Going to Hell with the Terrorists and Torturers

In 988, Prince Vladimir of Kiev was Baptized and embraced the Christian faith. Among his first acts as a Christian ruler were to tithe his wealth to the Church and the poor, and to outlaw capital punishment and torture. It is said that the Bishops advising him counseled him that he might need to keep the torture in order to rule effectively. This anecdote has always brought a wry smile to my…

You’re Not Doing Better

“I’m doing better.” Over the years I’m sure I’ve heard this many times in confession. I’ve also heard, “I’m not doing so well.” These are timely updates, personal measures and reports on the state of spiritual lives. And they are wrong. You are not doing better. You are not doing worse. In truth, we don’t know how we’re doing. Only God knows. But we have internalized a cultural narrative and made it…

To Bear Our Sins

From time to time I post an excerpt from other writings – particularly when they seem to resonate with the conversation here on the blog. I saw this recently published on pravmir.com. I’ve corrected the English in a couple of places but otherwise left it as is. It is a small sermon from the late Met. Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh. It reinforces some of the conversation regarding shame that we have had…

More on the Will of God

The priest, Seraphim, spent 30 years of his life in the Soviet Gulag. During that period he was tortured from time to time and was assigned the duty of cleaning out the contents of the latrines. Other prisoners avoided him because of the stench that hung about him at all times. He was a living saint and saved the souls of many around him. His story, in brief, is told in the…

Be Still and Know God

There is a point of stillness within us, though we rarely recognize it. We inhabit the world of our thoughts and feelings and rarely find them to be quiet. Almost nothing challenges the “normalcy” of this noisy world – almost everything we encounter is aimed towards it and markets itself with this reality in mind. Not so the gospel. Christ consistently and persistently speaks past the noise in a person’s head. He…

The Earth Stood Still

Orthodox Christians commemorate the death (Dormition) of the Virgin Mary during the month of August (New Calendar, the 15th, Old Calendar, the 28th). For those for whom such feasts are foreign, it is easy to misunderstand what the Orthodox are about – and to assume that this is simply a feast to Mary because we like that sort of thing. Flippant attitudes fail to perceive the depths of the mystery of our…

Everything Is In Motion

For years I have been told that the meaning of the word hamartia (translated “sin”) means “to miss the mark.” This is certainly accurate. However, the image I have always had in mind has been an arrow aimed at a target and missing the bull’s eye. Thus I have thought of my life as a moral effort to hit the target. This is not incorrect but it leaves out important information. God is the…

The Tradition of Being Human

Being human is a cultural event. No one is human by themselves and no one becomes human without the help of those around them. This is so obvious it should not need to be stated, but contemporary man often imagines himself to be his own creation. The exercise of individual freedom is exalted as the defining characteristic of our existence: “I am what I choose to be.” To suggest that most of…

Mere Morality

What makes an action moral? I use the word to describe something done in an effort to conform to a rule, a law, or a principle. It is a matter of the will and a matter of effort. All societies require some form of moral behavior. If there were no such behavior, life would be unpredictable, unstable, and quite dangerous. Governments encourage some form of morality (it is the sole purpose of…

The Babel Syndrome

In the liturgical life of the Church, the event of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and they began to speak in various languages, is linked to the story of the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament. There, too, people began to speak in different languages but with an entirely different outcome. Pentecost brought the unity of the gospel, Babel brought the scattering of peoples through the diversity…