The Sacrament of Mercy

There are many things that Christians think about that have been spiritualized out of existence. Our secular culture tends to grant two kinds of realities: the first is the reality of solid objects – or things we treat as solid objects. The second is the reality of thought and imagination. Of course, we do not really think that thought and imagination have any reality. This is one of the great weaknesses of…

Learning to Sin

As strange as it sounds – human beings have to “learn to sin.” Not that we need any help doing the things that sinners do – all of that comes quite easily to us. But we have to learn that we are sinners – and this does not come easily to us. Oddly, I first heard this when listening to one of Stanley Hauerwas’ lectures at Duke. “You have to teach someone…

The Ancestors of God

The two Sundays prior to the Feast of the Nativity are dedicated to the Ancestors and the Forefathers of Christ. One feast honors those who have been ancestors to Christ (according to the flesh) the other feast remembers those who were the “righteous” of those generations before Christ, though not necessarily ancestors according to the flesh. Such feasts are absent in most of Christianity – as though Christ had come at a…

The True Agent of Change

As inhabitants of our modern culture, we find ourselves trapped in a world of “cause and effect.” It is a physical explanation of the universe that has, for all intents and purposes, become a universal metaphor, dominating religion and the most personal aspects of our lives. We see ourselves as the agents of change – or responsible for many of the disasters that litter our lives. Those who “succeed” imagine that they are…

In A Strange Land

It seems to me that life carries us into strange places on occasion – places where I have not been before. Such experiences can be quite distracting. In very strong instances such experiences can threaten to take over our lives and redefine everything around us. Living as a Christian in a strange land is difficult. Abraham leaves his own home, complete with its own struggles, and travels to a strange land. The…

Mind and Heart

I write frequently about what I term the Religion of the Heart. Archimandrite Meletios Webber has a short piece on what can be called the Religion of the Mind. The distinction between mind and heart is not a distinction between thought and feeling. Rather it is a distinction between the mind (seat of thoughts and feelings) and the heart (the seat of a deeper awareness – sometimes called the nous in Orthodox…

The State of Things

I’m going to break a few personal rules in this post. Normally I try to write within the known bounds of the Eastern Orthodox faith. I also try to write about things I know – both rules limit the range of my writing. But for this post, I want to “think aloud” about some things that seem worth puzzling about. I’ve long found it useful to look at things that are taken…

The God Who Sings

My parish is in the process of installing and blessing bells. It is a joyous milestone in our parish’s life and an important addition to the proclamation of the gospel. According to Orthodox thought, the sound of a Church bell is an icon of the voice of God. It’s blessing reaches as far as the bell is heard. Thinking about this coming event has given thought to an article from the past…

Existence, Choice and God

I recall a conversation with a Russian parishioner some years back. She had been baptized as an adult (by me) and I referred to her as a “convert” in the course of conversation. She bristled slightly at my comment and said, “I am not a convert. Converts are people who choose.” She went on to explain that although she had never been baptized, she was, nonetheless Orthodox, and would not have considered…

The Specific Truth

The Truth, spoken in general, is, perhaps, the most easily spoken truth in all the world. It smooths over the rough edges of hard truth and says more easily that to which all can agree. If all can agree – it is not probably the truth – or it is not a truth worth speaking. As a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, I find the present time to be one…