Archive for the ‘Orthodox Christianity’ Category

CatechumensFather Patrick, Feel free to correct me where needed.

On Pentecost Sunday our friends, Mark and Barb got blessed and prayed over to become catecumens at St. Peter the Apostle, Antiochian Orthodox Church. Mark’s two sons and his daughter-in-law came to witness and experience this day with all of us.  There was no official announcement of what was about to happen. We had been going through the Matins service of bible readings, hymns and prayer… I am still unfamiliar with the services, so I did not know that Matins was over, or if it was(?)… then Father Patrick, with Jackson carrying a candle (the long one that the alter boys carry) headed straight down the center of the room. At first I did not know what was going on. (It seems like the Orthodox Church is kind of like a box of Cracker Jacks… there is a surprise in every service. Well, for me there is, because Orthodoxy is so new to me.) Then I saw Father Patrick smile at Mark and Barb, who were behind me, and motion for them to go to the doors.  They stood in front of the doors, facing in toward the altar. Their faces were full of joy. Big smiles and excited eyes flashing up at Father Patrick in eager anticipation. He marked them with the sign of the cross, prayed over them and then before I knew it… it was done. I wonder what they were thinking…  Maybe they will blog about it.  I am happy for them. They looked peaceful afterward. 

When Father Patrick was talking about Pentecost in his homily,  he compared it to the headwaters of the Sacramento River. He used to live by the headwaters. There is a bubbling spring where water comes up out of the ground at this park in Mt. Shasta. (view pictures of Sacramento River and headwaters, here on wikipedia) It is not a lot of water but it makes a lot of noise. As the water moves on down toward the sea, it gaines more water from streams and rivers and lakes. As the water gets deeper and wider, it gets quieter.  [edited to say…I don’t think this analogy came up in his Sunday homily, I think Fr. Patrick talked about this on Saturday night at Vespers… sorry for the confusion]

Pentecost began when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles. It began rather noisily, with much talking and signs. Talking in many different languages. Talking that drew people to come near the house where they heard it emanating from. Talking that was at first considered drunken babble… but then was recognized as many languages pouring out in worship to God. Babble that drew men toward God and toward unity, as opposed to the “babble” that was a sign of separation from God and disunity between people, which is what happened at the Tower of Babel. From that day of Pentecost the stream of the Holy Spirit working through God’s people began to grow deeper and wider, and if the analogy of the Sacramento River holds true, it should be quieter and stronger too. 

I pray that as Mark and Barb pursue their walk with God in the Orthodox church that they will notice that deepening, strengthening and quieting of their faith and of the Holy Spirit working in them.   


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Icons – A window on the wall.  A view to an unseen reality. I love that explanation. I don’t know where I heard it. I am afraid to try to explain too much about icons, for fear of getting it all wrong and leading people astray. I don’t really have a full understanding of what the Icons of the Saints fully represent. But, it is like a portrait of a hero. Not a picture of an idol. It is not to be worshipped, it is to lead us to worship of God, the image of God in the Saint that is portrayed. I would much rather have my kids plaster their rooms with the heroes of The Faith than with images of pop stars, movie stars or sports “heroes”.  

Recently we went to an open house at our kids elementary school. I was shocked and dismayed to see that our daughter’s collage was full of pictures of one of the Jonas Brothers. He is a young kid that has a band with his siblings and a show on Disney channel or Nickelodeon. I didn’t realize that she had been so branded by the hype of those shows. Well, I must admit that I went through all those childhood crushes on teen and pre-teen stars. But wouldn’t it be nice if her admiration was spent on real heroes? Wouldn’t it be lovely if her (everyone’s) mind was full of stories of people who have lived and died for Christ Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the qualities we looked up to were not fame, good-looks and charisma but the very qualities of our Savior?

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control.

Humble, Servant, Obedient, Holy, Good, The Way, The Truth, The Life…

What would you add to the list?

I hope we can raise our kids to adore Christ. To WORSHIP God; fully, courageously, unashamedly, joyously, disarmingly, contagiously, and other good words like that 🙂  I think that we have found the Church that will help us to do that, God helping us. May His name be glorified in all the earth! 

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When we decided to “try out” the Orthodox church near us, I thought it would be a few visits. Then somehow my husband got the idea that we had discussed a plan (we probably did) and started telling a few people that we were going to try it out for a year and then make a decision. I felt rushed and maybe a little like, “eh, when did we decide all that?” But, then again, my brain is not the best at remembering, so maybe we did talk about it. Not that I regret it at all, I am just saying that I felt a little rushed. 

Now, our friends Mark and Barb are coming to the Orthodox church too and it looks like they are ready to dive right in, while I am still feeling cautious. That’s me, Miss Cautious. Do you know what happens to cautious people? They usually watch their feet when they are about to jump… which throws them off balance. Or they stutter step and trip over their own feet. I know that there has to be some value in my desire to wait and search this new church out, but I feel kinda foolish or like a coward.

(This quote is from a comment that I left in my husbands blog.) It is hard to put into words, what I am feeling. I have been raised Christian all of my life but found that I struggled with some of the teachings. I think that my desires, for a long time, have been for worship that is reverent and holy, like it was in the Old Testament and like you see it described in Revelation. People falling down, prostrating themselves before a HOLY GOD. People praying together in unity, not for themselves alone. I like the way the Orthodox Church worships and prays. Also, I feel that the teaching of Salvation makes more sense to me in the Orthodox church than it did in other Christian churches, because I could never make that verse about “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” fit in with “say this prayer and believe, and you are saved.” I have felt like we should be doing something to show that we are saved or to cooperate with our salvation. But that attitude would be dubbed “works based salvation” where I come from and that was frowned upon.

I think that the guarded feeling is from fear. I am afraid of being “led astray”, I am afraid of the unknown elements, and I am afraid that I will give my heart to this Church, these good people and that I will later find out that there is this THING or THINGS that we cannot accept about Orthodoxy and we will have to tear ourselves away. I do not want to feel that pain again.
So far, everything seems right. But, I feel like I have to give it more time or something. I am not one that likes to dive right into the deep end. I wade in at least halfway before I get all wet. I wish I could feel safe enough to dive right in.

So, I guess that sums up my answer to the question, “What’s the holdup?” 

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During Pascha or Passover, my husband, children and I were soaking in some OLD Christian Traditions with a local Antiochian Orthodox church. I wanted to know more about this form of Christian Worship, so I went to the internet and started checking blogs that had to do with converting to Orthodoxy and blogs that talked about the Pascha services. I saw a comment by a lady and I decided to send her an email. That email led to another and another email and we found ourselves sharing our very similar stories of past Protestant church experiences. Her husband had been a pastor, my husband had been a pastor. We both have 4 children. We have both been through church break-ups. Her husband got interested in Orthodoxy, my husband got interested in Orthodoxy… Why? Because it felt like there had to be more to Christian life. Her husband is now a priest in a Greek Orthodox church. My husband is happy to just be in a congregation now.

This is one of our exchanges about changing to Orthodoxy.

I said, “We have tried to incorporate some Orthodox prayers and practices into our home church.”

She said, “I think that is the best possible way to come along together in this great adventure of finding out about our full Christian inheritance – because that is what I think the Orthodox church is.  Some of what you know from your past is God-given and you keep it.  Some of what you know from the past is probably just wrong, and you leave it behind.  But mostly, I think, Orthodoxy fills up the empty spaces and makes a whole fabric out of what used to be patches.” 

That got me to thinking about a quilt.

I had my quilt started, with all I had learned from my early church experiences and training, but there were still holes and gaps. About 1500 years of early church history and stories and Traditions were missing. And beyond that… the reverence that I remember feeling in church as a child, the feeling of being in a holy place, a place of AWE and respectfulness, was quickly becoming a distant memory. Would I only feel that “holy place” feeling in the mountains? At a retreat? At the distant sites of the HOLY LAND? Or are we supposed to set aside places of holy worship? I have many questions; many, many unanswered questions. But I am getting the feeling that the holes in my quilt are definitely getting filled up with beautiful fabric of great worth. Maybe, some patches are threadbare or rotten and they must be replaced. That is okay, because the replacement pieces seem to be gently and lovingly used and lovingly handed down. 


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Hello it’s me again. I found a blogger who is telling her story of journeying to the Orthodox Christian faith. I liked the part of the story that I have read, (Part 4) you can go to the link here or click on her name in my blogroll. She is Nichole3. I am just fascinated now with the stories of how other people have found Orthodox Christianity and how they describe their first impressions and encounters. I hope you enjoy reading her story too. 

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The Agape service at the Orthodox church was wonderful. It was yet another service that made me cry! I was not feeling sad or even repentant (those were other times that I cried). I was feeling joyful and blessed to be able to experience the universal aspect of the body of Christ, as several different people from the congregation stood in front of us, taking turns reading the same scripture in each of their own languages. The reading was from the Gospel of St. John 20:19-25. I think that we heard it read in Arabic, Mandarin, Laotian, French, English, Spanish, Russian, Greek(?) and Slavic(?). It was like the world was among us. And I felt so aware of God’s full presence in the world. It reminded me of Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues… and the people from all the different countries were hearing them speak in their native languages. Ah, sweet fellowship! I have included a picture of an Agape service at a Las Vegas Orthodox church. I found it on Google images, under Agape service. You can see that the doors to the Altar are wide open. I will include a link, below, to the Las Vegas Orthodox church’s page, so that you can see more of their pictures.                     Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!

http://lasvegasorthodox.com/photos/Pascha_Agape_Service_200402.htmagape service

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Both in good ways and in bad ways I am feeling overwhelmed by Pascha, otherwise known as Easter or Passover, for Orthodox Christians. 

Just for the sake of getting my whining out of the way, I will tell you the bad ways that I am overwhelmed. Mainly it is physical. We have been to so many services at the church that I have lost count,  lost track of time and lost track of what day it is. I have that jittery feeling that I get, after having stayed up too long, working too hard on some school project. My body hurts from my neck, down my back and all the way to my feet.  We spend a lot of time standing… and standing… and standing. See how whiny that sounds! Another “bad” way I feel overwhelmed is ,,, well it is hard to pinpoint … but I think it is mental. There is so much information to absorb, so many songs to learn, so many questions to ponder without having space to get answers.

Now on to the GOOD stuff.  I am overwhelmed by the people who have shown us so much kindness and Christian love.  We recieved a very nice gift basket of food last night. We have made new friends that have already trusted us to have their child over for a sleep over and who have taken all four of our kids with them to a family birthday party! People smile at us when something funny happens in church, like we are insiders. (That is a big deal to me, to feel like an insider, like one who belongs)

More overwhelming than the pain or the people or the ponderings that my mind has to do… is the powerful, all consuming story of God on earth. It seems like every song, every bible verse, every chant, every prayer is pointing us to this story of Christ the God-man. He walked earth to show us how to live a life of obedience, even unto death on a cross. His life, His death, His resurrection is now my life, my death, my resurrection. I am in him and he is in me. This has been a very intense weekend, starting on Friday. I see the impact of doing this intense celebration rather than just seeing a passion play and then leaving to go to an Easter Party or a giant egg hunt at the park. The pain becomes real. The exhaustion becomes a thing you live with as Jesus entreats his disciples to watch and pray. The pain of his dear mother at the trial, scourging, crucifixion and burial becomes, in a way, your own pain. You are feeling pangs of hunger from the fast you are going through, as Jesus cries out that he is thirsty, but they give him vinegar. It becomes hard to be a spectator. You really feel like a participant. You can’t stop the smile that comes as you sing out LOUD… “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” 

I have so much more to say but we need to get ready for the next service which starts at 2 PM. Yikes! I only have half an hour to get ready. 

Christ is Risen!  Truly, He is Risen!


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