I'll Come Speak

    I write and speak on all sorts of topics: ancient Christian spirituality and the Eastern Orthodox faith, the Jesus Prayer, marriage and family, the pro-life cause, cultural issues, and more. You can contact Cynthia Damaskos of the Orthodox Speakers Bureau if you’d like to bring me to an event. This Calendar will let you know when I’m in your neighborhood.

 

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Wednesday
Feb142018

Who'll Eat this Ice Cream? Let It Be Me

It’s that time of year again…

Cheesefare Week, when Orthodox Christians start to ease into the Lenten Fast, giving up meat but still eating eggs, milk, cheese, etc. Here’s my son David Mathewes’ tender farewell to all that is dairy and glorious, “Let It Be Me.”

 

Now that our time is waning
Only one day remaining
Who’ll eat this ice cream?
Let it be me.

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Wednesday
Jan312018

The Accidental Beekeeper

I didn’t plan on being a beekeeper. It all started one afternoon when I was taking a walk around the block, and came upon a scene of chaos and frenzy. Some neighbors were having work done while they were out of town, and workmen had been taking down a big tree. One of the guys had been high on a ladder when his chainsaw bit directly into a honeycomb.

People harbor differing sentiments toward bees. The guy on the ladder began scooping handfuls of honey, laughing and telling his buddies how good it was, unfazed by the stings. His boss, on the ground, was gripped by a terror approaching apoplexy. By the time I got there the workmen had laid the trunk on the ground and were trying to drive the bees away from the tree by several methods; most recently, they had set it on fire.

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Monday
Dec112017

The Danger of Anger

Anger is an emotion that can carry us away so easily. Back when I was in (Episc) seminary, in the 1970s, pastoral theology students were taught that it was important for people to express their anger. Don’t repress it! Let it out! When counseling parishioners, that’s what they were trained to say.

Then a few years later, some revised wisdom appeared. It was that this was actually very bad advice.

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Thursday
Nov092017

My Tattoo

I got a tattoo!

In general, I don’t think tattoos are attractive, and sure never expected that I would get one. I mean, I just turned 65, and I had never gotten a tattoo in all those years, so it seemed a safe bet. 

But I’ve always thought it was a beautiful witness, how the Coptic Egyptian Christians get a small cross tattooed on the right wrist, to claim the identity of a Christian. The tradition possibly began when the Muslims conquered Egypt 1500 years ago, and would brand or scar a cross on the Christians who refused to convert to Islam. For Coptic Christians, it is a way of claiming an identity that is somewhat despised by the powerful, and to “glory” in nothing but “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as St. Paul said (Galatians 6:14).

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Monday
Oct302017

Talking about Rod in the WPost

I was disappointed by how Karen Heller’s profile of Rod Dreher turned out, in today’s Washington Post. Especially I felt bad that the quotes she has from me, which make Rod sound manipulative and self-centered. That’s the opposite of how I described him. That’s so frustrating. I wrote up some notes about what I’d said immediately after our conversation, which provides a better context. 

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Friday
Oct062017

Why Not Beauty?

Someone emailed me to ask: When did people start to expect worship to be something that would benefit them? Something that will inspire them, resonate with them, give them strength for the week ahead, etc? When did it stop being something we render to God for his own sake, to express our gratitude and awe? He notes that all the things he loves about high-church worship, the music, solemnity, the processions, even the architecture, though they move him deeply, the friends he brings to church just shrug them off.

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Tuesday
Jul112017

The Good Samaritan, by Patriarch Narses Snorhali

The Good Samaritan

Written by Armenian Patriarch Narses Snorhali (1102-1173).

From Jerusalem, our Paradise, guilty like Adam
I went down to vile Jericho,
And fell into the hands of the Brigand.

They stripped me of light;
They covered my soul with sores of sin;
They did not depart leaving me half dead;
But after death, the waged war on me again.

And Moses the Levite and Aaron the ancient Priest…
And the prophets of the Old Law
Saw the sores of my incurable sufferings,
And the terrible wounds.

They passed with medicine of words only
And could not heal them,
To You whom they called “Samaritan”
I will show the sufferings of my soul
To your divine eyes which sees them.

Have pity on me also as You had pity on Adam,
Put medicine on the deep wounds of my soul,
Re-cover it with the first robe
Of which the brigands stripped me.

Pour on oil and wine,
The medicine of life from the Spirit on high,
Giving again the Spirit of anointing
And the cup of the New Covenant.

Carry me, convey me on the mount of the Cross;
Lead me away to the Inn, to the Church;
Entrust me to the High Priest
Who in sacrifice offers your Body.

Give instead of two pennies
The Word of the Old and New Testament,
To heal my soul through it
As the body will live through bread.

Tuesday
May162017

The Benedict Option and Retreating from Politics

I haven’t done much writing about “The Benedict Option” by my friend Rod Dreher, but this image gave me some things to think about. It’s the cover of the French edition of “The Benedict Option,” which comes out in September, and it’s better than the original cover, isn’t it? It expresses the central concept better than the original cover did, though that is admittedly a beautiful photo. The original cover shows Mt St Michel, literally a monastery on a hill, so is it any wonder people think that’s what the book is about?

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Tuesday
Feb212017

How to Revive a "Dead" Church

Here’s something I hear from time to time: “I’d like to join the Orthodox Church, but I visited a local church and it just felt dead.”

When I hear this it’s about Orthodox churches, but that needn’t be the case. It could be any church or denomination; it might sound good on paper, but the local church on Sunday morning feels empty and drained.

It’s tempting to say, “That shouldn’t make any difference. Focus on your own prayer life.” But, actually, I know what these people mean. Sometimes, when you visit a church, something just feels “off.” It makes you really eager to get out of there.

 

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Thursday
Feb162017

Why It's Hard to Accept God's Forgiveness

My daughter-in-law, Khouria Jocelyn Mathewes, has a good column today on repentance, as we head into Great Lent. She makes a point about accepting forgiveness for past sins (not the ones that continue in the present, but completed deeds in the past.) She reminds us that we must accept forgiveness and move on, and not keep revisiting them and “beating yourself up.”

I think that, when we continue to be distraught over a forgiven sin in the past, it’s linked to our pride. It’s that we can’t believe we would ever do such a thing. It doesn’t fit our sense of the “kind of person” we are. So we can never quite assimilate it; we keep being startled by it, and regard it as strange and appalling. We think of it as something inexplicable that “happened,” rather than something we did.

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