When the Virgin gave birth to the Transcendent One,
And the earth offered a cave to the Unapproachable One;
When angels with shepherds glorified Him,
And wise men journeyed with a star;
When for our sake the eternal God was born as a little Child,
He said to those who love and worship Him,
“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me to drink.”

We greet you with spiritual joy on this, the first day of the Nativity Fast, as we begin our ascent through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to the heavenly Bethlehem, there to become one with His deified flesh and blood who became one with our mortal flesh and blood in the earthly Bethlehem. Pray for us during this holy season of repentance, as we offer our unworthy prayers for each and every one of you whose name, place, and needs are known to our compassionate God.

On the Eve or the Day of our Lord, God, and Saviour’s Birth, a small group of us—adults and children—will set out to deliver cash into the hands of the homeless men and women we meet up and down the streets of downtown Toronto. Many of them will be spending our frigid, late December nights out of doors. The money we give them will allow them not only to fill their bellies and bring joy to their souls, but also to come in out of the cold for a while. 

Can you help us?

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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high.
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (May 3, 1915)

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Orthodoxy Today, that bastion of theological internet civility, recently published an excerpt of a presentation Fr. John Parker gave at a conference on pastoral care in a digital age. In it he accused the editors and writers of Public Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy in Dialogueand The Wheel of prowling around like wolves in sheep’s clothing, preying on an unsuspecting catechumenate to sow division, discord, and confusion. They pretend to promote dialog, when really they have diabolical motives, mostly having to do with making the church more welcoming to LGBTQ people. It is a tired and thus boring accusation, a thesis plagiarized from a myriad of internet blog comments and coffee hour conversations with like-minded people. More importantly, it is a hypocritical thesis. Fr. Parker accuses the above sites of trying to sow confusion, when in fact he seems to do precisely the same thing.

I know in some way the editors of Orthodoxy in Dialogue, The Wheeland Public Orthodoxy. I myself have contributed a couple of articles to the latter. The blanket accusation of a general, almost conspiratorial intent to sow confusion is both offensive and false. It is offensive because, speaking for myself at least, that is not the case. It is false because there are contributors to those sites who share his same views on gender and sexuality and because the active solicitation and publication of authors who share those views bellies the any supposedly nefarious intent on the part of those who run the sites. Read More


Video from USA TODAY
The slain Telemachus Orfanos was an Orthodox Christian. May his memory be eternal.

Several times a month we check the website of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America for signs of life. We hope especially for a united voice of pastoral engagement on the part of our hierarchs with the deeply troubled sociopolitical moment in which we live. Usually we find nothing.

Imagine our delight this time to discover two statements posted just over a week apart: the first, on October 31, in response to the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh; and the second, on November 8, in response to the Borderline Bar & Grill massacre in Thousand Oaks CA. The October 31 statement quotes the Message of the 9th Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America of October 4:

Additionally, we denounce all violence, whether caused by senseless acts related to weapons and shootings or instigated by abhorrent acts of discrimination and prejudice. Orthodox Christians are called to demonstrate their solidarity with and hospitality to all people, irrespective of race and religion, to welcome and embrace the image of God in the least of our brothers and sisters, as instructed in the parable of our Lord (c.f. Matt. 25:40-45). Our God is a God of love and forgiveness, of reconciliation and fellowship.

These signal a good start, for which we express our gratitude to the bishops of the Assembly. At the same time, we feel that they don’t go far enough. Read More



Father John Parker. Dean, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.

On October 29 Chris Banescu’s OrthodoxNet published excerpts from Father John Parker’s presentation this past June at the Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care Conference in Crete. As we noted in our OrthodoxNet Has Heart Attack over Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), Mr. Banescu—whose theological background includes  degrees in business administration, marketing, and law—seems to resort to flagrant misrepresentations to stoke his readers’ fears of open dialogue on complex topics in the Orthodox Church. 

Father Parker’s article on OrthodoxNet can be read here.

Dr. David Ford’s comment at the end of Father Parker’s article—”Thank you very much, Fr. John, for this very needful alert!”—might cause our readers some confusion since he has written extensively for Orthodoxy in Dialogue (here, here, here, here, and the March 29 and April 14 letters to the editors here); twice with his wife, Dr. Mary Ford, for Public Orthodoxy (here and here); and once for The Wheel (here). In fact in his March 29 letter Dr. Ford commends us for On Chastity: Two Letters to a Struggling Monk and acknowledges that Orthodoxy in Dialogue does not promote sexual immorality. Why join in misrepresenting and trashing three publications that have welcomed you to write for them? 

(Incidentally, has Dr. Ford seen our several articles in defense of both a proper Orthodox understanding of opposite-sex marriage and of women married to abusive husbands?)

We have already responded in two parts to Father Parker’s presentation in Crete: first, in St. Tikhon’s Seminary Appoints Internationally Known Homophobe as Dean; and second, in “For I Am Wonderfully Made”. Read More

ON JUDGING OTHERS by Giacomo Sanfilippo

On someone else’s Facebook timeline the other day I came across a gentleman whose profile reads partly as follows:

Russian Orthodox Christianity
Republican Party
I support the NRA, Pro Life, no homosexuals or their advocates at the Communion Table, Blue Lives Matter, Border Wall, deporting of illegal aliens and vetting them….

confesareNo homosexuals or their advocates at the Communion Table.


As I narrated (here) this past May, I served as a priest in rural Manitoba and Saskatchewan during the early to mid 1990s. One day I received a phone call from a Lutheran lady whose stepfather of fifteen years belonged to my parish. We’ll call him “Joe” (not his real name). He was 66 years old at the time his stepdaughter phoned me. I was 36, in my fourth year of priesthood.

“Joe’s in big trouble,” she said. “Mom has already left. You’d better go see him right away.”

I put on my cassock, riassa, and cross and drove to town, half an hour away. Joe flung the door open as soon as I knocked. “Oh Father Peter, am I glad to see you!” He looked worse than I’ve ever seen a man. He poured me a cup of coffee and sat opposite me at the kitchen table. “So what’s going on?” I asked gently.

That morning he had been to see his centenarian mother at the local care home. On the way out, he stopped into the room of the mentally handicapped adult daughter of the town’s highly esteemed retired Lutheran pastor. A nurse walked into the room to find Joe fondling the disabled woman’s genitals. As he told me his story he left nothing out and made no excuses for himself . I have never seen a man so ashamed, so remorseful. Tears streamed down his face. 

In a town of 1,600 news spreads faster than a man can drive home. Joe’s wife was already packing her bags. Within the hour she had set out in her car for the provincial capital some 400 kilometres (250 miles) away. Read More


Editorial Note: A full half-century after the tragic death of Thomas Merton, OCSO, shortly before his 54th birthday (January 31, 1915-December 10, 1968), the person and writings of this renowned Trappist monk continue to inspire Christians of every ecclesial and denominational affiliation. The rise of demagoguery and reactionary politics around the planet—which feeds on our inability to love the feared “other”—makes his prophetic voice more urgent for us to hear now than perhaps at any other time since his too short life.
Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue does not presume any kind of doctrinal or ecclesial relativism. Rather it reflects the conviction that persons of good will from every Christian tradition have much to contribute of truth and beauty to our shared pursuit of love transfigured by uncreated grace in the likeness of divine love.
Trappist Father Thomas Merton pictured in undated photo

Thomas Merton in front of his hermitage. Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. Trappist KY.

The most obvious characteristic of our age is its destructiveness. This can hardly be doubted. We have developed an enormous capacity to build and to change our world, but far more enormous are our capacities for destruction. 
Thomas Merton, “Theology of Creativity,” 1960

Many of us sense an aura of doom when we wake up to the day. Destruction consumes our news feed as we scroll past the dead, the hate, and the eerie joy of our friends’ and families’ photos as though nothing were going awry. While we know our looking away doesn’t make things go away, we try and try, and try again.

We live in an age where men manufacture their own truth. 
Thomas Merton, Sermon on The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 12/8/62, audio recording

There is an unfading relevance to the words written nearly 60 year ago by the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. Many of us are rereading his books and essays with bewilderment, assuming they must have been written in and for this very time. Alas, we know that this beloved monk, said to be one of the most influential spiritual writers of the twentieth century, rests in that place of mystery beyond death while his body lies underground at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky.

Why does it matter? Read More