Icons in a Literal World

I wrote this reflection nearly a year ago. Today I found my mind wandering back to the topic – searching beyond what I could see to what is unseen and yet more real. I have become increasingly convinced that the “literal” world we see is deeply distorted by our own self-deception. It is not a problem with the nature of creation – but rather the distortion of our own falsely constructed existence.…

The Quiet Work of God

Now Moses built an altar and called its name The-Lord-My-Refuge; for with a secret hand the Lord wars with Amalek from generation to generation  (Exodus 17:16 LXX). After a number of decades as a Christian pastor, I am convinced that most of what God does in our lives and in our world remains hidden. I have many thoughts as to why this is so – but that it is so, I have…

Right, Wrong and the Image of God

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2). St. Paul calls the Christians in Rome (as he would Christians…

Time and History

Christianity is sometimes referred to as a “historical” religion – its beliefs are specifically tied to events which have taken place in space and time. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are events which have taken place in space and time or Christianity is not true. No matter how noble or inspirational its teachings – the space-time reality of Christ’s death and resurrection are fundamental to the faith. Those who deny that…

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…

Knowing God

The knowledge of God, generally spoken of in a very experiential manner, is an absolute foundation in Orthodox theology. Nothing replaces it – no dogmatic formula – no Creed – not even Scripture – though Orthodoxy would see none of these things as separate from the knowledge of God. But the questions I have received are very apt. In a culture that is awash in “experience” what do we Orthodox mean when…

The Mystery of the Mother of God

The 15th of August is the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God (her death). Orthodox Christians fast for two weeks prior to this great feast and celebrate it with great solemnity. A question was recently placed by a reader about the “perpetual virginity” of Mary. I am offering this small post to address that question and to look at the place of the Most Holy Theotokos in Orthodox faith…

The Double Mystery of the 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…

Another Look at the Passions

I have recently been reading Fr. John Chryssavgis’ In the Heart of the Desert, an excellent introduction to the teachings and spiritual practices of the desert monastics. His comments are interwoven with sayings from the Desert Fathers (and Mothers). I share here some of his work on the passions, very apropos of our conversations here over the past week or so. +++ When passions are distorted, then our soul is divided and…

The Truth as it is in Christ

In the Gospel record of Christ’s trial before Pontius Pilate, we are told that Christ said He had come to bear witness to the Truth. Pilate, in what he must have thought was a clever response, says, “And what is Truth?” We know from elsewhere in the Gospel that Christ explained, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” It is a statement that is easily tossed about – to settle…