The Chalcedonian Cure to the Illness of Confusion and Division

In life, we often feel confused and divided. We are not quite sure what we feel, what we think, or even what we want.  At times, our aims and our ambitions are at odds. And there does not seem to be an easy answer. In fact, there are no easy answers. But there is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" revealed in Christ Jesus. In the person of Christ, we find an answer worth living for and worth dying for. It's an answer beyond our understanding that nevertheless brings clarity to our minds, calmness to our heart, and love to our souls. Today, Orthodox Christians celebrate the fathers of the … [Read more...]

“…The Hand of God is held out in blessing for all who seek Him…”: On Seeking and Receiving the Blessing of Priests

It doesn’t require much proof-texting to show that in the Christian life, we should seek to walk humbly before God and our neighbor, strive to be as innocent children, try to acquire the fear of God, attempt to have a sense of gratitude for God’s blessings, and endeavor to have a sense of His holy presence in our lives. But for this to take place in day-to-day living, we need to be especially attentive to details in the life of piety, details that may seem not so significant when taken separately, but when taken as a whole can fill the very air we breath with a sweet spiritual fragrance that … [Read more...]

Ideal Selves, Ideal Images, or the Image of God

We all have our own stories about who we are, stories that are part fact and part fiction, with the dividing line between the two being less than clear. In order to feel good about ourselves, we sometimes make these stories into an ideal image of who we should be or who we wish we were. Unfortunately, that ideal image can make us, often unwittingly, arrogant in the original sense of the word, arrogating or appropriating qualities that we don’t really fully hold. And also regrettably, this ideal image has very little to do with either the ideals of the Gospel or with the image of God, but … [Read more...]

Christ’s Ascension and a New Vision of our Life

The period between Ascension and Pentecost provides us with a glimpse of how we are to deal with the transitory nature of this life with its daily pressures, unavoidable disappointments, and prolonged suffering. The Feast of the Ascension is one of the twelve great feasts of the year in the Orthodox Church.  It is an important feast not so much in the commemoration of the Lord’s bodily departure from this earth, for He Himself promised us that He would not leave us orphaned and that He would send us His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth Who is everywhere present and fills all … [Read more...]

Keeping an Even Keel in the Spiritual Life

In Ancient Christian Wisdom I employ many nautical metaphors and apply them to the spiritual life.  There are many similarities between a healthy life of the spirit and navigating a body of water. In both the spiritual life and nautical expeditions a course must be charted, adjustments must be made, and the craft must maintain an even keel—a nautical term for keeping a boat upright—so that it does not heel over on this side or that.  So too in the spiritual life, the ship of our soul must be kept at an even keel by not allowing our emotions or life circumstances to heel us over to either … [Read more...]

Divergent Interpretations of the Same Statistics: Differing Suggestions from Christianity and Sociology

Statistics often present a sobering mirror of our society and the problems that people face. A friend of mine recently sent me an interesting New York Times article by Ross Douthat entitled, “All the Lonely People.”  Douthat notes that since 2000, the suicide rate among men aged 35-54 in the United States has increased 30% while the rate for men in their 50’s increased 50%.  This is indeed a disturbing trend.  Douthat cites University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox who perceives a link between the rise in suicides and weakened social ties as well as economic difficulties. While … [Read more...]

Life is Not Always As It Appears

For Christians, the title of this post speaks to divine faith and the spiritual realm, which is just as real as the empirical world, although not as readily evident for those who rely solely on their physical senses and whose spiritual senses are so dulled that their noetic eyes cannot see by the light of faith and the light of Christ.  This may be seen in today’s Gospel concerning the Myrrh-Bearing Women.  They were relying on more than their senses in the midst of unspeakable grief. Their Beloved Master whom they had followed and on whom they had set all their hopes had been crucified and … [Read more...]

Let Us Purify our Senses that We Might See Christ

Seeing is believing. But what does it mean to see? Most of the work of seeing takes place not through the eyes, but throughout the mind that conjures up distance and difference from light reflecting and refracting in thousands of ways. And to make sense out of light’s perpetual dance, the human brain needs to allocate immense resources to the visual cortex. And yet, the light pouring forth from the tomb of Christ and renewing the vision of the faithful is of another order, beyond sense and beyond thought, and hence, as radical as it may sound to all of us under the sway of physical … [Read more...]

Baptism, Faith, and the Death and Resurrection of Christ

“Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” In one of his Paschal discourses to his monastic community Saint Symeon the New Theologian explains how the Cross, the Tomb, and the third day Resurrection of Christ are mysteries that … [Read more...]

“Running with Patience the Race Set Before Us”: Asceticism and the Spiritual Life

Lent is referred to so often as a journey that it has almost become a cliché. Probably, the word marathon would be more descriptive, for the ascetic life that Lent encourages the faithful to embrace calls us to move a significant distance and at quick, but steady speed. There are times when the way ahead may seem discouragingly far. There are times when we would rather walk leisurely, than run, but as bearers of the Gospel, we have a message far more important than Plutarch’s Phiddipides, that in Christ we can be transformed, that in Christ we can move mountains, that in Christ we can “run … [Read more...]