Yet Not I

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20). +++ In my last two posts, I have written with some care about the “false self,” which has also been referred to as the ego. I have also spoken about the heart, the seat of the true self that is “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). An obvious question has been asked: “How do we move from life in the one into life in the…

The Death of the Moral Man

There is no man who lives and does not sin. – from the Burial Office +++ There are many reactions to the pain of our existence. I try to remember from hour to hour that I live among the “walking wounded.” As the Jewish philosopher Philo said, “Everyone you see is fighting a difficult battle.” One of the great pains for active believers is the struggle to be moral. This struggle becomes…

Learning to Walk

I cannot remember learning to walk (I was nine-months old). I do, however, remember learning to ride a bicycle. I think the two experiences are fairly similar. I know that falling down is something both of them have in common. I also know that both of them require falling down as part of the learning process. Learning to walk as a Christian seems little different to me. The only way to learn…

The Disappointment of Religion

Reading the lives of the saints often raises our expectations. We read of someone transfigured with light, or of someone who is present in two places at once. We read beautiful descriptions of the inner life, of an awareness of our union with God or clarity with regard to the nature of all things. In comparison, our own religious experience will be sterile, a voice crying out in the wilderness met with…

To Bethink in Wonder

There are many cliches describing our cultural failure to be “present to the moment.” We do not “stop and smell the roses.” We do not “let go and let God.” There is a momentum to life that carries us along. Our jobs, our families, our habits – all conspire to make us oblivious to the landscape and lifescape hurrying past our awareness. It is not surprising that we are often described as…

The Language of Silence

The language of the heart is silence—not a bleak, empty silence, but a profound and meaningful silence that ceaselessly sings the glory of God. Archimandrite Meletios Webber +++ The language…is silence. I will violate this wonderful oxymoron by speaking about the silence. It is the inherent problem with all theology. We use words to speak about what is ineffable. When we speak best about such things we speak in contradictions and oxymorons…

The Mystery, Upborne, Fulfilled

Orthodoxy has a number of “favorite” words – all of which fall outside the bounds of normal speech. Though we commonly use the word “mystery” (for example), popular speech never uses it in the manner of the Church. I cannot remember using the word “fullness,” or even “fulfilled,” in normal speech. More contemporary words have come to replace these expressions. This doesn’t mean that an English speaker has no idea of what…

To Know What You Cannot Know

You cannot know God – but you have to know Him to know that. – Fr. Thomas Hopko +++ This small quote from Fr. Thomas has stayed with me since I first heard it. It says so much by saying so little. I find two groups of people increasingly common in my conversations – those who profess to not know God (agnostics) – and those who struggle greatly with what they have…

The Border of the Grace of God

This Sunday, on the Orthodox calendar, commemorates St. Mary of Egypt, 6th century harlot-turned-saint. This meditation was written in Jerusalem in 2008 when I was on pilgrimage. The image is of the icon mentioned in the meditation. Today, walking and weaving our way through the streets of Old Jerusalem, shops on each side of the alley, the smells of a rich mixture of spices and a thousand other things, shop-keepers calling with…

Knowing the Truth

This Sunday in the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Gregory Palamas. His work represents the triumph of reality over theory – of true knowledge of God versus scholasticism. This is an article written in 2008, following my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. +++ From the book, The Enlargement of the Heart, by Archimandrite Zacharias: For Elder Sophrony [Sakharov], theology was the state of being in God….theology was for him the description of the event…