January 16, 2023

As we celebrate the season of Epiphany–of revelation, of universality, of adoration–we follow in the footsteps of the three wise men (and their inevitable companions on the road: servants, armed guards, animal caregivers, etc.). Much has been written on the symbolism of the three gifts they brought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. “Bernard suggests that the magi gave the gold to assist the mother and child in their poverty, the incense as a perfume to counteract the fetid odor of the... Read more

January 11, 2023

  If you want to follow Jesus into a new year in new ways with a new heart, it’s hard to imagine a better gospel passage to begin the year with than the Sermon on the Mount. It seems designed to discourage any high-handedness with God or self. Do not try this at home unless you really, really cannot give up Jesus. It begins with the Beatitudes, which “set the table” for this Jesus business. Plan on deprivation. Dispossession of... Read more

October 29, 2022

  As we near the end of the Church calendar, approaching Advent, many of us might be feeling a bit deluged by the approaching tidal wave of holiday seasons: cooking, company, shopping, wrapping, planning, juggling expectations, cards, more company, decorating, and so on. (All right, I am the one feeling deluged. I’m easily overwhelmed by high seasons. The very idea of Ordinary Time thrills me.) My friend Ludolph is inviting me into a November consideration of what comes before Advent.... Read more

September 15, 2022

As I finish up Hebrews again, I’m struck by the last few chapters and the ways they address those of us who, for whatever reason, find ourselves drooping, losing heart, gutted by life. The author pushes us to persevere, to push on into faith with reminders like this: “draw near to God in confidence,” “encourage one another,” “do not throw away your confidence.” Then that majestic testimony to the power of faith in the lives of so many: the victorious,... Read more

August 12, 2022

“This is a blessed, well-irrigated way of life. … To live like this is sweet and lovely.” I fall back to the Prologue of Ludolph’s Life of Christ for today’s reflection. Here he gives an apology for this meaty writing, an explanation of its benefits. “Let us hasten to live in a way worthy of God.” Here are his seven arguments for the advantages of meditating on the life of Christ: Forgiveness: “When we judge ourselves, accuse ourselves in confession,... Read more

July 26, 2022

Ludolph of Saxony, a 14th-century Carthusian monk, wrote a beautiful Life of Christ, telling the stories of the gospels with commentary drawn from a rich treasury of patristic literature. One scholar commented that “it is one of the most beautiful and erudite works to have come down to us from the Middle Ages … Almost all of the patristic literature can be found incorporated in it.” We know that Ludolph’s work was Ignatius of Loyola’s inspiration as he recuperated from... Read more

April 5, 2022

Many who know about 17th-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer think first of his “The Girl with a Pearl Earring,” that lovely portrait of a young girl looking over her shoulder. Or perhaps they think of “The Milkmaid,” capturing the woman standing in the light of a window before a kitchen table. Both are gentle, captivating pieces that play with light and soft shadows, and they exude a spirit of peace and simplicity. This piece is entirely different. It’s complex, a... Read more

November 2, 2021

In my last post, I acknowledged the “falling apart” of our present version of American Christianity. “Fallings apart” are always painful, and this one is no different. We mourn the sense of chaos, the suffering of the faithful, the indifference of those who should know better, and, most of all, the befuddlement of those tearing down the walls all the while thinking they’re defending them. Peter Wehner sheds light on the real-time disintegration here. It’s the topic “du jour,” so... Read more

October 26, 2021

Things fall apart, we’re told. Trained as a historian, I’ve had to study many, many “falling aparts”—the Roman Empire fell apart; the Jerusalem center of worship fell apart; the Qing dynasty fell apart; the German war machine fell apart; British imperial power fell apart; the Soviet sphere of control fell apart. History is just one “falling apart” after another. Things fall apart in the religious world as well. The centuries of European Christendom have passed; Puritanism is just a section... Read more

September 22, 2021

What can we really say about the diversity of believers, the myriad ways we all walk the Way? How vast, how disparate, how incredibly kaleidoscopic are the channels of God’s grace in different lives! We who seek God in the face of Jesus Christ and the life of the Spirit all rush together in one direction, toward one Center, but our experiences and prayers and visions and standards explode with multitudinous variety. “All think they are Christians, for a proclamation... Read more

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