Why Do the Three Holy Youths Keep Appearing in Orthodox Services?

It happens numerous times throughout the year. At a worship service I’ll be listening and trying to sing along with the text, and suddenly a hymn about the three Holy Youths appears—the friends of Daniel who were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship King Nebuchadnezzar. The service continues, and we return to our regularly scheduled programming. To this gal in the pews, the insertion feels like an interruption—a lovely…

Christ Is Risen! Now What?

This post was first published almost four years ago, and because of its relevance for the post-Pascha season, I’m revamping it for new readers and also for podcast listeners. Christ is risen! —LH The midnight Pascha service ends, and the joyful but sleepy parishioners break out platters and crockpots for a parish feast featuring meats, cheeses, wines, homemade beers, vodka in OCA churches, and perhaps a bit of traditional dancing to bouzouki…

The Spiritual Journey Embodied: Prostrations

Today’s blog post was originally published in March of 2019, but it seems appropriate to revisit the topic of prostrations during Great Lent. — LH The Orthodox culture shock had been manageable so far. About 13 years ago my husband and I finally put down our introductory books on Eastern Christianity and approached the living, parish reality of Orthodoxy during something called the Triodion period before Great Lent. Because we had prepared…

What’s with All the Standing for the Akathist Hymn?

When you think of great military leaders throughout the world, do certain names spring to mind? If you know World War II history, you might think of Earl Mountbatten of Burma or American generals like Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower. If you go further back in time, you might recall Alexander the Great or Attila the Hun.   But did the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, make your list of…

Too Many Words: Our Noisy Hearts

Good strength to you during this second week of Great Lent. I hope you have consulted with your spiritual father regarding your Lenten journey and the disciplines you are practicing. All together now: Prayer, fasting, almsgiving! You’ve probably noticed that the lectionary includes much longer Bible passages than the rest of the year, and we begin the fast with Old Testament readings in Genesis, Proverbs, and Isaiah. You may also be trying…

Too Many Words: What We Say

I’ve been thinking a lot about words lately. Not specific words, but just the excess quantity of them.   We’re surrounded: in addition to our own talk, we’re inundated with the internet, social media, the 24-hour news cycle, and on and on. You know all this. It sometimes feels like we’re waging a losing battle against all the noise. There are two different categories of words to consider: those we speak, and those…

Why Bother with Church When I Can’t Focus?

It’s happened more than once. Way more than once. I will be standing in church during the Divine Liturgy, singing the responses, crossing myself, and literally going through the motions, but my mind is a million miles away. I’m filled with worry, with grief, with stress over my to-do list.  My heart might be heavy, or simply numb. Or, I just can’t focus. I’m sure you’ve been there too. The list of…

Rethinking Repentance

It’s been a long hiatus, about four months, and in that time my daughter Caitlin married a wonderful young man, John, whom we love very much, and I have recovered from all the wedding stress and holiday busyness.   And here we are, past mid-January. This is the traditional time for people to give up on their new year’s resolutions, in a sort of collective domino effect, where the act of surrender…

Recurring Miracles (& Hiatus)

I grew up in a miracle-believing town. Tulsa, Oklahoma, was and still is a center of charismatic Christianity, which Merriam-Webster defines succinctly and accurately as “the religious movement that emphasizes the seeking of direct divine inspiration and extraordinary power (as of healing) given a Christian by the Holy Spirit.” Tulsa is the home of Oral Roberts University, Rhema Bible Institute, and many churches that actually schedule and promote healing services and expect…

More Scriptures I Never Memorized

In our last post I discussed the omission of the Church as a topic in Protestant Scripture memory systems. Before I became Orthodox, I never identified the lack of attention given to the Church as a problem. I didn’t think about the Church much at all except in personal terms—being connected to a local congregation and serving there—and in eschatological terms—someday every tribe, tongue, and nation will be worshiping before God’s throne…

The Scriptures I Never Memorized

I still remember the circle of padded chairs and the industrial carpeting  where our Wednesday night group met weekly for Scripture memory. I was a high school sophomore at the time, and our small gathering of teens met after Bible study. In our purses or backpacks we carried stacks of little 2×3” cards in protective blue vinyl holders—cards that helped us to “hide the word in our hearts,” as Psalm 119:11 instructed…

Behind the Icon Screen: The Journey of the Bread & the Wine

My husband Rob played guitar in a worship band for a small church plant that we had been attending. The little church, which focused on ministry to immigrants, was part of the charismatic Foursquare denomination, and we met on Sunday evenings in the sanctuary of a large, established church that was Evangelical Presbyterian. Soon Rob and I would discover Orthodoxy, but at the time we were all over the religious map in…