The Slow Work of Grace

In the minds of many, grace is a legal concept – an expression of the kindness of God in the forgiveness of sins. As such, grace is instant and complete. This fits well within the legal conceptions of salvation. In the classical understanding of the Orthodox faith, salvation can indeed have a quality of “suddenness” – the thief on the Cross found paradise “in a single moment” according to the hymns of…

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…

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…

The Icon of Music

Orthodox theology is a “seamless garment”: no part of Orthodox doctrine, worship, prayer or life stands in a category of its own. Everything refers and reveals the one thing in Christ – our salvation. Even the doctrine of the Trinity, as utterly sublime as it is, remains a matter revealed for our salvation. Because this inter-relatedness is true it is possible to speak of Scripture as a “verbal icon” (Florovsky), or to…

Why Does God Sing?

A comment was posted this past weekend about prayer and singing (or “chanting”). This article represents some earlier thoughts I have written on the topic. Over the course of this next week I will be largely engaged in another writing task and will only be able to monitor the blog once or twice a day. I’ll also try to post some things of interest. Why would God sing? The question may sound…

The Fox And Elder Paisios

Elder Paisios said: Often we see a person and we say a couple spiritual words to him and he converts. 
Later we say, “Ah, I saved someone.” I believe that the person who has the disposition and goodness 
within him, if he doesn’t convert from what we say,  would convert from the sight of a bear or a fox or from anything else. Let 
us beware of false evangelization. +++ The soul…

Looking for the Self in All the Wrong Places

A few years ago, a major American magazine dubbed a particular age-group as the “me generation.” It would have been more accurate to describe the whole of modernity as a “me generation.” For it has been a hallmark of our age to fashion a particular understanding of what we mean when we say “me.” It would come as a shock to many, but human beings have not always defined the self in…

Living Simply to Simply Live

I attended a clergy retreat this week led by Archimandrite Meletios Webber, Abbot of the Monastery St. John of San Francisco in Manton, California. His first talk of the retreat was on the subject of monasticism in the contemporary Church. It was a very thoughtful meditation. I was struck particularly by his description of a monastery as a “space” built on the four traditional vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability. It is…

Keeping It Simple

A comment yesterday asked for greater simplicity. I am entirely sympathetic to the concern expressed and offer here an earlier posting which draws our focus to simple things. I have written and posted numerous times that “I am an ignorant man,” which is to say that I do not consider myself a great source of wisdom and insight and that what knowledge I do have is indeed limited. It is also true…