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…

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 Ark Returns to the Temple

One of the most devastating events in the history of ancient Israel was the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines. In scenes almost reminiscent of Steven Spielburg, however, plagues began to befall the Philistines and they sent word to Israel to please come take their Ark back. The story of its return includes its arrival in Jerusalem and King David’s rather problematic dancing in the streets to welcome…

A Royal Nun Sees Her Angel

In the service of Holy Baptism, the priest specifically prays that God will assign an “angel of light” to the life of the child being baptized. In Matthew 18:10, Christ makes reference to the guardian angels of children who “always behold the face of my Father.” Their role is the guarding of our salvation. It is the work of God’s “secret hand” in our lives. That secret, however, is sometimes seen openly.…

St. Spyridon’s Shoes – and My Shoes

  Earlier this year I was making my way to Antiochian Village for a Writers’ Conference. Walking across the expanse of the Atlanta Airport, I became aware of something odd about my shoes. At first, I thought something had gotten into my shoe, a rock, or some such thing. Then I thought that maybe there was something strange about the footbed. One of my toes seemed to be digging unusually deep as…

Justice, Temperance, Prudence and the Virtue of “No”

I have sometimes quipped that children are born lawyers. Their cries of, “That’s not fair!” would be at home in any court in the world. Children reveal our instinct for fairness, the root concept in the virtue of justice. Of course, as every parent knows, that instinct is often distorted, with the desire for fairness being expressed only as “fairness for me.” Justice is a virtue with deep, visceral content. Whenever it…

Mary: The Blessing of All Generations

In my childhood, it was not unusual to hear someone ask, “Who are your people?” It was a semi-polite, Southernism designed to elicit essential information about a person’s social background. The assumption was that you, at best, could only be an example of your “people.” It ignored the common individualism of the wider culture, preferring the more family or clan-centered existence of an older time. It was possible to be “good people”…

The Demons of Our Time – Within Us

In 1872, Dostoevsky published his novel, The Demons [Бесы]. It demonstrated in a microcosm, the insanity that lay within the revolutionary movements of 19th century Russia. That insanity broke upon the world in 1917 and has remained present with us, in one form or another, ever since. The madness that he describes takes place in a small town, away from the great capitals of Russia. It involves a relatively small cast of…

Don’t Panic – It’s Just the Mother of God

The first time I offered prayers to Mary I had a panic attack – literally. I was in college and my best friend had become Roman Catholic. We argued a bit, and he won (mostly). It resulted in my return to Anglicanism, to the “high” side. So, like a good high churchman, I got a rosary and a book, and started my prayers. Then came the panic attack. Many Protestants are viscerally…

Why Mary Has Always Been Honored

This Wednesday (August 15) is the Feast of the Dormition, the Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary. I offer this article as a reflection. The most difficult part of my Orthodox experience to discuss with the non-Orthodox is the place and role of the Mother of God in the Church and in my life. It is, on the one hand, deeply theological and even essential to a right understanding of the Orthodox faith,…