The Heart’s True Home

  I remember the first time I saw the Robert Heinlein title, Stranger in a Strange Land. Very few phrases captured my inner sense of self in such a way. I was a teenager at the time – thus, a fair amount of my commonality with the title has to be chalked up to “teenage angst.” Few teens feel at home – anywhere. In many ways, they’re not supposed to. Too much…

The Mystery of Place

    Feeling “out of place” is a strong feature of our modern existence. Comments on my recent post bear this out. The notion and experience of place, though, have a mystery at their very heart. A major aspect of the mystery is that we can never know or experience anything in general – only in particular. We can speak of “human nature,” but it does not exist as a thing-in-itself. Human…

Finding Your Place

Among the many things we desire, an important one is a “place to belong.” With the fragmentation of the extended family, and so much else, a growing number of people are becoming accutely aware that they do not “belong” anywhere. Our highly franchised suburban world often has the strange effect that places separated by miles (even states), all look the same, have the same stores, the same restaurants, and an overall sameness…

Why I Want to be Like You

I am not a student of René Girard, though some notable Orthodox thinkers have been. I ran across an article recently that provoked some reflection for me – particularly on a central theme in Girard’s work: mimesis. He observed that human beings are drawn towards “copying” others (mimesis). A passage from the article I was reading: Human beings are expert imitators (mimetic comes from a Greek word meaning “to imitate”). Science has…

Broken Communion

The holidays can make it all too poignant: the terrible fact of broken communion. Often, our festivities bring us into close contact with some (few or many) whom we most commonly avoid. An uncle, an aunt, a brother, a parent whose relationship is marked with pain, misunderstanding, shame, and various other torments. Statistics say that these times (particularly Thanksgiving to Christmas) are frequently marred by things we would otherwise avoid. The holidays…

Through a Glass Darkly

Perhaps the most intriguing passage in all of St. Paul’s writings is his description of an inner struggle in Romans 7. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do,…

Conformed to His Image

One of the most distinctive doctrines in Orthodox theology is that of theosis – divinization – becoming “like God.” Those who inquire into the faith likely stumble across this teaching fairly early, and, no doubt, some are drawn to it. Of course, there are those who run away from it and fear that it is saying something that it isn’t. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of theosis is the unabashedly positive note…

A Cultural Feast

I read somewhere that, prior to the Protestant Reformation, there were over 50 feast days in England on which people did no labor (these were in addition to Sundays). If you do the math, it adds up to over seven weeks of vacation per year. The Reformation abolished all but one or two. I have often thought that this was one of the sources of Protestant economic success – abolish seven weeks…

The Last Enemy

The Last Enemy (as named by St. Paul in 1Cor 15:26) was also the first enemy, and has been our enemy throughout human existence: it is death. Death is more than the separation of the soul from the body, it is the threat of non-being. In the writings of the Fathers, particularly those of the East, being is equated with goodness. For it was God who called all things into existence and…

It’s a Lying Shame

The story of the first sin begins not with a choice, but with a lie. As much as we tend to emphasize “free-will” as the origin and dominant factor of human sin, we do well to remember the true nature of our lives. Things are much more complicated than freedom can account for. Rather, we act in the context of lies and deception, some from outside and some from within. It is…