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. For Silouan and Sophrony, this was something known in the present tense, a “hypostatic” knowledge of the fundamental unity of the human race.…

A Fast of Righteousness

I am often puzzled by the things theologians say about “righteousness.” First, there are a striking number of different treatments. That alone should tell anyone that we are standing on the ground of “theory” rather than knowledge when we hear pronouncements about the word. It is, of course, an important word. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness…,” Christ commands in the Sermon on the Mount. I think I know…

How to Strengthen Your Lenten Prayer Life

The traditional acts of asceticism associated with Great Lent (and the whole of the Christian life) are prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and repentance. In my experience, Orthodox faithful tend to concentrate on fasting and perhaps making a good confession. If we have weaknesses, they are found in our prayers and almsgiving. These two belong together. Christ said: And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they…

Second Thoughts on Success

I have had a few emails and other notes regarding my recent articles on Providence and a non-modern spiritual life. To speak about a life that is not understood in terms of progress, but in terms of its struggles and weakness is the antithesis of the modern ideal. No matter how bad things might be, at some point, we are always assured that they can get better. “Getting better” has become the…

The Slow Road to Heaven – Why the Spiritual Life Doesn’t “Work”

We live in a world of practicality, a fact that has produced the marvels of technology that power us along and connect the world in its web. I have a nearly two-year-old grandson who has grasped some of this connection for many months now. He loves buttons – not the ones on your shirt – but the ones on any device. If there is a button in reach, he will mash it.…

Where Is God in All of This? God in Providence

Somewhere along the years, I gained a useful insight about “doing nothing.” On the whole, it’s the lousiest strategy for living that can be found. We were not created to be passive creatures. Our life is a gift of a good God, but we are not called to be passive recipients. Anyone who has struggled with a “besetting sin” will understand what I’m saying. Trying to “not” do something is the equivalent…

The Mystery of 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 +++ Among the most troublesome thoughts to my modern mind are those surrounding God’s providence. A popular morning prayer from the Elders of Optina reads: O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I…

The Despair of Modernity – It Might Not Be All Bad

It is a commonplace in the Fathers to describe despair or sadness as the result of failing to get what we want. It sounds quite simple, but it cuts to the very heart of our sadness. There is a melancholy of our age that is born from the expectations of modernity. The mantra of progress and our belief that no matter the problems confronting us, there is always a solution, are an…

When Chaos Ruled the World – Part II

  The imagery of a cosmic battle with chaos described in part one, is properly the foundation for the Christian life. “Chaos” is a metaphor for so much that threatens God’s good creation and makes war against His saints. It is also an understanding that is almost completely lost in the modern world. We generally fail to notice that modernity is a phenomenon of the “first world.” It is an understanding that…

When Chaos Ruled the World – Part I

In the ancient civilizations of the Near East there were strange stories about the place of chaos in the beginning of all things – and the chaos is specifically located in water. It seems odd to me that people who largely lived in arid countries should imagine the world beginning as a watery chaos – but that is certainly what they did. The Egyptians imagined the world’s beginning as a watery chaos…