in the life of the Church. I absolutely did not mean to imply that one thing is like the other. I mean to say clearly that they are very much the same thing. And I say this both to change how we understand play as well as how we understand ritual words and action.…

Playing with God

There are things that children understand instinctively. And the things that children know and understand are worth consideration. They have much to teach us. Among the most natural things children do is play. Depending on how you define play, it is among the first activities in which we engage. It comes to dominate the lives of children and is the hallmark of their existence. Play is what children do. It is quite…

The Sweet Smoke of Prayer

Let my prayer arise in Your sight as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.  Psalm 141 My parish has a fairly steady stream of visitors from outside the Orthodox experience. Among their first questions are ones concerning the use of incense. There is virtually no Orthodox service that does not include the burning of incense, with the priest or deacon making the circuit of the Church swinging…

Leaving Mary Out

Decades ago, when I was in seminary (Anglican), a professor told me that he did not believe in angels. I was surprised and asked him why. He responded that he “did not think they were necessary…that anything angels did could be done by the Holy Spirit…” While this is obviously true, I noted that angels are found throughout Scripture, and that “necessary” was not a theological category – and that he himself…