Why I Want to be Like You

I am not a student of René Girard, though some notable Orthodox thinkers have been. I ran across an article recently that provoked some reflection for me – particularly on a central theme in Girard’s work: mimesis. He observed that human beings are drawn towards “copying” others (mimesis). A passage from the article I was reading: Human beings are expert imitators (mimetic comes from a Greek word meaning “to imitate”). Science has…

Broken Communion

The holidays can make it all too poignant: the terrible fact of broken communion. Often, our festivities bring us into close contact with some (few or many) whom we most commonly avoid. An uncle, an aunt, a brother, a parent whose relationship is marked with pain, misunderstanding, shame, and various other torments. Statistics say that these times (particularly Thanksgiving to Christmas) are frequently marred by things we would otherwise avoid. The holidays…

Through a Glass Darkly

Perhaps the most intriguing passage in all of St. Paul’s writings is his description of an inner struggle in Romans 7. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do,…

Conformed to His Image

One of the most distinctive doctrines in Orthodox theology is that of theosis – divinization – becoming “like God.” Those who inquire into the faith likely stumble across this teaching fairly early, and, no doubt, some are drawn to it. Of course, there are those who run away from it and fear that it is saying something that it isn’t. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of theosis is the unabashedly positive note…

A Cultural Feast

I read somewhere that, prior to the Protestant Reformation, there were over 50 feast days in England on which people did no labor (these were in addition to Sundays). If you do the math, it adds up to over seven weeks of vacation per year. The Reformation abolished all but one or two. I have often thought that this was one of the sources of Protestant economic success – abolish seven weeks…

The Last Enemy

The Last Enemy (as named by St. Paul in 1Cor 15:26) was also the first enemy, and has been our enemy throughout human existence: it is death. Death is more than the separation of the soul from the body, it is the threat of non-being. In the writings of the Fathers, particularly those of the East, being is equated with goodness. For it was God who called all things into existence and…

It’s a Lying Shame

The story of the first sin begins not with a choice, but with a lie. As much as we tend to emphasize “free-will” as the origin and dominant factor of human sin, we do well to remember the true nature of our lives. Things are much more complicated than freedom can account for. Rather, we act in the context of lies and deception, some from outside and some from within. It is…

The Ascetic Imperative – A Matter of Communion

Among the more interesting experiences in my life was the two years spent in a Christian commune. It was not West Coast fancy, much less connected to anything historic such as the Bruderhof. It started with two very zealous Jesus freaks (myself and a friend), an apartment, and something of a necessity thrust on us by accident. The accident was a housefire where two other young Christian friends were living. The fire…

When Shame Becomes Toxic

Articles on the topic of shame inevitably provoke questions. This short article is an effort to give a bit more substance by way of an answer to some of those questions. I hope it is helpful. Shame is a normal emotion – one which we could not live without. It signals emotional boundaries (among other things), and alerts us to very important social information. We can experience it just walking into a…

Face to Face

Nothing about the human body is as intimate as the face. We generally think of other aspects of our bodies when we say “intimate,” but it is our face that reveals the most about us. It is the face we seek to watch in order to see what others are thinking, or even who they are. The importance of the face is emphasized repeatedly in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, it…