The Weakness of Man

It is counter-intuitive that God saves man through His own weakness. The irony of the Divine Reversal has provided endless material for the hymnographers of the Church through the centuries. The Strong becomes weak, the Sinless takes on our sin, the Rich becomes poor, God becomes man – the whole of the gospel seems to be a Divine irony. This irony has a beauty that has always drawn me. Sometimes the imagery…

Just Showing Up and the Work of Grace

There has been a tendency in much teaching about the notion of salvation by grace to ground the image in a legal or forensic metaphor. Thus, we are saved by grace in the sense that someone else’s goodwill and kindness (God’s) has now freed us from the consequences of our actions. Thus we speak of grace as the “free gift” of God. There is no denying that grace is a free gift…

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Try to think about the absence of God, and do realize that before you can knock at the door – and remember that it is not only at the door of the Kingdom understood in the general way, but that Christ really says ‘I am the door’ – before you knock at the door, you must realize that you are outside. If you spend your time imagining that in a mad way…

Redeeming the Time

In Ephesians 5, St. Paul speaks about “redeeming the time” warning those whom he writes that the “days are evil.” It is a phrase that has always reminded me of Christ’s admonition: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34). Both statements are among the most “down to earth” statements in Scripture. They speak to me…

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…

The Great Fast

Monday (tomorrow) marks the beginning of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church (which liturgically begins at Forgiveness Vespers on Sunday). Though Great Lent is kept with rigor in Orthodox Tradition, there is nothing unusual asked of believers – nothing that we do not do on many days throughout the rest of the year. We fast; we pray; we give alms; we attend services, etc. But we do these with greater intensity and…

A Sermon on Repentance (after St. John Chrysostom)

This sermon was written by Fr. John Parker, Rector of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Mount Pleasant, SC. It is modeled on the well known and beloved Paschal homily of St. John Chrysostom.  It offers an interesting echo of the end of the Fast here at its beginning. A recording of Fr. Thomas Hopko reading the sermon can be heard and downloaded on Ancient Faith Radio. +++ If anyone be devout and…

The Journey to Repentance

One of my favorite books comes from the last years of the Soviet Union. It is the story of Tatiana Goricheva, a member of the “intelligentsia” and a Soviet-era dissident. Her book, Talking About God Is Dangerous, offers fascinating insights into both a period of time and the period of a human soul’s conversion by grace. The little volume is out of print but can be found on the internet for as little…

By the Waters of Babylon

A traditional hymn from the Lenten season. By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. Alleluia. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. Alleluia. For there they that had taken us captive required of us a song; and they that had carried us away required of us a hymn, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. Alleluia. How shall we…