“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.”

“Gifts of the Desert” Book Review

[Touchstone, June 2006] Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian SpiritualityBy Kyriacos C. MarkidesDoubleday, 2005(370 pages, $23.95, hardback) Dr. Markides is a sociology professor at the University of Maine, and his research has led him to conclusions that are rare among social sciences academics. Markides has come to believe that we are surrounded by unseen spiritual realities, and that it is possible, through repentance and prayer, to encounter and be transformed by them.

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?

The Cross of St. Dimas

[Beliefnet, April 19, 2006] The Gospels don’t tell us much about the two thieves crucified with Jesus. Tradition calls the “Good Thief” Dimas or Dismas, while the “Bad Thief” is named Gestas. Dimas’ legend reveals a little more. As a young man he was the leader of a robber band in Egypt, and encountered the Holy Family during their sojourn after Jesus’ birth. He discerned something special about the Jewish family, we’re told, and ordered his men to spare them. Thirty years later he saw that child once again, nailed to a cross beside him.

Just Plain American Orthodox

Deep in the heart of a typical American city there is a magnificent old Orthodox church. The community housed here was founded about a hundred years ago, a gathering of families who had emigrated from Greece, Russia, Syria, or some other ethnically-Orthodox land. These newcomers found America vast, confusing, and intimidating. They banded together and formed a congregation, then called a priest from the “old country.” The growing parish was an island of familiarity, a place where they could not only worship in the language they longed all week to hear, but also share news from home, enjoy the foods and dancing that eased homesickness, and choose mates for their growing children. Time passed. The parishioners saved up and bought a church building from a Protestant congregation. They beautified it lavishly, with icons that looked vaguely Italian, in a 19th century devotional style.

Why We Need Hell

[Beliefnet: March 23, 2006] Hell has never been a fashionable destination, but it in recent years it's met a fate that even the most passé hotspots don't endure; people suspect it doesn't exist. Or, if it does exist, it attracts no customers; “we are permitted to hope that hell is empty” is how this is sometimes phrased. Even the most conservative Christians have a hard time putting a positive spin on a wrathful God who flings evildoers into flaming torment.

First Fruits of Prayer: Getting Serious for Forty Days

(National Review Online, March 1, 2006) 1. What is “the Great Canon of St. Andrew” and what’s so great about it? This complex poem (actually a chanted hymn) was written in the early 700’s, and it picked up the adjective “Great” for two reasons: it’s extra-long (about 250 verses), and it’s majestic. The Great Canon was written by St. Andrew

Men We Love: Fr. George Calciu

[National Review Online, February 14, 2006] For a feature titled “Men We Love” In a life blessed by many strong and honorable men, worthy of love, the one I'd like to celebrate here is an 80-year-old priest. In 1948, at the age of 22, Father George Calciu was arrested and held