Finding God Amidst the Noise

If I say one hundred prayers a day in the silence of Katounakia and you say three prayers amidst the tumult of the city and your professional and family obligations, then we are equal.   St. Ephraim of Katounakia I ran across this small quote recently and was struck by its insight and typical Orthodox generosity. The kindness of the saints is among their most encouraging aspects. It also echoes a theme that…

Healing the Soul and Unbelief

I have long been convinced that “believing” is grounded in something other than intellectual activity. I am simply unimpressed by most of the intellectual arguments that I see regarding both belief and unbelief. In both, I hear so much that is unspoken, and even much that is likely hidden from the speakers themselves. That being the case (if I am right), then conversations about belief require great patience and not a little…

What Exactly Is Changing?

The Catholic theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, in his magisterial work on St. Gregory of Nyssa, offers this observation: The journey towards salvation is marked by a successive elimination of all that we “have,” in order to reach what we “are.” The safest path and surest refuge is not to be deluded and fail to recognize ourselves – who we truly are. We should not believe that we are seeing our Selves…

A Difficult Beauty

It seems to me that bad things come easily. Whether it is ugliness, anger, or every kind of darkness, we not only see such things, but seem  “bound” to see them. Why are we “hard-wired” for such observations? The answer is really quite simple: we are hard-wired to see things that are potentially dangerous, and for obvious reasons. When my son was in his early years, his complete joy and wonder at…

Is God a Fool?

Few things are as awkward (and even painful) as “feeling like a fool,” whether it is the mild thing we call “embarrassment,” or the stronger things that make us want to disappear or run away. No one wants to be the fool. Nevertheless, I have come to see God as a “fool,” and those rare saints whom we name the “holy fools,” to be amazing exemplars of this way of being. I…

The Kingdom of God – One-Storey in Time

Among the stranger phrases found in St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy is this: It was You Who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away [past tense], You raised us up again [past tense], and did not cease to do all things until You had brought us up to heaven [past tense], and had endowed us [past tense] with Your kingdom which is to come [future tense]. It is…

The Vindication of the Mother of God

At Christmas time, the Virgin Mary gets a bit of attention in the wider culture. A woman gives birth in difficult circumstances: Mother, baby, ox and ass, the manger. It’s a very touching scene. She quickly fades from the scene however, with some five centuries of culture desperately afraid that she will get too much attention. In that vein, she is pretty much absent from Easter. We have eggs, chocolate, bunny rabbits,…

The Last Pascha – A Reverie

(Written in 2015) I had a reverie around the time of Pascha. My life has had many chapters. I have loved friends and lost friends. My memory is filled with much that is bittersweet – not my favorite flavor. But my reverie was a dream of Pascha – the Last Pascha. I wrote this in a Facebook post and have looked it up numerous times for balm for my tired soul. Today,…

The Eternal Cross – How Is the Lamb Slain from the Foundation of the World?

Among the many striking images in the book of Revelation, there is one that stands out in particular. In Chapter 13, vs 8, we read: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The passage is not unlike that in 1 Peter: “knowing that you were not redeemed…

The Mystery of Holy Week

Among the more pernicious ideas that inhabit our contemporary world is the notion that we are all isolated, independent, and alone. Even when we gather, we think of ourselves as but one among many. Among the most glaring exceptions to this form of thought, however, are sporting events. People attend a football game and declare when it is finished, “We won!” or “We lost!” We feel genuine joy at the first and…