Via Negativa

One of the strongest hallmarks of Orthodox theology is its preference for the apophatic approach to God. By apophatic is meant, “that which cannot be spoken.” There are certain positive affirmations we can make about God, but there are many more things that we can affirm by what we do not say. Fr. Thomas Hopko is famously quoted as saying, “You cannot know God. But you have to know Him to know…

The Transfigured Beauty of the Crucified God

On the Mountain Thou wast Transfigured, O Christ God, And Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could see it; So that when they would behold Thee crucified, They would understand that Thy suffering was voluntary, And would proclaim to the world, That Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father! Kontakion of the Feast of Transfiguration   It is inevitably the case that no matter how much a man may write and…

The Mystery of Beauty

The great mystery of Beauty is that its most profound statement in all of human history is the crucified Christ. The human experience of that Beauty is well described by Isaiah: Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or…

Christ Crucified

Writing to the Corinthians, St. Paul makes one his most famous statements: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1Cor. 2:2). It is among the clearest definitions of the apostolic preaching to be found anywhere in the New Testament, or perhaps I should say, “everywhere in the New Testament.” For this is not a statement of the peculiar doctrine of St. Paul, but a plain…

Where I Saw Beauty

Beauty is a deeply theological word. In both Hebrew and Greek, when God creates the world He says: “It is good (beautiful).” The word carries both meanings. I believe that to encounter Beauty is, in some way to encounter God, for it simply transcends our ability to comprehend, to challenge or even to recreate. I have always stood in marvel at artists (my youngest daughter is one). Watching them in their work seems…

Where Have You Seen Beauty?

Within the bounds of propriety I will pose the following question: Where have you encountered Beauty and how did it relate to God? I’m just interested in hearing some stories. Be reasonable about length. But bear witness to what you have seen. I’ve written about “music from another room,” my first encounter with Rachmaninov’s Vespers. I could add to that my first encounter with a couple of famous icons. In each case,…

All Things Work Together for Good

The doctrine of Divine Providence, stated in various fashions, has always been problematic for me. Years ago it was problematic because I wrestled with issues of human freedom and how they related to God’s good provision. Today it is less an issue of freedom and more an issue of faith. Simply believing on a day to day basis that God is doing good for me in all the things that happen. Famously,…

Revisiting the Problem of Goodness

I first wrote and published this reflection back in May. It seemed relevant to recent discussions. I have added an additional reflection at the end that I think is worthwhile. I hope you find this useful.  From my first class in Philosophy 101 in college, the so-called “Problem of Evil” has been tossed up as the “clincher” in arguments against the existence of God. How can a good God allow innocent people…