John the Baptist and Forerunner of the Lord

We approach the feast of the Nativity of the Forerunner of Christ – a feast noted around my household for also being the birthday of my wife (and of her brother). Thus we celebrate and are sometimes slightly distracted from the ecclesiatical meaning of the day. But a family cannot be faulted for the joy it takes in its mother, nor I in my spouse. But I want to turn my thoughts…

To Know God

I have had some correspondence recently on the subject of knowing God. The knowledge of God, generally spoken of in a very experiential manner, is an absolute foundation in Orthodox theology. Nothing replaces it – no dogmatic formula – no Creed – not even Scripture – though Orthodoxy would see none of these things as separate from the knowledge of God. But the questions I have received are very apt. In a…

The Church of the Unanxious God

The story of the conversion of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware to Orthodoxy has more or less passed over into modern Orthodox legend. He accidentally stumbles into a Vigil service in order to get out of a rain storm. Discovering Orthodoxy and its beauty he begins to inquire into conversion only to be told to go back to his Anglican Church (he was not a clergyman, by the way). When eventually he does convert,…

Moses and the Unknowable God

Last week, while conducting a retreat for youth at Sts. Mary and Martha monastery, we concentrated on the topic of “Who Am I?” It seemed to me an appropriate topic for an age where youth are frequently struggling with issues of identity. They live in a socially dangerous world – the cruelty of young teenagers towards one another can be brutal – thus it is not an age of risk-taking. Young people…

A Day at a Time

One of my favorite books, for many years, has been Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: A Novel. It’s hard at first thought to say what draws me to the book (I’ve probably read it ten times). It makes occasional remarks that are religious but it would not be described as an overtly religious novel. Though it’s set in largely the same place and time of the books on…

Why is Love so difficult?

As I’ve noted, I’m on retreat with about 15 youth at a monastery. Our topic has been freedom and love – the two most important things necessary in our journey to become fully what God has created us to be. It’s not a complicated subject. “Everybody’s in favor of love,” Fr. Thomas Hopko says. What then, is so difficult about love? Of course, love is not difficult as a topic. As discussions…

From a Monastery in the Deep South

I am leading a retreat with young teens this week. All prayers are welcome. This is my evening break time to read comments and relax a moment. My thanks to my wife for checking on comments during the day and clearing the spam. The joy is to be with youth and to here their voices lifted to God. This has been an almost annual event for me since 1999. I have much…

The Level of Difficulty

In the past weeks and months I have posts entitled, “How hard is it?” “How much is enough?” “How Much is Too Little?” “What is at Stake?” In all of these I have pointed towards the maximum as the standard by which we live the Christian faith – even if we cannot live at the maximum standard. This neatly coincides with the Scriptural notion of sin as “missing the mark.” Of course,…

On Hope in God alone and on Confidence in Him

Although, as we have said, it is very important not to rely on our own efforts in this unseen warfare, at the same time, if we merely give up hope of ourselves and despair of ourselves without having found another support, we are certain to flee immediately from the battlefield or to be overcome and taken prisoner by our enemies. Therefore, together with complete renunciation of our selves, we should plant in…

What Is at Stake?

In the struggle to come to the wholeness of Personhood – to become the “true self” rather than to sink into the “false self” our very existence as spiritual beings is at stake. If you read across Orthodox books that center on the issue of Personhood – a common theme becomes visible. Our fall and our brokenness leave us vulnerable, even in our religious efforts, to the development of a “false self”…