January 11, 2018

  No, not the pope, but the friar. St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order. That’s who I have in mind as I dredge up what seems like a half-dead, but still gasping, conversation about Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. Why now? As many of you know, I work on medieval mysticism. This means that I have to spend time (and I ought to spend more time) reading about the history of the Middle Ages. Recently, I was… Read more

January 9, 2018

A few summers ago (it’s terrifying to me that it’s been that long), I was living in Freiburg in southern Germany. A friend and I took a train out of the city and found ourselves going the wrong way. We got off, but, since no new train would be coming by for some time, we ended up disembarking near a rural village and walking around for a bit. It was the sort of experience I can only imagine being possible… Read more

January 8, 2018

Forgive me what might seem a non-sequitur. As a kid, I’d always greet the new year with my grandmother; we’d watch the Honeymooners and bang pots and pans. Above all, though, we’d watch the annual Twilight Zone marathon. It being about the new year, I was interested to hear from a friend about an episode I can’t recall ever seeing before: “What You Need.” I’ve always loved the show, so I went home and watched this particular, unseen 25-minutes of… Read more

December 28, 2017

“Live without cares, judge no one, vex no one, and honor everyone.” – St. Ambrose of Optina “There is your brother, naked, crying, and you stand there confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering.” – St. Ambrose of Milan I often say it, but I’ll say it again: it is the martyrs, confessors, and riff-raff who keep Christianity alive in my heart. By profession, I’m a “scholar”; much of my life is spent reading arcane texts, quibbling over… Read more

December 27, 2017

Christmas time is when we cry out in joy at the announcement of a birth that goes by many names: the Incarnation, the Nativity, the Coming of the Lord. But, as the coming Feast of the Holy Innocents may remind us, death and life are never far apart. Christmas carries with it the stark price of children’s blood and the Incarnation inevitably leads to Golgotha, only to be reversed in the rising on the third day. It is in this… Read more

December 26, 2017

In the West, today marks the Feast of St. Stephen, deacon and first-recorded martyr. Tomorrow, for those Eastern Churches using the Gregorian or Revised Julian calendars (including my own Ruthenian Church), will bring the same celebration, a day to reflect on the first man to “fight the good fight,” to win the stephanos, the crown of martyrdom. December 26th is a state holiday in many countries, especially in Europe, a day to mark the ongoing joy of the Christmas Season,… Read more

December 25, 2017

These are the words with which my Church greets the birth of Christ: Christ is born! The traditional response is slavite Jeho, or “glorify Him!” Slight variations obtain, depending if you’re Russian, Ukrainian, or whatever other Slavic Byzantine tradition one might happen to be, but the point is always the same: God dwells among us; let us offer Him His due praise. This is, in a way, impossible. We cannot offer God all that He deserves. If we could, He… Read more

December 22, 2017

This seems an obvious statement, but, as with all things obvious, it’s only so when it counts, counts for the one speaking anyway. Our culture is obsessed by the idea that language shouldn’t be allowed primacy of place, especially when it comes to offense. In fact, there’s a whole Oxford Dictionaries entry on “snowflakes”: The Trump presidency has intensified the war of words between those people who voted for the billionaire businessman and those who oppose his policies. One term… Read more

December 12, 2017

These sorts of pieces often begin by letting the reader know where the word “nice” comes from. As a medievalist, I especially should delight in bringing this little bit of half-forgotten knowledge to light. It comes to us from the Latin “nescius,” meaning “ignorant” (itself coming from “nescire,” “to not know”) by way of French. By the late 12th century, it meant “silly” or “stupid.” One can observe its transition from its initial meaning to the one we know today… Read more

December 6, 2017

Twitter and Facebook have made it more than clear that Latin Advent has begun. Devotionals are being posted, prayers recommended, and all sorts of exhortations are circulating through the digital world. It occurred to me that many people (you treasured few who waste bits of your time reading my work!) might not know much about the Byzantine version of this liturgical period, a preparatory time second only to the Great Fast (before Pascha, also known as Easter) for those of… Read more

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