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…

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…