The Communion of Friends

You meet someone and like them. You slowly get to know them. Conversation and sharing, listening and learning, a picture or a reality begin to emerge. You think about them when they’re away. You’re aware that you matter to them as well. The thought of anything hurting them is painful. This is friendship. We easily reduce friendship to a set of shared emotions. Why we like someone else, we can imagine, rests on…

A Virtuous Man

Virtue is not a common word in our culture. It sounds somewhat “antique.” For some, it has very little meaning, or a meaning far removed from its original. Within the Christian tradition, however, there is a very long history of the study of virtue. Until the Protestant Reformation, thoughts about what was good and what it meant for a person to pursue the good, were almost exclusively thought of in terms of…

A Defining Moment

What defines you? The answer to that question, to a large extent, is a commentary on who owns you. Frequently, discussions about major aspects of our humanity are little more than a rehearsal of scripts prepared by our owners. This makes it extremely difficult to have a fruitful conversation on many topics, and almost impossible to explore possibilities that have been marginalized by the owning forces of our culture. What do the…

Slow Learning

Stay in your cell…and your cell will teach you everything. – Sayings of the Desert Fathers We are an extremely active society with something that approaches a cult of activism. Stated positively, it can be said that America is a “can do” nation. It is a drive that “settled the West,” dug the Panama Canal, spanned the continent with railroads (and highways), and landed men on the moon. We do not sit…

History Was Not Changed

“What happened here 2,000 years ago completely changed history.” These words were spoken in earnest innocence by one of the onlookers at the recent work being done on the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. It is a sentiment that sounds obviously true, but is profoundly untrue. The resurrection of Christ did not change history, it revealed history to be what it is: the unfolding of God’s work…

An Audience of None

In the 1980’s sci-fi comedy, Short Circuit, a charming military robot character, “Number 5,” is awakened into consciousness by a lightning strike. He fears going back to his military keepers where he will be re-programmed. And so, with help from human friends, he begins his touching effort to stay free. His famous line, repeated often, echoes his drive to understand, “Need input!” He is an example of our modern imagination. We understand…

To Sing Like a River

We stood looking out at a river rushing past the rocks – a brisk morning in the North Carolina mountains, a rare setting for the Divine Liturgy. The tradition of the Church generally holds that services such as the Divine Liturgy are to be held indoors, in the Church. There are exceptions. In monasteries across the world, it is not unusual for a major feast to be held outdoors to accommodate the…

If There Really Were a God

Belief is a strange thing. It rests like an idea in our mind. We can examine it, walk around it, argue it, and change it or reject it. But as an idea, belief really isn’t such a big thing. It is probably quite correct to say that most of the things we “believe” make no difference whatsoever. This is especially true of what most people mean when they say, “I believe in…

The Consent to Reality

Catholic philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue), has presented perhaps the most cogent account of our modern cultural landscape. It is not an account of how one set of ideas gave way to another set of ideas, but how a once-upon-a-time consensus gave way to our current collection of competing truth-claims and world-views. Indeed, he demonstrates (Whose Justice, Which Rationality) that our present confusion is not primarily represented by competing groups and sub-groups,…

To Have More – Pleonexia

Addictions are strange things. I have a friend who says that the problem with alcohol is that there “simply isn’t enough.” Non-addicts frequently misunderstand. I once heard someone say to an addict, “When you decided to go down that road…” There is very little decision within an addiction. The disease of addiction itself does the choosing. The person involved often watches helplessly as they go through the motions of yet another round,…