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
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
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
A 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
A concept that is so integrated into our subconscious that we do not even realize its presence within us is the modern lie regarding the progress of humanity. This legend states that over time, mankind is progressing and leaving the old, oppressive ways behind.
Certainly we have seen forms of progress in the past fifty years regarding technology and some civil issues. But do these things confirm that we are collectively evolving as a society? Or are we simply making a few corrections with one hand while driving society deeper into depravity with the other? Continue reading The Tale of Moral Progress
Western Christianity’s message: I grew up mostly in Nondenominational Protestant churches. Like most Americans, I learned sin is an offense against God. Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s rules and were kicked out of Eden and later died. Today, we continue the viscous cycle of sin and death because we continue to break God’s rules.
It is taught that God, in his supreme holiness, cannot endure the presence of sin. Therefore, in the ultimate act of love, he sent his son to die on the cross in our place and wipe out our debt against him for our breaking of divine commandments.
In Eastern Orthodoxy, our theology is based on experience of God rather than philosophizing about God. Our dogmas are based on the incarnation of Christ and the revelations that God has given mankind through His patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and saints.
We appeal to the authority of these figures because we trust that they have obtained illumination and theosis. They not only know about God, but they know God through experience.
Now, when we say “they experienced God” we don’t mean a really warm, fuzzy feeling when they prayed. Nor are we referring to an exuberant joy or even tears when they were worshiping. Not even a deep peace that guided their words and actions throughout their entire lives.
Most of those things are commendable and should be a part of our own lives; however, the holy fathers and mothers of the Church experienced God in a much deeper way. Many beheld God through their nous (the spiritual eye of the heart) and had a very real encounter that resulted in union with Him. This type of encounter with the Divine usually takes many years of spiritual discipline in cleansing the body and soul of sinful passions and ridding the heart of all evil and malice. Continue reading An unholy identity crisis