The Fourth Day


Genesis and Job in Orthodox Tradition: A Bible Study

Please join us for our community Bible Study in the 2022-2023 school year on “Genesis and Job in Orthodox Christian Church Tradition,” on 2:30 each Sunday at the Bucknell Barnes & Noble Cafe, 4th and Market Streets in downtown Lewisburg, PA. All are welcome! A video archive of summaries of our discussions follows below. Our motto is from St. John Chrysostom in the 4th century: “This is the cause of all evils: the ignorance of the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, and how ought we to come off safe?” Our prayer is to live in our lives what we learn from Holy Scripture under the guidance of the Church Fathers. May the Lord give us unworthily good strength and wisdom in this effort! Glory to God!

The King James Version of the Bible (1611) is the classic English version but Orthodox Christians rely for their study primarily on the Apostolic version of the Old Textament, the Greek Septuagint.

Videos of the series below are posted in sequence, starting with an introduction to the study of Genesis in Orthodox tradition and chronography, and then our first conversation on Genesis 1 and beyond. Your video guide, drawing on conversations with the ensemble of our in-person Bible Study participants, Deacon Paul Siewers, Ph.D., unworthily strives to use for his own guide Orthodox Church Tradition including commentaries of the Fathers of the Church. He teaches the Bible as Literature course at Bucknell University, where he is on the Literary Studies faculty with a specialty in early literature and patristic connections. An ordained Deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, he holds a Diploma in Pastoral Theology from St. John of Kronstadt Orthodox Pastoral School, as well as an M.A. in Early British Studies (history, language, and literature) from the University of Wales, a Ph.D. in medieval English literature from the University of Illinois, an MSJ from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, and a BA in History from Brown; he also was Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life at Princeton’s James Madison Program, 2018-2019. But Church Tradition and biblical commentary by those holy people experienced in the noetic life of the Church, not educational certification, are the gold standard for Bible study, which should be approached with prayer and struggle to practice the unfolding of God-given truth there. Prayers for beginning the study of Scripture can be found here.

Bible Study Series Intro

Bible Study resources page

Bible Study Genesis 1. Fyi, for current-day STEM critiques of Darwinism, see
Bible Study Genesis 2
Genesis 3-4
Genesis 5
Genesis 6-8
Genesis 9-11
Genesis 11-15
Genesis 16-18
Genesis 19-22

Genesis 23-26

A note on Translations: Genesis 26:32 in the Septuagint Greek text of the Orthodox Church notes that Isaac’s servants did “not” find water in digging the Well of the Oath (Beersheba). The Hebrew Masoretic text states that they “did” find water. However, the Orthodox Study Bible follows the Hebrew without noting the difference. St. Ambrose of Milan, an early Church writer, cited the Septuagint version in commentary indicating the spiritual meaning of the account of the wells in Genesis 26, referencing their names of Injustice, Enmity, Room Enough, and Oath. It perhaps could be taken as prophetic that the well marking the reconciliation of Abimelech of the Phllistines with Isaac would be dry, in light of future relations in the Old Testament between Isaac’s descendants and the Phillistines. The reference to oath for a dry well also could symbolize the ultimate inadequacy of human oaths and alliances, and the need for faith in God. The Fathers indicated also the relation of the role of wells in this section of Genesis symbolically to baptism, including the well at which God arranged the meeting between Abraham’s eldest servant with Rebekah to arrange the marriage of her with Isaac with her consent. The wells helped mark historically and symbolically the pilgrimage and sojourning of Abraham’s family and of his seed as leading to the establishment of the land in which our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ would be born, in the Incarnation of God as man.

Genesis 27-30

Genesis 31-34.

Translation note: In the Septuagint Greek Old Testament used by the Orthodox Church, God tells Laban in a dream vision not to speak evil to the Righteous Patriarch Jacob, whereas in the Masoretic Hebrew text used by most English translations the message is not to speak good or evil. The Septuagint text provides clarity for the account.
Genesis 35-39
Genesis 45-50

Introduction to the Book of the Holy Prophet Job:

Job 1-2. Translation note: Our discussion initially makes note of a few significant differences of the Septuagint account, including the historical record of Job at the end of the book alongside the resurrectional hope, and also the fuller account of the dialogue of Job and his wife, while also noting how the Septuagint Greek text somewhat shorter as a whole than later extant Hebrew versions.
Job 3-4. Translation note: In the Greek Septuagint, one English translation in Job 3:14 refers to kings and counselors who glory in their swords. St. Gregory the Dialogist, following a Latin translation based more on the Hebrew Masoretic text, comments on this phrase as being about kings and counselors in desolate places. St. Gregory analyzes that as referring to holy people seeking solitude for ascetic struggle and communion with God’s grace, His divine energies. However, St. Gregory’s point also can be related to the Greek text, for kings and counselors as figures of holy people wield what the Apostle Paul called the “sword of the Spirit,” and thus their situation in that sense is also to be desired.
Job 5-6
Job 7-8
Job 9-10. Around 6:50-8:20 you can see our cat Callie on camera in the lower left. Cats traditionally have been welcome in Orthodox monasteries and even in Churches for their ability to catch rodents. This goes back centuries to early Christian Ireland, where a poem by a monk survives about the cat Pangur Ban.
Job 11-12
Job 13-14
Job 15-16
Job 17-18
Job 19-20
Job 21-22

“Hid with Christ in God”: Looking Ahead to the Nativity on Appalachian”Old Christmas”

Homily for the Sunday of the Holy Fathers, the Sunday before Nativity, at St. John Russian Orthodox Mission Church in Lewisburg PA, 12/20 7531 [Jan. 1 2022 on the civil calendar]

Beloved to Christ,

The verses with the Beatitudes today referred to the Wise Thief who recognized the hidden God being crucified next to him.

Today as we look toward the coming birth of our Lord and Savior and God Jesus Christ, to Christmas this coming week, it is the birth of the hidden God, hidden in plain sight, the Divine Word become flesh in the cave at Bethlehem, the Creator Whose handiwork we are and Who governs and sustains us, in Whom we live and move and have our being as the Apostle Paul put it. We dwell in Church today hid with Christ in God and in the branches of His family tree.

We gather on this Sunday of the Holy Fathers to commemorate together the ancestors of Christ with the righteous in the Old Testament Church who rightly can be called the friends of God.

This memory is in the mind of the Church, which is the Body of Christ, of which He is our Head.

It is a reminder of how we find our true family in the Church, the Body of Christ, in the quietness of the heart. This quietness lies both our spiritual ancestry that we remember today in the cloud of witnesses with whom we seek a renewed year, not amid a crowd on New Year’s.

We dwell not only among the ancestral pictures of the Holy Saints of every age as iconography, but also with them as intercessors among our family praying for us, with whom we worship our Lord Jesus Christ.

Just so we ask His Holy Mother, Our Lady the Most Holy Theotokos, to intercede with Him for us. We ask her as the greatest of saints and our Mother in the Church, She who is identified with the Church.

We do this apart from materialistic crowds but hidden in plain sight, tending the seeds that our Lord has planted in us and in our local region here.

This afternoon our humble community Bible Study will mark the new civil year discussing the book of the Holy Prophet Job the Patient, one of the Holy Fathers commemorated today. We will do so amid all the consumer commerce of the secular holiday in a corporate supermarket, in a small room dedicated to civic purposes there.

Yet the room is named St. Mary’s Room after old St. Mary’s Road by the shopping center, a name that symbolizes in Protestant terms the Holy Mother.

As we pursue our community Bible there, we gather with our icon and our incense in the almost hidden St. Mary Room to study a text that goes back thousands of years, to Job the grandson of Esau, thus great great grandson of Abraham the friend of God.

We learn about it through the three volumes written on the Book of Job by St. Gregory the Dialogist about 1,500 years ago, written from Rome in Latin, inspired by the Holy Spirit flowing through the apostolic succession of our Church that breathes on the waters of our baptism still today and comes down in the Eucharist upon the Body of Christ of which we will partake physically soon at Nativity, God willing.

It was the same St. Gregory who sent missionaries to our forebears in Anglo-Saxon England from Rome before the Schism. Indeed, the royal St. Alfred the Great of early England would write an introduction to one of St. Gregory’s writings.

Now as we gather in central Pennsylvania, we look toward Old Christmas next weekend, the date that our own forebears here in northern Appalachia celebrated Christmas into modern times, Dec. 25 on the Julian calendar, Jan. 7 on the current civil calendar. It reminds us of the hidden nature of God’s liturgical time. We celebrate the coming of 2023 on the civil calendar, yet we also live in the year 7531 on the biblical calendar developed by Byzantine Orthodox Christians, once used in Russia and still used on Mount Athos. We celebrate the civil new year, yet our Church new year is Sept. 1. We mark the liturgical timelessness of God’s beyond-time given to us by grace in the Church, the Body of Christ. As the Anglican writer C.S. Lewis, an admirer of Orthodoxy, put it, we walk every day among immortals although we know it not, among each of our brothers and sisters here today, in time yet beyond time, hid with Christ in God.

We hold our Deacon Liturgy here partly hidden from the world, in a rented space downtown from a back-alley entrance.

Indeed, we are hid with Christ in God, with His Holy Fathers.

Brothers and sisters, we celebrate our Lord’s birth away from the hurly burly of the commercial consumer calendar this coming weekend on Old Christmas, partly hidden. Yet we are part of the leaven at work in our Lord’s Church and in the world at large as we commemorate the Sunday of the Holy Fathers. One of them, the Prophet Job, is as mentioned known as the patient and long-suffering, awaiting the

This past week we received new-year encouragement for our building and outreach projects from our Metropolitan Nicholas, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. His Grace in Apostolic succession through the grace of the Holy Spirit stands in a line back through the Russian Church to the Byzantine Church to the Church of the Holy Land and of the Apostles and of Pentecost and of the Old Testament Church– all the way back to the friends of God whom we commemorate among the Holy Fathers of Jesus Christ. His Grace Metropolitan Nicholas encouraged us to build our temple according to plan as soon as possible this year, and blessed continuing our outreach work in the Bible Study. Although our efforts may seem partly hidden, the gates of hell cannot prevail against our Lord’s Church. The signs of the times are around us of cultural and social decline and apostasy even from the heterodoxy of the Western religions. But thank God we are here. Orthodox Christianity is here in Union County and at the Susquehanna Confluence. In 2023 we will see God willing our new temple arise and open, and new changes in our mission with it, as we come forth more than ever locally into view. There will be spiritual challenges with this too.

In the readings from Job for our Bible Study this afternoon there is a verse that speaks of Job’s wish to join those who reposed in desolation. Often superficial modern readers merely take this as an expression of despair. But St. Gregory corrects this. He relates the reference, in the context of Job’s righteousness, proclaimed by God, as being to the state of desolation of holy men, the holy Fathers. In their solitude they do not fall into lives of self-assertion that paradoxically keep us always living in a crowd like the Legion of Demons while also in lonely despair. Those living in the mass of people, in the consumerism and worldly cares of the world’s Dec. 25 and New Year’s, think they do so individually. But they fall into a million different realities of manipulation and power plays reflected in deceptive illusions of the fallen selves of one another, on cyberspace and in delusion.

Those who live hidden spiritual lives, however unworthily, are in solitude lifted in prayer to real communion with God and with one another in His Holy Church, in patience like Job, for as our Lord Jesus Christ put it, “in patience posess ye your souls.”

We seek quietude at this time of worldly holidays not in a virtual mob nor a New Year’s crowd apart from Church.

During crowded rush-hour traffic a few days ago I was in a crash as many of you know.

A truck driver had a diabetic seizure and rammed my car. It could have been fatal. But God’s hand was with us as we both separately spun across lanes amid heavy traffic. Getting out of our vehicles and later meeting, it turned out that driver and I, who had never met, recognized each other as Russian Orthodox Christians. We thanked God together. Of the mass of drivers on the road that evening in Harrisburg, we two, one in health distress, came together in shared quiet of our faith.

Brothers and sisters, in patience and long-suffering dedication like Job, watch this space this year as unworthily with God’s grace we God willing bloom forth and proclaim the hidden God more than ever from the solitude God gives to us in the quiet of His Church. Amid our family with our Lord’s Holy Fathers, from the loving Church family of our brothers and sisters, beyond the crowded loneliness of this world, may the Lord strengthen us in offering love to others.

Truly, we are hid with Christ in God. It is marvelous in His eyes.

Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Amen.


Bible Study on the Holy Prophet Job in Orthodox Christian Tradition

Join us for a weekly Bible Study on the Holy Prophet Job, Sundays at 2:30 p.m. in the Bucknell Barnes & Noble Cafe, at Market and 4th Streets in downtown Lewisburg PA, beginning Dec. 18, 2022– December 5, 7531 on the Orthodox Church calendar. All are welcome and no homework is needed. We will follow St. Gregory the Dialogist’s classic sixth-century commentary.

The Holy Prophet Job, grandson of Esau and King of Edom, living near Arabia, a Gentle who exemplified virtue in the time of the Old Testament Patriarchs, spoke in his patient long-surffering words that are with us at every Orthodox Divine Literature: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” His Feast Day on May 6 was the birth day of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II who came to reflect the Prophet’s patient long-suffering as well.

Below is a homily introducing the Prophet and his writing.


The Bright Example of the Much-Contested Job

A Homily by Elder Ephraim of Arizona

Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Today our Orthodox Church celebrates the holy and much-contested Job, the righteous Job. Why? Because he contested much, he was in many contests. He received many crowns, he brought many victories. Where? In the sea of life. And we see in his biography, that this Saint, in the time he lived, in those years when there was no Orthodox Church, Christ had not come down, God the Word had not incarnated, the world did not see the life of Christ, no one saw God in the flesh, they did not see His miracles, they saw nothing. And yet, with a simple faith in the Creator, in the Maker, he became the Great Atlas of God. With a simple faith, seeing the creation, the operation of creation, he saw the upper world, the stars, the seasons and everything he saw working perfectly, from time immemorial, without anything created going astray from its creation, not in the slightest. How is it possible, he said, for material things to be made with such science and to function with such scientific precision without a Creator? Reason, conscience, made him submit to unwavering faith. With this awareness, of faith in the Creator, he became a great believer. Establishing his faith on these things and hitting rock bottom, he was confronted by the great Dragon, the deceitful Devil.

Job was, as God Himself confesses, blameless, righteous, God-fearing, the best man on earth. He had seven boys and three girls, ten children in total.

God allowed the Devil to taunt him, without disturbing his mind. And the hard trials began, the great temptations. His children were killed, he lost all his possessions, he was deprived of his health for many years, and he glorified God.

There was nothing left for Job. No friends, no wife, no children, no property, no health, nothing. He was left with only his mind, which had not been disturbed, and faith in God. He was a man. And our Christ, when He lifted the Cross, fell on His knees as He ascended Golgotha. And when He was crucified and was at the peak of pain and suffering, to show that man comes to moments of falling to his knees, He said: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Not that He had been abandoned, but simply, from a human point of view and because He wanted, by His example, with His life as a model for us, to show that man has a measure of endurance, patience and knowledge. A finite mind, a finite effort and endurance. And just as Job was in a difficult moment, being psychologically crushed, he thought and said: “May the day perish on which I was born, and the night in which it was said, ‘A male child is conceived.’ May that day be darkness; may God above not seek it, nor the light shine upon it.”

As soon as God saw that he was about to fall on his knees, He came and held him up and said to him: “Wait, do you know why I have tested you? Do you know why I allowed all this to happen to you? To make you a saint. To show you as a great example of patience for all generations. And from your example and suffering to benefit the later generations of people to remain steadfast in the trials of life.” And then He begins to give him a paternal and scientific rebuke and asks him: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? … Who can number the clouds by wisdom?” Where this and who that.

Job answers and says: “At first I heard with my own ears that You are merciful, You are this and You are that, but now I have seen You with my own eyes, I felt You in my heart and I saw that I was worthless, that is, I insulted myself internally and I said: I am nothing but earth and ashes. I am nothing but dust and ashes that is trampled. That’s who I am. I am nothing important.” And after this God blessed Job and his faith and humility, he automatically cleansed him of his sickness and gave him more good things than before.

I admire the difference of choice, the mental endurance, but also the diametrically different difference of faith of the much-contested Job with our current endurance and I take from my personal point of view how much difference we have. Because we saw from the facts that Job had a simple faith in God, with what he saw only in nature, with its operation. And we, on the other hand, have so many, innumerable aids, unshakable, indisputable, divine, holy, personal from life and so much more, and yet we have a tremendous difference in dealing with the sorrows, temptations and trials we endure.

We have the awesome example of Christ as a model. We have the holy Martyrs, the holy Apostles, the Ascetics. We have the aids of the Orthodox Church. We have the Holy Mysteries and this Mystery that is performed in every Divine Liturgy, which we receive by spiritual transfusion of the Body and Blood of our Christ through the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ and become one with Christ.

Nevertheless, while we have all this inconceivable help that is too numerous to count, we find ourselves before Job like insects in front of an elephant. This is our difference. He endured so many tortures and we, when a little pain comes, either from a tooth, or from another body part, or a sadness from family troubles or whatever, and we see ourselves, and I am the first of all, we fall on our knees in despair, in loss of hope, and say: “Now, I’m lost.” This is while we have so many terrific examples to establish our own faith, to face the test, to achieve even a minimal victory.

May the whole life of the much-contested Job become a shining example in our lives to face any sorrow, that comes from any side, with patience and faith. “May it be done unto you as you believe.” As we believe, so it is done to us by God. When we believe that we can, by the grace of God, overcome A or B grief and sorrow and situation, we will be able to do it. We will not be able to do it if we do not believe it.

Today people come and say, “We can’t raise so many children.” And we see, in the past, our grandparents with so many children and in so much poverty, and they overcame and fed all their children. Now we say we cannot. Because we calculate things based on our strengths. Because we do not have living faith. But in the man who believes, the power of God comes and faith is strengthened and God saves them.

Here, with natural care, the birds and all the animals are saved by God and are not deprived. We humans, by our reason, base things on our reasoning and not by faith, and we end up wrong and therefore insist we cannot do it. However, even today we have bright and remarkable examples, with large families and yet they are poor people.

But, you will tell me, all the children helped out, were fed less, and not all became scientists.

Well, of course, they cannot become scientists, they will become craftsmen, they will become something different, but all the children will live. But we have made life in such a way that we cannot be natural, because when we want all the children to study or to give them everything they want, of course the wallet is not enough, and therefore we are deprived and therefore we are violators of God’s command “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth”, and all that.

Well, may the shining example and the intercessions of our much-contested Job, who is celebrated today, help us, so that his contests, his crowns, his medals, give us more strength and endurance, trying, even from afar, to follow him and reach the final goal which is the rest of the ages unto the ages, the Jerusalem Above.


Carrying the Cross and Giving an Onion

From a talk given at the “Faith at Work” event for students at Bucknell University, sponsored by the Bucknell Faculty Staff Christian Association together with the Bucknell Orthodox Christian Fellowship among others, on Nov. 13 7531 (Nov. 26 2022 on the civil calendar).

My life in academia has been bound up with my life as an Orthodox Christian.

It started when I alternated between reading The Lord of the Rings and the Bible under the covers as a junior-high nerd while praying in secret as my sister suffered from an ultimately fatal illness. I had grown up in a basically agnostic household, nominally Unitarian and unfamiliar with the Bible, and in high-school would convert to the Christian Science of my mother’s family, where the model of The Christian Science Monitor led me into journalism after studying history at Brown. As urban affairs writer at the Chicago Sun-Times I became focused on writing about regional landscape and spirituality. When I returned to graduate school it was to study early Celtic literary landscape and Christianity. My master’s thesis in Wales was on the early Christian traditions of the landscape of Glastonbury in the West Country.

By the time I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation on early Christian literary landscapes, I had been baptized into the Orthodox Church, convicted by the beauty of a faith in which, as Dostoevsky put it, beauty will save the world, ultimately the otherworldly mysterious beauty of Christ. Of six books I have authored or co-edited to date, the first was entitled Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages and my contribution was an essay on “Tolkien’s Cosmic-Christian Ecology.” My next was a book called Strange Beauty, which dealt with the overlay landscapes of early medieval Britain and Ireland in relation to the Christian doctrine of theosis. I edited a book collection called Re-Imagining Nature, for which I wrote two essays relating Orthodox Christian theology and cosmology to the developing field of ecosemiotics, looking at Creation as living mysterious symbolism of God. Subsequently I co-edited a book on the centennial of the Russian Revolution, related to my Russian-American family’s faith. I also have co-edited two books for Orthodox seminary presses in America on the poetics of Christian marriage and gender expression. Such poetics are little understood in our culture. Christ is considered the Bridegroom and the Church representing humanity is considered the Bride. The husband is considered the head of the family but charged with laying down his life for his family like Christ. This is a cosmological iconography of self-emptying rather than self-assertion.

Just as Marxist professors study Marxism, feminist professors study feminism, and Critical Race Theorists study Critical Race Theory, I am a Christian unworthily who studies and teaches Christian literature in light of the theology and philosophy and cosmology of formative thinkers of Christianity dating back to the first millennium. I also am ordained in the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, an autonomous Church formed by refugees from the Red Terror in Russia. I help lead worship weekly at St. John’s Orthodox Church in downtown Lewisburg and on campus. My courses have titles such as the Bible as Literature, offered next semester; there are still seats available! My current research involves writing the history of the novel as a Christian art form.

Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is an outstanding example of the Christian tradition of the novel as a teaching machine for personal transformation in Christ. In it the character Gruschenka, a woman of bad reputation but a loving heart, tells the fable of the onion. A miserly spiteful old woman died, and her angel tries to find a reason why she can be saved and not be in hell. She once gave an onion to a poor person. In the fable, the onion is handed to her in hell to see if it will be enough to pull her out. Others see the angel pulling her out of hell on that onion. They grab onto her feet. She kicks them away telling them it is her onion. The onion breaks and she falls into hell. All my life, says Grushenka repentantly for her sins, I have just given one little onion. That was when she reached out with heartfelt feeling to the protagonist Alyosha who was grieving over the death of his monastic elder, and the pure-hearted Alyosha responded to her with love, surprised to find the care emerge from behind her hardened persona. She in turn responded with heartfelt tears. Later Alyosha has a dream-vision of his dead monastic elder celebrating at the biblical wedding at Cana. I am here, the elder says, because I gave a little onion. You did too, he tells Alyosha, when you reached out to that spiritually hungry woman. Now, he says, start on your work.

So we work. Maybe we will give an onion, we hope, and I pray unworthily. But it’s not always easy even just to give an onion for myself the sinner as a Christian academic in the humanities today. I probably would not be hired and receive tenure today as a literature professor because of my faith. Atheistic models predominate, the poetics of Christianity are cancelled. The irony is that Christian traditions in the US now are much more reflective of global multicultural backgrounds than when Bucknell was a Baptist school. But today perhaps only 5 percent of Bucknell students and faculty are practicing traditional Christians of any kind, in terms of daily prayer and Scripture reading, regular worship, and a worldview that is primarily Christian rather than consumerist or careerist. There is little recognition of Christian backgrounds here as adding to diversity at a time in the world when Christians are the largest number of victims of physical violence in religious persecution worldwide.

My own religious tradition saw millions killed in the past century by bigoted secularists. Not long ago a friend who is an elderly Russian Orthodox priest in the US received a brain injury in a hate attack. Not long ago three full professors at Bucknell supported the malicious public labeling of me as Lewisburg’s Rasputin, a stereotyped villain associated with Russian Orthodox Christianity, deserving to be killed. One previously had said that practicing Christians on campus should not be employed at our campus but should be ostracized personally and professionally. His remains a leading faculty voice, helping recently to engineer a propaganda attack on a Catholic staffer who had written an article outlining traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality in a campus newsletter for Catholic students. This effort to silence her occurred at the same time that the U.S. Congress moved toward repealing the Defense of Marriage Act while rejecting a measure to protect religious freedoms.

As Christians we must look to the Cross each day in our work. We know unworthily that we must suffer and forgive our enemies, even as we sometimes need to call them out to prevent vulnerable people from being harmed by hate, because that too is loving our neighbors. I have witnessed an African Bucknell student withdraw because he felt his Ethiopian Orthodox faith not welcome here, as did a conservative Catholic American student. The problem cuts across cultures. On a global scale, 100 million dead around the world is the toll in the past century of rule by radical atheists. Yet in solidarity we as Orthodox Christians still can say, “Glory to God for all things.” Carrying the Cross every day is our daily work, along with giving an onion whenever we can.


Greenways to humility

The Bucknell Greenway as a Living and Learning Laboratory in the Susquehanna Greenway

(presentation at the Susquehanna River Symposium at Bucknell today)

JRR Tolkien wrote

The road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say….
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with wear feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Tolkien’s verse evokes for me the spirit of the greenway as a movement and a term of art in the twenty-first century. A greenway is a corridor of ecological, historical, recreational, and educational renewal. It highlights the relation of the many ways of the earth beyond our ken, our limits, and human community as in the lighted inn in Tolkien’s poetry. It is embedded as poetry in a grim fantasy history of a struggle with evil whose symbol is often interpreted as a nexus of technological power and oppression of nature and human beings appropriate for his era in the mid-20th century, and even more perhaps today. A medieval English poet referred to the greenway to Paradise,  and it reminds us that like Abraham and Sarah we are pilgrims or sojourners on the earth, and as Native cultures teach us as such we should be humble and light in our footprints.

That a greenway should foster renewal in ecology, history, recreation, and education, rather than only or mainly using the term restoration, involves careful diction. Renewal or rebirth is distinct from what we call restoration, which can be a fundamentally reactionary term. There was a restoration in England of the Monarchy in the 1600s, but we can never restore mechanically the original ecosystems and cultures of a region. That was understood as party of the tragedy of human life rather than the sense of unlimited progress that science instituted as central to the global West and what author Paul Kingsnorth calls the age of the Machine. However, we can seek to renew our ecology and cultural life. The philosopher of mind Evan Thompson has noted the etymological relation of the term ecopoiesis both to engineering an ecological restoration and writing poetry or a novel. Ecopoiesis literally from Greek rootes means shaping the hope. That is done through ecopoetics and also through ecopoiesis as an engineering term for moving and shaping the earth in a restorative or renewing way, as in the ecological restoration work nearby at the Montandon marsh. Ecological restoration in this sense is renewal.

I’m here to talk about a new project that has been years in the making, the Bucknell Greenway, which is envisioned to connect with the Susquehanna Greenway, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Historic Water Trail, and thus with a network of greenways throughout the country and globally. But a greenway potentially is also a fractal of larger Creation, in the sense of being personal as well as connective.

Experience of that fractal nature of greenways started for me growing up in a working-class neighborhood in the city of Chicago, near a place called Indian Boundary Park, and near the place where my grandfather had grown up on a farm in what became the city. My grandfather’s farm was along the edge of Rosehill Cemetery and by a parkway designed as a road across a marsh to the cemetery gates with little sculpted markers. That road, Rosehill Drive, was the scene of Memorial Day parades when I was a child, in which I imagined ancient veterans marching along to bands as Civil War veterans, although that would have been impossible; looking back I think they were a handful of Spanish-American War veterans, which seems enough of a time-travel dimension along Rosehill Drive.

But I knew from my grandfather that that road to the cemetery and the marshland where his farm was nearby also had been a dwelling place of Indians, and later learned more about this from my first Indian mentor Jerry Lewis, a Citizens Potawatomi elder and community college educator, and from Helen Tanner, director of the Darcy McNickle Center at the Newberry Library in Chicago. The road to Rosehill, and the travel down to the neighborhood of my grandfather’s old farm, had become a kind of greenway to me through history and into the natural world still found in old oak groves in the cemetery amid what was then the second largest city in the U.S. This lit my way to becoming first an American history major at Brown, where I had the at-the-time unrecognized privilege of studying unworthily with authors of two of the volumes in the Oxford History of America, Gordon Wood and James Patterson, as well as with the Southern regionalist author Flannery O’Connor’s writer friend John Hawkes, and then on to being a journalist. As urban affairs writer at the Chicago Sun-Times, I spent much time writing about the emerging greenway movement in the Chicago area, and its interrelation to the burgeoning ecological restoration movement in prairie savannah in the region. I continued that interest on in graduate school to working as a writer for Openlands, a conservation group in Chicago, and the Illinois Nature Conservancy, and became involved as a writer with the nation’s first heritage corridor, the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. When I came to Bucknell I was involved with colleagues and students in the designation by the National Park Service of the portion of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River adjoining our campus as part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Historic Water Trail. This was done especially through the leadership of Sid Jamieson, a new friend and mentor, an elder of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Involved in that project were the origins of the Environmental Humanities Working Group and Initiative at Bucknell, the Stories of the Susquehanna Valley project, and what is now the Place Studies Program of the Bucknell Center for Sustainability and the Environment (formerly the Environmental Humanities Initiative).

Partly emerging from such past collaborative efforts involving many colleagues and students, Bucknell has designated through the President’s Sustainability Council a four-mile loop of pathway for bicyclists, hikers, walkers, strollers, runners, and those seeking solace in the outdoors and natural world. This is also envisioned to include micro-restoration of bio-habitats, native tree and shrub plantings, public art, public storytelling and historical work, some of which hopefully will be featured online through QR codes and apps. We are in discussions with biologists, historians, public storytellers, psychologists, and most importantly students for this work. We hope that students will help link the greenway to the river and to the downtown and county rail trail, and thus to the regional and national greenways already mentioned. We have students already working on public monuments for the greenway, such as a Native American sculpture, led by the Sid Jamieson Research Fellow Quintina Smith, a student, together with a Bucknell working group of Native Americans, and also the Bucknell in the Civil War and Underground Railroad student working group working, which will help develop an artwork showing the links of Bucknell to the Underground Railroad and the Battle of Gettsyburg. The Susquehanna River is also an historical greenway of the Civil War linking us and Gettysburg, from the Lewisburg Cemetery where the young Bucknell graduate Andrew Tucker is buried (after being fatally wounded fighting for the Union at that battle) and the campus where Charles Bell lived, an escaped slave who traversed the Underground Railroad, down to Gettysburg and beyond. The campus Greenway also passes along the Miller Run watershed and hopefully will help open up the university’s riverfront in the long term.

In Chicago, visionaries such as Jens Jensen, Jane Addams, and Frank Lloyd Wright, and early ecological scientists helped encourage development of a belt of greenways that became the Chicago parkland lakefront, the boulevard system, the Indiana Dunes parkland, and the ring of forest preserves in Chicago’s suburbs, where much ecological restoration has occurred. In the new era of greenways those early 20th-century developments are reborn.

At Bucknell we have a significant legacy of visionary landscape in our campus’ green settings as well as its environs, including the
Lewisburg Cemetery that emerged from the American Arcadian landscape movement of the 19th century, and the boulevard-like drive from the Civil War monument at St. George down past the President’s house and around past the Grove into the heart of campus today. We hope this new greenway project will renew on ecological, historical, educational, and recreational levels that legacy of our beautiful campus. We also hope that it will help renew the liberal arts in our era, by enriching the definition of residential learning at a liberal arts university. The old meaning of the liberal arts back into Byzantine times involved what has been called the Hellenic-Christian synthesis, a synthesis of reason and spirituality. The trivium and quadrivium involved connecting man with the cosmos through signs and symbols, and hopefully the Greenway can help renew that project in an era when the liberal arts seem increasingly in need of renewal, sadly.

The Bucknell Greenway is a community effort that in our divided country and society, whose divisions even enter into our area and campus, hopefully can bring people together. The renewal or rebirth inherent in a greenway project helps overcome binaries, including that of nature and the human mind, and also renews mental and ecological health. I encourage you to come join us in this project of the Ecological Conservation and Restoration Working Group of the President’s Sustainability Council. Please contact me at with your ideas and for ideas on how you can be involved.


Feast of the Transfiguration with St. John the Wonderworker

In Genesis, we are told man was made according to the image of God, and that means in Jesus Christ, through Whom we realize our true personhood as human beings. The Feast of Transfiguration reminds us of this, and at this time when traditionally the first fruits of harvest are blessed, we remember also the fruits we are capable of bearing through Christ. Today I’d like to share a homily from our mission’s patron saint, the modern American saint St. John of Shanhai and San Francisco, who speaks to this feast.


When He created the world, God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Gen. 1:26). God’s image manifests in man’s mental capabilities, in his authority over nature, his power, and his ability to create. God’s likeness in man consists in his moral perfection, his spiritual strivings, and in his possibility of attaining sanctity. God’s image and likeness, in which our fore-parents were created, was fully reflected in them before the fall. Sin disrupted both the former and the latter, although it did not entirely deprive man of them. Man retained his mind and the other qualities that gave him God’s image, but he needs to apply greater effort to develop them, yet he achieves only a small measure of what his fore-parents had received in full.

The yearning to be the likeness of God has remained in man to a certain degree, although it sometimes wanes beyond all recognition. In order to return to man his original closeness to God, the Son of God descended to earth and became incarnate. He put on human nature and became like man in every aspect except for that of sin. He came to recreate our first created beauty in the image of God. But if in the beginning, God created man in His image and likeness, then in order to recreate the first image, man’s own participation is also needed. Man must strive for perfection in order to attain it through the grace and help of God. The Lord showed the way to perfection through His teachings and by His own example. This is the path of moral perfection, self denial, and readiness to free oneself of everything sinful.

Sin entered deeply into human nature, mingling with it, as it were. Every person is born with the seed of sin, and the struggle to be free of it is a struggle with his own self. That is why this struggle is so agonizing, but it is necessary in order to come closer to God. If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Mt. 16:24). The cross that we must take up is that very struggle with our own weaknesses, vices, and sin. Gradually freeing ourselves from them, the man comes closer to God, in Whose image he was created. Man himself does not have sufficient strength to accomplish this, but he is aided by God’s grace, which He gave through the Church created by His incarnate Son. For this, He became incarnate—to raise once again His fallen image.

On Mt. Tabor, Christ manifested the beauty and glory of His Divinity, so that the apostles might know of it and through them, the whole world, the likeness of Whom is man, and to show what man can attain when he spiritually upraises himself. To the degree that man purifies himself of sin and comes closer to God, the glory of God is ever more clearly reflected in him. That is why saints are called in Russian prepodobny, meaning “like unto”. The glory of God is reflected in their souls as in a mirror, filling them with its radiance. When his earthly struggles are over, the degree of likeness that he has achieved is finally and permanently sealed. When the eternal Kingdom comes and all people are resurrected, their souls are united with their bodies, and Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Mt. 12:43), as Christ Himself said.


Those are St. John’s words. Today, as we worship here in the university chapel, it reminds us of early days in the mission when we worshiped in various spaces from picnic groves to hotels. Our Bishops have asked us to keep in prayer for our building project. Services like this help. For where “two or more are gathered in My name,” our Lord Jesus Christ tells us, “there am I also in the midst of thee.”

Glory to God!