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

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.

Roe Won the Day, and Sooner or Later That Day Will End

At the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, I was a college student — an anti-war, mother-earth, feminist, hippie college student. That particular January I was taking a semester off, living in the D.C. area and volunteering at the feminist “underground newspaper” Off Our Backs. As you’d guess, I was strongly in favor of legalizing abortion. The bumper sticker on my car read, “Don’t labor under a misconception; legalize abortion.”

The first issue of Off Our Backs after the Roe decision included one of my movie reviews, and also an essay by another member of the collective criticizing the decision. It didn’t go far enough, she said, because it allowed states to restrict abortion in the third trimester. The Supreme Court should not meddle in what should be decided between the woman and her doctor. She should be able to choose abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

Click to read more ...


"Laurus" book review

This new Russian novel tells the story of a fictitious 15th century saint, a wonderworker and healer. Though secular readers may be inclined to consider his feats “magical realism,” everything in it could be found in the life of one Orthodox saint or another: soul-reading, bilocation, levitation, multiplication of bread, companionship of wild animals, and so on. The book has been greatly admired in literary circles in Russia, and won some significant awards; but its popularity may also stem from the hunger that made Everyday Saints (by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, 2012), with its stories of modern-day miracles, a bestseller in Russia. There is a hunger for recovering the nation’s historic Christian roots, especially in the lives of its saints, both ancient and contemporary.

Click to read more ...


St. Marina

July 17 is the feast of the valiant St. Marina, who was martyred in the 3rd century. Over the years she has kept intersecting with my life—those odd synchronicities that make you wonder if there’s something going on that you don’t know what to do with.

—In 1981 my husband and I (and kids) moved to Woodbridge, VA, where he had been called as the rector of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church. Funny thing about that name. The woman who donated the money to found the church, half a century ago, asked that it be named for the patron saint of her school, St. Margaret. But by mistake the committee dedicated it to St. Margaret of Antioch, a.k.a. St Marina, and not St. Margaret of Scotland, whom the school had been named for.

Click to read more ...


Remembrance of Death

Here’s something I use, to keep the certainty of death in mind.

Feel the bones in your wrist. Those are your bones, part of your skeleton. If an archaeologist found your remains a thousand years from now, that’s what they would find. Not some other theoretical bones, but your own bones, the ones inside your wrist right now.

Click to read more ...


How to Read the Philokalia

The Philokalia is a 5-volume (4 in English, so far) compilation of writings from the 4th to the 14th century on “Prayer of the Heart,” the process of uniting the personality and bringing it into communion with God. It’s a difficult work to approach, and several people have come up with suggestions on how to get started—what works to read in what order. Here’s a list I made, by compiling that advice.

Click to read more ...


A Guide to Orthodox Baptism and Chrismation

The Rites of Baptism and Chrismation


Why are we facing the back of the church?

If you have been invited to attend a friend’s Baptism, you would expect to come into the church and face toward the altar. But the preliminary parts of an Orthodox Baptism take place at the back of the church (or in some cases, in the church’s entry hall, called a narthex). This is because, in the early centuries, Baptisms were performed outside the church; the new members of the congregation literally “entered” the church. Now the first part of the ceremony takes place at the back of the worship space, and then the baptismal party moves to the center of the room for the Baptism itself. Finally, they come to the front of the church for the Chrismation, the anointing service that completes church membership, and represents the bestowing of the Holy Spirit (it’s analogous to Confirmation in Western churches.)

Click to read more ...


Complete Vita - Awards Honors Positions

Total as of 9/21/2015:  10 books, 751 published essays, 568 speaking events, 702 media interviews

Repository of papers: Addlestone Library Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC



Best American Spiritual Writing, 2007, Houghton Mifflin

Best Christian Writing 2006, Jossey-Bass

Best Regular Column: Culture, the Arts, and Leisure, Catholic Press Association, 2004

Best Christian Writing 2004, Jossey-Bass

Best Christian Writing 2002, HarperSanFrancisco

Books for a Better Life awards, finalist, 2000

Best Christian Writing 2000, HarperSanFrancisco

Best Spiritual Writing 1998, HarperSanFrancisco

Christian Women Role Models (1998), Ecumenical Coalition on Women and Society


Positions Held

Click to read more ...