Stumbling Toward Salvation

On occasion I have written on topics that seem to scandalize readers, or certainly cause difficulty for many. Some of those topics have been articles on the wrath of God; the radical forgiveness of everyone for everything; the commonality of our life and our salvation; and various posts on giving thanks always for all things (there are others as well). I am not intentionally contrarian – I do not write in order to create any sensation (sort of). But I have a heart-felt instinct about the path of salvation and the part played by skandalon (a cause of stumbling).

Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame (Romans 9:33).

There is something about the Kingdom of God that causes us to stumble. The Kingdom is marked by scandal. Such a stumbling is inherent in the contradiction of the Kingdom. Christ’s Kingdom is “not of this world.” As such, this world stumbles as it comes in contact with the Kingdom.

I believe that the first and great skandalon is Pascha itself: Christ’s death on the Cross, His descent into Hades, and His resurrection. Indeed St. Paul describes Christ crucified as a skandalon (1 Cor. 1:23). What haunts my thoughts, however, is the rather tame shape taken by the Cross and resurrection in the mind of most Christians. Why are these things not a stumbling block for so many? Why do we so easily track our way through Christian doctrine, finding our own moral failings to be the only “stumbling” within our life? The taming of the Christian faith makes it harmless and without offense. I suspect that this phenomenon marks the conversion of Christianity into a religion – a pious activity that saves none.

Pascha runs utterly contrary to this world: from death comes Life. But this “principle” of Pascha is manifest in many other ways: we lose so that we might gain; we forgive that we might be forgiven; we love those who hate us; we give thanks where no thanks would be expected, etc. All of these actions make sense only in the light of Pascha. They are no less radical, no less scandalous.

It is this “contrarian” nature of Pascha that forms its skandalon. The “Jews” would not have found Christ’s crucifixion to be a stumbling-block (St. Paul’s description), nor the Greeks found his crucifixion to be “foolishness,” were they not contrary to all that these great cultural stalwarts expected. Pascha is not the work of man, but of God. It is the work that undoes death, hell, hatred and greed. “Let us forgive all by the resurrection” (Pascha hymn).

By the same token, the way of the Cross is the way of Pascha, the way of “contradiction” so far as the wisdom and rationality of this world are concerned. The Cross is the rationality of the Kingdom of God.

Without this contrary element, this skandalon, Christianity may be noble or kind, but it falls short of the kingdom. Our faith must not only be about doctrines concerning Christ and what He has done for us (which can easily be reduced to mere religion): our faith must be a way of living that is itself a manifestation of the Cross and resurrection of Christ – a contradiction to the world and an affirmation of the Kingdom of God.

Thus it is that I find myself drawn to those practical instances in which the Kingdom transports us into this “way of contradiction.” The radical demand that we “forgive everyone for everything” is a manifestation of Pascha, a contradiction of the way of retaliation, a proclamation that something has occurred that destroys all such debts. The same is true in the commandment to love those who hate us – nothing could be more contradictory to that which seems reasonable – but it bears witness to the “reason” of Pascha. To give thanks for all things, will take us to a place of contradiction, a place where the goodness of God is utterly triumphant, despite the deep tragedies that confront our lives.

All such gospel actions bring the skandalon of the Kingdom into true focus within our lives. They are invariably the signs that accompany the saints and the invitation to every believer to embrace the Cross and become a witness of the Kingdom.

No idea, no doctrine, no words can replace such actions – united as they are with the actions of Christ and God’s holy Pascha.

There is another rationality of our faith, largely expressed in ideas and words. Its struggle is to believe one thing and not another. But as such, it reduces our faith to one belief system among a world of competing belief systems. The Pascha of Christ is the end of all belief systems. With His crucifixion all human efforts to explain or understand are brought to an end. Indeed, Christ’s Pascha is the end of all things. To walk into Christ’s Pascha, is to walk into the great skandalon, the contradiction of religion and the negation of the reason of this world.

I cannot do more than to suggest such points within the gospel and then struggle to walk in them. The contradiction which we find within such points, I believe, is the very call of the gospel – that which caused Apostles to hesitate. But these very points are the points of salvation. They are the gospel birthed yet again into the world.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.






30 responses to “Stumbling Toward Salvation”

  1. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Indeed, Father, we all stumble toward our salvation, God willing!

  2. Reader Cuthbert Avatar
    Reader Cuthbert

    Father Stephen, I hope you don’t mind me asking this here, but I didn’t want to “resurrect” old articles of yours I’ve been reading, and I think it relates to this article anyway.

    You said once in passing (please correct me if I am misremembering), perhaps in a comment here long ago, that icons and that which is portrayed in them “occupy the same space” and that was a bit of an a-ha moment for me. My question relates to this same concept of iconicity as it relates to scripture.

    You speak often of allegory and typology and I think I am tracking with you in all of that, but I want to make sure I understand it properly. So, for example, when we say that Mary is the Ark of the Covenant, and that the written Hebrew account illumines the event of Mary’s pregnancy, are we saying that they are in reality “intermingled” as a single spiritual event? Not simply that one is “like” the other or that we can “mentally connect” the two (as you say, an “interpretive trick”), but they are, in reality, the very same?

    To put it another way, in this understanding could we say that when Paul says “and that rock was Christ” (referring to the Hebrew story) that he did NOT mean “Christ was doing something ‘back then’ as a rock and then LATER as a man He did something similar, and now we conceptually connect the two” but rather what Jesus did in his earthly life actually manifested in time at that prior point in Hebrew history? They aren’t two separate events that happen to be similar, but are in fact historical manifestations of the very same spiritual reality. Is that it?

  3. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    I find it interesting that people are scandalized by your work. I think some is because they hold on to the Western Phronema and have not fully swum the Bosporus. The longer I walk in the Faith the more I realize just how broken I am and your work gives me hope that I may be accepted into the Kingdom. If you had asked me when I was still a Protestant Pastor how salvation looked for me, I would have painted a rosy picture because I had checked all the boxes and I wasn’t breaking any rules. Now, thanks in part to your work, I can truly see I am the chiefest of sinners. I see rays of hope when I think and act differently, but then I realize it is not due to my efforts that I am doing so. Oh to be a scandal for Christ.

  4. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Essentially, yes. What we see in the Fathers use of allegory is what I would call a “strong” version. The type indwells the thing or word or image that prefigured it. Typically, you’ll see them describe it as being “beneath” the written letter. They do not think of it as an image in the mind.

  5. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Thank you Reader Cuthbert for your question and thank you Father for your answer!

    Although I admit I’m still struggling.
    This is a wonderful question and it is difficult for me also. I kind of think of these things concretely as layers (or dimensions) of reality, sometimes I attempt to associate the experience similar to that of an iceberg or sometimes as echoes emerging in time. Some of it is above the water of our reality, much of it is below. Alternatively, the phenomenon of sound or something similar repeats but is not in the original form. Perhaps my understanding is off, but I have had the understanding that the Type preceeds (like a prophesy) the ‘real’ event and helps to illuminate what it is. Again as I picture this relationship, it is as though the ‘real’ event creates a kind of ripple in the pool of our reality, we encounter the ripples before we get to the source of the ripple. I’m not sure if any of these are appropriate. But these are the metaphors I use to help my mind and heart grasp what we receive in revelation from scripture and the revelation of ‘types’.

    As this comment shows I still struggle with this. And my personal befuddlement goes a little deeper, since I have first encountered the Resurrection (as a real experience of the event) outside of the Bible and in the application of science. And I don’t think it is appropriate to refer to this revelation as an application of my imagination. So it is then, that I still seek understanding.

  6. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Dee, Cuthbert,
    I think this aspect of things, the presence-beneath or whatever we might call it, is not easy. There is, on the one hand, our tendency to make of such a thing some sort of mental construct, or on the other some kind of literalism that misses the point.

    It is that there truly is an unseen world, referenced in Scripture and the Fathers. It’s too large and wonderful to ever be reduced to a literalism without making it less than it is. I’ve been confined to bed tonight with my back again and it’s difficult to write. So, I’ll say more later.

  7. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Dear Father you have my prayers!

  8. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    It is all one. There is really no separation. My priest here put it this way: The Son reveals the Father, The Holy Spirit reveals the Son, but no one reveals the Holy Spirit. He brings knowledge nonetheless so that the unseen depths of the seen.

  9. Dennis Justison Avatar
    Dennis Justison

    I put this on Facebook after I read your post. They seem to go together, for me at least. I have buried two sons. I dug their graves. I have a three week old grand daughter who just had major heart surgery and will have another one very soon. Huh. I am tired of this. Death. Suffering. Life.

    And what do we do with that Father?

    We praise God. For what ever life is, it would be worse without the Lord Jesus.

    Pray for us poor souls.

    Twelve years ago today, at 1:31 p.m., Harrison died. It’s so long ago I am not even sure of the time anymore. He’s now been dead longer than he was alive… on earth anyway. Yes, he lives now with the Lord. I know.

    This is a good article for a day like today. It is about salvation and how do we get there.

    We get there through trials and suffering (Acts 14:22). Harrison carried his cross well. Better than I ever will. It was a 1 1/2 year walk up Calvary. 18 months of torture endured by a little boy. One of the worst moments was while in Sioux Falls when his mom told the doctor, “No more. We’ll just go home.” The doctor said, “You do that and I’ll call family services and I will take him away from you. He is going to get his medicine” At that moment, we knew Harrison’s cross was going to be heavy indeed. It wasn’t medicine. It was torture. It was about money.

    He ended up in Mpls, at the U of M for a bone marrow transplant. The first thing they did is give him just enough radiation to almost kill him. He looked like someone from another planet. There was now a very visual component to his suffering. Jesus was up close and very personal at that point.

    What was so amazing to me, was to watch it all and yet, Harrison hardly ever complained, maybe never. Oh, toward the end he’d ask for some more morphine, but he didn’t complain. He never asked, “Why me?” The only hint of a complaint was on his 11th birthday, two weeks before he died, when he said, “No more. I’ve had enough.” I can’t get over those words myself. What a profound thing for a boy to say.

    Today, our culture has turned the Gospel into a cute little story about Jesus or Noah and the Ark, or a pretty little book on the coffee table to sip tea by and say, “Oh how cute.”

    But the true Gospel is about being like Christ. Blessed are those who mourn. Suffering with Him. Carrying the Cross. Loving your enemy (because they’ll make more money if they pump more poison into your boy). Praying for those who hate you (because they think you’re going to hell because you’re not their religion). Oh! I could go on thinking about all the things, all the hell. And it was hell, every minute.

    Oh wait, no it wasn’t. There were some beautiful times and lots of joy. I’ll never forget Officer Unke. Harrison being sworn in as an honorary Minneapolis Policeman, the SWAT team taking him out for a ride in their van, and his afternoon at the shooting range not long before he died. He was getting very weak but he still outshot one of the cops that day. They, the entire police force, were so good to us.

    At Harrison’s funeral there were lots of cops, 50? 60? I forget. Highway Patrol, many Sheriff’s departments, many from the Minneapolis Police, cops from other cities, and on and on. It was so wonderful. They gave him a police funeral complete with a motorcade or whatever they call it.

    And the horses. I’ll never forget the horses. Was the bugle playing? The bag pipes? Anyway, Father’s horses were grazing in the pasture beside the cemetery at St. Michael’s Church (St. Michael is the patron saint of cops) and then, just as if on cue, they passed the gravesite, galloping with glee, with heart and soul, as if to say, “It is finished.” And it was.

  10. Dino Avatar

    In one sense, the ‘fractal’ aspect of these patterns within grand patterns within even grander patterns, connecting everything somehow, is essentially the ‘logicity’ of the multiple logoi of all things which are all predicated in the One Logos “through Whom all things were created and; without Whom nothing was created that has been created”.

  11. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I can “stand” at the foot of the Cross and contemplate these things – that is – I can contemplate our suffering, and that of those we love – only as Jesus co-suffers with us. Every other account of the Christian faith leaves me cold and empty. I think it is why St. Paul was determined only to know Christ Crucified as he traveled and taught.

  12. Dean Avatar

    Your posting touched me deeply. I had my wife read it. We will pray for you, your wife, and your granddaughter.

  13. David Mansfield Avatar
    David Mansfield

    Dennis. Father
    Im afraid i know your pain having lost two wonderful daughters i have no idea how we get on with life but i for 1 have to hold onto the Fact that God is good .
    Blessed are those that mourn is fine untill its your child or children its only then you turely begin to trust and put your life in the Lords hands.I have been blessed to know be their dad and struggle to wait till all will be made new .i have also been blessed to feel the enormity of the Kingdom twice once at Mass and once when weeping in my garage begging for Fern and Ashleighs salvation.
    I pray that All will be forgiven and rise in glory .
    The Lord is Risen so we can follow him .
    Yours Dave

  14. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Dear Dennis,
    I’m grateful for your post. Indeed as Father Stephen describes, no other account of the Christian faith is as real as Christ’s co-suffering with us. And Christ trampled down death by death. Harrison’s life story does not end at the grave. I hope I don’t overstep by saying he is in both paradise with Christ, and he is with you too. Memory eternal dear Harrison!

    I will also pray for you granddaughter. May the Lord strengthen her.

  15. Senu Avatar

    Dear Dennis,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I found it to be very humbling. I and my mom have been experiencing chronic pain for several years ( mine for 22yrs now). Up to recently I used to ask “why me”. But since last year I felt that this is happening by God’s permission and for my good; because previous to this He was exceptionally good to me. I know my experience is not close to yours but if I didn’t believe that God’s working things out for my best interest I would not be here. May the PEACE of our Lord Jesus Christ carry you.
    I Hope I am not out of line & if my rumbling is inappropriate I ask your forgiveness.

  16. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    As Eric (on another post) David and Dennis show, the living waters of Christ runs deep in our souls and gives to us ever-flowing life running through the death that is in this world. Also these stories show us the trust that the children of God have toward their Creator. For any who have not yet read it, I encourage reading Father Stephen’s book, “Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One Story Universe”. This book helps to reinforce the Orthodox phrenoma concerning our loved ones who have gone to sleep. Many years ago I too lost a daughter, and before that, my parents in a horrific car accident when I was a teenager. Grief wasn’t just an emotion of tears, but wracked my body too. Healing is a long process that, truly, Christ catalyzes as He co-suffers with us.

    Fundamentally how this world is and what is the age to come, we do not know. Although our prophets provide visions, what is true, according to our spiritual elders and the Orthodox tradition, is that our loved ones who have entered death are not separated from us in the way that other confessions might describe. In our loving prayers we can speak to them. And, God willing, they can answer us if we have ears to hear. My beloved daughter Esther died when she was almost 8 months old. I ask and believe she prays for me.

    My husband (who loves me and I him, dearly) is not Christian. I sincerely believes he wants to follow me into the Orthodox faith. But he refuses to do so inauthentically. He is a book reader in almost all of his spare time. And he writes stories, many of the comical and slightly racey. He started doing this when I went back to college and entered the sciences. The culture of the university was difficult for me. He originally wrote stories for me to read to help me through that difficult period. He is a man who has only known hard manual labor as a ‘job’. As he becomes an older man, his body is starting to ‘give out’, and it worries him because we still depend in part on the income he provides. I do have a job too, but how ironic that while I’m now a ‘university professor’, the university is fledgling and attempts to be something that is only in transition becoming. Therefore the salary it provides is called “sacrificial”. We have been impoverished most of our lives by American standards. But we have been rich in love, Glory be to God.

    My husband has asked me to ‘write him’ the story of how I became a Christian. He particularly wants to have some sort of grasp how after studying the Higgs potential energy field, that I discovered the reality of the Resurrection, and then by logic realized that therefore there also must be “in reality a Christ”. A long way down the road from that point, I became a Christian in the Orthodox Church.

    It is for this reason that I have asked for Fr Stephen’s help in my comment above. It seemed that Reader Cuthbert’s question was very similar to my own. I dearly want to write the “book” that my beloved asks of me. But I wait for an answer from Christ, “what shall I say?” I have attempted an explanation heavily infused with physics. It didn’t help.

    I ask all of you for your prayers. Fr Stephen, Michael and Dino, thank you so much for your responses. They are helpful for me and I’ll attempt to use these descriptions you have provided. Father, if you have more to say, I wait patiently, and continue to pray for your healing.

  17. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    The scandal is truly not to live according to death, not to be motivated by death. Death creates the attempt to create security and pleasure. To deepen the illusion that death is being avoided you must accumulate wealth, you must put others in servitude, you must accumulate pleasure, you must find ways to extenuate life, etc. All of this comes at the expense of others, and our own souls. But to imagine a world where death is not the final sovereign means you have to embrace Pascha. This is so entirely counterintuitive, but at the same time, it is the only reason for existence at all. Western theology shaped the imagination such that death was in many ways natural. Moral failure became the main focus of soteriology, such that you could remove death or Satan and retain the exact same soteriology, as death was never seen as an ultimate motivator, along with Satan’s exacerbations, but instead your sin nature in Adam. But pleasure, which should be seen often as death avoidance, still retained its place as the highest end of man, only the pleasure would come from God Himself. The highest end of man was still to be in a state of enjoying. Life activities were still primarily about happiness. A view of man becoming selfless love, dispassionate, forgiving those who hate you, etc. – was lost as a teleological goal because after regeneration – there was no teleological goal for life before heaven other than regeneration and perseverance – and even perseverance would be defined and redefined such that it could be made an non issue. Glorification was strictly relegated to the change that would take place after death. Sanctification was more a moral endeavor to stop behavior rather than to be love. The call from Jesus and Paul, that to not have love, was tantamount to unbelief, was in many ways gone. Love is the opposite of selfishness, and selfishness is the result of death and lack of faith: fear. To acquire love is not the cure for inherited depravity, but for fear of death, for death itself. Love conquers all. To give your life away, literally or materially, is a call to love and faith. Losing the Biblical view of death, and replacing it with inherited sinfulness, removes much of the scandal of Christianity. Because, you can still be basically selfish, never need to acquire selfless love, and still be authentically Christian. And when the better of Western theologians react against that statement, there will be a greater crowd using Western logic, to stuff the other voices as works-righteousness, Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism – and often – the theologians will have to retreat because the discrepancy between the obviousness of the Scripture and their systems will leave them falling on the side of the system. The Original Sin systems come out greater almost always against those who just take the Bible at face value : if you don’t have love, you don’t have faith, you fear, you don’t think God is enough, or you think He is evil. If you don’t have love you are still in fear and are unhealed, as I John says.

    To create the scandal again, death, Satan, sins have to be reinstated as real soteriological problems to be solved. A paganized Jesus is not scandalous. It may be scandalous to be told you were born evil with no free will, yet, it is just as much a great consolation for many. Because, if you have faith evidenced by assent to prescribed beliefs, then faith does not have to be evidenced by acquiring love. Faith, hope, and love, instead of being synonymous, can have little to no relation. And, for those who react against such a belief as universal human depravity, with no awareness of the problem of death and Satan, those believers will blend Jesus with a truly Pelagian view of man and will not see their motivations coming from fear of death, but will seek security from death in the same ways as everyone else.

    Western theology, wittingly or not, has removed death and Satan. But in doing so, they also removed any teleological goal for man. As theosis was not a goal, but a return to a state of perfection, a believer is perfect in Christ either sacramentally or through imputed righteousness – with or without love as love can be imputed to you via merit. And merit only exists as a category because of believing in an Original Perfection. No matter what, a true teleology for this life, before heaven, does not really exist. You never need anything intrinsic to happen within you, it always comes extrinsically, monergistically. The change wrought in you is entirely passive on your part. So, the scandal of Pascha, is mostly out, largely because it’s non-sensical, but for the Elect, the scandal is out precisely because they are Elect. And history has played out with those who glory in their election, and those who cannot tolerate the limit on the love of God and from there try and work out a system of belief retaining a view of man being born with a sin nature and free will at the same time. Just as in Pagan days, adding Jesus to a pantheon would have been no real controversy. Fate, determinism is just as fashionable today as ever. Atheism promotes determinism with the fierceness of Calvinism. There is nothing controversial about meticulous predestination among many Christians and many atheists, same with Muslims, pantheists, Pagans, etc. But when others react against those systems, they deal with the same conceptual difficulties of upholding free will in any meaningful way. And from there, the scandal of Pascha, being wrought out by the Logos with His Father and the Holy Spirit, is largely lost. Because, death is still the motivator running your life after all the work of Christ is complete. And even for those who truly hope for heaven, hope for eternal happiness, and often never becoming selfless love. The afterlife is turned into an escape from depravity and disappointment.

    Again, I don’t know if I’ll make my point, but as long as Easter is Jesus absorbing God’s wrath, imputing righteousness to the Elect, making possible the work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate those who were known by God from eternity, then there is no scandal. Death will go on in the shadows, Satan will lie and prowl, the root of sins and the goal of becoming will be lost.

    Yet, we have the resources to bring to awareness in ourselves and in others, that death has been running the show putting us all into slavery of fear, and that Satan means for us to die unchanged. And here the scandal will arise because the pacifiers we use to cope with fear of death will be tested. Real anxiety and withdrawal from our idols will take place. Awareness of who we have been will come to light. But, for many, they could look internally and see the problem and want a solution: Christ is Risen! Taking up the Cross will be mandatory not optional via imputation. You will have to be a real participant not a passive object to be acted upon. And love will develop and save countless others.

    I hate repeating it, but I often find my comments are not understood, if there is a scandal to Pascha, to the Cross, it’s because death and Satan are really in the story of salvation. Once you live long enough (not very long) to get conditioned to the “death-world” we live in, to stop floating along with it, and instead, to swim against it for the rest of your life, is a scandal. But if Christianity supports death as natural, or ignores it almost altogether, along with Satan, as Satan’s desire has always been the death of man from the beginning, to murder man, then the scandal is either gone, or it’s the wrong scandal. And when happiness is the goal of the Christian and everyone else, and not selfless love, then we scandalize others when we tell them how to be happy. But if death and sin and Satan are undone by Christ, and we are no longer to live in fear of death, then the right scandal will be in place. The idols can be left in the rubbish. No incense will go to Caesar. Morality will center along teleological lines laid down by the Good God of the good earth. The Christians will get the plague feeding the Romans under Paganism and not freak out about dying and will convert the masses. But if the early Christians really believed happiness was the main goal of life, the world never would have been converted. The conquistadors and the early Christians had little in common. The scandal will be a different one than the one that it really is. Morality as evidence of your Christianity, prosperity, security, sending your kids to a reputable college – all of this will be nothing compared with whether or not you attained love according to the scandal of Pascha. But confuse Pascha and you will make an altogether different scandal. The good offense of the Cross and the Resurrection will turn into a different offense.

  18. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    You’ve probably read Schmemann’s For the Life of the World. He talks about the secular value of “help,” and distortions regarding life after death in a secular age. You would find those to be of interest in this line of thought.

    I find stories of profound suffering that involve death and loss often point to Pascha – as Christ has gathered the death of all and each into Himself. They are situations in which Western atonement theories sound empty and useless. Nothing is more immediate and existential than Pascha as revealed in Orthodoxy – trampling down death by death. Western atonement theories actually make Christ’s death to be beside-the-point.

  19. Mark Pendleton Avatar
    Mark Pendleton

    Fr. Stephen
    And how contrary is it to consider that we exist in what could be a greater reality than one our senses can perceive. Not a realm of sight and sound or mind (apologies to Rod Serling), nor yet a twilight zone of quasi realities, but one more solid than this one. I have heard that theoretical physicists say that the space between the atoms of which all things we know consist is greater than the solidity they project. When Jesus entered the upper room, He came from somewhere real – more real that the room He entered.

    Hebrews 9:8 reads, “The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the Holy Place has not yet been revealed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time.” We have often heard the exhortation to “think outside the box” in order to come up with some new and better plan, to leave our presuppositions behind. The problem is the outer tabernacle governed by the laws of sight and sound and mind (apologies again). We have been schooled to believe that we exist in a continuum of cause and effect in a closed system (sounds like a box doesn’t it?). “We see as in a glass darkly”, if we see at all. How strange it is to consider that the vaunted reason and empiricism that bind us so closely to this present world are of so little value in considering a greater one. I have read that there are two different meanings in scripture for the word mystery. One meaning is “things that are very difficult to understand”, things for the wise among us to explore. The other meaning, however, is “things that are beyond us”. How incredibly humbling! So we struggle to believe and live what is contrary, which at one time “turned the world upside down”. Charis kai eirene.

  20. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Thank you for your comment and great illustration of what we call the ‘real’. Indeed this so called ‘substantive’ stuff we call reality comprises whopping 0.5% of our universe. The rest is called ‘dark’ matter” and ‘dark’ energy because we can’t see it and can only extrapolate its presence by implications. Indeed there is a lot of space in an atom, and that space is something that we have barely begun to understand. It is not ‘no-thing’.

    Your reference to Hebrews 9:8 is another interesting and helpful illustration as well. I don’t remember catching the depth of it so well until you described it here in this way. It’s true, we have a tendency to create artificial boxed-in boundaries for our observations at the atomic level (reference the particle in the box analogies) And while such constraints are practical and useful, they are nevertheless, in themselves incomplete models. We often make the mistake that such models describe our full reality. But as you aptly describe, they do not! Again, many thanks for this!

  21. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Sorry-misquoted the percentage not 0,5 but less than 5% of all matter/energy.

  22. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Interesting that we refer to that which is beyond our perception as “dark”.

  23. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Indeed, Michael, it reveals a cultural frame of externalizing our own limitations (and failures).

  24. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Fr. Freeman,

    Thank you for your response. I’m just stuck on this realization, that the scandal is either gone, or it is deformed, in non-Orthodox views. And you know, I don’t say this out of pride or out of disdain for other Christians, by no means. It is really just what I hope is good or at least innocent zeal for Pascha. I keep thinking, it was fearlessness in the face of death that converted the world, which shows to me, they had an Orthodox soteriology. This was the proof, greater love for God than for their lives they knew to regain in the Resurrection. Faith versus fear, loyalty versus fear, freedom versus fear, with full expectation of vindication in the Resurrection. This, lack of fear, is scandalous. But it only exists when it is actually seen as salvific. Modern Christianity would never exhibit this lack of fear/faith/loyalty/hope/love for God – because these are only signs you have salvation, they are not salvific.

    Thanks for all your work!

  25. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dee, since I first started appreciating sacrament through study and light participation in the Native dances of the southwest US if your connection to Indigenous culture helped you perceive the transcendence in the Hi.ggs field?

  26. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Yes , Michael, you’re probably correct. Using both your example of the sacrament of dance and light and Father’s example in his article about ‘lived in’ approach to the skandalon of Pascha, providentially by the grace of God I wandered into my realization about the Higgs field. And providentially I was attracted to a field of science (physical chemistry) that trains for the purpose of a lived-in praxis, the art of scaling up from subatomic level to our ‘daily life’ level of experience. My training and exploratory work involved a close observation of the dance between light and matter. Glory to God for His Pascha, He is everywhere present and fills all things.

  27. christa Avatar

    I am a regular reader. Just now ask prayers for my brother Mark who will be getting an emergency multiple vessel heart bypass, but is also passing a large amount of blood
    Thank you always for the strong words of faith and love gleaned here. “call on me in the day of trouble and I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me” Psalm 50:15

  28. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Dear Christa,
    May Our Lord be with your brother Mark who enters into surgery. God grant him healing and both of you strength.

  29. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Indeed. May Christ be with him and all who serve him in this setting. May He grant Him long life, healing, and all good things.

  30. Byron Avatar

    May Christ hold you close and grant healing!

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  1. Matthew, just remember, noetic perception is a gift. One can prepare through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving but it is a…

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