Museums, Churches, and My Back Yard

A great cry went up from Orthodox throats across the globe earlier this year when the Turkish government repurposed Hagia Sophia from museum to mosque. The cry was an echo of May 29, 1453, when the city of Constantinople fell to the forces of Sultan Mehmed II. That day, and its pain, have remained an iconic tragedy of a lost world and an abiding sadness. No one dared ask that the Church…

The Gospel of Progress – and the New Jerusalem

American fans of Monty Python will be familiar with the opening lines of William Blake’s poem, “Jerusalem” (and I apologize to my British readers for such an introduction). The poem was set to music in 1916 and became deeply popular in post-war Britain. The Labour Party adopted it as a theme for the election of 1946. It recalls the legend of Christ’s visit to England as a child (taken there by St.…

Providence and the Music of Creation

God’s being and actions are one. This is essentially the teaching of the Church on the topic of the Divine Energies. When I read discussions about the Divine Energies – things seem to get lost in the twists and turns of medieval metaphysics or pass into the territory of seeing the “Uncreated Light.” Both approaches are unhelpful for me, and both obscure something that should be far more transparent. Some of the…

What a Caveman Said: To Perceive That Which Is Eternal

Fr. Alexander Schmemann described “secularism” as the greatest heresy of our time. He didn’t describe it as a political movement, nor a threat from the world outside Christianity. Rather, he described it as a “heresy,” that is, a false teaching from within the Christian faith. What is secularism? Secularism is the belief that the world exists independent of God, that its meaning and use are defined by human beings. Things are merely…

Preaching the Gospel to the Poor

A conversation on social media gave rise to this post.  ________ And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed…

Seeds from Different Worlds

God took seeds from different worlds and sowed them on this earth, and His garden grew, and everything came up that could come up, but all growing things live and are alive only through the feeling of their contact with other mysterious worlds. If that feeling grows weak or is destroyed in you, what has grown up in you will die. Then you will become indifferent to life and even grow to…

Guilt and Shame – What’s The Difference?

There is a very handy saying that differentiates between guilt and shame. Guilt is about what I have done – shame is about who I am. They are not unrelated, particularly in a culture in which what we do is often given as an answer to the question, “Who are you?” Traditional American culture has often been described as “guilt-based,” in that Protestant religious thoughts centered on goodness as responsibility for our…

Beholding God Face to Face

During this season of mask-wearing, we have become weary of a “faceless” existence. I can think of nothing that is more de-personalizing that the hiding of our face. I respect the science (and certainly would not want a surgeon operating on me without a mask). But I lament our common experience even as I pray for this time to pass. I also think, however, of how many masks we have all worn…

Morality, Shame, and the Acquisition of Virtue

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” (Matthew 6:3) The experience of shame has many dynamics, permeating the larger part of human behavior. Though some psychologists have dubbed it the “master emotion” it is often unacknowledged and unrecognized. It should come as no surprise that much that is described as “morality” has little to do with the acquisition of…

Grace Enough

Some years ago I was in hospital for a time and not in the least bit happy about it. One sleepless night I was walking the halls of the unit, unable to sleep, and tempted with self-pity. I thought to myself (in rebuke), “Father Arseny endured the Soviet Gulag with more hope and patience than you’re bringing to this.” Father Arseny is the figure in the book by the same name that…