I have been communicating with a person of a similar background to myself in the charismatic movement. I am posting this as it may help those who are looking into Orthodoxy from such a background:
Let’s begin with liturgical worship vs. charismatic worship. For the first few months of inquiry into the Orthodox Church, I found the liturgical style of worship to be quite boring. However, after I began to learn to develop the inner prayer (Jesus Prayer), I found myself deeply moved by the richness and beauty of the liturgical style. Since then, I’ve only been to non-liturgical services a couple of times. Each time I could see people were sincerely attempting to enter into communion with God in their own “tradition”, but it no longer appealed to me.
Looking back on my Protestant years, I do not deny that God met me in special ways when my soul genuinely sought him. But now I honestly feel that it is as if I was playing in a little sandbox, and when God led me into Orthodoxy, it was as if He said, “This will blow the walls off your sandbox. Here’s a beach!”
Continue reading Conversation with a Charismatic
One of my greatest stumbling blocks coming into the Orthodox Church was the closed communion table. Growing up Protestant, my experience was that the table was open to anyone who considered themselves to be a Christian. Attending an Orthodox Church and not being able to partake of the Eucharist was difficult for me. I believe in Jesus, isn’t that enough?
My historical studies revealed just how unaware I was of Christian practices before the 20th century. I blogged about that previously; this blog will be focused more on the theological reasons for a “closed table.”
Perhaps the best place to start is with scripture and the questions:
- When did Christians begin partaking of the Eucharist?
- What is the Eucharist?
- Why do Christians partake of it?
- And finally, why is the table open only to Orthodox members in good standing?
Continue reading Why a Closed Communion Table? Part 2
After months of what felt like dry liturgical services, my quasi-Pentecostal mindset wondered: where is the Holy Spirit in all of this? I recognized the validity the Orthodox Church’s claims to have the same beliefs and practices as the early church, but what good is that if the Holy Spirit has abandoned them and their services are dead and boring?
It was then that I somehow came across the book The Way of a Pilgrim. It is the story of a young Russian peasant during the late 1800’s who set out on a quest to experientially understand St Paul’s command to “pray without ceasing.” Continue reading My Journey into The Ancient Church, Part 2
My journey into Orthodoxy was not easy. But it is not meant to be easy. It challenged me (and continues to do so) to become the person God has created me to be, and to recognize my place in His Body, the Church.
When one becomes Orthodox they are called a “convert,” which helps to emphasize just how much of a change one must experience. Becoming Orthodox is not simply acknowledging one belief system as being superior to another. It is an ontological change, meaning it regards your entire being. Continue reading My Journey into The Ancient Church, Part 1
In my Protestant years, I dabbled in a subculture of hip, intellectual Christians. They knew a bit of Greek, a dash of Hebrew, Jewish customs of the New Testament era, and history and culture of the Judea region during the Roman rule. When studying the Bible, we would ask, What are the underlying Greek/Hebrew words used here? What is the sociological and political context? Who is speaking and who is the audience? What are modern scholars saying about this passage?
TWO UNSPOKEN CONFESSIONS
Now that I am Orthodox, I do not engage in such activities quite as often. It is not that those things are wrong. In fact, when one looks past the intellectual pride of unlocking and parading some unknown meaning in the text, these questions truly reveal an unspoken confession. Namely that we realize a literal, straight-forward reading of the biblical text only reveals partial meanings. When one’s entire faith relies on the right understanding of a book, that can be problematic. Continue reading The Key to Unlocking the Scriptures
When I began my spiritual struggle shortly after converting to Orthodoxy, I felt frustrated. I had joined a church that felt too demanding: fasting every Wednesday and Friday, pre-communion prayers Saturday nights, an expectation to actually change and live a holy life, morning and evening prayers, feast days and periods of fasting. It all seemed like too much.
There is a rhythm to the life of the Church; entering into it takes time. But I wasn’t used to that. My Protestant upbringing and the American culture made me want instant results, even for sinful habits that were deeply entrenched. In charismatic circles, we would always pray for instantaneous miracles and deliverances from evil. To expect anything less could mean one had weak faith.
At a few points, the temptation entered into my mind: “This is too much for you, and for anyone except the most saintly. You know you can’t settle for mediocrity, and you’re certainly not a saint, so just give up on Orthodoxy. Don’t keep pushing yourself into a lifestyle that is simply too pious for you.” Continue reading Feeling Frustrated with the Spiritual Struggle
A few nights ago, I was admiring the mountain valley that we live in as it was illuminated by the moon light. I thought, “The moon is so bright tonight you could almost read a book with its light.” But at the same time there was something missing.
The moon reflects the light of the sun, but is not a source of light itself (as we all know). No matter its brightness, it fails to provide heat, warmth, or nourishment for life on this earth. The sun, however, provides light, life, and beauty.
So often I am like the moon. Continue reading What I Learned from The Moon
There is an emptiness in many of us. We can feel it when we are alone, not having a good day, and/or there are no distractions. It is like a gaping hole. Sometimes we may even cry out to God in desperation, “Where are you?”
Recently, I heard a contemporary pop/rock Christian song in which they sang, “Turn your face to me” several times. It reminded me of my spiritual journey. All the years of searching and finding temporary satisfaction; whether that satisfaction fix came through a pumped up worship set, a motivational sermon, or bonding with those in my community.
But the warm fuzzies would fade away and I would once again feel that nagging restlessness in me. Certainly it was not too much to expect a warm feeling of intimacy with God every day, was it? Continue reading That Restless Emptiness
Not many words in our society make people recoil like the word “repent,” especially those who are not Christians. It may conjure up images of “bullhorn man” on the corner yelling at people, Bible thumpers, and the occasional warning of the impending doom of the world.
It seems for most in Evangelical Christianity, to repent is the same as “asking Jesus into your heart,” which is the same as saying a certain prayer that hits a few specified highlights. Once one has done so, they are now “saved” and should try to get others to also say the “sinner’s prayer” so they can be “saved” too. Continue reading Finding The Kingdom of God Within
If you’re anything like me, you struggle with sinful thoughts and behavior on a daily basis. Those with an addiction or some strong habitual sin can especially relate. It is easy to feel depressed or overwhelmed. I spent many years of my life afraid of God because I felt He was either mad or very disappointed in me. Spiritually and emotionally, I crawled through life wondering when the next lightning strike would hit me.
A habitual sin is like a rut in the road in which a wagon wheel easily enters and struggles to leave. In Orthodoxy and scripture, these sins are called “passions,” and are the result of entertaining a thought that may have begun with something seemingly neutral. There’s often a bit of guilty pleasure in entertaining these thoughts. Continue reading The Daily Struggle
I’ve heard it from others and wondered it myself when first exploring Orthodoxy: why do we not see Jesus or the saints smile in iconography? Why can’t they all just be happy?
Why So Serious?
From what I have learned, the iconography that has been popular in the Orthodox Church for the past one thousand years is the Byzantine style of iconography (other cultures had their own style – depicted to the left is an icon similar to Christ Pantocrator from the Irish Book of Kells) but for reasons beyond the scope of this blog, the Byzantine style became the most popular (that’s what’s pictured above).
Iconography of Byzantium, like that of other regions, did not develop in a bubble, but adapted several themes from their culture’s art (from the gestures of the right hand to books/scrolls being held in the left, etc). With that said, I’m not aware of any Byzantine art that depicts notable people smiling. Continue reading Why don’t icons smile?
I don’t normally write about the saints whose feast day we celebrate because there are many other better sources for that information such as The Prologue of Ohrid, the OCA’s website for Saint of the Day, and the humorous Onion Dome.
However, I have a particular admiration for St Clement of Rome (martyred in the year 99 or 101) because his writings helped guide me into Orthodoxy. I had heard several discussions over the past few years about the Great Apostasy, which in a nutshell says that after the time of the apostles the Christian Church quickly – or gradually, depending on the particular theory one buys into – fell into paganism and the Christian faith was not properly practiced or believed again until the Protestant Reformation.
Christianity: An insignificant sect or something more?
That idea bothered me because it meant that Christianity was nothing but a sect of Judaism that quickly died off and stayed lifeless for some 1400 years. The Reformers were doing nothing except trying to revive some long-dead cult of Judaism (doesn’t say much good about Jesus or his disciples). Continue reading St Clement of Rome