Is there nothing new under the sun? Is it the case that all of life is an ordered and predictable cycle? That what has been is what will be and what is done is what will be done (Eccl. 1:9)? This sense of the unending monotonous repetition of human experience is not confined to the early agricultural society in which Ecclesiastes was composed; it is known to us here in the twenty-first century. I drive the children to school today, and I will do the same tomorrow. My husband goes to the grocery store tonight only to return later in the week. The media reports the depressing stories of climate change and pandemic and will report the same next month.
The quotidian often feels monotonous and even oppressive, and this makes us seek difference and change. A new sweater brings a jolt of delight. Walking a different route to work means noticing different houses, people, dogs. But these novelties are fleeting—the sweater is only briefly new for so long and the delight wears off. The new route becomes the old route before too long. The sense that what has been is what will be sinks in. We wonder, is anything really new? Is anything truly novel? Is there any release from this cycle?
Christmas answers these questions with a resounding “yes.”
About a decade ago I found myself pregnant with triplets halfway through work on a PhD in theology at the University of Virginia. My husband and I had thought long and hard about having a third child, so the joke was on us when—to our total surprise—we learned at a routine ultrasound that I was carrying not just our third child, but also our fourth and fifth. One of my many reactions to this news was to write a book.
Admittedly, penning a work of incarnational theology many not be the typical reaction to a triplet pregnancy, but there’s really nothing typical about a triplet pregnancy. For me, even though I had been a mother of two for several years already, the prospect of a trifecta of infants raised the spiritual stakes of motherhood: I was deeply driven to know more about how motherhood was understood within the Orthodox Christian theological tradition. Continue reading →
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware delivers the opening address at IOTA’s inaugural conference in Iasi, Romania
When I introduced Metropolitan Kallistos Ware at the International Orthodox Theological Association’s (IOTA) inaugural conference Opening Ceremony in Iaşi, Romania earlier this month, I told a story about my father—the son of Russian immigrants to West Virginia in the early twentieth century—and how his perception of Orthodoxy was expanded by His Eminence when they met in the early 1990s on a trip my father took to the British Isles. Metropolitan Kallistos’s explanation of the history and the present circumstances of Christianity there gave my father his first sense of a global Orthodox Church, which broadened his own Orthodox identity to include ties to many people and circumstances, past and present.
I told this story as a way of suggesting that Metropolitan Kallistos has done the same for so many people; he has opened up our Orthodox realities and given us a vision of a global Church, of a shared experience of Orthodox history and of the Orthodox Church today—through his writings, through his teachings, through his guidance as a hierarch; and thus he was a perfect keynote speaker to begin IOTA’s first conference. My introductory remarks were more apt than I could have realized, because not only was this true of Metropolitan Kallistos, his legacy, and his keynote remarks, but this expansive and gratifying experience of a shared Orthodoxy was the heartbeat of the next three days of the conference. Continue reading →
The reinstitution of the ordained female diaconate in the Orthodox Church today would result in a much-needed and transformative outpouring of women’s gifts into the Church and into the world.
In order to appreciate the positive potential of the female diaconate, we must understand the absolute parity of women and men in the eyes of the Orthodox Church. The Church has always understood men and women to be equally created in the image and likeness of God, even if its broader cultural surrounding was highly patriarchal. As such, statements like this from Saint Basil were nothing short of radical: “The natures are alike of equal honor, the virtues are equal, the struggle equal, the judgment alike” (On the Human Condition). This thinking is representative of early Church Fathers, including Gregory of Nazianzus and Clement of Alexandria, and amounts to a rejection of any hierarchical understanding of the relationship between men and women in the Roman world. Indeed, this understanding of women and men as equal in their creation by God is one of Christianity’s great gifts to the world. Continue Reading…