The beginning of spring has come. Nature is awakening. Some parts of the Christian world are already enjoying it, while others are still dreaming of the bright, blossomy days to come. But today, March 25, all who love Christ are united in celebration of the beginning of Renewal and Salvation. Rejoice! says Gabriel. And rejoice we do.
[On the Old Calendar the Annunciation falls on April 7, Holy Saturday this year.]
The Annunciation icon is in the centre of our churches today, adorned with lilies, venerated by faithful worshippers. It is no secret that most of the Annunciation icons are inspired by the Apocrypha, particularly by the Protoevangelium of James (chapters 10-12) and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (chapters 8-9). This is how the presence of the throne, the spindle with purple yarn, and sometimes the well and the pitcher in any icon or a wall painting can be explained. Read More
When the monk Zosimas arrives at a monastery near the Jordan, the abbot asks, Who are you and where do you come from? When Zosimas encounters Mary in the desert, he asks her the same questions.
Writer and actor Sam Shepard has mused that one of the strangest and most terrifying things about being human is the need to come up with an identity, an answer to these questions. “It has always bewildered me…” he writes. “Who am I?”
These questions are almost trite in their ordinariness. Answers focus on occupation, family, accomplishments. But isn’t there more to it? How do we find ourselves, and how do we know who we are?
St. Mary of Egypt provides the “theme” for the 5th Sunday of Lent. She is commemorated as an inscrutable image of repentance and conversion. She is the strong assurance that no sin is beyond the power of God’s mercy.
But this woman is more than a bad girl saved from evil ways. In fact, her story is really the story of two sinful people who enter the unknown and find themselves together in an experience both terrifying and transcendent. Read More
SAVE THE DATE: APRIL 28, 2018
Orthodox author Jim Forest and Canadian rapper Shad K will share the podium at Voices for Peace, an ecumenical conference on peacemaking on the University of Toronto’s main campus.
Four organizations sharing a commitment to contemplative faith and social justice have come together in creative collaboration to co-host Voices For Peace: Read More
by Giacomo Sanfilippo
By sheer coincidence two articles were published online earlier today which need to be read together.
The first is an interview with Father Joseph Gleason, “an Orthodox priest who moved to provincial Russia with his wife and 8 children, primarily in order to raise his family in an Orthodox Christian country.”
The second is a report on that Orthodox Christian country’s expansion of its children’s army in the Crimea.
The full text of the second article is republished below. Before you read it, I very strongly urge you to read the full text of Father Gleason’s interview here.
I too sometimes dream of moving to an Orthodox country in order to be surrounded by more churches, more monasteries, more Orthodox people—but not to run away from anything (least of all from my LGBTQ brothers and sisters), and not because I’m blind to the glaring hypocrisies of Orthodox societies and of the Church’s institutional apparatus in those societies.
The uncritical glorification of the Russian state and institutional church comprises a disturbing trend in certain American Orthodox circles—the same trend, incidentally, that some American neo-Nazis find so appealing.
Icon painting has always been affected by the surrounding culture, incorporating and transforming elements from it. And more recently, icons in turn have been appropriated by and affected that culture. These are the very topical themes that I want to discuss in this article.
Icons are an extension of the Incarnation. This is true not only because of what they depict but also because of how they depict things. The way Christians have painted traditional icons throughout the ages has always been influenced by the culture of which they are, to a degree, a part, and to which they naturally wish to respond. The icon is a union of the eternal and the local.
Put another way, healthy iconography is Pentecostal, for it declares eternal truths in the language of its viewers. One example is the early encaustic icons that used as their basis Romano-Egyptian funerary paintings (often called Fayum portraits). A second instance is the Church illuminations of the Macedonian Renaissance that were based on works from Classical manuscripts. Both these examples we shall discuss below.
In subsequent centuries the style of icons in Byzantium continued to be influenced by the imperial court’s emphasis, or lack of emphasis, on classical learning. And in Medieval Rus distinct schools developed in different principalities, affected by such things as the extent of their trade contacts (a lot in the case of Novgorod) and the influence of monasticism (as in Moscow in the time of St. Andrew Rublev). Celtic Christian art likewise drew much of its inspiration from its pre-Christian traditions. Read More
Let me start with a parable of division:
Two kids have one big irregular piece of chocolate, and they need to share. But how? They have no way to measure, and somebody is going to get the big half. The smarter boy—or was it a girl?—figures a way: “I’ll make two portions, and you can choose first.” It’s immediately obvious that this will be fair. The divider knows that he may get the small half, so he makes as sure as he can be that they are even. And most people see the justice of the strategy.
This assumes consent to share. But what if one boy has the whole chocolate rabbit, and his sister wants some? If he’s an average child, the first thing he will do is decide that he ought to have the big half. After all, he is making a concession, diminishing his own position, and reducing his own reserve of chocolate. It was given to him by Authority. And what he gives to her is wasted, anyway: she doesn’t really taste it—as far as he can tell—and she might be messy, and it just doesn’t look right to see all that lovely chocolate disappearing down her lips. And it might not be good for her. Shouldn’t she be concerned about her weight? Therefore he asks himself, “How little can I give, to have some peace?” And many boys see the practicality of the strategy.
We, however, are adults. Read More