(Review) “The Wheel” Issue 13/14- Being Human: Embodiment, Sex and Marriage, Pastoral Challenges

by Luis Salés

The Wheel is a quarterly journal that strives to articulate the Gospel “intelligently and constructively for the 21st Century” from Orthodox perspectives. It offers an accessibly thoughtful and well-researched platform for Orthodox self-expressions and often features world-renown contributors. Andrew Louth edited this volume, which “initiates discussion” (14) concerning Orthodoxy and sexuality. I commend the editorial decision to incorporate vehemently disparate viewpoints as an overture to a multi-partisan and long overdue conversation. I treat here some of the salient discussions in this issue, though I warmly encourage reading it in full.

Louth calls attention to an increase in cultural sexualization and a positively correlated “coolness and lack of physicality” (17) that runs the risk of reducing all human relations to sexual terms. Behr proposes a different vision whereby Christian asceticism (married or not) ought to sublimate sexual difference by becoming human in Christ (28). On Behr’s reading, sexual difference corresponds to being “in Adam, not in Christ” (29). This framework invites deeper reflection on human embodiment. Kelaidis’ article calls for just such an engagement with “the human body as a site of divine revelation” (33), but unfortunately it sometimes deals in platitudes (e.g., its handling of Platonic dualism and “Gnosticism,” pp. 34–35) and I would suggest that the author’s tacit disappointment (33) that Orthodoxy has not produced something of the same “scope and magnitude” (33) as John Paul II’s Theologia corporis is misguided. Collectively, the many extant Orthodox meditations on the body and sexuality are tesserae in a kaleidoscopically shifting mosaic, whose complexity hints—and no more—at the mystery of embodied personhood. Continue Reading…

Those with Ears to Hear

by Catherine Andreadis

This special youth submission was originally a speech delivered at the 2018 St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival hosted by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The speech was delivered in response to the prompt: “Christ said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9). The Lord said this with reference to the way we hear the word of God. What is our response?

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Obviously, it is quite easy to identify the source of irony in this quote: We all have ears don’t we? So we should all be able to hear the word of God. This is often on the contrary, as today more so than ever it is harder to hear and revel in God’s word cogently. In order for us to be able to soak in Jesus’ teachings to the same extent as devout followers were able to thousands of years ago, we must be all the more aware and committed. We live in a world full of seemingly endless knowledge and opinions that have the potential to distract us from God’s simple message, while in Christ’s time, there was a seemingly definite wrong and right (in other words, the existence of a gray zone was negligible). It is harder for us to hear God’s word with the same conviction because our minds are so cluttered with the noise of physical society. That’s not to say that knowledge is bad—much of human discovery has allowed us to understand the world more complexly—but we have to change the way we think and hear the word of God in order for it to resonate with us.

God’s word is universal, both in its meaning and its adaptability, which has allowed for its longevity. Continue Reading…

Grief Is a Funny Thing

by Gregory J. Abdalah

I recently took my wife to see Les Misérables. From the first time I heard it, it became one of my favorite musicals. I did not really understand all of the themes and topics at first, often turning to my mom for explanation as we were listening in the car. When asked to choose something to sing in an eighth-grade music class, I naturally chose my favorite song: “Stars.” My mother cried, of course. “Stars” became my go-to piece for anytime I needed something to sing—this range included anything from high school musical auditions to a “Broadway Night” Performance in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, to my parents “requesting” me to sing for their friends during dinner in the Pope room at Buca di Beppo. Each time she heard me sing it, my mother cried, of course. It became a running joke. I’d sing a few bars in the car and then stop and ask, “You crying, ma?” Nothing seemed a more fitting encore when choosing the program for my college senior recital, the final for a degree in vocal performance. And for those who are wondering…yes, my mom cried. So, much to my surprise, when I took my wife to see Les Misérables, I got emotional during “Stars.” Then memories of the joy shared through music flooding in: listening together in the car, singing in the choir, seeing concerts and musicals and plays together. The next thing I knew, the cast started singing the reprise of “Do you hear the people sing?” and I could not stop crying. I even had to stay in my seat during the standing ovation to compose myself! It hit me like a ton of bricks: Grief is a funny thing. It has the ability to creep up on you when you least expect it.

While I was sharing this experience with a friend, they asked “Does it feel fresh?” I stumbled to find an answer and could not. The best I could come up with was: “It’s like a scab that sometimes gets picked off.” The reality is that it has been ten years since my mom passed away. I feel like I should be past the point of crying at random, but every so often that scab gets picked off. What does it really mean to be “past” it, anyway? Continue Reading…

Torture Is Iconoclasm

by Matthew Cooper

The nomination of Gina Haspel to the position of CIA director is deeply troubling to me, should be deeply troubling to all Americans—and should be most troubling to Orthodox Christians in particular. To explain why this is so, allow me to begin with a historical anecdote.

In 1169, the Bishop of Rostov, a stiff-necked and arrogant man named Fedor, was sent to Kiev by his prince, Andrei Yurievsky—later commemorated as Saint Andrei “the God-Loving.” This bishop had committed a number of egregious ecclesiastical crimes – many of them, it must be said, at Prince Andrei’s own instigation. One of these crimes was attempting to create his own jurisdiction over the head of the Metropolitan. Fedor’s behaviour even attracted the criticism of the celebrated preacher Bishop Saint Kirill of Turov, who urged him to resign his position. Long story short, when his conduct became intolerable, he was sent to Kiev to confess and face trial for his crimes before the then-Metropolitan of Kiev, Constantine II.

The Metropolitan of Kiev, however, had his henchmen cruelly torture the bishop. They cut out his tongue, cut off his right hand and put out his eyes. They then drowned him and then burned his corpse. Continue Reading…