This post dedicated to the memory of the newly reposed handmaiden of the Lord, Anna.
There's a book written about the Church and committing to it. It's not a Bible or a text from the Holy Mountain. In fact, it comes from the heart of the neo-Protestant movement and a young pastor (slightly older than myself) whose fame precedes him as "the dating guy"--or maybe the anti-dating guy would be more like it. Joshua Harris (of I Kissed Dating Good-Bye fame) wrote a book several years ago now called Stop Dating (And Fall In Love With the Church). His argument is straightforward: as Americans we need to stop church shopping, settling on the preaching or worship style we find the most appealing in a given month, and make a commitment to the People of God--Christ's Body. Stop being so selfish, might be a good subtitle as well. Where I come from we say it a little more bluntly (here self-censored) crap or get off the pot.
We've been "dating" Orthodoxy now, officially, for 5 months. Beginning in early February, we began, in earnest, to listen, read, and learn about what makes the Orthodox Church unique and whether or not we want to be part of a tradition so rich and full yet so foreign and strange. Through resources recommended by priests and available on Ancient Faith Radio, we've been podcasted, booked, lectured, lunched, conversationed, and prayed for in this journey and it's been incredible. I feel like I don't know anything, but at the same time like I know more than I did before we got started. I don't have time to go into the relationships we've discovered with the Faithful (living and departed), and the joy we experience each week in Liturgy and prayer; but know that these last 5 months have been incredibly life changing, which makes our upcoming decision so hard.
We had a memorial service this Sunday for a woman who reposed in the Lord on Friday. She had expressed interest in joining the church, and with the blessing of Metropolitan Jonah was Chrismated and Communed last Sunday in her hospital bed in the ICU. Her story affected me in a powerful way: I know how I want to die. When I go, I want to be buried in the arms of the Church.
I'm not sure how to describe the moment. It was like being in church, but we were surrounded by clouds and voices and singing. We hadn't left the ground, but I was aware of being part of something so much larger: as though our hymns and prayers joined with the voices of angels and saints welcoming this woman into the eternal rest prepared for her. I don't know that the unOrthodox can't go to heaven, but I know now that the Orthodox can.
Our priest presented us with a question which has really unsettled me. Having gone through that experience, the next phase in our journey was opened to us. With our second daughter on the way, Father commented to Felicity that he would like to receive the whole family together (it being slightly awkward to baptize a little one whose parents aren't Orthodox), and that he would be willing to receive us as Catechumens within the month. We don't really know what to do. Our plan was to take everything one year at a time both for our own mental and emotional well being and that of our families. No sense in rushing in and playing catch up later, right?
I don't know what we're going to do--except talk with Father about it. He's a wise, sensitive, and compassionate individual. We want to make sure that he is aware of all of our concerns and fears before moving forward. The question I'm now asking myself is, what holds me back from becoming a Catechumen? Why not just do it? I can't think of anything (except for externals) that make me believe we won't be joining the Church within 2 years anyway, so what am I worried about? Doing it wrong, I guess. Thoughts?