Heading to the Cross

    Holy Week is a reenactment of the last week of Jesus’ life.  Through Scripture readings, songs, chants, and prayers, the Orthodox Church relives the last days of Christ.  Holy Week is an opportunity for us to follow our God and Savior to the Cross.  In Orthodoxy’s sacramental understanding of reality, we are there in spirit partaking of the events of Holy Week. On Great Friday we observe the Holy, saving, and…

The Dark Side of the First Christmas

    Normally, the Christmas season is viewed as a time of holiday cheer. Of twinkling lights, fragrant pine trees, peppermint candy canes, eggnog drinks, gingerbread cookies, happy songs in the air as people go shopping for gifts, and the smiling children eagerly anticipating opening their presents. But for many the year 2015 has been a year filled with tragedy and loss. A sense of darkness and mourning hangs heavy in the air as…

An Early Christian Prayer to Mary

  Many Reformed Christians like Orthodox Christians hold the Virgin Mary in high regard.  That many Reformed Christians are even willing to call her “Theotokos” is not surprising in light of the fact that the Reformed tradition accepts the first four Ecumenical Councils: Nicea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and (Chalcedon 451) (See the Second Helvetic Confession Chapter 11).  It was at the Third Ecumenical Council (431) that Mary’s title as the…

Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell

  During Holy Week each day has a particular theme, a spiritual lesson for the faithful who attend the services.  As an Orthodox Christian I get much of my theological education not from reading books but from attending the services.  In addition to the Scripture readings, the hymns and prayers of the Church teach me about how God saved us in Christ.  They form as it were a running commentary on the…

The Triumphal Entry – Palm Sunday

  This year while Protestants and Roman Catholics have already celebrated Palm Sunday, for Orthodox Christians Palm Sunday still lies ahead. Palm Sunday is a familiar event for many Christians but it is a profound multi-layered event that has much to teach us about our God and Savior Jesus Christ. In Matthew’s Gospel we read a quote from the prophet Zechariah: Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a…

Remembering the Original Santa Claus — St. Nicholas of Myra

  On 6 December, the Orthodox Church celebrates the life of Saint Nicholas of Myra.  He lived in the fourth century in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). He had a reputation for secret gift giving.  One story tells how in the middle of the night he secretly threw in tiny bags of money to an impoverished family, saving the daughters from being sold into prostitution.   In recent years this story was…

Pentecost and the Promise of God Fulfilled

The Orthodox Church celebrates Pentecost as the fulfillment of Christ’s promise that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to His Church to lead Her into all Truth. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26) This abiding presence of the Holy Spirit…