Pay Attention! See What You See!

It has been said that the whole of Orthodox theology and teaching can be found in a single, well-executed icon. I believe it to be true. Over the years, I have found that certain icons have been invaluable in efforts to teach a class of inquirers or catechumens about certain aspects of the faith. Those “certain aspects” could easily be expanded until, time permitting, the whole of the faith would be expounded.…

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…

Right Glory – Orthodoxy in Its Own Language

When I was in grad school, I had a term paper graded and returned to me. In it, was a phrase, circled in red, with an explanation and an exclamation mark. It read: “Double modal!” The offending phrase was “might could.” I looked at the phrase, which seemed perfectly acceptable to my ear, and puzzled over it. I consulted my wife, the English major. She politely explained to me that my very…

Forgiveness – Give an Enemy a Cup of Cold Water

There is a story related in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov about an old woman who was quite wicked. She dies and goes to hell to the great distress of her guardian angel. The angel searches for any possible good deed to plead on her behalf and finds a rotten onion – something the old woman had given to a beggar. The angel takes the onion and, with it, begins to pull the…

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…

Healing the Inner Pharisee

I cannot remember the name of my kindergarten teacher. I cannot remember the names of any of my first grade classmates. However, I have a very vivid memory of the only word I messed up in a first grade reading group: cupboard. I read, “Cup board.” Old Mother Hubbard would have been dismayed. In the same manner, I remember the word that brought my spelling bee prowess to an end in sixth…

Hope: The Unashamed Virtue

This past year, my wife and I developed a delightful habit of “Monday’s with Eli.” He is my soon-to-be 5 year-old grandson. He has a nearly 4 month-old baby brother, whose time in the womb was the occasion for our weekly baby-sitting duties. With my retirement, his presence was a new challenge to “find things to do.” He is an energetic boy, bright, with quick interest in almost anything around him. Our…

The Religious Nature of Modern Life

On a daily basis, I have become increasingly aware of the “religious” nature of almost the whole of modern life. That might seem to be an odd observation when the culture in which we live largely describes itself as “secular.” That designation, however, only has meaning in saying that the culture does not give allegiance or preference to any particular, organized religious body. It is sadly the case, however, that this self-conception…

The Essential Goodness of All Things

There are certain foundational matters within the Orthodox teaching of the faith that should be settled in our hearts as we think about the faith, or even as we go through our day. Among those is the simple affirmation that all of creation is inherently and essentially good. We hear this first from the lips of God as He creates all things: Gen. 1:4 And God saw that the light was good.…