You Are Not Your Sin

  Shame is powerful. Having begun writing on the topic, it is important to say more. The Tradition, particularly in the texts that discuss the spiritual life, contains many references to shame. In recent times, it has become a topic within the field of psychology and in the community surrounding recovery from drugs and alcohol. Strangely, it has been largely neglected in spiritual writing, even among the Orthodox. I am not surprised…

Knowing the Knowledge that Transforms

“If only I had known…” These are, not infrequently, the words of an apology. They are also an explanation of why we are sometimes the way we are. Ignorance is, in the mind of the Fathers, a major cause of sin. Of course, if sin is understood in a legal/forensic framework, then ignorance would be nothing more than a form of innocence. Not knowing is excusable in most cases. But the teaching…

Why We Forgive

There are many ways to think about forgiveness, not all of them true or helpful. It is easily the most emotionally and psychologically difficult aspect of the Christian life revealing both the power of trauma as well as the tenacity of lingering memories. The directness of Christ’s commandments (“forgive your enemies”) and the consequences of ignoring them (“if you do not forgive others neither will your heavenly Father forgive you”) can easily…

The Change We Should Believe In

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2Co 3:18) Among the many losses within modern Christianity has been the place of transformation. Nineteenth-century revival movements and theology emphasized a single experience that was associated with salvation. Those who concerned themselves with what came later,…

When Words Fail – The End of Morality

I can think of two experiences where words fail: before the presence of God and in the presence of deep shame. The first is too great and too wondrous for words, the second too bitter and painful. Both are essential for our humanity if it is to be lived to the fullest. They represent not only the boundary of our vocabulary, but also the boundary of our existence. I have stood by…

You Barely Make a Difference and It’s a Good Thing

You are not saving the world. In fact, you barely make a difference. These are harsh words. They are meant like a splash of cold water to wake us up from the dream in which we live. They are by no means meant to say that you don’t matter. In fact, you have infinite value. But your value is not based on saving the world or making a difference. I’ll start at…

Bob, His Doctor, and Your Moral Life

Bob woke up one morning and felt terrible. He had no energy and his head hurt. After a while, he decided to go to see his doctor. When he got there the doctor had a number of questions for him: “Are you eating good meals? A balanced diet?” Bob replied, “Yes.” “Are you getting enough exercise?” the doctor continued. “Yes,” Bob said. “Do you smoke?” “No.” “Then, I think you’re well,” the…

A Gifted Existence

You cannot give thanks for what has not been given to you. This simple maxim goes to the heart of the Christian life. If I steal your money and burn down your house, I cannot offer thanks for what I have done. It was not given to me from God. Anything that is not a gift has the nature of sin. I can give thanks to God that He meets me in…

Understanding Evil and Doing Good

The Fathers commonly spoke of three things together: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. The three are related. And it is necessary to understand these three in order to understand the nature of evil – both why it is evil and how it behaves. The root of Truth, Beauty and Goodness in the Fathers is Being and Existence. God alone has true Being and all things exist and have their being as a gift…

Math, Reason and Civilization

“If math should suddenly disappear, it would set physics back – a week.” Nobel Prize Winner – Richard Feynman Mathematician’s response: But that week would be the one in which God created the universe. Galileo is said to have remarked that the universe is a wonderful thing, written in the language of mathematics. There is a remarkable correlation between things as we see them and math. Particle physicists have managed, on occasion, to…