A Mighty Battle

We are faced with a mighty battle but an especial, holy battle, not like the fratricidal wars that crowd the history of our world ever since Cain killed his brother Abel. Our common and only real enemy is our mortality. We must grapple painfully with the death that pervades all things, first and foremost ourselves. The Lord’s gospel belongs to another, higher, celestial plane, where everything is ‘not after man, and not…

America is a Franchise Operation – Further Thoughts on a Particular God

When my family and I moved from Durham, NC to Oak Ridge, TN in 1989, I had all of the expectations of a child: new surroundings, new friends, a new community in which to work. It was inherently interesting to me. Arriving as we did, at the beginning of December, among our first tasks as a family was the annual Christmas shopping (we had three small children at the time). One of…

The Journey to a Particular God

Some years ago I found myself traveling down I-75 with my van loaded with wife and children. Our destination was some hours away in Georgia. The purpose of the trip was to travel to a place where someone was reportedly having visions (and messages) from the Virgin Mary. At about 100 miles down the road the question formed in my mind, “If God is everywhere, then why am I driving 250 miles…

Do You Unite Yourself to Christ?

In the Orthodox service of Holy Baptism, the candidate (or sponsor) is asked, “Do you unite yourself to Christ?” The question is put three times, and later is asked again in the past tense, “Have you united yourself to Christ?” It is clear from the dialog and the prayers themselves of the Baptism service that this question goes to the heart of the Church’s understanding of Baptism. Indeed, Baptism is only the beginning.…

Prayer Behind the Ambo

This prayer from St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy comes at the end of the service. It is a fitting summation of the Church’s prayer before God. Blessing those that bless thee, O Lord, and sanctifying those that trust in thee, save thy people and bless thine inheritance, preserve the fullness of thy Church, sanctify those that love the beauty of thy house. Glorify them in return by thy divine power, and forsake us…

The Morning Prayer of the Last Elders of Optina

I have loved this prayer for years and found it essential in beginning the day. Key phrases have a way of coming back throughout the events of each day. It is worth committing to heart. O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to Thy holy Will. At every hour of this day, direct and…

The Ecclesiology of the Cross – The Pillar and Ground of Truth – Part 4

We continue from our previous posts with the last two points: 3. All discussion of the Church and its life must include this self-emptying [of Christ], not only of God, but of each of the members of the Church. 4. Every description of the various aspects of the Church would do well to include the self-emptying of God and the self-emptying of Christians in imitation of the God Who Saves. These last…

Preserving Peace of Soul

From the teachings of St. Seraphim of Sarov One must by every means strive to preserve peace of soul and not to be disturbed by offenses from others; for this one must in every way strive to restrain anger and by means of attentiveness to keep the mind and heart from improper feelings. And therefore we must bear offenses from others with equanimity and accustom ourselves to such a disposition of spirit…

From the Desert Fathers

It was said that there were three friends who were not afraid of hard work. The first chose to reconcile those who were fighting each other, as it is said, “Blessed are the peace-makers’ (Matt. 5). The second chose to visit the sick. The third went to live in prayer and stillness in the desert. Now in spite of all his labors, the first could not make peace in all mean’s quarrels;…

Ecclesiology of the Cross – Pillar and Ground of the Truth – Part 3

Following earlier posts on this subject, I take up the second of four points:  2. Any imitation of God, any conformity of our life to His, will involve this same self-emptying [as the self-emptying of God on the Cross]. There is a tendency when we think of the Church to think in institutional terms – to speak of hierarchies, the role of Bishops, etc. Scripture uses a variety of images for the Church:…