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Author Topic: I'm still not baptized...  (Read 2672 times) Average Rating: 0
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Isadore
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« on: January 18, 2010, 06:16:55 AM »

...my parents are rabidly non-religious so I never was. Oops?

However, I've always wanted to belong to a church. When I read The Orthodox Way and The Orthodox Church, I was hooked. I practice zen meditation with my chotki, have my icon corner, read from my bible, BUT, I have not converted yet.

There are some reasons for this--firstly I (literally) have avoidant personality disorder. I am a very polite hermit-type, which is nice for prayer and meditation, but things like service and confession scare me to death. It's embarrassing the number of times I've lingered outside of a church wanting to go inside or made *absolutely sure* the church was empty before going in myself. And yes I'm in treatment, but it's extremely difficult.

Because secondly, I might be shy and stoic but I've had an awfully colorful past I'd have to confess including the standard sex-drugs-squatting-punk-rock-porn-hustling business and being a professional dominatrix (question: do you have sexual contact with them? answer: never, but it's still legally prostitution), and I know, Death To The World etc etc, but still. Yikes.

Thirdly, if I get over the first two, I don't know where to start. I have the luck of being in a major city that has everything, and I don't know the difference between these. I'm Italian/Sicilian/Greek/Turkish. I'm most interested in Antioch or Greek, but I don't know the difference or if there's anymore variations that run a bit closer to my culture. I've settled down and become engaged to a cradle-Orthodox Ukrainian, and I don't know the difference between Slavic and Byzantine, only that there are some, and hopefully they allow intermarriage.

Sorry for such a complex post--I guess I am saying, I'd really really like to finally be baptized or at least on the way, but I'm confused and cold-footed due to all of the above Sad
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2010, 07:16:12 AM »

Hi Isadore and welcome to the forum. Probably the first move might be to phone for an appointment to meet a priest one to one. Could you manage that? And then go from there?
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« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2010, 08:29:40 AM »

Thirdly, if I get over the first two, I don't know where to start. I have the luck of being in a major city that has everything, and I don't know the difference between these. I'm Italian/Sicilian/Greek/Turkish. I'm most interested in Antioch or Greek, but I don't know the difference or if there's anymore variations that run a bit closer to my culture. I've settled down and become engaged to a cradle-Orthodox Ukrainian, and I don't know the difference between Slavic and Byzantine, only that there are some, and hopefully they allow intermarriage.

I've never regularly attended an Orthodox church in the U.S. as my introduction to Orthodoxy was in Japan- where I continue to live.  Thus many others are far more qualified to answer this question than I am.  But seeing as how they have yet to do so, I'll give it a shot...

It would probably really depend on the parish how much things will differ from Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, Antiochian, etc.  All of them will be using the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.  If they have a decent number of people in that parish who are from "the old country" then parts of the liturgy might be in that language- how much would just depend.  Also, there may be cultural festivals held at the parish sometimes during the year.  The type of chanting might also differ. 

As for inter-marriage and inter-communion, all canonical Eastern Orthodox churches are in communion.  Not only do they allow inter-marriage between Greeks, Russians, etc. But in the United States inter-marriage is allowed between Orthodox and any baptized Trinitarian Christian- as long as it's done in an Orthodox church. 

If I'm wrong on any of this, I hope someone will correct me.

And welcome to the forum! Cheesy
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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2010, 08:30:18 AM »

...my parents are rabidly non-religious so I never was. Oops?

However, I've always wanted to belong to a church. When I read The Orthodox Way and The Orthodox Church, I was hooked. I practice zen meditation with my chotki, have my icon corner, read from my bible, BUT, I have not converted yet.

There are some reasons for this--firstly I (literally) have avoidant personality disorder. I am a very polite hermit-type, which is nice for prayer and meditation, but things like service and confession scare me to death. It's embarrassing the number of times I've lingered outside of a church wanting to go inside or made *absolutely sure* the church was empty before going in myself. And yes I'm in treatment, but it's extremely difficult.

Because secondly, I might be shy and stoic but I've had an awfully colorful past I'd have to confess including the standard sex-drugs-squatting-punk-rock-porn-hustling business and being a professional dominatrix (question: do you have sexual contact with them? answer: never, but it's still legally prostitution), and I know, Death To The World etc etc, but still. Yikes.

Thirdly, if I get over the first two, I don't know where to start. I have the luck of being in a major city that has everything, and I don't know the difference between these. I'm Italian/Sicilian/Greek/Turkish. I'm most interested in Antioch or Greek, but I don't know the difference or if there's anymore variations that run a bit closer to my culture. I've settled down and become engaged to a cradle-Orthodox Ukrainian, and I don't know the difference between Slavic and Byzantine, only that there are some, and hopefully they allow intermarriage.

It's not intermarriage: besides language and differences in usage, it is one and the same.  Given your problems, are you able to go with your fiancee? In which case it might be better to go with the Slavic, despite your ethnic background (I did the same myself, and though now in an Antiochian parish, in many ways I favor the Russian/Slavic style).



Quote
Sorry for such a complex post--I guess I am saying, I'd really really like to finally be baptized or at least on the way, but I'm confused and cold-footed due to all of the above Sad

Perhaps you should talk to the priest that you plan on celebrating your wedding:btw, you can't get married until you are baptized.
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2010, 09:48:39 AM »

Isadore,

Welcome to the forum Smiley I also used to have issues that kept me away from attending church services. I don't think mine were as severe as what you are describing, but they were there. I'd suggest making sure you find a priest who is pastorally sensitive, and who you can talk to about any potential issues. I've had both an Orthodox priest and a deacon rebuke me for sitting in the car while my wife attended Liturgy, telling me that I was "playing games," when the fact of the matter was I just had too much anxiety to go in (my wife didn't drive, and at times I was the only way she could get there). Better to head potential problems off if you can.

Regarding your lifestyle... some of it I am not unfamiliar with, though I've never been a professional. Wink "The standard sex-drugs-squatting-punk-rock-porn-hustling business" sounds wilder than what I've done, though I'm sure if most people around here started digging into my personal life over the past few years, they could find lots of "sins" to point at.  All I'll say on that point is, in Orthodoxy it usually doesn't really matter what your past is like, so long as you're sincerely trying now. Even murderers, prostitutes, etc. can eventually become saints in Orthodoxy, through cooperation with God.

Regarding a place to go and a jurisdiction, if you are interested in Antiochian or Greek, then by all means try to explore those options, and see what you come up with. As Riddikulus mentioned, if visiting for a face-to-face is too much right away, try a phone call. Or perhaps let your fiancee break the ice with a priest, that way when you do first meet the priest, it'll be more like you're meeting a friend or acquaintance of your fiancee, rather than an unknown stranger.

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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2010, 10:32:51 AM »

Welcome to the forum, Isadore!


Quote
Because secondly, I might be shy and stoic but I've had an awfully colorful past I'd have to confess including the standard sex-drugs-squatting-punk-rock-porn-hustling business and being a professional dominatrix (question: do you have sexual contact with them? answer: never, but it's still legally prostitution), and I know, Death To The World etc etc, but still. Yikes.

From my experience, priests are not terribly interested in details. In fact many guides to confession tell us not to get too detailed in our confessions, especially when it comes to carnal sins like this. If you simply say "sexual immorality," then chances are he'll leave it at that. He isn't going to ask you "what kind?" "with whom?" "what was it like?" etc.

Quote
I'm Italian/Sicilian/Greek/Turkish. I'm most interested in Antioch or Greek, but I don't know the difference or if there's anymore variations that run a bit closer to my culture. I've settled down and become engaged to a cradle-Orthodox Ukrainian, and I don't know the difference between Slavic and Byzantine, only that there are some, and hopefully they allow intermarriage.

It's all one church, whether Greek or Russian or Antiochian or whatever, so don't worry about that. The services will  be very similar. The main differences will be the style of music and the language spoken, unless they all use English, which is possible. I would suggest finding a church where the priest is friendly and helpful and the services are in a language you can understand.

I would also advise you not to mix in zen meditation with Orthodox spirituality. The Buddhist and Orthodox spiritualities have vastly different goals, even if they sometimes have some superficial resemblance.
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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2010, 02:59:00 PM »

Isadore, Welcome to the forum.   Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2010, 03:03:09 PM »

Welcome !!

How are you doing Zen meditation ( "zazen") are you working on Koans or just sitting and counting breaths or something else?

Have you read the book "The Way of the Pilgrim"?
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« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2010, 04:40:09 PM »

God will help. I'm also kind of an interior person and I avoid people a lot and on confession, sure it is pretty scary sometimes going for the first time but once you get all the sins out, you feel light as a feather. Honestly, the priest is not there to judge you or anything and it is best to just let everything out when confession comes since it does you no good to keep anything hidden. The thing about us humans is that we are full of sin and we all have to struggle towards God. The Church is a hospital and our sins are our sickness so we have to go to that hospital to have our sicknesses healed. No sickness is too much for God to heal. St. Mary of Egypt was a harlot, St. Moses the Ethiopian was a murderer and a bandit, and St. Paul was a persecuter of those who followed Christ but they all repented and became very holy people.

As said by Iconodule, you should not practice Zen with Orthodoxy. The two are at odds with one another. You should read up on the Jesus prayer (which is said with the chotki). Meditation and the Jesus prayer both have different goals. Meditation's goal is to reach a state of nothingness where the Jesus prayer is a prayer asking God for His mercy and love. The goal of the Jesus prayer is to aquire God's grace which is aquired after much work. When practicing the Jesus prayer, one should have guidence.
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« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2010, 04:43:37 PM »


I practice zen meditation with my chotki,

How is that possible? Isn't Zen meditation supposed to be about "just sitting" whereas using a chotki is supposed to be about constantly praying?
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« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2010, 05:31:06 PM »

I would jettison the Zen meditation and focus on cultivating an Orthodox rule of prayer.

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« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2010, 05:55:29 PM »

Welcome Isadore!

Please know that all of us in the Church are terrible sinners. Many of us believe that our many wretched sins are going to make the priest gasp or loss consciousness during our confessions; I’ve never heard of this happening in my many decades in the Church. Smiley Don’t let the thought of going to confession keep you from the Church.  Realize that priests have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of confessions.

Have you thought about calling some of the nearby priests and talking with them briefly?  This might provide you with a “feeling” about which church you would first like to visit.
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« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2010, 06:14:46 PM »

...my parents are rabidly non-religious so I never was. Oops?

However, I've always wanted to belong to a church. When I read The Orthodox Way and The Orthodox Church, I was hooked. I practice zen meditation with my chotki, have my icon corner, read from my bible, BUT, I have not converted yet.


This sounds like a serious conflict of interest to me. Orthodoxy is not just something you can mix n' match with other religions.
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« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2010, 06:48:01 PM »

Hi Isadore, and welcome to the forum!

My parents, and actually EVERYONE I've ever known closely, socialized with, etc., were/are unbelievers. I was born and raised in the former USSR in a family of very loyal Soviet citizens, servants of the rabidly anti-Theistic Communist state. It goes without saying that I haven't received any religious upbringing or education. Later, as a grownup, I was, for quite a while, a secular "humanist," and so were (and still are) all of my close friends.

Right now, I live with my wife who identifies herself as an agnostic and says that all these religions and churches and prayers and fasts and other "stuff" are completely redundant and silly. We have a daughter who is, at the age of 25, a bitter, venomous, militant Atheist (even though a great, wonderful, extremely nice and good and loving human being), and so is her husband, and, to a large extent, all of her husband's relatives. My own only surviving relative, my mother, is an agnostic and is rather bitter and aggressively negative about any kind of "organized religion."

And yet I, somehow, retained the hearing of the "gentle wispering of the Spirit," and was baptised (at the age of 46) in a Protestant congregation, and then, being further drawn by the Spirit, chrismated and received into the Orthodox Church in February 2007, at the age of 49.

It's never over until it's over. Smiley God willing, you will be baptised and received into the Church.
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« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2010, 09:11:21 PM »


I would also advise you not to mix in zen meditation with Orthodox spirituality. The Buddhist and Orthodox spiritualities have vastly different goals, even if they sometimes have some superficial resemblance.

While zazen most often has an inherently Buddhist goal, I don't know that this is necessary.
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« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2010, 09:12:25 PM »


Meditation and the Jesus prayer both have different goals. Meditation's goal is to reach a state of nothingness where the Jesus prayer is a prayer asking God for His mercy and love.

Don't generalize. Meditation comes in various forms and schools.
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« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2010, 09:15:31 PM »

...my parents are rabidly non-religious so I never was. Oops?

However, I've always wanted to belong to a church. When I read The Orthodox Way and The Orthodox Church, I was hooked. I practice zen meditation with my chotki, have my icon corner, read from my bible, BUT, I have not converted yet.


This sounds like a serious conflict of interest to me. Orthodoxy is not just something you can mix n' match with other religions.

That may not be the case. It may be possible to utilize the methodology of the Zen Buddhist without using this towards the same goal.
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« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2010, 07:05:54 AM »

Yikes, it looks like I started a debate, but let me try to answer things...

First thank you for your support Smiley I'm very glad to hear intermarriage is easy and conversion, confession etc are common sources of anxiety...I will just have to make my specifics more known. My fiancee agreed to come to services with me, as well.

As for the "zen" bit it is more as deusveritasest said more related to this post: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,25472.0.html . For me I've been practicing meditation forms since I was about 14 and breath counting, walking meditation, and zen concepts of awareness are what I use and one of the things that drew me to Orthodoxy in the first place--the concept of awareness and infusion of the Holy Spirit in everything one does, in spiritual manner (I am not a fan of Western philosophy obviously). All zen studies I've done have been a non-theistic meditation vehicle--Buddhist theism/deification and mythology is not included. I guess what I mean by "zen" is this awareness and spiritual acceptance. Also as an Eastern concept, infusion of the spiritual self and erasure of vanity (which all other sins stem from) with a "goal" of theosis or focus rather than satori. Does this make any sense? I'm not defending mix-and-match religion, but observing shared Eastern concepts.
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« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2010, 09:30:26 AM »

Hi Isadore,

I can empathize with some of your concerns.  I was baptized, but not into Orthodoxy, and while Orthodoxy is revealing itself to me, I haven't converted yet, it is as if I am waiting for my mind and my heart to match...poor analogy so forgive me, but I think its apt.  I also have had a 'colourful' past of drug addiction, attempted suicides, and anorexia (I am male, which had an added stigma), which had kept me away.  Though perhaps I may not be the right person to, I echo the replies as to the universality of Orthodoxy, and would add that to me, a sinner like all, I find that attending services, or just going to Church when I can, has done more for me than just 'spiritual healing'.
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« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2010, 11:12:50 AM »

isadore,
you may be reassured to learn that many Orthodox parishes get the rap for ignoring visitors!
 Wink

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« Reply #20 on: January 19, 2010, 01:40:01 PM »

Yikes, it looks like I started a debate, but let me try to answer things...

First thank you for your support Smiley I'm very glad to hear intermarriage is easy and conversion, confession etc are common sources of anxiety...I will just have to make my specifics more known. My fiancee agreed to come to services with me, as well.

As for the "zen" bit it is more as deusveritasest said more related to this post: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,25472.0.html . For me I've been practicing meditation forms since I was about 14 and breath counting, walking meditation, and zen concepts of awareness are what I use and one of the things that drew me to Orthodoxy in the first place--the concept of awareness and infusion of the Holy Spirit in everything one does, in spiritual manner (I am not a fan of Western philosophy obviously). All zen studies I've done have been a non-theistic meditation vehicle--Buddhist theism/deification and mythology is not included. I guess what I mean by "zen" is this awareness and spiritual acceptance. Also as an Eastern concept, infusion of the spiritual self and erasure of vanity (which all other sins stem from) with a "goal" of theosis or focus rather than satori. Does this make any sense? I'm not defending mix-and-match religion, but observing shared Eastern concepts.

Thanks for the further explanation of what you mean by Zen. You need to keep in mind that there is a Zen sect of Buddhism.

IMHO, a person who just sits and counts breaths and listens to his surroundings is doing something spiritually neutral. Actual Zen training under a Master is a horse of a different color and not acceptable I would think even though we sometimes see Catholic and
Anglican Priests who study under Zen Masters.

My late wife developed a pen pal relationship with a rather famous female Zen Master. She indicated no real  interest in Zen past a couple of questions but they just went on for years with "girl talk" (pardon the expression). Nothing spiritual, just health stuff ( they both had fibromialgia) and this and that trivial matter. I was very very impressed with the Zen Master that she could drop down to normal conversation and just be buddies with someone.

I used to have a Buddhist Prison ministry before I became a Christian. I wanted to teach about all the "idea's" and doctrines of Buddhism. But they pleaded with me to teach them how to meditate ( I was not in the Zen Sect, but knew enough about sitting meditation to do some basic instruction). They said that with all the violence and disturbances in Prison, they needed a way to calm down and detach.
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« Reply #21 on: January 19, 2010, 04:36:24 PM »


As for the "zen" bit it is more as deusveritasest said more related to this post: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,25472.0.html . For me I've been practicing meditation forms since I was about 14 and breath counting, walking meditation, and zen concepts of awareness are what I use and one of the things that drew me to Orthodoxy in the first place--the concept of awareness and infusion of the Holy Spirit in everything one does, in spiritual manner (I am not a fan of Western philosophy obviously). All zen studies I've done have been a non-theistic meditation vehicle--Buddhist theism/deification and mythology is not included. I guess what I mean by "zen" is this awareness and spiritual acceptance. Also as an Eastern concept, infusion of the spiritual self and erasure of vanity (which all other sins stem from) with a "goal" of theosis or focus rather than satori. Does this make any sense? I'm not defending mix-and-match religion, but observing shared Eastern concepts.

Makes perfect sense to me, except that if the goal is theosis it technically should be regarded as a theistic vehicle.
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« Reply #22 on: January 19, 2010, 05:59:55 PM »

When I was a Buddhist it became my observation that most of the "Zen" stuff being sold to Americans was BS. It was very hard to find authentic Zen teaching... even "masters" from respectable lineages could be ignorant and, from a Buddhist perspective, heretical. This was especially true of the Japanese and Korean traditions where antinomianism seemed to have reached its peak and was further exploited and misinterpreted by western converts. The Western initiates tend to dumb everything down and tailor things to New Age/ secular prejudices.

I suppose you could practice something that looks like zazen, without actually being a Buddhist, but it wouldn't be zazen. Someone could repeat the Jesus prayer like a Buddhist mantra while using visualizations but I wouldn't call this prayer of the heart.

If you want to combine breathing techniques with spiritual exercises, there are breathing methods associated with the Jesus prayer. For example, St. Nicodemus recommends, for beginners, saying "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me" while holding your breath. The slight pain this causes, he says, will humble and soften the heart and more readily draw the mind into the heart. But it's always best to talk to a priest about these practices.
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« Reply #23 on: January 19, 2010, 09:45:54 PM »

When I was a Buddhist it became my observation that most of the "Zen" stuff being sold to Americans was BS. It was very hard to find authentic Zen teaching... even "masters" from respectable lineages could be ignorant and, from a Buddhist perspective, heretical. This was especially true of the Japanese and Korean traditions where antinomianism seemed to have reached its peak and was further exploited and misinterpreted by western converts. The Western initiates tend to dumb everything down and tailor things to New Age/ secular prejudices.

I suppose you could practice something that looks like zazen, without actually being a Buddhist, but it wouldn't be zazen. Someone could repeat the Jesus prayer like a Buddhist mantra while using visualizations but I wouldn't call this prayer of the heart.

If you want to combine breathing techniques with spiritual exercises, there are breathing methods associated with the Jesus prayer. For example, St. Nicodemus recommends, for beginners, saying "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me" while holding your breath. The slight pain this causes, he says, will humble and soften the heart and more readily draw the mind into the heart. But it's always best to talk to a priest about these practices.

It's true that much of American Buddhism has devolved into health wealth and happiness cults but there are many authentic teachers around as well.

A very good book is "The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery" by Janwillem van de Wetering . He was a Dutch fellow who went to Japan in the early days to practice. When he asked to convert to Buddhism, they told him it was not really necessary.
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Your idea has been debunked 1000 times already.. Maybe 1001 will be the charm
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