Shame and the Modern Identity

It is a common definition that the emotion of shame is about “who I am.” It centers in feelings of exposure, unworthiness, and damaged identity. Guilt, they say, is about “what I have done.” There are ways to deal with guilt – but shame, if it is actually a matter of “who I am,” runs deep. It is little wonder that the wounds of shame can be toxic. Self-loathing and related pain…

Modernity’s Sacraments

My newsfeed must be set for “shock.” Never does a day go by that there is no something outlandishly alarming featured as a story, somewhere, illustrating the insane march of modern culture. Much of me would like to think that the problem is in the newsfeed and not in the culture itself. However, on a basis that is frequent enough to be alarming in itself, I find something in my daily experience…

The Distraction Delusion – Get Your Hands Dirty

I recently bought a pickup truck, a twenty-five year-old clunker that runs ok. I paid $600 for it and have been slowly tending to the little fixes that it requires. It’s old enough to lack the computerization that puts vehicles beyond the reach of a shade-tree mechanic. My father and his father were both auto mechanics. I had forgotten how much satisfaction I get from doing what they did. When I was…

Living In The Real World – And Really Living

Nothing exists in general. If something is beautiful or good, it is manifest in a particular way at a particular time such that we can know it. And this is our true life. A life lived in a “generalized” manner is no life at all, but only a fantasy. However, this fantasy is increasingly the character of what most people think of or describe as the “real world.” A monk lives in…

The Ontological Model Part 2: How Good Is Your Will?

Suppose I give you a bicycle for the convenience of travel. Suppose, however, that the bicycle is broken: flat tires, missing spokes, a chain that slips frequently. Nevertheless, you figure out a way to make it go. The ride is bumpy and you often have to stop and fix the chain. You fear that one day the wheels will just come apart as the spokes yield to the weight. Nevertheless, in fits…

This Time Is That Time – Holy Week Thoughts

At the very heart of traditional Christian worship is an understanding of time. “This time is that time.” When the Jews gathered for Passover and recited the words given to them, they said, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.” Passover was not (and is not) a historical re-enactment, nor a simple memorial in which things done long ago are remembered. The key word is “we.” The events in Egypt and at…

The Ladder of Divine Ascent and Moral Improvement

The Fourth Sunday of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church, is dedicated to St. John Climacus, the author of the ancient work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. It is a classic work describing “steps” within the life of the struggling ascetic. There is an icon associated with this work, picturing monastics climbing the rungs of a ladder to heaven, battling demons who are trying to pull them off. However, ladders are dangerous…

A Modern Lent

Few things are as difficult in the modern world as fasting. It is not simply the action of changing our eating habits that we find problematic – it’s the whole concept of fasting and what it truly entails. It comes from another world. We understand dieting – changing how we eat in order to improve how we look or how we feel. But changing how we eat in order to know God…

A Progressive Marriage

How is your marriage progressing? This simple question is a way of focusing our attention on right-thinking about progress and the Christian life. I posed the question to myself – I have been married now for 43 years. My first thought was, “What would ‘progress’ in a marriage mean?” Do I love my wife more, or any less? What would more love look like? The truth of marriage is that progress is…

To Know What We Don’t Know

Two corollaries: We will not know God until we know ourselves; we will not know ourselves until we know God. I believe that both of these are true, even though, taken together, they seem to preclude knowledge altogether. In truth, what they preclude is doing one without the other. We can only do both, and simultaneously, at that. St. Paul tells us that we “know in part,” and that we “will know,…