Knowing What We Don’t Know

The New Testament, particularly in the writings of St. John (but in St. Paul’s works as well) say much about “knowing” God. In St. John’s Gospel Christ says, “And this is eternal life: that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Thus, knowing God is equated with salvation itself. On the other hand, we speak of God as “incomprehensible and unknowable” (for…

The Cross and the Cosmos

During this Afterfeast of the Holy Cross it seems worthwhile to continue with thoughts on the instrument of our salvation. In a short work, The Beginning of the Day, (I believe it was a special printing and is not generally available), Met. Kallistos Ware notes this about the Cross and its connection with the whole of creation: …[The] created order in its entirety participated in the Savior’s Passion: the earth shook, the…

The Tree Heals the Tree

Readers of the New Testament are familiar with St. Paul’s description of Christ as the “Second Adam.” It is an example of the frequent Apostolic use of an allegoric reading of the Old Testament (I am using “allegory” in its broadest sense – including typology and other forms). Christ Himself had stated that He was the meaning of the Old Testament (John 5:39). Within the Gospels Christ identifies His own death and…

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…

Humility and Spiritual Warfare

From the Elder Sophrony’s Wisdom from Mount Athos: Thus the whole of spiritual warfare wages round humility. The enemy fell from pride, and would draw us to perdition by the same means. The enemy praises us, and should the soul listen to his praise grace withdraws until she repents. Thus throughout her life the soul is occupied with the lesson of Christ-like humility. So long as she has not humility wrong thoughts and…

Giving and Receiving

In the immense cathedral which is the universe of God, each man, whether scholar or manual laborer, is called to act as the priest of his whole life – to take all that is human, and to turn it into an offering and a hymn of glory. Paul Evdokimov in Woman and the Salvation of the World +++ Abba Zosimas used to say: “We have lost our sense of balance.” Reflections, XI,…

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 Daily Battle

More thoughts on the struggle with the passions: One of the essential understandings of the passions within the fathers of the Church is that they are not inherently evil. Gluttony may be a passion, but the desire to eat is a gift of God. Fornication is a sin, but the marriage bed is blessed, etc. Passions are our natural desires manifested in a disordered state. This is an important understanding – for…

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…