The Paradox of a Good Friday

Christ in Hades

“Keep your mind in hell, and despair not.” This admonition from St. Silouan is appropriate for Good Friday, when most of Christendom commemorates Christ’s descent into hell, where he shatters its captives’ chains. Many modern Western theologians have abandoned this teaching, but even if you reject it you are still, if you are a Christian, …

In my dying time

So I’ll just begin with an admission that I know it’s crazy and macabre and most certainly narcissistic. What I’ve been doing in my essays lately, however, is forgetting, for just a little while, that someone might read them. Just to see what happens. To push the boundaries and whatnot. And when I set aside …

Single-minded

Maybe you’ll like my latest Image essay, about the struggle for single-mindedness among we sophisticated, double-minded types. Here’s an excerpt: “The soul will follow the body,” is how Fr. Stephen Freeman summarizes a point made by the Christian monk Evagrius in the fourth century A.D. Do what is right, and your resistant soul will learn. …

Letters to camp

My youngest boys, Isaac and Isaiah (10 and 7), depart today for a week-long summer camp, which is a cause for excitement on their part, and quiet trepidation on mine. “Keep your money in a stinky sock,” I advise them. “If somebody picks on you, that’s the opportunity to forgive and turn the other cheek.” I …

Legos in the Deep

Like many, I passed this spring through Lent. It felt longer than in past years, because there has been a kind of Lenten work being done within me, it seems, since last fall. Nothing terrible, nothing traumatic, just a gradual scraping away of the soul’s fat, like miserable Eustace when Aslan sinks his claws into …

The beast without

“Isaac’s being a jerk,” my seven year-old, Isaiah, says about his older brother. They have been sledding over new-fallen snow. “Why do you say that?” “Because he keeps knocking me off my sled.” “Why do you think he did that?” I ask. I’ve been trying to help my children consider how sometimes they incite one another. “Because …

When He is Silent

A reader whose younger sister recently died wrote me to ask how I endured, during the time of my daughter’s sickness and death, the silence of God. It’s something I’ve written about here and here, and in my book. I’ve talked about “saudade,” a Portuguese word meaning “the presence of absence,” which is how you feel, …

Temple of bones

Every baptism in the Orthodox Church entails an exorcism, as I learned last Easter when I was baptized into the Church. It was nothing desperate and dramatic like some of us remember from The Exorcist; in truth the devil and his minions flee from Christ and the Cross, having been sundered by both. There was …