Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: 12 Things I Wish I'd Known as a Convert

Expand Messages
  • Jeremy
    Thanks, Christopher. As an infant to Orthodoxy, myself, I feel like I should post this on the wall in my bedroom and read it every day. John ... First.
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 5, 2007
    • 0 Attachment
      Thanks, Christopher.
      As an infant to Orthodoxy, myself, I feel like I should post this on
      the wall in my bedroom and read it every day.


      John


      --- In LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com, "Reader Christopher"
      <xcjorr@...> wrote:
      >
      > Guidelines for Conversion to the Orthodox Faith
      >
      > by Reader Christopher Orr
      >
      > 1. Take a Long Time.
      >
      > St. Basil the Great mandated a 3 year catechumenate prior to Baptism,
      > and this at a time when people had an inner life and faith in either
      > God or gods. This should be considered the rule, even if it is relaxed
      > to 2 years. The life of an Orthodox Christian is a race: a marathon,
      > not a sprint.
      >
      > Conversion is like rehab. You can't skip to Step 12. Take your time
      > and do it right, step by step.
      >
      > However, remember that while you need to take your time, it is also
      > 'later than you think'. Don't let patience become an excuse for sloth
      > and light-mindedness. Move at a pace that is just a little bit
      > uncomfortable for you; whether more/less slowly or more/less quickly,
      > depends on the person. I have a proclivity to zealotry, so I needed to
      > slow down. The 10-year, veteran catechumen could probably pick up the
      > pace. God's time is not our time.
      >
      > 2. Catechumens are Expected to Learn.
      >
      > Learning the Orthodox faith takes many forms:
      >
      > - a private prayer rule (morning and evening, minimally),
      > - fasting (to some degree, per your confessor),
      > - public prayer (Sunday morning, the Great Feasts, a few extra during
      > the week, Lent, Holy Week, as you can),
      > - reading (everything with a grain of salt, not one author over all
      > others, per your priest),
      > - the Beatitudes (be a nice, good, honest, patient person, i.e., a
      > Christian),
      > - give alms (give to the church and charities just a little beyond
      > what you feel comfortable with).
      >
      > Ask your parish priest/confessor what the right amount of each is for
      > you: do no more and no less than what he gives you. If you want more,
      > or are unable to do what he's given you, tell him.
      >
      > 3. After your Baptism/Chrismation, Add Regular Confession and
      > Communion to Rule #2.
      >
      > 4. The Grass is Never Greener; or, Never Know Too Many Priests.
      >
      > Stay put. Stability is not just for monks. Stay put in your
      > jurisdiction, in your parish, with your confessor, with your
      > wife/husband, in your profession and job, in your city except for real
      > cause. Talk over any changes you think you might make with your
      > wife/husband, parents, and priest and get their advice.
      >
      > If your parish priest does not give you some guidelines (i.e.,
      > catechizes you) regarding prayer, fasting, the Sacraments, etc. on his
      > own, ask for some. If he still doesn't give you any, you may choose
      > another parish. You may make one move only, so make it count. If you
      > start jumping around now, you'll never stop until you jump yourself
      > right out of Orthodoxy, religion and/or sanity altogether.
      >
      > In general, God gave you the priest and the parish you need. Other
      > parishes and priests are good, too, but those parishes and priests are
      > for other people. Your parish and your priest is right here. With your
      > priest's blessing you can go to a monastery for a visit, one monastery
      > and perhaps one convent - no more.
      >
      > 5. Don't be a weirdo.
      >
      > Those who grow long hair and a beard, start dressing like a babushka
      > or a peasant, take 'Orthodox names' like Gleb, Panagiotis, Theophano,
      > Despina or Barsanufius are more likely to leave Orthodoxy. If your
      > parents gave you a name at birth which also happens to be a saint's
      > name, then that is your patron saint and that is your name - keep it
      > when you become Orthodox.
      >
      > Hold conversations on topics other than the Orthodox Church, other
      > churches, Byzantium, Russia, Islam, or liturgics - philosophy and
      > politics should also rarely be discussed unless you happen to be a
      > philosophy professor or political office holder.
      >
      > See movies, go out to eat, have a girlfriend/boyfriend, enjoy your
      > wife/husband and kids, have hobbies, go to the gym and/or play a sport.
      >
      > 6. Worry About Yourself
      >
      > This is a colloquial, American version of the Russian proverb, "Don't
      > take your Typikon (rule) to another monastery". A similar, practical
      > tip is "Keep your eyes on your own plate". Or, as the late convert Fr.
      > Seraphim Rose said regarding fasting: you can read ingredients labels
      > for yourself, but not for your neighbor.
      >
      > The same can be said for the whole of Orthodox life.
      >
      > Orthodox Christians in America come from widely different backgrounds,
      > and there are enough variations in the application of Tradition that
      > you are bound to run into what you 'judge' as inconsistencies. If this
      > is true in Old World countries with centuries of Christian history
      > (which it is), it is even more true for Orthodox immigrants and
      > converts trying to create an Orthodox life in what has often been
      > un-Orthodox and/or un-Christian circumstances here in the US.
      >
      > Listen to your priest in your parish and do what he says you should
      > do. At the end of the day, the rule for all of us is "Don't ever sin.
      > Practice all the virtues. Pray every service." Everything else is
      > economia - a condescension to our weakness. Worry about yourself.
      >
      > No one asks babies their opinion on international policy,
      > astrophysics, etc. You were born on the day you were
      > baptized/chrismated into the Orthodox faith. You grow at a spiritual
      > rate similar to the physical growth a person from infant to toddler to
      > child to teenager, etc. Keep your thoughts on liturgical rubrics,
      > fasting, prayer, bishops, etc. to yourself until you're older.
      >
      > 7. You Aren't a Monk, You Aren't a Priest, Don't Plan on Being One.
      >
      > The canons state that one newly received into the Church should not be
      > quickly ordained. 6 months to a year is not a long time. 3 years isn't
      > a long time. Never plan on becoming a priest or a monk. If God wants
      > you He, He'll let you know. Your spiritual father (and your wife,
      > girlfriend or lack of either) will help you recognize when God's
      > letting you know He wants you. You will not recognize the signs on
      > your own.
      >
      > Do not 'suddenly' come back in a riassa after visiting a monastery.
      > Monasticism, like marriage, is for life. If you are planning on dying
      > as a monk, there is plenty of time between now and then to become one.
      > The same is true for visiting a seminary - don't 'suddenly' enroll.
      >
      > The immature, ungrounded faith of a new convert quickly turns the
      > priesthood, diaconate and monasticism into just a job - or worse, a
      > costumed pose.
      >
      > [If you are a minister in another church body, do not expect to be
      > ordained and do not make this a condition of your conversion. If you
      > believe the Orthodox Church is the Church, then you will join Her. If
      > you believe the Orthodox Church is the Church and do not convert
      > because you want or need to be a priest/minister, are only trained to
      > be a priest/minister as a profession and don't know how you'll pay the
      > bills, or because your wife and/or children will not convert and you
      > "can't lead them spiritually as a father/husband", then you either
      > don't really believe the Orthodox Church is the Church or you think
      > you know better than God Who needs you to get it done, anyway.
      > Convert. I f God needs you, He'll ordain you. If He doesn't need you,
      > He'll help you get a regular job like the rest of us. (Most people
      > don't 'use' their undergraduate or graduate degrees, so the fact that
      > you have an MDiv or DD is no excuse. I have a BFA in Acting and work
      > as a corporate consultant along with a host of others who are over- or
      > wrongly-educated. Why are you so special? pride?...).]
      >
      > 8. No One has Screwed Your Life up More Than You: Listen to Others
      First.
      >
      > The common denominator in all the bad and painful situations in your
      > life is you. You wouldn't buy a used car with as bad a record as you,
      > you wouldn't vote for a politician with as bad a record of choices and
      > accomplishments as you, so if (when) you find yourself saying, "I
      > think..." know you are wrong and check with someone else before
      > continuing.
      >
      > 9. Don't Play House.
      >
      > In the 6 months to a year after converting to Orthodoxy, do not date
      > that cute boy/girl in the parish, do not date every cute or semi-cute
      > boy/girl in the parish, do not get into a serious relationship. These
      > relationships are nothing more than 'playing house'. It is like living
      > together or having sex outside of marriage - it's fake. You will
      > almost assuredly not stay together. You will then be tempted to leave
      > the parish or Orthodoxy because you feel uncomfortable seeing them
      > every Sunday, Great Feast, etc. You will also have ruined the
      > possibility of a real relationship with that person at some point in
      > the future once you are prepared for it.
      >
      > On the upshot, if you disregard this rule and stay in the Church, you
      > will have the opportunity to lament and repent of the silliness and
      > sins you committed with that person. You will also be able to repent
      > of the sins you led that person into during your 'passionate' and
      > likely sinful romance.
      >
      > 10. Don't Look Back; Don't Look Back in Anger.
      >
      > Your reception into the Orthodox Church is a mystical marriage: don't
      > cheat on your wife.
      >
      > Do not go back to the church you grew up in or later joined. Do not be
      > like Lot's wife in the Old Testament who looked back at her life in
      > Sodom after she was saved. Do not receive the sacraments in other
      > churches.
      >
      > You cannot hate what brought you to the Church or you will hate
      > yourself right out of the Church. Convert to Orthodoxy, do not convert
      > from something else. Be thankful for all the good you had, and for the
      > fullness of good you have found. Leave the critique and analysis of
      > 'heterodox' churches to others - your supposed expertise is not needed
      > and offering your two cents will do nothing but hurt you.
      >
      > 11. Don't Write or Speak About Your Conversion Publicly.
      >
      > After 3 years you may consider sharing your conversion story in a
      > public way. Get permission from your priest first. There is nothing
      > especially special about your conversion except that it happened to
      > you. There is nothing more special about you than any other person.
      > God brought you to the Church without your conversion story, He can
      > bring others to the Church without your conversion story, too.
      >
      > 12. Whether Cradle or Convert, We Must All Convert Everyday.
      >
      > You have to choose to be an Orthodox Christian every moment, every
      > day. Choose to pray in the morning and evening, choose to fast, choose
      > to be kind and loving and patient, choose to return good for evil,
      > choose to attend services, choose to be diligent at work, choose to be
      > a good and loving husband/wife, mother/father, sibling/child.
      >
    • Christopher Orr
      12 Things I Wish I d Known as a Convert *Guidelines for Conversion to the Orthodox Faith
      Message 2 of 4 , Dec 20, 2007
      • 0 Attachment
        12 Things I Wish I'd Known as a
        Convert<http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2007/01/guidelines-for-conversion.html>

        *Guidelines for Conversion to the Orthodox Faith by Christopher Orr*

        1. Take a Long Time; or, Slow and Steady Wins the Race (cf. 1 Cor 9)
        **
        St. Basil the Great mandated a 3 year catechumenate prior to Baptism, and
        this at a time when people had an inner life and faith in either God or
        gods. This should be considered the rule, even if it is relaxed to 2 years.
        The life of an Orthodox Christian is a race: a marathon, not a sprint.

        Conversion is like rehab. You can't skip to Step 12. Take your time and do
        it right, step by step.

        However, remember that while you need to take your time, it is also 'later
        than you think'. Don't let patience become an excuse for sloth and
        light-mindedness. Move at a pace that is just a little bit uncomfortable for
        you; whether more/less slowly or more/less quickly, depends on the person. I
        have a proclivity to zealotry, so I needed to slow down. The 10-year,
        veteran catechumen could probably pick up the pace. God's time is not our
        time.

        2. Catechumens Learn.
        **
        Catechumens are fer learnin' and learning the Orthodox faith takes many
        forms, all or most of which you should be using:

        - a private prayer rule (morning and evening, minimally),
        - fasting (to some degree according to the canons, per your confessor, not
        just from chocolate or ice cream),
        - public prayer (Sunday morning, the Great Feasts, a few extra during the
        week, Lent, Holy Week, as you can),
        - reading (everything with a grain of salt, not one author over all others,
        per your priest),
        - the Beatitudes (practice Matthew 5: be a nice, good, honest, patient
        person, i.e., a Christian),
        - give alms (give to the church and charities just a little beyond what you
        feel comfortable with).

        Ask your parish priest/confessor what the right amount of each is for you:
        do no more and no less than what he gives you. If you want more, or are
        unable to do what he's given you, tell him.

        Don't lower the bar to make yourself feel better. Not being able to fulfill
        your rule is a good way to learn humility and how spiritually weak you are.
        This is why the canons are always the canons, it is only out of pastoral
        condescension (economia) that you may be allowed leniency; the exception is
        never the rule.

        3. After your Baptism/Chrismation, Add Regular Confession and Communion to
        Thing #2.

        4. The Grass is Never Greener; or, Never Know Too Many Priests.

        Stay put. Stability is not just for monks. Stay put in your jurisdiction, in
        your parish, with your confessor, with your wife/husband, in your profession
        and job, in your city except for real cause. Talk over any changes you think
        you might make with your wife/husband, parents, and priest and get their
        advice.

        If your parish priest does not give you some guidelines (i.e., catechizes
        you) regarding prayer, fasting, the Sacraments, etc. on his own, ask for
        some. If he still doesn't give you any, you may choose another parish. You
        may make one move only, so make it count. If you start jumping around now,
        you'll never stop until you jump yourself right out of Orthodoxy,
        religion and/or
        sanity altogether.

        In general, God gave you the priest and the parish you need. Other parishes
        and priests are good, too, but those parishes and priests are for other
        people. Your parish and your priest is right here. With your priest's
        blessing you can go to a monastery for a visit, one monastery and perhaps
        one convent - no more.

        Obviously, there are situations that may require you to move for family
        reasons, work, due to natural disasters, etc. Do so. As a layman, to take
        the need for stability too literally and too dogmatically as a rule for all
        seasons is proof one is in need of learning the following, fifth Thing:

        5. Don't be a Weirdo.

        You just converted. You're neither a saint, a great ascetic nor a wise
        theologian; you probably aren't even meek, loving, patient, kind or
        long-suffering. You are a deluded idiot if you think you might be. Go to
        confession.

        Those who grow long hair and a beard, start dressing like a babushka or a
        peasant, take 'Orthodox names' like Gleb, Panagiotis, Theophano, Despina or
        Barsanufius instead of the John, Michael, Margaret or Ann on their birth
        certificates are more likely to leave Orthodoxy. If your parents gave you a
        name at birth which also happens to be a saint's name, then that is your
        patron saint, he/she prayed you into the Orthodox Church and that is your
        'saint's name' - keep it when you become Orthodox out of gratitude. The
        Orthodox Church is not an an Eastern European Renaissance Festival - don't
        treat it as 'dress up' and 'make believe'. You live in the 21st Century,
        whether you like it orn not, so until you join a monastery act like an
        Orthodox Christian of the 21st Century.

        Hold conversations on topics other than the Orthodox Church, other churches,
        Byzantium, Russia, Greece, Islam, or liturgics; philosophy and politics
        should rarely be discussed unless you happen to be a politician or a
        professor of philosophy or political science. See movies, go out to eat,
        have a girlfriend/boyfriend, enjoy your wife/husband, freinds and kids, have
        hobbies, go to museums and the park, go to the gym and/or play a sport.

        6. Never Mind Them.
        **
        This is my version of the Russian proverb, "Don't take your Typikon (rule)
        to another monastery". A similar, practical tip is "Keep your eyes on your
        own plate". As the late convert and schemahieromonk Fr. Seraphim Rose said
        regarding fasting: read ingredients labels for yourself, but not for your
        neighbor.

        Something similar can be said regarding the whole of Orthodox life.

        Orthodox Christians in America come from widely different backgrounds, and
        there are enough variations in the application of Tradition that you are
        bound to run into what you 'judge' as inconsistencies. If this is true in
        Old World countries with centuries of Christian history (which it is), it is
        even more true for Orthodox immigrants and converts trying to create an
        Orthodox life in what has often been un-Orthodox and/or un-Christian
        circumstances here in the US.

        Listen to your priest in your parish and do what he says you should do. At
        the end of the day, the rule for all of us is "Don't ever sin. Practice all
        the virtues. Pray every moment of every day." Everything else is economia -
        a condescension to our weakness. Worry about yourself.

        No one asks babies their opinion on international policy, astrophysics or
        the economy. You were only born on the day you were baptized/chrismated into
        the Orthodox faith. You grow at a spiritual rate similar to the physical
        growth a person maturing from infant to toddler to child to teenager, etc.
        So, keep your thoughts and opinions on liturgical rubrics, fasting, prayer,
        bishops, etc. to yourself until you're older.

        Children are to be seen, not heard.

        7. You Aren't a Monk, You Aren't a Priest, Get a Job.
        **
        The canons state that one newly received into the Church should not be
        quickly ordained. 6 months to a year is not a long time. 3 years isn't a
        long time. Never plan on becoming a priest or a monk. If God wants you He,
        He'll let you know. Your spiritual father (and your wife, girlfriend or lack
        of either) will help you recognize when God's letting you know He wants you.
        You will not recognize the signs on your own.

        Do not 'suddenly' come back in a riassa (cassock) after visiting a
        monastery. Monasticism, like marriage, is for life. If you are planning on
        dying as a monk, there is plenty of time between now and then to become one.
        The same is true for visiting a seminary - don't 'suddenly' enroll.

        The immature, ungrounded faith of a new convert quickly turns the
        priesthood, diaconate and monasticism into just a job - or worse, a costumed
        pose.

        If you are or were a minister in another church body, do not expect to be
        ordained and do not make this a condition of your conversion. If you believe
        the Orthodox Church is the Church, then you will join Her. If you believe
        the Orthodox Church is the Church then do not convert because you want or
        need to be a priest/minister, are only trained to be a priest/minister as a
        profession and don't know how you'll pay the bills if you aren't. Convert.
        If God needs you, He is perfectly capable of getting you ordained. Until
        then, get a job. If He doesn't need you to serve at the altar, He'll help
        you get a regular job like the rest of us. People get jobs every single day.
        Most people don't 'use' their undergraduate or graduate degrees, anyway, so
        the fact that you have an MDiv or ThD is no excuse for not converting. I
        have a BFA in Acting and work as a corporate consultant along with a host of
        others that are over- or wrongly-educated. What's so special about you? we
        all share our own particular versions of the fear, pride, love of things and
        lack of faith. Come to think of it, Jesus and the disciples must have had a
        good chuckle about the lillies of the field and the birds of the air; it's
        just so unrealistic.

        [Often related to this is the idea (excuse) that because your husband, wife
        and/or children will not convert and you 'can't lead them spiritually' or
        'commune with them', then you cannot (will not; won't) convert. Ask yourself
        wether you really believe that the Orthodox Church is the Church, the Ark of
        Salvation outside of which there is no salvation? whether you think you know
        better than God and think Paul was only joking around in 1 Corinthians 7?
        why you don't believe that your own conversion and example as an Orthodox
        Christian isn't the way God is trying to save your family bringing them into
        true communion with His Body? Do you love your family and the world more
        than God? Perhaps Jesus was also joking around in Matthew 10:37.]

        8. No One has Messed Your Life up More Than You; or, No One Cares What You
        Think.
        **
        **The common denominator in all the bad, sinful and painful situations in
        your life is you. You wouldn't buy a used car with as bad a record as you,
        you wouldn't vote for a politician with as bad a record of choices and
        accomplishments as you, so if (when) you find yourself saying, "I think..."
        know you are wrong and check with someone else before continuing.

        No one cares what you think, and neither should you.

        9. Don't Play House.

        If you are single, during the 6 months to a year after converting to
        Orthodoxy do not date that cute boy/girl in the parish, do not date every
        cute or semi-cute boy/girl in the parish, do not get into a serious
        relationship. These relationships are nothing more than 'playing house'. You
        are riding the emotional wave of a new and exciting experience and we, as
        citizens of an overly sexualized and spiritually atrophied culture take this
        as romance, 'love', etc. Getting into a relationship at this point in the
        coversion process is like having sex outside of marriage - it's fake. You
        will almost assuredly not stay together. You will then be tempted to leave
        the parish or Orthodoxy because you feel uncomfortable seeing them every
        Sunday, Great Feast, etc. You will also have ruined the possibility of a
        real relationship with that person at some point in the future once you are
        prepared for it.

        On the upshot, if you disregard this rule and stay in the Church, you will
        have the opportunity to lament and repent of the silliness and sins you
        committed with that person. You will also be able to repent of the sins you
        led that person into during your 'passionate' and likely sinful romance.

        Preserve the virginity you 'get back' in Baptism. The canons say a man must
        be a virgin, or he must be only once married as the virginal husband of a
        virgin to be ordained. The church may need you; keep yourself. There is no
        'boys will be boys' canon in the Orthodox Church.

        If you are married when you convert, stay as you are as the Apostle
        commands. Don't get too far ahead of the spouse you married before your
        conversion. Remember, it's you who are the Orthodox Christian not him/her;
        you are the one fasting, not him/her. Be a good, loving, patient, kind
        Orthodox Christian and perhaps your spouse will convert; act like a jerk and
        you will be responsible for their remaining outside of the Church. In fact,
        if you are an Orthodox Christian and your spouse is not, then it is your
        fault not his/hers so don't point fingers.


        10. Don't Look Back; Don't Look Back in Anger.

        Your reception into the Orthodox Church is a mystical marriage: don't cheat
        on your wife.

        Do not go back to the church you grew up in or later joined. Do not be like
        Lot's wife in the Old Testament who looked back at her life in Sodom after
        she was saved. Do not receive the sacraments in other churches.

        You cannot hate what brought you to the Church or you will hate yourself
        right out of the Church. Convert to Orthodoxy, do not convert from something
        else. Be thankful for all the good you had, and for the fullness of good you
        have found. Leave the critique and analysis of 'heterodox' churches to
        others - your supposed expertise is not needed and offering your two cents
        will do nothing but hurt you.

        11. Who Asked You?
        **
        Only after 3 years may you consider sharing your conversion story in a
        public way, and then only if someone asks you for it. Get permission from
        your priest first. There is nothing especially special about your conversion
        except that it happened to you. There is nothing more special about you and
        your conversion story that isn't special about someone else's. God brought
        you to the Church without your conversion story, He can bring others to the
        Church without your conversion story, too. It's one thing to have an answer
        regarding the hop you have and how you got where you are, it's another thing
        to have an answer to the question unasked.

        12. Convert Without Ceasing.
        **
        Converts, Cradle Orthodox and 'Retread' have to choose to be Orthodox
        Christians every moment, every day. Priests choose to be priests every day,
        monks choose monasticism every day. These are conversions. Choose to pray in
        the morning and evening, choose to fast, choose to be kind and loving and
        patient, choose to return good for evil, choose to attend services, choose
        to be diligent at work, choose to be a good and loving husband/wife,
        mother/father, sibling/child. Convert ceaselessly.


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • krolechka
        Christopher, this is just brilliant! :) I just had a chance to read it. Wish I knew these things back then too! Although, I d probably not get some (or most?)
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 2, 2008
        • 0 Attachment
          Christopher, this is just brilliant! :)
          I just had a chance to read it. Wish I knew these things back then too!
          Although, I'd probably not get some (or most?) of them.
          Well, I'm still a "novice", so it's still very useful for me. :)
          Will link to your blog entry from my blog.
          Sasha

          --- In LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com, "Christopher Orr"
          <xcjorr@...> wrote:
          >
          > 12 Things I Wish I'd Known as a
          > Convert<http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2007/01/guidelines-for-
          conversion.html>
          >
          > *Guidelines for Conversion to the Orthodox Faith by Christopher Orr*
          >
          > ...
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.