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…

St. Andrew’s Great Canon: a Rival Voice

Every year during Lent we invite into our churches a great pastor, St. Andrew of Crete, and listen while he leads us in a meditation on sin and repentance. That is, we listen while his Great Canon is chanted, and in response we reply over and over again, “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!” Some things in this long poetic work might strike some moderns as a bit…

Islamic Spain: “In this pretty world, gallantry took its last bow”

I have just finished reading a volume that should be a required text for anyone enthusing about how enlightened and tolerant Spain was under Islamic rule in medieval times, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise by Dario Fernandez-Morera. The enthusiasm for the glories of tolerant Islam is suffused throughout modern scholarship, to the point of embarrassment. It is difficult not to conclude, after one looks at the actual historical facts that the…

Authority, Distant and Local

Like many pastors in the Orthodox Church, I have been asked recently for my opinion about the events currently happening in Ukraine. I am quite willing to give my opinion when asked, since that is my job as a teacher and a presbyter. But I will not do so here, partly because I have not been asked. Rather I will (as the police say) “back away from the yellow tape”. Rather than…