This is the earliest image of the “Madonna and Child,” the Virgin Mary holding her son. It’s found in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome, and dates to the early 200’s. At the time this image would have been so new that people might have wondered what it was, so the artist depicted a prophet standing beside her, pointing to a star. Perhaps this is the seer Balaam, who said “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17-19). As familiar as the mother-and-child image is now, I was thinking how rare it would have been before Christ came. There’s usually no reason to depict a mother and nursing child. It’s not a heroic image, not particularly glorious or amazing; it’s as everyday as a mother kneading bread or hanging out the wash. And yet we put it in our worship
Frederica: Hi, Georgia! Let me introduce my granddaughter Hannah Parker, who is a senior in high school. She’s a consistent honor roll student, with a longtime interest in fiction, particularly YA [young adult] fiction, and she’s a real book collector. She must have all the YA fiction of the last few years in hardback. Hannah knows a little about publishing through me, and would like to be a book editor as an adult, editing in particular the YA fiction she loves. We hope to learn from you a bit about the process of writing, the decisions an author has to make when shaping a work of fiction, and if possible something about how an editor can help or hurt the process. Georgia: Hello, Frederica and Hannah! It’s nice to meet another fan of YA fiction! I have lost touch with the genre in the past couple of years (I don’t like to read anything similar to what I’m currently writing because my voice starts sounding like someone else’s), but now that I have more time for reading, I’m going back to that section of my library to look for books.
When the protesters were sentenced last week for their performance in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, a friend asked me why Orthodox Christians were so upset about what they’d done. For him, this was clearly a political protest. It was aimed at a too-close entwining of church and state, so it took place in a church. What’s the big deal? But, in practice, there’s a difference.
Among the illustrations in this volume there is an AP news photo from the Russian district of Bogorodsk, dated 1950, of a crowd of people carrying icons out of a church. This isn’t a religious procession; instead, they are handing the paintings up to a man standing in a farm cart. Though it is cold—you can tell from the bundling garments and fleece-lined caps—the crowd looks energetic and happy, and a pretty young woman at the center of the photo looks particularly joyous. In the foreground a boy is holding a small icon, perhaps of Christ. The cart is already overflowing with these paintings of saints and biblical figures on wooden plaques. The load is going to be hauled out of town and burned.
[Christianity Today Movies; December 2, 2008] ‘Perhaps Just Out of Our Minds’ Christian filmmaker Buzz McLaughlin tries to find a niche between secular movies and preachy ones—only to find it’s an elusive market. *** In the independent film The Sensation of Sight, Oscar nominee David Strathairn plays an introspective English teacher who feels himself complicit in a tragedy, and then begins selling encyclopedias door-to-door to the locals. But his anxieties begin to consume him as various characters and dreamlike situations increase around him, ultimately pushing him toward an unexpected awakening. It’s sort of a strange synopsis for a “Christian” movie—which it isn’t. The filmmakers behind Sight—which played 19 festivals worldwide, had a limited theatrical release earlier this summer, and is now available on DVD—are Christians, but they didn’t want to make a distinctively Christian movie.
[Ancient Faith Radio; November 20, 2008] Frederica Mathewes-Green: I’m sitting in the kitchen with my son Steve and his wife Jocelyn and their baby Ruth Anne, who is crawling around on the floor. She has just learning how to walk, but it’s a lot faster if you go by crawling. She’s carrying an arrowroot cookie, and dropping it, and sitting on it, and picking it up again. And every once in a while she sees that there are fingers on my hands, and she grabs a finger and tries to lead it—because she wants to walk holding on to my hands. So I kind of have to hide my hands where she doesn’t see them. Isn’t that right, Ruthie?
[From The Good, the True, and the Beautiful, ed. Harry and Rebecca Poe, Chalice Press, St. Louis, 2008] “We Will Be Like Him” (I John 3:2) England can be delightful in early August, when the mornings are cool and the afternoons bright. At home, on America’s mid-Atlantic coast, it’s so hot and gummy that the dogs are sticking to the sidewalks. This is one of those rare patches of year when Americans might like to come to England for the weather.
[Ancient Faith Radio; October 2, 2008] Frederica Mathewes-Green: Today is a Sunday, and I am in Holy Ascension OCA Church in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, right outside of Charleston. This is a very unusual church building. This was just consecrated last May, and I am speaking with the architect, Andrew Gould. You look to me like quite a young man, Andrew. Is this your first church building?
[Ancient Faith Radio; November 21, 2007] I’ve got a whole box of stuff here. This is tissue paper, it’s wrapped around little papier-mâché Christmas ornaments from India. And they’re all hand painted and there’s so much detail. I’m looking at one, it’s got a band of colors on top and another band on the bottom, and the middle is painted blue, and it’s dotted with—there must be a hundred little stars, and one, two, three, four, five angels, smiling with their wings stretched out and touching each other.
[Ancient Faith Radio; September 13, 2007] In early June I went to Los Angeles to speak at a conference at Pepperdine University that was on a fascinating topic; it was about a capella church music. I didn’t know this, but Pepperdine was established as a Church of Christ school—Church of Christ being a flavor of Christianity that is extremely Bible-based, very conservative in many senses, and in fact, they say the three things that make them different from most protestant churches is that they have weekly communion, they baptize by full immersion, and that everything in their worship is sung without instruments, it’s all a capella. They say they do these three things because that’s the way the early church did it, and of course as an Orthodox visitor to the campus, I was delighted to say, ‘Yeah, that’s the reason we do it too.’ We certainly agree that that’s what the early church did.