Renunciation for Beginners

The first three steps of the Ladder of Divine Ascent all have to do with aspects of detachment, of leaving the world.  For those of us not called to the monastic life, this detachment is played out inwardly more so than outwardly.  But even monks quickly discover that outward renunciation is only a tool, albeit a very helpful tool, in achieving inner detachment.  That is, whether one is in a cloister or…

Behold The Goodness and Severity of God

In Jesus’ parable about those invited to the King’s wedding dinner, we are both terrified and comforted by the fact that those who were invited did not come because their refusal makes room for us.  We the poor, the lame and the blind are ushured into the wedding hall, both the good and the bad (Matt. 22:10).  In most commentaries we are told that the invited guests refer to the Jewish people…

A Feeling For Beauty

Holy Nativity Church will be hosting Dr. Timothy Patitsas for our Fall Conference October 27 and 28 this year.  Those of you near by (or who would like to visit Beautiful British Columbia) are more than welcome. Dr. Patitsas is professor of ethics at Holy Cross School of Theology and his interviews on beauty and Christian morality published in the Road To Emmaus journal have amazed and inspired me (see Winter 2015).…

Why We Have To Suffer

There is something within me that just doesn’t want to believe Jesus, that doesn’t want to believe that the hard things Jesus said apply to me.  “In this world you will have tribulation,” He said (John 16:33).  Why is it that every time I face something hard, something painful, something unfair, why is it that I think something is wrong?  I can’t  just accept that this painful trial, this tribulation, is the…

Turning Earth Into Heaven

I don’t think I can repeat often enough that the one Greek word peirasmos means both a trial and a temptation.  These two concepts, trial and temptation, are quite distinct in English and so it’s hard for us English speakers to understand statements in the Fathers such as “this sickness is a temptation.”  How can a sickness be a temptation if I don’t want to be sick?  It doesn’t make sense in…

Tools For Theosis

This summer I had the privilege of serving two Orthodox youth camps, one in Idaho, USA and the other in Alberta, Canada.  The spiritual theme of both camps was the same:  “What’s in Your Toolbox?”  The idea was to talk to the youth about the tools the Orthodox Church provides to help them grow spiritually and morally. On the first day of the first camp, I asked the group—there were about fifty,…

The Folly and Necessity of Rationalizing the Supra-rational

Several years ago I was leading a book study on St. Theophan the Recluse’ The Spiritual Life and How To Be Attuned To It.  I had read the book at least twice before this study, so I was going through it a third time as I prepared for my talks. As I read, I was excited to discover that I seemed to be understanding his broader ideas and not getting so lost…

Shame and Forgiveness and God

St. Theophan the Recluse has a wonderful commentary on Psalm 118 recently (2014) revised and published by St. John of Kronstadt Press.  I’m being both inspired and stretched by it.  I got to thinking about what the Church means when it talks about forgiveness by some of St. Theophan’s comments on verse 31 of Psalm 118. I have cleaved to Your testimonies, O Lord; put me not to shame. St. Theophan’s commentary touches…

Love Is Enough

I have developed an on-line acquaintance with someone who works full-time with homeless people in a large city in Canada.  She sometimes asks me theological questions.  Sometimes she tells me a sad story and asks for my prayers.  She says of herself that she is Protestant on the outside and Orthodox on the inside. I get that.  Lot’s of people feed from the crumbs that fall from the Orthodox table.  I like…

The Least of These

One of the problems with reading the story of the Last Judgement as recorded in Matthew 25 is that it’s almost impossible to do so without missing the deeper meaning of the story.  The story of the Last Judgement is more commonly known as the “parable” of the sheep and the goats.  Interestingly, this story is not actually a parable.  Throughout the Gospels, most of what Jesus says about the Kingdom of Heaven,…