On Masking One’s Face

As the Covid pandemic drags on into its third wearying year, the debate regarding the legitimacy of certain government restrictions grows ever more shrill, and people ever more divided.  For Christians for whom their primary allegiance is to Christ—and therefore to each other—this division is problematic.  We exclude heretics from our Eucharistic fellowship and regard them as religiously “Other” because of their fundamentally incompatible understanding of Christ.  But should differences regarding our…

A Christianity of the Catacombs

I begin with a quote from an article that is almost 60 years old, but which has lost none of its timeliness:   “Since the Byzantine era, Orthodoxy was always brought to and accepted by whole nations.  The only familiar pattern of the past, therefore, is not the creation of mere local churches, but a total integration and incarnation of Orthodoxy in national cultures; so that these cultures themselves cannot be separated from…

Baptism in the Jordan: Another Step Down

The Great Prokeimenon, sometimes chanted at Vespers in the Orthodox liturgical tradition, asks the rhetorical question, “Who is so great a God as our God?” I often think that by “great” one might also mean “gutsy”. The gods of other nations and religions are comparatively tame and timid when set against our God. The God of the bookish, Talmud-reading Rabbis, the God of the chanting, prostrating Muslims, the God of the woke,…

Snoopy’s Christmas: A Seasonal Meditation

Each year one of my favourite Christmas songs is an old novelty song called Snoopy’s Christmas, released in 1967 by the Royal Guardsmen as a follow-up to their previous hit Snoopy vs. the Red Baron. (Those who are too young to have heard it or oldsters like me who enjoy a stroll down memory lane may find the song here.) The song was inspired by actual events. During the First World War…

Does the Orthodox Church Have a Woman Problem?

One sometimes hears the assertion that the Orthodox Church has what has been called “a woman problem”.  Usually the assertion comes from people (most often women) from other churches who cannot understand Orthodoxy’s refusal to ordain women as pastors and bishops, and attributes this refusal solely to an ingrained and irrational misogyny.  Or, as one woman with whom I worked once said, “Your church is very retro!”  She said it without venom,…

A Prophetic Voice

Thirty-eight years ago last Monday, Fr. Alexander Schmemann reposed in the Lord on the feast day of St. Herman of Alaska.  His family lost a beloved husband, father, and brother; his Seminary lost a revered teacher, and all the Orthodox world lost something of similarly inestimable value. We lost a much-needed prophetic voice. Alas, I never got to meet Fr. Alexander in the flesh. Reading his books helped me convert from Anglicanism…