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The Ash Wednesday Immortality Bus

The Ash Wednesday Immortality Bus

From our archives, the following piece by Ethan Richardson was originally published in 2017 — but the Immortality Bus is ageless. Buckle up… There was a dark horse in the 2016 presidential campaign that you missed. And what a shame! This gentleman really promised to turn things around, in ways no one else was talking about. […]

On AirPods and Ashes

On AirPods and Ashes

This past Christmas, Santa gave me a pair of AirPods, the unmistakable wireless headphones from Apple. I was very excited to walk around in my new Silicon-Valley chic, but it turned out that I was not alone. Upon returning to school, it seemed that almost every other pair of anxious college student ears was adorned […]

Ten Resources For Those On The Fence

Ten Resources For Those On The Fence

Another glimpse into the Faith & Doubt Issue of our magazine, which you can order here. What resources would you add? Leave them in the comments below.  Usually the last thing any of us need when we’re in the midst of a genuine crisis of faith is a recommended book or sermon. However laudable the […]

A Football Filled with Goat's Blood (and Other Things Men Can Do For Women)

A Football Filled with Goat's Blood (and Other Things Men Can Do For Women)

Arunachalam Muruganantham is a personal hero of mine. Like most men, Muruganantham had no idea how menstruation even worked before he married his wife. As people with little means in India, he began to realize the incredible challenge that women like his wife faced when their periods came. There are profound health hazards that come along […]

The Flabbiness of Grace; or, How I Found the Gospel at a Pure Barre Class

The Flabbiness of Grace; or, How I Found the Gospel at a Pure Barre Class

This contribution really raises the barre. By Kate Campbell: On a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon I ventured out of the warmth and safety of my home and headed out with two friends to a new destination. Upon arrival, we were greeted by name-tagged women with perfectly made-up hair and faces, who swiftly presented us with […]

The Art of Subtlety in Faith (and Doubt): Our Interview with Meghan O'Gieblyn

The Art of Subtlety in Faith (and Doubt): Our Interview with Meghan O'Gieblyn

Our first peek into the Faith & Doubt Issue is this interview with Meghan O’Gieblyn, author of the new book of essays, Interior States. We also were lucky enough to republish parts of her essay, originally published in The Point, “The Insane Idea.” Copies of Faith & Doubt can be gotten here, and here.  If […]

Liturgical Folk, vol. 4: LENT (Out Now!)

Liturgical Folk, vol. 4: LENT (Out Now!)

Liturgical Folk’s new album, Lent, is out today, and it’s beautiful. Quiet, contemplative, comforting, these songs are devotional works of art. The album offers ten songs and hymns for the upcoming season, from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. Based on collects from the Book of Common Prayer, these songs are extended prayers, with all the […]

PZ's Podcast: Tip for a Happy Marriage & Surprise, Surprise

PZ's Podcast: Tip for a Happy Marriage & Surprise, Surprise

EPISODE 264: Tip for a Happy Marriage Justin Hayward is a sort of archivist for romantic relationships. He is 72 and still going strong. Two ‘Live’ performances book-end this cast, which is intended as fresh therapy towards a happy marriage. Appeals to grace, forgiveness, and empathy in relating to this impossibly different person with whom […]

Looking East

Looking East

Through accidents of First Worldness, I have come to spend much of my life in airports and on airplanes. I live in a city so small that its airport has flights to only one city—Philadelphia—and where there is active opposition to the idea of lengthening the runway so that we might be able to travel […]

The Helplessness of the God of Christmas

When I read this way back in September, I just knew I needed to come back to it for Christmas. This is from W.H. Vanstone’s Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense, a short reflection by the late English theologian-priest on the nature of God’s love. You can’t talk about God’s love becoming knowable without talking about Christmas, which is why Vanstone tells this simple story. What becomes clear though, is how this depiction of God’s love—which looks discomfortingly like helplessness—is evacuated from our usual understandings of Christmas. In the story, Vanstone is closing up the church in preparation for services the following day, and there meets a disruption to his pretty Christmas picture.

The Word of God discloses to us at Christmas the helplessness of love at the hands of its own creatures—the fact that it is in their hands, vulnerable to their hands, dependent upon their hands for its own triumphant or tragic issue. But the disclosure is made graciously, in the form and presence of a Child. The helplessness of a child is a manageable helplessness, about which we know what we may do, by which our heart and our will are touched. It is not a harrowing helplessness, before which one who saw it might stand appalled. The same truth, the tragic possibility of the love of God, might have been exposed to us in harrowing and appalling form.

On a certain night, shortly before Christmas, I stood in the beautiful church which, in due time, rose beside the commonplace building where, at the first, the people of a new community had worshipped. The Church was ready for Christmas; and the quiet light of candles enhanced its tranquility and beauty. It was very late: but the beauty of Christmas and of its symbols seemed peculiarly intense that night; and I was glad to receive it while I might. I was disturbed by a noise behind me—a dull thud: and I saw, against the glass door, a face pressed, and grotesquely distorted by the pressure. A man was half slumped, half kneeling against the door. He was drunk; and when we talked and he gradually became more sober, it was clear that, though he was quite young, he was already an alcoholic. His experience of life was nothing but the experience of conflict and squalor: and at Christmas he expected nothing different. When at last I retired to sleep my mind must have dwelt on the tragic and distorted face which had, so to speak, invaded the beauty of Christmas. For I dreamed: and in my dream a rubbish-collector came to me and told me that he had been clearing up after a riot; and I myself saw a huge pile of stones and cans and waste paper and scrap metal which he had collected. Then the man touched my arm and said, ‘But what am I to do? For deep within the pile, buried at the bottom of it, I have seen a living face.’ Though my own eyes did not see a face, I knew in my dream that it must be the face of God.

A few hours later, when I preached in Church, I was compelled to speak of my dream. For it seemed to suggest a different way in which the truth of Christmas might have been disclosed—a harrowing and appalling way. It made one newly sensitive to, and grateful for, the graciousness of the way in which the truth of Christmas is in fact disclosed to us. But, in substance, it was the same truth. It was the truth of a God Who, in love, is totally expended for the being of His creation—so that He is helpless under its weight and barely survives for its everlasting support; so that, in the tragedies of creation, in its waste and rubbish, God Himself is exposed to tragedy: so that the creation is sustained at the cost of the agony of the One Who is buried and almost wholly submerged within the depths of it.

Why You Should Spend Whatever You Like Buying Friends and Loved Ones Gifts They Don’t Expect (and Don’t Deserve)

Why You Should Spend Whatever You Like Buying Friends and Loved Ones Gifts They Don’t Expect (and Don’t Deserve)

This one comes to us from our friend Jason Micheli. I’ve grown wary of the Christmas “tradition” of bemoaning the commercialization of Christmas in our culture.  Too often, we begin Advent not with Isaiah’s laments or John the Baptist’s words of judgment but our own words of lament and judgment, criticizing others for being so […]

Prepare Him Room

Prepare Him Room

This Advent reflection comes to us from Grace Leuenberger. “Into this world, this demented inn in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited.” ― Thomas Merton “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She […]