The Distinction Between Essence and Energies and its Importance for Theology

I was just reacquainted with this article by Christos Yannaras on Perry’s blog, and recommend it to you: The Distinction Between Essence and Energies and its Importance for Theology.

Yannaras was one of three influential authors I read in 02 and 03 as I began my initial exploration into the Orthodox Church. I started with, not surprisingly, Zizioulas’ Being and Communion, continued with Panayiotis Nellas’ Deification in Christ, and rounded out with Yannaras’ The Freedom of Morality. This trifecta gave me the conceptual framework to engage Orthodoxy on its own terms instead of trying to “translate” it into Protestant categories (and thus distort it). Once I was able to investigate Orthodoxy within its own framework, it’s internal coherence became obvious and many things that would otherwise have been “problems” for me just wafted away.

Given my personal context, academic and religious upbringing and experience, I think it was probably necessary that my introduction to Orthodox thought be in an almost exclusively intellectual vein. However, knowing what I now know, if I were to devise a “program” of introduction for myself (this is idiosyncratic and not for everyone), I think I would have focused far more exclusively on the lives of the desert fathers and saints, on practicing various prayers, and only later, perhaps about now, get into the head stuff.

But God’s providence is over all. One can’t go back and undo the past.


Naming the Child

Having had some experience, as a father, of the miscarriage of our unborn child, Sam, I was quite moved by the Ancient Faith Radio interview with Matushka Jenny Schroedel about her new book, Naming the Child. (The book can be ordered through

The AFR interview

There is also a website set up where parents of stillborn infants, miscarried unborn children, infants who have died, and others can go to explore resources concerning their grief and to share their experiences in words and poems. It is an amazing site, and I urge you to visit it:

Naming the Child.

An Answer Seeking an Articulation

For me, 2005 was a watershed year in much of my thinking both in terms of philosophy and theology. In 2005 I solidified my understanding of why it was that I was attracted to and felt it utterly important to promote so-called “ancient philosophy” (in part through a couple of books by Pierre Hadot, as well as in clarifying my thinking on the “problem” of free will). It was also in 2005 that I finally came to understand that the theology of the ancient (indeed New Testament) Church was not simply a collection of doctrine or a set of principles, but an embodied way of life.

It was also in 2005 that Perry Robinson sent me a copy of his essay “Anglicans in Exile,” which helped me address the criticism that I was choosing to become Orthodox on the basis of mere preference. Some of that criticism would have at the time appeared to have been justified. After all, hadn’t I gone from the Stone-Campbell/Restoration Movement Churches to the Episcopal Church/Anglican tradition and was (then) looking at moving to Orthodoxy? Wasn’t this simply changing churches again? For me the answer was always no. I was not then becoming, and I am not now, Orthodox simply because I liked it better than all the alternatives, or because it has far more points of attraction to me than anything else. If that were my only attraction to Orthodoxy–the liturgy, the “ancient-ness,” the “this-isn’t-lowest-common-denominator” religion, or whatever–then as soon as I was more strongly attracted to something else (even to nothing), I would simply migrate away from Orthodoxy. Once the gravitational attraction was less than that necessary to keep me in orbit, I would just float away to be captured by something else.

My move to Anglicanism (in the Episcopal Church) was not a move from attraction to Anglicanism per se. Which is why I later moved out of Anglicanism. I was searching for something far deeper. But it was hard, in 2005, to articulate positive reasons for moving to Orthodoxy aside from I preferred it. I wasn’t a consumer shopping about for my latest sustained impulse. I was, at the risk of coming off as melodramatic, a drowning man looking for his salvation.

Perry’s article, now posted on his blog, helped me to articulate substantive and positive reasons for becoming Orthodox that went beyond mere preference and helped me to defend against what appeared externally to be church-shopping.

I commend the article to you, but caution that it will not be for the faint of heart nor for those who haven’t some background in broad historical and theological matters.

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Sister Mary Benedict’s Prayer (from the 1945 movie “The Bells of St Mary’s”)

Sister Mary Benedict has fallen ill and has been ordered to give up oversight of the school which has come to mean so much for her. This is her prayer at the end of the film as she prepares to leave:

“Dear Lord, remove all bitterness from my heart. Please help me to see Thy holy will in all things. Help me. Please. Please help me.”

A good prayer.