To Serve God

In a therapeutic culture in which our goal is to be our very best, it is almost impossible to serve God. The reason is quite simple: when my goal is to be my very best, the goal is my God. “Serving God” thus becomes a euphemism for a Christianity that we take to be therapeutic – and that its value lies in its therapeutic virtues. All of this is a stranger to…

That Thing You Do – Right Worship

In my Anglican years I watched the introduction of a new prayer book. Among its most notable features was variety. In a certain manner, it brought under one roof that most obvious feature of modern Christianity: options. Our culture has an understanding that ideas, thoughts and sentiments are what matters; how they are embodied is largely a matter of private choice – perhaps a lifestyle preference. Confronted with radical differences in worship…

You Are Not Alone – And Neither Is God

I consider it both a strange mystery and a settled matter of the faith that God prefers not to do things alone. Repeatedly, He acts in a manner that involves the actions of others when it would seem, He could have acted alone. Why would God reveal His Word to the world through the agency of men? Why would He bother to use writing? Why not simply communicate directly with people? Why…

An Atonement of Shame – Orthodoxy and the Cross

Some decades ago in my early (Anglican) priesthood, a parishioner brought a crucifix back from South America. The question for me as a priest was whether I would accept the crucifix as a gift and place it in the Church. I like crucifixes, my taste was always towards the Catholic direction. But, you have to bear in mind that Spanish/Latin crucifixes have a tendency to be, well, rather gory. My congregation was…

Put Your Money to Work – It’s for Your Salvation

  And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. (Luk 16:9) I recall a conversation long ago with a young, up-and-coming entrepreneur. He was a new member of the parish I was serving (Anglican). We had been speaking about stewardship – money. His comment to me was straightforward: “You make it sound like a man can…

The Danger and Shame of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is so terribly hard. On a psychological level, it feels dangerous. The shame engendered by any insult or injury is our experience of vulnerability, and we instinctively react to protect ourselves. That, we must understand, is not a sin, it is an instinct that is a gift from God. The example of Christ, who did not “turn His face from the spitting and the shame,” is also the example of just…

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. They were, for them, something known in the present tense, a “hypostatic” knowledge of the fundamental unity of the human race. Sophrony described…

Standing at the Judgment Seat of Christ

“Icons do with color what Scripture does with words.” This statement by the 7th Council aptly describes the work of an icon – but fails to do justice to the reality. Scripture, as words to be read, necessarily becomes linear – words follow words and cannot be read except in the order in which they’re written. Icons, however, can do what Scripture does, but can also bring multiple Scriptures together in a…

A Cruciform Providence

The entire mystery of the economy of our salvation consists in the self-emptying and abasement of the Son of God – St. Cyril of Alexandria Trust in the providence of God is much more than a general theory of how things are arranged in our lives and in the world. We tend to discuss the notion in the abstract, wondering whether this action or event is to be properly attributed to God.…

Providence and the Guarded Heart

Imagine that you have been sentenced to seven years in a labor camp. The Church is weak, often riddled with spies, while the state proclaims that it is building a better world through its brutal efforts. Many of the laws specifically target the Church and activities within its normal life. Already in your lifetime, you have known thousands who have been executed for nothing more than faith in God. And to this…