Clinging to My God

Today is the fifth and final Sunday of Great Lent. In a few short days Holy Week will begin. There is one more week remaining in the Great Fast, one more week in which to prepare ourselves to meet the awesome and saving events of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. All throughout Lent, the Church has provided us with a roadmap for our spiritual journey. We began the Fast with Forgiveness Sunday;…

The Reason Behind School Shootings

The nearly unquestioned assumption about school shootings is that they are usually perpetrated by the mentally ill. This psychiatrist disagrees: The reason the mental health system fails to prevent mass shootings is that mental illness is rarely the cause of such violence. Even if all potential mass shooters did get psychiatric care, there is no reliable cure for angry young men who harbor violent fantasies. And the laws intended to stop the…

Casting Out Demons

I recently finished reading Demons by Dostoevsky [warning: there are some significant spoilers ahead]. It is perhaps the darkest of all the novels of a writer who, in any of his writings, could certainly never be accused of shirking from the depravity of which the human heart is capable. Nearly everyone in the story comes to a bad end in one way or another, except for two of the least sympathetic characters…

The Problem with Battles

Yesterday I suggested that the increased political activism we see around us is fundamentally religious in nature. As Paul Krugman pointed out, there is an intense longing welling up in our society for an end to injustice and atrocity. And to be absolutely clear, I believe that this longing is deep, sincere, and praiseworthy. The problem isn’t at all that so many people have a moral objection to the status quo. I…

Caesaropapism in the New York Times

Several days ago, I wrote briefly about the increasingly prevalent attitude that meaningful action is a synonym for political action. I was thinking that it would be worth reflecting on this subject further, and then conveniently Paul Krugman decided yesterday to illustrate my point for me: A funny thing is happening on the American scene: a powerful upwelling of decency. Suddenly, it seems as if the worst lack all conviction, while the…

On Doing Nothing

People all across the country are demanding action in response to the latest school shooting. And although there have been exceptions, generally action is implicitly assumed to mean political action. This is one of the defining characteristics of modern life — we are far more politicized now than at perhaps any other time in human history. So much so that even to call for a moment of silence is being seen as…

The Unity of the Faith

We are gathered here together on the first Sunday of Great Lent to celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy. This feast was originally established to commemorate the victory of the venerators of icons over the iconoclasts, but more generally we also commemorate on this day the victory of the true Orthodox faith over all the heresies that have challenged it throughout history. There is an interesting fact which we easily overlook about this…

A Tale of Two Cities

Today during Matins we heard for the third and final time this year the singing of the beautiful and haunting psalm “By the waters of Babylon.” The chanting of this psalm is extremely solemn, contrasting sharply with the joyous Polyeleos which precedes it and the Magnification which sometimes follows it. Both the rarity of this psalm’s chanting and the starkness of the emotional contrast surrounding it serve to draw our attention to…

A Sickness Unto Death

[Edit: apparently the widely-cited report that this is the 18th school shooting of 2018 is inaccurate, thank God. Others put the number between 3 and 10. I post this in the interest of accuracy, not because it in any way diminishes the gravity or the urgency of the spiritual crisis we are facing.] May God forgive us. Seventeen people gunned down in a Florida high school in another school shooting. Nearly as many wounded.…

The Gates of Death

Today’s feast has many meanings, many aspects, and even many names. It is sometimes called the Meeting of the Lord, sometimes the Purification of the Virgin, sometimes the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and finally, especially in the West, it is known as Candlemas – the Feast of the Light that shown upon St. Symeon and which we remember by blessing candles on this day. This multiplicity of names and meanings…