Dwelling in a Strange Land

By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in their midst. They that carried us away in captivity asked of us a song, And they that laid us waste, required of us mirth, saying: “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Psalm 136/7 provides the text that…

Living a “Spiritual” Life

It has become a commonplace to hear someone say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Most people have a general understanding of what is meant. I usually assume that the person holds to a number of ideas that are considered “spiritual” in our culture, but that they are not particularly interested in “organized religion.” I understand this, because organized religion can often be the bane of spiritual existence. I am an Orthodox Christian –…

Unspeakably Speaking

Eastern Orthodoxy commonly describes its theology as “apophatic.” The word means, “Unspeakable.” It is perhaps the most important point within Orthodox thought: when speaking of God, we are always saying things that cannot be said. It does not mean that nothing should be said (though this is often a good idea). It means that no matter what we say, the subject that lies at the heart of our speech is not the…

Wake Up!

God wants man to attend chiefly to two things: To eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters Despite the fact that…

America and the Perversion of Christianity

Many people in our modern cultures have only a vague or non-existent knowledge of history. This is especially true of Americans. The downside of such ignorance should seem obvious. Most modern Christians have very little acquaintance with Christian history – and strangely – even less with modern Christian history. Though some might be aware of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, or even the Great Schism, they know almost nothing about American Church history…

A Complicated Faith

“It’s complicated.” This statement sums up much of the modern experience. I do not think the world we encounter is actually complicated – but our experience is. Simplicity is the reflection of an inner world free of conflicts and undercurrents. The truth of the modern inner-world is that it is generally pulled in many directions. Modernity is a juncture in history – a place where many rivers meet to form one raging…

God and Creation

Conversations about “God” often discuss Him as though He were a concept, and idea that can be isolated, studied and considered. Of course, the word “God” can often be little more than a cipher for something whose meaning everyone thinks they know, but whose meaning may vary a great deal. This can especially be true when modern popular culture speaks of “God,” and we read the same word in a translation of…

The Shape of Scripture and the Orthodox Faith

I have written frequently about the Orthodox understanding of the Scriptures. I offer a quote taken from a lecture by Fr. Andrew Louth, Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies at Durham University, priest in the Diocese of Sourozh (Great Britain) in the Russian Orthodox Church. This passage comes from the first lecture in the series. I heartily recommend the entire 8 lectures. I could not possibly have said it better: What does…

Shame and Envy – Our Secret Sins

Several years back I stumbled on a book about the sin of envy. I was struck by what I read and realized that I had never heard a sermon on the topic (nor preached one). Though a number of the Fathers cite envy as the first and greatest sin, it never seemed to come up as a spiritual topic. I also realized that it was almost never mentioned in confession. A strange…

Contradiction and Paradox

The following quote is taken from a letter by Mother Thekla (sometime Abbess of the Monastery of the Assumption in Normanby, England) to a young man who was entering the Orthodox faith. Some of her comments drew my attention. +++ Are you prepared, in all humility, to understand that you will never, in this life, know beyond Faith; that Faith means accepting the Truth without proof? Faith and knowledge are the ultimate…