Shame in the Public Arena

In 401 AD, twenty-nine Saxon “slaves,” strangled each other to death with their bare hands in their prison cells. They chose this death rather than being forced to fight one another in Rome’s arena. Better death than shame. Their “owner,” the Senator Symmachus (famously known as the “Last Pagan”), wrote of them that they were a rebellious “band of slaves, worse than any Spartacus.” In the pages of the New Testament we…

Over Come Evil By Doing Good

Drawing on the Book of Proverbs, St. Paul offers a simple admonition to his readers: “…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20) He then adds: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. It is a very simple statement. However, when anyone begins to suggest what…

When America Got Sick

It was in the years following the Civil War, America was hard on the path to “becoming great.” The industrial revolution had moved into full swing, railroads criss-crossed the country, immigration was gaining speed, and wealth was accumulating at a rate never seen before. We were slowly moving from our original agrarian economy towards life as an industrial nation. The middle-class was growing, education was increasing, and the life of management was…

What Happens When We Sing to God?

“God inhabits the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:3) The true nature of existence is best expressed as communion. Though we experience much of our life as unique individuals, the experience of all that is around us remains one of communion. In no way do we actually exist as an independent entity, somehow separate from our environment. We breathe the world; we eat the world; we drink the world; every cell of our…

To Live Within the Tradition

For a period of about three years in my late teens and early 20’s, I was deeply involved in a charismatic house church. It was a deeply committed group of people (some of us lived in a commune together). Our services could run for hours with very intensive Bible teaching. A feature of that time and the charismatic movement was a concern for the “latest word.” By that was meant new insights,…

A Beautiful Heart – The Acquisition of Grace

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil 4:8 +++ Some people tell me that they are scandalized because they see many things wrong in the Church. I tell them that if you ask a fly, “Are there any flowers in this area?”…

The Verbal Icon of Christ

Any number of times, the late Fr. Thomas Hopko recounted how his predecessor as Professor of Dogmatics at St. Vladimir’s, Serge Verhovskoy, extracted an oath from him prior to signing off on his assuming that position. The oath was straightforward: never to present his own opinion as the dogma of the Church. If you’ve ever listened to any of Fr. Tom’s lectures (something I highly recommend), you’ll note how careful he always…

Stumbling Toward Salvation

On occasion I have written on topics that seem to scandalize readers, or certainly cause difficulty for many. Some of those topics have been articles on the wrath of God; the radical forgiveness of everyone for everything; the commonality of our life and our salvation; and various posts on giving thanks always for all things (there are others as well). I am not intentionally contrarian – I do not write in order…

“Make It So!” vs. “Let It Be!”

Abba Poemen said, “Teach your mouth to say that which is in your heart. +++ Some years back, while driving through the mountains here in Tennessee, with an out-of-date GPS system in my car, I was instructed to take a particular turn and cross a bridge. Something inside me (guardian angel?) whispered a word of caution (it was night as well), and so I took the turn carefully and slowed. It was…

This Is My Body

The most fundamental experience of being human is biological. We enter the world in a state of biological dependence, having left an utterly symbiotic existence in the womb. Parents’ first thoughts about a child are consumed with biological issues. Nursing, digestion, sleep, and various discomforts rightly occupy the often sleep-deprived parents of newborns. Conversations among young mothers tend to circle around those issues. Biology is primary. When something is biologically amiss, everything…