Thanksgiving Communion

Whom should I thank? The question is normally a matter of polite acknowledgement. A gift was given and received. Who gave it? Whom should I thank? It is inherently the nature of giving thanks that thanks must be given to someone. I cannot give thanks to nothing or no one. As such, the giving of thanks is an act of communion on one level or another. Fr. Alexander Schmemann, in the last…

Morality, Shame, and the Acquisition of Virtue

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” (Matthew 6:3) The experience of shame has many dynamics, permeating the larger part of human behavior. Though some psychologists have dubbed it the “master emotion” it is often unacknowledged and unrecognized. It should come as no surprise that much that is described as “morality” has little to do with the acquisition of…

Doors, Windows, Mirrors, and the Secret Place

My first impression of the monasteries on Mt. Athos began with their doors: massive, thick, iron and steel configurations with bars and locks. They are not decorative in the least. They are meant to keep out marauding Turkish pirates and the like. The walls of the monasteries are similar in their function. The whole structure, complete with the crenelations on the tops of the walls are more castle-like than anything else I…

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…

Praying God Within Us

As a follow up to my last post (God Within Us), I offer this ancient prayer. Most people are probably familiar with it, and some may very well use it in their daily prayers. It began to appear in Orthodox books of prayer over the past few decades, reflecting a rediscovery of the Orthodox Church in the ancient West. This prayer is known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” I’ve seen numerous translations. There…

Beauty and Iconoclasm – Where We Find God

Every human being is an icon of God…so iconoclasm is a much larger matter than smashing statues and such. It also includes the hatred of others and the injustice that grinds them into the dust. The quiet iconoclasm of poverty and the like are insidious in that they’re so quiet they look like an act of nature. Iconoclasm can only be overcome through love, the love of the beauty of the image…

It Is Good to Be Here

A few days ago, after hearing a very distressing bit of social news, I found myself saying, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” It was a voice of despair and sadness. The occasion had been a public altercation in which a stranger spat at a woman. It was the sort of thing that belongs among the lowest of human actions. But it happened. My topic is my own reaction. I found…

The Quiet Centrality of Healthy Shame

“For there is a shame that brings sin; and there is a shame which is glory and grace.” (Sirach 4:21) I have written previously about shame (and will continue) and its importance in our life. Despite the crippling effects of shame in its toxic form, shame also has an important healthy aspect that is necessary for our lives. The toxic form tends to overwhelm us and to dominate the popular understanding. Healthy…

Look Who’s Talking

Everyone is familiar with that “voice in the head.” By this, I mean the negative voice. It is mean, judgmental, angry, jealous, envious, salacious, just bad. Sometimes it goes quiet. Sometimes it is so overwhelming that it drowns everything else out. One simple question we can ask: “Who’s doing the talking?” This voice is not the product of reasoning. We have not weighed, measured, compared and reached a conclusion that “he deserves…

Forgiveness – The Hardest Love of All

I cannot think that any of my readers is a stranger to forgiveness, either the need to be forgiven or the need to forgive. The need to forgive, according to the commandment of Christ, extends well beyond those who ask for our forgiveness: we are commanded to forgive our enemies – whom I presume would rarely want to ask for our forgiveness. Of course, our experience of those who are truly enemies…