Understanding the Ever-Changing Apostles Fast

This week we have entered one of the least known and possibly most widely ignored fasting seasons of the Orthodox Church: the Apostles Fast. It began on Monday. If you forgot about it, you’re probably not alone. Unless your priest and your church bulletin reminded you, nothing in our society signals us that another fasting season has arrived. One of the difficulties with the Apostles Fast is that its duration varies widely.…

The Pandemic Is Kinda Sorta Over. Have We Learned Anything?

My younger daughter and the other baristas were hard at work during the morning rush, pulling espresso shots and steaming milk. The coronavirus pandemic was continuing its relentless spread throughout the world, and her company began requiring everyone who entered its coffee shops to wear masks.    One day a regular customer entered the shop and was asked to put on a mask, and this formerly pleasant, friendly woman refused to comply.…

Attempting to Measure My Post-Lenten Spiritual Progress

Christ is risen! We’ve made it through the ascetic struggles of Great Lent and Holy Week, entering into the celebration of Pascha, Bright Week, and beyond. Whew! Done! Life moves on at its usual relentless pace. But now that we’re on the other side of our journey, what is the result? Are we any different? I always like to measure progress. It’s a very Western thing. We like data, we like numbers,…

A Basic Introduction to Iconography & the Icon of the Crucifixion

I remember sitting on a pew inside the small OCA church about 12 years ago, alone with my thoughts and my journal. And yet I wasn’t alone. On a midweek afternoon, I had come to the little parish to think and to pray, to make some sense of my jumbled thoughts by putting pen to paper. I could have journaled in a library or a coffee shop, but the church kept pulling…

When Your Friends & Family Don’t Understand

Perhaps you’re reading Walking an Ancient Path because you’re inquiring into Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Or maybe you’re a catechumen. Maybe you were recently baptized or chrismated, or you’re experiencing a renewal in your heart and mind of the Orthodox Faith that you’ve known since your infancy. You’re excited. You’ve fallen in love with the ancient Church. You are grateful to God for the peace you’ve found, the beauty of the lives of…

Five Lessons the Orthodox Church Has Taught Me about Fasting

[This is a greatly expanded version of a post from three years ago. – LH] We’re about a week and a half into Great Lent, and as far as I can tell, the Orthodox faithful are still standing. And prostrating. If you are able, physically and medically, to follow the full Lenten fast, you should be getting a bit cranky about now. Your body and your emotions are craving your favorite foods,…

Anticipating the Lenten Spring

I noticed the first stirrings on a brisk, chilly walk through the neighborhood with my dog. The dreary January day was messing with my mood. Post-Christmas, post-New Year, my sick-of-winter malaise arrives as predictably as the turning of a calendar page. * sigh * And the only good thing about February is Girl Scout cookies.   Where I live, nature’s colors at this time of year consist of brown sticks, brown grass,…

How Much Mercy Does One Person Really Need?

I recently read that “Lord, have mercy” is sung over 60 times in the average Orthodox Sunday service. I did a quick search in the text of a recent Divine Liturgy and counted 44. Regardless of the exact number, we sing these words, in English and in other languages, a lot.   Some of our services require “Lord, have mercy” to be said 40 times in a row. This practice earned a…

Little Plastic Cups and Motley Communion Experiences

Hello, fellow pilgrims! This blog post is a slightly reworked version of one I published in October of 2019. I’m recycling my work for three reasons: 1) After spending six episodes on a survey of the Divine Liturgy, the Eucharist has naturally been on my mind; 2) I hope this material will be helpful for my podcast audience; and 3) In light of our time with the Divine Liturgy, I’ve been pondering…

Liturgy Quick-Start Guide #6: The Liturgy after the Liturgy

Hello, fellow pilgrims. I want to share with you a quotation from St. Gabriel the Confessor of Georgia. He wrote, If you only knew how great a blessing comes from the Divine Liturgy, then you would collect even the dust from the floor of the church to wash your faces with it.    His words about Orthodox worship put my sometimes sleepy and distracted Sunday-morning attitude in perspective. We’ve traveled the entire…