I just watched the film, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.  It's a profoundly disturbing but moving film narrated by Ellsberg himself that chronicles his slow transformation from bright young leading light in the war movement to dissenter and ultimately whistleblower.  I would highly recommend it, along with The Panama Deception as a powerful antidote to the idea that U.S. foreign policy has functioned benevolently or even humanely over the past decades.

One of the things that struck me most about the film, besides of course the level of dishonesty and the fact that said dishonesty extended across five presidencies and thousands of state employees, was the reminder of what a wicked, calculating, cruel man Richard Nixon was.  There is no question in my mind that he was a criminal of the rankest kind and should have been prosecuted as such.  Below are just a couple of the quotes played from the Nixon tapes in the course of the film. 

 [Caution: Strong Language]

Nixon: The only place where you and I disagree ... is with regard to the bombing. You're so goddamned concerned about civilians and I don't give a damn. I don't care.
Kissinger: I'm concerned about the civilians because I don't want the world to be mobilized against you as a butcher.

Nixon: I still think we ought to take the North Vietnamese dikes out now. Will that drown people?
Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.
Nixon: No, no, no, I'd rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?
Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.
Nixon: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you?...I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.

Nixon: Now listen here: Printing top secret information... I don't care how they feel about the war. Whether they're for or against it. They can't and should not do this and attack the integrity of government and by God, I'm gonna fight that son of a bitching paper. They don't know what's gonna hit them now.

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. 

We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.  

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.  

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. 


We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

-Adrianus Valerius
-Theodore Baker (translator)

Our Father in Heaven,
We give thanks for the pleasure
Of gathering together for this occasion.
We give thanks for this food
Prepared by loving hands.
We give thanks for life,
The freedom to enjoy it all
And all other blessings.
As we partake of this food,
We pray for health and strength
To carry on and try to live as You would have us.
This we ask in the name of Christ,
Our Heavenly Father.

- Harry Jewell

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.

-Samuel F. Pugh

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

(Psalm 100 ESV)
"Suffering cannot be 'justified'; but it can be used, accepted--and, through this acceptance, be transfigured.  'The paradox of suffering and evil,' says Nicolas Berdvaev, 'is resolved in the experience of compassion and love.'"

I quoted this in a longer excerpt from Bp. Kallistos Ware's The Orthodox Way, chapter 3 on Creation a while back, but I think it deserves special comment.  I believe that what Berdvaev says is rather profound.  First of all he doesn't shy away from paradox.  Christians, in their haste to clear God of any charge of contradiction, are often sorely tempted to rationalize suffering and evil.  Theodicy can quickly turn from explaining the existence of evil in a world created and upheld by a holy God to trying to explain, and make sense of the evil itself.  But Berdvaev is right to recognize that suffering and evil itself is paradoxical.  It is absurd, self-refuting and always collapsing in on itself.  It does not make sense.  It is like a black hole.  And we Christians are not called to make sense of it, but to recognize it for the obscene absurdity that it is.  

But at the same time, Berdvaev recognizes something about the place that evil occupies in our lives.  Evil does not make sense, and is not to be made sense of.  Nevertheless (notwithstanding the Augustinian question of whether evil has existence in itself or is merely privation of some good), it stands in relationship to us, and impinges upon us, and that relationship is susceptible to exploration without overstepping.  Thus Berdvaeve's observation is appropriate.  (Note that it is an observation, not a justification.)

What Berdvaev notes that I find insightful is not the means by which evil and suffering is resolved (i.e. compassion and love, which I find to be somewhat unsatisfactory due to its vagueness-- note that Berdvaev was a universalist), but the fact that evil and suffering is resolved.  Evil is not justified.  It is not explained away or tucked under the rug.  It is resolved.

Here are some of the definitions of the word resolve: to come to a determination; make up one's mind; to resolve on a plan of action; to break up or disintegrate; to be reduced or changed by breaking up or otherwise; Music: to progress from a dissonance to a consonance.  In it's etymology the word means to loosen, undo or unsettle.  I find the musical understanding perhaps the most helpful.  Ultimately, while evil itself is broken up and disintegrated, the experience of the relationship between myself and a world mixed with evil moves from dissonance to consonance.  

I admit, I find this hard to even put into words, evil being such a perplexing thing.  But there is something right in seeing that evil is resolved.  If we think of redemptive history as a great symphony, we see that evil introduces a tremendous bit of dissonance into the music, but ultimately that dissonance will be resolved into consonance as God (and we to the degree that we have been called co-laborers) break up, disintegrate, and unsettle evil itself.  The answer to the problem of evil is not that evil is not real, or that it is secretly for our good, or that someday it will all make sense, but that God will ultimately resolve the music into glorious and splendid consonance.  

Perhaps the takeaway is that if we see reality as a great symphony, we must recognize that while God, the master conductor, offers to train us in the art of skillful playing, and even to play our parts for us when we fail, if we refuse the help of the Master musician he will eventually remove us from the symphony altogether.  The dissonance will be resolved.

It's quite common these days to hear pastors say, or read on church websites, something to the effect that it does't matter what you wear to church.  Sometimes it's even done in a slightly snarky manner that implies that while other churches might be bothered about such things, we're just happy for you to be here dressed.  I understand that this is generally done in a spirit of welcoming people in, nevertheless I demur.  While I don't believe that churches need to enforce some sort of dress code, nor that a lack of means to obtain high end clothing or even a lack of fashion sense should be a bar to worship (of course), I do think that the way we present ourselves for worship is significant.  

First, there is the simple fact that the way we dress for an event is an expression of our attitude toward and understanding of the event.  We all know this intuitively.  When we have a job interview we dress well, groom ourselves nicely, straighten ties, and iron blouses.  When a woman gets married she spends a great deal of time trying on and picking out the perfect white wedding dress.  Similarly, the groom wears a suit or tuxedo as an expression of the fact that this is an important occasion and that he is presenting himself to his bride in a formal and sacrosanct manner.  Soldiers wear fatigues, policemen wear uniforms, doctors wear white coats.  All of this is to symbolize the importance of what we are going to do, or to mark us out as those doing one thing (and not another).  When a policeman dons his uniform it lets everyone know that he is policing.  When a young man spiffs himself up for a date it is to let the girl know that he views this as a special occasion, calling for extra attention to his appearance.  All of this is to say that our manner of dress is an expression of our attitudes and beliefs about what we are doing.  Even casual dress expresses something.  It indicates that this is not a special occasion, but time for rest, relaxation, maybe some work around the house.

But this line of reasoning begs another set of questions.  Often we hear that church is different.  After all, man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.  (By the way, that reference comes from I Samuel 16 where God is speaking to Samuel about which of Jesse's sons to anoint king, but interestingly a few verses later when David is found to be the one, we are told that David "was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome."  So it behooves us not to get carried away.)  Yet it is precisely because the outward appearance (so far as it is in our control) is an expression of the heart, that the way we present ourselves for worship is significant.  As I said above, if a young man's heart yearns for a young woman, that will express itself in the way he presents himself to her.  If my heart desires a job, that desire will take outward form in presenting myself as clean and well kept at an interview.  This gets at the root issue, that often behind these kinds of arguments lies a kind of dualism.  It is often supposed that because God is concerned with the issues of the heart (which he surely is!), he must not give a wit about outward forms or appearances.  But this is not the Christian view.  Indeed, are we to suppose that the God who gave woman beautiful hair for her glory (I Cor 11), who wrote Song of Solomon, who created the majestic oak and the dainty flower, raindrops and snowflakes, lions and toucans, is not concerned with outward forms?  I demur.

No, God looks for beauty on the inside and the outside.  In fact a better term than beauty would be glory.  God likes glory.  When the Spirit-Cloud hovered over the unformed creation it was as a glory cloud of light, just as when he appeared to our forefathers in the wilderness.  And that glory overflowed, as it were, into creation, charging the world with an almost electric glory of it's own. And from that time forth God has charged man with the task of imitating him in glorifying the world.  Adam's work was not for its own sake but that he might transform God's good creation from glory to glory.

This is why I believe that so many reformed err in their view that churches ought to be plain and unadorned.  It is not only in creation that God has displayed his predilection for beauty.  When God calls his people to form a place of worship what kind of place is it?  Well, if nothing else we must say that it is a space charged with glory that was meant to house the very Shekinah glory of God himself.  Think of the tabernacle with its finely woven tapestries, gold overlays, silver overlays, bronze overlays, filigrees of pomegranate and bells, candles, incense, etc.  Indeed anyone who has read the pentateuch can't help but be overwhelmed by the level of detail and repetition that emphasize all the glorious intricacies of the tabernacle.  And yet, such was not sufficient.  Illustrating the progression from glory to glory, when God's people settle down with a King he calls for an even more glorious abode, a temple, to be surrounded by the glorious music and choirs that David had instituted a generation before.  We could go on, but you get the point.

Yes, some might say, but that was the Old Testament.  The idea being that in the epochs prior to Jesus coming God was concerned with such outward forms, but now, in the New Covenant all is inward and a matter of the heart.  Not so.  God has always been concerned with the heart, just read the minor prophets.  But it was Jesus who said to clean the inside of the cup, because the outside doesn't really matter... Oh wait, that's not right.  No, he said to clean the inside of the cup and then the outside would be clean as well (Matt 23.26).  Which is to say, the outward is an expression of the inward.

Or we could turn to the Revelation given to St. John, and the worship described therein.  While the book is of course highly symbolic, the descriptions of worship therein go into great detail about appearances.  Lots of pure white, and beauty.  And who is described as being pure white most especially?  The Bride of Christ, the Church.  No spots or wrinkles to be found.

Lest we get too far afield though, let's return to the question at hand.  Is it appropriate for pastors and church leaders to encourage their congregants to 'don their best' for gathered worship on Sunday morning?  Well, a few caveats.  One, it is not necessarily our "best" that is called for in a culture where that might mean first, that some are dressed in far more elaborate and costly clothing than others and second, that some are wearing tuxedos to worship.  Again, appropriateness is the question.  Gathered worship is indeed a special time, and we do of course come into the presence of the most venerable of all hosts.  However, it is also a regular gathering.  We come each week, and it is to a meal that we are invited.  Indeed it is to a feast, where, after appropriate peacemakings and reconciliations are accomplished we are invited to relax and to rest at table with our Host, who is after all, family.

So, if 'our best' means a tuxedo, or a wedding dress, no, we should not be encouraged to wear that.  Nor should we even if we want to.  Ostentation is not welcomed at the Lord's table (I Cor 11).  But ought we 'dress up'?  Yes.  We ought to make our appearance and our dress fit the occasion.  We have been invited to a feast with the King.  Nevermind that the King is our Father, this is a semi-formal occasion and one for which we ought to prepare ourselves appropriately.  

This does not, by the way, exclude the poor or those who are less fashion conscious.  No one is suggesting that the price of one's clothes ought to make a wit of difference, or that there is some sort of minimum threshold of hoity-toityness that must be met.  In our contexts the vast majority of people own more than one set of clothes, and among those clothes have those that are considered the nicer ones.  And even if that were not the case, we all have ways that we present ourselves when we want to look nice.  We fix our hair with a little more care, we trim our beards or tuck in our shirts.  We all do it a little differently.  And in deference to those taken issue with before it is true that God looks on the heart.  It is not a pastor's place to judge whether a particular congregant is sufficiently dressed-up for worship (barring extreme examples), but God knows the heart and appreciates our efforts to present ourselves in a manner in keeping with our love and respect for him, not to speak of our brothers and sisters.  It is pleasant to dwell in the company of others who have all put in a bit of extra effort in preparation for joining us in worship.

And that is what it's all about.  Glory, while it can refer to weight and those things which overwhelm, also carries with it a sense of pleasantness.  There is a subtle glory not far removed from sheer pleasantness in the little dainties carved into every doorframe and windowsill of a medieval cathedral.  There is a glory that is pleasantness to be found in a home decorated with wreaths and tablecloths and knick-knacks appropriate to the season.  And there is a glory-pleasantness in a congregation who has outfitted themselves with their 'nice things' and come together to worship and feast with the triune God.

Given my general disapprobation for government as it typically exists today in a western context and my appreciation for market economics, some have registered surprise on learning of my equal disapprobation of Objectivism, the philosophy pioneered and championed by Ayn Rand.  While there are numerous points of commonality between my own views and hers, I have no qualms in saying that as a Christian I find Objectivism quite objectionable.  

Objectivism, even in it's name posits the notion that individuals essentially have a God's-eye-view of the world, or at least that they are capable of such.  (In that regard it is simply a species of that great heresy, modernism).  That is, they stand over against the world observing it and forming impressions from a purely objective standpoint.  This is flatly false, and is a rejection of the creator/creature distinction fundamental to the Christian worldview (Rand was an outspoken atheist).  Human beings, as created beings, find themselves within the world, and thus apprehend it as subjects.  That is to say, all human knowledge is subjective.  It is mediated through an I, a subject.  We cannot stand above creation looking down, with a God's-eye-perspective and simply relate to the world as object.  Yes the world is full of objects, but I am one of them and I apprehend it from within.  I cannot escape myself to see things "as they are."  I see them as myself, through my own grid of knowledge, awareness, experiences, etc.  I perceive the world from a particular, and yes, subjective perspective.  I apprehend reality in a finite manner.  This is not to deny truth or real knowledge, it is simply to recognize my place as part of God's creation, and not possessing a view from without.

Further, this does not deny that we can know true things, or even that we can know the world 'as it is,' in one sense.  Although I am a created being, I am one created in God's image.  Furthermore, this same God created me for this world, and has blessed me with the ability to apprehend it as such.  However, knowledge is always mediated.  Once again, I do not have a God's-eye-view of the world, as if it were a system I were standing outside of; rather, from my place within creation I receive revelation from God.  God reveals himself through creation, and more directly through his Word spoken and written by his chosen instruments in Scripture.  So indeed, I can have true knowledge, and accurate knowledge, but not "objective knowledge" in the strict sense.  I am in fact, ever a subject.  

This is really just a short version of a long way of saying that Objectivism is wrong precisely because it is founded on a non-Christian epistemology that does not take knowledge to be a gift from God, but a thing to be grasped by men and women who fancy themselves gods.

In I Samuel 16.18-24 God's son goes to the tenders of the Lord's vineyard and is welcomed and prophesies.  The master then sends his servants repeatedly to kill the son.  Each time they begin to prophesy.  Then the master himself comes to kill the son and he too becomes a prophet despite himself.

In Jesus' Kingdom the master sends his servants repeatedly to the tenders of his vineyards to prophesy and each time the tenders kill the servants.  Finally, the master sends his son to prophesy and they kill him too.  But then the master comes and reigns vengeance on those wicked tenders.

I think this illustrates a point.  In 1 Samuel 15.11 God says, "'I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments."  But then in 15.28-29 Samuel says to Saul, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”  So what gives?  I think the point is that while God regrets the sinful actions of the wicked, he will not have regret.  That is, he will not live with regret.  The Lord will make things right.  He will make a wicked king prophesy, and he will vindicate his murdered Son.  The Lord may regret the sinfulness of those who act wickedly, but he will not abide regret.  He will set things right, doing justice and vindicating the righteous.

Peter Leithart's new First Things article, "How the Church Lost Her Soundscape" is an absolute must read.  I've excerpted it below, but please go read the whole thing.

"The desire to make worship more appealing to young people was a major impulse behind the development of contemporary Christian music in the first place. The magnitude of this shift cannot be overestimated. Culture is a gift from the old to the young, and the younger generation’s grateful reception is a sign of honor for fathers. Cultural transmission has been thrown into reverse, also in the church."

"For all its variety, pop music is dismally monophonic. Transgression is encouraged, so long as it doesn’t get too close to the music. Lady Gaga wears her meat dresses and Rihanna feigns sex on stage, but when the music starts they are both as frothy as Justin Bieber. There can be no Stravinsky of pop music."

"Expertise is one of the values of modern culture, but expertise has always had a limited scope. We trust experts in physics and computer programming and perhaps foreign affairs. But the suggestion that there are experts in aesthetics, musicians who know what music one should appreciate, is greeted with hostility, also in the church. 'I know what I like' stops every argument, buttressed by 'Musical taste is subjective.' Lebanese organist Naji Hakim has lamented that in the Catholic Church 'many in positions of liturgical responsibility, with no musical education as regards technique or aesthetics, have come to believe in a tabula rasa, denying any lineage whatsoever.' Professional musicians have been 'sidelined' as 'the least common denominator has become the rule.' He wonders whether Catholics 'realize the level of mediocrity which the present liturgy has reached.'"

"The church created the soundscape for Western Christendom because she cultivated her own musical life in the liturgy that united human voices with the angelic choirs of heaven. I can hardly imagine a more worrisome sign of worldliness, or clearer evidence of the church’s identity crisis, than our eager renunciation of our own soundscape and our determination instead to reproduce the world’s."

Alastair has written an excellent article on the historic Protestant affirmation of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, here.  It's well worth your time.  Below are a few excerpts from near the end where he provides some helpful evaluations and suggestions.

"The Reformed doctrine, through its wish to avoid certain of the dangers perceived in the notions of transubstantiation and local presence, and rather subtle distinctions and definitions, can open itself up to suspicions of evasion and equivocity, suspicions that in some cases may be well founded, especially among the Reformed of later generations. However, as one examines people such as Calvin more closely, one finds that many of one’s suspicions and objections are satisfactorily addressed. This is not to say that the Reformed always express their doctrine of the Supper in the most appropriate or unambiguous of ways, or that one couldn’t improve upon it by using stronger and more robustly affirmative expressions, but the wiggle room isn’t as large as some may suppose. Unfortunately, when one’s affirmations are so hedged with necessary qualifications and denials, they can lose some of their force and invite questions in the hearers. One sometimes wishes that Reformed theologians had adopted more positive and assertive formulations for their doctrine from the start. As it was, the weight of the Reformed Eucharistic doctrine shifted rather steadily away from the affirmations to the denials and qualifications.

For all of its strengths, for instance, the accent of Calvin’s doctrine frequently lies in the wrong place, in a manner that will dissatisfy many. Calvin places entirely too great a focus upon the way that the Supper communicates to our minds, inviting the notion that the efficacy of the Supper is entirely mediated by our mental faculties, perhaps sowing the seeds for serious declension in later Reformed doctrines of the Eucharist, and inviting the suspicion (such as that of the Lutherans in the Formula of Concord) that for the Reformed the Supper communicates nothing, but merely triggers our remembrance and faith to enjoy a communion with Christ that occurs unmediated by the sacrament. With Calvin’s focus upon the mind, the ‘rite-ness’ of the Supper is easily lost sight of and the Supper becomes a matter for spiritual contemplation, primarily existing to be meditated upon, rather than eaten. It also invites a subjectivizing and interiorizing movement in our understanding of the sacrament. God’s work in the sacrament can be downplayed, with the accent being placed upon our work of raising our thoughts to heaven, remembering Christ’s death, and grasping him by faith. At points this growing stress upon our action in the sacrament threatens to displace the primacy of God’s action within it. It is worth remembering that the medieval Mass that Calvin was reacting against was also for most a spectacle to be meditated upon: in this respect, Calvin’s doctrine could be accused of not making a sufficient break with the abuses of the past..."

"While I find his precise articulation of the doctrine of the Eucharist unsatisfactory, largely on account of certain misplaced accents and lacunae, I believe that Calvin presents the most promising and fertile framework for addressing some of the issues relating both to the question of Christ’s presence in the Supper, and of our participation in his flesh and blood. To my mind, the key strength of Calvin’s proposed approach lies in its robustly personal character. Calvin’s approach provides a clearer way for us to understand the Eucharist as fundamentally Christ’s personal action. Throughout the Eucharist Christ is personally active, not merely passively present, but actively communicating himself. This leads to a further point: Christ’s personal self-communication through the work of his Spirit provides a way for us to focus less upon the elements as static presence, and more upon Christ’s presence as something inextricable from the action of the sacrament. Finally, in what is perhaps his most daring move, Calvin speaks of the Spirit lifting us up to Christ’s presence, rather than Christ being dragged down. What this suggests is that the mystery of the Eucharist is not primarily something that happens to bread and wine, but something that pertains to the entire rite, both elements and communicants. This extension of the mystery enables us to overcome what Peter Leithart has termed the static ‘zoom lens’ with which element-focused approaches to the Eucharist approach the rite. In the place of this we have a ‘wide-angle lens’, which comprehends the entire rite and all participants in it. As Douglas Farrow has observed, Calvin’s focus on the work of the Spirit also opens the possibility of a more eschatological cast to our doctrine of the Eucharist. If the Spirit can unite things distant in space, surely he can also unite things distant in time. Calvin’s approach provides an opening for us to think of the Supper as an anticipatory enjoyment of the life of the kingdom in the present through the work of the eschatological Spirit. It is in these areas, I believe that the promise of the Reformed doctrine of the Eucharist is to be found."

While there are parts of this book that I disagree profoundly with, Bp. Ware also offers some keen insights.  Below are some quotes from his chapter on Creation in his book, The Orthodox Way.

"The image and likeness signify orientation, relationship.  As Philip Sherrad observes, 'The very concept of man implies a relationship, a connection with God.  Where one affirms man one also affirms God.'  To believe that man is made in God's image is to believe that man is created for communion and union with God, and that if he rejects this communion he ceases to be properly man.  There is no such thing as "natural man" existing in separation from God: man cut off from God is in a highly unnatural state.  The image doctrine means, therefore, that man has God as the innermost center of his being.  The divine is the determining element in our humanity; losing our sense of the divine, we lose also our sense of the human.

This is strikingly confirmed by what has happened in the West since the Renaissance and more notably since the industrial revolution.  An increasing secularism has been accompanied by a growing dehumanization of society.  The clearest example of this is to be seen in the Leninist-Stalinist version of Communism, as found in the Soveit Union.  Here the denial of God has gone hand in hand witha cruel repression of man's personal freedom.  Nor is this in the least surprising.  The only secure basis for a doctrine of human liberty and human dignity is the belief that each man is in God's image."

"First, man is able to bless and praise God for the world.  Man is best defined not as a "logical" but as a "eucharistic" animal.  He does not merely live in the world, think about it and use it, but he is capable of seeing the world as God's gift, as a sacrament of God's presence and a means of communion with him.  So he is able to offer the world back to God in thanksgiving.  'Thine own from thine own we offer to thee, in all and for all' (The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom).

Secondly, besides blessing and praising God for the world, man is also able to reshape and alter the world, and so to endue it with fresh meaning.  In the words of Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, 'Man puts the seal of his understanding and of his intelligent work onto creation...The world is not only a gift, but a task for man.'  It is our calling to co-operate with God; we are, in St Paul's phrase, 'fellow workers with God' (1 Cor. 3.9)..."

"The original sin of man, his turning from God-centeredness to self-centeredness, meant first and foremost that he no longer looked upon the world and other human beings in a eucharistic way, as a sacrament of communion with God.  He ceased to regard them as a gift, to be offered back in thanksgiving to the Giver, and he began to treat them as his own possession, to be grasped, exploited and devoured.  So he no longer saw other persons and things as they are in themselves and in God, and he saw them only in terms of the pleasrue and satisfaction which they could give to him.  And the result of this was that he was caught in the vicious circle of his own lust, which grew more hungry the more it was gratified.  The world ceased to be transparent-- a window through which he gazed on God-- and it grew opaque; it ceased to be life-giving, and became subject to corruption and mortality.  'For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt though return' (Gen 3.19)..."

Below are some of the quotes offered at the back of the chapter.

"In the immense cathedral which is the universe of God, each man, whether scholar or manual laborer, is called to act as the priest of his whole life--to take all that is human, and to turn it into an offering and a hymn of glory."  --Paul Evdokimov

"The saints must needs offer repentance not only on their own behalf but also on behalf of their neighbor, for without active love they cannot be made perfect.  So the whole univers is held together, and we are each of us helped providentially by one another."  --St Mark the Monk

"God does not insist or desire that we should mourn in agony of heart; rather, it is his wish that out of love for him we should rejoice with laughter in our soul.  Take away sin, and tears become superfluous; where there is no bruise, no ointment is required.  Before the fall Adam shed no tears, and in the same way there will be no more tears after the resurrection from the dead, when sin has been destroyed.  For pain, sorrow and lamentation will then have fled away."  --St John Climacus

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1 ESV),

A friend asked me about Galatians 5.1 with regard to my claim in the previous post that 'law of God' in Galatians refers primarily to Jewish Torah-keeping, especially circumcision.  The question then is: why is Paul warning the Galatians (i.e. gentiles) about being enslaved again, if the enslavement was to 'works of the law' as defined above?  They would not have previously been keepers of Jewish law, so what can Paul's warning mean, or should it cause us to re-consider whether perhaps Paul just means good works generally when he says 'works of the law' in Galatians?  Below is my shot at an answer.