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…

Liturgy Quick-Start Guide #5: Ascending the Summit of the Eucharist

As we’ve been going through the nine parts of the Divine Liturgy, I’ve been using the metaphor of hiking a trail because the Liturgy truly is a mini spiritual journey within our larger spiritual journey of life. And of course, because of where I live, I keep referring to hiking in the Rocky Mountains rather than, say, the Appalachians or the Northern California coast.   In the Rockies of Colorado there is…

A Former Protestant Contemplates Mary’s Ever-Virginity

I watched the soprano in her choir robes reach with the long brass candle lighter to light the taper in the Advent wreath. A golden chain suspended the greenery-covered wheel in the air at the front of the church, its four candles surrounding a larger white one in the middle.   I was in high school, and the lighting of the Advent wreath was for me a highlight of church services during…

Liturgy Quick-Start Guide #4: That We May Receive the King of All

Nothing compares with a hike in the Rocky Mountains on a beautiful day. The trail might meander past steep cliffs under impossibly blue skies, and in autumn, aspen trees lick the mountainsides in tongues of yellow flame. In summer, hikers can climb the boulders in Rocky Mountain National park as a waterfall tumbles into a creek flanked by pine and fir trees.   On a particularly arduous climb, hikers might stop to…

Liturgy Quick-Start Guide #3: Traveling Companions on the Journey

We’re standing in the nave of our local parish, discreetly adjusting our waistbands because of the Pandemic Pounds we’ve gained, taming the children and taming our thoughts. But where are we, really?  When I set out on a road trip, I usually consult Google Maps on my phone. To find directions to the place where I want to go, I input my current location then type in my destination. My starting point…

Liturgy Quick-Start Guide # 2: Focusing on the Scriptures

Back in the late ’90s a friend of mine related a conversation with her father, an old-school Baptist who was bemoaning his church’s musical transition from traditional Protestant hymns with keyboard accompaniment to a band on stage leading the congregation in modern praise choruses. “Seven–ten songs,” he called them. “Seven words, and ya sing ’em ten times.”   We laughed together, and the following Sunday at my nondenominational church we sang a…

Liturgy Quick-Start Guide # 1: Introduction and Trail Map 

For newcomers exploring the Orthodox Faith, the Divine Liturgy can seem long, meandering, long, repetitive, and . . . long. It can also feel this way for those who have been born into the Church. As I began attending liturgies at a local parish, I remember multiple instances of thinking, “Wait. Didn’t we just pray that same prayer a little while ago?” Yes. Yes, we did. More on that in a moment.…

The Orthodox Road and the Point of No Return

The “point of no return” on the Orthodox road is a place of inner wrestling that is very uncomfortable. It can happen all at once, or more as a quiet, slow realization as we learn about the Faith of the ancient Church and start practicing it to the best of our abilities. It’s a realization of, “I can’t go back to the way I was. I can’t go back to my old…

Orthodoxy Is Hard. Why Bother?

You’ve been on this Orthodox journey for a while now. Maybe a few months, maybe decades. And sometimes the work of Orthopraxy, of living out this Faith day in, day out, season after season, gets old. Other Christian groups aren’t demanding this level of ascesis. Among your Protestant friends, fasting is a personal choice, the dietary rules and length of the fast determined by individual preference. Lent is largely ignored or might…

Learning from the Weird Saints

Okay, I might get in trouble here. In my last blog post we looked at the spiritual benefits of reading the lives of the saints, both daily short biographical pieces and longer books. But, to be super honest, I’ve gotta admit that a few saints’ stories leave me scratching my head. Some of the saints seem . . . well, a little weird to my modern mind. Or maybe a lot weird.…