When Death Dies

Christianity is not reconciliation with death. It is the revelation of death, and it reveals death because it is the revelation of Life. Christ is this Life. And only if Christ is Life is death what Christianity proclaims it to be, namely the enemy to be destroyed, and not a “mystery” to be explained. Religion and secularism, by explaining death, give it a “status,” a rationale, make it “normal.” Only Christianity proclaims…

The Doors and God

You cannot attend an Orthodox service and not be aware of doors. There are the doors that form the center of the icon screen, opening directly upon the altar. There are the two doors that flank them, one on either side, known as the “Deacon Doors.” Someone always seems to be coming out of one and going into another. One visitor to my parish confessed that the service reminded her of a…

A Patient Joy – Finding the True Self

Among the weakest things in the world of social relations is the truth. That might seem to be an odd statement. However, the weakness of the truth is the limitations placed upon it by its very nature. It cannot say just anything, nor can it ever pretend to be something that it is not. Those restrictions are not shared by lies. It is the nature of a lie that it can assume…

Modernity and the Temptations of Christ

If I have done modernity a disservice, it might be in giving the impression that its temptations might be something new. In truth, there is nothing particularly new in the philosophy of modernity other than its peculiar assembly of old ideas and the capture of the general culture as its servant. It is worth considering how certain major temptations have been forged into cultural virtues in our modern world. Examples can be…

The True Dignity of Human Beings – Nyssa on Slavery

One of the most rewarding aspects of reading historical material is how it reveals the human mind even at a great remove from our own. There is a myth in our culture that history is the story of progress. It presumes that only in our modern times have we begun to free ourselves from the false ideas of the past. What you discover when you actually read historical materials is that many…

Riding the Tsunami

There are periods of history that fascinate me, particularly if their events can be felt in our present world. My method of study is to read multiple works with a focus on detailed accounts and only a minor amount of analysis. The past couple of years, my attention has been drawn to periods of plagues and pandemics (surprise). It is undoubtedly the case that these have been turning points in human history.…

A Terrible Knowledge

Greek Mythology made the curiosity of Pandora the primary cause of suffering in the world. She fails to resist the lure of finding out what is in a box she is told to leave closed. Opening the box, she unleashes sorrow and suffering into the world. We humans are a curious lot. We want to know everything about our business and much about what is not our business. In a world that…

The Gift of Hospitality

This delightful gem from the Desert Fathers comes from Benedicta Ward’s The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers (157) There was a saint in Egypt who dwelt in a desert place. Far away from him there was a Manichean who was a priest (at least what they call a priest). Once, when this man was going to visit one of his confederates, night overtook him in the place where the orthodox saint was…

As the End Draws Near – Silence

St. John the Baptist said of Christ that His “winnowing fork is in His hand.” (Lk 3:17) That farm implement is a tool for separating the wheat from the chaff, that is, to separate the edible part of the wheat from the husk that is to be discarded. It is, in that sense, an instrument of judgment. The character of Christ, who is the Image according to which we are created, is…

Food for the Soul

Some years back, I sat in on a meeting between my bishop and a young man looking to attend seminary. After getting the bishop’s approval, he asked a wise question: “What should I be reading to prepare?” I was as interested in the answer as he was. “Read good literature,” was the answer. This advice came from a bishop who is both a scholar and a monk (Archbishop Alexander Golitsyn). Read good…