Venerating Icons – It’s So Much Other Than You Think

In 1991, I sat in a room at Duke University with Geoffrey Wainwright, Stanely Hauerwas, and Susan O’Keefe. The purpose was the defense of my thesis, “The Icon as Theology.” I was an Episcopal priest, who was turning his doctoral work in Systematic Theology into an M.A. and heading back to parish life (a long story, that). The defense was friendly, thorough, with few surprises. The one major surprise, of course, came…

A Patient Joy – Finding the True Self

Among the weakest things in the world of social relations is the truth. That might seem to be an odd statement. However, the weakness of the truth is the limitations placed upon it by its very nature. It cannot say just anything, nor can it ever pretend to be something that it is not. Those restrictions are not shared by lies. It is the nature of a lie that it can assume…

Justice, Temperance, Prudence and the Virtue of “No”

I have sometimes quipped that children are born lawyers. Their cries of, “That’s not fair!” would be at home in any court in the world. Children reveal our instinct for fairness, the root concept in the virtue of justice. Of course, as every parent knows, that instinct is often distorted, with the desire for fairness being expressed only as “fairness for me.” Justice is a virtue with deep, visceral content. Whenever it…

Mary: The Blessing of All Generations

In my childhood, it was not unusual to hear someone ask, “Who are your people?” It was a semi-polite, Southernism designed to elicit essential information about a person’s social background. The assumption was that you, at best, could only be an example of your “people.” It ignored the common individualism of the wider culture, preferring the more family or clan-centered existence of an older time. It was possible to be “good people”…

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,…

An Unnecessary Existence

In Dostoevsky’s The Demons, the character, Kirillov, is insanely fascinated with freedom. He cannot bear the fact that he did not choose his own existence. Life is a “given.” In what must be seen as a parable of the radical thought of the 19th century, Kirillov determines to kill himself, the only act of true freedom he can take. His insight about the necessity of his own existence and its lack of…

Alone – You Are Not

“Alone – You Are Not” This is not a quote from Yoda. It is a simple statement concerning the nature of our existence. The fullness of existence is only found in communion, a mutual indwelling in which our lives are known and experienced not just in their self-contained form, but in their Interrelation to others and everything around us. True existence is a connected-ness. It is also the very place where the…

Facing Up to Reality

  Imagine that you have never seen a mirror, much less had a picture taken of yourself or broadcast your image on social media. Imagine, as well, that you’ve never taken advantage of a still pool of water to admire yourself. How would you know what you look like? Lost within our modern culture is the fact that the face is not created for its owner. For eons, human beings had little…

Love and Freedom

The most difficult aspect of love is the freedom it inherently requires. Love, in its ultimate and proper form, only exists between equals. There can be a sort of benevolence and nobility towards another who is not equal, but never love. This makes it difficult to understand the God-who-is-love. It will quickly be said by most that God is not our equal, and that we can never be His equal. What we…

The Singular Goodness of God

It has long seemed to me that it is one thing to believe that God exists and quite another to believe that He is good. Indeed, to believe that God exists simply begs the question. That question is: Who is God, and what can be said of Him? Is He good? This goes to the heart of the proclamation of the Christian faith. We believe that God has revealed Himself definitively in…