Monday, September 28, 2009

Why Become Orthodox?

Brought into the Orthodox Church by marriage, my conversion to Orthodoxy has been a rather gradual one.  At first, I did not have much interest in Church, period. It didn't matter if it was Methodist, Baptist or Orthodox.  I was a product of the age of relativism.  Religion just wasn't all that important when I was twenty-two.  My wife would tell me that she did not feel like she had been to church when we visited the Methodist Church of my parents and my childhood.  As I began to attend the Divine Liturgy, all in Greek without an english translation to follow, I slowly became attached to it (at first I was terribly bored sitting there for an hour and a half listening to Greek which I didn't understand).  Even though I could not understand the words, the chanting penetrated my soul, the incense brought me to attention, and the walls covered with holy icons caressed my wandering mind. I didn't really know why, but I always felt uplifted afterwards.  It was the same week after week and is still the same as it was 40+ years ago (and of course 1500 years ago as well).  Orthodoxy, I learned has a stability about it.  It's the same no matter where you go int he world.  It's the same year to year.  This stability in its teachings and ritual is most comforting in our fast paced world of change.

I recently read a story about a Roman Catholic nun who converted to Orthodoxy.  Here is how she described her experience.
The first Greek Orthodox liturgy I experienced was on Pascha at the Church of the Resurrection. This was the decisive experience. It is difficult for me to describe what I experienced there. I felt I was in heaven or that heaven had descended to earth. At that time I did not know what the Cherubic Hymn was, however, when I heard it for the first time, I felt such a deep self-concentration   and I thought that at that moment the angels were chanting with the people. (Later I learned that two emissaries of the Russian Tsar had felt the same when they experienced the liturgy in Constantinople for the first time). My deepest experience was the certainty of an inner knowledge; NOW I HAVE ARRIVED HOME!  This was as if an answer to my interior uneasiness. This was what I had lacked, as I said earlier, it was this interior experience. Then I did not know much of the history of the Church, about the Filioque, the schism etc. 
How liberating it is for someone to take part in an Orthodox liturgy and to know that she is unchanging and not like with the Catholic liturgy, to have to be afraid of what to expect next. A few times I have thought that even many Orthodox people do not know how much spiritual wealth and what treasure has been given to them, how grateful to God we should be for this  and how responsible we should be in guarding it!
You may want to read her full story, "My great adventure in search of the Truth"  From Sister Matthaia Oswald.  This story tells how a Roman Catholic nun discovered the fullness of the Truth in the Orthodox Church...

This story rings true with me. Why it is that so many cradle Orthodox do not appreciate the wealth of wisdom the Orthodox Church contains?  Why don't they appreciate this gift they have received just because of where or to whom they were born?  Why is it the converts are the ones who seem to be most intent on carrying forward the Holy Traditions without change?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post, Dn. Charles. I read it and Sister Matthaia's story with great interest. They are both a great encouragement!

    Kevin Allen