Praying to the Saints

When I first began to investigate Orthodoxy, my main stumbling block to conversion was prayer to Mary and the saints. My Protestant formation had trained me (well, brainwashed me actually, for it was long on insistence and short on argument) that it was WRONG to pray to Mary and the saints. Doing so constituted Idolatry (with a capital “I”), which got God very upset. And by the way, the prohibition applied to…

The Divine Council and Anthropomorphism

To unlock and truly understand the Old Testament one needs a number of exegetical keys, and one of these keys is labelled “Anthropomorphism”. This became painfully clear to me recently when I was asked a question by an intelligent and delightfully pious young girl in our congregation. “Fr. Lawrence,” she said, “it looks like God gets mad really easily in the Old Testament. Is that true?” As C. S. Lewis once observed,…

The Dormition of the Mother of God: What Actually Happened?

Some time ago I finished reading an excellent book on the extant literary sources for the Dormition/ Assumption narratives of the Mother of God, a magisterial work by Stephen J. Shoemaker entitled, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption, published by Oxford University Press. Shoemaker makes the case that the various divergent narratives about her death and glorification to paradise all appeared more or less at the same time around…

Where Does the Rain Come From?

I think it was in grade eight that I first learned about the Water Cycle. According to this science lesson, the air is full of water vapour. Condensation occurs as the sun causes the water to evaporate and rise into the sky, so that the water vapour turns back into liquid water, which we see in the big, fluffy clouds floating overhead. When the water droplets in clouds combine, they become heavy…

The Despair of Elijah

The prophet Elijah (whose feast day is July 20) is perhaps best known for his final ascent to heaven in a chariot of fire. He is also famous for being fed by a raven, and also for the dramatic contest on Mount Carmel. This last event was arguably the pinnacle of his prophetic career. Elijah served God in very dark days. Israel had always carried on a foolish and fatal dalliance with…

Understanding Pauline Universalism

In any discussion of Christian universalism, sooner or later someone is bound to mention Paul’s words about Christ saving everyone. Some of the passages are Romans 5:18-19 and 1 Corinthians 15:21f. One could add Paul’s words about Christ being the Saviour of all men (in 1 Timothy 4:10) and of Him appearing on earth bringing salvation to all (in Titus 2:11). One might broaden the exegetical field by referring to the Johannine…