The Forty Days of Christmas

My title is slightly misleading. There are not “forty days of Christmas” in the Orthodox Church – but there is a major feast that marks the fortieth after Christmas: the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, sometimes called the Feast of the Meeting (February 2). It occurs forty days after Christmas in accordance to the requirements of the Jewish Law. Tradition holds that Joseph and Mary brought the child to Jerusalem before…

The God of the Old Testament

Old habits are hard to break. For years as an Anglican Christian, and a conservative, I battled with academics in the Anglican world whose primary agenda seemed to me (at the time) to be the destruction of Scripture. Their historical method generally resulted in students being told that this that and the other thing didn’t happen. This was most disturbing, particularly for those who chose to extend their scepticism to the very…

Bowing in Bethlehem

Pardon a bit of history – then I’ll get to the point. St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine the Great (also a saint of the Church), was, according to British legend, the daughter of King Cole of Britain – indeed, the King Cole of the famous English nursery rhyme: Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he. He called for his pipe and he…

The Meaning of Scripture

What is the meaning of Scripture? Where do we look for it and how is it found? It is interesting to listen to the disarray of voices on this subject. My early training, in college and later in a liberal protestant seminary, was to look, first, to “authorial intent” (to use a constitutional interpretive phrase), and to the “Sitz im Leben” (the “life situation” or “context”) and through a host of various…

Reading Scripture in an Orthodox Manner

Recently my site has been visited with questions about Scripture, in particular (to start with) the Orthodox use of the title “Father” when Christ said, “Call no man on earth your father.” Actually I thought the response posted by William amply demonstrated how this verse should be understood. But there is a larger question – that of the use of Scripture and how it may be interpreted. The questioner claimed only be…

The Most Holy Mother of God

On August 15, the Orthodox Church (new calendar) commemorates the Dormition (falling asleep) of the Most Holy Mother of God. The feast is considered to be one of the 12 Great Feasts of the year and thus an integral part of the proclamation of gospel of Jesus Christ. Many who are not familiar with Orthodoxy, or its manner of understanding saints, easily see feast days and the veneration of saints as distractions…

The Feast of the Dormition of St. Anne

Today is the patronal festival of my parish, the feast of the Dormition of Righteous Anna, mother of the Theotokos. The details we know about her life, and that of her priest-husband, Righteous Joachim, are from sources within the Tradition (though not within the Scriptures). They are often pointed to as one of the great examples of married saints. Their story, like many in the Old Testament, include a time of barrenness…

Risky Business

Amoun found Abba Poemen and told him, “When I visit a neighbor or he visits me, he hesitate to talk with each other. We are afraid that we might bring up a worldly topic. The old man replied, “Yes, young people need to guard their mouths.” Amoun asked, “But how do old men handle this problem?” Abba Poemen said, “Those who have advanced in virtue no longer have any worldliness in them.…

Grace and “the Inverted Pyramid”

Fr. Sophrony [Sakharov], in his book on St. Silouan, presents this theory of the “inverted pyramid.” He says that the empirical cosmic being is like a pyramid: at the top sit the powerful of the earth, who exercise dominion over the nations (cf. Matt. 20:25), and at the bottom stand the masses. But the spirit of man, by nature [unfallen nature as given by God], demands equality, justice and freedom of spirit,…

Is Hell Real?

On one of the roads leading into my small city a billboard has recently appeared. It is part of a larger campaign by a nationally known evangelist who is to have a revival in Knoxville. The sign is simple. In very large bright yellow letters (all caps), the sign says: HELL IS REAL. In small letters beneath it, in white, that can be read as your car nears the sign is the…