Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Getting to this point - his story - part 3

Orthodoxy re-entered my life in seminary.  My friend S. moved into the fourth bedroom of an apartment I was sharing with some friends.  He had just begun his catechesis during the early spring of that year.  I have no idea what it was that drew me in, but our relationship is one of the most important in my journey to this point.  During the summer months, I read a copy of Eastern Orthodoxy Christianity: A Western Perspective in order to get an understanding of where he was coming from.  Having lived my life under Western presupposition, I was caught off guard by the stark difference I saw in his developing worldview.  That book was incredibly influential, and really opened my eyes to the "otherness" inherent in Eastern Orthodoxy.

Sometime during that year together I went to my first Divine Liturgy.  I was told to make myself comfortable, sit towards the back, and soak it all up.  Having been to enough Anglican services I guess at a couple of the crucial points where I should stand (little and great entrances, et al.); but I mostly confined myself to a pew on the side of the church where I could observe my friends and store up my share of questions.  To tell you the truth, I was mostly put out by the whole thing.  I remember being really offended that so much happened behind the iconostasis.  I was also really confused by the constant repetition of "Most Holy Theotokos, save us" and I couldn't follow along in the service book at all.  Basically, I was completely lost and felt really sleepy afterwards. (I found out later that this is apparently all really really normal.)

I talked with the priest after the liturgy, and had an excellent conversation with him.  He recommended I pick up a prayer rope and gave me some basic instruction in the Jesus Prayer.  I also prayed with my roommate every couple of mornings through the Morning Prayer rule of the Jordanville Prayer Book.  It was a very different experience.

Nativity that year my roommate was baptized and went to the service.  It was like watching someone being born again.  Literally.  The person who came out of the font was not the same person who went in.  He was truly reborn.  Holy Saturday that year another friend was baptized and I stayed for Pascha.  I think at that point I realized that someday, I would be making this choice.  I just expected that it would be year from now...a long long time.

When we moved, I got in contact with the local Orthodox priest for occasional chats about ministry, faith, and  practical spirituality.  He would give me advice on fasting and prayer and would sit down with my wife and I to talk about God or just to be friendly.  It was a wonderful relationship, and his prayers were really important to me during my time here.  Now that we've reached the point of making the decision to explore Orthodoxy, I see that God has been brining us slowly to this point without ever making us feel like we were being coerced. S. and I still talk each week about faith and life, and he's an amazing friend to listen to my rants about what we're going through.

We're nervous about the upcoming conversations that we're going to be having with our families.  It's going to be very hard to get my parents to understand what we're doing.  My father will have a very informed (usually by Christianity Today or Chalecedon Report) opinion, and my mother will have a definite opinion: This smacks of [Roman] Catholocism.  So here we are.  Standing on the brink, waiting to plunge in.  I'm excited, terrified, and very much aware that we move forward by God's direction only.

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