The Butterfly and the Cross

When reflecting upon a short video I watched on the transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly, I was struck by an interesting fact: the caterpillar digests itself and turns into ooze.

As a caterpillar hangs from a branch entering into its next life phase, its exterior hardens, transforming into the familiar cocoon.  However, its interior does the opposite.  For a period of days, the creature that was once a caterpillar turns into goo with its digestive enzymes breaking down its body.  Miraculously, the pile of ooze encased inside the cocoon will transform into a beautiful butterfly.

In this process, I see a reflection of our transformation from lowly creatures crawling about in hardships and sin to flying creatures of beauty.  I’m sure thousands of Christians have written about this parallel.  But the thing that caught my interest was the pile of goo.

That pile of goo represents everything that the caterpillar had been through and assimilated into itself during its short life.  When it becomes a butterfly, the goo is not removed with something else taking its place, but rather the goo is the very material used to transform the lowly caterpillar into a butterfly.

I see the same with us.  All our lives we accumulate these sinful passions, terrible experiences, abusive situations, anger and hate: in a word, a big sticky pile of goo that seems to have no redemptive value. Continue reading The Butterfly and the Cross

Unveiled Holiness

There exists a tendency in our American culture to think of ourselves as being on familiar terms with God.  I am a friend of God proclaims the chorus of one popular Protestant “praise” song; Jesus is my homeboy states a trendy shirt design.  Our Lord is much more comfortable if he is friend, homeboy, or Buddy Christ, and God the Father if he is little more than a senile grandpa upstairs who blindly loves all of his little grandchildren.  A god that demands nothing from us and only exists to make us feel good is wildly popular, but is a false god created in our own image.

Many Christian groups have created a false sense of familiarity with God by removing awe and reverence from Christian worship.  They have banished the priesthood (after all, we’re all priests anyway, right?); stripped the walls of sacred art; replaced a service focused on the presence of Christ with one focused on a sermon; and replaced architectural beauty with either four walls and a pulpit or something that looks more like a nightclub.  All of this removes from us a proper sense of reverence. Continue reading Unveiled Holiness

You Are Not Your Sexuality

The modern person is experiencing a bit of an identity crisis.  There is a subconscious question being asked, “Is my sexuality an expression of my innermost being, of what it means to be human?”  The marketing departments of large corporations and numerous publishers are pushing us to answer that question with a firm “Yes!”  We are worth far more money to them that way.

But what if the marketers, the publishers, and pop-culture have it wrong?  What if our sexuality is quite insignificant to our humanity?  Then it seems to me we would find that, as a culture, we have been traveling down the wrong road for quite some time.  When traveling down the incorrect path, it is wise to stop and search for clearer direction before moving any further.  Otherwise “progress” turns into regress. Continue reading You Are Not Your Sexuality

Understanding Theosis

Perhaps the most scandalous doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church for heterodox Christians is that of theosis, which is often translated as divinization.  It is the means of salvation that has been taught since the time of the apostles, but most Christians have never heard of it, and even some Orthodox are unfamiliar with it.

BECOMING GODS

It is written, Ye are gods, in Psalm 81/82 and in 2nd Peter 1:4 we are called to be partakers in the divine nature.  As I have written in the past, we cannot partake in the divine nature without either pulling that nature down to something less than divine or being elevated to it.

St. Athanasius states,  The Word of God… assumed humanity that we might become God, [1] St. Macarius wrote that those Christians who struggle and conquer are kings and lords and gods [2], and countless other fathers from both East and West have taught this doctrine. Continue reading Understanding Theosis

Remember Who You Are

One of my favorite movies as a child was Disney’s The Lion King.  In the movie, there is a character, Simba, who has left his royal family to be raised by a pig and a meerkat.  He fills his days with play and singing “Hakuna Matata,” which means “no worries,” but in actuality, is practiced as “no responsibility and no need to ever grow up.”  He pursues a life of selfish play, which is interrupted when his father, who is in the heavens, reminds him to “Remember who you are.”

We, like Simba, have left the divine royalty and sonship to which we have been called and have wasted our lives in fruitless play, sinful passions, and the pursuit of the “good life” this world offers.  Our Father in Heaven is calling us to remember who we are, and in the words of St. Macarius, I find that reminder.  He says, Continue reading Remember Who You Are

Not Naked, But Clothed in Glory

Harrowing of Hades Italy 1200 -croppedThe serpent found a second Eve in the Egyptian woman, and with words of flattery he sought to make Joseph fall.  But, leaving his garment behind him, Joseph fled from sin; and like the first man before his disobedience, though naked he was not ashamed.  (Bridegroom Matins, Canticle Nine).

Frequently during the course of Great Lent, as well as Holy Week, we look upon the example of the Old Testament patriarch Joseph.  Earlier in the same service, we sing,

Jacob lamented the loss of Joseph, but his righteous son was seated in a chariot and honored as a king.  For he was not enslaved to the pleasures of Egypt, but he was glorified by God who sees the hearts of men and bestows upon them a crown incorruptible. (Canticle One)

And again,

[Jacob’s] wise and glorious son was enslaved in body but kept his soul free from bondage, and became lord over all Egypt.

And lastly, we reflect upon a different type of robe: Continue reading Not Naked, But Clothed in Glory

Contemplating the Face of Christ

Face of Christ Holy Napkin Towel ShroudA friend recently asked me, “What does it mean to contemplate the face of Christ?”  Here is an attempt to provide an answer:

That is a difficult question and I honestly cannot give you an answer that is based from my own experience. But, God willing, I will give you something that will help out at least a little bit.

First of all, contemplation (as I have come to understand it in Orthodoxy) has nothing to do with the imagination. So, we do not picture Christ in our minds in order to contemplate Him and His face. Doing so ultimately leads to idolatry because Continue reading Contemplating the Face of Christ