Pascha

[NPR, Morning Edition, May 3, 2002] Every couple of years this happens. It's like living in the Twilight Zone. For weeks, everywhere I went, there were fluffy chicks and bunny-baskets, and the grocery store was stacked with bags of pastel M & Ms. It was all about Easter--and now it's done. But not for me.

Repentance, Both Door and Path

[From “The Illumined Heart”, Paraclete Press, 2001]* Selected for Best Christian Writing, 2004* The first time Jesus appears, in the first Gospel, the first instruction he gives is “Repent.” From then on, it’s his most consistent message. In all times and every situation, his advice is to repent. Not just the scribes and Pharisees, not just the powerful—he tells even the poor and oppressed that repentance is the key to eternal life. In an incident that would make modern-day spin doctors frantic, Jesus even advises repentance in response to a horrifying atrocity. Some in his audience tell him that Pilate has murdered some Galilean worshipers, spattering their blood on the animal sacrifices. Shockingly, Jesus says, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Apparently he is not concerned about how this will play on Mt. Peor.

Father Arseny

[Los Angeles Times, December 22, 2001] Father Arseny: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997)Father Arseny: A Cloud of Witnesses (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001)translated by Vera Bouteneff Orthodox Christians like to tell each other that their church is the “best kept secret”

Understanding the Orthodox

[Catholic Digest, December 2001] Good Friday evening--time to head home for a lenten dinner and prepare for the glorious Easter weekend. But as you stop at a light you notice that something is going on at the church on the corner.

Why Did This Happen?

[Touchstone, October 2001] On the day after the tragedy I drove through Washington, surprised to find it uncongested and tranquil. I drove past the battered Pentagon, where cars crept along the interstate at a few miles an hour as people craned their necks to see and comprehend our national wound. A few miles further, down among the suburban office towers, is a tiny old white clapboard church. I stepped inside the cool interior, which was dimly lit and covered on walls and ceiling with paintings of Christ and the Apostles, of biblical figures and heroes from long ago. I took a seat to wait for my spiritual father and looked around. I saw faces of men and women who had known suffering, much more severe than what I had ever experienced, even as rocked as I felt just then. They stood serene around the walls, many holding symbols of victory.

How Can God Permit Suffering?

[Beliefnet, September 16, 2001] When it hits home, we reel back. Thoughts explode in confusion: I trusted God, where is he? If he’s all-powerful, why didn’t he stop it? Maybe he doesn’t love us. Maybe he is punishing us. Maybe he is weak. Are we really so alone and endangered? Can we not trust him? Are we so terrifyingly alone? Suffering on this scale is new to us. But it is not new to the weary human race, and countless men and women before us have tried to understand God’s presence in times of horror.

My Journey to Orthodoxy

[Woman Alive, August 2001] It is strange that I would be here. I look up toward the vaulted ceiling of our little stone church and see the drifting smoke of incense. Its fragrance mingles with the drowsy honey-scent of beeswax candles. Those tips of flame illuminate ancient faces on painted icons, faces that convey a serious and heroic faith. As my husband passes in the offertory procession, chanting intercessions,

The Joy of Filboid Studge

[Beliefnet, March 4, 2001] A person can only hope to accomplish so much in a lifetime, and of course many of the better discoveries (fire, the wheel, the home Jeopardy game) have already been taken. But I can rest easier now that my own contribution to mankind has been perfected. I have discovered the moral equivalent of oatmeal. It goes like this. You know that eating oatmeal is the most noble act a human can perform in the course of food consumption. It’s the right thing to do, as some wise man (Copernicus?) once said. This is because, face it, oatmeal is not very appealing. Once in a bowl, it transitions quickly from homey to homely, and in bright morning light is a soggy, depressing mess. What better sight to thrill our sense of duty?

Proselytizing in Orthodox Lands

[Beliefnet, July 13, 2000[Is it right to proselytize? Already it’s a loaded question. “Proselytism” has about as many appealing connotations as “root canal.” It’s more pointed than “evangelism,” which means exposition of the Gospel to any and everyone, particularly those of no faith at all. Proselytizing implies undermining an existing faith in order to clear ground for a new one.

Trusting Tradition

[Touchstone, April 2000] My young nephew Thomas had been attending an Orthodox church with his dad for several months, and must have been impressed by an exclamation the priest makes at the turning point of the service. When the scripture readings and sermon are concluded, the priest says, “The doors! The doors! In wisdom, let us attend!”