I spent Saturday night with my old friends Frederica Mathewes-Green and Father Gregory M-G, her husband and the pastor of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church. Went to the Divine Liturgy this morning at Holy Cross, which is always a bit (more than a bit) like coming home to me — a strange experience, because I’ve only been to liturgy there a handful of times in my life, but as a reader of Frederica’s books, and as a close friend and almost daily correspondent of hers for over 20 years, Holy Cross feels like my own.
As I stood behind her in the line for Communion, I realized that if it had not been for her, I would almost certainly not be Orthodox today. She never preached to me about Orthodoxy (I was a fairly new Catholic when we first met, and she respected that). All she did was be my friend. And in that friendship, over the years, I learned about Orthodoxy. When, in 2005, I found myself shipwrecked and shattered by the collapse of my Catholic faith, I found shelter and solid ground in Orthodoxy, not because Frederica suggested it, but because she had borne such effective witness to Orthodox Christianity in her life, particularly in our friendship. She and our pal Terry Mattingly came down to Dallas, ten years ago next month, for our chrismation.
So, after communion, I prayed and thanked God for our friendship, which I depend on even more after all these years. Funny to think about, but if she had ever tried to evangelize me directly, I would have been really put off by it. She didn’t tell; she showed by her love and steady fidelity. And that made all the difference.
After the liturgy, I went to the M-G manse around the corner for a meeting with the Dante reading group. Our dear pal Emily Lowe, who became friends with Julie and me something like 18 years ago, when she was a new college student in NYC, up from Holy Cross, made an impromptu dessert for the meeting: a representation of the scene from Inferno XIX, in which the pilgrim Dante encounters the damned Pope Nicholas III, head down in a hole in the ground, with only his legs sticking out. Here’s how Gustave Doré imagined the scene:
And here’s how Emily envisioned it. I love my Holy Cross friends!