A Psalm for the Despairing

There is a psalm found in the Six Psalms chanted at every Matins in the Orthodox Church that is unique among the psalms of the Psalter. Psalm 88 (87 in the Septuagint numeration) is a psalm that contains not a glimmer of light or hope. It begins with the words, “O Lord my God of my salvation, I call for help by day, I cry out in the night before You! Let…

Pentecostal Orthodoxy

I suppose that the adjective “Pentecostal” in the title should be placed in scare quotes, because by “Pentecostal Orthodoxy” I do not refer to a combination of Protestant Pentecostalism and Orthodoxy, but that Orthodoxy itself is essentially Pentecostal. In his book The Orthodox Church (then) Timothy Ware described the Orthodox Church as “a continued Pentecost”, and as “the temple and dwelling place of the Spirit” so that those who dwell in her…

Why I Am No Longer a Charismatic

I recently read two excellent books, Fr. Timothy Cremeens’ history of charismatic renewal in the Orthodox Church entitled Marginalized Voices, and Julia Duin’s account of the rise and fall of a prominent episcopal charismatic church in Houston, entitled Days of Fire and Glory. I had a personal interest in these histories of charismatic renewal, since that movement was the matrix in which I first came to faith in Christ. It was at…

A Retro Church

A number of years ago I was chatting with a co-worker at my secular job and she asked me to what church I belonged. When I answered, “the Orthodox Church”, she responded, “Oh, that church is so retro”. She was a sweet lady, and offered her comment as a simple observation, not a criticism. Though I smiled back and said, “Thank you. We try”, I was aware that her comment was also…

Advice to the Confused

I suppose that most pastors have had the experience of a young parishioner approaching them privately and confiding in them their suspicion or decision that they were gay, bisexual, or transgender. Such confusion is in the air, has the Nihil Obstat of both secular culture and governmental sanction, and also bestows a kind of odd popularity, making the person part of a privileged minority of the nobly oppressed. Adolescence has always been…

A suggestion about baptism from St. Gregory the Theologian

In the debate about baptism with which we are all familiar, we may note a set of binary alternatives: either one baptizes an adult candidate on the basis of their mature decision to repent and believe or one baptizes an infant on the basis of promises made by his or her sponsors. These alternatives usually wear the theological labels of “believer’s baptism” and “infant baptism”. Usually this binary involves another binary, with…