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Re: orthodox worship

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July 06, 2002 03:19AM
Dear Brother and Sister in Christ, Nick and Adele,

Greetings in the Lord!

I realize that I am coming into this discussion thread a bit late (looks like the last posting on it was back at the end of May), but I did want to say a word or two on the subject to you, Nick.

First of all, I can really appreciate your feeling that the Holy Spirit was/is guiding/moving you. As Orthodox, we know that the Holy Spirit dwells and moves and is active in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church -- which is the Orthodox Church. But we also know that He acts on the whole of creation, and always has, in order to bring His people closer to God.

In many of the ancient Orthodox monasteries in places like Mt. Athos (a large penninsula off of northern Greece, which is the world's only monastic republic), there are, among the icons and wall frescoes of Orthodox Saints, also frescoes of some of the ancient Greek philosophers -- Socrates, Aristotle, etc. This is not just a "cultural pride" thing because they were ancient Greeks. Rather, they serve to remind us that, even though those men were not Christians (they lived long before the Incarnation of the Christ), they had been enlightened by God to have some part of the truth of His Word, which they tried to render in philosophical terms. The ancient Jews also had their Prophets, who received God's revelation about the Christ, however imperfectly, and put it in human language for His people.

I guess what I am saying is this: it is absolutely right and appropriate for you to believe that God is guiding you through His Holy Spirit -- and although at the time, when you used to meet at the Church before dawn to pray for His guidance, you meant it in a very specific way that was *your* plan, He responded to your prayers in a very specific way that was HIS plan! One thing I have learned experientially -- not just intellectually -- in six years of being Orthodox is that He never abandons His people....

Of course, making a change as radical as becoming Orthodox is not easy for anyone, especially when one is from a strong religious background already. In my case it was rather difficult, but perhaps not quite as difficult as for others because I did not really have a very strong religious background anyway, and did not belong to a specific church. For me it was about really becoming a Christian -- not about leaving what I had previously understood as being Christian for another form of Christianity that appears to be so different in many ways. So I am glad to hear that the Orthodox priest who is advising you has emphasized getting to know the Church and feeling comfortable with it first, before worrying so much about "converting". But if you do decide to take that step eventually, I can tell you one thing. It will truly open up another world to you.

One thing that really drew me towards Orthodoxy at the beginning, and has drawn me deeper into the Faith over these last six years, is the complete integrity that it possesses. There is a wholeness -- a unity -- in it, in which everything really makes sense. Of course, it takes time to get there and understand and appreciate it. But it is definitely there. Unlike most of the other forms of Christianity which I had dabbled in a bit here and there, which somehow always left me feeling that I had more questions that could not be satisfied than anything else. Things just did not quite add up for me in some of these denominations, either in the way they worshipped, or the things they believed and professed. Not that they were "bad", but somehow there was just something missing that didn't really satisfy my need to understand how it all hung together.

It was not until I encountered Orthodoxy that I found that "missing link" -- that place where it all hung together. And that was, of course, the Cross, with Christ at the center of it. It was, despite years of searching, my first *real* encouter with Christ Himself, and not an encounter with the "story" of Christ. I don't know if this really makes sense to anyone but me, but I hope you know what I mean.

In any case, the last thing I wanted to say was this. I sensed in your original question a need for some kind of reassurance that becoming Orthodox would not mean you would have to lose all of the things that you feel have brought you close to God previously. Forgive me, please, if I am reading into your question something that was not really there. But if that was/is a concern of yours, let me just say the following. Yes, there is a lot of structure in Orthodoxy -- a certain way of worshipping, a certain way of praying corporately, a certain set of prayers that we say even in the privacy of our own homes. But these things do not exclude the intimacy and closeness that one feels with God -- that you may already feel with Him. That was a big worry of mine, and in fact one of the questions I asked my first spiritual father was, why do we have to use certain set prayers of the Church rather than praying in our own words. His answer to me was something that was hard for me to really swallow at that time, but now six years later I have really come to the same conclusion on my own. I wish I had just taken his word for it in the first place! But seriously, it is, as someone else posted, a process -- a journey -- a learning experience. One does not become Orthodox overnight. In fact, one is constantly becoming Orthodox and coming closer to God every day, every night, year after year. And the funny thing is, the same things that I once thought would impede my intimacy with God, because they seemed structured and stilted and not "spontaneous", are now the very things that make me feel a greater intimacy with Him. One example of this that always stands out in my mind is the time I attended a Patriarchical Divine Liturgy, during Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's visit to the US in 1996 or '97, at Madison Square Garden in New York. I remember arriving there with my wife very early, and somewhere between finding our assigned seat in the back rows of the stadium and looking at the "Nicks" basketball jerseys hanging from the ceiling overhead, wondering how in the world this was going to be a "spiritual" experience. But when the service started and the world around us disappeared into the world of prayer, a world outside of time, the heavenly kingdom on earth, I realized what was meant by the term "Divine Liturgy", because it was nothing less than standing in the presence of God, even in the middle of this sports arena.

Finally, it's important to say that the "structure" I referred to does not prevent one from praying in their own words at different times...in fact, as Orthodox we are enjoined to "pray unceasingly", whereas our "corporate" and structured prayers are only at certain hours. So both fit together into a whole that touches every part of a person.

Well, I've written way too much already. May God continue to enlighten you and illuminate your path, wherever it may lead -- but I am praying that it leads you to His Holy Church, which is the entry into the kingdom of heaven on earth.

With love in Christ,

Damian
Subject Author Posted

orthodox worship

Nick May 06, 2002 08:25PM

Re: orthodox worship

James May 07, 2002 04:46AM

Re: orthodox worship

Thomas May 07, 2002 05:10AM

Re: orthodox worship

NIck May 07, 2002 08:25PM

Re: orthodox worship

Ron May 08, 2002 06:18PM

Re: orthodox worship

NIck May 08, 2002 07:12PM

Re: orthodox worship

Ron May 09, 2002 01:27AM

Re: orthodox worship

NIck May 09, 2002 02:10PM

Re: orthodox worship

James May 09, 2002 03:32PM

Re: orthodox worship

James May 10, 2002 04:26AM

Re: orthodox worship

Ron May 10, 2002 01:33PM

Re: orthodox worship

James May 10, 2002 02:57PM

Re: orthodox worship

Ron May 11, 2002 03:17PM

Re: orthodox worship

Adele May 10, 2002 08:35PM

Re: orthodox worship

Adele May 09, 2002 09:04PM

Re: orthodox worship

Ron May 10, 2002 02:30AM

Re: orthodox worship

Ron May 09, 2002 05:44PM

Re: orthodox worship

Adele May 18, 2002 01:09PM

Re: orthodox worship

James May 18, 2002 02:52PM

Re: orthodox worship

Ron May 20, 2002 05:59PM

Re: orthodox worship

Adele May 22, 2002 01:57AM

Re: orthodox worship

ron May 22, 2002 02:23AM

Re: orthodox worship

James May 22, 2002 03:21PM

Re: orthodox worship

Maximos May 30, 2002 02:54PM

Re: orthodox worship

Ron May 31, 2002 04:53AM

Re: orthodox worship

Damian July 06, 2002 03:19AM

Re: orthodox worship

nick July 07, 2002 05:11PM

Re: orthodox worship

ron July 07, 2002 06:57PM

Re: orthodox worship

nick July 07, 2002 11:06PM

Re: orthodox worship

ron July 08, 2002 12:11AM

Re: orthodox worship

Adele July 18, 2002 01:12AM

Re: orthodox worship

James July 18, 2002 04:51AM

Re: orthodox worship

Adele July 18, 2002 10:31PM

Re: orthodox worship

Ron July 20, 2002 07:22PM

Re: orthodox worship

Adele July 27, 2002 02:47PM