Can You Forgive Someone Else’s Enemies?

I have written from time to time about the concept expressed in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, “Forgive everyone for everything.” It is a quote taken from the fictional Elder Zosima, but it is certainly a sentiment well within the bounds of Orthodox Christian thought. I have been challenged from time to time by people arguing that we cannot forgive those who have not sinned against us – that this right belongs only to…

The Liturgies of America

I will be far from the first to observe that football in America has a sort of religious cast. If “liturgy” means a “work of the people,” then football is its clearest manifestation in our culture. When a team wins, there is a deep, abiding sense within its fans that “we won.” The constant use of “we” through public discussions indicates that we experience this sport as something in which we “participate”…

A Christian Ending to Our Life

Most moderate-sized American cities are dominated by two structures: bank buildings and hospitals. The former are often large and new because it’s where we like to put our money. The latter are large because we’re afraid to die and don’t want to be sick. Both are particularly modern structures. You could travel to ancient Pompei, were it to be completely reconstructed. You would find neither bank nor hospital. Of the two, hospitals…

The Holy Name of Jesus

  In 1913, a small Russian fleet landed a contingent of soldiers who forcibly removed a group of Russian monks from Mount Athos. This action came at the end of a stormy controversy surrounding the name of God. The monks were known as the Imyaslavsy (“Name worshippers”) and were following ideas that had been promulgated in a text published in 1907. That work, On the Caucasus Mountains, written by the staretz, Schemamonk Hilarion,…

Entering the Mystery of Christmas

Orthodox Christianity is deeply associated with the word “mystery.”  Its theological hymns are replete with paradox, repeatedly affirming two things to be true that are seemingly contradictory. Most of these things are associated with what is called “apophatic” theology, or a theology that is “unspeakable.” This same theological approach is sometimes called the Via Negativa. This is easily misunderstood in common conversation. An Orthodox discussion takes place and reaches an impasse. Inevitably,…

Thanksgiving as Mystical Communion

“This is good. This is bad.” In one form or another, we divide the world into light and dark. It might take the form, “I like this. I do not like that.” What we find easy are the things we see as good and the things we like. If a day is filled with such things, we are likely to be happy. If the day is marked by things we do not…

Slowing Down for the Necessary Thing

I make a weekly visit to a nursing home about an hour away. I have a dear parishioner who has been in that place, or similar places, for about eight years. Our conversations center around the past week, her life and mine, with occasional forays into deeper matters. One of the difficulties of life in a nursing home is the sameness: one day differs little from another, making time seem to stand…

Can You Forgive Someone Else’s Enemies?

My thoughts have been drawn to this topic any number of times in the past few days. As we near the anniversary of the tragic events of 911, I see plaintive postings of that day saying, “Never forget” (or words to that effect). The Orthodox faith teaches us that the remembrance of the departed should be eternal (“Memory Eternal,” is our prayer). I suspect that what is being urged, however, is not…

Who’s Minding the Kids?

I was sitting in a Sunday School class, and was probably around eight or nine years old. I cannot remember what the Scripture was that day. However, the room was brought into a very serious state of mind as we were presented with something and were asked to sign it. I had never entered into a contract before, but had a sense that it was a very serious thing. The contract was…

The Scandal of the Transfiguration

My Archbishop (Alexander Golitzin) shares the story of a young man whom he taught some years ago. He was Orthodox from Estonia. He grew up in the Soviet era and had come to hate all things Russian, including the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, he saw an Orthodox procession in the streets of his city one year, a procession that included the Russian bishop (whom he also hated and believed to be a KGB…