The knowledge of God, generally spoken of in a very experiential manner, is an absolute foundation in Orthodox theology. Nothing replaces it — no dogmatic formula, no Creed, not even Scripture — though Orthodoxy would see none of these things as separate from the knowledge of God. But the questions I have received are very apt. In a culture that is awash in “experience,” what do the Orthodox mean when we speak of such things and what do we mean by such knowledge of God?
Blog Tag: Spirituality
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The Truth of Orthodoxy is a theological essay by Nikolai Berdyaev (1874–1948) about what makes Orthodoxy different from all other Christian Churches. In beautiful and nuanced language, Berdyaev examines the revelation of the Holy Spirit throughout Orthodox history, the holy mysteries in the interactions between the material and spiritual, and the liturgical means of teaching people about salvation and the life after death. In this excerpt, we learn why the Orthodox Church has changed so little over the centuries.
John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Christ, began his preaching with the message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt 3:2). That was Christ’s first message too! (Matt 4:17). In the New Testament, the word translated into English as ‘repentance’ comes from the Greek ‘metanoia,’ which means ‘to change one’s mind’ or ‘to turn around.’ To repent is to have a change of heart. An idea has developed in some non-Orthodox circles that repentance is a unique, one-time activity that occurs when first making a commitment to Jesus as Lord.
This last week I have been meditating on the difference between the ethics of the Old Covenant and those of the New. Old Covenant ethics, for the most part, is grounded in behavioural rules. “Do not murder.” “Tithe the increase of one’s flock.” “Do not plant mixed seeds in a field.” “Send a menstruating woman outside the camp.” Under this system, observing the set of prescribed behaviours constitutes righteousness, regardless of how the rule-observance affects human flourishing.
The genius of Orthodoxy is its ability to grasp such apparently paradoxical teachings as: God is one and three. Christ is fully God and fully man. The faithful are both sinners and saints. The following article, by Abbot Tryphon of the All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, explores the reality of the holiness of the Church in the face of apparent evidence to the contrary.
The world presents happiness as the ultimate good, and the pursuit of happiness as the ultimate human right. Philosophers extol happiness as the greatest virtue, and a famous and powerful nation was founded to serve its attainment.1 Yet experience shows us that direct pursuit of happiness leaves an aftertaste of misery.
Ever since the Beatles travelled to Rishikesh to learn at the feet of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Westerners have been attracted to Eastern spirituality. Western Christianity has seemed artificial, lifeless and powerless; while Eastern spirituality has a life-changing broadness about it. Below, Monk-Priest Damascene traces the path from Western desire to the East's authentic and life-changing answer.
When someone’s spiritual practices runs beyond the measure of grace that they have been given, a void is created in their soul. Either it will lead them to sin, or it will make them perverse, proud, hard, and unmerciful. Let’s learn some more about how to encounter God.
Many Orthodox prayer masters talk about three powers of the soul — mind, will and heart. St. Theophan the Recluse describes how to educate each power of the soul. The Christian life of virtue depends on educating and training each power. Educating the Mind We educate the mind (the intellectual power) through study of the faith - scripture, ancient church writers, and helpful books.
Why would God sing? The question may sound strange and yet it is said in Zephaniah 3:17 that “He will rejoice over thee with singing.” I first noticed this verse when I was a very young Christian and have puzzled about it for nearly forty years. Equally puzzling to our modern way of thought is the question, “Why does anybody sing?” I have been to plenty of operas and have to admit that even the ones in English need subtitles — singing does not necessarily make something more easily understood. And yet we sing.