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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Entries in Christian Life (167)


The World and the Grail

[First Things Online; November 6, 2007] 

For some time now I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s terrific 2003 book, A Short History of Nearly Everything. (You should interpret “some time” to mean “a pretty long time,” because not only is this a hefty-sized book, it’s about science.) In his introduction Bryson, an entertaining travel writer, explains how he came to write a book about the origins of life, the universe, and everything. He says that when he was in the fourth or fifth grade the cover of his science text showed the earth with a quarter cut away, revealing an interior neatly arranged in colorful layers. Not only did Bryson enjoy the thought of unsuspecting motorists sailing off the edge,

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VTS Cemetery

[Ancient Faith Radio; October 30, 2007]

I’m here on a hillside in Alexandria, Virginia, on the campus of Virginia Theological Seminary, the Episcopal seminary that I graduated from in 1977. I’m here because it’s the annual Fall Theological Convocation, and it’s the year for my class to have our 30th reunion, so there are a number of classes getting together on campus this week for a series of lectures. But as everybody else is marching off to the dining room, I thought I’d take a minute and come to the cemetery here, where there are buried perhaps 50 or 60 seminary professors beginning from the time the campus opened, in 1823, so it goes back for awhile. There are men here who were missionaries to Africa in the 19th century, and who poured out their lives in South America—this was a very strong missionary campus. I heard today that probably this seminary sent more missionaries into the world than any other Episcopal seminary.

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Men and Church (podcast version)

[Ancient Faith Radio; October 24, 2007]

I’m in the car today driving down I-95, going south (as usual) toward Washington, this time toward northern Virginia, where I’m going to a reunion of my seminary class at Virginia Episcopal Theological Seminary. It’s our 30th anniversary so I’m going back on campus to hear some speakers today and to attempt to give the seminary library a stack of my books; we’ll see if they will accept these, we’ll see what happens. I expect so; they’re actually very gracious people at Virginia Seminary.

I’m thinking about a conversation I’ve been having, an email conversation, with a lot of people in the last couple of weeks, that has led up to an article just published on Beliefnet was doing an interview with John Eldridge. Now if you don’t know that name,

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The World and the Grail

[Ancient Faith Radio; October 17, 2007]

Last year, for Christmas, I gave each of my children a copy of a big, fat, almost 550-page book by Bill Bryson, titled A Short History of Nearly Everything. I had begun reading this book and was so fascinated that I wanted each of my children to have a copy so we could talk about it. Bill Bryson talks about in childhood being so interested in science, and disappointed to find out how boring it was in the classroom. He described looking at the cover of his science text, that showed a quarter of the Earth cut away so that you cold see the layers. And he thought, ‘How do they know that? How do they discover things like that?’ And not finding that answer in the book.

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Men and Church

[Beliefnet; September 30, 2007] 

In a time when churches of every description are faced with Vanishing Male Syndrome, men are showing up at Eastern Orthodox churches in numbers that, if not numerically impressive, are proportionately intriguing. This may be the only church which attracts and holds men in numbers equal to women. As Leon Podles wrote in his 1999 book, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, “The Orthodox are the only Christians who write basso profundo church music, or need to.”

Rather than guess why this is, I emailed a hundred Orthodox men, most of whom joined the Church as adults.

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[Ancient Faith Radio; August 23, 2007]

Voiceover: We have a recording today of Frederica Mathewes-Green addressing the audience at the Parish Life conference that was recently held at Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Maryland, where Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green and Frederica serve.  And she’s reminiscing about their early days of Orthodoxy and how thankful she is for the welcome they received. 


Frederica: It’s amazing to me that Holy Cross is hosting the Parish Life conference this year.  We started just 14 years ago, a handful of people, 19 people, meeting in rental space in Catonsville.  And that we have gotten to this point where we can actually host a Parish Life Conference—I’m extraordinarily grateful to God that we have the capability to do this.  And as my husband is now 60 years old, I’m extraordinarily grateful that we’ll probably never have to do it again.  [Laughter] Once is enough in a lifetime! If you haven’t done it, you don’t know how much work it is.  I don’t know how much work it is; I have to give a lot of the credit to someone who would be an unsung hero otherwise: our brilliantly creative, our brilliant Shamassy, Ina, who just has an imagination and an ability to accomplish the things that she imagines that are going to set this Parish Life Conference apart.  I’m eager to take part in it. 

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Dating vs Courtship

[Ancient Faith Radio; August 2, 2008]

Frederica: We’re at Five Guys Burgers, which is the best burgers in Baltimore, and everybody is chowing down except me, because I came late, so mine is still on order.  These are some pretty hefty burgers.  In Pasadena.  They just opened one of these in Pasadena; I got the word from the end of the table.  Our Pasadena.  Pasadena, Maryland.  And Jocelyn sent me something she’d written earlier today about dating, and ‘I kissed dating goodbye,’ versus ‘I gave dating a chance,’ versus people should just do courtship.  And you’d read an article by somebody who said he’s very much in favor of courtship, but the problem is when people meet for the first time, they want to get to know each other.  They’re not ready to jump into courtship.  So his solution was parents should absolutely control every moment of their children’s lives, and children should know that their parents are going to choose their mate when they’re grown up.  They will have no choice whatsoever.  I don’t think that’s completely feasible [laughter] but it does show that even for people who are kind of opposed to the dating whirl, what’s the alternative?  So, what do you think? Jocelyn?  My daughter-in-law Jocelyn, married to my handsome son Steve.  Did you and Steve date?

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The Emerging Church and Orthodoxy

[Precipice Magazine, July 2007]

1.) Can you offer some insight about how the Orthodox Church understands evangelism? Do you feel that, overall, that it is considered a priority when compared with Protestant Evangelicalism?

The Orthodox Church has a beautiful history of evangelism — but, unfortunately, it is largely history. A factor we tend to forget, which has made the path of Eastern Christianity so different from that of the West, is that for the most part they have not been free. Many Orthodox lands have been under Muslim rule for over a millennium, virtually since Islam began.

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[Ancient Faith Radio; June 28, 2007]

Frederica: I’m sitting here with my friend, Father Gregory Czumack, who’s the pastor of Four Evangelists Ukrainian Orthodox Mission, in Bel Air, MD, near the Pennsylvania border.  And feeling light and joyous and teary-eyed because we just had my confession here in the icon corner of my living room.  And I asked Father Gregory if we could talk for just a few minutes, if he could tell me what it’s like to be a confessor.  It was something you were saying then, as we finished the prayers, about what a privilege it feels like, and of course for laypeople, when we look at priests and we think about hearing confessions, we think you must be very depressed about the state of the human race, or you must hear things that just make you furious at people, and we sort of project those ideas onto the clergy.  What is it like to actually be hearing confessions?

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The Wounded Torturer

[Review of Faith and International Affairs; Summer 2007]

“It was during this part that the majority of us tried to kill ourselves.”

They buried my spiritual father last November. I have never seen a body in a casket look so not-there; the indistinct pale husk he left behind looked like something a breeze could lift up and carry away. It was the contrast, I suppose. Few people in life are as radiant and vigorous as Fr. George Calciu, or as full of joy. He was a few days short of his 81st birthday, still full-time pastor of a church in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, still traveling world-wide to those who sought him as a teacher and spiritual father, still diligently reaching out to the poor and unchurched around him.


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