50. Orthodoxy and other Faiths: Islam

Do you know that about 65% of Arabs in America are Christians? that about 85% of Arabs in the United States are American citizens? Do you know that most Muslims worldwide are not Arabs? that the 4 countries with the largest Muslim population are Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, none of them Arab. Likewise Iran and Turkey which are almost entirely Muslim are not Arab. Do you know that adherents of Islam…

49. The Groundhog Who Stole Candlemas

… with apologies to Dr. Seuss and the Grinch. Candlemas is a Western title for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, February 2. But ask Americans “What’s February 2?” and you’ll hear “Groundhog Day!” To understand this, first we need to grasp the tail of the groundhog … forgive me, I couldn’t resist, but Groundhog Day is so silly … understand the tale of the groundhog. The Ancient Origins of Groundhog…

48. The Purpose(s) of Travel

Both G.K Chesterton and T.S. Eliot said the purpose of travel is to return home and discover our native land again. Yes, and… The other purpose to travel is to learn a few things. Some of what I’ve heard and seen made me happy. Some made me very uncomfortable. But I shared this with my people at Saint  Nicholas, Cedarburg, and if they could handle it, I figure you can too. However, if you don’t…

47. 2008 Trip, Part One: Back to Greece – Thessaloniki and Crete

Who goes to Greece in January? We do! But before we leave, a recommendation: When you travel take along a small prayer book, a small New Testament and a copy of the daily Bible Readings. Or if you’ll have easy access to the internet the best site I know, beautifully laid out, is the American Greek Orthodox Online Chapel at https://www.goarch.org/chapel/. Daily saints and Scripture readings pop up immediately. Prayers appropriate to…

46. Poor Epiphany – and Poor Us

In Greece tomorrow morning the churches will be filled to overflowing, as also I presume in other traditional Orthodox countries. A Lutheran pastor tells me that on the Epiphany in Germany, schools and libraries are closed (he’s a scholar who tried to get in), though he says few go to church. But in America… well, I don’t have to tell you. The liturgical forms of the Holy Orthodox Church make it clear…

45. January 1 – A Day of two and a half Celebrations

But first, let’s get Christmas out of the way. Sorry, folks, it’s all over. Western Christians get a full 12 days of Christmas, but we Orthodox get only 7. No fair – though our fast-free period lasts for 12 days till Epiphany. However, in our liturgical calendar December 31, this coming Sunday, is the “Leavetaking (last day) of Christmas”. (For what it’s worth, Khouria Dianna and I keep our house Christmas decorations…

44. The Real Santa Claus: Part Two – How Saint Nicholas was stolen, twice

Saint Nicholas’ Last Days in the East For many centuries Nicholas’ burial place at Myra was a pilgrimage center. However, as time went on, the eastern Mediterranean became a Muslim sea with many pirates, unsafe for travelers. Fewer and fewer came to visit. Then an earthquake devastated Myra leaving the shrine in ruins, his vault nearly buried. (We have at our church some stones from the ruins of the old Saint Nicholas…

43. The Real Santa Claus – Part One

Santa Claus was Greek. That’s the first thing we need to get straight. Santa Claus was an Orthodox Bishop. Santa Claus came from Asia Minor, not the North Pole. And his real name is Saint Nicholas. What follows is the true story of Saint Nicholas, concluding with the bizarre tale of how the modern world has tried to turn our holy saint into a myth – first into a tiny Norse elf,…

42. Orthodoxy and Other Faiths, Judaism Part Two

What follows now will be “politically incorrect”, at least in America. Last week we looked at the glorious Old Testament history of the Jews, the Chosen People of God. But the situation has changed. By rejecting their Messiah, the Jewish nation has cut itself off. The Church is now the true Israel, the new Chosen People of the New Covenant. The “succession of faith” that began with Abraham now continues not through…

41. Orthodoxy and Other Faiths: Judaism, Part One

“At inter-religious conferences, at first you find Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics and Protestants together ‘over here’ and Jews ‘over there’. But as we get down to the nitty-gritty of what religion and life are all about, you find Orthodox Christians and Jews together ‘over here’ and Roman Catholics and Protestants ‘over there’.” The preceding is a quote from Father Thomas Hopko (of blessed memory+) who certainly attended more than his share of conferences.…