The Lost Gospel of Mary: Who Was She?

[excerpted from “The Lost Gospel of Mary,” Paraclete Press, 2007] The Beloved Virgin Mary Who was she? It is hard to see Mary clearly, beneath the conflicting identities she has borne over the centuries. To one era she is the flower of femininity, and to another the champion of feminism; in one age she is the paragon of obedience, and in another the advocate of liberation. Some enthusiasts have been tempted to pile her status so high that it rivals that of her Son. Others, aware that excessive adulation can be dangerous, do their best to ignore her entirely. Behind all that there is a woman nursing a baby. The child in her arms looks into her eyes. Years later he will look at her from the cross, through a haze of blood and sweat.

What’s Wrong with “Spirituality”

[Gifted For Leadership, January 2007] I don’t like the category “spirituality.” It sounds so external. It sounds so optional. It isn’t a concept I find in the first millennium, or anywhere in Eastern Christianity. As far as I can tell, what people today mean by “spirituality” is what St. Paul meant by “life in Christ.”

Women’s Ordination

[Beliefnet, Jan 10, 2007]  In recent decades, some Protestant denominations have undergone heavy fighting over the question of whether women should be ordained. A woman holding a worship service or preaching was once so rare that the 18th century English author, Samuel Johnson, could say: “a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” This controversy hasn’t gained a high profile in the Orthodox Church, probably due to our way of approaching such issues: if the early church was in agreement on a matter, if that consensus continued unbroken over the centuries, then that seems to be the Holy Spirit’s leading. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).

7 Big Questions

[Relevant; Jan/Feb 2007] 1. What trends in church and worship styles do you see? Are they positive or negative? As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I’m glad to see communities digging into the treasures of the ancient church, particularly in terms of seeking beauty. The less we try to make worship like an evening in the family room, the more we make it something directed beyond our familiar experience, bringing us to the God of beauty, awe, and mystery, the better — and my personal hunch is that this is more attractive to seekers, too.

“Sign of the Cross” Foreword

[Foreword to The Sign of the Cross by Andreas Andreopoulos, Paraclete Press, 2007]  At my Orthodox church every Sunday I see families arrive at church and go up to the iconostasis, to greet the icon of the Lord. The parents stand before his searching gaze and make the sign of the cross fluidly: the right thumb and first two fingers together to recall the Trinity, and the last two fingers together and pressed down to the palm, to recall Christ’s two natures and his descent to the earth. They touch forehead, abdomen, right shoulder, left shoulder, then sweep the right hand to the floor with a deep bow. After making two of these “metanias,” they kiss Christ’s hand, then make one more sign of the Cross and a last bow.

Repose of Fr. George Calciu

Reverend Father Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa Fallen Asleep in the Lord Alexandria VA – The Reverend Father Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa, parish priest of Holy Cross Church in Alexandria, Virginia, fell asleep in the Lord on Tuesday afternoon, 21 November 2006 following a short but difficult illness.

Ted Haggard and Suffering

[First Things, November 7, 2006] I was in Denver for about a hundred minutes this weekend. I hadn’t planned it, but when I arrived at the airport Friday morning to begin my journey to Calgary, I was surprised to see that’s where I would change planes. The story about Ted Haggard had hit the news the night before, and I had been for some reason really moved by it. I walked through the Denver airport praying the Jesus Prayer for him: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on Ted.”

Open Season on Beauty

[Dallas Morning News, October 1, 2006] “I didn’t like the part in the restaurant,” Hannah, my 6-year-old granddaughter, said. We were leaving a screening of Sony’s new animated feature, “Open Season,” and I was trying to remember any scene in a restaurant. When she said it was “too messy,” I realized that she meant an early scene where the movie’s lead characters, a suburban bear and a one-antlered deer, run loose in a mini-mart.

Da Vinci Code: “Yeah, Whatever”

[TheDaVinciDialogue.com, May 6, 2006] Editors titled this: “Yeah, Whatever. This is All About You-Know-Who.” When the DaVinci Code hoopla is all said and done, it will still be Jesus that we’re talking about. It’s Jesus whose face on the cover sells a million magazines, whose name instills widespread awe. Even people despise Christians paradoxically admire their Lord. In discussions of religion nearly everything is up for grabs, yet on this one point there’s widespread agreement. Why do people instinctively admire Jesus?

Poor Excuse

[Touchstone, May 2006] What happens when Christians are attacked by the contemptuous secular world? Often we start talking about how much good Christians have done. I just encountered this response in a book aimed at non-believers, which builds to a chapter that presents a whole parade of do-gooders to vindicate the Christian faith. Everybody got their paragraph in the sun, from Mother Teresa to Basil the Great to the Liberation Theologians. It’s a difficult problem in apologetics, I admit, how to win a hearing for Christianity today.