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Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Be(com)ing Orthodox

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  • Jeremy Finck
    thanks for this, Chris. ... [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 2, 2007
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      thanks for this, Chris.


      On 6/1/07, Christopher Orr <xcjorr@...> wrote:
      > Here is the experience of a recent convert (last Sunday) to Orthodoxy and
      > his experience. An interesting way of speaking that I thought you all
      > might
      > enjoy.
      > Christopher
      > Be(com)ing Orthodox
      > by Benedict Seraphim on This is Life!
      > http://benedictseraphim.wordpress.com/2007/05/31/becoming-orthodox/
      > As a Protestant�is that really now a past-tense state of affairs?�I only
      > made one change of affiliation across denominational lines. I moved from
      > the
      > non-denominational (or as they self-labeled, "independent") Christian
      > Churches (Stone-Campbell/Restoration Movement) to the Episcopal Church.
      > When I did so, I concerned myself with what I suspect most non-mainline
      > Protestants and evangelicals concern themselves with: can I maintain my
      > current beliefs; or on what beliefs am I willing to negotiate? As an
      > Anglican, I was assured that I could keep my belief on baptismal
      > regeneration by immersion which I had always had, that with regard to the
      > Eucharist I could be either one who believed in the "Real Presence" or
      > keep
      > the Zwinglian beliefs in which I had been raised. (At that point I had
      > moved
      > well beyond Zwinglianism to a more sacramental understanding of the Lord's
      > Supper.) I could continue to believe that the Bible was the infallible
      > word
      > of God, continue to believe in substitutionary atonement, the bodily
      > Resurrection of Christ from the dead, the union of the human and divine
      > natures in the Person of Christ, and so on. All I really had to worry over
      > was whether I could tolerate some of the theological liberalism that I ran
      > into. I ultimately decided that I could�and felt so very mature and wise
      > as
      > a twenty-something in so doing: see how tolerant I am without losing my
      > fundamental convictions!�and was subsequently confirmed as an Episcopalian
      > by the laying on of hands by Bishop Peter of Springfield. Aside from a new
      > embrace of a sacramental understanding of Christianity, my life didn't
      > change all that much from the way it had been.
      > When I first encountered Orthodoxy, it was the summer after my first
      > quarter
      > in seminary. Whew. After that experience I was ready to look elsewhere.
      > And,
      > just as I'd done before, I began to examine it from the standpoint of
      > doctrine. The difficulty, however, is that my wife and I had each made
      > huge
      > sacrifices in coming to seminary, and with my pride reigning things in, it
      > just didn't seem feasible to change churches (again!) over doctrine. So,
      > for
      > about two years, I attended All Saints roughly every half-year, read a lot
      > on Orthodoxy, and looked wistfully.
      > What changed things for me, however, was my daily Bible reading during the
      > first week of June 2002. Early in the week, God hit me over the head, and
      > in
      > the heart, with Ephesians 5:21ff. I needed to make a change. Not
      > doctrinal,
      > but volitional. Even, to some extent, ontological. I needed to be(come) a
      > better husband, a Christian husband. I had not lived up to my
      > responsibility
      > as a spiritual man in our home. At that time it was just Anna and me, and
      > we
      > hadn't gone to any worship service for six months, and I had not lifted a
      > finger to make sure we did. Now initially I didn't really understand or
      > even
      > discern that only Orthodoxy could really fulfill that necessary change.
      > Other Christian groups, marriage counseling, personal spiritual direction,
      > and so on, all would be helpful and provide assistance toward that goal.
      > But
      > only the Orthodox Church�or, rather, only the grace of God at work in and
      > through the Orthodox Church�could bring about the transformation.
      > As I said, I didn't fully get that then. But what I did know is that if I
      > wanted to be that spiritual man, that Christian husband I needed to be,
      > the
      > only place that could make that reality happen was the Orthodox Church.
      > And
      > so, on the Sunday of the Blind Man that year, I turned my face toward the
      > Orthodox Church. And as it happened, in that service, the pericope of the
      > Philippian jailer from Acts 16 was read, and I heard, what I took then,
      > right or wrong, to be a promise to me: "You will be saved, you and all
      > your
      > household."
      > I've related these things before, and I only review them here to say this:
      > When I made that turn it wasn't any longer about doctrine and beliefs. It
      > was now about being different, about change and transformation. It was not
      > about *believing* the things Orthodox believe, it was about
      > *being*Orthodox. Or, just as true, about
      > *becoming* Orthodox.
      > Sure, old habits and ways of interfacing with various realities die hard.
      > So
      > for the rest of 2002, along with regularly attending the worship at All
      > Saints, I studied and wrote on some of the fundamental questions I had. I
      > was trying to take on an Orthodox mind on various topics important to me
      > and
      > trying to see if they were coherent and could stand up to scrutiny.
      > Clearly
      > they could and did.
      > And then I met Father Seraphim Rose, via his biography. I found a copy of
      > *Not
      > of This World* (since fundamentally revised and republished as *Father
      > Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works*) and spent the latter part of the
      > autumn,
      > and all of the winter reading it. Here was a man who was a gifted
      > intellectual, a philosopher. But when he came to Orthodoxy he, as he put
      > it,
      > crucified his mind. He came to Orthodoxy for a change of heart.
      > Admittedly, when I first read the biography, I thought Father Seraphim was
      > "strange." I read about some of the things he did as he became Orthodox,
      > of
      > his transition to monastic living, and so forth, and shook my head in
      > incomprehension. Indeed, one of my professors, about two years later, saw
      > the copy of the revised biography on my desk in my office, and asked me
      > about Father Seraphim. Somehow this self-admitted atheist who troubled
      > over
      > his mother-in-law teaching his son to pray over meals, knew enough about
      > Father Seraphim to query me as to whether I thought it quite odd to take
      > on
      > a different name, to dress differently and so on just to become Orthodox.
      > In
      > this professor's mind, all it should take was just a change of
      > intellectual
      > conviction.
      > Of course, I now see the essence of the things he did as quite normal, and
      > not any longer "strange" at all. And I now see that one does not become
      > Orthodox by way of the intellect but by way of the heart.
      > All of which is prolegomena to say this: I have known for a couple of
      > years
      > that there is a sharp split between my mind and my heart. I come by this
      > split by way of natural temperament, with a way of interfacing with the
      > world that is one of the mind over one of the heart. But my Protestant
      > upbringing in the modernist culture of twentieth and twenty-first century
      > U.S.A. has only exacerbated this tension and brought it near schism.
      > So I confess that it used to nearly infuriate me when Orthodox would
      > affirm
      > my more or less accurate grasp of one or more doctrine or historical
      > point,
      > but then go on to say what sounded to me like "You're not Orthodox; you
      > wouldn't understand." Don't get me wrong, I have never, to my
      > recollection,
      > ever thought any Orthodox, online or in person, was being rude to me, even
      > accidentally. But I thought, "What do you mean, I wouldn't understand?!
      > I've
      > got a brain!" But that was just it. This wasn't a matter of the brain.
      > As time wore on and I became much more influenced by Orthodox worship, as
      > I
      > began to pray more according to Orthodox norms, I began to realize the
      > "You're not Orthodox; you wouldn't understand" was not actually a
      > put-down,
      > but, rather, a simple statement of fact. The Orthodox Faith is not a
      > matter
      > of intellectual content. It is a matter of the whole person: intellect,
      > will, heart, body, soul.
      > Indeed, the experience of our chrismations has put quite the exclamation
      > mark on the point. What I will say now I do not mean to in any way come
      > off
      > as a judgment of anyone else's salvation, or in anyway to impugn any other
      > Christian group. But I want to express as best I can the real difference I
      > have perceived since our anointings and my first Holy Communion. I believe
      > firmly that I was a Christian prior to this past Pentecost Sunday, and
      > that
      > my baptism at age seven was a real initiation into Christ. I really
      > received
      > forgiveness of sins. I really did receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. I
      > really was a Christian. I believe this not because I think the Restoration
      > Movement churches had the authority or the power to administer genuine
      > sacraments. Rather I believe this because I know the mercy of God, I know
      > that the Spirit is not contained within the visible limits of institutions
      > (even divine-human ones), that, indeed, the Spirit, like the wind, goes
      > where he will, and therefore, whatever one might say about the ecclesial
      > and
      > sacramental realities attending my baptism, that God, in his mercy honored
      > the intent of all involved, not the least this sinner, and deigned to make
      > me his child. I believe that, only by grace, if I had died prior to my
      > chrismation, God would still have extended his mercy to me and accepted me
      > into his Kingdom, by the virtues of Christ and the baptism I underwent at
      > age seven.
      > But . . .
      > I had not yet, until this past Sunday, come to the fullness of the grace
      > of
      > Christ. That is probably a clumsy and perhaps even an inaccurate way to
      > put
      > it. And I want to be clear: I have not suddenly become full of the Holy
      > Spirit, nor has my cellular structure changed. I'm still the same sinner I
      > was before Sunday. I have still struggled to say my daily prayers. I have
      > still struggled to perform a daily moral inventory. I still don't properly
      > understand the pragmatics of the mystery of confession. There are, I'm
      > sure,
      > a million and one ways I need to grow and change.
      > But underneath of and giving rise to any knowledge or understanding is the
      > *
      > experience* of being and becoming Orthodox. I am not talking about any
      > sort
      > of ecstasies or visions; no levitation or uncreated light. This is, I take
      > it, simply the normal experience of the Orthodox Christian life. The
      > difference is marked and noticeable. Indeed, tangible in some ways. But
      > ordinary.
      > Yet, what a difference. I have not experienced anything like it in all my
      > Christian life before. "The Kingdom of God is within you," now has a
      > different and wonderful sense. Yes, let me quickly affirm, the "you" is
      > plural. But I am now a member of that "you," and partake in that Kingdom.
      > And the grace of it is that I can discern it.
      > The difference is qualitative and pervasive. I still struggle with
      > distractedness in prayer. I haven't suddenly become an hesychast. I still
      > rub the sleep out of my eyes and yawn as I begin to pray. I still find it
      > just as difficult to carve out time to read the Scriptures daily. Life
      > continues on as it always has. But what I take with me and in me through
      > that life is changed, and the experience is thus changed.
      > Being and becoming Orthodox, is, indeed, different than a Restoration
      > Movement Christian being and becoming an Anglican. Indeed, so different as
      > to not even be close to the same thing. The difference is the energy of
      > the
      > grace of the sacraments Anna and I experienced: confession and absolution,
      > chrismation, and Holy Communion. A seal was put upon us, and I, for one,
      > have been graced with a conscious and tangible awareness of that activity.
      > All of this of course is already being tested and remains yet to be tested
      > some more. As I have expressed, I now have an even greater accountability
      > and responsibility toward holiness of life and progress in virtue. But I
      > also have a most wonderful sense of God's presence. Something to cultivate
      > and maintain.
      > As Father Seraphim said, "Don't spill the grace. Keep it in your heart."
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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