Friday, December 7, 2007

Why Did You Become Orthodox?

Fr. Stephen has an article about why people become Orthodox. Many readers responded, telling briefly why they, too, had become Orthodox.

These are not ”conversion stories” but just reasons. Check them out if you are curious, if you wonder, as a certain relative of mine once did, "What drug they're on."

I'm not going to inflict my conversion story upon anybody, either. But I can summarize my main reasons under three headings.

1.) I had arrived at the point at which it was Orthodoxy or nothing. I had studied (heterodox) theology in college and by the time I had completed couple of semesters of graduate studies, I had grown osick of it. I had wandered all over the Protestant map, never finding any home, and had ended up in the New Age, an Episcohindubuddhapalian.

2.) The first time I ever attended an Orthodox Divine Liturgy, it was miraculous for me. The first miracle was that although the service was in Old Slavonic, I understood it all. No, I didn’t understand the actual words (except, “Iesus Christos”, “alleluia”, and “amen”). But I understood what they all meant. I understood what all the prayers were saying and I knew at every moment what we were doing and why. The second miracle was that I had fallen in love. My heart was deliriously joyful, but my head was reeling. My head said, “I’ve stumbled upon a fossil! This church hasn’t updated her theology since the Seventh Ecumenical Council! I've fallen into a time warp; I have found an actual, living dinosaur!” I knew I could never become Orthodox; my head must overrule my heart. I went home and cried for two weeks. An album of Orthodox music the priest had given me I listened to so many times, night and day, that my family bought me headphones so they would no longer have to hear it.

3.) I discovered the "True Church" does exist after all. It happened years later, when someone began reading stories of the desert fathers and sharing them with me. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a story about St. Makarios. It seems there was a rumor among the monks in his area that one of the brothers was keeping a woman in his cave. A committee of monks formed to go visit this brother and see if the rumor were true.

The monk in question, standing at the door of his cave, saw this self-appointed vice squad approaching from afar. Quickly, he overturned his wash pot and hid the woman under it.

When the delegation arrived, St. Makarios, pleading tiredness, asked to be allowed to sit upon the overturned wash pot while the others searched the cell for signs of a woman. When the search was unsuccessfully concluded, St. Makarios bade the other monks go on home without him; we would rest a while longer. They departed, and St. Makarios, standing up to leave, said to the sinful monk, “Be very careful, my brother.” The monk burst into tears and fell at St. Markarios’ feet in repentance.

My first reaction was to be scandalized. A saint had allowed a fellow monk to get away with a sin, and a very serious one at that! But then my second reaction was, “What tender mercy! How he spared that poor woman from humiliation!” Of course, he had spared the monk equal or greater humiliation. He also spared all the other monks the scandal. That was true love! And my third reaction was to realize that had my heart truly been loving, I would never have been scandalized in the first place; I would have recognized at once that love is the true fulfillment of God’s law.

Then in a flash, I realized that Orthodoxy was the only religion of true love. Other religions might think God is loving, but they also supposed God had another, darker, side, inescapably and irreducibly unloving once you stripped away the highly euphemistic language.

Orthodoxy is the only faith that has a whole, vast Tradition that teaches you how to love, that puts you through the paces of striving to love, that challenges you to look at things from Love’s point of view – and “God is Love.” Only Orthodoxy has “all this stuff,” as I said at the time, aloud, referring to the fathers and all the rest of the unsullied, Holy Tradition. Then I added, “This really is the True Church!” I said it several times, out loud, amazed at the words. This was the church I had been seeking since I was eleven years old, but had long since come to suppose was surely some na├»ve, childhood dream. Tears filled my eyes as I said, again aloud, “I have to become Orthodox as soon as possible!”

In short, I became Orthodox because I fell in love with the Church, because I recognized her as Christ’s Church, and because I was spiritually desperate.

Why did you? Or why haven't you?


Ezekiel said...

Parts of "my story" are on my blog, and they have been published by various folk, so need to repeat that!

The short answer to the question "Where is the Church?" was answered in Orthodoxy. No denomination here, She is the "one holy, catholic and apostolic Church" confessed in the Nicene Creed, the Symbol of Faith.

That question, "Where is the Church" was the one raised by a number of Lutheran pastors probably six or so years ago, now. Most, but not all, have "come home."

I do remember one retreat at Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, MI -- my first experience of the Hours with the Sisters. Heaven on earth! After that retreat, the question was not "if" but "when."

And I rejoice that the Divine Liturgy is the Divine Liturgy, guarding the deposit of Truth -- no more potluck "what are we going to do this week" stuff!

The faith is prayed in the Divine Liturgy, rehearsed in the Hours and in Orthros (Matins) and Vespers) -- repeated and "read in" to one.

What I rejoice in: by the grace of God, I'm home! And I pray that my children, both now seeking the Church, will soon, with their families join Katherine and I!


Chocolatesa said...

I love that story of St. Makarios too!! I quoted a slightly different version in a blog post myself a while back here