Hidden Wonders

Being a good boy from the South, I learned long ago that certain things remain hidden. A woman’s age, certain stories about the family, how much a man is worth (though we were too poor to care much about that one). Even religion could be a hidden thing – at least for some. Among the most hidden things of all were things and people that involved pain. I was no stranger to…

Things Are More Than They Appear

Today is the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the the Temple. We celebrate the event in the life of the Virgin Mary when she is presented in the Temple by her parents, Joachim and Anna. The hymnography of the feast is rich and wonderful. Like much of the writings of the Fathers, the Church’s liturgical writings love irony. It loves the irony of the strong become weak,…

The Slowness of Grace

From Prayer by the Elder Sophrony At times prayer seems over-slow in bringing results, and life is so short. Instinctively we cry, “Make haste unto me.” But He does not always respond at once. Like fruit on a tree , our soul is left to scorch in the sun, to endure the cold wind, the scorching wind, to die of thirst or be drowned in the rain. but if we do not…

Fasting for Christmas

Last Wednesday, November 15, the Orthodox Church began its “Winter Lent,” the fast that prepares for the feast of the Nativity. Somewhat similar to Advent, it is the older practice, a full 40 day fast, that reminds us that Christmas, joy that it is, is a foretaste of Pascha. The Cave of Bethlehem reminds us of the Cave of Hades (icons of the Descent into Hell picture the Cave of Hades). The…

A Washington Family Weekend

I am in Washington, D.C., this weekend to attend the wedding of a niece, and share the joy of a family whose youngest generation is now doing things like getting married. Like many American families, we are scattered across the churchly plain. My parents and I are Orthodox. I have a brother whose family is Episcopalian (including the niece getting married). I have another brother who is Catholic. Sometimes our discussions are…

A Prayer at Bedtime

From the Orthodox Prayers Before Sleep Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered! Let those who hate Him flee from before His face! As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish. As wax melts before the fire, so let sinners perish before the face of those who love God and sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross and say joyfully: rejoice, most precious and life-creating Cross of the Lord, which…

A Mighty Battle

We are faced with a mighty battle but an especial, holy battle, not like the fratricidal wars that crowd the history of our world ever since Cain killed his brother Abel. Our common and only real enemy is our mortality. We must grapple painfully with the death that pervades all things, first and foremost ourselves. The Lord’s gospel belongs to another, higher, celestial plane, where everything is ‘not after man, and not…

America is a Franchise Operation – Further Thoughts on a Particular God

When my family and I moved from Durham, NC to Oak Ridge, TN in 1989, I had all of the expectations of a child: new surroundings, new friends, a new community in which to work. It was inherently interesting to me. Arriving as we did, at the beginning of December, among our first tasks as a family was the annual Christmas shopping (we had three small children at the time). One of…

The Journey to a Particular God

Some years ago I found myself traveling down I-75 with my van loaded with wife and children. Our destination was some hours away in Georgia. The purpose of the trip was to travel to a place where someone was reportedly having visions (and messages) from the Virgin Mary. At about 100 miles down the road the question formed in my mind, “If God is everywhere, then why am I driving 250 miles…