Kyria: The Jesus Prayer

[Kyria; May, 2010] “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thess 5:17) Have you ever wondered what St. Paul was talking about? How can a person pray constantly? Yet this wasn’t the only time St. Paul urged his hearers to constant prayer. “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” ( Romans 12:12). “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance” (Eph 6:18). “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving”  Col 4:2. If he took the trouble to say this to four different communities, he must have thought it was important. And he must have thought it was possible. He wouldn’t have kept urging his hearers to do something that was completely beyond their capability.

Big Family, Special Needs

F: Of course, you have an unusual family, and people notice that right away. You have ten children, and six are your own… M: They’re all my own! F: Oh, God bless you, that’s true, they’re all your own. Six are biological children, four are adopted children. You put the words to it, tell me about your children. M: We like to say that our six biological kids are the ones we made all by ourselves—our “homemade” ones—and the other four we picked out of the catalog. [laughing] Our four adopted ones have special needs, although our oldest one has resolved most of his special needs.

Lent–Why Bother?

Lent is a time of year to remember that God has seen fit to make us, not airy spirits, but embodied human beings living in a beautiful, material world. The soul fills the body the way fire fills a lump of coal, and what the body learns, the soul absorbs as well. Spiritual disciplines, like fasting, are analogous to the weight-lifting machines at a health club. One who uses them in a disciplined way will be stronger, not just when he’s lifting weights, but for every situation that he meets.

Father George Calciu [Introduction]

[Holy Cross Orthodox Church; November 22, 2009] This weekend we are remembering the repose of Fr. George Calciu, who died on November 21, 2006, just two days before 81st birthday. He died of pancreatic cancer, a fast-moving and painful cancer, and had barely survived long enough to complete one last trip to his homeland, Romania. The news reached us on a Sunday evening that he had taken a turn for the worse. Father Gregory and I were hosting a gathering for Orthodox young people at our home that night, but I left our guests and went with Chris Vladimir to the hospital.

Sin as Pollution and Forgiveness Vespers

[Ancient Faith Radio; April 8, 2008] Well, another Forgiveness Vespers has arrived, and challenged us in many ways, not least challenging those muscles that run up the back of our legs, with all the making metanias, and certainly brought forth some tears and a lot of hugs, and a profound sense of being bonded with the other people in our church.  At Holy Cross, we have about—I guess on a Sunday morning we see a hundred to a hundred thirty people.  There’s some variation; people travel and visitors show up.  But at Forgiveness Vespers, we usually have around a hundred people there.

The Voice Beneath the Altar

[from A Faith and Culture Devotional, Zondervan, 2008] When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”( Revelation 6:9-10) During the first centuries of Christianity, the church was battered within and without. Pseudo-Christians distorted the faith and misled the faithful, while the powerful Roman Empire persecuted Christians with torture and death. When local church members were able to gather the remains of their fellow-believers (often, this was forbidden), they lovingly interred these broken bodies beneath their altars, a reminder that the blessed departed are invisibly present to join us in worship. St. John writes that, in his vision, he heard the voice of the martyrs crying out from under the altar.

Growing a Parish

[Ancient Faith Radio; December 3, 2008] FMG: Today I am at St. Justin Martyr OCA Church in Jacksonville, Florida, just south of Jacksonville, in the area of Mandarin. My family has owned a small farm here since 1880 or so; it’s been in the family, or with the in-laws of the family, since then. I came down to visit my sister, Dorothy, who’s a member of this church, and to visit my mother, who’s in a nursing home here, and now I’m talking to one of my favorite priests, Fr. Ted Pisarchuk. “Ball of fire” is what they call him behind his back, because he’s always up to something. You especially have a love of missions. Were you the founding pastor of St. Justin Martyr?

The Liturgy of St. James

[Ancient Faith Radio; November 27, 2008] FMG: I’m in a crowded and noisy banquet room here. This is the annual banquet for St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, PA. I’m sitting here at the banquet table, we’ve just finished our… this was really a good meal. This was some kind of terrific filet mignon, sliced, a little garlic, almonds on the green beans, it was delicious. And in this little space we have between when they bring out the dessert- I love these banquets- I would like to talk to Fr. Elias Yelovich. What is the name of your parish, Father?

Why Converts to Orthodoxy are Obnoxious

[Beliefnet; November 19, 2008]In 1993, over 15 years ago, I was chrismated and joined the Eastern Orthodox Church, but only lately has it dawned on me that I must have strained friendships over the years, due to my vocal enthusiasm for my adopted church. I can’t be the only one to have done this. Converts to Orthodoxy usually precede their decision with voluminous reading and research, so their friends must endure agitated lectures on church history, ancient heresies, and what words mean in Greek. Those friends benefit, no doubt, from this opportunity to practice patience and long-suffering. But why is our kind so characteristically obnoxious?

The Saints and Me

[Orthodox Outlook; Fall 2008] I wrote my most recent book, “The Lost Gospel of Mary: The Mother of Jesus in Three Ancient Texts,” about the Theotokos, and the main reason was that I felt like I didn’t understand her very well. I recognized that other Christians feel very warmly toward her, but I always felt kind of scared of her. She looked so fierce, in her icons. (I underwent some teasing in an all-girl school when I was young, and maybe that had something to do with it.) I could look at the icon of Christ and see that he looked equally tough, and yet I could understand why, and knew that he loved me. I wasn’t sure that the Virgin Mary did. I hoped that by looking into the way that the earliest Christians saw the Virgin, I would myself learn a healthier perspective.