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…

Coffee without Controversy

[The original version of this post was published in November 2018. Since I began podcasting in January, I am doing a bit of “recycling” of subjects that new listeners and readers might relate to. — LH] Last Sunday I stood in my church’s fellowship hall with my Styrofoam cup of coffee, rejoicing that Coffee Hour has returned. I was savoring the genuine half-and-half on a non-fasting day and feeling content after another…

Orthodoxy Can Never Be a Virtual Reality

For an entire year my Colorado parish had been hosting two Divine Liturgies on Sundays in order to accommodate as many socially distanced parishioners as possible. But the statewide mask mandate was lifted a few weeks ago, and many businesses no longer require masks for those who are fully vaccinated. Social distancing is recommended but not required.   We immediately returned to one service: the body of Christ once again united in…

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…