At the Name of Jesus

On the eighth day after His birth, the eternal Son of God, in accordance with the Law, would have been circumcised and given His name. The name He received was quite common. It is the same Hebrew name as “Joshua.” It means, “God saves.” No other name is spoken as often with such tenderness and devotion. The name itself has become a prayer. We are told that “whoever calls on the name…

Are You Like Him?

Years ago when I was in seminary, I served a small mission in Chicago. The priest was something of a mentor for me during that time. There was a young girl in the congregation, between two and three years-old. She was convinced that the priest was Jesus. (Well, he was wearing a white robe and he did have a beard.) One Sunday, during his sermon (delivered from the nave rather than the pulpit),…

Christ is Born! The Angels Sing!

A Serbian Christmas Song – lyrics by St. Nikolai Velimirovich Andjeli Pevaju Noć prekrasna i noć tija, nad pećinom zvezda sija, u pećini mati spi, nad Isusom andjel bdi. Andjeli pevaju, pastiri sviraju, andjeli pevaju mudraci javljaju: Što narodi čekaše, što proroci rekoše, evo sad se u svet javi, u svet javi i objavi: Rodi nam se Hristos Spas za spasenje sviju nas. Aliluja, aliluja, Gospodi pomiluj! (deep voice) no matter what…

Put the Dickens Back in Christmas

In the late 1600’s in colonial Boston, the celebration of Christmas was against the law. Indeed, anyone evidencing the “spirit of Christmas” could be fined five shillings. In the early 1800’s, Christmas was better known as a season for rioting in the streets and civil unrest. However, in the mid-1800’s some interesting things changed the cultural response to the feast and, in 1870, Christmas was declared a federal holiday (which is to…

I’ll Be Small for Christmas

Children today are raised with dreams of greatness. Cultural affirmations of our limitless potential, well-intentioned, have not produced a generation of over-achievers, but have indeed brought forth hordes of great dreams. This is nothing new in American culture. We are the world’s longest sustained pep-talk. Ronald Reagan loved to quote the 1945 Johnny Mercer hit: You’ve got to accentuate the positive Eliminate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don’t mess with…

Making Known the Mystery

Recent conversations on the blog have revolved around the word “mystery” and the notion of a “literal” or “plain” meaning of the Scriptures. This reprint might be of interest. The trouble with reading Scripture is that almost everybody thinks they can do it. This idea is rooted in the assumptions of Protestant thought: only if the meaning of Scripture is fairly obvious and more or less objective can it serve as a…

The Translation of the Faith

There is an Italian proverb: Traduttore, traditore. It means, “translator, traitor.” It is the observation that no matter how hard one might try, the translation of one language into another is never more than approximate: there can be no “literal” translation. Every language is, within itself, a universe of relationships between words. There are shades of meaning and associations that simply cannot be moved into another language. When we study a new…

Entering the Mystery of Christmas

Orthodox Christianity is deeply associated with the word “mystery.”  Its theological hymns are replete with paradox, repeatedly affirming two things to be true that are seemingly contradictory. Most of these things are associated with what is called “apophatic” theology, or a theology that is “unspeakable.” This same theological approach is sometimes called the Via Negativa. This is easily misunderstood in common conversation. An Orthodox discussion takes place and reaches an impasse. Inevitably,…

The Morality of Christmas

Morality is tricky business in what is an extremely moral society. I pray my readers to be patient with me as I explain what I think is the problem. First, I will note that morality is all that is left when the most fundamental grounds of a culture have been destroyed. We indeed live in just such a time, hence the rise of a vehemence in the moral life. Second, I will…

God’s Un-American View of the Poor and Why It Matters

America has an odd view of the poor. It is a view that reveals much about the underlying theological assumptions that create and support our culture. I will quickly quell any protests about the mixing of theology and politics by saying, everything, even politics is rooted in theology. More about that later on… In general terms, when Americans encounter the poor, our first thoughts go to the individual and his/her story. What…