Healing the Soul and Unbelief

I have long been convinced that “believing” is grounded in something other than intellectual activity. I am simply unimpressed by most of the intellectual arguments that I see regarding both belief and unbelief. In both, I hear so much that is unspoken, and even much that is likely hidden from the speakers themselves. That being the case (if I am right), then conversations about belief require great patience and not a little…

What Exactly Is Changing?

The Catholic theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, in his magisterial work on St. Gregory of Nyssa, offers this observation: The journey towards salvation is marked by a successive elimination of all that we “have,” in order to reach what we “are.” The safest path and surest refuge is not to be deluded and fail to recognize ourselves – who we truly are. We should not believe that we are seeing our Selves…

The Truth of the Soul

“Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving, forever?” In the classic film, The Third Man, Harry Lime, a racketeer in post-World War II Vienna, quizzes his old friend, Holly Martins, about the value of an individual life. They are standing in the carriage of a Ferris wheel, looking down on the city scape. From Lime’s perspective, the distance provides a detachment that makes morality obsolete. “Have…

Pentecost and the Liturgy of Hades

Pascha (Easter) comes with a great note of joy in the Christian world. Christ is risen from the dead and our hearts rejoice. That joy begins to wane as the days pass. Our lives settle back down to the mundane tasks at hand. After 40 days, the Church marks the Feast of the Ascension, often attended by only a handful of the faithful (Rome has more-or-less moved the Ascension to a Sunday…

A Difficult Beauty

It seems to me that bad things come easily. Whether it is ugliness, anger, or every kind of darkness, we not only see such things, but seem  “bound” to see them. Why are we “hard-wired” for such observations? The answer is really quite simple: we are hard-wired to see things that are potentially dangerous, and for obvious reasons. When my son was in his early years, his complete joy and wonder at…

Thoughts and Prayers in the House of the Dead

The first time I saw my father cry was in 1963. I was nine years old. We had gotten word the day before that my mother’s oldest sister had been murdered while working in her husband’s law office. A stranger came in off the street and killed her in a deeply brutal manner. It became news across the state for nearly a year. I remember stepping into my parent’s bedroom. My father…

Is God a Fool?

Few things are as awkward (and even painful) as “feeling like a fool,” whether it is the mild thing we call “embarrassment,” or the stronger things that make us want to disappear or run away. No one wants to be the fool. Nevertheless, I have come to see God as a “fool,” and those rare saints whom we name the “holy fools,” to be amazing exemplars of this way of being. I…

The Sacrifice of Worship

When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22), there was no questioning on Abraham’s part about what was intended. He understood precisely what was involved in such a thing. There was wood to be gathered, an altar of stones to be constructed, the victim to be bound, and then the slitting of its throat with the gushing forth of blood, all consummated in the burning fires of the now-completed…

The Kingdom of God – One-Storey in Time

Among the stranger phrases found in St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy is this: It was You Who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away [past tense], You raised us up again [past tense], and did not cease to do all things until You had brought us up to heaven [past tense], and had endowed us [past tense] with Your kingdom which is to come [future tense]. It is…

The Vindication of the Mother of God

At Christmas time, the Virgin Mary gets a bit of attention in the wider culture. A woman gives birth in difficult circumstances: Mother, baby, ox and ass, the manger. It’s a very touching scene. She quickly fades from the scene however, with some five centuries of culture desperately afraid that she will get too much attention. In that vein, she is pretty much absent from Easter. We have eggs, chocolate, bunny rabbits,…