I was raised to revere the Holy Scriptures. God’s Word was imprinted on my soul at a very early age because my family went often and repeatedly to the divine services offered at our local church. It was important that the church we attended not be merely a place that taught good morals or provided wholesome fellowship but believed in the Bible as God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. Too many churches that do not take the Bible seriously enough become mere social clubs, a place to converse with one’s fellow man, but not a place to meet God.
Am reading a fantastic book for Lent by a woman who serves in ministry in the Anglican Church in their home parish in Pittsburgh, PA. She is another C.S. Lewis in her ability to take complex spiritual experiences and capture them with poignant and contemporary images. Her personal honesty and vulnerability make the work eminently readable and relatable. Tish Harrison Warren is author of Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep. It is half spiritual memoir (my favorite genre of writing at this time of my life) and half prayer manual. The structure is based on the Compline service in the Book of Common Prayer, a service the author has grown particularly drawn to and even dependent upon.
Dear students, faculty, and staff of Boston Trinity Academy, it is a great honor for me to be with you today. I was asked to deliver a presentation entitled “Introduction to Orthodoxy” and I have dressed as fully as I could for the occasion. Inner cassock, outer wide-sleeved cassock, and the funny hat. There are two reasons I dressed like this. The first reason is for you to see what an Orthodox priest looks like and not be too scared next time you see one. The second reason is that people often mistake this look and the outward cultural elements of Orthodoxy for its essence. Several communities here in the United States, such as the Lebanese, the Russians, and the Greeks, use Orthodoxy as a banner under which they unite to project their cultural heritage and distinctiveness. Some think Orthodoxy is about the glory of Hagia Sophia, the iconic cathedral of Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul. Or they think it’s about long robes, beards, intimidating monks, and Byzantine Chant. Some believe Orthodoxy is an ethnic religion. “Are you a Greek priest?,” they often ask me. “When is Greek Easter this year?” “Can I come to your church if I am not Greek or Russian?” More tragically, Orthodox nations sometimes exploit their religious heritage to promote political agendas and even wage war on neighboring countries. OK, I’ll take off the funny hat now, so it doesn’t mess my hair!
At the beginning of another journey through Great Lent, I would like to offer this review of a book I recently finished. Please forgive and pray for me a sinner, and may our good God have mercy on us and forgive us all. Veliki Post! Kali Tessarakosti! Blessed Lenten journey to you all!
Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s [God’s] ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever-increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”
A better description of our current culture’s infatuation with sex and the diminishing returns of unfettered promiscuity has never been so well put. And now with the publication of her most recent spiritual memoir, award-winning author Carolyn Weber describes how to reorder these disordered pleasures and loves in line with what St. Augustine called the City of God. In Sex and the City of God (SCG), Caro (as her close friends call her) provides a personal and powerful roadmap through a variety of sexual temptations including idolization of the beloved, casual hookups with friends, and one of the most devastating of all temptations, adultery. With a sharp wit and creative literary inspiration, this English professor narrates the details of her own love life and illumines all of her various relationships with the eternal truths of Scripture and the Holy Fathers.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:11)
“If there were only one book left in the Bible, only one chapter, yea only one verse, it would have to come from Romans chapter 6.” I was used to hearing such hyperboles from our pastor and teacher growing up, so when he made this particular declaration, it did not make much of an impression on me at the time. I mean, if I had to lay my bets on the most seminal verse in Scripture, I might have chosen something about love like the ever-popular football verse, John 3:16. But this spiritual father of mine was closer to the truth than I realized. For the next time I heard his declaration ringing in my ears was the first time I heard that chapter situated in the very heart of the church year. Continue reading →