Mystery as Reality

C.S. Lewis once discussed the question of how angels (and such things) could pass through a wall. His response was intriguing: he suggested that they could do so not because they were less substantial, but because they were more substantial. Just as a rock is more substantial than water or air, so, he posited, an angel (or such) is more substantial than our materiality. Of course, this is completely arguable and unprovable. But…

The Mystery of “Mystery”

Few words can be more misleading to the modern ear than the Orthodox use of the word “mystery.” It’s a fine New Testament word and is (technically) the proper name for the sacraments in Orthodoxy (though we most often say ‘sacrament’ in English). Its root meaning is that of something “hidden.” In our culture’s language, mystery is more a matter of a who-done-it or a reference to something so puzzling or beyond…

Naked and Ashamed: Dealing with It

The Scriptures record that Adam was ashamed and hid. It’s a primal response. Shame is experienced as a burning sense of exposure and vulnerability. It begs to be clothed upon and hidden. It is possible to say that human beings have been playing “dress-up” ever since. This can be understood in a literal manner as we wrap ourselves in fashion statements or tattoo identities on our skin. It can also be seen…

At the Heart of Lent

Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! (Ps. 119:11) Years ago, I heard a statement from an American monk: “The contemplative need go no further than his own heart to find the source of all violence in the world.” It struck me as true then and has only seemed more so as the years have passed. At the time (not long after the Vietnam…

Get Real for Lent

  According to St. Basil, God is the “only truly Existing.” Our own existence is a gift from God who is our Creator. None of us has “self-existing” life. We exist because God sustains us in existence – in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Sin is the rejection of this gift of God – a movement away from true existence. +++ Much of our attention in the modern world is…

The Justice of Creation

  Your judgments are like the great deep, O Lord, You will save men and beasts. (Psalm 36:6) The notion of justice in Scripture is rather straightforward. It has to do with proper order and balance. The one who has much should not exploit his advantage and oppress the one who has little. In all things, there will be an accounting. And in the accounting, things will be “set right.” Those who…

Soul Talk

Everybody is familiar with the voice in their head. Sometimes it has the sound of a nagging argument, repeating, rehearsing endlessly to no good end. It can also be the voice of scolding, shaming us for some minor transgression while it consigns us to the lowest of the low. It is rarely a welcome presence in our lives. No one ever says, “You wouldn’t believe how wonderful the voice in my head…

Forgiveness for All the Sundays to Come

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;  (John17:20-21) The Elder Sophrony, together with St. Silouan, wrote about the “whole Adam.” By this, they meant all the human beings who have ever existed and those yet to come. For Silouan and Sophrony, this was something known in the present tense, a “hypostatic” knowledge of the fundamental unity of the human race.…

A Fast of Righteousness

I am often puzzled by the things theologians say about “righteousness.” First, there are a striking number of different treatments. That alone should tell anyone that we are standing on the ground of “theory” rather than knowledge when we hear pronouncements about the word. It is, of course, an important word. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness…,” Christ commands in the Sermon on the Mount. I think I know…

How to Strengthen Your Lenten Prayer Life

The traditional acts of asceticism associated with Great Lent (and the whole of the Christian life) are prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and repentance. In my experience, Orthodox faithful tend to concentrate on fasting and perhaps making a good confession. If we have weaknesses, they are found in our prayers and almsgiving. These two belong together. Christ said: And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they…