The Way of Shame and the Way of Thanksgiving

The language of “self-emptying” can have a sort of Buddhist ring. It sounds as we are referencing a move towards becoming a vessel without content – the non-self. Given our multicultural world, such a reference is understandable. It is, however, unfortunate and requires that we visit the true nature of Christian self-emptying. Our self-emptying is deeply tied to shame and the Crucified Christ. As a touchstone, I cite the primary passage (Philippians…

Jesus Is Not Your Imaginary Friend

At some point in our history, we began to attribute a merely mental reality to anything that was not an object and reduced the importance of objects to what they could contribute to our mental reality. We live in a sea of psychology. Things, we believe, are only what we think they are. My “relationship” with you means nothing more than the set of inner experiences and dispositions I have towards you. In…

Understanding Evil and Doing Good

The Fathers commonly spoke of three things together: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. The three are related. And it is necessary to understand these three in order to understand the nature of evil – both why it is evil and how it behaves. The root of Truth, Beauty and Goodness in the Fathers is Being and Existence. God alone has true Being and all things exist and have their being as a gift…

The Priest’s Wife

It is hard to explain to the non-Orthodox the position and role of a priest’s wife. As a priest with an Anglican background, my family life extends to both Protestant and Orthodox experience.  I have been married for 40 years and ordained for 35 of those years. I cannot imagine my life or my ministry without my wife.  Despite the experience of married priests, the canons of the Church in the West…

Begotten of the Father

No revelation is more central to the Christian faith than God as Father. Some might immediately respond that the Trinity should be seen as the central revelation. But, in Orthodox understanding, the Trinity has its source (πηγή) in the Father.  We should understand this not only as a matter of Trinitarian thought, but as the proper grounding of the spiritual life as well. To be a Christian in the proper sense, to…

The Voice of the Natural Will

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2Co 3:17) Though many speak of the “free will” of human beings, this is largely a misnomer, or misapplication of the phrase. The choosing that we experience is not the same thing as the will. It is the product of a fracturing of the will and a manifestation of a fundamental loss of our integrity.…

Things You Can’t Invent

Most of the things in our lives are not of our own making – they were given to us. Our language, our culture, the whole of our biology and the very gift of life itself is something that has been “handed down” to us. In that sense, we are all creatures of “tradition” (traditio=“to hand down”). Of course, these things that are not of our own making and are the least controllable…

Grace and the Frog

When David completed the Book of Psalms he was uplifted with satisfaction. He said to God, “Does there exist any creature which You created anywhere in the entire universe which sings songs and praises which surpass mine?” At that moment a frog passed and said, “David, do not be uplifted with pride, for I sing songs and praises which surpass yours!… Not only that, but I also perform a mitzvah [an ascetic…

The Work That Saves

Do we cooperate in our salvation? Do our efforts make a difference? These questions lie at the heart of a centuries-old religious debate in Christianity. Classically, the Protestant reformers said, “No,” to these questions, arguing that we are saved solely and utterly by God’s grace, His unmerited favor. The Catholic Church replied that “faith without works” is dead and that faith alone is insufficient. This debate, with various twists and turns, has…

Let’s Get Physical

If you go to the self-help section of a bookstore, any bookstore, you see row upon row of books, all promising another method to change or fix how you think, feel or imagine. It is as though we were certain that our lives would be great if only we could think feel or imagine better than we do now. Even Orthodox titles can hold a certain promise: Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives…