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Author Topic: Some Difficulties in Converting  (Read 1712 times) Average Rating: 0
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StGeorge
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« on: November 29, 2007, 11:00:26 PM »

I've decided to become Orthodox.  I am a Catechumen at present and hope to soon be received into the Orthodox Church through chrismation.  I used to be Roman Catholic, and to be honest, I am having a certain amount of mental difficulties in overcoming what I have been taught in the past.  I was wondering if I could have some help in the matter.

First of all, I am occasionally haunted by the majesty that the Roman Catholic Church presents.  Not only is the Roman Catholic Church numerically large, but it presents itself as God's empire on earth.  I know that this is not the way the early Church presented herself, but I'm still having a great difficulty overcoming the force of this appearance (if that makes sense).

Secondly, the force of the Roman Catholic arguments themselves.  Many of these arguments are backed by storehouses of papal quotes, early Father quotes, etc., and I often feel powerless and not skilled enough to navigate them. 

To put everything in perspective, I know that I belong in the Eastern Orthodox Church, but the Roman Catholicism still pulls at my mind.  In my heart, I am Orthodox; but oftentimes I am at a loss in my mind how to reconcile things like a greater leniency towards contraception, remarriage after divorce, etc., and in my mind I oftentimes feel drawn to the Roman Catholic proofs for these.  Does this make sense?     

Also, in becoming Orthodox, I sometimes become despondent by the differences amongst the Orthodox Churches in how they do things.  For example, some Orthodox will commune Oriental Orthodox; others consider them heretical.  I also become somewhat discouraged by the debates between traditional Orthodox and mainstream Orthodox.  On the one hand, I am wary of a traditionalism that leads to a kind of Pharisaical faith; on the other hand, I gasp when I hear Orthodox significantly downplay the filioque and other important theological matters as historical misunderstandings that should not hinder a fast reconciliation of Churches.   

Has anyone had similar experiences? 
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2007, 01:04:53 AM »

Not really.  But maybe my two cents may be of some use.

I went to a Latin High School, as an Evangelical Lutheran.  To me the Orthodox were just like those under Rome: just in Greek, more incense, but just as wrong.

In college I came across apophatic theology in the Encyclopedia Britannica article on Orthodoxy and was struck by the sense of it.  I began reading (I went to the U of Chicago).

It wasn't until an agnostic pointed out that whenever I talked about issues I would mention the Lutheran position, and then go on to the Orthodox position and add that I agreed with that.  "Why aren't you Orthodox?" he asked.  I didn't know, except that I had the Protestant mentality where it's all a big smorgasbord of theology.

Well, I had read Bulgakov's "the Orthodox Church," when he states that the bare minimum of Orthodoxy is the Bible and the definitions of the Seven Councils.  I believed the Bible (so I thought), and had accepted the Councils, at least intellectually (St. John had reasoned the Seventh for me: up to a year before my conversion I would burn icons).  So I figured that the case had been made, and I had accepted it. Too late to stay on the farm, I had seen Paris.

Now, for the (hopefully) useful part.

Well, there were a number of things that I had accepted intellectually, but had not sunk deep in yet.  The devotion to the Theotokos, for example.  It was not until years later, arguing about her with a Muslim, that I did "get it" as far as her role and relationship with us.

I also had trouble with the Orthodox phronema, for quite some time trying to read all the books, get down all the information, just like I had Lutheranism between the covers of the Book of Concord.  Thankfully, soon I realized that was like trying to drink the ocean, and just drank.

My point, if I had to wait until I had all questions answered, all discomforts (I had eliminated doubts) smoothed out, all devotions from the innermost recesses of my heart, until I could become Christmated, it would have been quite a long wait.

In many ways, there are certain things that can happen only when you are in the Church, no matter if you have had your head through the window when you are looking in.  You have to walk in the door.

A couple years ago, I came across my old copy of the Book of Concord, not having seen it for over a decade, maybe more.  When I had converted I didn't think that there was that much difference.  Looking at it with Orthodox eyes, I kept saying to myself "You believed THAT?!"  (I also noticed the name of the translator: Jaroslav Pelikan, another devout Lutheran who went East).

I've been to Rome (literally).  Yes, it's a nice Church.  But I have also been around the world, and found the Orthodox who believe the same Faith. Moreover, I have been all over the Middle East, seeing the shrines, and seen how the Fathers had the same Faith. 

It's easy to have a large Church, with a strong cetralized head, in the safety of friendly neighbors.  The Orthodox are among those hell bent on the Church's destruction, with no strong unified head.  Yet the Church remains One, Holy and Apostolic, ever ready to witness the Faith of the Martyrs.

I understand the force of the appearance (yes, it makes sense).

As for the cherry picked quotes, I don't worry about them.  Sifting through them I have never found them a threat.

As for leniency of things, like remarriage, I'm not impressed with the letter of the law, which much of the annulment scheme amounts to.

As for differences, God doesn't give us things cut and dry, and I think I see the wisdom in that (btw, for full disclosure, I've communed with the OO, but a formal acceptance of Chalcedon (and not just its Faith) must be forcoming).  Rome's not so united as it makes out.  The American branch can amply prove that.

I have not had the experience of any Orthodox downplaying the filioque, but those who know me, know better than do this in my presence.

So, in sum, based on my pitiful experience I wouldn't worry about it.  I don't know all the answers, but I DO know who has them, the Orthodox Church.

Oh, btw, welcome home.
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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2007, 06:33:57 AM »

First of all, I am occasionally haunted by the majesty that the Roman Catholic Church presents.
Me too.

Quote
Secondly, the force of the Roman Catholic arguments themselves.  Many of these arguments are backed by storehouses of papal quotes, early Father quotes, etc., and I often feel powerless and not skilled enough to navigate them.
I feel the same.  The masses of quotes go both ways, though, which is one reason I've had such a difficult time making a decision.

Quote
oftentimes I am at a loss in my mind how to reconcile things like a greater leniency towards contraception, remarriage after divorce, etc., and in my mind I oftentimes feel drawn to the Roman Catholic proofs for these.  Does this make sense?
Yes.  I think the Catholic Church makes a pretty good case for its position on contraception, specifically, though I think the annulment procedure kind of undercuts their stand on remarriage after divorce.

The Catholic Church has a great deal in its favor, but there is something about Orthodoxy that just draws a person...
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« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2007, 10:37:28 AM »

First of all, I am occasionally haunted by the majesty that the Roman Catholic Church presents.


I suppose I can relate to this as I think back on my early years as a Roman Catholic. But I saw a continual and incremental protestantization of the Church over the years to the point where it lost much of it's majesty and mystique.

Secondly, the force of the Roman Catholic arguments themselves.  Many of these arguments are backed by storehouses of papal quotes, early Father quotes, etc., and I often feel powerless and not skilled enough to navigate them.
 

Interesting. A big part of my conversion to Holy Orthodoxy was the truth presented by some of these same resources.

but oftentimes I am at a loss in my mind how to reconcile things like a greater leniency towards contraception, remarriage after divorce, etc., and in my mind I oftentimes feel drawn to the Roman Catholic proofs for these.


The Orthodox Church is staunchly pro-life. She never condones any type of abortive contraceptive. There can be dispensations for non-abortive contraception (such as condoms) for certain circumstances--but this is handled on a pastoral basis between the individual and his spiritual father. Condom use in special circumstances would be comparable to a Roman Catholic practicing NFP--except I believe chances of conception may be greater with condom use.  Furthermore, I was very disturbed by the Roman Catholic practice of annulment. It did not make sense for the Church to proclaim that the sacrament of marriage can be retroactively voided!  The Orthodox Church, for specific reasons, by economia, will grant a divorce--but the sacrament is respected.  

Also, in becoming Orthodox, I sometimes become despondent by the differences amongst the Orthodox Churches in how they do things.  For example, some Orthodox will commune Oriental Orthodox; others consider them heretical.  I also become somewhat discouraged by the debates between traditional Orthodox and mainstream Orthodox.  On the one hand, I am wary of a traditionalism that leads to a kind of Pharisaical faith; on the other hand, I gasp when I hear Orthodox significantly downplay the filioque and other important theological matters as historical misunderstandings that should not hinder a fast reconciliation of Churches.
   

As a Roman and Eastern Catholic, I encountered many Catholics who did not know or practice their faith.  I encountered many dichotomies and confusions. The cradle Catholics seemed to know less about their faith than the converts. Guess what? As an Orthodox Catholic Christian, I see the same thing!  But when I look at what the RC Church actually teaches and what the Orthodox Catholic Church actually teaches--the truth of Holy Orthodoxy stands out like a pearl of great price!

Know your faith! Know what Holy Orthodoxy teaches. Read Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers. Study the lives of the saints. Love God and your neighbor. Stay charitable and pray to be delivered from the passions. Myself and my family have embraced Holy Orthodoxy and we have been graced with great peace and joy. Don't attempt to drink the entire ocean--just taste it and rejoice!  Holy Orthodoxy is a soothing balm for the soul.

Many are called, but few are chosen.
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StGeorge
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« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2007, 05:51:25 PM »

Quote
here can be dispensations for non-abortive contraception (such as condoms) for certain circumstances--but this is handled on a pastoral basis between the individual and his spiritual father. Condom use in special circumstances would be comparable to a Roman Catholic practicing NFP--except I believe chances of conception may be greater with condom use.

I know that Roman Catholicism emphasizes that every sexual act must be fully open to life.  I never really understood the difference between a couple practicing NFP to avoid fertile periods and a couple that uses condoms.  Of course, Roman Catholicism emphasizes that the former couple is open to life were it to occur, whereas the Catholic assumption is that couples that use condoms are not open to life at all in each procreative act.  What do Orthodox think of this reasoning? 
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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2007, 01:32:21 AM »

I know that Roman Catholicism emphasizes that every sexual act must be fully open to life.  I never really understood the difference between a couple practicing NFP to avoid fertile periods and a couple that uses condoms.  Of course, Roman Catholicism emphasizes that the former couple is open to life were it to occur, whereas the Catholic assumption is that couples that use condoms are not open to life at all in each procreative act.  What do Orthodox think of this reasoning? 

The Catholic view of contraception assumes that sex is simply for procreation and nothing else.  The Orthodox church does not assume this.  Sex is also considered an expression of love and unity between a husband and wife (that is the key, though- husband and wife).  This is expressed in the prayers of the marriage service-- the joining of two into one flesh, for example.  The prayers do bless procreation, but in no way make it the sole, or even primary purpose for marriage.  Thus, the marital state is the only case where contraception such as condoms are allowed.  The EO church, however, NEVER, EVER allows abortion, or an abortive form of contraception (such as the morning after pill). 

As with all things in the EO church, though, these decisions are not to be made lightly, and should ALWAYS be made in consultation with one's spiritual father.  I'm not sure if you are familiar with the tradition of eldership as it is contained within the EO, but this tradition of each faithful person having a spiritual father/ father confessor, is absolutley paramount and essential on one's journey to theosis.  These are the types of questions and issues that should always be addressed by your spiritual father.
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« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2007, 04:20:13 PM »

The Catholic view of contraception assumes that sex is simply for procreation and nothing else.
Based on my conversations with Catholics, I do not believe this is correct.  Catholics also believe very strongly in the unitive aspect of sex.  However, they believe that the unitive aspects and procreative aspects should never be separated.  In fact, they believe that when a couple sets up a barrier to procreation through the use of contraception, they are also setting up a barrier to the unitive aspect.  I really should actually read Humanae VitaeSmiley but I believe this is a fair summary of the Catholic position.
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« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2007, 08:11:35 PM »

Pope Paul VI 'Humanae Vitae' discussed marital love, etc..
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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2007, 09:20:59 PM »

SOG Pope John Paul II's series of lectures called The Theology of the Body also discusses this beautifully.
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« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2007, 09:41:33 PM »

SOG Pope John Paul II's series of lectures called The Theology of the Body also discusses this beautifully.
Indeed it does.  Do they still hold workshops/seminars about The Theology of the Body? 
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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2007, 09:43:46 PM »

Indeed it does.  Do they still hold workshops/seminars about The Theology of the Body? 

Yes, my church has weekly meetings about TOTB (and weekend retreats in Maine every couple months).
 
(MTA: Just noticed where this is. Probably best to discuss this in a different forum, Username.)
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