The End of History


There is a proverb from the Soviet period: “History is hard to predict.” The re-writing of history was a common political action – enough to provoke the proverb. Students of history are doubtless well-aware that re-writing is the constant task of the modern academic world. The account of American and World History which I learned (beginning school in the 1950’s) differs greatly from the histories my children have learned. Some of the re-writing was long overdue – while other projects have been more dubious.

Of course, re-writing is not a recent phenomenon. Virgil’s Aeneid was an effort to re-write history, giving Rome a story to rival Greece’s Iliad and Odyssey. The Reformation became a debate not only about doctrine but also about the interpretation of history and the Church. The rise of historical studies in the modern period, which questioned long-held beliefs about the historical veracity of the Scriptures, created an anxiety within modern Christianity. Many of the debates that permeate Christianity at the present time turn on questions of history and historical interpretation. As the debates rage, history becomes increasingly harder to predict.

I would suggest that it is a mistake to describe Christianity as a “historical” religion, despite the space-time reality of its central events. It is more correct to describe Christianity as an “eschatological” religion – a belief that the end of all things – the fulfillment of time and history – has entered space and time and inaugurated a different mode of existence. To put it in the simple terms of the Gospel: the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Historical events (in our modern way of thinking) are part of the great canvass of cause and effect. Seen in this manner, history becomes the fixed and unchangeable reality, its events the immutable unfolding of God’s plan. With this thought comes the anxious searching for “what happened,” and the unceasing arguments and doubts that inevitably arise. This view exalts space and time to a place of ascendancy. God may intervene and act within that context, but the reality of space and time remains the definitive stage of existence.

A rather tortuous point within this understanding is the power of a single, historical lifetime. Roadside signs in the South ask the question: “If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?” The troublesome thought within this is that the actions played out over a span of seventy or more years establish the fixed result of eternity. History triumphs over the eschaton.

To my mind, this is a reversal of the story of salvation. History exercises a sort of tyranny in our lives. The mistakes we make and the consequences that extend beyond them threaten to bind us to the past. We think of ourselves as the product of the past, shaped and formed by what has been. Our history controls our destiny, haunting every movement and decision.

The story of our salvation is the deliverance from tyranny, the smashing, and destruction of that which binds us. As surely as Christ trampled down death by death, he trampled down the dominion of history. The coming of the Kingdom of God is the entrance into history, into space and time, of the fulfillment of space and time, a liberty fashioned according to the image of the resurrected Christ. The End of all things is not the result of what has come before. The End does not belong to history.

The Scriptures place the End outside of history. It is a transcendent reality that is drawing all things towards itself. Christ is described as the “Beginning and the End.” He is the revelation of the End of all things, the purpose towards which all things were created and the point towards which all things move:

…having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth– in Him. (Eph. 1:9-10)

The teachings of many Fathers is quite clear on this point. The “cause” of our existence is in our end, not in our beginning. This is sometimes described with the Aristotelean term, telos, and at other times as the logos of our person (particularly in St. Maximos). This is most especially true when we think of the whole of creation. Humanity is created as the image and likeness of God, the very image and likeness that is the logos of our existence. The creation itself should be seen as being created in the image and likeness of the Kingdom of God, an image and likeness that it will fulfill when it is given its true liberty:

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Rom. 8:20-21)

This “deliverance from bondage” is precisely that to which Christ refers when He speaks in Nazareth:

And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” (Lk. 4:17-19)

When John the Baptist sent a question to Jesus, to be sure He was the One who was to be expected, Christ echoed this very passage:

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me. (Matt. 11:4-6)

These are a description of the “signs” of the Kingdom’s coming into the world. Things are set right and are revealed for what they were always intended to be. Their end is revealed.

Death is the verdict of history. Life from the dead is the verdict of the Kingdom of God. As pure history, the forgiveness of sins is impossible: what we have done, we have done. Only the freedom that is given from outside of history can transform and shatter the bondage that history seeks to put upon us. As such we can say:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17)

The “new creation” is precisely the “new heaven and new earth” referenced in the Revelation of St. John. As such, we cannot “progress” towards such an end: the end already exists. It remains only for the end to be made manifest.

Christ enters history in the Incarnation. The womb of the Virgin exists within space and time. But, in that Christ (who is the End), is the very One who is contained in that womb, the womb itself is transformed. It becomes “more spacious than the heavens.” She whose womb it is becomes “more honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim.” It is this eschatological reality that enters the world that makes real and true those things that are spoken of as allegory. The Ark is a “type” of the Virgin Mary (for there God’s presence is made manifest), but it also is the Virgin Mary because that which makes her the Virgin Mother of God also makes the Ark the Seat of His Shekinah glory.

Bearing all these things in mind, St. Paul directs our attention away from history and its laws of cause and effect:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)

The Apostle wreaks havoc on a purely historical existence. We “were” raised with Christ. Our lives “are hidden” with Christ in God. Our life “will appear.” In Christ Jesus, the Kingdom of God has come into the world. It is already revealing itself in our midst.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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65 responses to “The End of History”

  1. Scott Avatar

    Father, Bless!

    “the end already exists.”

    I have had a thought rolling around my head that I have occasionally expressed: The end of the world comes to each one of us individually on our deathbed. When is “the end?” When will Jesus come again? Probably less than 60 years for me.

    Do you think that fits with your thought here expressed?

    Also, the last paragraph brought to mind the prayer thanking Jesus for His Glorious second coming, as a done deal.


  2. James Taylor Avatar
    James Taylor

    Dear to the Church that is Jesus Christ, Fr. Stephen:

    What a neatly tied package this article is! The end is all! We see glimpses of it now when moved in prayer when the Spirit moves. In those times, I have been inclined to think of Eden, regret the past and so on. When actually it is the End we sense, the New Earth and New Heaven. If I have it right, what an insight, and problem solver for me after many years with one eye open.

    Thank you.

  3. Janine Avatar

    Thank you Fr. Stephen!

  4. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    If history were to rule I would be dead in spirit and have no hope. By Grace, I, instead, live in Christ who is the Telos. I cannot begin to explain this but I know it to be true. Thank you Father full pulling back the curtain a little and reminding us that this world and history do not rule. I have lived long enough to see history changed to fit the narrative and change when the wind shifted again. It is good to see history unhorsed.

  5. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Every time we allow Jesus Christ to enter into our existence, history changes.

  6. Dino Avatar

    It should read ” A[s] surely as Christ trampled death by death”.
    A very profound word indeed!

  7. Byron Avatar

    It is difficult to wrap my brain around an eschatological mindset. Many thanks for this, Father. I will continue to struggle.

  8. Dean Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,
    Another verse, adding to those you mention in your last paragraph is, “He HAS delivered us from the dominion of darkness and TRANSFERRED us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” Col.1:13. We are already in the kingdom of God. It’s not clearly manifest yet but it is a present reality, especially seen in the liturgy and noetic prayer. Like Byron, I need to read and re-read this to let the eschatological reality take hold. Thank you, Father.

  9. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    More than just at death. The End meets us as every moment.

  10. Mark Pendleton Avatar
    Mark Pendleton

    Slavery has been much in the news. We tear down monuments that remind us of a practice we now find repugnant, but tragically leave the foundation intact. There have been some who have tried to de- legitimize the New Testament because Jesus seems to say little to condemn slavery . However in the verses you quote (Lk 4:17-19), Jesus strikes at the very root of slavery. He mentions the poor, captive, blind and oppressed, all of whom suffer enslavement. And then He says He has come to proclaim the acceptable or favorable year of the Lord, the year in which debts were to be forgiven, prisoners and debtors to be set free. In fact, much of the slavery that we see is economic in one way or another. But these things are just a type of something more insidious. Fr., you have pointed out often the observation that our humanity has been reduced to that of producer/ consumers. I’ve begun to think, though, that the real slavery, the proto-slavery, the slavery to which all other slaveries bow, from which they derive their reason for being is the slavery to Death. Our sin is in the fact that we do all we can to escape that slavery, (endlessly producing and consuming, making more bricks with less straw), but by own own means and on our own terms. And no matter how hard we try, we fail.

  11. Paula Avatar

    Father Bless!
    Thank you for this post…I’ve read it several times…it’s a heavy topic. One of the things that came to mind was Christ bringing in the 1st day and 8th day, as the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega.
    As Dean, I too had scripture come to mind…more confirmation:
    “And HATH raised us up together, and MADE us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come [to be revealed] he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Eph 2:6-7.

  12. Ann K Avatar

    I learned that Orthodoxy existed when I, a long-lapsed Presbyterian, happened upon one of your posts. Your message directly answered a theological question I had asked a Protestant minister the day before, with only a vague reply.

    Now I am a catechumen in an Antiochian church, and this post fills me with so much more. My eyes are open now. Thank you.

  13. Fr William L Bulson Avatar
    Fr William L Bulson

    Yes, yes, yes!

    It is the eschatological that also makes mystical and Christological reading of Scripture true and upends the monopoly of historical-critical reading.

    Thank you.

  14. Alec Avatar

    Father, thank you so much for your great article.

    This reminds me of a talk given by Fr. John Behr in which he directs us to view scripture through a Christ centered lens.

    All of scripture, including the earliest books of the OT, are to be understood in light of the Incarnation of the Logos.

    I think the issues many skeptics have with understanding scripture is that they read it as a historical book, from start to finish, with prior events being the foundation for later events.

    This is why they dismiss all of it, just because they can’t get their heads around the genesis story in the beginning.

    We should remember that all of scripture and indeed all of history finds its center and cornerstone in Christ the Son of God.

  15. biermonk Avatar

    Reflections on eschatology always bring to mind the late jazz musician Sun Ra. By no means a Christian (he was into esoteric Egyptology mumbo jumbo) he had a tune with a vocal refrain that always made me smile: “It’s after the end of the world / don’t you know that yet?”

  16. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Having studied history my entire adult life I have to note this: history is neither linear nor dialectic in nature. Approaching history form either of those perspectives distorts both history and the understanding of the human experience.

    Properly understood, history is the study of who I truly am. It is understanding that my life is not mine alone but interconnected through time to all of the rest of humanity in Christ. That, for me, was the beginning of an eschatological understanding. My mother thought of it as a dynamic spiral whose structure was built on the Fibronacci Sequence.

    It has been my experience that through devotion and repentance healing can occur throughout what we usually see as a linear timeline but is not.

    The dialectic approach to history is particularly odious. It is the approach used by every evil ideology since, at least, the French Revolution. It has led to untold death, destruction and horror. It is the foundation for the modern project and is deeply iconoclastic.

  17. MichaelPatrick Avatar

    Father, thanks for this wonderful exposition of passages that have often confused me because it’s so hard to see anything occurring outside of history.

    What you explain here may also explain a vital difference between an Orthodox Divine Liturgy and worship services in Protestant and Evangelical churches. In Divine Liturgy we join Christ at our wedding feast in the eschaton, where we are clothed in his glory and fed his sinless body. As ex-Evangelical this manifests itself practically every Sunday as an utterly different and existential reason for going to church.

  18. jacksson Avatar

    I like your statement,

    “Death is the verdict of history. Life from the dead is the verdict of the Kingdom of God. As pure history, the forgiveness of sins is impossible: what we have done, we have done. Only the freedom that is given from outside of history can transform and shatter the bondage that history seeks to put upon us.”

    History has no power except what we ascribe to it. History is what happened one second ago or two thousand years ago. Much of what we think of as history comes from what we are told and which can be a lie; we see the lie all of the time. History can move people to not repeat what has occurred in the past.

    I remember as a child living in Gresham, Oregon, we would go on a drive to the east along the old Columbia River road (not the modern freeway) heading to The Dalles. Near an Indian camp next to the Celilo Falls on the river, we would watch the Indian men out on the rocks spearing the Salmon who were trying to get upstream to spawn. Close to our vantage point there were some shacks and small dark eyes would be looking at the city dudes through knotholes in the walls. Later and a little further to the east, my mother would point out to my sister and me the exact spot in the rim rocks along the river where in 1853 our great great grandparents and their children lowered their covered wagons down to river level to await the arrival of the rafts being brought upstream to take those who could pay the toll down to Oregon City (near present day Portland). This is 60 year old history, but my sister and I remember it; Celilo Falls is now under the waters of The Dalles Dam lake and the shacks are gone; I can no longer remember the point in the rimrocks pointed out to me. This is history and it is gone when my sister I are gone unless we pass it on.

    But, history is not the goal, history is nothing but a series of events in eternity. Eternity is the goal, the Kingdom of God awaits and at a certain point in what we call history, we step off the timeline of history into eternity. But, being in the world we are in history; while not being of the world places us in eternity, we live and move and have our being in Him, the Lord of Time and Space.

  19. Aric Avatar

    Why would God eradicate history when he created it, and called it good?

    The second he created the material, time came along with it, because there is no materiality without time. And since he called his creation (which is in time) “good”, why would he then turn to “wreak havoc” on it?

  20. Lisa A Avatar

    Apologies if this comment isn’t really relavent to the article, but,
    Michael Bauman,
    Can you explain what you mean by the dialectic approach to history? I’m currently struggling with understanding and deciding what place history ought to have in our homeschool and I’m just as interested in the “how” as the “why” and “what”.

  21. Albert Avatar

    This gives me an approach to begin understanding the Divine Liturgy, with its comings and goings, its symbolisms and hymns, its supposedly outside-of-time experience (I was taught that a few years ago, but didn’t quite get it) which unites us with God, angels, and all humans who have ever lived and are still living and always will be.

    In another version of myself, I used to think of Sunday church as worship, or simply group prayer; and of history as truth. I had heard the word orthodoxy, but it was just a word then, and not available to my vocabulary. I am blessed that my own “history” led me here (i.e., first to a made-over garage with a priest who himself had been transformed, and now to a meeting place like this blog –both for all members of Christ’s kindgdom)

  22. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The dialectic approach to history was codified by the German philosopher Hegel, Marx and others took up his apprroach. Greatly over simplified Hegel posited that for any culure or civilization or idea, a thesis, an antithesis would arise. The two would enter into conflict and a synthesis would be formed that progressed humanity. It became an infinite progression toward perfection. Historical determinism.

    It is an amoral, egalitarian approach that often looks reasonable in isolation. However in the hands of idealogs it becomes a recipe for murder and oppression. It is a radically false escatology profoundly anti-human. It is however at the center of the modern myth of progress in its many guises. From the Will to Power to secular utopias to Islam and certain forms of sectarian Christianity and more.

    One of the reasons I have trouble with modern universalism is that I see too much dialectical determinism at it’s core. That troubles me.

    Real Christian escatology is about the person of Christ intertwined with His creation especially with we human beings as people in community/communion with Him.

    Interestingly enough I had come to much of this prior to becoming Orthodox through what my parents taught me and what I learned studying history. Living in the Church has deepened my understanding and appreciation to be sure. Nevertheless I felt quickly at home within the Church because Orthodox theology was in such harmony with what I had already seen and knew just higher up and further in.

    Not unlike our sister Dee, I found the Church’s teaching matched and explained the data/evidence of my explorations.

    Father’s statement that the Christian Church is not historical is true within the general understanding of history. My contention is that history is not historical either but rather escatological if one approaches it correctly.

    First step is to begin to see the inter-connectedness of all things and reject linear cause and effect. Reality is multi-dimensional it is neither flat nor determined but it is highly ordered and in no way random.

    A good place to start is with any of Wendall Berry’s writings which are available from Eighth Day Books BTW. He is an eloquent pre-modern man.

  23. Lisa A Avatar

    Thank you, Michael. That makes a lot of sense and you’ve given me much food for thought. I’ve been meaning to read Wendell Berry for a long time. I guess it’s time to get started!

  24. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Forgive me, but I think you’ve misread my statement. I said (referring to the quotes within St. Paul’s statement) that he was “wreaking havoc” on a purely [i.e. linear] rendering of history.

    Creation was (and is) good. But it is also “subject to bondage” i.e. death and decay. It is not now what it is meant to be. The coming of the Kingdom reveals creation to be what it is and always was meant to be. It does not destroy it. It fulfills it.

  25. ELM Avatar


    Your final point is so simple, but so hard for many of us moderns to accept. I seem to have always loved history, and have struggled throughout my life with various forms of nostalgia for ages past and attempts to revive lost history. I feared losing the past. To some extent, in our post-modern world especially, this is a valid concern, as ignorance of history allows revisers to dupe us more easily with their historical revisions.

    But history is not the goal. This is how my sins are forgiven.

  26. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Lisa, I taught the history component as my late wife and I homeschooled my son. There are a lot of facts that need to be conveyed, but the context of those facts is more important. I tried to convey my sense of history as a tapestry and a story about being human in many different contexts.

    Sometimes I think I did OK, other times that I failed miserably. My son found things that interested him like Greek Mythology and read a lot about it.

    Everything, every family, every person has a history. The story told through time and space that impacts and reveals a bit about who each of us is. God is never absent even though sin abounds. It is easy to get lost in the sin forest.

    Dates are only important as an anchor for other things. They can always be looked up if need be. Learning how to think, research and evaluate information is much more important.

  27. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    The point you made earlier, that history itself is eschatological, is quite right. History is not unfolding as cause-and-effect, that is, as self-causing (only God is self-causing). Rather, it is being drawn towards its telos, its end. The eschaton is drawing all things towards their proper end. The true cause of things is not in their beginning, but in their end.

  28. Paula Avatar

    Regarding your response to Michael, I now need specifics here. I understand the eschatological concept, but it would be helpful to have some examples, especially in instances of tragedy, for instance, 9-11, the hurricanes, Las Vegas tragedy…please explain, using different words, how we are to understand these (or ultimately any) events as being drawn towards its proper end. What does this, so to speak, look like? I *almost* get all this…I just need it to click. Thank you Father, and Michael for your statements.
    God bless.

  29. Agata Avatar

    I would recommend listening to Fr. Tom Hopko’s (Memory Eternal!) comments he offered after the Sandy Hook school shooting. Together with the commentaries by Fr. Lawrence Farley and Fr. Andrew Damick. This may help you connect many things….

  30. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Joseph the Patriarch was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers who faked his death. In Egypt he was thrown into prison on a fake charge of trying to rape his boss’s wife.

    At that point in time – the story can be compared to any number of tragedies, whether they are shootings, hurricanes, etc. It is a collection of bad things for which Joseph is not in the least responsible…and it looks like he’s going to come to a bad end.

    Then, everything changes. He is exalted to the right hand of the pharaoh and saves both Egypt and his own people from starvation. And, at that point in the story, he is reunited with his brothers. They are very much afraid that Joseph will want revenge on them for all that they did. He says a remarkable thing:

    “You meant it to me for evil, but the Lord meant it to me for good.”

    All of that, of course, is collapsed into a single story over the course of less than a lifetime. But it is also something of a parable of our life in this world. We have been betrayed and sold into slavery (sin and death) and imprisoned (by circumstances, evil, etc.). The death and resurrection of Christ and His promises, however, are an assurance that all that befalls us will, ultimately be “meant for our good.”

    God did not cause Joseph’s brothers to sin and sell him. But He redeemed that action in His grace, in a most unexpected way.

    I do not say to the person who is suffering, “This is for your good.” That can be less than helpful at that time. I can (and do) say, “God is good.” I can assure them, and myself, that regardless of what is happening, God is good and will save us. This is the promise of Pascha.

    Modern people don’t suffer very well. We are so generally used to comfort that discomfort seems unbearable. People, prior to modernity, had very different expectations. The American Dream is not promised to us. Paradise is.

  31. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Paula, the Gospel of Luke assures us that all things work together for good to those who love God. We are not told how. But we are also told that the path of a Christian is synomous with the Cross. Not as heretical teachers promise so that we will not suffer, but so that our suffering will be redemtive and that we may help bare the sins of others as Simon of Cyrene did for Jesus.

    Here again nothing is linear, nothing is individualized. Speaking only for myself, my suffering, light though it is, drives me toward the light and away from the darkness I would often embrace otherwise.

  32. Paula Avatar

    Father, Agata..
    Father, thank you very much for your response.
    If I understand correctly, Joseph’s story, a parable of our life in this world, our betrayal and imprisonment into sin and death, is not “final”. The tragedy of the fall (sin, death) has (always) been and at the same time is being redeemed by Christ’s Pascha….the ‘being redeemed’ understood as now (in time) and in a future, eschatological sense. In other words, our personal circumstances and world events have a purpose…we may not be able to determine the purpose, but we can know that it is ‘meant for good’…to be fully revealed in the age to come. So… we are to look at all events in this light. This is what the Church means by saying our theology is eschatological. Right, so far? (very challenging concepts!)
    Thank you so much for the link. I will surely take a listen. I hope to find the commentaries of Frs. Lawrence and Damick as well.

  33. Paula Avatar

    I was taken aback for a moment when I read your words about Luke. I wanted to include in my response to Father and Agata my take on reading Luke 9:49-56 this morning, but I thought it would be too long of a response!
    So now I can’t help but comment! A couple of things struck me in these verses…first, three times it is mentioned that Jesus “set His face towards Jerusalem”; second, Jesus did not rebuke the Samaritans, but rather the disciples; third, He was on His way to the Cross. I have to say, my thoughts about this are greatly influenced by our current conversation here about eschatological purpose of events. I sat for a while thinking why didn’t Jesus rebuke the Samaritans? This was when the phrase ‘God meant it for good’ came to mind. He ‘set His face’ toward the Cross…the rejection of the Samaritans was beside the point…the rejection enters into the whole story of the Cross…the disciples didn’t, they couldn’t, understand this. But Jesus addressed them so that they’ll remember in days to come.
    So, yes Michael, in the Cross is our path, and all suffering redeemed.
    Thanks for your comment!

  34. Agata Avatar

    While I am “on a roll” recommending great things to listen to, here is one more… Your last comment reminded me of this great sermon…

    “Father George emphasized how the actions of both ancient and modern martyrs continue to teach us that “the meaning of life is death,” and “that if you want to live the Resurrection, the only path is to carry the Cross.”

  35. Paula Avatar

    “on a roll”! … I can’t seem to get off it either! But thank you again…the links are always welcome!

  36. Dean Avatar

    Seventh Day Adventist friend,
    I remember your comment but can’t find it. Anyway, I was thinking about what you wrote. Glad you’re moving toward Orthodoxy. Have you read Matthew Gallatin’s, Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells? He grew up SDA. His podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio are well worth listening too, also.
    When I was 22, I took a camping trip with a group of SDA’s. Another adult was guiding the trip with several teen boys. I was sitting by one and was opening a can of pork and beans. The teen said, “I don’t eat pork.” I finished opening the can. Of course on top was the little quarter inch of pork fat, which I always tossed out. He looked at it and queried , “Is that all the pork?” I said, “Yep.” He then replied, “Gimme some of those!” I probably ruined the boy’s eating habits!
    Seriously, I do hope you continue on your quest. I have my own eating foibles…I can’t eat lamb or veal for my own personal reasons. God bless.

  37. Dean Avatar

    SDA friend,
    Just now thought of something else. You mentioned, what you called, your weird calendar and ours. You know, about half of the Orthodox calendar calls for no meat during the year. Those days are close to vegan. And a few saints are named for each day. These have become very important to me over the years. As Howard has written, the heavenly scrim has been pulled back. The saints in heaven and we here on earth are one. They are alive in Christ…recall the saints’ plaintive cry to God in the Revelation and Christ saying He’s the God of the living, not the dead. I cherish their prayers for us. We ask others here to pray for us when we’re in need. How much more the saints who are in the very presence of God. And Jesus’ mother, Mary, the God bearer, is not divine. However she is the most exalted of all creation. After all, her womb held Christ, God who became man through her flesh, the only thing God never had that He received from us, particularly as gift through Mary. C.S. Lewis once wrote that, “Mary’s womb ‘teemed’ with the Holy Spirit.” So, don’t fear Mary or the saints. They are wonderful friends and intercessors.

  38. Dana Ames Avatar
    Dana Ames

    Report from fire country:
    When the local fire crews were augmented by many others from California, neighboring states, and even Australia (as soon as they all could get here), the rate of containment started to increase steadily. Weather conditions were not as bad as predicted. Finally, it rained pretty much continuously overnight from Thursday to Friday. Thanks be to God. Only hot shot crews are needed now, just to make sure everything is doused.

    In the rural community just north of my town, dozens of homes and buildings were lost, animals were displaced and killed, and 8 people died. In my parish in Santa Rosa, five families lost their homes, one family lost a rental house and their own place barely survived, and we’re waiting to hear about one retired lady’s situation. Nine families in the local Eritrean community lost homes. Some families in the ROCOR church also lost homes. If anyone is able to donate for relief for these Orthodox families, there is a direct link on the home page at saintseraphim dot com.


  39. Agata Avatar

    Thank you for the update. We have been praying for you in Santa Rosa, and for the monasteries. Thank God Holy Assumption monastery nuns were able to return to the safety, and an untouched monastery. I got an email from a Mountain Home Ranch (where I once stayed with my Mom on a visit to Calistoga) that they burnt down completely… So sad… But emails from some of the vineyards in the area say they are reopening….
    I know Fr. Lawrence had to forgo his special trip.
    We will be holding special collections for you next two Sundays. Lets hope your appeal here helps too!

    And we continue to pray….

  40. Dana Ames Avatar
    Dana Ames

    Many thanks to you and your parish, Agata. We’re in it with community at large for the long haul. So many in our parish are giving hands-on help via Catholic Charities and other agencies, and putting people up in their extra bedrooms, etc. All I can do is pray and give some money, as I live an hour away from my parish and aid in my town requires the energy of youth, which I no longer have. But prayer is definitely not nothing 🙂

    Fr L will probably make his pilgrimage in January.
    Where are you, again?


  41. Agata Avatar

    I am in Minneapolis, MN (St. Mary’s Cathedralf, OCA) and my priest Fr. Andrew was at St. Seraphim’s years ago… So our parishes are deeply connected.

  42. Dana Ames Avatar
    Dana Ames

    I never knew Fr Andrew, but he is fondly remembered here.

    Thanks again.

  43. Bessarion Avatar

    Father bless!

    I’m a Protestant (Vineyard, more specifically) enquirer and I have to say that with great consistency when I read your posts I’m read to throw all doubts down and join the Church. Pray for me.

  44. Christopher Avatar


    Why, which is to say why for you, is a history that is being drawn towards its end (telos) any more compelling than a history that is a cause and effect progression? While the latter is trapped by its own dialectical necessity, the former suffers from a disconnect of the present with its true end (or in a person’s case, his “true humanity”). If the meaning of history and time IS bondage and death, then where is the antecedent – the connection of what I am now with the Eschaton? If dialectical history traps a person in bondage, then a personal history as a kind of “mistake” before a true end traps history in its own meaningless, a mere waypoint (if even that) in a process (a process theology). Indeed it is histories negation, as you (inadvertently I assume) describe this end as the “timeless freedom of eternity”, which can’t quite escape its Platonic structure in my opinion and makes God too distant, too other. How could anyone love this Christ and this end?

    My sense of the Gospel is that it preserves the “dimensions” (space & time, or rather spacetime) in its insistence on a risen body – a creaturehood that only exists and has being & meaning in spacetime. This of course is scandalous to a Platonic unity, unitary meaning, and rejection of physicality (as an impurity). I (my being) have no connection to anything that is being as “timelessness”. If my end is timelessness, then my end is a nihilism in that “I” am not saved – “I” am utterly negated. “I” am not “reborn” but “transformed”. Not a new creation, another creation altogether.

  45. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Another literary example:. In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible one of the minor characters, Giles Corey refuses to confess to witchcraft despite being pressed with very heavy stones. He simply says “More Weight” and dies. By doing so he confounds power.

    The Scriptures and Christian history are replete with such examples..

    Power controls as much by fear as it does by force. Bread, circuses, fear and force.

    More weight! It is freeing.

  46. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    First, this is not my pet theory, but a proper understanding of eschatology, rooted in the Scriptures and the Fathers. All I’m doing is trying to understand it and present it. The history (space and time) that we dwell in is clearly depicted as “subject to futility” i.e. bondage. I do not see the Eschaton, the true end towards which we are being drawn, as destroying anything, certainly not our identity.

    Perhaps my choice of “”timeless freedom of eternity” was not carefully thought out as a phrase. But whatever we can say of space and time in eternity, they are fulfilled. They are no longer subject to futility but have the same existence as the resurrected Christ. He certainly seems to transcend the bounds of space and time, as do the saints.

    Space and time will be transformed, fulfilled. That, as far as I can tell, is the clear teaching of Romans 8. The risen “Body” of Christ is clearly both/and. He can be touched, handled. But He has no limits or bounds. He is also present on the altar of every Church, etc.

    I’ll gladly drop the term timelessness if that’s a bother (it’s not my point), substitute “time fulfilled” or some such phrase.

    Indeed in an earlier paragraph, I used the phrase “fulfillment of time and history.” I certainly do not mean to imply some sort of formless Platonic nonsense. Your critique would have been more on point had you pointed to my own internal, apparent contradiction. I have now edited the bothersome phrase. Hope it helps.

  47. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Christopher, eschatological history gives immensely more meaning and identity because both are then tied to our inter-relationship with our Incarnate Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thus real.

    We are transformed into a new being by grace. The transformation is so utterly different that we are barely recognizable as Jesus was not recognized after His Resurrection.

    What you describe appears to be an intellectual concept. Just another antithesis. Still utterly dialectical.

    You do not seem to fully understand the depth of nihilism. The true nihilist seeks the utter destruction or slavery of everything and everyone else to his own will because he has demonstrated his superiority. He has eliminated all connection to anything or anyone else. Bound by nothing or no one. Utterly free to do whatever. Not unlike Galaderial when she takes the Ring of Power. But nihilism is nothing more than the devil’s lie to us in the Garden. Its end is darkness, destruction and death. Nothing human remains.

    Christ’s entry into history makes history eschatological yet it was before too since we are created with the end in mind: humanity reborn in fullness in our conjugal union with Christ. Everything is made new, fulfilled and fully human each in communion with each through Him.

  48. Dino Avatar

    Elder Sophrony has a striking ‘analysis’ of the experience of God in the Uncreated Light, which is also echoed by other ‘beholders of God’ through the ages: he affirms that the sense that the beholder has become eternal – having no end as well as no beginning (!) is a key part of it.
    Communion with God imparts this awareness, lack of it increases the sense of being ‘bound’ to timespace.

  49. victoria Avatar


    “Communion with God imparts this awareness, lack of it increases the sense of being ‘bound’ to timespace.

    Once you replied to me in the comments here that our repentance is effected and worked out within our circumstance. I can’t find it for your exact quote.

    In this way our repentance, our relationships and our free will is manifest most readily within time – although for those who seek His Kingdom and the one thing needful there is no separation by space or time.

    Is that a proper understanding of your words. If not can you elaborate?

  50. Victoria Avatar

    I am also thinking if accounts of Saints who have made physical and spiritual intercession away from their physical location (geography).

  51. Victoria Avatar

    Also too, Dino I am also thinking if accounts of Saints who have made physical and spiritual intercession away from their physical location (geography). Is that also what you mean.

  52. Christopher Avatar

    “First, this is not my pet theory, but a proper understanding of eschatology, rooted in the Scriptures and the Fathers.”

    Oops, I should have said that I entirely agree. Your continual efforts to point this out are important.

    “I have now edited the bothersome phrase. Hope it helps.”

    I am not sure you should have. As you have noted before, the milieu of the early Church & and the Fathers is Greek and (neo)Platonic. This language and its intellectual/cultural/parabolic background is what it is:

    “God is unoriginate, unending, eternal, constant, uncreated, unchanging, unalterable, simple, incomplex…” St. John Damascene (just to choose an example)

    This is also quite different to the modern intellectual/cultural/parabolic milieu of the modern world. A saint today would probably include something in that list that got across the reality of God as “un-machine”, since the parable of the universe and man being a machine (i.e. the brain as computer, etc.) has such a hold on the modern consciousness.

    I was trying to say that (for me), neither of these “matrixes” (to pick a term) of dialectical “progress” from the bottom up, or true end drawing creation forward, are in-of-themselves compelling. Nothing about *the structure* of either one solves the problem of the heart, the problem of evil and sin (and our personal relationship to these). No one would say to a suffering servant “this is not real, it will be smashed, but your true end is”.

    I should admit that I don’t believe the problem of good and evil is “solved”, but rather carried forward (to continue the metaphor) by the Tree of Life. To answer Ivan’s necessity honestly is to admit that yes good and evil are characteristics of the creation parabolically but not essentially – Life (as gift to creation/creatures) is the essence.

    Perhaps I am looking too closely at the structure of the parable, for does not all language fail in end as it is of this world? ” Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. ” (from your last quote of St. Paul).

  53. Dino Avatar

    Victoria, Christian,

    Living within time and space, God’s uncreated energies can transcend these utterly for the one who communes with Them.
    Even when my ‘problem’ persists, e.g.: my passion, my cancer, my suffering has not been ‘solved’, it is not right to think that I cannot have the eschatological joy here and now, while still in my problems, but I somehow await and pray for their ‘solution’ to come and simply be happy that it is my future. No. I can have the Joy of the eschata here and now, within my problems. The eternal Kingdom breaks into the still “unsolved” timespace I occupy. Faith is the substance of this, our feet walk this earth -in this timspace- and yet we can, to the measure that we commune with God, have our heart anchored in the Heavens.

  54. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    That clarification helps. I rather like Nyssa’s (and it’s more common elsewhere, as in Maximos) understanding of our being/existence as a movement, from mere existence towards eternal existence. In that light, I see sin as a movement away from true existence, and therefore towards death.

    If I wanted a picture, I could find nothing more fitting than Lewis’ The Great Divorce. The movement from “less solid” to “solid” does a very good job of mirroring the Patristic notion of moving towards greater reality. In Biblical terms, “that which can be shaken,” clearly has only a tentative ontological status. We are moving towards what cannot be shaken.

    I find that deeply conpelling. It describes my sense of my life, in which, as its many years in Christ go by, I become more truly myself, something (someone) whom I had no clear understanding of as a young man. I think teens, for example, are extremely undefined. The movement towards true being thus also mirrors something that is normal in life.

    I can think of almost nothing about us that is complete and what it will be from the beginning or early days of our lives. It is a movement, a motion. St. Maximus wrote about (in eternity) a always changing rest, and a never-changing movement. Paradox. Surprise.

  55. Brandon Avatar


    If history is eschatological, if someone rejects God’s will, or rather turns against him, is this person still drawn towards their proper end? Or is this just the free will/God’s will mystery that we don’t really know?

    Thank you,

  56. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    The proper end of all creation is communion with God. Nothing changes that. There’s lots of stuff we don’t know. What has been made known definitively in Christ is the unwavering love of God. We should rest in that.

  57. Brandon Avatar

    Thank you Father! You’ve been unbelievably helpful in the way you digest “true reality”. Sometimes I get caught up in frustration when people refuse to believe in Christ’s Pascha. David Bentley Hart has talked about how he believes people of all religions might be ultimately worshipping the same God – since there is only one creator. But, even though it’s uktimately in God’s hands, is there any way to point these people to the truth of Christ’s Pascha? My biggest hang up at times (not in my own faith but in explaining to others) is when Sam Harris says “he is exactly the same as Christians when they are able to refute Islam and every other religion…the only difference is that he feels that way also about Christianity. And a Muslim feels the same way about his religion.” Any thoughts on this? Thank you, Father

  58. Byron Avatar


    Sam Harris is seeing all these things as the same; he is using a secular viewpoint that relies on the modern lie of equality. As such, he can take or reject whatever the subject is (Christianity, etc.) according to his own will. His words are simply a denial of God and of His revelation (Pascha). That he is created undermines his entire viewpoint.

  59. Karen Avatar


    The answer to sharing Christ’s Pascha with others is to let it come alive in you. If they refuse that, there is little you can do or say in terms of argument or manipulation to change that. God must work. What you always can do with God’s help is love and pray with ever greater purity of heart for such things. Then the Holy Spirit is able to work.

  60. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I’ll confess that I’ve never heard or read Sam Harris. It’s like the theologian Stanley Hauerwas says: Secular Christianity can’t even produce interesting atheists. The new atheists, as they are called, major in generalizations and cheap shots and only caricature religions and religious people. The sound smart to other people who know as little as they do. There can be serious forms of atheism – worth having a serious conversation with. Sam Harris, I suspect, is not one of them. You can bet your bottom dollar that if he’s popular, he has nothing interesting to say. New Atheism is to religion what Hip Hop is to music, except it’s not as good to dance to.

  61. Brandon Avatar

    Thank you Father, Karen, and Byron.

    Curious if anyone has done research or has knowledge about the etymology of the word “real”. Father, some of what I’ve read in your articles (can’t remember specific ones) has touched on the modern creation of personal stories instead of the fact that we are a part of one that is not our own. You may have even touched on this question about the history of the word real (which is perhaps why I’m thinking about it again). But does this have something to do with how modern man now believes he can choose his reality? I’m really trying to digest “true reality.”

    Thank you,

  62. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    True reality is Christ. But that’s a contentious statement in a secular society. I say that I see Christ’s Pascha at the subatomic level, and in some circles that statement sounds nuts—At best a figment of my imagination.

    Fr Thomas Hopko of blessed memory says first we need to establish what’s actually written in the Bible. Even that task takes a lot of time and genuine respect and love.

  63. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    You ask a question that I suspect we (Orthodox) are grappling with in one way or another. Recently I was pulled into a conversation about ‘the imposed insistence’ of using a pronoun to refer to a person who ‘in reality’ doesn’t correspond to the pronoun that they would prefer to be called. They have not undergone cosmetic or hormonal changes, that might serve to obscure their ‘birth circumstances’. The frequency with which I’m required to refer to ‘them’, offers more occasions for slips, than what I’m comfortable with. Yet I attempt to persevere and call them by their preferred pronoun when the occasion arises.

    On occasion, I wear my cross on the outside of my clothes. At this time this is as close as I can get to expressing what reality is. Before I started doing this, I asked the person whom I describe above, whether wearing my cross outwardly would bother them. They said it wouldn’t. But the context for them is that my cross only shows what “my” reality is, not THE reality. This small act on my part may sound rather pathetic. But the opportunity in the conversation allowed me to say that I was Orthodox and that the Orthodox see reality differently from other groups that refer to themselves as Christians. I was not at all confrontational.

    At least the conversation got started. And thanks be to God, it began on the strength of love and respect.

  64. Brandon Avatar

    Thank you, Dee for your thoughtful and helpful words.

    Further, I guess what still ties me up (when discussion with secularists) is when I say Christ’s Pascha is true reality, I don’t merely say I believe it’s true reality but I proclaim that it is. But the secularist response will always be ‘but I proclaim that it’s not’ or something to that effect. So then it becomes a matter of belief again…which becomes opinion and then choice. What is the best response to differentiate between a mere opinion/belief and a proclamation of true reality?

    Thank you,

  65. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    One possible response is that secularism is an inadequate account of reality, incredibly reductionist. It cannot account for beauty or goodness. Indeed, the secular account would predict an extremely harsh, forbidding reality, unlike the world as it is. And often, where it’s allowed to hold sway, it tries to enforce its distorted vision onto things, making us into little more than consumers and economic units – mere “beasts” in a way that insults even the beasts. I would read Lewis’ Abolition of Man a good half-dozen times or so. Work at internalizing what he’s saying until you can master it.

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