So, I have a new blog now! As in, I now have two blogs; I’m not replacing this one. I’ve been asked to be a contributing blogger on the new website OrthodoxWest.com. This new site will include blogs, media, and articles on various topics related to the Western Rite in the Orthodox Church, particularly in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Continue reading →
Domine labia mea aperies: Et os meum annunciabit laudem tuam.
The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim his handiwork. Trees and mountains can sing to God together, and even the rocks could start crying out. But I can’t seem to open my mouth to pray.
The phenomenon, I’m assured, is not unique to me. Prayer is hard to do. Continue reading →
I’m generally not for the new trend of bio-pics about currently living people (Barry, Snowden, The Iron Lady, The Social Network, The Theory of Everything). While depicting figures from the past brings them back to “life” in a fictional sense, depicting living figures seems to me to be robbing them of their own ongoing, real drama in this world. Their story isn’t yet finished, so it’s objectionable to try to tell it—even a portion of it—because the end of their narrative, the conclusion that is necessary to cast the final light over all the rest of it, hasn’t yet come to pass. But I’ve made an exception in watching the Netflix original series The Crown, because the living figure which it depicts is exceptional. Continue reading →
A pang of emotion shot through my stomach the other day—a stab of mysterious longing that unbalanced me as I was returning to the office from my lunch break. Transcendental yearning overwhelmed my faculties in the parking lot, and under the weight of my own soul, saturated with qualia, my knees weakened. I had a soul attack. Continue reading →
In October the nights get longer and the air gets colder. For the ancient agrarian Celts in the British Isles, this time marked the end of the growing season for crops. They would have to harvest as much food as they could to last them through the winter, but if there was a poor yield, the anxiety of that problem would be settling in right about at the end of October. Winter, that cold and dark time of year when the danger of sickness and starvation is at its height, would just now be reaching the tips of its icy fingers into people’s lives, and the dread of death, even the memory of death in previous winters, would intensify. With this recalled memory of death, the veil between this world and the invisible one was either imagined to be, or else truly perceived to be by those with the sight to see it, made thinner. Continue reading →
One night in 2008 I awoke in the middle of the night to a strange sound. I was still groggy, and as I blinked my eyes to try to get them to focus in the darkness of the room, the sound became louder. All at once I was inexplicably certain that the sound was that of massive, feathered wings beating—not as if they were in flight, but just as if they were flapping for the effect of their sound, since they were clearly flapping in the same place: at the foot of my bed. Continue reading →
In a recent post I summarized my Faith journey into the Orthodox Church. I wanted to include a section in that post on the very important topic of the Eucharist in order to highlight maybe the most striking difference between what I grew up believing and what classical Christianity teaches. I didn’t include it in that post because it would have made it much too long, but I did save what I had written about it. That section is what follows here: Continue reading →
On this blog, I try to emphasize the importance of stories. The stories we tell shape our minds and hearts — they shape the very way we perceive the world. And when those stories are about our own history, what’s at stake in the telling of them is both our worldview and our sense of self. Telling the story of Western civilization is a tall order: that story must weave characters, events, institutions, and geography into a coherent order with a coherent logic. It must not only describe events, but imply causalities; it must not only describe characters’ actions, but suggest their motives. Otherwise, the history may be factual, but it will not be meaningful. To be useful to us, it must be a story. Continue reading →
Back in 2011 I started writing a series of posts entitled “According to the Whole” which was focused on exploring the issue of Christian disunity and where I was looking for possible solutions. The posts were personal and were informed by my own intellectual and experiential journey, but they weren’t overtly autobiographical. I used them to ask questions, make diagnoses, and offer prescriptions in a general sense, but I didn’t use them to tell much of my story. Now my story which spawned those questions and thoughts has reached a definitive point, even a conclusion of sorts, and I want to finally tell it. Continue reading →
David Bentley Hart on the nihilism behind our idea of freedom:
“We live in an age whose chief value has been determined, by overwhelming consensus, to be the inviolable liberty of personal volition: the right to decide for ourselves what we shall believe, want, need, own, or serve. The ‘will’, we habitually assume, is sovereign to the degree that it is obedient to nothing else, and is free to the degree that it is truly spontaneous and constrained by nothing greater than itself. This, for many of us, is the highest good imaginable. And a society guided by such beliefs must, at least implicitly, embrace and subtly advocate a very particular moral metaphysics — that is, the non-existence of any transcendent standard of ‘The Good’ that has the power or the right to order our desires toward a higher end.Continue reading →
In the Western Tradition of the Church, yesterday was Trinity Sunday. This always comes the Sunday after Pentecost, and it celebrates the reality that God has been revealed to us as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Eastern Tradition recognizes that this complete revelation of God occurs on Pentecost, when all three persons of the Trinity have been revealed to us, and so Pentecost doubles as Trinity Sunday in the East . Continue reading →
Are you a naturalist or a supernaturalist? That is, do you believe the physical cosmos is all there is and ever has been, or do you allow for some other nature, even transcendent reality, above or behind our nature? If you’re not sure which you are, or if you’re not very confident about why you are whichever you are, you could read the books and papers and articles of philosophers and thinkers on the subject going back to the beginning of early Modern naturalism and up to our contemporary time to include the broadest scope of thought on the subject. Or you could just read the opening chapters of C.S. Lewis’ Miracles.Continue reading →
If you’ve ever played sports or competed in any way on some kind of team, then you know what it’s like to form a bond with people over a shared purpose or goal. It’s a strange dynamic: a communal identity may form, a pride for the group and its members, a desire to see it succeed. Complete strangers can quickly form deep connections when they’re forced to cooperate to achieve a mutual end — especially when that end is outward oriented, such that a team’s identity depends on a context beyond itself, like a marketplace or a league…or a global stage. Continue reading →
The fourth Sunday in Lent in the Western tradition is special. It’s known by several names: it’s been called The Sunday of the Five Loaves from the Gospel passage for the day (John 6:1-14); it’s also been called Rose Sunday because the clerical and alter vestments change color from violet to rose — but why the change in color in the first place? Another name for this Sunday gives us a clue: Laetare Sunday (Laetare meaning: Rejoice).
The Introit or entrance chant for this Sunday begins in Latin: Laetare Jerusalem, et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam. (Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her). This chant is taken from Isaiah 66:10. The call to rejoice here in the middle of this season of repentance is meant as an encouragement to us, a comforting reminder of the tenderness, the nurturing, even the motherliness of God. Continue reading →
When we see, hear, smell, or feel something, what’s happening? How do we take in information about the world around us, and how does that information get to us?
When I smell the fragrance of new azalea blooms in my yard, actual microscopic particles emanating from the blooms themselves are wafting through the air, entering my nose, and interacting with my olfactory cells. Anytime you smell anything, there’s physical contact in the form of floating particles occurring between you and the source of the smell. Continue reading →
Last month, two Douglas County, Georgia residents were sentenced to notably steep jail time for riding around in a Confederate-flag-laden truck and shouting at, threatening, and pointing guns at black motorists, shoppers, and attendees of an 8 year old’s birthday party. They were participating in a “Respect the Flag” group which, in no uncertain terms, was explicitly promoting white supremacy. But the young couple in question, Kayla Rae Norton, 25, and Jose Ismael Torres, 26, had actually threatened violence, even crashing an African American birthday party with guns drawn.
I can’t begin to imagine the terror the parents and children at that party felt, but I’m glad that terror was translated into a twenty year sentence with thirteen to serve for Torres and a fifteen year sentence with six to serve for Norton. But the judge, William McClain, indicated his verdict was not merely in response to the level of trauma experienced by the victims, but because what the two defendants had committed was a hate crime. Continue reading →
The strange saga of Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP leader who was outed by her parents for pretending to be African American, is continuing with news that she has changed her identity –becoming Nkechi Amare Diallo– and has written a new memoir called In Full Color. In 2015 when Dolezal became a national talking point, when her utterly bizarre success at creating an identity as an ethnic woman of mixed race (both her parents are actually white) fighting the fight of a civil rights leader and champion of black progress was exposed, the popular verdict was that she was an imposter. Here was a white girl trying to be black. Darkening her skin, wearing her hair in dreads, and adopting language and clothing to intentionally identify herself with African American culture. Continue reading →
The Christian landscape in the world today is multifaceted, varied, and sometimes jaggedly divided. In a world where global news coverage mentions “persecuted Christians in the Middle East” in one breath and “the Christian Right” of America in the next, we may begin to suspect that the simple shorthand “Christian” isn’t quite sufficient for describing the sundry groups it’s supposed to cover. In many places in the world (in the Middle East, for example), the name “Christian” may imply both a distinct culture and a distinct race or ethnicity. It’s beyond my scope to enumerate instances where that’s the case, so instead I want to limit the meaning of “Christian” here to a belief system, a philosophical-religious position. In terms of the content of the belief system (and in some cases the history or tradition of that system), we can divide the Christian landscape of today into some broad distinctions, just to help us navigate better how we use the term. This isn’t any official taxonomy, just some conceptual categories offered for your edification. Continue reading →
Cuss words. Every language has them. And every speaker of their language knows them, even though not everyone says them (or at least not all of them, because as we all know, not all cuss words are created equal). But what are they, exactly? What makes a word a cuss word?
I think we can broadly divide all cuss words into two categories: the vulgar and the metaphysical. By “vulgar” I don’t mean anything bad, only lowly, non-elevated, or even common. These words deal with the physical and bodily aspects of life — the things that make us more like the animals than the angels. The metaphysical words, however, show that we aren’t so very different from the angels. Continue reading →