A Deeper Morality

“Not guilty by reason of insanity.” Such a ruling in a modern court-of-law makes complete sense, even if some would argue that the bar for measuring insanity is rather unclear. It carries with it an understanding that we are not always responsible for our actions. In modern thought, we consider that the exercise of free-will is an essential part of wrong-doing. In that sense, a crime is a misuse of the will. There…

Christ Is Born! The Angels Sing!

A Serbian Christmas Song – lyrics by St. Nikolai Velimirovich Andjeli Pevaju Noć prekrasna i noć tija, nad pećinom zvezda sija, u pećini mati spi, nad Isusom andjel bdi. Andjeli pevaju, pastiri sviraju, andjeli pevaju mudraci javljaju: Što narodi čekaše, što proroci rekoše, evo sad se u svet javi, u svet javi i objavi: Rodi nam se Hristos Spas za spasenje sviju nas. Aliluja, aliluja, Gospodi pomiluj! (deep voice) no matter what…

Put the Dickens Back in Christmas

In the late 1600’s in colonial Boston, the celebration of Christmas was against the law. Indeed, anyone evidencing the “spirit of Christmas” could be fined five shillings. In the early 1800’s, Christmas was better known as a season for rioting in the streets and civil unrest. However, in the mid-1800’s some interesting things changed the cultural response to the feast and, in 1870, Christmas was declared a federal holiday (which is to…

The Walls of Paradise – and the Fire of God

I love walls. Perhaps the most charming aspect of medieval cities are their use of walls. Some surrounded the city and served as protection. Others surrounded smaller areas and prevented easy access and egress (perhaps understandable in a world with lots of animals present). There were other walls that signaled “higher” boundaries. In a medieval world, the “order” of things was thought important: kings and commoners, high-born and low-born, masters, yeomen, and…

Echoes of a Fresh Start

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2) There are many things about the “elder” years of my life that I prefer to my youth. Had I known then what I know now, perhaps the statement would not be true. Nonetheless, the providence of God has preserved me and brought me to…

Love and Freedom

  The most difficult aspect of love is the freedom it inherently requires. Love, in its ultimate and proper form, only exists between equals. There can be a sort of benevolence and nobility towards another who is not equal, but never love. This makes it difficult to understand the God-who-is-love. It will quickly be said by most that God is not our equal, and that we can never be His equal. What…

Thanksgiving Communion

Whom should I thank? The question is normally a matter of polite acknowledgement. A gift was given and received. Who gave it? Whom should I thank? It is inherently the nature of giving thanks that thanks must be given to someone. I cannot give thanks to nothing or no one. As such, the giving of thanks is an act of communion on one level or another. Fr. Alexander Schmemann, in the last…

The Silent Song We Need To Hear

Music has its own “music.” There are the notes written on a page, and the notes played by an intstrument. It is a particular quality of instruments, however, that they not only play a certain note, but that “note” itself plays other “notes.” In general, these other notes are called, “overtones.” When ‘Middle C’ is played on a piano, every other ‘C’ on the keyboard will vibrate gently in harmonic sympathy. Indeed,…

I Will Go Into the Altar of God

Most of my early Church memories center around Sunday School (I think that we did not “stay for preaching” very often). The small Baptist church that we attended was about a mile from our house and was conveniently connected by a railroad track, generally inactive on Sundays. My older brother and I often walked along the track on Sunday mornings when the weather was pleasant. The earliest Bible verses I can recall…

Orthodoxy, Systematic Theology, and Music

I have heard it said, numerous times, that Orthodox Christianity “does not do” systematic theology. Having done my graduate studies in systematic theology, I occasionally bristle at the comment, particularly when those making it have never actually studied the subject. It is true that Orthodoxy does not do “systematic” theology, as such, but the statement can be quite misleading, implying that there’s no place for systematics in Orthodoxy and that studying it…