St. Ignatius on Church Structure

When the man who was mentored by Saint John the Apostle tells you how the Church is structured, should not his words be heeded?

St. Ignatius of Antioch.

"In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type (icon) of the Father, and the presbyters (priests) as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him (Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110])"

"Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him."  Letter to the Smyrneans, A.D 110.


On Faith as an Eye.

    St. Peter the Damascene once wrote that “God created the sun and the eye. Man is free to receive the sun's light or not. The same is true here. God sends the light of knowledge like rays to all, but He also gave us faith like an eye. The one who wants to receive knowledge through faith, keeps it by his works, and so God gives him more willingness, knowledge, and power.”  Just as Pope Francis wrote in the Lumen Fidei, faith is a light for our path; our means of seeing the uncreated light.  
I have the dual blessing and curse of being a cynical romantic in my inner views of life.  I have always found it difficult to take good things at face value: I have always searched for a pragmatic, base, natural explanation for the good and beautiful things I encounter in the world.  At the same time, however, I am an unashamed romantic, who actively seeks out what it true, beautiful, and good, and finds ways of appreciating and loving these things.  The two views would seem nearly irreconcilable, however, even to me, if it were not for the God-given eye of faith.  Without this faith, without belief in ultimate Goodness and Truth, the romantic within me would surely die a slow death of disappointment, pain, and cynicism.  Indeed, faith, I believe, is in part the illumination of the image of God within fellow human beings.  It is only through knowing the Living God that we can truly know humanity, who are icons of His image.  To me, then, faith is not only absolutely critical in the knowledge of truth and beauty, but in humanity itself.  What is faith in humanity if it is not rooted in faith in its creator?  
    Faith for me is also a context through which to understand life.  As humans, we have imponderably vast souls contained within us.  Since we are hardly capable of fathoming the depths of our own soul, that seemingly infinite universe within us, we find it difficult to imagine that every human being has the same kind of infinite soul within them.  When we commune with other humans in any of the myriad of ways humans commune, be it through music or poetry, we come to the realization of others’ souls.  Communion is the point at which souls cross paths.  But in the light of faith, at Holy Communion, not only do our souls cross paths with those of the people within the church, but they cross paths with the cloud of witnesses from ages of ages before us, and most especially our souls cross paths with God.  We have a focal point of coincidence with the Creator of the outside universe and the universes within each one of us.  Faith gives us the context with which to understand and cherish humanity, and to me, this has been an illumination I could not live without.  
Our means of perceiving the light God sends down upon us all is also the lens through which we see order in the created world.  Faith has not only proved to be a light that illumines my way of life, it is literally the reason human existence cosmically makes sense in any way.  Without the eye of faith to see the light of God, what means have we of seeing and understanding anything of our own existence?  We would be left to flail about in our own souls, uncomprehending and oblivious to the universe outside of ourselves.  
    Faith also compels us to “keep our works,” as St. Peter of Damascus wrote.  By this faith, we are pulled into the participation of God’s energies, and we strive for synergy and oneness of spirit and mind with the Father of Creation.  By the light of faith we realize that even our ability to do good works is a gift to be appreciated!  By these works of faith we are pulled into a greater unity with God, with all of humanity, and are able to better understand and appreciate life and our own existences.
My faith has indeed been a light to my path in the journey of life: a light from the end of the tunnel that shines regardless of how often the tunnel takes unexpected and frightening turns.  A light by which I can see the world and understand it, a light which exposes my own faults for better correction, and a light that draws me nearer to the Father of Creation.  



Musings On the Divine Spark

     What is man?  A fair question.  Is man a beast?  An animal slightly elevated over the rest of the animals on this earth?  What exactly is the nature of the flesh that we live in (or is that “live as?”) In broader (multi-denominational) Christianity it seems there is a struggle even to find a near consensus.  In his best-selling novel “Killer Angels,” author Michael Shaara has a character say that men are, as the title of the book says, killer angels.  We have a “divine spark,” as the “idealest” Colonel Joshua Chamberlain says, remarking about how he knows that southern slaves are men just as much as their masters are.  He sees the “divine spark” in man.  On the other hand, Chamberlain’s father pointed out that if man is like an angel, as Shakespeare once wrote, he is akin to a murdering angel.  What does it mean, to have this divine spark, to be so like an angel, and yet be capable of being a killer angel?  What could having a divine spark and being a killer angel mean?
    To be sure, killer angels are not just a horror unimaginable, or something demonic and evil.  In Exodus 12, for example, the angel of the Lord brought death to the cruel.  But at the same time, is this truly what man is?  Is man a messenger of the Lord who does his bidding and distributes life and death as God sees fit?  Hardly.  In the novel itself, we see death being dealt by men, but these deaths are not ones that God sent his “killer angels” to deal.  These deaths are the result of men’s actions.  So men are hardly death-dealing messengers of God, as angels can be.
    Does Shaara’s character then mean that men are demons?  Angels turned to killing?  Fallen angels?  If this is the case, then this, too, is incorrect, for men are capable of both kindly acts and deeds of evil.  We are neither demons, nor angels.  So perhaps the term “killer angels” is one that does not describe us, which leaves us, thankfully, with the “divine spark” put forth by Chamberlain.  While Christians must obviously disagree that man is a killer angel, as discussed earlier, we must be something unique and set apart, hardly capable of comparison or analogy to angels, fallen or otherwise.  The term killer angel has been dealt with, but Shaara’s “divine spark” remains a part of what man is to the characters of this novel.  
    What is this Divine Spark?  It is not the mark of an angel, but the mark of a man.  It is how we know men from beast.  But in reality, what sets man apart from the rest of the animals?  Scripture tells us we are made in the Image of God, but what does that mean?  It is possible for a humanoid robot to look precisely like a human, to look like a reflection of the ‘image of God’ and yet it is not a man.  To begin, to be in the image of God, we must be.  We must ontologically exist.  We must have the nature of man, the flesh of man, the spirit of man.  But what is it about the flesh of man, the being of man, that gives him this divine spark?  It is simple.  An extremely simple six words that change everything.  Man’s flesh is in the Trinity.  Our very flesh, that which is our own, that which all men have in common, is also a part of the Trinity.  1 John 4:2 says that “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.”  Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven as a man.  He sits at the right hand of God in the flesh.  This is the divine spark.  It is not something we should boast of, for all men have it.  All men share their flesh with their God, whether they acknowledge him or not.  All men have this divine spark, the image of God, the flesh of the trinity, and this is what defines us, not as killer angels but as men.

   So, while we must disagree with the idea that we are somehow angelic and capable of murder, (we must object, on the side to the seeming equivocation within the novel of murder and killing) we also see great merit in Shaara’s recognition of the effects of the incarnation upon mankind.  All men have the spark, and even those who do not know God can see it, which is a mercy, a spark not only of divinity but of light to the world: a built-in arrow pointing to the Creator and Redeemer of men.


More on Church Unity...

More on Church Unity... this is a fantastic article.  =)


Weekly Creative Writing #18

My eyes close and I wonder, if you set all the words that have ever been spoken, if there would be more good than bad.  Or if all the deeds done well outnumber the deeds done in evil.  But most of all, I marvel at the universe.  Billions of frozen and burning spheres... mind-boggling views scattered throughout a vast plain of nothing... more nothing than we can even begin to fathom... views that we will never see.  All over the galaxy, there are burning sunsets and unforgettable sunrises that yearn for eyes to see them, but never get a chance to show their splendor to anyone.  But that doesn’t stop them from practicing the dress rehearsal, every morning and evening, as they have since the beginning.  They’ve practiced a long time now, and their act has been perfected for countless years, but they play for an empty stadium of the heavens.  

And as time passes there, so too it passes here, in the very spot where I am.  Tiny on a vast planet.  Tiny planet in a vast galaxy.  Tiny galaxy in a vast universe... and beyond that... who can say?  So much has been said about it, so much has been thought about it, but thoughts churn inside me when the image of distant pale skies and great, crater-swept landscapes cross the screen of my mind.  Thoughts that are half-formed, prematurely beating down the doors of my mind to escape into the open.  There is so much to be said about the vaulting halls of this... this space... we call home.  But ah, I’ve confused the universe outside for the universe within, I think, because I’m not there, I’m merely inside my mind... like a small planetarium, pantomiming the great, wild, unpredictable real thing.  But what can I say, as I fly through the universe as it is inside my mind?  It’s just a passing place, not to be described but to be seen as I speed through it, on my way to my final destination.  “Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box / they tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe.”  And then the darkness I’ve been rushing towards swallows me up, and I fall asleep.

For the positively wonderful counterpart to this concurrent themed writing project by the positively wonderful author thereof, visit


St. Irenaeus on Unity

St. Irenaeus was the erudite Orthodox bishop of what is now Lyons, France, and a great defender of Christianity against the gnostic heresies that sprung up in his lifetime.  Not only did his words and thoughts contradict the gnostics of his day, but they also provide a wonderful preserved image of the Church in its first centuries.  Was it divided into denominations and scattered around the world?  No.  Was it a loose collective of people who just followed one or two main tenets of this faith and differed in baptismal, sacramental, or liturgical ways from each other?  Remember, these churches were spread out over untold miles, without steady and reliable forms of instant communication... But read what St. Irenaeus says about The Church...

"The Church, having received this teaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it.  She also believes these points of doctrine just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth.  For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is the same.  For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Lybia, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world."  - (Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus)

Isn't that incredible?  =)


                      "A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost" - Marrion C. Garretty

You can tell who she is by the way she walks into a room.  Her quietness or precisely the opposite.  Calmness or excitement.  Without seeing her, I’d know that laugh anywhere, or the particular phrasings she uses.  She is such that her presence lets you know that she would do anything, give anything, for you.  A glass of water on a hot summer’s day, unrequested, out of the blue... a blanket as you sit quietly by the fire, unasked for but more than appreciated.  Kindness is where she is - though she may try to hide it sometimes - and it will never leave.  Sometimes, it’s just silent little moments, perhaps on a parkbench with the warmth of the beach sun spreading across my arms.  Somehow siblings connect with each other in an ineffable way that few others can - and that can have its joys and its sorrows all at the same time - but in the summer sun, perhaps it’s just happiness to be together, and it’s a happiness that I can read from just being there.  Without a word, without any sort of conversation.  Just being.  The funniest thing is that if I didn’t know what she looked like, if I didn’t know her by sight, I wouldn’t know her any less or love her any less than I do.  (Perhaps I’d be less protective out of ignorance, if anything!)  Because completely aside from being beautiful outside, she’s beautiful in the deepest of ways.  In her soul.  Kindness is with her, and it will never leave.

   For the perfectly wonderful counterpart of this weekly creative writing project, go to   =)


Highlight: Olivia's photography.


Weekly Creative Writing #16

The quiet is intense, and there is something about this sunken lake that speaks of a silence which does not like to be broken.  Which has rarely been broken.  A silence which has taken on a nearly material presence.  The clouds make a frothy ceiling for the stone walls of the lake, which rise up to the sky, and time seems to become more or less irrelevant under the enclosure of the blanketed realm overhead.  It’s odd, how time separates us humans as much as distance.  More than distance.  The old fisherman who came out of the now sagging doorway of the fishing hut upon the lake in Germany knew as little of we who were to stand looking at his fading handiwork as he knew of his contemporaries in South America, who breathed and walked the same moments of time as he did.  And he did not need to know of them or us as he came to his little porch and baited his line in anticipation of the sharp tug of today’s breakfast.  It always came, too.  He used to joke that St. Andrew and St. Peter must love him, because the fish would always come to his line, but even the fortunate fisherman could not escape time, (who can?) and a day dawned when he did not emerge blinking into the rosy sunlight of another morning.  It wasn’t long after that that the bombers streamed in lines miles long across the once-quiet sky, and the mountains frowned upwards at their piercing drone through the valley.  Perhaps it was better that the fisherman had caught his last fish before the tranquility he had loved so dearly was split in twain.  But as all wars of men do, this too came to an end, and Lady Quiet returned to her home in the green waters and rocky clefts of the ancient lake.  Years later, she took once more a small leave of absence when the river, swelled by an early spring thaw, roared into the lake, disturbing it to its archaic green depths, disturbing the creatures that lurked therein and forcing the edge of the waters to rise above the places where the frogs used to play and the animals came to drink.  The night was wild, and the moon looked down helplessly as the waters caught the little abandoned shack and dragged it out over rocks and into the swollen torrent.  But the fisherman had not been lacking in skill, and the tiny structure held together until the waters once more receded and left her sitting on the rocks in the green waters.  But now that’s far away from us in time, as we stand on the shore and look out to the dilapidated little hut in the water.  It’s strange to think that the time other than the present was just as real as the fact that the same moments we experience are just as real on the other side of the world.  The fisherman’s little paradise was once the present just as now is to us.   It is just as real to us as it was to him.  And for a moment, just a fleeting second, we could see through the strange cloud we call time.

For the wonderful counterpart of this themed concurrent weekly creative writing project, visit


Rantlings! =)