Reading the Nativity Story

I was right. I said in a sermon several days ago that my congregation should expect the usual presentations on various parts of the Christmas story, the thrust of the articles (and letters to the editor) being about how either they did not occur on a literal level or how they did occur. This goes on every year. Some scientist throws around the latest Christmas theory about the star, (comet, supernova, etc.),…

On the Eve of the Nativity – We Sing the Royal Hours

Come, you faithful, let us arise and behold the divine condescension from above, made manifest for us in Bethlehem; and having cleansed our minds, let us by our lives offer virtues instead of myrrh, as we faithfully prepare the entry of the Nativity with treasures of the soul, crying, ‘In the highest, glory to God in Trinity, through whom his good pleasure has appeared among men to rescue Adam from the ancestral…

What Role Do the Fathers Play in the Reading of Scripture?

It is easy from the outside to form an incorrect picture of the Orthodox interpretation of Scripture. There is actually quite a bit of variety among the Fathers when it comes to reading the Word of God. Even in the earliest centuries there were noted differences in the approach that obtained among those trained in Antioch and those trained in Alexandria, the two great centers of Christian exegesis. To a large extent,…

Mission and Worship – America and the Orthodox

The following post is an expanded version of a comment I wrote in a recent thread. The question to which it responds is the Scriptural mandate of St. Paul (1 Cor. 9:19-23): For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law…

A Little Child Enters the Temple

The story in the gospel of Christ’s visits to the Temple in his childhood – the first at 40 days of age (marked by the Feast of the Presentation and the occasion of prophecy by the Elder Simeon and Hannah the Prophetess) and at age 12 when He is lost and later found giving instruction to the teachers and scribes, is a reminder of the importance of children in the Temple of…

And Now for a Little Meat! Met. John Zizioulas and the Church

If you are not familiar with Met. John Zizioulas’ work, then you have missed some of the best writing by an English-speaking Orthodox writer. Not that having read him you’ll understand what you have just read. But the following small article was sent to my by my dear friend, the Pontificator, whom many of you know from (now-demised) blog. I appreciate the head’s up. The article was publish elsewhere.  John Zizioulas (Being as Communion)…

The Fullness of the Faith

The word “fullness,” is a very Orthodox word, one that is used for theological expression fairly frequently. It is perhaps among my favorites, as any regular reader here can quickly attest. It is a New Testament word, usually applied to Christ or to a sense of the “fullness” of time. But there is a sense that it also carries within Orthodox usage that refers to the Gospel itself. In this usage, fullness…

Icons and the Scriptures

I have had many thoughts this week about problems within the modern academic study of Scripture. An inherent problem is that scholars of Scripture lack both imagination and experience. I do not mean to impugn the intelligence of any particular academic – indeed, I have known many interpreters of Scripture whose work was almost pure imagination. What I am alluding to is a limit of imagination to see the many layers, the…

Christian Atheism

The title for this post sounds like an oxymoron, and, of course, it is. How can one be both an atheist and a Christian? Again, I am wanting to push the understanding of the one-versus-two-storey universe. In the history of religious thought, one of the closest versions to what I am describing as a “two-storey” world-view, is that espoused by classical Deism (the philosophy espoused by a number of the American founding…

The Meaning of Language – Part 3

Having pointed out that much of popular Christian language (and some images in sacred texts) lend themselves to the notion of a “two-storey” universe – and having noted that the second storey as the dwelling place of all things spiritual has almost insurmountable problems – how should we speak about such things? First, it seems that it’s worth thinking about what the words we use really mean in the first place. Perhaps…