Old Friends

A young man imagines that the mistakes he is making are, with more effort, things that he will correct. An older man knows better. It can be a source of humility, or a source of painful regret. Humility is to be preferred. I wonder if this by itself is the reason why the spiritual life is not populated with wise young people. If you are young and holy, you are likely a…

History Was Not Changed

“What happened here 2,000 years ago completely changed history.” These words were spoken in earnest innocence by one of the onlookers at the recent work being done on the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. It is a sentiment that sounds obviously true, but is profoundly untrue. The resurrection of Christ did not change history, it revealed history to be what it is: the unfolding of God’s work…

The Slow Work of Grace

In the minds of many, grace is a legal concept – an expression of the kindness of God in the forgiveness of sins. As such, grace is instant and complete. This fits well within the legal conceptions of salvation. In the classical understanding of the Orthodox faith, salvation can indeed have a quality of “suddenness” – the thief on the Cross found paradise “in a single moment” according to the hymns of…

Remembering the End

Orthodox Christianity often seems inherently conservative. The unyielding place that tradition holds within its life seems ready-made for a conservative bulwark against a world all-too-ready to forget everything that is good or beautiful. There are subtle but important distinctions that make this treatment of Orthodoxy misleading and can lead to the distortion of the faith and an almost reverse image of our true salvation. Orthodox Christianity does not seek to preserve something…

Everywhere Present

Everything you do, all your work, can contribute towards your salvation. It depends on you, on the way you do it. History is replete with monks who became great saints while working in the kitchen or washing sheets. The way of salvation consists in working without passion, in prayer…. May God give you the strength to keep your spirit, your mind, and your heart in the spirit of Christ. Then everything that…

A Progressive Marriage

How is your marriage progressing? This simple question is a way of focusing our attention on right-thinking about progress and the Christian life. I posed the question to myself – I have been married now for 40 years. My first thought was, “What would ‘progress’ in a marriage mean?” Do I love my wife more, or any less? What would more love look like? The truth of marriage is that progress is…

Overcoming the Tyranny of History

History is tyranny. A seemingly inescapable part of human life is its history (and the baggage it brings with it). So much that shapes our identity: language, culture, economics, health, personality (and the list goes on), are largely products of history. As such, all of these things are outside of our control, not a part of our choosing. I am white, Anglo-American, lower middle class, with high blood pressure and attention deficit…

History’s Detectives

The search for the historical anything is an exercise in fantasy and imagination, a good movie, but not good for much else. C.S. Lewis noted that reviewers of his books, speculating on how they were written and other such intimate historical matters, were almost universally wrong. He wondered out loud why we should presume historical critics of the past, sometimes of a past stretching back for millennia, should be taken at all…

The Long Defeat and the Cross

Having posted an article on marriage as a “lifetime of suffering,” I thought it worth reflecting on the larger picture of the Christian faith in this world. For marriage is a primary image used throughout the New Testament when speaking of our salvation. In Christian terms – that marriage and that salvation are shown forth in the Cross of Christ. This article, from over a year back, seemed worth re-presenting. Few ideas…

The Mystical Reality of Holy Week

As we journey through Holy Week… For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1Co 15:16-19 NKJ) Earlier this Spring, two Jehovah’s Witnesses came to…