Bible heroes weren’t all moral models

The problem with using the Old Testament stories as morality tales is that even the best of the patriarchs, judges, and kings had serious character flaws. The most obvious example is King David, who, despite his outstanding faith amongst the kings, nevertheless committed rape and murder. If anything these stories show us the pervasiveness ofContinue reading “Bible heroes weren’t all moral models”

The presentation of Jesus at the Temple

The following slideshow features paintings by various Christian artists from various cultures inspired by the story of Jesus being presented at the Temple soon after his birth. The gospel of Luke describes it this way: When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to JerusalemContinue reading “The presentation of Jesus at the Temple”

Eve: the first Pandora

The stories of Eve and Pandora are equated in this 1550 painting by Jean Cousin the Elder, Eva Prima Pandora (Eve the first Pandora). It features a naked woman reclining in a grotto. Her right elbow rests on a skull, indicating the bringing of death, and she holds an apple branch in that hand –Continue reading “Eve: the first Pandora”

Stories for Mystics

Stories are fairly foundational to different Christian traditions so I think it’s worth reflecting for a moment on the stories that have been most important to Christian mysticism over the centuries. Stories that are most frequently referenced include Jacob’s ladder, Moses and the burning bush, Moses receiving the ten commandments, the throne visions of IsaiahContinue reading “Stories for Mystics”

Thoughts which words can’t express

From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers: One day Abba Arsenius consulted an old Egyptian monk about his own thoughts. Someone noticed this and said to him, ‘Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with such a good Latin and Greek education ask this peasant about your thoughts?’ He replied, ‘I have indeed been taughtContinue reading “Thoughts which words can’t express”

Do not be ashamed to enter the Church

John Chrystotom once said, “Do not be ashamed to enter again into the Church. Be ashamed when you sin. Do not be ashamed when you repent. Pay attention to what the devil did to you. These are two things: sin and repentance. Sin is a wound; repentance is a medicine. Just as there are forContinue reading “Do not be ashamed to enter the Church”

The quick comeback of Amma Sarah

A story is told of Amma Sarah, one of the many desert mothers during the early centuries of Christianity, who refused to be denigrated for being a woman: “Another time, two old men, great anchorites, came to the district of Pelusia to visit her. When they arrived one said to the other, ‘Let us humiliateContinue reading “The quick comeback of Amma Sarah”

The minimalism of the desert monks

The abbot Theodore of Pherme had three fine codices. And he came to the abbot Macarius and said to him. “I have three codices, and I profit by the reading of them. And the brethren also come seeking to read them, and they themselves profit. Tell me, therefore, what I ought to do?” And theContinue reading “The minimalism of the desert monks”

My Fear of the Sound of an Axe

Celtic monks left the forest standing at the sites of their monasteries rather than cut them. Adaman, Columba’s biographer, tells the story of how the Irish King Aedh gave a plot of land in Doire to Columba: And he [Columba] had so great a love for Doire, and the cutting of the oak trees wentContinue reading “My Fear of the Sound of an Axe”