Reading the Fathers

I mentioned in a comment to a recent post that more people talk about the Fathers of the Church than actually read them. I also noted that good translations are hard to find. I wanted to offer some thoughts on reading the Fathers as well as some suggestions on how to begin that important task. First, you should understand that you will never read all the Fathers, or understand all that they…

What St. Seraphim Meant

“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” This is perhaps the most famous quote of the great Russian saint, Seraphim of Sarov. Many of his icons have this saying on them. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it. On the other hand, I think there are many who do not understand it. And understanding what he meant can take you to the very heart…

Windows to Heaven Are Not One Way

I am participating in an icon workshop this week. Lectures, slides, and the slow process of learning how icons are painted, by painting one yourself under the guidance of an accomplished master. My experience is that you very quickly see that here you can only be pupil (at least at this stage of my life).  A small but interesting point worth sharing this evening, is in the process of writing or painting…

The Desert – Struggling in a Flat Land

One of the best-known sayings to have come from the Desert Fathers is: “Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” To a large degree the saying extols the virtue of stability. Moving from place to place never removes the problem – it only postpones the inevitable. Somewhere, sometime we have to face the heart of our struggle and by the grace of God overcome. Of course, not everyone…

Icons in a One-Storey Universe

I’ll ask my readers to forgive me as I look at yet another aspect of the Christian life when the idea of a two-storey universe is jettisoned and we come to realize that we are living in a one-storey world: that God is with us. Readership has remained very high over the past week or so, so I will take that to mean that many people are interested in this approach and the…

The Blessed Virgin Mary Compared to the Air We Breathe – Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was a Jesuit priest (a convert from Anglicanism) and perhaps the greatest modern (?) poet of the English Language (ok, he’s my favorite). My second daughter, Khouria Kathryn, made me aware of this poem. Hopkins is wonderfully sacramental in his poetry – God permeates his words and the world his words come from. Thank you Kathryn. Wild air, world-mothering air, Nestling me everywhere, That each eyelash or hair Girdles;…

The Dormition of the Mother of God

In giving birth you preserved your virginity, In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos. You were translated to life, O Mother of Life, And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death. Troparion of the Feast – Tone 1 It is easy to be put off by Orthodox devotion to the Mother of God when coming at Orthodoxy from a Protestant background. Both because of a fear…

Death in a Two-Storey Universe

I have written before about the two-storey universe that is part of our cultural inheritance in the modern world. I have noted that the default position of our culture is secular protestantism. I have explained that I mean not that we do not believe in God, but that in our dominant cultural metaphor the God we believe in is removed from our everyday affairs. Often what we are left with is a…