Doctrines and Opinion

From the Desert Fathers: Malicious sceptics visited Abba Agathon to see if they could annoy him. They had heard that Agathon possessed great discretion and self-control. They spoke directly to him, “Agathon, we heard that you are an adulterer and full of pride.” He answered, “Yes, that’s true.” “Are you the same Agathom who gossips and slanders?” “I am.” “Are you Agathon the heretic?” “No, I am not a heretic.” “Why did…

Revisiting the Great Crisis

As a companion to the recent post on the Death of Christ – the Life of Man – I offer this reprint of a short article on “the Great Crisis.” The Great Crisis, if I can coin a term, is the threat of non-existence, or relative non-existence. Classical Orthodoxy, following St. Athanasius, does not see humanity threatened with pure non-existence, but with a dynamic movement towards a “relative” non-existence, which some have…

My Sins Pour Out Behind Me

Abba Moses [one of the desert fathers] hesitated to accept a summons to be part of a council that would pass judgment on a brother who had committed a sin. A delegation approached him insisting that all the others were waiting for him. Reluctantly, he got up and went with them. He took a jug of water that leaked all along the path. The council came outside to greet him. Puzzled by…

Short Prayer for Enemies

These two petitions are found in Orthodox Daily Prayers. Both give a model for our prayers on these topics: Save, Lord, and have mercy on those whom I have caused to stumble, turning them away from the path of salvation and leading them to evil and unseemly deeds. Return them to the path of salvation by thy Divine Providence. (a prostration is made) Save, Lord, and have mercy on those who hate…

In Him We Live And Move and Have Our Being

St. John of the Ladder wrote: Every free creature lives in God. God is everyone’s salvation. God loves believers and unbelievers, the just and the unjust, the pious and the impious, those free of passions and those subject to passions, monks and those living worldly lives, the educated and the illiterate, the healthy and the sick, the young and the old. God is like an outpouring of light, a glimpse of the…

What's the Point?

For a man who does not believe in God – nothing points to God. For a man who believes in God – everything points to God. So who’s right? There is almost no argument between these two experiences. For someone who does not believe in God my own contention that everything points to God is pretty much meaningless. In extraordinary cases we can listen to each other and struggle to understand what…

The Mystery of Faith – Sacrament and Icon

Recent questions have been raised about the difference between icons and sacraments in the Orthodox Church. It is an easy place for confusion to occur – particularly when seen from the outside. The Church in the West, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, developed a carefully-worded and defined understanding of sacrament during the Middle Ages. This definition depended on matters such as the authority of its institution, the intention of its performance, and…

The Role of Icons

Icons are not about art. Icons are not about left-overs of Byzantine style. Icons are not about the idolatrous impulse within fallen humanity. Icons are about the very nature of our salvation. The history of Western theology, particularly the opposition to icons within the Protestant movement, has removed one of the most traditional components of Christian theology and handicapped the modern imagination and understanding of our relationship to God. Our encounters with…

The Last Battle

The Scriptures end with the description of a battle that is truly “apocalyptic” in its scale: all the forces of evil arrayed against all the forces of good. It is grand theater, having caught the imagination of countless generations (and even Hollywood). I do not know quite what to make of the description. That it describes a reality, I do not doubt. What that reality will look like to its bystanders (if…

The Inverted Pyramid

No greater image of prayer and the love of God has been given in our modern time than that of the Elder Sophrony’s Inverted Pyramid. The subject of such prayer has risen. I thought to share this as an effort to shed some light. Fr. Sophrony [Sakharov], in his book on St. Silouan, presents this theory of the “inverted pyramid.” He says that the empirical cosmic being is like a pyramid: at…