Commentary on the Divine Liturgy: The Peace and the Creed

Next in this commentary series on the Divine Liturgy I would like examine the Peace and the Creed. The liturgical exchange of the Peace (or “the holy Kiss” to use more ancient terminology) goes back to the very earliest possible time. St. Paul ends both of his epistles to the Corinthians by telling them to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12), as he also does…

Commentary on the Divine Liturgy: Transitioning to the Eucharist

In this commentary series on the Divine Liturgy I would like examine the original transition from the so-called “Liturgy of the Catechumens” (i.e. the first part of the service to which catechumens were welcomed) to the so-called “Liturgy of the Faithful” (i.e. the second part of the service from which catechumens were excluded and to which only the communicant faithful were welcomed). As we saw in my previous commentary on the Liturgy,…

Praying for the Dead

On August 9 of this year, I lost my father, who died suddenly and peacefully at the age of 92. I did not cease praying for him, of course. His death simply meant that instead of praying for his health I now pray for his repose, singing “Memory eternal” instead of “Many years”. That is what the resurrection of Christ accomplished: by trampling down death by death, He abolished death and brought…

The Scriptural Teaching of Predestination

The Scriptural teaching on predestination is found mostly in Romans chapters 8-11 and in Ephesians chapter 1. Doing a full exegesis of these texts is a task which exceeds what can be done a blog, so readers are referred to a full reading of the relevant texts on their own. Some of the relevant bits will only be cited in passing. Much discussion of predestination centers around the question of individual salvation…

Augustine, Calvin, and Predestination

Slamming St. Augustine often seems to be a kind of leisure sport among some Orthodox, despite its lack of historical pedigree.  We hear much about Augustine’s negative views on sexuality, his horrible views on sin and damnation, his tragic acceptance of the Filioque, and his erroneous views on predestination. He is sometimes made the whipping boy for everything that went wrong in the west (from an Orthodox perspective) so that one might…

“A Presence that was Not Theirs”

The year is 1868; the place, Damascus. A self-taught mystic calling himself Abd el Matar left his wife, family, and home to found a group of disciples in Damascus, the Shazlis, basing it on a Sufi brotherhood established in the middle ages. About forty or so people gathered about him to pray and seek God. In the words of Isabel Burton, wife of the Sir Richard Francis Burton, the consul of Damascus…