Our Conciliar Salvation

I consider it both a strange mystery and a settled matter of the faith that God prefers not to do things alone. Repeatedly, He acts in a manner that involves the actions of others when, it would seem, He could have acted alone. Why would God reveal His Word to the world through the agency of men? Why would He bother to use writing? Why not simply communicate directly with people? Why…

Leaving Mary Out

Decades ago, when I was in seminary (Anglican), a professor told me that he did not believe in angels. I was surprised and asked him why. He responded that he “did not think they were necessary…that anything angels did could be done by the Holy Spirit…” While this is obviously true, I noted that angels are found throughout Scripture, and that “necessary” was not a theological category – and that he himself…

Saintless Christianity

What would Christianity mean if there were no saints? To rephrase the question: What would be the meaning of the Christian gospel if there were no wonderworkers, no people who had been transfigured with the Divine Light, no clairvoyant prophets, no healers, no people who had raised the dead, no ascetics living alone in the deserts for years on end, no beacons of radical, all-forgiving love?  What would be the meaning of…

Facing Up to God

I have been asked to write further on the “theology of the face.” It is surprisingly neglected in many parts of the Christian world – and though it is not often discussed within Orthodoxy – it is nevertheless deeply at the heart of Orthodox devotion. Nothing in the Old Testament more clearly reveals the personhood of God than the references to His face. Man is described as created “in the image and…

Saving Mary

“Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” At these words, heard frequently in an Orthodox service, Protestant visitors often have fear and trembling in their limbs. “How can this not be idolatry?” they wonder. “How can a mere human being save me? They are worshiping Mary!” The language of Mary’s role in the life of salvation is certainly scandalous. But the reaction reveals not the error and idolatry of the Orthodox, but the great…

Prayers and the One God of All

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! So runs a common exclamation in Orthodox services of prayer. And so begins another offense for those who wonder why the Orthodox “don’t pray directly to God”…or “why do you pray to the saints”…or, worst of all, how do we dare to say, “Most Holy Theotokos (Birth-giver of God), save us!” For…

To See the Heavenly Country

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they…

The Mystery of the Forerunner

There is a unanimous witness in the Christian gospels concerning the place of St. John the Baptist. In the Orthodox world he is generally referred to as the Forerunner. All of the gospels agree that he plays a key role in the coming of the Messiah. It is a role that is largely ignored by most of the Christian world. The gospels make reference to two Scriptures when they mention St. John.…

God’s Grandmother

Today is the patronal feast of my parish, St. Anne. St. Anne (Anna) was the wife of St. Joachim. Joachim and Anna were the parents of the Virgin Mary, according to the early tradition of the Church. In Orthodox commemorations they are referred to as the “ancestors of God.” It is a shocking title, perhaps even more shocking than Mary’s “Mother of God.” Christmas devotion has accustomed many Christians to think about…

By Your Prayers

It is a common phrase in Orthodoxy, “By your prayers.” it is a recognition that we cannot make this journey alone. I have days when I think I’m doing ok, and then there are much longer periods when I realize that only by the prayers of others and the mercies of God will I make this journey in any shape or form. I am probably more fortunate than many. I have a…