Getting Past Religion

My wife inherited a habit. It was her father’s not uncommon practice to sing his way through the day, especially the morning. A devout man, his songs were his favorite hymns. My wife’s habit is similar, only as an Orthodox Christian, her repertoir has grown to include the traditional hymns of Orthodoxy. It is not an entirely conscious practice (I think) – though her heart is clearly engaged in what she is doing.…

The Transfigured Beauty of the Crucified God

On the Mountain Thou wast Transfigured, O Christ God, And Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could see it; So that when they would behold Thee crucified, They would understand that Thy suffering was voluntary, And would proclaim to the world, That Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father! Kontakion of the Feast of Transfiguration It is inevitably the case that no matter how much a man may write and offer…

The Crisis of Religion

The term “sacramental” means here that the basic and primordial intuition which not only expresses itself in worship, but of which the entire worship is indeed the “phenomenon” – both effect and experience – is that the world, be it in its totality as cosmos, or in its life and becoming as time and history, is an epiphany of God, a means of His revelation, presence, and power. In other words, it…

The Beautiful God

Everything is beautiful in a person when he turns toward God, and everything is ugly when it is turned away from God. Fr. Pavel Florensky +++ Florensky is among the more intriguing Orthodox writers of the 20th century. A brilliant mathematician, as well as a priest, he refused opportunities to leave revolutionary Russia and follow the path of many other members of the intelligentsia. He taught math (eventually winning the Lenin Prize)…

Hidden and Triumphant – Learning the Story

Orthodox Christianity has sometimes been called, “The World’s Best Kept Secret.” There is a certain truth to this – the ignorance in the Western world of Byzantine history, let alone Russian and Balkan history – is staggering. Many Orthodox are uninformed about the full story of their faith – as well as most modern converts. There is, at times, a make-believe history, created by lively imaginations of a pure Church somehow preserved…

The Weight of Glory

Several years ago I had opportunity to visit a parish where the icon, Our Lady of Sitka, had been brought for veneration. The Church was packed that evening and I had the privilege of concelebrating the Akathist to the icon. There are many stories told about wonder-working icons. Some are known to weep tears of myrhh. Why a particular icon becomes a “wonder-working” icon is a mystery known only to God. It…

To Live in Wonder

Concepts create idols; only wonder grasps anything – St. Gregory of Nyssa St. Gregory’s marvelous dictum is among a handful of things that describe what is required for the Christian life. So much of Christian history has been marked with a bifurcation – a split between those who study the faith and those who live it. It is not a necessary split – only a common one. Of course there is the larger…

In a Single Moment – Paradise

Pascha and Bright Week always remind me of the joy of paradise. The doors of the altar stand open for all of Bright Week, reminding the people of God that Christ has opened paradise to us all. These are some thoughts on the suddenness and nearness of paradise. As the Elder Cleopas used to say, “May Paradise consume you!” The Exapostelarian for the Matins of Good Friday is the hymn, “The Wise…

Restoring the Image of Christ

Today marked the Sunday of Orthodoxy, a day on which the Orthodox celebrate the return of the images to the Church’s during the time of the Empress Theodora. It is also a day on which the Orthodox faith in its fullness is reaffirmed by the people and the clergy. This year I spoke at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Parma, Ohio, for the gathering sponsored by the Greater Cleveland Council of Orthodox…

Just the Shell

An entertainment personality, fresh from various surgeries (augmentations, alterations, etc.), recently opined in an interview, “But in the end, this is just a shell.” It was a very revealing cultural moment. The body is “just a shell” but worthy of tens of thousands of dollars to alter its appearance. It has been observed that modern man lives his life as a hedonist and dies like a Platonist. The hedonist believes that life…