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.…

Reading the Lives of the Saints as a Spiritual Practice

I kept hearing the same tidbit of advice as I began visiting Orthodox churches—during the homily, from a guest priest at a Clean Monday retreat, and from a visiting monk (a term that I couldn’t have imagined writing just a few years previously).   “Read the lives of the saints!” they said. And I thought, “Why?” I had nothing against the idea, but, since paying attention to saints was new to me,…

Stumbling Stones on the Orthodox Road: Reconsidering the Virgin Mary, Part 2

I sat at a table during a women’s Bible study in my nondenominational church, maybe 15 or 20 years ago. The leader, a conscientious and gifted Bible teacher, was telling us about Jesus as the new Adam and included St. Paul’s thoughts on the subject. She displayed a chart, with side-by-side comparisons of Jesus’ obedience versus Adam’s disobedience, such as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil leading to death…

Stumbling Stones on the Orthodox Road: Reconsidering the Virgin Mary, Part 1

Not long ago I wrote two blog posts on the intercession of the saints. It was important to do this before turning our attention to the premier saint, the Virgin Mary, because if we haven’t yet embraced the concept of One Church, with the dead and the living alive together in Christ and united in Him, then we are still functioning mentally and spiritually in the lower level of a two-storey universe,…

Smoke Signals: The Fragrance of Prayer for Church and Home

[A few weeks ago we considered the physicality of Orthodoxy and the necessity of in-person services, so I thought this would be a good time to consider more deeply the beauty and symbolism of incense in worship. This post is an expanded version of one I published in September of 2019. Why another retread? Well, for one thing, it fits. But more importantly, in our intermittent series “Stumbling Stones on the Orthodox…