[NPR, “All Things Considered,” March 2, 1998] On the first night of Lent, as Vespers comes to an end, my husband turns from the altar. He asks everyone to form a circle around the interior of the church, and when we're in place, the person next to him--in this case, our son David--steps over to face his dad. My husband crosses himself, bows to David, then says, “Forgive me, my brother, for any way I have sinned against you. ” David says, “I forgive you,” and they embrace. Then it's David' s turn to bow to his dad and ask the same question, and receive the same forgiveness and embrace.
[NPR, ”All Things Considered, June 7, 1999] As a convert to Orthodox Christianity, I' ve been undecided about Kosovo. While most Orthodox take a pro-Serb position, I don't feel compelled to follow; when I converted I joined a faith, not an ethnic group. Throughout history members of my Church have done both good and evil, and Serbia's Orthodox identity does not alone prove their cause is just. On the other hand, I'm reflexively anti-war, and have been since my college days during Viet Nam. Perhaps war can be a justifiable last resort, but this situation doesn' t reach that standard.
[Christianity Today, October 25, 1999] My daughter gave me a round clock for my birthday. It has a round white dial like a full moon, dashed with tapering black hands. Black Roman numerals swing around the circumference of the disk and at the bottom stand serenely on their heads. Each snap of the second hand is accompanied by a tick. I haven't had a round clock for a long time. Megan told me this was for my desk, so I put it at the back, just under the window. It joins three square clocks already in residence: one on the far edge facing the sofa, one on top of the computer monitor, and a tiny one in a corner of the monitor screen. When I sit at my desk I am relentlessly aware of what time it is. These three square clocks, with their segmented black numerals, flash time that looks impressively specific. However, they habitually disagree with each other, reminding me that specific is not the same as accurate. Right now I have my choice of 12:31, 12:32, or 12:33. Make that 12:34.
[Beliefnet, December 22, 1999] * Selected for Best Christian Writing 2000 * On a cold day in December a mother gave birth to a baby boy. Seventeen years later he sat in her kitchen with a towel around his neck while she trimmed his hair. When a boy reaches a certain age he doesn’t like his mother to touch him any more. This is as close as she’s likely to get, circling him, nipping behind his pink ears with scissors.
[Christianity Today, January 11, 1999] When I was first approached about becoming a member of the Spice Girls, I was a little taken aback. My impression was that this troupe of British singers was salacious and provocative, one more example of the debasing of our culture. “I'm embarassed to admit it, Mom,” my 21-year-old daughter confessed, “but I actually liked the movie. It's harmless--a teenybopper thing, like for preteen girls. It's singing Barbies, and there's nothing dirty about it. It has that nutty English humor, kind of like the Beatles' Help!, so I actually ended up really enjoying it--I even watched it twice.”
[ESA Advocate, June 1993] I am looking at a painting of a woman with her arms upraised in prayer. But her eyes are not closed, or even lifted up; they gaze out at the viewer with steady solemnity. The most startling thing about this image is at its center. Upon the woman's red-robed torso rests a large circle of blue, and this disk represents her womb. Within it we see her unborn child, clothed and haloed, surrounded by stars and radiant as the sun. His hand is lifted in blessing. This icon of the Orthodox Christian Church is called “The Virgin of the Sign,” recalling the familiar prophecy of Isaiah: “The Lord will give you a sign: behold, a virgin will conceive and bear a son...” (Isaiah 7:14)
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” December 27, 1996] As I zipped open the cardboard envelope a sweet, heavy fragrance began to spill out. Rifling among the magazine and newspaper clippings I found it, a plastic bag containing a cotton ball. A drop of golden oil was soaked into the cotton. I gently opened the bag, and the scent of roses spilled into the room.
[Christianity Today, November 18, 1995] It's hard to know just how to take an invitation to write about gluttony. “We thought you would be the perfect person,” the editor's letter read. “Gee, is it that obvious?” I thought, alarmed. “No, no,” I wanted to protest, “that's not really me. It just these horizontal stripes.” But, if I'm honest, I have to admit that it is me. It's most of us. Food is an intoxicating pleasure, and it appears superficially like an innocuous one; it's not one of the bad sins, like adultery or stealing. We wouldn't do that; gluttony is different. All it does is make you soft and huggable. It's the cute sin.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” June 6, 1996] Michael's been gone about a month now, and we miss him. In a small church like ours, you need everybody. Now the choir's down to just one bass, and the other Sunday School teachers have to do double duty. At the same time we're happy for Michael, even proud. Our little church started just three years ago, and we're almost all converts--some from various denominations, some from no faith at all. Michael was one of the few who'd actually grown up Eastern Orthodox. When he announced he wanted to join Holy Cross Monastery in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain, we felt somehow honored.
[World, February 18, 1995] When Oregon passed “Measure 16” last November, it became the first state in the nation to give doctors permission to prescribe poisonous drugs in order to kill dying patients. In fact, according to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Oregon is “the first jurisdiction in the world to legalize assisted suicide by popular vote.” Oregon was a well-chosen test site; it has the lowest church attendance in the nation, and pro-euthanasia messages played on bias against pro-life Catholic leadership (it's been said that “Anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the elite class.”) The lines don't split precisely between Christians and non-believers, however. Many Christians feel an innate revulsion for legalized killing of the sick, but some do not. A recent letter in our Mailbag column proclaimed, “Thank God for Dr. Kevorkian.” It's human nature to feel panic at the thought of dying in misery, and to long to circumvent the possibility.