My brief review this month is of Father Stephen Freeman's Glory to God for All Things.
An expressly theological blog, Glory to God has I think never been cited by me here, even though it has been on my blogroll from the beginning. (My aim is to include in this series only blogs I don't usually refer to in posts. We'll see how well that goes.) Fr. Stephen is a priest in the Orthodox Church in America, and his writings are examples of the best of contemporary Orthodoxy. There are no punches pulled -- he will leave you with no doubt about where he stands on the state of modern Christianity -- but none of those switchblade-stab asides either, where the critique gets you when you aren't looking. Fr. Stephen can be equally dismissive about the blind side of his fellow Orthodox (e.g. here: "Contrary to modern Orthodox conspiracy theories, ecumenism was not invented in the Vatican. It was invented on the frontiers of 19th century America"). There is no nostalgia for Byzantium or the "Third Rome," and no rallies for social or political "agendas." The theme here, repeated through a thousand nuanced variations but constant and gentle, the only one that matters, is addressed to each human being: metanoia. Repentance. Conversion of heart.
Some of Fr. Stephen's posts are what I'd call long but not too long, but they are all extremely readable. He wears his learning lightly and yet is unmistakable. (I have learned a great deal from reading him, on a purely academic level.) For all that, however, he writes always personally; the voice speaking is one that knows the struggle it articulates. This is why, I find, his always-pastoral concerns never capsize his posts into mere therapy. Typical is his remark in what is, as I wrote, his latest post:
[When] my family and I were received into the Holy Orthodox faith.... I met the day of our reception with fear and trembling, more because of the naked prospect of encountering God than from any other existential angst. I’ve learned since then that the inner life can be exceedingly creative in its efforts to avoid God. I placed myself in an Orthodox arena and found that there is still plenty of room there to play hide and seek.I recommend this blog as the online place to start soaking in the atmosphere of Orthodoxy. You will have to do some soaking, because the language can be strange. ("The Holy Orthodox Faith"... who talks like that anymore?). Explanations are not usually given directly; it's a question of spending time (a lot of time) listening to the conversation to see how it works. Here one can listen, thankfully, without encountering the diatribes and infighting that beset too many Christian blogs. There are plenty of spots where you can eavesdrop on modern and "traditional" Catholics, Protestants liberal and evangelical, and old-world and new-world Orthodox all bickering. All of that provides us excuse after convenient excuse to look no further. ("See how they love each other!") Glory to God for All Things is not that. It articulates, without apology and without airs, a deep Christian faith steeped in two thousand years of practice. It is generous, guileless, and perennially relevant.