Author Archives: Stephen

At Sea in America

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The Declaration of Independence is an astounding document. It’s short (you should read it). The majority of its content is actually an enumeration of “injuries and usurpations” by the British monarch King George III against the American Colonies, but the most interesting part is the first three sentences which give a rationale for why it is necessary for “one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.” The following “unalienable rights” that the Declaration lists—Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—would become the shorthand for what America stands for, and would be the lifeblood of the next great document to be produced by the new country: the Constitution. G.K. Chesterton once observed, “America is alone in having begun her national career with a definite explanation of what she intended to be. And this is an experiment of the highest historical and philosophical interest.” Continue reading

The Pro-Choice Motive

A recent referendum in Ireland followed the popular vote of the people there and lifted a constitutional ban on abortions when the mother’s life is not endangered. The legislation has yet to be drafted, but it’s likely to permit abortions now for the broadest of reasons, up to three or six months—who knows. I kept tabs on news stories there during the run up to this vote, and from what I witnessed in pictures of rallies, saw in comment sections and read in published articles from both sides, the pro-life side was, on the whole, more civil and polite, and the pro-choice side was, on the whole, more rancorous, insulting, and boastful. I’ve seen the same thing here in the States. In the visible public square, the proponents of the pro-choice movement behave more poorly than their opposition, have ruder signs and more vulgar slogans. But clearly, the pro-choice camp is the majority in the entire Western world now. And I don’t believe all of them are the rancorous rally-ers and picketers in the images featured in news articles. Continue reading

The Tools of the Spiritual Craft

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From Chapter 4 of the Rule of Saint Benedict:

First of all, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Then the following: you are not to kill, not to commit adultery; you are not to steal nor to covet; you are not to bear false witness. You must honor everyone, and never do to another what you would not want done to yourself.

Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ; discipline your body; do not pamper yourself, but love fasting. You must relieve the lot of the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and bury the dead. Go to help the troubled and console the sorrowing. Continue reading

New Blog!

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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

Open Thou My Lips

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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

Monarchy*

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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

Soul Attack

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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

The Things that Go Bump

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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

It Happened at Night

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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

How The Early Church Viewed The Eucharist

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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

The Age of Reason and The Age of Faith

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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

The Last First Step

Last First Step

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

Perfect Consumers

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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

Is God An Old Man?

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Or, A Primer on Drawing the Trinity

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

Whence Is All the Fervour?

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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

Team America

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 Mothering of God


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

Is Consciousness Physical?

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