Strangers in a Strange Land

Several months ago a landmark Gallup poll found that for the first time in American history, as of 2020 fewer than 50% of Americans belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque. Ever since 1937 when the survey was first conducted, that percentage remained fairly constant at around 70% until the turn of the century, when the number began its plummet all the way down to 47% in only two short decades. And…

“Our Fathers Have Told Us”

By God’s grace we have reached the completion of the First Week of Great Lent, and have come now to the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Great Lent is the Season of Repentance par excellence, and in general the Sundays of Great Lent all reflect this theme: next week we will celebrate the great hesychast, St. Gregory Palamas; then we commemorate the Precious Cross of our Lord; next we honor St.…

Preparing for Lent in a Time of Pandemic

It has now been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, changing almost overnight nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives in the modern world. Some of us have lost loved ones; the Church has bidden farewell to more than a few holy men and women whom the Lord chose this year to call home. The quarantine restrictions that have been in place more or less continuously throughout the world have also…

Living in Apocalyptic Times

There is no question that we live in troubling times. The 20th century witnessed an unparalleled persecution of Christianity across the entire world – primarily through revolutionary violence in the East, but primarily through worldly seduction in the West (if you doubt that the two are comparable, I will simply point to the witness of Alexander Solzhenitsyn who had ample occasion to experience both for himself). Such persecution was prophesied to us…

The World Unseen

We celebrate today the Synaxis of the Honorable Heavenly Bodiless Hosts. While each of their nine ranks has its own appointed tasks and role in the celestial realm, for us human beings they typically play one role in particular, which is reflected in the name commonly given by us to all of them alike: angels, from the Greek angelos meaning “messenger.” Indeed, their very existence is itself a message to us: that…

On Obedience and the Gifts of God

In the Gospel reading appointed for this Sunday, we hear a story of the greatest importance, both for ourselves and for all Christianity: we hear the story of the beginning of the conversion of the holy chief of the Apostles, St. Peter himself. This was not the first encounter of St. Peter with Christ; his brother, St. Andrew, had brought St. Peter to Jesus in Bethabara and told him that he was…

How Not to Perish Eternally

The Ungrateful Servant “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Our Lord Jesus Christ came to dwell among us sinners in order to heal us, to forgive us, to save us, to lift us up once again to our primal glory, and indeed far higher: He came to exalt our human nature to the very throne…

What Modern Churches Are Missing

Recently, a well-known Orthodox monastic and academic shared some of her thoughts on 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, which passage I will now quote: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually-immoral people; not at all meaning the sexually-immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to depart from the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any…

On Secular Churches and the Mystical Sacrifice

A headline caught my eye several days ago: “They Tried to Start a Church Without God. For a While, It Worked.” While the concept of a church without God is beyond doubt bizarre, it nevertheless also makes perfect sense. In our age of loneliness, amidst the near-total collapse of practically every traditional form of community and social structure, to abandon Christianity is to hurtle oneself into the void foretold by Nietzsche when…

Not Yours, But You: Almsgiving in the Modern Age

In the Gospels there are many “hard sayings” of our Savior. Of these hard sayings, there are also many which have been all but forgotten — even by those who sincerely strive to be faithful Christians. Of these hard and forgotten sayings, I would like to call our attention today to one in particular: When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your…