Self-Emptying Prayer

We are told that Christ “emptied Himself” in His death on the Cross (Philippians 2:5-11). Further, we are told that this self-emptying is to be the “mind” that we ourselves have. It is possible to grasp that such self-emptying can be practiced in our dealings with others when we place them above ourselves – when the “other” is our greater concern. But how is this possible in prayer? How do we empty…

The Change We Should Believe In

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2Co 3:18) Among the many losses within modern Christianity has been the place of transformation. Nineteenth-century revival movements and theology emphasized a single experience that was associated with salvation. Those who concerned themselves with what came later,…

When Words Fail – The End of Morality

I can think of two experiences where words fail: before the presence of God and in the presence of deep shame. The first is too great and too wondrous for words, the second too bitter and painful. Both are essential for our humanity if it is to be lived to the fullest. They represent not only the boundary of our vocabulary, but also the boundary of our existence. I have stood by…

Feeling Like a Fool

No one wants to feel like a fool. When it happens, our faces flush, we turn our eyes away (usually towards the ground). We usually want to hide or disappear, and, just as likely the burn in our face quickly passes to the hot burn of anger. Often what follows are words or actions we regret later. Having felt like a fool, we often act like one, unable to muster the calm…

Unity, the One Cup and the Fire of God

Ecumenism is back in the news and with it comes a deluge of misunderstanding and theological confusion. For while “unity” and the very concept of “one” are actually inherently mystical, most who write about and discuss the topic substitute a merely human, political and administrative notion. Two key verses are frequently drawn from the 17th chapter of St. John’s gospel:  Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in…

The One Thing Progress Cannot Do

It is common among Orthodox teachers to identify prayer with the “one thing necessary” that Christ speaks of in John 11. This emphasizes prayer as communion with God – for communion with God is the very source of our life. I will expand this meaning of the “one thing necessary” to include the very “mind” required for its practice. And, as we shall see, it is strikingly at odds with the habits…

Speaking Engagements out West

I will be traveling and speaking in Northern California and Oregon this weekend and next week. This will likely slow down my involvement with comments as well as posting new articles. Time will tell. If you are able to join me at any of these locations, I would love to meet you! Saturday, Feb 6, at St. Elias in Diamond Springs, CA 10 am to 1 pm and 6 pm – 9…

Three Things and the One Thing

In a comment, I recently described three dominant concepts in our modern culture. They are so dominant that questioning them can actually be disconcerting. I have questioned them before and been hammered more than once as a result. But I am sure of my ground and offer these thoughts for however they may be of use. The ideas: We define ourselves and our world by the choices we make. We have the…

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…

The Purpose of Mystery, Paradox and Contradiction

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,…