16 Nov 2020

WE SING

  We sing because God sings, and the great mystery grows among lilies, lilacs and rose while mother dies, and the bell rings in a season we’re still to know.   We sing because God sings over us, a great mystery we each yearn to tone. “I will establish the throne of his Kingdom for ever,” heard Nathan, about a king, a king whose words we weep to sing:                 Restore unto me the joy of

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17 Oct 2020

Pensées, Reality, and le Coeur (Part Two)

In Part One of this Pascalian reflection, we considered Pascal’s first step in the path of the spiritual quest. At nearly every point of his Pensées, Pascal goads his readers to pay close attention to the movements of the soul in response to the wonders of the created world. There, he insists, you will find flickers of light, glimmers of reality breaking through the darkness. Those sparks, however, are the beginning, and not the end.

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26 Sep 2020

Book Review: Reading While Black by Esau McCaulley

Esau McCaulley, Reading while Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2020. 208 pp. Paperback $18.00. The Rev. Canon Dr. Esau McCaulley’s new book Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope offers timely contributions to the current discourse on several contemporary issues. Yet its greatest contribution lies in both articulating and modeling the hermeneutics of the Black Church. McCaulley serves as a priest in the Anglican

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24 Sep 2020

In Memoriam, Prof. Philip Rousseau

Early Christian Studies has just lost an important voice. No one will ask me to write a remembrance of Prof. Philip Rousseau, who passed away on September 3rd, 2020. I cannot claim to have been a family member, close personal friend, PhD directee or professional peer. Although I worked alongside him for seven years, I was formally his student for only a single semester—my first at the Catholic University of America—in 2008. Still, such is

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16 Sep 2020

Pensées and a Course in Reality (Part One)

In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal measures the relative space of a collection of small sculptures. Small. A few inches at most. And though there are 264 of them, they could all be put in an average-sized box and stored away on a shelf somewhere. De Waal recognizes, however, that these wee pieces, called netsuke, take up considerably more space than their actual size. Paraphrasing Lord Digory, they’re bigger on the inside

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14 Sep 2020

Dogma as an “Instrument of Freedom”

Flannery O’Connor once wrote “for me dogma is only a gateway to contemplation and is an instrument of freedom and not of restriction. It preserves mystery for the human mind” (The Habit of Being 92). O’Conner proclaims that dogma, that often maligned and mistreated word, is in fact an essential aspect of human freedom. How often do we hear that ‘dogmatization’ is wrong, limiting, restrictive, and contrary to our creativity, freedom, and personhood? Dogma has

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11 Sep 2020

Ruth as Hero: Responding to David Justice’s ‘Ruth: Model Minority’

The book of Ruth is the Bible’s only bucolic idyll and, as the great Hebrew scholar Robert Alter says, “one of the few truly successful stories in any literature that concentrates almost exclusively on good people.” It is, he concludes, “one of literature’s most touching stories with a happy ending” (vol. 3, 621, 624). Yet, despite its apparent superficiality, the book is deep, complex, and difficult. The most jarring moment is when Naomi advises her

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03 Aug 2020

Reading Tobit with Christic Eyes: Christ Images in the Book of Tobit

The Book of Tobit, found in the Septuagint and maintained as deuterocanonical/canonical in both East and West, is replete with Christological foreshadowing and imagery. Within the Anglican context, we see that Tobit is appointed regularly in the Lectionary thereby acknowledging its theological value. This book, and the other ‘apocryphal’ books mentioned in Article VI, are “read for example of life and instruction.” Thus, we see that there is a clear dialogical reality to the Deuterocanon

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27 Jul 2020

How the Liturgy Saved Me: A Psychologist Discovers the Solution to a Problem He Didn’t Know He Had

Liturgy is one of those things that can divide Christians. Some think of liturgy as rote prayers for people who are religious but don’t really know the Lord. I had one person leave the Anglican church I was pastoring because she could no longer pray liturgical prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, unless she knew she could consciously mean every word. By this, I understood that she thought her mind had to be fully engaged as

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15 Jul 2020

Turning Swords into Plowshares

“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). Over the Memorial Day weekend, I was watching a celebration on TV and at the same time reading Shane Claiborne’s book Beating Guns:  Hope for Those Who Are Weary of Violence.  Both celebration and book quoted John 15:13: “No greater love is this than the

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22 Jun 2020

Al Mohler, Slavery, and the Bible

If we want to know what the Bible has to say about American chattel slavery, we’ll need to do more than type “slave” into the Bible Gateway search bar. Perhaps that is the lesson we should learn from Al Mohler’s recently surfaced denunciation of runaway slaves on Larry King Live in 1998. In that interview, Mohler contended that Harriet Tubman — and others who ran from slave owners or abetted runaways — disobeyed St. Paul’s

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10 Jun 2020

Racism and Sin

“It is the divinely imposed task of the prophet to break down the wall of our indifference by voicing the suffering and anguish of the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed of our society.” -Abraham Heschel A wound, when it is not properly treated, will fester to the point that it will suppurate. This is not only true of our physical wounds but, also, our interior wounds. Imagine a couple who begin a

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25 May 2020

Personal Prayers

Virgin Soul (Isaiah 43: 1-8) Like a virgin bride that waits for her bridegroom, my virgin soul waits for You, oh, Lord! My virgin soul waits to be impregnated with Your Word. Speak It in the recesses of my heart, my being, my virgin soul. My beloved speaks in the dark night, early morning, midday, late noon, early evening. He whispers in my ear as I embrace him in my arms:   I have created

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20 May 2020

Wasteland Christianity

Recently, Tara Isabella Burton published a great column in the New York Times opinion section on the “weird” present and future of American Christianity. She contrasts the slow decrease in religious affiliation among Americans with the increased traditionalism in the thought and actions of those Americans who remain Christian. Ms. Burton’s point ultimately consists in her recognition that many Americans find ourselves increasingly disenchanted with the social and cultural order that we inhabit—whether that discontent

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04 May 2020

The Pandemic and the Wrath of God

In dark moments, I have sometimes wondered whether, when disaster struck, I might lose my faith. Perhaps my God of unbounded kindness would fall away in the face of crisis—shown to be phantom conjured up by an over-hopeful imagination—sand leave me alone in the universe. Yet as it has turned out, the real danger was of this God morphing into a god of wrath, his face twisting into stern, unfamiliar expressions. In this midst of

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27 Apr 2020

“His Earthly Oil Lamp, Laurus”: A Theological Reflection on Eugene Vodolazkin’s Laurus

Eugene Vodolazkin’s masterful novel Laurus is a tour de force of literary imagination and theological reflection. In a style reminiscent of Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and imbued with as much tragic conviction as Nikolai Leskov’s Cathedral Folk, Laurus stands out as a modern-day masterwork of Russian literature. The novel is full of mystical, sacramental, and eschatological imagery. Vodolazkin marries the mundane to the sacred in a beautiful tapestry of man’s fallenness and God’s redemptive plan. The main character, called at various times

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11 Mar 2020

Moral Relativity in an Ironic Place

“’Good’ and ‘bad,’ applied to them, are words without content: For it is from them that the content of these words is henceforward to be derived.” –C.S. Lewis, Abolition of Man In Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis explains the nonsense of a subjective postmodern philosophy, wherein truth has no meaning. When one accepts that truth is a social construct rather than an objective correspondence to reality, the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ no longer hold meaning,

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03 Feb 2020

Beauty in the Everyday: Living Aesthetically

For anyone who grew up with a religious background similar to mine (Southern Baptist with a Reformed bent), art was considered as either dangerous or irrelevant to one’s spiritual life. Imagination and experience and creativity were little regarded, while discipline and right-belief were considered the important things for spiritual thriving. But somewhere along the way someone suggested to me that truth, goodness, and beauty all go hand in hand. How, exactly, the three relate I

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06 Jan 2020

On Hierarchy

Away from my family on study retreat, I went to St. Isidore’s for the Sunday English language mass. While looking up toward the dome before the service, I caught sight of the four Evangelists, in Baroque attitudes of dramatic inspiration, pages under their poised fingers, living creatures over their shoulders. I prayed something like the following: Lord, you pour forth power and wisdom and goodness without cease According to your own mode, which is limitless,

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01 Jan 2020

Above All, the Glory of Christ: John Duns Scotus on the Incarnation

During the Christmas season, this passage from the Nicene Creed regarding our Lord Jesus Christ assumes particular significance: For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: By the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. That Jesus was incarnated (cf. John 1:14) and the means by which it happened (cf. Matthew 1:18-25) are universal Christian truths. And at first glance it also seems

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