Stumbling Stones on the Orthodox Road: Suspicious of Praying to Saints, Part 2

A photo of my late mother holds pride of place in the family room of my childhood home. In the photo, the year is forever 1952, and Second Lieutenant Eleanor Meck, about age 26, smiles at the camera in her Women of the Air Force uniform, a military cap set at a jaunty angle atop her brunette curls.     After Mom died in 2013, my husband Rob, whose photos often grace…

Stumbling Stones on the Orthodox Road: Suspicious of Praying to Saints, Part 1

I sat on the front pew of the small Orthodox church, a converted Baptist structure with a tall angled roof, a steeple and no dome, gazing at the icon of Jesus above the altar and thinking about the icons of the saints surrounding me. I was contemplating the intercession of the saints, trying to reconcile a lifetime of religious experience with the unchanging teaching of the Church.    Were the saints really,…

The Sign of the Cross: A Neglected Weapon of Prayer

[An earlier version of this article was posted in August of 2019.] Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! I hope your Paschal season is joyous and that you are celebrating with the consumption of “fleshmeats,” as some of the old service books say. In our house, barbecue is definitely on the menu within 48 hours of the midnight Pascha service. As we reflect on Christ’s victory over death, it’s a good…

The Forgotten Space between Christ’s Burial and Resurrection

I hope you are having a blessed Holy Week! One vital part of this week has meant a lot to me over the last decade since I joined the Orthodox Church. Tucked into Holy Weekend, between Jesus’ Crucifixion on Friday and His glorious Resurrection on Sunday, the Church celebrates Jesus’ triumphant Harrowing of Hades—something that was once proclaimed in Protestant theology but has essentially been dropped.   If you speak of the…

Halfway There: Refreshment for Weary Lenten Pilgrims

A blessed Easter week to all of you in the Western tradition, whether you are Protestant or Roman Catholic. Christ is risen! This year on the Eastern Christian calendar, Pascha (Easter) is an entire four weeks later than in the West. Some years we celebrate on the same day, and other times our calendars diverge by a week or two. I can never remember the reasons for the variations, but no matter…

What a Priest Really Thinks about His People during Confession

In my previous blog post, “Cautious about Confession,” I ended with the personal questions that many of us wonder: Can I really be honest with my priest? What will he think of me? What about the habits and sins—the passions—that I just can’t seem to get past?  I thought it would be a good idea to go directly to an experienced priest and father confessor to see what he has to say.…

Stumbling Stones on the Orthodox Road: Cautious about Confession

When I was inquiring into the Orthodox Faith, the Sacrament of Confession wasn’t just a stumbling stone for me —it was more like a massive boulder blocking the road to Orthodoxy.   My whole life I had been taught the importance of confessing my sins to God and repenting of them—turning away from my wayward path and back to Him. I was even encouraged to review the day before going to bed…

Extreme Prep: The Long Triodion Warm-up for Lent

[An earlier version of this post was first published in February of 2020, and I’m reusing the content for the Walking an Ancient Path podcast as well as here. Because preparation for Lent. — LH] Every act of physical hardship requires preparation. Nobody of right mind sets out to run the New York Marathon without serious endurance training. Even for a shorter race, to qualify for one of the early waves in…

Stumbling Stones on the Orthodox Road: Canned Prayers

My religious background might be described as “motley Christian.” I grew up in a United Methodist Church that was quite evangelistic and also included a cross-section of charismatic members. When I was in high school, some of my classmates were Episcopal, and occasionally I would hear references to their Book of Common Prayer. I thought that was odd. Why would anyone need a book to pray? Don’t they know how to talk…

Stumbling Stones on the Orthodox Road: Four Sunday Morning Struggles

[An earlier version of this post was first published on January 23, 2019. But I think the message fits this series about “stumbling stones,” because our inner attitudes and expectations about worship definitely affect our ability to enter fully into Orthodox Faith and practice. — LH] Sunday morning in an Orthodox parish can be a confusing experience of culture shock for newcomers. Even those who have done a bit of homework in…