Thursday, July 2, 2009

One is Holy

Everyone is bad. Everyone is good. Everyone is a sinner. Everyone is a saint.

Each person bears the image of God, the only One Who is Good, in their being.
Each person bears the falleness of Man, that loss of likeness to God, and has all demons within.

Restoration of likeness to God is achieved only in union with Jesus Christ, the God-Man, brought about by grace, available to all. In this moment of union and only in this moment (may it be eternal), one is good and only good.

There is a moment in the Divine Liturgy that well expresses these truths. Just after the bread and wine have been changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, the priest elevates the Eucharist and proclaims, "Holy Things to Holy People." To which the people respond, "One is Holy, One is Lord, Jesus Christ." Thereby the people acknowledge their own holiness in the Lord's, outside of which there is no holiness.

The people are holy to the extent that they are one with the one Body of Christ. About to receive communion with Him in the Eucharist, they are truly holy, as the priest proclaims. Without the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, there is no holiness, no goodness, no life within, as they acknowledge. Our Lord said, "He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me, and I in him" (Jn 6:56).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Our enemies are images of God

Thou shalt not hate.
God is Love.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Many times, we escape our Christian duty to love our neighbors as ourselves by reasoning that we don’t have to like our neighbor – which, maybe, is true – we just have to love them. We don’t have to have warm feelings about everyone. It’s not our feelings that count – feelings change – emotional states are not as significant as moral states. So goes our reasoning.

Above all, we should love God. It is only in loving God that we can love our neighbors and our enemies. Love is self-sacrifice for the sake of the beloved.

But should we like God? – not just love Him, but like Him? We cheapen love if we say no. A child understands that “liking” is less than “loving.” Love is the important thing. Love is the commandment. But can we love whom we dislike? Does love have liking as it’s foundation?

Whether or not it is necessary, it is Good to like God - to nurture warm feelings and not just give Him some abstract love – to give Him personal affection. It is important to have affection for God. It may even be necessary.

And if it is necessary to have affection for God, then it is necessary to have affection for our enemies. Affection – warm feelings – for those who hate us. Why? – because our enemies are images of God.

Our enemies are images of God. Our enemies are images of God.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension Thursday

There is a sadness in this day. The Paschal season is over - no longer do we sing “Christ is Risen.” There is a sadness in this day. The plaschanitza is removed from the Holy Table and put away until next year. There is a sadness in this day. Our Lord has left us staring at the sky.

The Ascension
A page from the Bamberg Apocalypse
MS A. II. 42

“O Lord and Giver of Life, when the apostles saw you ascending upon the clouds,a great sadness over came them; they shed burning tears and exclaimed: O our Master, do not leave us orphans; we are your servants whom you loved so tenderly. Since you are most wonderful, send down upon us your all–holy Spirit to enlighten our souls, as you promised.”
– a sticheron of the Ascension

But there is a joy in this day. Christ our Lord has ascended into heaven amid shouts of joy and trumpet blasts. The greatness of this day cannot be overstated. Not only are we saved by Christ’s Incarnation, not only by His death and Resurrection, but also by His Ascension. God became Man so that Man might become God. God took on our human nature. He died in His human nature. He rose in His human nature. And now He ascends in His human nature. Without the Ascension, our human natures do not go to Heaven. It is only in Christ that we are united to God and it is only in Christ’s ascension that our humanity has hope of Heaven.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23).

Christian worship is spiritual worship. “God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth,” Jesus continued to say to the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:24). No longer do we worship God on the mountain, as do the Samaritans, or in the Temple, as did the Jews, by sacrificing animals – a fleshly and bloody sacrifice. Our sacrifice is a spiritual sacrifice, an unbloody sacrifice, a sacrifice of praise.

We are spirits, images of God, Who is Spirit. We must worship God, Who is Spirit, in the temples of our own spirits, souls and bodies.

Jesus Christ - the Son of God - is the Truth (cf. Jn 14:6). To worship the Father in Spirit and Truth is to worship the Triune God. It is to worship God the Father in the Holy Spirit and in God the Son.

True worship is worship of the Trinity.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Only when the Catholics acknowledge that the Orthodox are orthodox and the Orthodox acknowledge that the Catholics are catholic, will the Catholics be Orthodox and the Orthodox be Catholic.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two Icons

These are the first icons my wife and I have made under the instruction of Mother Katherine of St. Andrew Rublev Iconography School. They are also posted at Holy Image. I painted (or wrote, for those who prefer that terminology) the Virgin of Crete and my wife painted the Archangel Gabriel. It strikes me that, when placed side by side, they evoke the Annunciation - a solemn holy day that falls during the Great Fast that we have just begun.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Is overpopulation a self-correcting phenomenon? (question 3 of 3)

Upon first consideration, this question struck me as rather heartless. One theory is that the world is already overpopulated and that it currently thrives by stealing from the future – that is, by using up non-renewable resources that will leave future, even more populous generations without the means to survive. Thus, the current growth of population is setting the stage for a massive death of human beings in the near future. This massive death, of course, will eliminate the problem of overpopulation - however few survive it will not be too populous. Thus, overpopulation is a self-correcting phenomenon - one way or another.

As Tertullian wrote in 210 A.D, “Pestilence, famine, wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the abundance of the human race.”

It then occurred to me, however, that there may be another, more positive, sense in which overpopulation could correct itself, not without some pain but certainly without so much death. And this sense touches on something Ian Gerdon wrote in his wise criticism of my previous post: “it is only industrialization that allows us to easily support so many people. Our ability to produce food vastly exceeds that of the pre-industrial world.”

Around 200 million people was considered overpopulous in 210 A.D. - a point I am trying to beat to death - but maybe it really was. Again quoting Mr. Gerdon, "When famine threatened in antiquity, it was not lack of compassion but actual lack of food that caused death." In reality, because of the ingenuity of humans, the very meaning of overpopulation has changed. This world can actually support more people now than it could eighteen hundred years ago - because of technological advancements in agriculture and transportation.

Just as the necessities of the past inspired human beings to invent ways of producing more food and finding more places to live, hopefully the necessities of the future will do the same. As soon as those with creative and inventive abilities perceive the necessity to once again advance our technologies and expand the world's capacity for supporting human life, they may respond with solutions we've not even imagined. Overpopulation would then have created the necessity that mothers invention and therefore, in a sense, corrected itself.

There are already plans for growing food in outer space and humans have been imagining colonizing other planets for more than a century: Galaxy Gardening More Than Hobby For Future Moon, Mars Residents

Is this getting a bit too kooky? Bear in mind, ships that can traverse an ocean were once an absurdity. Anyway, if overpopulation does need to correct itself, I hope it can do so this way rather than with the destruction of human life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Is overpopulation a current reality? (question 2 of 3)

I am neither competent to declare whether the world is currently in this situation nor whether it soon will be. Those in the sciences seem to be the ones best suited to answer this question. I will take a moment, however, to describe the situation as it looks from out here.

To start with, those in the sciences do not appear to be in agreement, as is typical in all disciplines, leaving those outside the discipline with clueless expressions on our faces. Well, in some cases, our expressions are smugly arrogant regardless of the subject being discussed, but that is another matter.

Speaking of intradisciplinary (to coin a word) disagreement, a reader pointed out that my comment about lemmings committing mass suicide to alleviate overpopulation is a disputed point. So it is. Scholastic unhesitatingly repeats the same old story: "The suicidal tendencies of the lemming to 'off' themselves in times of over-population is most assuredly the fact that characterizes this animal." Alaska Fish and Wildlife News, on the other hand, reports, "Lemmings do not commit mass suicide. It's a myth, but it's remarkable how many people believe it." This is actually an interesting article; I recommend following the link.

Enough of lemmings. As I’ve written, it is only possible to speak of an overpopulation of humans if the number of humans is depriving some of those humans of the necessities of life. As a fact, many many humans on this planet are deprived of the necessities of life. Hundreds of millions of people in the world do not have enough to eat. Millions die of starvation every year. That said, the same organizations that gather these statistics also tell us that the world currently has the resources to feed its entire population. It is not a problem of too many mouths to feed but a problem of too few hearts that care enough to feed them.

I believe it. According to, a study from the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson indicates that the United States wastes forty to fifty percent of all the food it grows. According to The Guardian, the UK throws away thirty to forty percent of its food. I recommend Food for the Poor to any willing to help alleviate the problems of hunger and poverty in the world today. I also recommend a life less gluttonous and wasteful than the average American's.

It is worth remembering that there were people starving to death when the world was far less populous than today. Then, as now, the problem was not overpopulation but lack of compassion. There is no shortage of space. There is no shortage of air. There is no shortage of water. There is no shortage of food. There is no shortage of necessary resources. Yet, some claim the world is overpopulated. Those making that claim must either dispute the definition of overpopulation that I have provided or else they must know something I don't about resource shortages - which is entirely possible.

Overpopulation may be a fact of our near future even if it is not our present reality. The rate of world population growth has fallen every year since 1986, but even if it continues falling at its current rate, the world will reach more than nine and half billion people by 2050 - this according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 9.5 billion is a heck of a lot more than the 6.7 billion we have now. It may well be that 9.5 billion people will create a situation of genuine overpopulation. I don't know, as I stated at the beginning of this piece, but I will say that I doubt it.

I would like to know how many people the world can feed, clothe and shelter and I would like to assert that it is not until we have surpassed this number that earth will be overpopulated - however many inconveniences are brought about by the numbers of people, however few cars each person has to himself, however close the houses must be built, however little oil there is to run machines. I would rather see the world technologically reversed to before the industrial revolution than see one person's life sacrificed on the altar of convenience.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is overpopulation a possibility? (question 1 of 3)

Mother Theresa once asked, "How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers." While this is a loving and sweet perspective, it has always evoked to my mind images of vast fields of flowers choking all the crops and starving the world. There could be too many flowers, it seems to me. There could be too much of anything - even of a necessity like food - if the excess of one good led to the scarcity of another equal or greater good. The world operates on balance and it's occupants would do well to approach all things with moderation.

It strikes me as irresponsible, for example, for a man making $25,000 a year to keep a harem and father hundreds of children. There can be too much of a good thing.

That said, those children, once fathered, are good. Their humanity is equal to the humanity of any person. Wherever there is human life, all are obliged to love and provide for that life to the extent they are able, regardless of the circumstances in which that life was created. Which begs the question: is it even possible to speak of an overpopulation of humans?

We speak of an overpopulation of deer when the deer become so numerous they begin to strip other species of their livelihood, particularly if that species is human. We - humans that is - are mainly concerned with controlling deer population because of their potential threat to us and our livelihood should they become too numerous. A deer does not think that there are too many deer - nor is it willing to die to keep deer numbers down. We have to go out and kill them. Lemmings would be an exception to this instinct of self-preservation over and above species preservation, but humans would not.

You'll notice that those arguing for a reduction in human population are seldom volunteering to die for the cause. No, they want to kill other people or prevent them from being conceived. Makes sense - they're looking out for number one.

This fact does not make them wrong, however. It is possible, it seems to me, to speak of an overpopulation of humans. If humans became so populous as to deprive other humans of food, drink, clothing, or shelter, what else could this be called?

The human body is the greatest material good thing. Therefore, a number of human bodies could only be considered excessive when it reached the point of depriving life from human bodies.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Overpopulation continued

I have often heard a claim that all the people in the world could fit into Texas with room to spare. First in 1997 and then many many times since. A friend recently stated that he did not believe that those numbers were accurate, so I decided to check out this oft-made claim for myself.

According to the Texas Almanac, the state's area contains 261,797 square miles of land.

1 square mile = 27,878,400 square feet.

261,797 x 27,878,400 = 7,298,481,484,800 square feet of land in Texas.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total midyear population of the world in 2009 will be 6,790,062,216.

7,298,481,484,800 / 6,790,062,216 = 1,074 square feet of land in Texas per person in the world in 2009.

So, there you have it. All the people in the world could fit into Texas with a fair amount of room for moving around.

Now, I doubt anyone intends this numerical exercise as a practical suggestion for what is to be done with the world's population. I suspect that if we piled the whole world into Texas most people would be dead within a month.

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