Everywhere Present

Everything you do, all your work, can contribute towards your salvation. It depends on you, on the way you do it. History is replete with monks who became great saints while working in the kitchen or washing sheets. The way of salvation consists in working without passion, in prayer…. May God give you the strength to keep your spirit, your mind, and your heart in the spirit of Christ. Then everything that…

The Mystery of Goodness

Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God (3John 1:11). One of the most common affirmations in Orthodox services is the goodness of God. Many services conclude with the blessing: “For He is a good God and loves mankind.” The goodness of God is utterly foundational to our faith – and yet…

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 writing).…

To Guard the Heart

I often think about the admonition of the fathers to “guard your heart.” It seems so obvious to me that the disposition of my heart has everything to do with how I will perceive and react to everything around me. An anxious heart perceives everything as a threat – a disaster or vexation in the making. An angry heart perceives the slightest hindrance as a great provocation. A sad heart can have…

Envy and the Fullness of God

In the Praises for Matins of Holy Wednesday, we read: Oh, the wretchedness of Judas! He saw the harlot kiss the footsteps of Christ, but deceitfully he contemplated the kiss of betrayal. She loosed her hair while he bound himself with wrath. He offered the stench of wickedness instead of myrrh, for envy cannot distinguish value. Oh, the wretchedness of Judas! Deliver our souls from this, O God. We are also told in Scripture…

The Nature of Things and Our Salvation

Reflecting on yesterday’s post, I thought it worthwhile to share these thoughts again on the nature of our salvation. Few things are as critical for me as the distinctions given here. Perhaps it is timely. It offers a short summary of the difference between a moral and an existential understanding of the Christian faith and why the difference matters. Indeed, as I look through my writings I know this is a recurring…

To Tell the Truth

Abba Poemen said, “Teach your mouth to say that which is in your heart. Speaking the truth is as fundamental as the Ten Commandments. It also receives a great deal of attention within the pages of the New Testament. Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image…

Reading Tradition

For those who are unused to the place of Tradition in the understanding and interpretation of the Christian faith, it is easy to assume that Tradition is simply an additional set of texts to be read alongside and in addition to Scripture. There are certainly texts which belong to Tradition (indeed the Church would consider the texts of Scripture itself to be part of Tradition). The teachings of the Apostles were “handed…

Reason’s God

In a comment to my recent post on the “problem of goodness,” I was challenged on the question of “proving God’s existence.” I understand the question but I do not think the question understands God. There is a definition of God that has floated around philosophical circles for centuries – a very reasonable definition – but not a definition that has anything to do with the Christian God. The modern rise of…

The Problem of Goodness

From my first class in Philosophy 101 in college, the so-called “Problem of Evil” has been tossed up as the “clincher” in arguments against the existence of God. How can a good God allow innocent people to suffer? The most devastating case ever made on the subject was in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. Ivan Karamazov, in the chapter entitled “Rebellion,” which is the chapter preceding the famous “Grand Inquisitor,” makes the details of his…