Shadows, Icons, and the Age to Come

What will heaven be like? It is not an unusual question. Sometimes it is asked with all the freshness of a child, other times with the anxiety of the old. It is not a question that admits of easy answers, nor a question for which language is sufficient. The cynic says, “Nobody knows.” That attitude falls short of the fullness of human experience. There are stories. There are also things that point…

God’s Tattoos

Call me a Boomer. Among the more surprising developments across my nearly seven decades of life is the now widespread practice of tattooing. As a child in the 50’s, the only tattoos I ever saw were on the occasional sailor, and we rarely saw many of them. Indeed, I don’t think there was a tattoo parlor anywhere in our city, and if there were, it would have been on the shady side…

God With Us

Popular New Age thought postulates that everyone has a “god within.” It’s a pleasant way of saying that we’re all special while making “god” to be rather banal. But there is a clear teaching of classical Christianity regarding Christ-within-us, and it is essential to the Orthodox way of life. We should not understand our relationship with God to be an “external” matter, as if we were one individual and God another. Our…

The World as Grand Opera

  Towards the left-hand side of the FM dial (yes, I’m so old I think of radios as having dials and linearity) there have always been one or two “classical” stations in the places I have lived. Often, they provide a welcome relief from the noise and bump of the neighboring stations to the right. I like most classical music, unless the composer forgets that melody and harmony are useful parts of…

Living with Ignorance

German theoretical physicist Max Planck was told by his professor not to go into Physics as “almost everything is discovered already”. So Planck said he did not want to discover anything & just wanted to learn the fundamentals. He went on to originate Quantum theory & won a Nobel Prize. – a recent fact that came to my attention. +++ It is the nature of the modern world, it seems, to pride…

How Powerless Are You Willing to Be?

“My spiritual efforts don’t do anything, they merely bring me to the place where I know I can’t do anything, to the place where I am utterly naked before God!” -Fr. Silviu Bunta Sometimes I run across a quote that strikes my heart so deeply that I’m surprised it wasn’t me who said it. The quote above is from Fr. Silviu Bunta, Associate Professor of Old Testament at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, in…

The Fullness of Lent

This article comes to mind as we celebrate the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts on these Lenten Wednesdays and Fridays. There is nothing to compare to them in the Christian liturgical world. It’s hard to think of fasting in the midst of such a feast. Orthodoxy has a number of “favorite” words – all of which fall outside the bounds of normal speech. Though we commonly use the word “mystery” (for example),…

Repentance for the World – Prayers by the Lake XXIX

This XXIX prayer of St. Nicholai of Zicha from Prayers by the Lake, echoes the prayers of Pentecost. It teaches us a profound way of praying for the world. In our days, such a prayer is deeply needed. For all the sins of men I repent before You, Most Merciful Lord. Indeed, the seed of all sins flows in my blood! With my effort and Your mercy I choke this wicked crop…

Judgment and Apocalypse – The Tale of Two Parables

“He came to himself.” These words form the turning point in the story of the Prodigal Son. They are words of judgment, apocalypse, and revelation. When the younger son demanded his inheritance from his father, he was not himself. When he traveled to a far land and wasted everything in wild pleasure, he was not himself. Only when everything was lost and what was in front of him became disgusting do we…

When Belief Is Complicated

“It’s complicated.” This statement sums up much of the modern experience. I don’t think the world we encounter is actually complicated – but our experience is. Simplicity is the reflection of an inner world free of conflicts and undercurrents. The truth of the modern inner-world is that it is generally pulled in many directions. Modernity is a juncture in history – a place where many rivers meet to form one raging torrent. The…