Personal Issues

The title of this post is quite misleading – for in proper theological language – there are no “personal issues.” Our culture is quite fond of issues – both the politico-entertainment industry – and many individuals. It is a word and a phenomenon that has been baptized by the culture such that “being concerned with the issues” makes someone sound as if things matter to them in a significant way. The Orthodox…

Take, Eat

The simple words of Christ to His disciples at the Last Supper were profound on many levels: the commandment was short and straight-forward; it reversed an ancient prohibition; it set the primary manner for human beings to receive grace and thus teaches us much about how it is we receive grace in a normative manner (and were always meant to). The Orthodox are somewhat fond of quoting this simple commandment, only if…

A Story of Repentance

One of my favorite books comes from the last years of the Soviet Union. It is the story of Tatiana Goricheva, a member of the “intelligentsia” and a Soviet-era dissident. Her book, Talking About God Is Dangerous, offers fascinating insights into both a period of time and the period of a human soul’s conversion by grace. The little volume is out of print but can be found on the internet for as little…

Crushing Dragons in the Waters Across the World

I must add to this post from last year, my memory of standing by Met. Kallistos Ware and other pilgrims for the Great Blessing of the Waters at the Jordan River this past September. As the Metropolitan’s voice rang out, a school of fish gathered in the water as an audience. The scene was surreal, as though standing within an icon, which indeed we were. The weather was hot – but the…

The Beginning of the End

Living year in and year out with a liturgical calendar – worship which moves from feast to feast – there is a freedom of sorts from the tyranny of your own one-sidedness. The liturgical calendar of the Church inevitably takes you through the whole story of salvation – in a manner that simply requires a year to be unfolded. On the other hand, this same liturgical calendar, particularly as it is manifest…

What Shall This Man Do?

From the Desert Fathers: A brother asked the abba Poemen, saying, “If I should see my brother’s fault, is it good to hide it? The old man said to him, “In what hour we do cover up our brother’s sins, God shall cover ours: and in what hour we do betray our brother’s shames, in like manner God shall betray our own.” Recent comments have raised the perennial question of our responsibility…

Faces in the Dark

  One of the finest short contemporary classics of Orthodox spiritual writing is Tito Colliander’s Way of the Ascetics. The following excerpt is from his “Chapter Thirteen: On Progress in Depth.” THE external rudiments lead us now to the welfare that goes on in the depths. As when one peels an onion, one layer after another is removed, and the innermost core, out of which growth reaches up toward the light, lies…

From Khomiakov’s The Church Is One

Alexei Khomiakov (1804-1860) was a Russian lay theologian. One of his most important essays was The Church Is One. In a private conversation with Met. Kallistos Ware, I asked questions about the story of his conversion to Orthodoxy. There were few Orthodox writings available in English at the time (Met. Kallistos’ The Orthodox Church [1962] was probably the first major work in English on the Orthodox Church). He said to me that…

When Creation Speaks

An interesting theme within the holy Scriptures is the “voice of Creation.” The famous Old Testament Canticle, Song of the Three Young Men, in English traditionally known as the Benedicite, omnia opera Domini, and which in Orthodoxy forms the basis of the Seventh and Eighth odes of the Canon, very famously calls on creation to offer praise to God: O let the earth bless the Lord; O ye mountains and hills, bless…

Remembrance

St. Macarius said, “If we remember the evil that others have done to us, we shut down our ability to remember God.” From the Desert Fathers Memory is a very powerful thing. The older I get, and the more of my earthly life lies behind me instead of before me, memory becomes indeed powerful. I have lived in my present home for almost 20 years, which, for a priest, can be quite…