Little Plastic Cups and Motley Communion Experiences

At our Southern Baptist church, I knew “transubstantiation” was a non-starter. But did we perhaps believe in Martin Luther’s “consubstantiation,” the idea that the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine…er, grape juice?

Smoke Signals: The Fragrance of Prayer for Church and Home

On a recent weekday I was walking from my church’s fellowship hall into the nave to light a jar candle and pray for a friend in need. My thoughts were pinging around as usual, and I wasn’t feeling particularly spiritual. But when I opened the door to the narthex, my heart registered a sacred truth well before my mind caught up: I had entered a holy place. The signal came not from…

Remembering the Cross, Again

Have you seen anyone recently with a golden electric chair hanging from a chain around his neck? How about an elegant, elderly woman showing off a diamond guillotine brooch on her dress? Or maybe you spotted a buffed-up guy at GNC, buying a protein supplement while wearing a sterling silver noose over his tight workout shirt.   No? Me neither. Even in our depraved modern world, instruments of violent death aren’t used…

A Different Kind of New Year’s Day

The Church considers September 1st to be the beginning of the new year, called the Feast of Indiction. But the first sign of fall for suburbanites can be summarized in three letters: PSL. This acronym shows up in late August, signaling the appearance of the pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks as well as pumpkin spice everything else—candles, muffins, potpourri, desserts.

The Sign of the Cross: A Neglected Weapon of Prayer

I saw it happen on television and in movies, but never in real life. The characters, male and female, young and old, and often in period costumes, hurriedly tapped themselves—forehead, sternum, left shoulder, right shoulder—during moments or fear or confusion. The presence of a dead body was often involved.   These people who crossed themselves were often portrayed as ignorant, possibly uneducated, and definitely superstitious. They were secondary characters—not the heroes, and…

Brief Sayings from the Holy Fathers on Liturgy and Life

  This week I am on a much-needed vacation with my husband. So, in keeping with the past few months’ journey through the Divine Liturgy, I want to share with you two wonderful quotations. First, something to remember each time we enter into worship in church:   Following His Ascension, the Lord sits with his Heavenly Father in the heavens and at the same time, He is present with the faithful Christians…

Liturgy Survival Guide: The Liturgy after the Liturgy

To this day Orthodox Christians continue to eat together after the service, but the ongoing liturgy involves more than a communal snack. Some have called the post-liturgy period, from coffee hour through the rest of the week, “the liturgy after the liturgy.” It encompasses our whole lives, both inside and outside the walls of the church building.

Liturgy Survival Guide: Ascending to the Summit of the Eucharist

In all my years as a Christian, I never, ever experienced the amount of preparation for Communion that the Orthodox Church requires. The reason for all the prayers, praises, and pleas for forgiveness lies in the nature of the offering itself. If communion is more than the sum of its physical parts, and if Christ truly gives Himself to us in the bread and the wine, then we must adequately prepare to receive the King of kings.

Liturgy Survival Guide: The Kiss of Peace and the Creed

The service is progressing smoothly so far, even when we don’t quite understand everything that’s going on. The clergy and attendants have completed the circuit around the nave in the Great Entrance, and they have placed the gifts on the altar. So far, so good. Next the priest turns to face the gathered worshipers and says, “Let us love one another” and proclaims, “Christ is in our midst.” We respond, “He is…

Liturgy Survival Guide: Traveling Companions on the Journey

When I set out on a trip, I usually consult Google Maps on my phone. To get where I want to go, I input my current location then type in my destination. My starting point is always located at one specific address, because it is physically impossible to be present in two places at once.

In the spiritual life, however, this is not so. I attend the Divine Liturgy with other parishioners at a Denver-area church on a physical street. But at the same time, we are present in the ongoing worship in heaven. A local parish might be in Tulsa, London, or Sydney, but the Divine Liturgy occurs in the Kingdom of God. As we worship, we are in two places at once—physical reality and heavenly reality.