Mary’s righteous skepticism: An example for questioning Christians

Many modern Christians have misgivings about Mary, but what if we could check them for a moment? There’s a powerful lesson in the example of this woman, one about humility, questioning, and putting one’s faith in action when circumstances are less than clear. As Luke recounts the story, the angel Gabriel wings into view and tells Mary, then an unwed teenager, that she will conceive a child. And not just any child.…

What the church calendar is for

During the Easter season it’s worth asking why Christians follow a liturgical calendar in the first place. People can’t help but follow some sort of calendar. The real question is whether we do it consciously or unconsciously; our spiritual health might depend on our answer. Consider the various schedules and agendas set for us. There’s a commercial calendar, electoral calendar, sports calendar, agricultural calendar, work calendar, and more. Focus on the first…

How the oldest image of Mary links the Annunciation, Easter, and Christmas

Scholars believe they have unearthed the oldest icon of the Virgin Mary. Discovered in the ruins of a third-century house church in Syria, the image depicts a woman at a well. Most of us don’t immediately associate Mary with a well, but the early church did. It’s the opening scene of the Annunciation, liturgically celebrated on March 25. Though the gospels are mute on the point, one ancient tradition mentions Mary at…

What St. Basil and Buckaroo Banzai know about spiritual struggles

Ever feel like changing circumstances would make life easier? You’re not alone. Basil the Great wanted a quiet place where he could abandon the commotion of life and focus on his relationship with God. So he moved from the city to the country, hoping to lower the volume. It didn’t work. Quieter circumstances failed to quiet his mind. “[W]e have derived no great benefit from our present solitude,” Basil wrote to a…

Christianity: Use only as directed

In Graham Greene’s story The Third Man, people suffer and die because of diluted penicillin purchased on the black market in postwar Vienna. American Christianity is suffering a similar fate, though our diluted faith is practiced in the open for all to see. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat once raised the issue by pointing to the conundrum of Bible no-no’s flourishing in the Bible Belt. Social scientists affirm the positive connection…