Candlewax and Hedgehogs – Groundhog Day

Candlewax and Hedgehogs—a peculiar way to entitle an article, I’ll admit. But both have their associations with the second day of February. The first is more important so we’ll begin there. The second day of February is one of the 12 great feasts, and is also celebrated by Christians in the West. The feast is the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, described in the second chapter of St. Luke’s gospel. There…

The Communion of Friends

You meet someone and like them. You slowly get to know them. Conversation and sharing, listening and learning, a picture or a reality begin to emerge. You think about them when they’re away. You’re aware that you matter to them as well. The thought of anything hurting them is painful. This is friendship. We easily reduce friendship to a set of shared emotions. Why we like someone else, we can imagine, rests on…

The One Mediator – And the Sacraments

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, (1 Tim. 2:5) There is no way to adequately explain priesthood without reference to mediation. A priest is a mediator between God and Man. From time to time over the years, I have had the verse from 1 Timothy pointed out to me with the argument that there cannot be any mediator other than Christ, and,…

The End of the Sacraments – The End of All Things

The holidays bring a bit of my family together – for fun and conversation and the joy of a feast. The conversations, however, can serve as a reminder of what I don’t know. Two of my adult children are deep into the world of computers: one is a software engineer, the other a web-designer (among other things). Sometimes their conversations lapse into the technical world of jargon – words that I do…

The Final Destruction of Demons – Holy Baptism

“Final” is not a word you often hear in Christian teaching. Most Christians leave the final things until, well, the End. But this is not the language of the fathers nor of the Church. A good illustration can be found in the Orthodox service of Holy Baptism. During the blessing of the waters the priest prays: And grant to [this water] the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it the…

Providence – God in Extension

There are aspects of the Orthodox faith that require that we reach beyond what we think we know and dig more deeply into the writings of the Fathers. This is particularly the case when Orthodoxy uses similar language to Western theological models. We see a word (in this case, “providence,”) and think we know what it means, supplying that meaning from our inherited Western theological/cultural vocabulary. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to…

The Gospel of Progress – and the New Jerusalem

American fans of Monty Python will be familiar with the opening lines of William Blake’s poem, “Jerusalem” (and I apologize to my British readers for such an introduction). The poem was set to music in 1916 and became deeply popular in post-war Britain. The Labour Party adopted it as a theme for the election of 1946. It recalls the legend of Christ’s visit to England as a child (taken there by St.…

A Virgin Gave Birth

I was browsing through some online material recently and came across a conversation between a non-believing sceptic and a Christian apologist. The question was asked (right off the top): “Why a virgin birth?” The apologist did a decent job of responding, giving a fairly common explanation of “why Christ had to be born of a virgin.” Something about it left me empty. Thinking about it – I believe my problem was that…

The Child Who Came Among Us

Few things seem as confusing to our culture as the feast of Christmas. For many, it is the great feast of sentimentality. As such, it is our culture’s feast of feeling. We want to have the “spirit of Christmas.” It is identified with snow, with trees, with family, with giving and receiving of gifts. It is a remembrance, for many, of a magical point within childhood, likely out of reach but still…

Have a Dickens of a Christmas

In the late 1600’s in colonial Boston, the celebration of Christmas was against the law. Indeed, anyone evidencing the “spirit of Christmas” could be fined five shillings. In the early 1800’s, Christmas was better known as a season for rioting in the streets and civil unrest. However, in the mid-1800’s some interesting things changed the cultural response to the feast and, in 1870, Christmas was declared a federal holiday (which is to…