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.


Powered by Squarespace

Chastizing Heretics on Sunday of Orthodoxy

This past Sunday was “Sunday of Orthodoxy,” as the first Sunday in Lent is always named. It celebrates the “Triumph of Orthodoxy” over iconoclasm, and the restoration of icons to their proper place in liturgical and devotional use.

As St. John of Damascus explained, we honor icons, just as we show honor to the emperor, or to an aged parent. We don’t worship them. Worship is for God alone. We don’t worship our beloved favorite bible, but we handle it respectfully, and even with affection. The same with icons; they are portraits of people we love. As with a photo of a beloved grandmother, we handle icons with affection and respect.


Click to read more ...


How I Got My New Car

Here’s how I got my new car.

On Nov 23 I was coming home in my 2008 black Prius, my husband Fr Gregory driving, and while we were waiting to turn left an SUV ran right into the back of us. Her insurance company told us it was a total loss (the frame was bent) and they’d be sending us a check.

I went and looked my old Prius up on Blue Book and it was worth much less than I had hoped. Well, I hadn’t really thought about it.

Click to read more ...


About Forgiveness Vespers

Last night was the beginning of Lent for Eastern Orthodox Christians. We are far behind the West this year. The reason is that the date of Pascha / Easter depends on the date of the vernal equinox (first day of Spring) and also the phases of the moon, and some years we have the same Easter, and some years (like this year) we are as much as 5 weeks off.

On the Sunday evening that Lent begins, we have a vespers service. Afterward we have the Rite of Forgiveness. The members of the congregation line up, face to face, and ask for each other’s forgiveness, and give it. I found a few photos from around the web to show what this might look like.

Click to read more ...


About Prostrations

During Lent we make more prostrations. That’s a process that begins by making the sign of the Cross, then bowing down, resting your knees on the floor and then touching your forehead to the floor. I’ve collected, below, some photos of people making prostrations from around the internet.

Click to read more ...


"Founded on spiritual experience"


This is the main thing:

“Our religion is founded on spiritual experience, seen and heard as surely as any physical fact in this world. Not theory, not philosophy, not human emotions, but experience.”

—St. Nikolai Velimirovic

I think that, for much of my life writing about eastern / Orthodox Christianity and ancient Christian spiritual disciplines, I have been going about it wrong, based on some inaccurate assumptions I had.

Click to read more ...


Hail, Caesar!

Some of Joel and Ethan Coen’s comedies are pretty near perfect (see O Brother, Where Art Thou?), and some are a bag of mis-matched shoes (don’t see Burn After Reading or Intolerable Cruelty). The latest effort, Hail, Caesar!, just might be the best of all.

The film depicts a single, hectic day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), “Head of Physical Production” at Capitol Picture Studios, back in the booming 1950’s. It’s Eddie’s job, when DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johannson), a twice-divorced ingénue, turns up pregnant, to create a plan for her to “go away for a rest,” and come back having “adopted” her own baby. When Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), director of high-toned romances, can’t get the sentence “Would that it were so simple” out of cowboy-actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), it’s Eddie’s job to listen, nod, and calm him down.

Click to read more ...


The Finest Hours (movie review)

On February 18, 1952, a brutal nor’easter raged off the coast of Cape Cod. The Ft. Mercer, A T2 oil tanker 500 feet long, severely battered by wind and waves, broke in two. The Coast Guard in Boston and Nantucket were called out to rescue the men trapped on board, twenty miles from shore.

With 60 foot seas and 80 mph wind, the mission looked insane. One of the men staying behind, Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Bernie Webber, recalled thinking, “My God, do they really think a lifeboat and its crew could actually make it that far out to sea in this storm, and find the broken ship amid the blinding snow and raging seas, with only a compass to guide them? If the crew of the lifeboat didn’t freeze to death first, how would they be able to get the men off the storm-tossed sections of the broken tanker?”


Click to read more ...


Praise Choruses, Praise Choruses, Praise Choruses, O Praise Choruses



Heh. Reminds me of the time I was asked to lead a retreat for the women of an evangelical church, and they balked at the Jesus Prayer, charging that it was “vain repetition.” (Yes, this was after we’d sung quite a few repetitive praise choruses.)

Click to read more ...


Favorite Stories of Holy Cross Church 

Over the years we have seen some touching and marvelous things occur at Holy Cross Church. Here are a few of our stories. 

1. We’ve had a couple of “angel sightings” by very young children. (Or rather, a couple that children told us about; who knows how many times they see angels, and don’t tell us about it.)

On a Sunday in 1999, a family from Texas came to Holy Cross for the Divine Liturgy, accompanied by their 3-year-old girl. Later that day they were at dinner in Deacon Mark & Shmassey (“deacon’s wife”) Ina O’Dell’s home. The little girl was seated between her mother and Ina, and Fr. Gregory was seated across the table from them. Ina says:

“I remember her sitting there between me and her mom saying, ‘Mom! Look, he’s the one!’, while pointing to Fr. Gregory.  Her mother asked what she meant, and she said ‘He’s the one that was singing with the angels!’  Beth looked at me with raised eyebrows. One of us asked the child whether she had seen angels in church, and she replied ‘Yes,’ but she was clearly more excited to be seeing Father again: ‘and he’s the one that was singing with them!’”

Click to read more ...


Holy Fool-for Christ St. Xenia of St. Petersburg

[January 24, 2016]

Today is the feast day of St. Xenia of St Petersburg (1732-1803), a beloved saint of relatively recent times. St. Xenia’s husband died after a night of drinking, leaving her a childless widow at 26. Now freed from all earthly attachments, she took on the very challenging spiritual discipline of being a Fool for Christ. She gave away her home and all her possessions, and became a homeless wanderer. Grieving for her husband, who had died without having made his confession, she word only his red-and-green military uniform (when it wore out, she clothed herself in rags of those colors).

St Xenia disappeared from St Petersburg for 8 years (perhaps visiting monasteries and spiritual elders), and then reappeared in the poor section of town, where she continued her impoverished life, at first mocked by those who thought she was insane. But her spiritual gifts began to manifest themselves, as she was used by God for miraculous healings and was granted knowledge of the future, and in time the became greatly beloved.


A detail of her story I always liked: she owned nothing but her ragged clothing and her walking stick, and when she went to visit someone she would say, “Here is all of me.”

St. Xenia spent her nights praying in a field, making prostrations. Also, she helped in consstruction of a church; workmen would arrive in the morning to find that loads of bricks had been carried to the top of the structure. They posted a watchman and found that it was the tiny, elderly St. Xenia. She is very much beloved today, all around the world, and prayed to especially by those seeking a job or a spouse.


The Doxasticon of St. Xenia (Tone 8):

He who put on tattered swaddling bands, for our salvation,
was drawn by the spiritual beauty of her who wore the rags of voluntary poverty;
for though Xenia wandered the streets of St. Petersburg by day,
she was ever abiding in the field keeping watch over her soul by night,
singing doxologies with the angelic armies and weeping for the sinful world.
And crowned on high, she now rewards with mercy, comfort, and grace
those who keep her august memorial with faith.