Tag Archives: VK McCarty

Entering the Temple with the Mother of God

by V.K. McCarty

“Today Anna bequeaths joy to all instead of sorrow by bringing forth her fruit.
Today with joy she brings to the Temple of the Lord
The true Temple and pure Mother of God the Word.” (Troparion in Tone 4)

As faithful Orthodox navigating a tumultuous world, what does the upcoming Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple mean for us? One thing which helps us to unravel its mystery is hearing Jesus teach about the great treasury of Heaven in his Parable, about the divine storehouse of the soul (Luke 12:16-21), which is associated with the feast. This is one of several Parables about the topos of the Rich Fool. And even as we encounter the Gospel story, we are being uniquely guided into our celebration of the feast itself. This is one of the wonderful times when the Gospel is leading us straight into the mystery of the feast. For we are learning from Jesus, just like the “Rich Fool” in the story: You are always seen as rich toward God, not for the treasury of your grain, but for the treasure of your soul.

During the Feast of her Entry into the Temple, Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos Mary is modeling for us the pilgrimage of the soul, our inner treasure from God, shining bright with gratitude and repentance. Take care for the treasure of your own soul; seek the riches of your connection to God. I tell you, reflecting prayerfully on the images of this feast will leave you longing for a deeper pilgrimage of your soul toward God.

Continue reading

Celebrating Early Christian Women at Prayer

by V.K. McCarty

Lydia

“We have heard as they were read aloud those words,
so shining and luminescent, we have taken in by ear,
we have considered in our minds
and honored in our belief.”

It is wonderful to be able to share with you how grateful I am for all the encouragement and support from the team at the Institute for Studies in Eastern Christianity throughout the time that I was developing and writing my new book. During the worst of the pandemic, I worked with Gorgias Press developing it, and editing it and preparing the type, and now it is a real pleasure for me for me to be able to share with you: From Their Lips: Voices of Early Christian Women.

It should come as no surprise that early Christian women are heard praying to the Lord from the beginning to the end of it. So, it offers the reader the opportunity to take a good look at early Christian prayer as it was remembered by generations of faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. By exploring the lives and ministry of a dozen early Christian women from the first centuries after the Resurrection, it delves deeply into their prayer lives. For professors, in their teaching; for students, in their studies—you will find this book helpful in bringing to life women whose faith and prayer to the Lord contributed to the history of early Christianity.

In fact, the volume opens in the New Testament, down by the river-side in Macedonian Philippi, in a scene I’m convinced was inspired by the living prayer of a woman. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that the Apostle Paul had come to town and was looking for people to evangelize about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He heard that Jewish people met to pray together out by the river; so, on the Sabbath Day, he went out bright and early to meet them. As it happened, on this particular day, it was the women who were gathered there praying. And he spoke with Lydia—and Lydia spoke back (Luke 16:14-15).

Continue reading

Giving Up the Good Parts for Lent: Considering Mary of Egypt

by V.K. McCarty

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O mother,
For you took up the Cross and followed Christ.
By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away;
But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal.
Therefore your spirit, O holy Mother Mary, rejoices with the Angels. 

                                                                        Troparion, Tone 8.

As the Sunday of Mary of Egypt approaches and her feast-day on April 1, we encounter a poignant charge to repentance in our lives, this one embedded in our Liturgy centuries ago, here in the vortex of Great Lent. So, alongside the Scripture readings is a monk’s tale, a parable taught not by Jesus specifically, but coming to us from the treasury of Orthodoxy itself. It is the story of a monk and a pilgrim in the desert. As the seventh-century Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronius, who wrote it down, says, he is writing what he heard about: “the holy story which has reached us…In the monasteries of Palestine, there lived a man renowned for his way of life and his gift of words. From the days of his infancy, he was reared in monastic trials and good deeds…seeking always to subjugate the flesh to the soul.

“Frequently, he was deemed worthy of divine visions, illuminated from on high…However, he began to be tormented, for it seemed that he had attained perfection and needed no teaching from anyone. And so, he began to reason: Is there a monk on earth capable of passing on to me any new kind of spiritual achievement in which I have not already succeeded?” This monk, then, while fasting in Lent and following the tradition of his monastery to wander out into the desert, this monk gifted with words and visions, encounters what his soul is lacking. After twenty days fasting in the wilderness, he sees an extraordinary pilgrim: “black as if scorched by the fierce heat of the sun, the hair on the head white as wool.” And this “fugitive” speaks, calling Abba Zosimas by name.

Continue reading

The Exhortation of Jesus Invigorating Spiritual Life

by V.K. McCarty

bread of life

Look not at the things which are seen, but at those which are not seen;
for the things which are seen may be timely, but the things
which are not seen are for eternity.
(Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 104)

Jesus offering the parable of the great feast awaiting us, as one step in our Orthodox Advent pilgrimage, calls to mind the recovery experience of coming back from the Pandemic, even with our fears about the virus now and in the future. It has been a sweet excitement and relief, even a celebration, beginning to go back to all the different events and places that were closed for so long. Each return—to the theater, to libraries, sports events, to shopping places—has been exhilarating, with a sense of community reunion to it. But we come back somewhat changed, don’t we? In some ways now, it’s easier to just talk about going back to events, rather than to actually get off the couch and go to them, even if safety is no longer the whole reason for isolating ourselves.

It is easy to hedge on actually doing much of anything. It is easy to stall on getting out there, even with things opening again. I hear myself saying: “I said I’d see you there today?” or “Goodness, does it say that zoom event is this afternoon?” I feel like a toddler who’s just learned to play “Don’t See Me.” My friends, it is going to take the grace of God to get our motivation and social disciplines back. The same thing can be said about motivating our spiritual lives. The Gospel is speaking to us today.

Continue reading