What St. Seraphim Meant

“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” This is perhaps the most famous quote of the great Russian saint, Seraphim of Sarov. Many of his icons have this saying on them. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it. On the other hand, I think there are many who do not understand it. And understanding what he meant can take you to the very heart…

Time in a One-Storey World

It seems to me as I’ve looked over my posts on the “one-storey” world, that one thing I have not paid much attention to is time. Part of the “two-storey” construct which dominates our modern world-view, is a tendency to view time in a purely linear, historical progression. Thus for some very conservative two-storey Christians, time begins at creation, and moves along in a linear fashion. Thus the timing of Adam and…

How Do We Know God?

How do we know God? The question is simple and straightforward – until we begin to answer it. I have written lately much about icons, and particularly the Seventh Council’s contention that “icons do with color what Scripture does with words.” This simple statement has such a richness of implication that it is hard to ask too much of it. It obviously means to say that there are ways we know God…

Looking for God in All Places

Sometimes the title for a piece comes before the rest of my writing and tells me what I’m going to write. Other times it comes as the last thing. Tonight it’s the first. I thought about “Looking for God in all the Right Places,” but, then again, that’s the problem. People frequently assume that God is to be found in “religious” places, as though those were the places He would most like…

Icons and the Fullness of the Faith – A Story

In 1988 I began studies at Duke University in the Graduate School of Religion. My intention at the time was to complete a doctorate and look for a teaching position. I had served for eight years in the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church and was headed for what I hoped would be a deepening of my understanding of the faith and of my ministry. I had an interest in Orthodox theology…

When an Icon is not an Icon

When is an icon not an icon? There are several answers to the question. Some of them would be technical, even somewhat argumentative as the strict canon governing icons gave way to more “Westernized” styles in the 17th century and beyond – but there have been notable “icons” among even very “Westernized” icons. St. Seraphim of Sarov prayed before such an icon – and some have been known to weep and many…

Icons and the Scriptures

I have had many thoughts this week about problems within the modern academic study of Scripture. An inherent problem is that scholars of Scripture lack both imagination and experience. I do not mean to impugn the intelligence of any particular academic – indeed, I have known many interpreters of Scripture whose work was almost pure imagination. What I am alluding to is a limit of imagination to see the many layers, the…

Being Formed in the Light – Icons and Salvation

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.John 3:29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” One of the…

Windows to Heaven Are Not One Way

I am participating in an icon workshop this week. Lectures, slides, and the slow process of learning how icons are painted, by painting one yourself under the guidance of an accomplished master. My experience is that you very quickly see that here you can only be pupil (at least at this stage of my life).  A small but interesting point worth sharing this evening, is in the process of writing or painting…