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Author Topic: Agnostic wondering about Orthodoxy; would like some help  (Read 3395 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: March 16, 2010, 04:20:33 AM »

So as the thread title indicates, I am agnostic, and although I don't claim to solidly say that there is no God or anything, I do wonder about a lot of things and the universe around us. (If this is the wrong place for this thread, please move it, although I've noticed a bunch of other threads requesting spiritual help in this part of the forum).

Here's my situation. I was born without religion but my non-religious parents got my neighbors to take me to a local (United) Church while I was young so that I can experience a different viewpoint (for which I respect my parents for doing despite both their vehement views against organised religion) . This was where I first learned about all things (if not most) Christianity. Eventually I lapsed from attendance to church, either due to learning about different belief systems, research or a juvenile impatience coupled with a hatred of dressing up nice on Sundays Tongue. As I reached my teenage years, I returned to religion, flirting with various religions including Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism and different Christian groups (namely Anglican and a brief return to the United Church). All throughout these experimentations I was still Agnostic and even though I came back to what I first experienced, they didn't really stick or make an impression, and that was when I stumbled upon the Orthodox Church.

I had a previous interest in religious music, but when I discovered the chants and choirs of the Orthodox Church, they went from being just music to being something emotional and something different. This was combined with the stunning art that are Orthodox Icons. The icons seemed to be something different and sometimes when looking at pictures of the Theotokos, I imagine I can feel the love between mother and child portrayed within the icon. Eventually I obtained a few CDs of Orthodox chants and even printed out a photo of the Theotokos of Vladimir and hung it above my bedroom door! All this would then be met with my agnostic self, upholding modern science and reason as an explanation for our universe.

Before, my agnosticism made it hard for me to believe the divinity of Jesus and all of Christianity, but my discovery of Orthodoxy seemed to have changed a few of those perceptions. Where other denominations failed to rekindle the religious part of me (what little was left), it seemed that Orthodoxy had more of an affect in sparking the religious side of me. A part of me says all of this is bunk, the other half says there's something more to Orthodoxy, different from the other denominations I've experienced. The whole of me is still unsure about everything and anything in the universe, and while the agnostic part of me says it's too easy to simply say that some guy created the earth in 7 days, the small religious part of me and the unsure part of me don't know what to think anymore. For example, one night I tried to ask anybody (God or whathaveyou) if Christianity is real or if Jesus was who he was, and as I tried to drift off to sleep, an unknown fear swelled within, prompting me to wake up again. This happened a few more times before I drifted off to sleep. What was this fear? Was it an agnostic fear of what was out there? Was it a religious fear of meeting Jesus in my sleep? Or was it a delusion? This was where my unsure self was in full force, I wasn't sure of anything anymore.

So here I am. I was once religious, then wasn't. Every other religion was meh until I met Orthodoxy. Everything is unknown now and I came here (to what seemed like a popular orthodox forum) to ask for help or guidance. The reason why I posted in this thread was because there seemed to be a lot of responses to other conflicts of faith so I was hoping to tap into the helpful community for a lot of responses.

My agnostic self tells me right now that this is a waste of time, the rest says "I don't know about anything anymore".

Please Help!

(P.S Why do people say "Lord Have Mercy" as a response to some of the threads?
P.P.S How could you determine your patron saint?
P.P.P.S Where does one go to buy icons?)
« Last Edit: March 16, 2010, 04:41:08 AM by bralex » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2010, 08:43:43 AM »

The beauty of Orthodoxy is that one can perceive the absolute truth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the aspect of having "love, faith, & hope" (as St. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13) towards others. From this we can understand resolution of our ultimate (spiritual) destiny that must also be achieved and reconciled to matter (the resurrection) thanks be to Jesus Christ. We can also understand truth and not judge our neighbor realizing that others who may not have this clearer understanding are more special to the Lord in ways only he knows and we do not and that we have no more entitlement to His salvation than anyone else.
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« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2010, 08:44:50 AM »

Lord, have mercy! Dear bralex, we Orthodox will often pray that simple prayer in imitation of its frequent use in both the Old and New Testaments. It's very common in the Psalms and the Prophets. It appears often in the Gospels where people would call out to Jesus seeking His word or His touch. The Greek words for "mercy" and "oil" are very similar - whether the similarity arises from etymology or mere coincidence, I don't know - but the two words (mercy & oil) are easily linked in this context. We are invoking the presence of Christ for His touch in whatever way might be needed at the time.

I am intrigued by your account of your nighttime fear. Let me ask, why do you use the word "fear"? There are accounts in Scripture where people are awakened by the call of God. You may want to respond with a prayer that many of us Orthodox use on a regular basis, known as the Jesus Prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I would urge you to attend an Orthodox worship service. Right now during Lent and during Holy Week there will be plenty! I'm not sure from what you said whether or not you've been able to do that.

Do keep asking questions, and keep in touch. There's lots more to say, of course, but I don't want to overwhelm you.
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« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2010, 10:33:43 AM »

All this would then be met with my agnostic self, upholding modern science and reason as an explanation for our universe.

The "conflict" between science and faith has always seemed to me to be somewhat of a false dichotomy.
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« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2010, 11:04:13 AM »

Dear Bralex,

My story is somewhat similar to yours. I was born in the former USSR, in a family of liberally-minded, secular, urban intellectuals-scientists, and never received any religious education or upbringing. My schools were, of course, terribly "theomachian," militantly anti-theistic; from kindergarten to graduate school, I kept hearing from my teachers that "our heroic Soviet Cosmonauts flew into the outer space and thus have finally proven that no gods exist," and that I am supposed to be a "builder of the future prosperous, scientifically-minded Communist society" where there is no room whatsoever for any religious prejudices.

Nonetheless, just like you, I was drawn to the Church by the heavenly beauty of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, the music, the icons, the sounds of church bells ringing on Sunday mornings from the St. Volodymyr Cathedral that was just a few blocks from my parents' apartment. It was a "forbidden fruit": if I openly told my classmates about my love of the Church, about me sneaking to evening services etc., I would most definitely be expelled from the Young Pioneers or, later, from the Komsomol (the Young Communist League), and that would mean that I would never eceive a higher education and never get any decent job or career, etc. And that unbelievably attractive to my rebellious, always rebellious and adventure-seeking nature.Smiley

Later in life, I experienced many moral, spiritual tribulations (of which one really outstanding was my father's suicide), grew more and more desperate and depressed and withdrawn, drank like crazy, behaved in a most creepy and crappy way, etc. But, thank God, I also read a lot, and talked with people, and eventually was received into the Orthodox Church.

I am still very much a rebel, and I am also a scientist, to whom it is simply impossible to be credulous and to be at peace with numerous beliefs that make no sense to me. I am, for example, very sceptical and often sarcastic about "Scripturally-based" "theological" discussions or (especially) about hagiology. But I believe, nevertheless, that the Orthodox Church realy is THE Church founded by Jesus Christ. I do believe without a shadow of a doubt in everything the Nicene-Constantinople Creed says, and when I hear people say or sing it, beginning each clause with "I believe...", I have an urge to say, "and I, too!".

I believe, like Dostoyevsky, that "the Beauty will save the world," and I do not find this beauty, this opened Heaven anywhere else BUT in my Church. There might be traces, shades of this beauty here and there, but I only find this beauty in all its fullness in an Orthodox parish that gathers for the Eucharist.

Best wishes to you, and may the Lord illumine your path to the Truth.

George
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« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2010, 11:34:59 AM »

I also believe in most sciences, but when science calls "love" junk DNA it takes a leap into the unknown. I have always bin one for the underdog and I just can't believe in this concept. It's more a choosing between two equals than anything else. Faith is a belief in the outcome of your choosing.
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« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2010, 11:55:37 AM »

Welcome to the forum.   Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2010, 12:40:33 PM »

Dear Bralex,

My story is somewhat similar to yours. I was born in the former USSR, in a family of liberally-minded, secular, urban intellectuals-scientists, and never received any religious education or upbringing. My schools were, of course, terribly "theomachian," militantly anti-theistic; from kindergarten to graduate school, I kept hearing from my teachers that "our heroic Soviet Cosmonauts flew into the outer space and thus have finally proven that no gods exist," and that I am supposed to be a "builder of the future prosperous, scientifically-minded Communist society" where there is no room whatsoever for any religious prejudices.

Nonetheless, just like you, I was drawn to the Church by the heavenly beauty of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, the music, the icons, the sounds of church bells ringing on Sunday mornings from the St. Volodymyr Cathedral that was just a few blocks from my parents' apartment. It was a "forbidden fruit": if I openly told my classmates about my love of the Church, about me sneaking to evening services etc., I would most definitely be expelled from the Young Pioneers or, later, from the Komsomol (the Young Communist League), and that would mean that I would never eceive a higher education and never get any decent job or career, etc. And that unbelievably attractive to my rebellious, always rebellious and adventure-seeking nature.Smiley

Later in life, I experienced many moral, spiritual tribulations (of which one really outstanding was my father's suicide), grew more and more desperate and depressed and withdrawn, drank like crazy, behaved in a most creepy and crappy way, etc. But, thank God, I also read a lot, and talked with people, and eventually was received into the Orthodox Church.

I am still very much a rebel, and I am also a scientist, to whom it is simply impossible to be credulous and to be at peace with numerous beliefs that make no sense to me. I am, for example, very sceptical and often sarcastic about "Scripturally-based" "theological" discussions or (especially) about hagiology. But I believe, nevertheless, that the Orthodox Church realy is THE Church founded by Jesus Christ. I do believe without a shadow of a doubt in everything the Nicene-Constantinople Creed says, and when I hear people say or sing it, beginning each clause with "I believe...", I have an urge to say, "and I, too!".

I believe, like Dostoyevsky, that "the Beauty will save the world," and I do not find this beauty, this opened Heaven anywhere else BUT in my Church. There might be traces, shades of this beauty here and there, but I only find this beauty in all its fullness in an Orthodox parish that gathers for the Eucharist.

Best wishes to you, and may the Lord illumine your path to the Truth.

George
Thank you george for the honesty.  Wheter a product of soviet mind set or the american mindset, especially public university secularism many people face the sam intern al struggles george speaks of. 
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« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2010, 12:55:00 PM »

Dear Bralex,

Welcome to the Forum!

I grew up in a 'pagan' household (in the real sense of the word), and so I had a rather 'interesting' journey.

The most important thing for me was to discover that the teachings of the Church, while at times I failed again and again to make sense of them, nevertheless seemed to bear the kind of fruit that I was looking for.  The Orthodox Church has endured grave persecution even to this day, and yet countless people were and are willing to die for it.  I have met living saints, holy people that have born living witness to me.

The Church also has a lot of broken people, and yet despite them it continues to carry out its work of transforming people through God's mercy and grace.  It is not an easy religion, and I suppose that makes it hard for our generation to grasp.  But, it does bear evidence to itself.  You just have to be open to seeing things you were not expecting to see.

You also have to be willing to change.  Most folks just want to remain as they are and find a religion that affirms their self-perception.  Orthodoxy challenges the self by preaching, first and foremost, repentance.  You can't repent as the Gospel proclaims without admitting you are, in the words of Arthur Fonzarelli, "wrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrooooooooonnnnnnng."

If you are as open as you appear to be at this point, put yourself on observer status and try going to services just to see what is going on.  Check yourself and see what makes you feel drawn and what makes you uncomfortable.  Know yourself (to the extent that you can), and you will gain the asnwers you seek.  Sometimes things intimidate us for good reasons, and others for bad.  You must know the difference.

Do not let anyone strong-arm you one way or another, because this is not a religion of force.  God does not force Himself on us.  We must come of our own free-will, becuase this is what God is developing within us: a properly functioning free-will capable of loving Him without restraint or compulsion.

In fact, this is about love.  We are made to love God, but this love must be given without conditions or compulsion.  This love is not a worldly, conditional love.  It is divine, and so it will necessarily change you when you encounter it.

By the way, we say "Lord, have mercy" because it is what we are really asking for in any prayer. It is also fairly ambiguous, allowing God to act not according to our demands, but according to His best judgment.

Don't worry about a parton saint right now, that will come and you will know.

As for icons, some churches seel them.  You can also get them here: http://www.skete.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_ID=2&CFID=441256&CFTOKEN=56743893

In the meantime, try going to church for regular services.  If you can, go to various Orthodox churches and see which one you would be willing to learn in.  Then, turn it all over to God and let Him reveal the truth.

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« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2010, 01:13:52 PM »

Welcome, from a fellow agnostic.
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« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2010, 01:32:44 PM »

one night I tried to ask anybody (God or whathaveyou) if Christianity is real or if Jesus was who he was, and as I tried to drift off to sleep, an unknown fear swelled within, prompting me to wake up again. This happened a few more times before I drifted off to sleep. What was this fear? Was it an agnostic fear of what was out there? Was it a religious fear of meeting Jesus in my sleep? Or was it a delusion? This was where my unsure self was in full force, I wasn't sure of anything anymore.
Perhaps you were feeling anxious because you are missing something (God?) and you felt somewhat lost/uncertain.  Please know that God loves you and wants you to seek Him.  God will never force Himself upon you and will not force you to be His puppet, so you have to go looking/learning to find Him.  You are on the right track searching in the oldest church on Earth, the Orthodox Church, which can trace its origin back to St. Paul and has retained the ancient teachings and traditions.
 
To briefly answer your listed questions-
“Lord have mercy” in the secular world is a flippant response implying that something is annoying and/or imperfect.  “Lord have mercy” in the Orthodox Church is a plea for God to intervene and provide whatever assistance only He knows is best to help the situation.

You can buy icons from many places on the internet.  Orthodox seminaries and bookstores have many choices.  Also, many Orthodox churches will have a small kiosk or store where icons are sold.
http://stspress.com/Icons.aspx
http://www.svspress.com/index.php?cPath=28_32
http://www.conciliarpress.com/icons

When babies are baptized they are given the name of a saint. Adults can choose the name of their saint when they join the Church through baptism or chrismation.  By being given the name of a saint, we become connected with the actions of a person that the Church believes should be imitated.  We look up to our patron saint and see how they lived their life following Christ.  We also ask them to pray for others and ourselves.

Welcome to the forum. Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2010, 01:49:11 PM »

So as the thread title indicates, I am agnostic, and although I don't claim to solidly say that there is no God or anything, I do wonder about a lot of things and the universe around us. (If this is the wrong place for this thread, please move it, although I've noticed a bunch of other threads requesting spiritual help in this part of the forum).

Here's my situation. I was born without religion but my non-religious parents got my neighbors to take me to a local (United) Church while I was young so that I can experience a different viewpoint (for which I respect my parents for doing despite both their vehement views against organised religion) . This was where I first learned about all things (if not most) Christianity. Eventually I lapsed from attendance to church, either due to learning about different belief systems, research or a juvenile impatience coupled with a hatred of dressing up nice on Sundays Tongue. As I reached my teenage years, I returned to religion, flirting with various religions including Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism and different Christian groups (namely Anglican and a brief return to the United Church). All throughout these experimentations I was still Agnostic and even though I came back to what I first experienced, they didn't really stick or make an impression, and that was when I stumbled upon the Orthodox Church.

I had a previous interest in religious music, but when I discovered the chants and choirs of the Orthodox Church, they went from being just music to being something emotional and something different. This was combined with the stunning art that are Orthodox Icons. The icons seemed to be something different and sometimes when looking at pictures of the Theotokos, I imagine I can feel the love between mother and child portrayed within the icon. Eventually I obtained a few CDs of Orthodox chants and even printed out a photo of the Theotokos of Vladimir and hung it above my bedroom door! All this would then be met with my agnostic self, upholding modern science and reason as an explanation for our universe.

Before, my agnosticism made it hard for me to believe the divinity of Jesus and all of Christianity, but my discovery of Orthodoxy seemed to have changed a few of those perceptions. Where other denominations failed to rekindle the religious part of me (what little was left), it seemed that Orthodoxy had more of an affect in sparking the religious side of me. A part of me says all of this is bunk, the other half says there's something more to Orthodoxy, different from the other denominations I've experienced. The whole of me is still unsure about everything and anything in the universe, and while the agnostic part of me says it's too easy to simply say that some guy created the earth in 7 days, the small religious part of me and the unsure part of me don't know what to think anymore. For example, one night I tried to ask anybody (God or whathaveyou) if Christianity is real or if Jesus was who he was, and as I tried to drift off to sleep, an unknown fear swelled within, prompting me to wake up again. This happened a few more times before I drifted off to sleep. What was this fear? Was it an agnostic fear of what was out there? Was it a religious fear of meeting Jesus in my sleep? Or was it a delusion? This was where my unsure self was in full force, I wasn't sure of anything anymore.

So here I am. I was once religious, then wasn't. Every other religion was meh until I met Orthodoxy. Everything is unknown now and I came here (to what seemed like a popular orthodox forum) to ask for help or guidance. The reason why I posted in this thread was because there seemed to be a lot of responses to other conflicts of faith so I was hoping to tap into the helpful community for a lot of responses.

My agnostic self tells me right now that this is a waste of time, the rest says "I don't know about anything anymore".

Please Help!

(P.S Why do people say "Lord Have Mercy" as a response to some of the threads?
P.P.S How could you determine your patron saint?
P.P.P.S Where does one go to buy icons?)

Welcome to the forum! Smiley

I hope you find some of the answers you seek here, but I would like to encourage you to visit an Orthodox Church and speak with the priest. Don't be intimidated by their vestments or long beards, they really are wonderfully warm people from diverse backrounds that may surprise you! I believe a priest will be able to answer your questions about the Church, Spirituality, and Christianity, and may be able to help you on your journey.

In regards to science vs. religion, I believe you will see that Orthodoxy is not opposed to science, and many people within the Church are either scientists (such as our forum member Heorhij mentioned) or are former scientists/doctors. (My Spiritual Father did cardiac research for 20 years before becoming a priest.) So don't feel like you have to check your brain at the door to love Jesus. Wink

Here are the answers to your "PS" questions:

Why do people say "Lord Have Mercy" as a response to some of the threads?

"Lord have mercy" is the English translation of the Greek Kyrie Eleison. Wikipedia actually has a great explanation of the meanings of these words, and why we say them in the Orthodox Church:

Quote from: Wikipedia
In the Eastern Christianity (including be Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic), the phrase Kýrie, Eléison (Greek: Κύριε ἐλέησον) or its equivalents in other languages is the most oft-repeated phrase.

The various litanies, popular in Orthodox Christianity, generally have Lord, have mercy as their response, either singly or triply. Some petitions in these litanies will have twelve or even forty repetitions of the phrase as a response.

The phrase is the origin of the Jesus Prayer, beloved of Eastern Christians belonging to the Byzantine rite, and increasingly popular amongst Western Christians today.

The biblical roots of this prayer first appear in 1 Chronicles 16:34

    ...give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever...

This is key to fully understanding the Greek Kýrie, eléison. In this respect, the prayer is simultaneously a petition and a prayer of thanksgiving; an acknowledgment of what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will continue to do. This prayer is refined by Christ Himself in Luke 18:9-14 (KJV) The Parable of The Publican, where we see more clearly the connection to the Jesus Prayer: "God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" (KJV)

The Mass/Divine Liturgy was first celebrated in Greek at Rome during the first two centuries of The Church. As Latin became the predominant language, The Mass was translated into Latin. However, the familiar and venerated prayer Kýrie, eléison was later inserted back into The Mass, replacing the latin "Domine, Miserere!"

The Greek phrase Kýrie, eléison has also been regularly and extensively used in Coptic (Egyptian) Christian churches since the early centuries of Christianity, where in liturgy both Coptic and Greek languages are used. The Coptic and Greek languages share many letters, words, and phrases, particularly in ecclesiastical contexts.

How could you determine your patron saint?

This is something that is discussed and determined with one's Spiritual Father, and varies case by case. For some people, their patron saint is assigned to them by their Spiritual Father. For other's, if they already have a "Christian name" like Mary or Michael, etc., they will simply take the patronage of the saint whose name they share. Other people are instructed by their Spiritual Father to choose whomever they like.

At the end of the day, it is under the guidance and direction of one's Spiritual Father that the decision is made.

Where does one go to buy icons?

Many parishes have small bookstores where icons, books, and other items needed for one's Spiritual life can be purchased on the premises. One can also purchase icons online or directly from an iconographer, if you happen to know one. Wink

Here are some websites that you may find useful in your journey towards Orthodoxy:

Archangels Books
Light + Life Publishing
Holy Cross Bookstore
St. Tikhon's Press
St. John Chrysostomos Greek Orthodox Monastery
Ancient Faith Radio (24/7 Chant and Orthodox podcasts)
Orthodox Christian Network (podcasts, chant)

May God bless you on your journey!
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« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2010, 02:27:35 PM »

P.S Why do people say "Lord Have Mercy" as a response to some of the threads?
P.P.S How could you determine your patron saint?
P.P.P.S Where does one go to buy icons?

1.Why do people say "Lord Have Mercy" as a response to some of the threads?

Lord have mercy is a prayer asking for God's mercy upon us and those we are in conversation,or in this case is dialogue with on the Forum.  It's primary use is in the Prayers of the people and comes from the Greek word Ektenial. (Gr. "long" or "elongated"). A type of petition or litany used in Orthodox services, particularly in the liturgy. They refer to the world in general, peace, leadership, and those in need. The response to an ektenial petition is "Lord have mercy." In this case likely the feeling that the one being spoken of is in need of Christ's intervention on their issue or question. (definition is from A Dictionary of Orthodox Terminology  by Fotios K. Litsas, Ph.D.  and is available at http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8049

How could you determine your patron saint?

Orthodoxwiki notes that "A patron saint is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, or person. Since the time of the early Christians up to the present, a vast number of patron saints have been recorded."  In this case we are looking at a personal patron saint. Here are but a few ways in varying Orthodox traditions that a Patron may be selected:
1) Choosing the Saint whose name you already bear, for example I was named Thomas by my parents who were not Orthodox, when I became Orthodox I chose to keep St Thomas the Apostle as my patron Saint.
2) Choosing a saint who was influencial in bringing you into the Orthodox Church, for exampel a person who was a Mormon  is converted to Orthodox Christianity by the Paschal Letters of St Athanasius the Great of Alexandria may choose St. Athanasius the Great as his patron Saint in thanksgiving for being brought into Orthodoxy by the teachings and writings of that Saint.
3) Choosing a saint whose example is worthy of emulation. A woman chooses St May of Egypt because she was impressed by the life alterring  change that overcame that one-time prostitute and made her into a great femal ascetics of the Orthodox Church.
4) Choosing a saint who is being homored on the date of your conversion or baptism. For example being born or baptized on December 6, you may choose the name of St. Nicholas.
5) The clergyman or Bishop officiating is inspired to give you a patron Saint other than one you originally chose. My Grandson was to be baptized as Alexander for St. Alexander Nevsky but the old Russian Bishop when he baptized the child gave him the name Alexis after the Holy Royal Passionbearer the Tsarevich Alexis Romanoff. When we asked why, his response was "he looks like Alexis and the Tsarevich will be a great patron Saint for him to ask to interceded for him throughout his life!" The old bishop had been a playmate of the Tsarevich, we were not going to argue with him, so Alexander became Alexis.

Where does one go to buy icons?

One may purchase icons directly from an iconographer, in the internet "google" the word iconographer and you will have many to choose from. Likewise you can type in Icon in "google' and you will have many sources that sell icons there.You may go to an Orthodox Bookstore in your city or in your local parish and purchase one. You may take an old Icon Calendar Calendar and mount a print for yourself.

Welcome to the Forum, bralex, I hope you will enjoy your visits here and gain the information you need in your travel to the Orthodox faith.

Thomas
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« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2010, 01:08:58 AM »

Thanks everyone for their supportive and helpful responses!

@genesisone The fear was a one time occurrence, and it wans't so much of a fear, more of an unknown concern. Another night, I woke up and felt nervous. No nightmares had occurred previously nor did anything troubling happen during the day. This happened the night before I first posted on this forum..

@FatherGiryus I would more than love to attend a service, but I had a few questions regarding the different groups that I'll address to the whole in a bit. What draws me in are the icons, the chants and the architecture. Not sure if this is a superficial interest. What repels me (but does not fully turn me off) is the length of the services that wikipedia seems to illustrate. Not sure if this is also superficial...

As I mentioned, I would love to attend a service sometime but my confusion lies in the different groupings of the orthodox church. For example, where I live the closest churches belong to the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Churches (if you'll consider the Coptic) and where I will be going to university, there is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church and a Serbian Orthodox Church (although the serbian church is a Mission Parish, according to the orthodox wiki parish list, whatever that means). How would I know which one is right for me and would a Serbian Church accept a non-serb and likewise for the Greek and Ukranian Churches (I'm native american btw).

P.S bralex is just a username, my name is Braden (because I see others using their name here. I'll do so too as long as there are no people suddenly coming to my door Tongue)
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« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2010, 01:31:20 AM »

Thanks everyone for their supportive and helpful responses!

@genesisone The fear was a one time occurrence, and it wans't so much of a fear, more of an unknown concern. Another night, I woke up and felt nervous. No nightmares had occurred previously nor did anything troubling happen during the day. This happened the night before I first posted on this forum..

@FatherGiryus I would more than love to attend a service, but I had a few questions regarding the different groups that I'll address to the whole in a bit. What draws me in are the icons, the chants and the architecture. Not sure if this is a superficial interest. What repels me (but does not fully turn me off) is the length of the services that wikipedia seems to illustrate. Not sure if this is also superficial...

As I mentioned, I would love to attend a service sometime but my confusion lies in the different groupings of the orthodox church. For example, where I live the closest churches belong to the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Churches (if you'll consider the Coptic) and where I will be going to university, there is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church and a Serbian Orthodox Church (although the serbian church is a Mission Parish, according to the orthodox wiki parish list, whatever that means). How would I know which one is right for me and would a Serbian Church accept a non-serb and likewise for the Greek and Ukranian Churches (I'm native american btw).

There's a thread that the Greek EP, through his Russian hiearchy, by a Montenegrin (>/<Serb) just received, it is said, half a million Mayans in Guatamala.  One of the canonized Orthodox saints is St. Peter the Aleut, and another is St. Jacob, the first priest of Aleut blood (his mother). If they take an Anglo, they will take you.

Mission parish just means it is not fully established yet (e.g. may not yet own its own Church building, smaller number of parisioners, etc.).
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« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2010, 09:08:50 AM »

Thanks everyone for their supportive and helpful responses!

As I mentioned, I would love to attend a service sometime but my confusion lies in the different groupings of the orthodox church. For example, where I live the closest churches belong to the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Churches (if you'll consider the Coptic) and where I will be going to university, there is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church and a Serbian Orthodox Church (although the serbian church is a Mission Parish, according to the orthodox wiki parish list, whatever that means). How would I know which one is right for me and would a Serbian Church accept a non-serb and likewise for the Greek and Ukranian Churches (I'm native american btw).

P.S bralex is just a username, my name is Braden (because I see others using their name here. I'll do so too as long as there are no people suddenly coming to my door Tongue)
It really doesn't matter which of these churches you attend. However, I will point out that the Coptic Church is not Eastern Orthodox. This isn't the place to go into details. (Personally, I have the greatest respect for the Coptic Church; they maintain a clear Christian witness especially in Egypt where they suffer much persecution. I'm looking forward to the day when the reconciliation between them and the EOs is complete.) What you will probably want to look for is a church whose worship is in English - or at least mostly so. Although you will hear stories of exceptions, you will be welcomed in any of the churches; your ethnicity should never be a factor. Don't hesitate to visit around. It might even be a good idea to visit more than once if you are unsure.

Length of services will vary slightly from one jurisdiction and even one parish to another, but not by much. Plan on about an hour and a half for a Sunday morning Divine Liturgy. Any Holy Week services you attend will likely be longer. Three hours for Easter is quite likely - but that's one service that I actually find much too short! I just don't want it to end! You'll sit for a movie or a video game that long so don't give me any excuses Grin!

I had a guess that your name might be Braden or something similar (my grandson is Brady). I'm Jim but that rarely gets used here, though I've never kept it deliberately a secret. There doesn't seem to be a rule here about how to address each other. I'm sure if we all got together for a party we'd be wearing "Hello! My name is [username]" Smiley In your profile you can put any information you're comfortable sharing with us. There's even a thread somewhere where many have posted pictures of themselves.

I'm glad you're here with us. Keep posting.
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« Reply #16 on: March 17, 2010, 11:39:32 AM »

What repels me (but does not fully turn me off) is the length of the services that wikipedia seems to illustrate. Not sure if this is also superficial...

I can understand that sentiment, but look at it this way. When you are madly in love with another human being that person is all you can think about. You spend practically every waking moment dreaming about them and you want to spend absolutely as much time as possible with them.

If love of a created thing can have that effect on a person imagine what effect the first love, the love of the Creator can have. As you grow more and more in love and communion with God the services don't seem to be so long anymore, and there are not enough of them during the week to satisfy your longing. As you become used to the rhythm of the life of the Church you will come to love the services. They just become part of who you are.  Wink



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« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2010, 11:45:48 AM »

@FatherGiryus I would more than love to attend a service, but I had a few questions regarding the different groups that I'll address to the whole in a bit. What draws me in are the icons, the chants and the architecture. Not sure if this is a superficial interest. What repels me (but does not fully turn me off) is the length of the services that wikipedia seems to illustrate. Not sure if this is also superficial...

I would not consider your initial draws to be superficial, though they should change over time.  Don't be so concerned, because what intrigues us in the beginning is not always what keeps us in.  We 'grow up' and later other things will draw you closer.  In the end, what we all hope for is that the love of God keeps us coming back.

Don't worry too much about the length of services.  You can get used to it surprisingly quick.  Don't judge your pateince too harshly.  Of course, you are also free to ask God for His help.  Wink

As for the matter of whwre to go, I would suggest that you visit them all.  Know that the Coptic Church, while very ancient and venerable, is not in communion with us due to their reticence in accepting the Fourth Ecumencial Council (and subsequent councils as a result of the break rather than the substance of those councils, if that makes it clearer).  The difficulty you may experience in all of those contexts will be whether those communities are 'closed' or 'open' to converts, and, here in America, that tends to be on a case-by-case basis.  You really won't know until you go.

For the sake of clarity, many Orthodox communities are American-oriented in terms of familiar culture, even if the majority of the people are of the same ethnicity.  My parish has a majority of ethnic Arabs (various generations), though they accept me with no Arab blood and American roots that go back to the Revolution (I've recently discovered I have ancestors who fought the British both during the Revolution and the War of 1812, and served in the Confederate Army).  I'm as American as they come, but I have also travelled enough to be open to their cultures, and so we get along fine.

If the people you meet are loving people, then you will fit in even you you are not 'one of them.'  They will gladly make room for you.  Some of the so-called 'ethnic parishes' are better at hospitality than those 'all-American' varieties, so please don't be too quick to judge.

Just go and see for yourself.  You can run out the door any time you like.  Cheesy


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« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2010, 11:56:22 AM »

All this would then be met with my agnostic self, upholding modern science and reason as an explanation for our universe.

The "conflict" between science and faith has always seemed to me to be somewhat of a false dichotomy.

I think it depends on ones own personal experience through life.....in how we cultivate (picking and choosing what to swallow vs what to spit out) ourselves over the years.






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« Reply #19 on: March 17, 2010, 12:16:37 PM »

Thanks everyone for their supportive and helpful responses!

@genesisone The fear was a one time occurrence, and it wans't so much of a fear, more of an unknown concern. Another night, I woke up and felt nervous. No nightmares had occurred previously nor did anything troubling happen during the day. This happened the night before I first posted on this forum..

@FatherGiryus I would more than love to attend a service, but I had a few questions regarding the different groups that I'll address to the whole in a bit. What draws me in are the icons, the chants and the architecture. Not sure if this is a superficial interest. What repels me (but does not fully turn me off) is the length of the services that wikipedia seems to illustrate. Not sure if this is also superficial...

As I mentioned, I would love to attend a service sometime but my confusion lies in the different groupings of the orthodox church. For example, where I live the closest churches belong to the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Churches (if you'll consider the Coptic) and where I will be going to university, there is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church and a Serbian Orthodox Church (although the serbian church is a Mission Parish, according to the orthodox wiki parish list, whatever that means). How would I know which one is right for me and would a Serbian Church accept a non-serb and likewise for the Greek and Ukranian Churches (I'm native american btw).

P.S bralex is just a username, my name is Braden (because I see others using their name here. I'll do so too as long as there are no people suddenly coming to my door Tongue)

I'm black, and I go to an Arab/Syrain parish. And so, if I can be accepted......then anyone can. I have an Indian friend who was raised Hindu, and she goes to a Ukranian mission or parish in the Washington D.C., Maryland, Va metro area.

 Also in regards to the length of the services.......the only way to find out for sure is to actually visit and experience it yourself.

I have visited alot of different parishes and missions in different jurisdictions all over America......and I know that the Divine Liturgy is pretty fluid. Some parishes are shorter than others.......while others are long......leaving nothing out.

I could be wrong for it's been years since I visited one, but I think the Coptic Liturgy is pretty long. They start at 8:00A.M.











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« Reply #20 on: March 17, 2010, 04:25:59 PM »

There's a thread that the Greek EP, through his Russian hiearchy, by a Montenegrin (>/<Serb) just received, it is said, half a million Mayans in Guatamala.  One of the canonized Orthodox saints is St. Peter the Aleut, and another is St. Jacob, the first priest of Aleut blood (his mother). If they take an Anglo, they will take you.

I like this summary.
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« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2010, 05:02:14 PM »

A little codicil on the choosing of a Patron St.

Early in my walk I came across the tidbit of wisdom said icons/saints choose us we do not choose them.  As you explore Orthodoxy, as you read various lives of the saints (either short or long versions), as you consider various icons, you will likely notice there are certain ones, if not one certain one you keep being drawn back to.  If that happens, it may well mean that saint has taken a personal interest in your salvation.

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« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2010, 05:20:27 PM »

What draws me in are the icons, the chants and the architecture. Not sure if this is a superficial interest. What repels me (but does not fully turn me off) is the length of the services that wikipedia seems to illustrate. Not sure if this is also superficial...

The interest in icons, chant, etc is not superficial at all. I know someone who's sister in law was in a car accident about a year ago, had serious brain damage, and can't remember anything. We were talking about her the other day and she was saying that while she can't remember anything, music is a big thing for her. Someone else who studied psychology said that music is something that gets deeply embedded in your mind, paused, and then said "...and certain smells too." Also, pictures and images are a good way of stimulating memory. I don't think it's any accident that all these things (chant, icons, and incense) are integral parts of Orthodox worship and all go back to the Jewish worship under the Law (Moses didn't have icons as we have them now, but the tabernacle, the Ark, and later the temple were full of imagery). Humans are both physical and spiritual, body and soul, and the whole person is engaged in worship that is meant to transform and to form us.

The length of a church's liturgy will depend on the individual church and how they do it. Some churches can be as short as an hour to an hour and a half, which really isn't that long compared to other types of churches (not that they are the standard, but just for comparison). It won't seem long at all once you get a feel for the rhythm and the flow of the liturgy. You stop thinking in terms of where you are in time and start thinking in terms of where you are in the prayers. As for Pascha (Easter), it's not a single service, but three or four different services that flow into each other to make one long service. It's very beautiful.

Hope this helps.
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« Reply #23 on: March 18, 2010, 12:59:20 AM »

I can relate to this very well. I also came to Orthodoxy from an agnostic background – and before that, an atheist background. Christianity never had much of an impact upon me until I discovered Orthodoxy. Not only is Orthodoxy beautifully in its art, music, rituals and symbols, but it is also overwhelmingly beautiful in its theology, its beliefs, and its message. I found it very overwhelming emotionally.

As I said, I used to be an atheist, but for various reasons I found myself progressing to agnosticism and then towards full theism over about a year. The only way I could reconcile the idea of God with all the suffering in this world was through the concept that God had partaken in this suffering just as horribly as any human  possibly could. The idea that God became man and gave himself up to despair, torture, agony and death was the only idea through which I could reconcile God with the world we live in. It made such perfect sense to me and I was overwhelmed by it. I became a Christian, on my knees, taking an existential leap of faith into Christianity. This kind of leap can only be appreciated when you take it for yourself. You step of the cliff into the darkness of uncertainty, and God catches you when you fall. That is what faith is.

That said, I don’t believe that my Christian beliefs rest entirely upon this sort of existential faith. I also trust the witness of all the Apostles who beheld the resurrection and were horribly martyred because they refused to deny what they had seen. Of course, they might have been delusional – but I think we can tell from their writings that the Apostles were very intelligent men, and despite their travels all over the world, the Apostles all preached the same message. It is highly unlikely for so many men to suffer from exactly the same delusion. It might have been some kind of conspiracy to ‘fake’ the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy so as to encourage the Jews to rise up against the Romans, but I seriously doubt that so many men would have given themselves up to torture and execution just for a lie. It seems far more likely to me that they were in earnest. They beheld the resurrection, and they died for what they had seen and experienced.

Modern science and reason to not contradict God, Christianity or Orthodoxy at all. In fact, the modern theories of science such as the Big Bang, evolution, etc make perfect sense when viewed as the acts of God. Of course there was a Big Bang – leading scientific experts are in strong consensus about that. But how could an explosion of such magnitude have resulted in such order and meaningful results without the conscious intention of God behind it? The Big Bang and evolution have created the human condition and all the profound consequences that lie within it. The more I learn about science, the more I learn about the glory of God and how he has worked.

I can also relate to the feeling of uncertainty and “I just don’t know anything anymore.” I used to be a militant atheist. When I came into Christianity, I came into it kicking and screaming. All my pride had to be swallowed, I had to admit that I had been wrong for so many years. I had to switch off my ego and go with what I really, strongly, felt was true. I had so many intellectualist doubts, but at the same time my gut feeling was pointing me towards Christ. My intuition, my subconscious, everything was pointing in the same direction. I eventually realised that it wasn’t just an emotional attraction to a very pretty religious system. Something mysterious, deep down, was drawing me towards it. I followed my heart. In the language of the Church, this was the Holy Spirit acting within me, leading me home. I’m so glad that I followed it. I have discovered a rich and satisfying spirituality which has changed me as a person entirely, helped me to improve myself, and strengthened my relationship with the Ultimate Reality in this universe.

To determine your patron saint, do some research, and find one who inspires you and ‘speaks’ to you.
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« Reply #24 on: March 18, 2010, 01:10:03 AM »

Thanks everyone for their supportive and helpful responses!

@genesisone The fear was a one time occurrence, and it wans't so much of a fear, more of an unknown concern. Another night, I woke up and felt nervous. No nightmares had occurred previously nor did anything troubling happen during the day. This happened the night before I first posted on this forum..

@FatherGiryus I would more than love to attend a service, but I had a few questions regarding the different groups that I'll address to the whole in a bit. What draws me in are the icons, the chants and the architecture. Not sure if this is a superficial interest. What repels me (but does not fully turn me off) is the length of the services that wikipedia seems to illustrate. Not sure if this is also superficial...

As I mentioned, I would love to attend a service sometime but my confusion lies in the different groupings of the orthodox church. For example, where I live the closest churches belong to the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Churches (if you'll consider the Coptic) and where I will be going to university, there is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church and a Serbian Orthodox Church (although the serbian church is a Mission Parish, according to the orthodox wiki parish list, whatever that means). How would I know which one is right for me and would a Serbian Church accept a non-serb and likewise for the Greek and Ukranian Churches (I'm native american btw).

P.S bralex is just a username, my name is Braden (because I see others using their name here. I'll do so too as long as there are no people suddenly coming to my door Tongue)

Russian Orthodox services are certainly long. Greek and Antiochian ones tend to be shorter. The traditions differ from church to church.

Coptic Orthodoxy is absolutely incredible. Whilst I am not Coptic myself, I have nothing against them. Their services are beautiful. They are absolutely a legitimate form of Orthodoxy - silly semantic and administrative rubbish is all that prevents the union of our churches.

None of the churches will have a problem with your ethnicity. I am of English/Irish heritage and the Arab community at the Church I go to have welcomed me generously. The only problem tends to be language. Find a Church which uses as much English as possible. My church is about 50% Arabic, 50% English. I know the Liturgy in Arabic, although I don't speak Arabic at all. It's not a huge obstacle if you're willing to learn. On Wednesday nights it's all in English, on Sunday mornings it's 50/50 in both languages.
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« Reply #25 on: March 18, 2010, 09:24:36 PM »

Well, according to some Orthodox, there's a decided reason you're here in this forum in the first place. (There are no accidents in Orthodoxy.)

Orthodoxy is beautiful--a deep and shining ocean. The art of the church exists at several levels, so your interest is not necessarily superficial. And, yes, services are long, but can assume an otherwordly dimension for those who love them.
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« Reply #26 on: March 19, 2010, 08:54:10 AM »

Tonight I attended the Akathyst Hymn which went for about two hours. The length didn't bother me at all. I was in a different world for the entirety of the service.

If you find a truly beautiful Orthodox church with a great choir, then the services can be beautifully transcendent.
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« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2010, 10:53:10 AM »

If you find a truly beautiful Orthodox church with a great choir, then the services can be beautifully transcendent.
But a little mission with the worship area set up in rented space, and having a half dozen or fewer people present will provide an overwhelming experience of intimacy and participation, too!
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« Reply #28 on: March 21, 2010, 01:46:52 AM »

I'll attempt to attend a service sometime in the near future, I'm still on the fence...

I did however think of a saint that i'd be connected to, Saint Peter the Aleut (as you can see for my display pic). I don't truely know why I come back to him, but perhaps there's the native american connection. I feel like I can associate with him better that way...
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« Reply #29 on: March 21, 2010, 01:53:40 AM »

Welcome to the forum!
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« Reply #30 on: March 21, 2010, 03:33:17 AM »

I'll attempt to attend a service sometime in the near future, I'm still on the fence...

I did however think of a saint that i'd be connected to, Saint Peter the Aleut (as you can see for my display pic). I don't truely know why I come back to him, but perhaps there's the native american connection. I feel like I can associate with him better that way...


There was a medieval saint (whose name escapes me) who made a comment to the following effect: "When we say 'having behelf the resurrection of Christ' in the matins service, what do we mean? The resurrection happened a thousand years ago, and none of us were there to witness it. We haven't seen it with our eyes, or felt the lord's resurrected body with our hands - so how can we claim to have beheld it? We have beheld his resurrection within ourselves, having felt his resurrection in how it affects our lives and acts within our hearts. The resurrection is something we experience to this day, even 1000 years after it occurred."

Orthodoxy is a rich and complex spirituality. It is primarily based in the experience of the believer. You might always, as I still do, struggle with faith and have doubts. Just trust in what you feel and what your heart tells you when you experience this ancient spirituality.
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« Reply #31 on: March 21, 2010, 05:54:57 AM »

Welcome to the forum Smiley
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« Reply #32 on: March 21, 2010, 08:08:39 AM »

bralex:

Several posters have suggested that you attend the Divine Liturgy regularly and "experience" Orthodoxy. They are right. Holy Orthodoxy isn't learned from books. It is lived. Next week is Great Week. If you can, find a local Orthodox Church and attend the Good Friday devotions and then on that Saturday evening at midnight on Pascha, the Resurrection Liturgy. You might experience what Prince Vladimir of Kiev's envoys did when they attended, for the first time, a Divine Liturgy in Constantinople 1100 years ago. +Vladimir had sent them out to investigate the religions of neighboring lands. They reported back:

 "When we journeyed among the Bulgars, we beheld how they worship in their temple, called a mosque, while they stand ungirt. The Bulgarian bows, sits down, looks hither and thither like one possessed, and there is no happiness among them, but instead only sorrow and a dreadful stench. Their religion is not good. Then we went among the Germans, and saw them performing many ceremonies in their temples; but we beheld no glory there. Then we went on to Greece, and the Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty. Every man, after tasting something sweet, is afterward unwilling to accept that which is bitter, and therefore we cannot dwell longer here."

It's still true, bralex
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