Shame in the Public Arena

In 401 AD, twenty-nine Saxon “slaves,” strangled each other to death with their bare hands in their prison cells. They chose this death rather than being forced to fight one another in Rome’s arena. Better death than shame. Their “owner,” the Senator Symmachus (famously known as the “Last Pagan”), wrote of them that they were a rebellious “band of slaves, worse than any Spartacus.” In the pages of the New Testament we…

The Sins of Our Fathers – the Epigenetics of Shame

There is a new word and a new idea in science: epigenetics. It is the study of how the environment and experience alters our body – and alters it in a way such that it becomes part of our genetic legacy. It is, to the mind of some, a genetic form of inherited sin. That’s more than I know, and more than I care to say. But it is an occasion for…

The Healthy Shame at the Heart’s Core

Imagine: A large crowd has assembled and you know that something special has been planned. Unknown to you, however, is the fact that the something special is for and about you. At a given moment, you are called forward. A short speech detailing some extraordinary thing you have done is given. You had not thought anyone would notice, and you did not expect them to. However, you are being noticed. You are being…

Comfort for a Child – Speaking Peace to Shame

In my previous article, I described the origins of the “self-talk” (logismoi) that haunt our minds with negative chatter. They lie very deep within us, even having something of a signature within the deeper parts of the brain itself. It is very “old” and yet very “young.” It is old in that its foundations were formed as early as infancy. It is young in that it is much more akin to an…

The Mystery: Upborne, Fulfilled

Orthodoxy has a number of “favorite” words – all of which fall outside the bounds of normal speech. Though we commonly use the word “mystery” (for example), popular speech never uses it in the manner of the Church. I cannot remember using the word “fullness,” or even “fulfilled,” in normal speech. More contemporary words have come to replace these expressions. This doesn’t mean that an English speaker has no idea of what…

To Serve God

In a therapeutic culture in which our goal is to be our very best, it is almost impossible to serve God. The reason is quite simple: when my goal is to be my very best, the goal is my God. “Serving God” thus becomes a euphemism for a Christianity that we take to be therapeutic – and that its value lies in its therapeutic virtues. All of this is a stranger to…

Put Your Money to Work – It’s for Your Salvation

  And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. (Luk 16:9) I recall a conversation long ago with a young, up-and-coming entrepreneur. He was a new member of the parish I was serving (Anglican). We had been speaking about stewardship – money. His comment to me was straightforward: “You make it sound like a man can…

The Danger and Shame of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is so terribly hard. On a psychological level, it feels dangerous. The shame engendered by any insult or injury is our experience of vulnerability, and we instinctively react to protect ourselves. That, we must understand, is not a sin, it is an instinct that is a gift from God. The example of Christ, who did not “turn His face from the spitting and the shame,” is also the example of just…

Forgiveness for All the Sundays to Come

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;  (John17:20-21) The Elder Sophrony, together with St. Silouan, wrote about the “whole Adam.” By this, they meant all the human beings who have ever existed and those yet to come. They were, for them, something known in the present tense, a “hypostatic” knowledge of the fundamental unity of the human race. Sophrony described…

A Cruciform Providence

The entire mystery of the economy of our salvation consists in the self-emptying and abasement of the Son of God – St. Cyril of Alexandria Trust in the providence of God is much more than a general theory of how things are arranged in our lives and in the world. We tend to discuss the notion in the abstract, wondering whether this action or event is to be properly attributed to God.…