[January 24, 2016]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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
“A Sacrifice for a Friend” appeared on
Frederica.com, March 13, 2015
“Tomorrowland” movie review appeared on
Frederica.com, April 15, 2015
“Why I Haven’t Spoken Out on Gay Marriage…Till Now” appeared on
Frederica.com, April 20, 2015
“Open Question: Tithing” appeared in
Christianity Today, June 2015
“Bringing it Home” appeared on
Frederica.com, June 15, 2015
Ctr for Byzantine Material Arts retreat, Leesburg, VA, Jan 23-24, 2015
Classroom Skype talk, Messiah College, Jan 26, 2015
Linthicum Methodist Church, Linthicum MD, April 14, 2015
Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, June 20, 2015