The Communion of Friends


You meet someone and like them. You slowly get to know them. Conversation and sharing, listening and learning, a picture or a reality begin to emerge. You think about them when they’re away. You’re aware that you matter to them as well. The thought of anything hurting them is painful. This is friendship.

We easily reduce friendship to a set of shared emotions. Why we like someone else, we can imagine, rests on a complex set of experiences, hopes, fears, and emotions. But then someone asks this question: “Is there anything between you?”

On the surface the question is innocent. It could mean nothing more than a curiosity about shared emotions. Are you going to declare a relationship on Facebook? But, taken another way, the question is much more puzzling. Is a relationship anything more than a psychological phenomenon? Are we, in fact, utterly separate in our existence, with nothing more than the experience of our own minds? What if someone said of your friendship, “It’s all in your head?”

You feel very close to this person. The friendship has now lasted several years and has been very consistent. One day, speaking to someone else, you describe the thoughts of your friend. However, your description is scrutinized: “How can you possibly know what’s going on in someone else’s mind?” You cannot think of how to answer the question, but you believe your description and your experience are true and correct.

In theory, our modern culture believes that relationships with other people are merely psychological phenomena – they are all in our head. There is occasional research to try and establish some notion of extra-psychological relationship (such as ESP), but even that is largely an extension of psychology. But there is an entire realm of human experience that such a belief ignores. And it is an experience that lies at the very heart of classical Christianity.

This experience is found in the concept of communion. It refers to a true participation and sharing in the life and actual existence of another. It is not a label for a set of feelings nor a synonym for being close with someone. It is a term that truly means what it says. The Greek is koinonia, a state of “commonality.”

The Orthodox faith teaches that we are saved by communion – in particular, communion with Christ. When a person is being baptized they are asked three times by the priest: “Do you unite yourself to Christ?” According to St. Paul, we are then baptized “into the death” of Christ and raised in the likeness of His resurrection. That is salvation. Christ’s death becomes my death and my death becomes His death. Christ’s resurrection becomes my resurrection, etc. Every sacrament of the Church is about union with Christ, or union with another human being (marriage). It is predicated on the possibility of true communion and participation.

The claim that this is true and possible distinguishes Orthodox Christianity from virtually every form of contemporary Christian believing. It is the foundation of the sacramental world of the Church. When we eat Christ’s Body and drink His Blood in the Holy Eucharist, we believe that there is a true sharing, a real communion:

Whosoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in him. (Jn 6:56)

Living in such a manner that this communion is made manifest in our lives is the entire purpose of the Orthodox Christian life.

Communion, if you will, is one of the most fundamental elements of Christian grammar. It makes sense of many things, and many things discussed in Christian teaching only make sense in its context. Wherever communion is ignored as a reality, Christianity is deformed and distorted into a caricature of its true nature.

In the Apostles’ Creed, a confession of faith found in a number of Western Churches, the phrase “the communion of saints” is offered as an element of belief, on a par with the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the dead. However, in the minds of most contemporary Christians who confess this Creed, the communion of saints is often left as a vague, ill-defined notion, mostly confined to some idea of fellowship with those in heaven.

In terms of the New Testament, true knowledge is ultimately only had by communion (koinonia). The sort of rational, observational collection of facts that passes for knowledge in our world, would be nothing of the sort in theirs. When John’s gospel says, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (Jn 17:3), it is a reference to knowledge by participation, or communion. It is precisely because true knowledge is communion that knowledge of God is eternal life. That knowledge can only be had by true participation in His life.

In a similar manner, St. Paul cried out, “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may have communion in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead!” (Phi 3:10-11)

Interestingly, communion lies at the center of the traditional practice of venerating the saints. Communion works by love. Indeed, true communion is perhaps the main point of love. We not only want to be with the other, we want to share in their life and existence. In the example of friendship described at the outset, there is an experience of communion for which we often have no word in our modern vocabulary (having changed the meaning of communion). We experience communion but are at a loss to describe it or defend it. When we are told that it is simply a thing of the mind, we have no response. Modernity is a lonely construct.

The veneration of the saints is simply what love for them looks like. The cultural expressions of kissing icons or burning candles before them are no different than other cultural expressions of love. But a world without cultural expressions of love quickly becomes a world without love. Human beings require touch, for example, in order to live. We are not creatures of the mind.

Years ago, I wrote my thesis at Duke on the Icon as Theology. During that time of study, I came to realize and understand that an icon can only truly be seen in the act of veneration. For seeing the icon, according to the Church’s teaching, is a relational matter, an act of communion. Many people look at an icon and see an object, perhaps a beautiful religious object. But without veneration, the love offered to the one who is present in the depiction, there is no communion. In the act (or many acts) of veneration we enter into the reality of communion.

This veneration has developed a liturgical expression in the life of the Church, but it is the same in our relationship with all persons. Through love, expressed in a variety of appropriate manners, we truly know the other by participation (communion). In some measure, we enter into and share in their life. In some measure, their life becomes ours and ours becomes theirs. This is especially true in marriage, in which a man and a woman become one flesh. St. Silouan of Mt. Athos said, “My brother is my life.”

That communion and participation in the life of the other is possible is one of the single most contradictory challenges to the modern world-view. We are not utterly individual in our existence nor in our experience. We are beings whose lives are best expressed and fulfilled through communion. When this is rightly understood, it is nothing more than the proclamation of the primacy of love.

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:2)

If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have communion with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1Jo 1:7)

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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49 responses to “The Communion of Friends”

  1. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Well, what can I say Father. Thank you. You have given meaning to the heart of my most important intrarelationship: my wife, my brother, a few really close friends. Communion. The essence the same for each except my wife . Still communion but a secial type.

  2. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I am embarrassed that it has taken e such a long time to recognize communion when I experience it

  3. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Sorry to dominate the comments but my parish just lost a woman who was at the heart of many parish activities for longer than I have been Orthodox. When someone like that is lost (and we have lost several lately) the change in our communion is felt even by some non-ethnic Kansas boy like me. The unseen ties that bind us start rippling.

  4. Pierre Leppan Avatar
    Pierre Leppan

    Thank you so much …….I echo the above comments . I just cant believe what some of our protestant up bring has caused us to miss out on . I live in England and we really don’t have English speaking Orthodox churches to go to , even those are few and far between ..Its almost that we have no choice but to stay in our churches but interpret all through an Orthodox mind ( I attend Romsey Abbey) ..maybe you have some church suggestions for us UK bunch

  5. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    No doubt, we do the best we can in our circumstances. Twenty-five years ago (next month), my family and I were received into the Orthodox Church – and I was tasked by the bishop to start the first English-language parish in East TN. Over time, I had a hand in starting 5 parishes. The need is great. I have told people for years that one of the most important things they do is simply “being” an Orthodox Church – so that one is available when someone starts looking.

    I have noted, in my visits to England, that the presence of the Church there is dominantly immigrant – often non-English. But, it will change over time. Few things are as difficult as being part of a new mission (especially for a priest). I will be keeping you in my prayers and rejoice that God is at work in your midst. May He give us grace!

  6. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Is it too strong of a statement to say that if someone doesn’t understand communion and veneration of the icons of the saints, that such a person might not understand the classical Christian meaning of communion?

    It seems in western culture we have taken individualism pretty far. Generally, it seems that for some of us, authentic participatory communion takes some time to embrace when one becomes a catechumen to Orthodoxy. For example, when I first became a catechumen, my priest-catechist kept reminding me to ‘get out of my head’ and into my heart. Sometimes it seemed when I first adopted some of the behaviors of veneration, I feared that I might be an imposter. I was doing it with sincerity but not sure where my own heart was in all of this. It took a rather long (years actually) while before I began to have a sense of what he was talking about. Initially I grasped the words (to the extent one might without living the words). But living life of communion, authentically, is a different matter. Also, living that life outside the physical participation in the Church is a formidable if not impossible undertaking without the help of the Holy Spirit. –At least, this has been my experience. Eventually I knew I had to enter into an Orthodox Church as an inquirer. –We do have monk-hermits. But still, participatory communion in Liturgy is what feeds us, what gives us life. I’m not sure I would have the strength to persevere without it. But if for some reason I had to, I believe in the love of God that the Holy Spirit would sustain, and abide in me, as long as my heart was open to Him.

    A side thought, something that I learned as a beekeeper: An individual honey bee doesn’t live much longer than about 24 hours outside the colony because they are ‘social’. It is said that it is ‘written’ into their genes.

  7. Anna Avatar

    Dee: How interesting that you felt that way in the beginning because I felt that way too! I thought I was the only one that felt I might not be sincere or as you say might have been an “imposter”.
    It has taken me a long time to get out of my head and I’m still not very good at it because I tend to be rational, analytical, etc.

    I always wanted to keep bees and never knew that about them. Do you still have bees?


  8. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Thank you for your refection on communion. Beautiful..

    I will just say that communion lasts because of the energies of God that each of us shares. There are not just two parties. God is a part of it. A trinity.

  9. Subdeacon John Kennick Avatar
    Subdeacon John Kennick

    Pierre Leppan, check this link for an english speaking parish near you;

  10. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    I like how you say the icon can’t really become what it is without the venerator, if that’s a word. In the same way a man can’t be a father without children, a son without parents, a co-worker without people to work beside.

    I’m reminded of the story about the room in heaven where people sit down to a feast but with 3ft forks and spoons, thus requiring that people feed each other instead of themselves.

    It is a wise but gentle response of reality to those who would walk this life alone. You’ll die within the proverbial 24 hours without communion because the need for it was built in, like oxygen for the body.

    Thanks again for this image.

  11. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Anna, Dee,
    The “imposter” experience is a classical “shame” experience. We feel exposed, somehow. On the other hand, it’s not unhealthy, per se.

  12. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    The notion that we exist as pure individuals is just about the most purblind notion ever to hold sway in a culture. It’s not that there are no individual experiences – but everything we have and are – is always something that involves someone else. We cannot think without words and there are no words except those that are given to us in language. I think it was Wittgenstein who said that there’ no such thing as a private language. That’s a thought that could be greatly expanded.

    But, the individualized notion is one that has a tendency to shut down our attention to the place communion has within our lives.

  13. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Possibly. My own thoughts would be to help someone see what aspect of communion that they might already know/experience and use that as a lens for seeing the greater reality.

    I would say that, to a certain extent, that if we do not understand the classical Christian meaning of communion, then they do not understand the classical Christian meaning of salvation itself. We are saved through communion.

  14. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The icon that I have felt the most drawn to, since it’s installation, is the icon of St Raphael of Brooklyn. My parish was instrumental in making the case for his elevation to Sainthood. We have the first icon ever written of him in his official sainthood. Yet I have little in common with him. yet he speaks to me in a way none other does.
    It is another way we have of sharing communion–through veneration of the saints.

    One does not need to be Orthodox to use icons in veneration and prayer.

  15. Father Jacques Smuts Avatar
    Father Jacques Smuts

    I’m about to start an Orthodox parish – alas in Cape Town, not the UK! I agree with your view that one should ‘just be’ an Orthodox Church; and of course cultivate the communion of believers and the culture of Orthodoxy.
    But I’m intrigued by what other advice you would give to a ‘parish-starter’.

    Also, regarding what you said about icons. I explained to someone recently that taking an icon out of the Liturgy and putting it in a museum is like taking a lion out of the African bush and sticking it in a glass cage. It’s still a lion, but a much reduced lion, stripped of its habitat and indeed of its life and its meaning. But modern man has no problem with an icon in a museum, for icons have ceased to be places of communion and become simply objects – as have our brothers, to a frightening extent.
    Is your thesis available somewhere? I’d love to read it.

  16. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Father Jacques,
    May God bless your work! Most of my thoughts on the subject of mission-planting have to do with the dynamics of groups of people. There are, I think, “stages” in the life of a parish, largely driven by the number of people involved. A small parish (under 50) behaves differently than a larger parish (under 150), and different than one that is over 150. And there can be subtle distinctions within all of those.

    Personalities (healthy or unhealthy) make a huge difference. Mostly, I think it’s important to be patient. It’s such an important work – God is far more interested in its success than we are! You’ll be much in my prayers!

    Cape Town – that’s pretty close to the end of the world! Apostolic!

  17. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Father Jacques,
    I sincerely appreciate the thoughts you shared about Orthodox icons. They are so true!
    I pray that God blesses your work with His grace. And I hope you might continue to write comments on this blog because I believe your experiences in your mission and thoughts about them might benefit us all!

  18. James Avatar

    Dear Fr Stephen,

    I often find myself excited by what I read in your posts, and want to participate in the discussion, but rarely feel I have something to contribute. But, I can at least talk about my experience of what I think you’re talking about above. I’m a recent convert to Orthodoxy, and as I started attending the services I felt pretty anxious about participating in the veneration of icons, kissing the cross and the Priest’s hand. From the outside it looked very strange, and I felt like everyone was watching me, and worried that I’d do it wrong. But as time went on, I kept trying, and slowly began to get to know the saints I was venerating and their stories, I began to get to know my Priest, and the more I participated, the more it “made sense” in my heart. Now I am vaguely aware that other people can see me, but it doesn’t seem to bother me now. I also had the experience of realizing that the Psalms began to make a lot more sense to me when I heard them sung and could sing along with the others, rather than just read them silently in my head.

  19. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Dear Anna,
    May God bless you!! I’ve been away from the blog because of my workload. And I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. When you responded I wanted to have time to write appropriately and not tersely. Please forgive me for waiting until I was able to write in more depth.

    Indeed I believe what Father says is true, that at that point in our lives, as we were becoming Orthodox, we were experiencing shame. And I also agree that such shame isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I believe it could be a form of humility. It wasn’t that I cared so much about what others thought of me. I wanted, or rather I desperately hoped, to be ‘real’ before God. And being naked before God. I saw myself wanting in virtue, and second-guessing myself, analysing myself, as you say. I found myself hoping I was being genuine and doubting that I was. But I had hope that if I do what is asked of me in obedience to the Orthodox tradition and to the Church and her clergy, then perhaps one day I might become it. “It” being an Orthodox Christian, a member of the Orthodox Church.

    I do not think it is right for me to speak as if I have the same personal experiences as others. I know beyond any doubt that this is not true. Nevertheless, I believe there is sufficient common experience among us in this modern culture to say that to become Orthodox is not actually so easy. Even among the best of us there are crosses to bear. I want to be truthful with my soul. Therefore, I’m constantly in the mode of asking myself the question, am I being honest to myself?

    Over the years that I’ve been an Orthodox Christian, I have found it best to broach such a question with my priest-confessor, or with my God parent. Sometimes I am ruthless with myself because in my past, I had built a house of cards on sand, and the tide came in, and it all fell down. I have learned my lesson, thanks be to God for His mercy. Not only do I not want to make a house of cards on such a foundation again, I don’t want to be the builder, either.

    I have witnessed in myself and others a variety of expressions of shame as we are transformed by the Holy Spirit to become an Orthodox Christian. Such expressions in each person are tempered and colored by the life experiences and passions we have had before we became an Orthodox Christian, and perhaps continue to have after we have been baptised and christmated into the Church. Because of this, I want to carefully and lovingly state, honoring all who participate here, that the process of salvation takes time. The Orthodox tradition does not teach a sort of claim it-own it sort of process. And the Orthodox Church, herself, does not sit on some sort of continuum of being Christ’s body. There is only one catholic Orthodox Church. There is indeed a line so to speak drawn in the sand. She is a real entity unto herself. Neither is she perfect. Fr Thomas Hopko’s (of blessed memory) description of the Church is apt when he describes the Samaritan woman at the well as ‘type’ or icon of the Orthodox Church.

    I am deeply indebted to Father Stephen’s ministry here on this blog, because not only is the blog a teaching instrument for the inquirer, but it has become for me balm for healing. I am always grateful for this community. And if I have said anything here hurtful or offensive in this comment, I beg forgiveness.

  20. Anna Avatar

    Dee: Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. Your reply highlights and clarifies numerous issues for me. I have learned a lot from Fr. Stephen’s articles and the comments too.

    Coming from the protestant tradition is a cross for me because I am still trying to rid myself of their teaching and grasp all of the Orthodox Church’s teaching/mindset.


  21. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    It has been 36 years since I was received and there have always been new things to learn, new ways of experiencing the depth of God within and more sins to confess as some sins cover for others.
    But, all of those who have been Baptized into Christ have put on Christ. You are welcome at the feast.

  22. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    “Felt like everyone was watching me.” Yep. I joke about this, oftentimes, when I’m traveling and lecturing. When asked why we “bow and kiss everything,” I respond that it’s because Christ started the Church with Jews and Greeks – and they are people who like to bow and kiss. I note, as an addition, that had Christ begun the Church with Englishmen, we would still have icons, but, instead of bowing and kissing, we would just feel awkward and apologize to them. 🙂 If you’ve ever apologized to a piece of furniture, you might be English.

    On the whole, I find that it’s good for the soul to “bear a little shame.” It is, indeed, what humility feels like. Humility is the virtue of being able to bear the inherent shame of the truth of our existence in the presence of God.

    It is now 25 years since I was received into the Church. In a certain manner, as a priest, I’ve gotten over the awkwardness. However, as a priest, I’m often thrown into waters way over my head as I travel and am drafted into serving, etc.

    I was once “chewed out” by a Russian Babushka (in Russian) while standing next to the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem – having done something she thought was wrong. I had no idea what she was saying – but she was quite thorough about it. Indeed, someone WAS watching me! At the time, I fancied I could hear Christ laughing at me (and with me) all in good fun.

    We are all fools for Christ – when we are at our best.

  23. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    I’m circling back to a question you asked but forgot to include in my last comment.

    Yes, I’m still a beekeeper. This coming summer will be my 15th year as a beekeeper. My husband and I live on a small farm in the north. The summers are short, but my husband has been “digging in the dirt” (his preferred words) all his working life. I come from a humble background of farmers and subsistence life way. We might look like the odd couple (I have had a professional work life), but from the time we first met, we knew we had a lot in common. We have been together for close to 40 years now. And while he thinks he is ‘agnostic,’ he has a deep spirituality in him which I’m not at liberty to describe much online.

    Getting back to communion, and its meaning:
    Some people roll their eyes when I tell them my honey bee stories. Once I get going on that topic it’s hard to shut me up. The strain of bees that I keep have been domesticated for many centuries. If they are treated nicely, they don’t have a drive to sting when the beekeeper is in the hive. In fact in my case, they can be quite friendly. I think the reason might be is that I have to feed them in the early spring when there are no flowers out yet. My scent is on their food, and I think they think I might be just another weird-looking bee. (Talk about communion!)

    Since we’re also talking about communion with the saints through the icons, I thought I might mention one more story:
    As I was becoming Orthodox, my priest suggested that I select a patron saint for my saint-name. As I was looking over the list, I came upon a name that made me laugh out loud. Her name had been anglicized somewhat, “Gobnata”. When I read it, it sounded to my ears like the sound a child would make imitating a turkey. Curious, I decided to look at her story. And realized that I was reading the story of my patron saint. She was an abbess of a monastery in Ireland, and a beekeeper. Since I had Irish on my father’s side, it seemed to me she was talking to me and making me laugh. In light of the heart-struggle that I had as I was in the process of conversion, I needed a good laugh and gladly took up her name. But I preferred the Irish pronunciation, Gobnait.

    I highly recommend becoming a beekeeper if you have the inclination. But also find a local beekeeper club or association, too, for support. They can be a wealth of information and help.

    Blessings to you!

  24. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dee, thank you for sharing. It reminded me that my mother used bees and their movements as inspiration for some of her choreography.

  25. Dean Avatar

    I enjoyed your reply to Anna. I know next to nothing about bees…except getting stung lots as a child. I wasn’t the only only who liked clover!
    When I looked up how much honey one bee produces in its life, it varied between one tbsp. and one twelfth of a teaspoon.
    But, regardless, not much in its short lifespan.
    I’m happy you chose a Celtic saint. Many of their names put a smile on my face! And you know, don’t you, when a saint connects with you? I have several who I have drawn close to
    over the years.
    May you and St. Gobnait ever draw nearer to one another.

  26. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    My newest God son is also a bee keeper. A.long time friend who was just recently received about 2 years. When I see him tomorrow I will find out more.

  27. Anna Avatar

    Dee: What a wonderful story about you and your husband and the bees. Picking your patron saint’s name reveals the hidden workings of God who is so great.

    I appreciate your story about the bees and I didn’t roll my eyes at all. I looked up St. Gobnait and found a wealth of information and some great pictures of the area she inhabited in Ireland where pilgrims take tours.
    I live in the city and hope to be able to keep bees here but I’m in the early stages of planning to see what if anything is allowed.


  28. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Anna, I’m delighted that you’re going to pursue it! I encourage you, if there is one around, to contact a local bee club or association. They will have that sort of information available. In my area, bee hives are allowed within city limits. They have stipulations where the hive is located in the yard and in which direction that the hive entrance faces.

  29. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Indeed, bees do a dance that is some sort of “map” for other bees to follow to find ‘the good stuff’.

  30. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    And one more!
    Dean thank you for your pleasant response and prayers! Indeed I should give St Gobnait more attention. She always seems so serene. –Not exactly my forte in my own character! I wish and pray some day it might be!

  31. James Avatar

    Fr Stephen,

    Thanks for your response. I think I would have just melted on the spot. We have a shrine with an icon of our patron in our church, and we have a lamp that stays lit all the time for this icon. Being new, I did not know this, and after vespers one evening some folks were helping blow out candles, and thinking I was helping out, proceeded to blow out this special lamp. The deacon very kindly came over and explained to me that we don’t blow that one out, and explained that we should always get a blessing before we start “helping out” if we don’t know what we’re doing. I was mortified, but thankful for how graciously he corrected me. I think I’ve got the “fool” part under control, just working on the “for Christ” now. 🥸

  32. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    There are so many wonderful opportunities to be “mortified” in the Church. If, with God’s grace, we are able to bear such occasions of “a little shame,” we will slowly acquire the virtue of humility. Humility, according to the Fathers, is the Mother of all virtue. So, though we melt a bit in the face of such things – they are a wonderful blessing for the soul. If it feels too humiliating, just pray, “O God, comfort me!” And He will. I assure you.

  33. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Fr. Amen to what you say!

  34. Kenneth Avatar

    Fr. Stephen, your latest comment about “bearing a little shame “ makes me look forward to your forthcoming book all the more. There is so much to learn and practice. Viewing such experiences as “wonderful blessings for the soul” is so radically different from the ordinary perspective, and is itself a blessing.

  35. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    St. Sophrony (recently canonized) taught about bearing a little shame, as we also find it today in his disciple, Fr. Zacharias of Essex. I am deeply indebted to them for what you’ll see in the book. I take us into the nature of shame itself, making a distinction between “healthy” shame and “toxic shame,” and the mechanisms involved – and seeing why “healthy” shame is good, actually necessary for our well-being (for example, it’s necessary to have a bit of healthy shame in order to recognize emotional boundaries, etc.). I pray the book will be useful to its readers. It has been life-changing for me as I worked on it.

  36. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    I am eager to read your book. It’s coming out in February. What date?

  37. Diana Welsch Avatar
    Diana Welsch

    What do you mean when you refer to classical Christianity?

  38. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    This is a good question. I’m hesitant to pitch in but I’m going to because if I’m not correct, Father Stephen will enlighten both of us.

    The Orthodox Church sees in herself an apostolic continuity back through the centuries to the “early church”. Her Tradition and tradition has been established by the Fathers through the councils and in the life of the Church. There is only one Church, the Orthodox Church.

    Non-classical by contrast might be described as anything that is not the Orthodox Church. However, Roman Catholicism once had more history and practices in common such as the sacraments, once upon a time. I believe it is the importance and reverence given to the sacraments that forms a basis of distinction between what we see as a sort of secularism in modern western churches and that which we might call classical, where the sacraments have a primary place in the life of the Church.

    Father, please forgive me if I’ve over-stepped.

  39. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    In essence, when I say “classical Christianity,” I could say “Orthodox Christianity,” just as easily. However, most Christian groups (unless they’ve really gone crazy), adhere to a great deal of that classical/Orthodox content. For example: The Holy Trinity (though the use of the filioque in the Creed is problematic), salvation through Christ, and such – the basic content of the Nicene Creed. When CS Lewis wrote his book, Mere Christianity, he wasn’t trying to describe Christianity in its fullness, or even in a “least common denominator” form.

    Orthodox Christianity alone (as far as I can see) has remained faithful to the fulness of the faith as articulated in the Councils and the Fathers. But, that has not meant that great portions of that inheritance are not maintained, in some measure, by many others.

    So, my use of the term is an effort to write in a generous manner, appealing to things that all Christians should have in common, despite the errors of denominationalism.

    I’m not an ecumenist (in the sense of thinking that everyone’s right and everyone’s wrong). But my belief in the fullness of Orthodoxy is also a confession that I fail repeatedly to be what is given to us in that fullness. Still, though, I find it is useful to encourage others to do as much of the truth (in the common, classical inheritance) as I can convince them of.

    That’s a very rambling answer, forgive me. Long day…

  40. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, how much of “Classical Christianity” is belief and practice and how much is experience of the Person of Christ?

  41. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    True, classical Christianity, would be all of the above.

  42. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, I ask the question because I have seen people caught in their heads over the years as a reaction, in part to folks who emphasize experience that is not in line with the revealed teachings of the Orthodox Church.

  43. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Experience always needs some manner of understanding – it’s not self-interpreting.

  44. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    One has to have both.

  45. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Your post on 10/19/2006 “Seeds From Different Worlds” (which I cannot copy the link from) speaks eloquently what is needed. Every one should read it.

  46. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar
  47. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, I also am deeply moved by your exchange with your daughter. May the mercies of the Holy Trinity and our Blessed Mother be with us all.

    Thank you for all the Seeds you have down. I hope a few of them have taken root in my heart and are bearing fruit of their own. May it be so for all here.

  48. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, do you discuss individualism and shame in your book?

    Ran into a contemporary Christian historian, Carl R. Trueman. His latest book “Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution” (He likes long titles)

    The reality of Communion seems to challenge the notion of individualism and “identity” in many ways. Unless I am horribly wrong. Shame also seems crucial

  49. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    It’s not a dominant theme – but communion features very strongly in it.

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