October 20, 2021

The Burning Bush There is a burning bush at the heart of all things, Maximus says. (I’m reading “Difficulty 10” again.).  If we don’t turn aside to see it, we will walk by and never meet the God who came looking for us in this moment. The good news is that the very next moment offers another invitation.  The one who contemplates God, Maximus tells us, unites within herself the two realms, the intelligible and the sensible. Or let’s say the… Read more

October 16, 2021

What does it mean, Christianly speaking, to have faith?  When I was 20 I went on a study abroad trip to Russia, recently reorganized after the collapse of the Soviet empire. I attended several Orthodox churches, all of which presented this Midwestern holiness boy with a strange new world. The first of these Sundays I recall watching a small girl ask her mother to pick her up so she could kiss her favorite icon in the back of the church. … Read more

October 13, 2021

Is there theological significance to belonging to a place? This question is on my mind today, since my wife and I closed on a house–and the earth it sits on–yesterday. Is that place holy? Can we become holier by living there?   Land ownership in the U.S. is random. I was born and grew into sufficient privilege to convince banks that my income is reliable. My ancestors won a generations-long war with various Native tribes. Socialism never took hold as… Read more

October 9, 2021

The posts in this column contemplate our diagonal connection to God. I have written here, I mean, about the way that our life in time slopes upward into the eternal life of God. Is that too optimistic? Can these contemplations bear the weight of suffering? Should we even try to offer a meaning of suffering? Let’s take a moment to consider how the diagonal way might also be the way of the cross. Why Do We Talk about Suffering? There’s… Read more

October 6, 2021

Sin, Maximus the Confessor (d. 662 A. D.) tells us, is wanting the things of God without God, or before God gives them. And this is impossible. Sin is impossible, or at least the set up is. It’s wanting a good thing in the only way that is sure to deny our enjoyment of it. It’s like loving marshmallows so much that we eat 20 and vomit. My son did that once. Theosis Gone Wrong That archetypal story of sin in… Read more

October 2, 2021

Contemplating God The posts in this column speak, directly or indirectly, about contemplating God. But what is that? And how is it done? Contemplation is a practice of faith. In some ways not just a practice, but the practice. In fact it is often listed in its own category. The habits of faith–prayer, almsgiving, etc.–have as their goal the contemplation of God.  Again, how? Should I just go sit in a comfortable chair for 20 minutes and imagine the divine? … Read more

September 30, 2021

What does it mean to be true to ourselves? Should I aim to speak “my truth”? Falstaff’s Dilemma One of my favorite scenes from Shakespeare’s plays involves Sir John Falstaff, the corpulent and hedonistic knight who appears in various plays. In this scene he pretends to be King Henry in an impromptu bit of tavern theater. The theatrics (yes, a play within the play) begin because the actual king is on his way to visit his son Prince Harry. Falstaff… Read more

September 29, 2021

In Exodus, when God reveals God’s proper true name to Moses, God makes up a new verb tense. Yahweh: I Am/Was/Will Be Who (or-What-or-That) I Am/Was/Will Be. I suspect Moses is, at least, for a moment, not all that glad he asked. Israel’s God’s name is not “I am whoever I happen to be right now,” or “I will be exactly the one I was,” or “I will be in the future whomever I want to be at that point.”… Read more

September 28, 2021

Where should we look if we wish to see the hand of God at work? Another way of asking the question: if divine revelation is happening in the world, how would we know? Where divine revelation happens We might want to start by noticing things around us: the rising of the sun, the spring thaw. The overwhelming scale of the universe. The moment a sickness leaves a body, or that a check “miraculously” clears the bank.  Yes. Maybe.  But when… Read more

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