The Temptations of Identity

“Who am I?” The question of who we are is deceptively simple. When we begin to press the question, almost every answer that we can give is something other than the self. When we leave the (ideally) intimate communion of our early years and begin to forge our way into a social setting, an uncertainty begins to be our social companion. This questioning of identity (which is fairly normal) becomes the seedbed…

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 47 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…

The Poetry of God

Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet. – St. Pophyrios of Kavsokalyvia St. Porphyrios made this statement in the context of love and suffering: That’s what it is! You must suffer. You must love and suffer–suffer for the one you love. Love makes effort for the loved one. She runs all through the night; she stays awake; she stains her feet with blood in order to meet her beloved.…

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…

The End of the Sacraments – The End of All Things

The holidays bring a bit of my family together – for fun and conversation and the joy of a feast. The conversations, however, can serve as a reminder of what I don’t know. Two of my adult children are deep into the world of computers: one is a software engineer, the other a web-designer (among other things). Sometimes their conversations lapse into the technical world of jargon – words that I do…

Providence – God in Extension

There are aspects of the Orthodox faith that require that we reach beyond what we think we know and dig more deeply into the writings of the Fathers. This is particularly the case when Orthodoxy uses similar language to Western theological models. We see a word (in this case, “providence,”) and think we know what it means, supplying that meaning from our inherited Western theological/cultural vocabulary. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to…

A Virgin Gave Birth

I was browsing through some online material recently and came across a conversation between a non-believing sceptic and a Christian apologist. The question was asked (right off the top): “Why a virgin birth?” The apologist did a decent job of responding, giving a fairly common explanation of “why Christ had to be born of a virgin.” Something about it left me empty. Thinking about it – I believe my problem was that…

The Christmas When Everybody Was There

The soldiers were scattered across Europe with the loneliness of war. The world was caught up in a total struggle. Women had gone to the factories; children were collecting scrap metal. The “war effort” was universal. In many places, food was rationed. The madhouse of consumption belonged only to the war; everything else could wait. And there was Christmas. Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley were part of the effort as well, cranking…

The Mystery of Place

    Feeling “out of place” is a strong feature of our modern existence. Comments on my recent post bear this out. The notion and experience of place, though, have a mystery at their very heart. A major aspect of the mystery is that we can never know or experience anything in general – only in particular. We can speak of “human nature,” but it does not exist as a thing-in-itself. Human…

Finding Your Place

Among the many things we desire, an important one is a “place to belong.” With the fragmentation of the extended family, and so much else, a growing number of people are becoming accutely aware that they do not “belong” anywhere. Our highly franchised suburban world often has the strange effect that places separated by miles (even states), all look the same, have the same stores, the same restaurants, and an overall sameness…