Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Be(com)ing Orthodox
- 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
> Be(com)ing Orthodox
> by Benedict Seraphim on This is Life!
> 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
> 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
> the Zwinglian beliefs in which I had been raised. (At that point I had
> well beyond Zwinglianism to a more sacramental understanding of the Lord's
> Supper.) I could continue to believe that the Bible was the infallible
> 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
> 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
> in seminary. Whew. After that experience I was ready to look elsewhere.
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> the heart, with Ephesians 5:21ff. I needed to make a change. Not
> 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
> as a spiritual man in our home. At that time it was just Anna and me, and
> 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
> 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.
> 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,
> only place that could make that reality happen was the Orthodox Church.
> 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
> 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.
> 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
> trying to see if they were coherent and could stand up to scrutiny.
> they could and did.
> And then I met Father Seraphim Rose, via his biography. I found a copy of
> of This World* (since fundamentally revised and republished as *Father
> Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works*) and spent the latter part of the
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> a different name, to dress differently and so on just to become Orthodox.
> this professor's mind, all it should take was just a change of
> 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
> 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
> my more or less accurate grasp of one or more doctrine or historical
> 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
> 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?!
> 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
> 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
> but, rather, a simple statement of fact. The Orthodox Faith is not a
> 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
> 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
> my baptism at age seven was a real initiation into Christ. I really
> 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
> 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
> Christ. That is probably a clumsy and perhaps even an inaccurate way to
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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."
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