mary-and-joseph-on-the-way-to-bethlehem_4ka_knleg__F0000 (2)

On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, my 12-year old granddaughter and I, accompanied by the mother-son team who joined us last year, will set forth on the streets of downtown Toronto to deliver cash into the hands of the homeless and the hungry whom we meet there. This will be our fourth year doing this, our second year sponsored by Orthodoxy in Dialogue.

Two-thirds of the way through the Nativity Fast, 48 very kind people have brought us to almost half of our goal of $5000. With your help, in whatever amount the Spirit moves you, we can reach our target.

Last year we collected enough to give $40 each to 50 people. We have set a higher goal this year in the hope of giving a larger amount to a larger number of people. The money you provide is not only all that stands between them and a hot meal or two (or three), but between them and a chance to come in from the cold.

Here’s a story from last year: 

Two men and one woman in their early to mid 20s sat shivering in the frigid air on the sidewalk at Yonge and Dundas, wrapped in thin blankets and leaning against the outside of the Eaton Centre. Well-dressed people scurried this way and that, perhaps on their way to do last minute shopping, or to meet friends at an elegant, candlelit restaurant, or even to attend an early Christmas Eve service at church. Everywhere, coloured lights and sparkling tinsel beckoned the moneyed to come in, spend, enjoy, feel welcome. Read More



Repent, change your mind, turn yourself around, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Follow Me.
Be poor in spirit.
Be meek.
Hunger and thirst for righteousness, not material possessions.
Be merciful.
Be pure in heart.
Be a peacemaker.
Be the salt of the earth, the light of the world.
Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.
If you love those who love you, so what? Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Beware of practicing your piety before others.
Give alms. Pray. Fast. Read More


Two days ago we republished a report on Tanzania’s Cardinal Pengo by New Ways Ministry’s Robert Shine under the headline of African Cardinal: Better to Die of Hunger Than to Accept Foreign Aid Attached to Gay Rights. In it Mr. Shine cites a November 30 article at the AMECEA News Blog, a presumably reliable source of information on the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa

The AMECEA News Blog report includes the following:

[Cardinal Pengo] thanked the Tanzanian Government for its position on the matter [of homosexuality] while stressing that all Tanzanians should say no to homosexual [sic] which apparently is encroaching very fast in African countries.


It should be noted that recently, the Minister for Internal Affairs, Kangi Lugola, stated that homosexual acts should be shunned by every human being created in the image of God because the act is against human nature and consequently the Government of Tanzania will not accept it.

Cardinal Pengo becomes the second bishop in Tanzania to condemn homosexuals in public. 

What, precisely, is the Tanzanian government’s “position on the matter” for which Cardinal Pengo expresses his gratitude?

Not a week later, we have our answer to this question, as reported by Religion News Service in its December 5 LGBT People Flee Tanzania amid Police Crackdown by Doreen Ajiambo:  Read More


This article takes its place in our Faith & the Arts series.



I had been hesitant to write anything for Orthodoxy in Dialogue. I’m aware that its editorial staff and target audience are people with, or studying for, doctorates, while my highest level of educational achievement is a 2-year degree in data processing from my local community college. However, one trick I have learned from people more academically qualified than I am is that you can get away with a much lower level of academic rigor by putting the word “towards” in the title of your essay. So that’s what I’ve done.

I have long been fascinated by comics. They taught me to read at an early age, something I share with many other people, and I once tried (unsuccessfully) to start a line of comics aimed at adult literacy and English language learners.

But as an Orthodox Christian, my fascination runs deeper, as I sense much unfulfilled potential in the medium itself. Our Orthodox liturgical life affirms two art forms above all others: iconography and poetry, the latter as expressed in our hymns. It strikes me that comics are better placed than almost any other artistic medium to combine the two. Read More


This is the third article in our On the Incarnation series for the Nativity Fast.

creation3When St. Athanasius in the 4th century addressed the centrality of the incarnation of Christ and His subsequent redemption of all creation via His death on the cross, he also justified the use of icons in Christian worship. (See Athanasius, On the Incarnation.) His appeal wasn’t aesthetic or moral, but theological, albeit a theology rooted in the Gospel.  The denial of iconography vis à vis honoring the cross, he claimed, was a denial of the intrinsic goodness of creation, and thereby also a denial of the incarnation. Denying the incarnation, he said, was of the spirit of the antichrist (1 Jn 4:2).

We often do not think about iconography in such ultimate terms, and it may even sound somewhat harsh. But for Athanasius, icons such as the cross are significant on a deep level precisely because they are material objects, not despite that fact. Matter is not primarily a hindrance or a difficulty with which we must contend, but it is salvific; matter saves us.

The Gospel story emphatically declares: Christ, who as the discarnate Logos is the second Person of the Triune God, was made flesh, a fully material human being, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Through this act alone, all matter becomes subject to redemption and is now not only good because God declared all of creation to be good, but all matter carries the potential for purity, or holiness. The wood of the cross of Christ, Athanasius argues, is transformed from mere wood into the vehicle of redemption for the entire cosmos; it is therefore legitimate to value matter because it is through matter that we are redeemed. Read More




January 22, 1882 – December 8, 1937

Father Pavel Florensky, widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s foremost Orthodox theologians, was also an iconologist, philosopher, philologist, polyglot, mathematician, physicist, electrical engineer, inventor, and polymath. He was born to a Russian father and an Armenian mother in Azerbaijan and raised in Georgia. His parents had him baptized as a gesture of social convention but did not bring him up as an Orthodox believer. At the age of 18 in 1900 he established himself in Moscow to begin his studies in mathematics at Moscow University. At age 21 he committed himself to the Orthodox Church as the culmination of the spiritual awakening that had begun when he was 16, and so became part of the movement known as the returning intelligentsia. At 22 he abandoned a promising secular career and enrolled at the Moscow Theological Academy. There he met and fell in love with Sergei Troitsky, a priest’s son a year his senior. They became roommates at the Academy.

For reasons examined elsewhere, their plans to spend the rest of their life together did not materialize. Sergei entered into an unconsummated marriage with Pavel’s sister, Olga. Pavel subsequently married Anna Giatsintova, with whom he went on to have five children. He was ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood in April 1911. Read More


One wonders if the bishops of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria in sub-Saharan Africa share with their Roman Catholic counterparts their harsh stance against the basic human rights of LGBTQ citizens of their respective countries.

“It Is Better to Die of Hunger” Than to Accept Homosexuality, Says Tanzanian Cardinal

by Robert Shine

It would be better to starve to death than to accept homosexuality, said a top African church leader while asking government officials to reject foreign aid allegedly tied to advancing LGBT equality.


Polycarp Cardinal Pengo

Cardinal Polycarp Pengo of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, made his comments during a Mass last month that celebrated the harvest. A news report posted by the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa explained:

[Pengo] said that there are some threats from developed countries alleging that “they will stop support us if we are against homosexuality. It is better to die of hunger than to receive aid and be compelled to do things that are contrary to God’s desire,” Cardinal Pengo said adding that “the sin of homosexuality was the cause of destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and that, these things are contrary to God’s plan in creation and should not be accepted at all.”

He thanked the Tanzanian Government for its position on the matter while stressing that all Tanzanians should say no to homosexual which apparently is encroaching very fast in African countries.

“We cannot accept such displeasing things to God; and if we are starving because we have refused to engage in such acts, then we would rather die with our God. Accepting homosexual is denying God,” Cardinal Pengo further expressed. [Editor’s note:  What may seem like grammatical errors or typos in the above quotes from the cardinal are actually variations in spoken English used in Tanzania.] Read More