The Zeal of the Forerunner

Today we celebrate the Beheading of the Forerunner, one of only three great feasts of the Church year not dedicated either to the Lord or the Mother of God. And despite the sorrowful nature of this day’s events, nevertheless it remains a celebration — albeit one which we keep with great spiritual sobriety, observing a strict fast even when it falls (as it does this year) on a Sunday. Why do we…

The Forgotten Virtue of Stability

When people think about the vows that a monk or a nun takes before God (if they think about such things at all), three likely come to mind: chastity, poverty, and obedience. Such vows are quite striking, since in the modern world these three things are no longer generally considered to be virtues common to the life of all Christians, exemplified in monasticism chiefly by the degree to which they are put…

Keeping the Sabbath

Today is perhaps not the most auspicious day to publish any words. Having just served the Vesperal Divine Liturgy for Holy Saturday, wherein is sung the somber yet supremely beautiful hymn “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” I find myself in danger of falling under my own condemnation. So I will at least try to keep my words brief. In the center of the church the Lord, the life of all, lies…

The Way Home

My brothers and sisters, we have reached today the threshold of Great Lent; tomorrow the “gates of repentance” will once again be opened to us, in answer to our solemn prayers during the Sunday Matins services of the past month. This Sunday has three names. The first is “Cheesefare Sunday,” since it is the last day on which we will eat dairy until the night of the Lord’s Pascha. It is also…

To Love God Above All

Today we celebrate the memory of the Venerable Herman of Alaska, the patron saint of North America. There is so much that is praiseworthy in the life of this man of God that one hardly knows where to begin. He was an ascetic who dwelt as an anchorite in the forests from the time of his early childhood. He was a zealous missionary who, like the righteous Abraham, left his home and…

Will Beauty Save the World?

“Such beauty has power,” Adelaida said hotly. “You can overturn the world with such beauty.” –The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky Perhaps the most famous phrase from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s quite voluminous body of writing is the statement that “beauty will save the world.” Much ink has been spilled concerning this phrase by all manner of critics and commentators, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike. And without doubt it is extremely important that we Orthodox…

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…

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 Coronavirus and the Cross of Christ

We have reached today the midpoint of the Fast. Half of the struggle is behind us, and the second half still lies ahead. And seeing our weakness, seeing our faintness of heart and the ease with which we can tire and grow despondent, on this Sunday our mother the Holy Church mercifully offers us hope and refreshment, comfort and consolation. But the form which this takes is not at all what “common…