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 Song of God

Man is a musical composition, a wonderfully written hymn to powerful creative activity. – St. Gregory of Nyssa (PG 44, 441 B) In St. Gregory’s thought,  man is not only a singer, but a song. We are not only song, but the song of God. Indeed within one theme of the fathers, all of creation is the song of God, spoken (or sung) into existence. “Let there be light,” is more than…

Waking Up

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10). This fear descends on us from on High. It is a spiritual feeling, firstly of God and then of us ourselves. We live in a state of awe by virtue of the presence of the Living God together with awareness of our own impurity. This fear places us before the Face of God to be judged by Him. We have…

The Fire of Christmas

As a child of the South, accustomed to the tones and the tales of my region, I was well aware of the”fires of hell”. Roadside signs proclaimed the eternal destiny of those who were not saved. I have discovered in later years, that many adult Christians remain committed to the most literal possible version of the fires of hell and will argue as though heaven itself depended on the burning flesh of…

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…

The Double Mystery of Christ’s Cross

St. Gregory Palamas, in his Homily on the Precious and Life-Giving Cross (Homily 11), makes reference to what he calls the “double mystery” of the Cross. He cites St. Paul’s statement, “The world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). The first mystery is embodied in our denial of the world – the second mystery in our denial of ourselves. The great saint also sees the Cross as…

The Chariot of Israel and Its Horsemen – The Repose of Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas

And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall…

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…

The Unknowable God

You cannot know God – but you have to know Him to know that. – Fr. Thomas Hopko +++ Fr. Hopko’s small aphorism is among my favorites in contemporary Orthodoxy. Besides the fact that it sounds humorous – it states one of the most profound paradoxes within the Orthodox faith. This fundamental truth is stated in a variety of ways: we say that God cannot be known in His Divine Essence while…

Babylon and the Trees of Pentecost

From the Feast of Pentecost The arrogance of building the tower in the days of old led to the confusion of tongues. Now the glory of the knowledge of God brings them wisdom. There God condemned the impious for their transgression. Here Christ has enlightened the fishermen by the Spirit. There disharmony was brought about for punishment.// Now harmony is renewed for the salvation of our souls. +++ The first time I…