Guilt and Shame – What’s The Difference?

There is a very handy saying that differentiates between guilt and shame. Guilt is about what I have done – shame is about who I am. They are not unrelated, particularly in a culture in which what we do is often given as an answer to the question, “Who are you?” Traditional American culture has often been described as “guilt-based,” in that Protestant religious thoughts centered on goodness as responsibility for our…

Grace Enough

Some years ago I was in hospital for a time and not in the least bit happy about it. One sleepless night I was walking the halls of the unit, unable to sleep, and tempted with self-pity. I thought to myself (in rebuke), “Father Arseny endured the Soviet Gulag with more hope and patience than you’re bringing to this.” Father Arseny is the figure in the book by the same name that…

Fleeing Paris with Vladimir Lossky

Times of relative peace and prosperity are far more rare than we realize. Our present difficulties reflect stresses and strains that have been common in many parts of the world and through time. I have found some comfort in reading lives and stories from those times and places, particularly those accounts that point towards a reminder that God is always and everywhere at work for our good. Recently, I returned to a…

Singing the Lord’s Song

In my first parish as an Anglican priest, I approached my first Midnight Mass with eager anticipation. I was trained “High Church,” with a very traditional liturgical emphasis – but I was serving in a “Low Church” parish. I was the first priest in their history to wear Eucharistic vestments as a normal practice. But it was common, even in Low Church areas, for the Midnight Mass to be “High.” Thus, I…

God Within Us

Popular New Age thought postulates that everyone has a “god within.” It’s a pleasant way of saying that we’re all special while making “god” to be rather banal. But there is a clear teaching of classical Christianity regarding Christ-within-us, and it is essential to the Orthodox way of life. We should not understand our relationship with God to be an “external” matter, as if we were one individual and God another. Our…

And Justice for All – The Heart’s True Desire

The scene was clear: three men were beating another man who had been handcuffed. The injustice of the situation was clear. No danger could possibly be seen coming from the handcuffed man, and no reason could be discerned for the beating. The man with the handcuffs was black, though he need not have been. The officers were white, though they need not have been. It made me feel sick. I recall a…

The Importance of Failure

Everybody fails. Imagine sitting in a classroom and being told at the beginning of the term that everyone in the class will fail. There would probably be a dash to the registrar’s office in order to drop the class. But, imagine again, that dropping the class is not an option. You are going to take the class and you are going to fail. Will you listen to the lectures? Will you bother…

The Useless God

This post (which is much longer than usual) is an edited version of a talk given at a retreat earlier this year. During this time of various quarantine measures, when our “usefullness” seems thwarted, it seems an important meditation. I pray it is uselessly useful! The statement, “God is useless,” is, undoubtedly, sure to strike someone as an insult, not a statement of a faithful believing Christian (much less, a priest). That…

In the Maw of the Bridal Chamber

The idleness brought on during our present isolation can lead to unexpected things. I was browsing through videos on social media recently and saw a short documentary on what happens to human bodies in the process of decomposition. I was surprised by what I heard both in its gruesome details and in its rapid onset. The power of the grave is far worse than I had imagined. My interest in such a…

“That Which is Lacking” – Is Jesus Enough?

The average Christian, reading his Bible in happy devotion, stumbles across this passage: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church… (Col 1:24) The passage is particularly disturbing for a certain strain of Protestant thought that emphasizes Christ’s sufficiency for all things. Christ has accomplished all things…