Christmas Advent: The Nineteenth Day

THE BLIND FAITH OF MARY AND JOSEPH Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. -ISAIAH 7:14 Kingdom people are history makers. They break through the small kingdoms of this world to an alternative and much larger world, God’s full creation. People who are still living in the false self are history stoppers. They use God and

Christmas Advent: The Fifteenth Day

AN INDELIBLE IMAGE: two pregnant women, one of them just beginning to show, the other round and heavy, who is startled when her infant leaps in her womb. It’s a joyful scene, both everyday and extraordinary. For Elizabeth’s child, we are told, recognizes that Mary bears the Savior long promised to Israel. Mary is, as Elizabeth suddenly exclaims—no doubt after being kicked hard by John—the mother of the Lord. It usually takes a good kick

Christmas Advent: The Fourteenth Day

TODAY WE REFLECT ON A MYSTERY: when our lives are most barren, when possibilities are cruelly limited, and despair takes hold, when we feel most keenly the emptiness of life—it is then that God comes close to us. This is a day for those who are  grieving or suffering loss during Advent, lamenting that just as we are suffering, and need to weep, the world force-feeds us merriment and cheer. But we are not without

Christmas Advent: The Thirteenth Day

THE GENEALOGICAL LINE OF JUDAH’S DESCENDANTS given in Matthew’s Gospel follows the history of the nation all the way from its father, Abraham, to the birth of Jesus, the fulfillment of all messianic prophecy, the One “who is called Christ.” This grand finale is what we celebrate in the weeks of Advent. The planting of the male “seed,” which was to germinate and ripen in the furrows of successive generations, was a vital responsibility as

Preparing for Christmas

When we demand satisfaction of one another, when we demand any completion to history on our terms, when we demand that our anxiety or any dissatisfaction be taken away, saying, as it were, “Why weren’t you this for me? Why didn’t life do that for me?” we are refusing to say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” We are refusing to hold out for the full picture that is always given in time by God. When we set

Dormition or Assumption?

In our Orthodox tradition we are usually very careful to distinguish between the “Dormition” of the Mother of God and her “Assumption” into heaven. The former, we feel, is properly Orthodox, while the latter strikes us as a purely Western designation, derived from a Roman Catholic “misunderstanding” of the meaning of this feast, celebrated universally on August 15. It is true that some very genuine yet misguided interpretations of Mary’s death and exaltation can be

Praying With the Entire Church

“O you apostles, assembled here from the ends of the earth, bury my body: And You, Omy Son and my God, receive my spirit” (Exapostilarion of Dormition of the Theotokos) To be a genuine Orthodox Christian is to share in the joy of fellowship gathered around the holy Mother of God, Mary the ever-virgin one. Yet in America a hesitancy arises even with the Church among the faithful. What is so normal and self-evident an

The Dormition Fast: Ending another Year of Grace in Our Lord

The Byzantine Church since at least the 5th century has practiced a period of fasting prior to the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. This ancient custom has much to offer contemporary Christians. Christians of the East have always recognized the mystery of Our Lady’s Dormition, her ‘falling asleep’ at the end of her natural life. The passage of Mary the Virgin Mother of God from this life to life eternal is a cause

From Image to Likeness (Part II)

In the Mother of God, the first created person who has entered the resplendence of the Kingdom in her earthly flesh, we see the two mysteries conjoined: that of the image restored in Christ and that of the likeness achieved by the Spirit and freedom. Nicholas Cabasilas said that God, as long as he had not found a mother, was like a king in exile, like a stranger without a city. Solely because a young