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Author Topic: Does a change in heart happen naturally?  (Read 1282 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: December 26, 2010, 05:56:28 PM »

I was curious for those that were brought into Orthodoxy because it logically made sense and they followed their brain more; but was there ever a change in the heart that accepted the Orthodox faith? I guess I'm struggling feeling anything in my heart eventhough I know Orthodoxy is the right belief.
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« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2010, 06:11:01 PM »

How many times have you attended liturgy?
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2010, 06:13:19 PM »

How many times have you attended liturgy?

Haven't kept count, maybe 6.
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2010, 06:19:00 PM »

How many times have you attended liturgy?

Haven't kept count, maybe 6.

Do you feel yet comfortable participating in the services, or do you still feel like an 'outside observer looking in' for the most part?
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« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2010, 06:24:29 PM »

Achronos, I can't speak for everyone else, but for me my heart did the one step forward two steps back for a minute or two then did the three steps forward two steps back . .then went back to the one step forward two steps back.  I kept consistent with my actions - going to Liturgy, Vespers, Orthos/Matins. . .getting to know everyone in the church. . .then without my really realizing it had happened, I was with my family.  There were many many things I accepted right off the bat with no issues, no need to explore. . .there were other things that I really needed to seek God about and explore to figure out what they actually meant and how my perception change needed to happen.  There was only one thing that I really stumbled on. . .and I had to ask my Priest about it. . .and his answer completely took me by surprise and it was so perfect. 

So I guess the answer to your question is that everyone is different.  Some are love at first sight, some don't know what hit them after months of thinking nothing at all was hitting them, some have a very subtle coming that is quiet with out really being able to place a finger on what really changed. . .but all that convert . . .convert with a change of heart from where the were, from what I've witnessed. 
 
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« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2010, 06:42:08 PM »

Do you feel yet comfortable participating in the services, or do you still feel like an 'outside observer looking in' for the most part?

Oh yeah I feel pretty comfortable, I got the rhythm of the DL down. It's not as 'complex' as I thought it would be. It just is hard to be actually part of the church since I haven't been baptized and can't take communion in the Church. So I still have that outsider vibe.
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« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2010, 06:42:46 PM »

Quietmorning really hit on it here, I believe. Some people experience a deep emotional connection with the liturgy the first time they step into the Church, and others find it much more of a process, and often a challenging one at that. I fall into the latter category.

Personally, I am a rather self-concious by nature. If I come into a foreign place with foreign smells, sounds, and people, it's going to take me quite a while to feel at home in such a place. I would also be considered the type that is slow to warm up to people in general, so it is a struggle for me to meet new people and feel at home amongst them.

Also, it took quite a while before I felt comfortable physically expressing myself during liturgy (crossing myself, bowing, kissing icons, etc). This is all normal and to be expected, especially after coming from a radically different protestant background where no such expression is encouraged. However, slowly but surely, I began to feel more at home and more natural participating in the liturgy.  I think that once you become more familiar with your surroundings and continue to attend liturgy (particularly during the feasts and especially during holy week), your heart will gently draw nearer to the Church and the faith. Perhaps you won't be able to pinpoint a particular moment where such an event happened (I know I can't) but I just started to feel drawn to the worship and the liturgy. Also, I began to feel a sense of 'ownership' I guess you could say; that is; I felt comfortable saying that it is 'my' Church and I was proud to call it mine.

My advice would be just to give the worship experience and the church community some more time and extra patience, and your heart will come around eventually. It sounds like you are intellectually in the right place, which is good. Perhaps if you are like me, your intellect has been working overtime and you just need to give your heart some time to catch up.  Wink
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« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2010, 06:49:54 PM »

Do you feel yet comfortable participating in the services, or do you still feel like an 'outside observer looking in' for the most part?

Oh yeah I feel pretty comfortable, I got the rhythm of the DL down. It's not as 'complex' as I thought it would be. It just is hard to be actually part of the church since I haven't been baptized and can't take communion in the Church. So I still have that outsider vibe.

While I was waiting to be chrismated, I kept in mind that this time was for me to be prepared (as my priest mentioned in giving St. Mary of Egypt as an example.)  Christ is worthy of my coming to Him fully prepared and honoring the sacraments.  It was much much easier to wait.  Also, when I was ready, I went to the front with my arms crossed in front of me and kissed the chalis and took some of the blessed bread (not receiving Holy Communion, but worshiping Him until I could.) This was a tremendous help!  Not to mention, the only thing better than worshiping Him is partaking of His Body and Blood.
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« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2010, 06:50:05 PM »

So I guess the answer to your question is that everyone is different.  Some are love at first sight, some don't know what hit them after months of thinking nothing at all was hitting them, some have a very subtle coming that is quiet with out really being able to place a finger on what really changed. . .but all that convert . . .convert with a change of heart from where the were, from what I've witnessed. 

Thanks for your response QM. The problem I have is I can't attend Vespers because of my job and alot of the activities the Church has I can't be available because of work.

I guess I would feel more accepted once I get baptized and I can start partaking in the Communion. I'm not really a social guy, I keep to myself for the most part unless someone instigates and wants a conversation. I wanted to fall in love at first sight, but there was that hurdle of "How do I do this? When do I this?" when it comes to the Liturgy. I think it's better to put the book down and just get caught up in that "experience" of the Liturgy
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« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2010, 06:52:24 PM »

I'd suggest talking to your priest about doing the Jesus Prayer for set periods daily, if you are not using it already. Corporate worship, no matter how beautiful, won't do it alone IMO. I suggest buying a copy of "The Art of Prayer" and getting serious about the inner work... with your priest's blessing and guidance. That is, assuming you aren't at it already.  Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2010, 06:59:50 PM »

I appreciate the suggestion and will pick that up. I am intersted in how powerful that prayer is because it seems so simple, I never have taken prayers seriously in the past.
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« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2010, 07:02:31 PM »

I'd suggest talking to your priest about doing the Jesus Prayer for set periods daily, if you are not using it already. Corporate worship, no matter how beautiful, won't do it alone IMO. I suggest buying a copy of "The Art of Prayer" and getting serious about the inner work... with your priest's blessing and guidance. That is, assuming you aren't at it already.  Smiley

Yes, very good advice as well. Taking prayer life into your home by following a personal prayer rule is a key step in spiritual progress and transformation of the heart. It also reinforces the notion that God is with us and hears our prayers everywhere and not just in the Church (which some people, including myself, may start to feel sometimes if we exclude our spirituality to inside the Church walls).
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« Reply #12 on: December 26, 2010, 07:26:15 PM »

Do you feel yet comfortable participating in the services, or do you still feel like an 'outside observer looking in' for the most part?

Oh yeah I feel pretty comfortable, I got the rhythm of the DL down. It's not as 'complex' as I thought it would be. It just is hard to be actually part of the church since I haven't been baptized and can't take communion in the Church. So I still have that outsider vibe.

  Also, when I was ready, I went to the front with my arms crossed in front of me and kissed the chalis and took some of the blessed bread (not receiving Holy Communion, but worshiping Him until I could.) This was a tremendous help!  Not to mention, the only thing better than worshiping Him is partaking of His Body and Blood.

I am interested in this. I have never heard of this practice until now (going up and kissing the chalice but not taking communion). Perhaps I will ask one of my priests if this practice is done in our parish also.
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« Reply #13 on: December 26, 2010, 08:53:28 PM »

Once you're interested in Orthodoxy, all kinds of processes happen naturally. I'm firmly convinced that once you walk in the door of an Orthodox Church, your ship has already set sail and you are well on your journey--whether you realize it or not. God has His hand on your shoulder, and it's just a matter of you realizing what's happening. The initial appeal might appear to be intellectual, but it's really an ocean of love, as you will discover eventually. Respect doesn't engender a change of heart; love engenders a change of heart. Orthodoxy is a continuous and life-long change of heart, so be prepared to grow in ways you never thought possible.
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« Reply #14 on: December 26, 2010, 09:05:36 PM »

I am curious how exactly does one love Jesus in the heart. I already have my mind set that I love him in my head, but how do I feel that connection in the heart (like for example when I love a girlfriend/wife)
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« Reply #15 on: December 26, 2010, 09:08:45 PM »

I suggest buying a copy of "The Art of Prayer" and getting serious about the inner work... with your priest's blessing and guidance. That is, assuming you aren't at it already.  Smiley

Just a point, but The Art of Prayer recommends that non-Orthodox avoid Jesus Prayer repetitions.  The reasoning is that these forms of inner work should only be done in conjunction with the church's sacraments and guidance.  The priest from the parish I attend echoed this, but he has recommended instituting a prayer rule.  

This seems to be a bit of a dilemma for those of us exploring, but hopefully your priest/spiritual mentor can guide you.  Good question though.
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« Reply #16 on: December 26, 2010, 09:45:27 PM »

I am curious how exactly does one love Jesus in the heart. I already have my mind set that I love him in my head, but how do I feel that connection in the heart (like for example when I love a girlfriend/wife)

That is a good question.  Just to illustrate how good a question, let me ask, how do you love a wife or girlfriend in the heart and not just in the head? 

It's not something that can really be explained; in fact, if you could explain it all, it would lose a little something in the process.  But when does one cross that line between initial attraction and love?  You could say it's when you think of her all the time, but even then if that is love it is only the birthing pangs of love.  By the time you reach the point you would do anything for her you've found yourself firmly within the halls of love.  And what steps brought you to this point? 

I would think as with any type of love, be it that of a romance, or even that of friendship, the key is time.  It would be a poor sort of love that did not want to spend time with the beloved, it would be a poor sort of friendship where one does not know one's friends.  It is the time spent, the pleasures of company, and the terrors of shared trial and tribulation that water and feed the infant blossoming of love into a healthy plant in full bloom.

So it is with love for Christ.  To turn an intellectual love into a love of the heart you must spend time with Him.  Start with the Gospels to get to know the actions of the God-Man, the Gospels shed light on the teachings of the Epistles, and the two together will shed light on the Old Testament, so that from Genesis to the Apocalypse you get to know the person and actions of Christ throughout human history. 

Also, there is prayer of the corporate and private varieties, but always keep in mind that in reality all prayer is corporate.  When we pray at Church we pray in the visible presence of the Body of Christ, present all round you, in the people you are with and in the Flesh and Blood on the altar.  When we pray at home this presence is not as visible, though if you pray with family it will be evident.  But regardless of the prayer being with family or alone "in your closet" you are still praying with all the saints, past, present, and future, you are still a part of that Body of which Christ is the head.  I would add in this section to read the writings of the Fathers of the Church, both to ensure a correct reading of the Bible and to get to know the way that the Body of Christ has received these teachings.

Through the knowing of the Bible and prayer (the two being our conversation with God), we should start to feel our love for Christ growing naturally.  Love for Christ has many times been likened to romantic love, but here we find something strange, like and unlike at the same time.  For while it is the province of romantic love to become so enraptured with the beloved that all else seems a distraction, true Christian love evidences itself in the love we show others.  It would be seen as odd if, professing love for Sarah, I spent most of my time with Jenny and Anna.  But odder still is the Christian who has no time for others, who ignores the man who needs help or the people in need.  Even our monastics, who most like romantic lovers seek seclusion to spend time with our Beloved, don't react harshly (like a man on his honeymoon when housekeeping shows at the door) when interrupted from their contemplation by those seeking healing and guidance, but with joy at being able to share the love that our Beloved bestows upon all (of course, too many interruptions and they may seek more remote and secluded areas.  But even then, those in need always seem to be able to find them, and in even greater numbers).
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« Reply #17 on: December 27, 2010, 01:04:15 AM »

for me, there was a change in heart.  I remember one day.  I was no longer on the outside looking in, I venerated icons, kissed the cross, made the sign of the cross, etc.  I was an Orthodox Christian.


very long story short, once I became Orthodox, I had a huge revelation.  it was not some faith I was looking into, along with a plethora of others anymore.  it was, and is, my faith.   
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« Reply #18 on: December 27, 2010, 02:08:54 AM »

I was curious for those that were brought into Orthodoxy because it logically made sense and they followed their brain more; but was there ever a change in the heart that accepted the Orthodox faith? I guess I'm struggling feeling anything in my heart eventhough I know Orthodoxy is the right belief.

I was an intellectual convert.  It took me a year of repeating the prayers and attending liturgy before I felt like I actually changed.  Decades of atheism wrecked up my soul up pretty good.

Confessing often helped more than anything else.

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« Reply #19 on: December 28, 2010, 06:02:13 PM »

With respect to finding the heart, Elder Zacharias, the spiritual son of Elder Sophrony, the spiritual son of St. Silouan has some helpful insights in his book, The Enlargement of the Heart.

In a nutshell it goes something like this. Those things we are habituated to we don't notice so much.  For example, we are not really aware of or thumbs or our liver…until something draws our attention to them….generally something painful.  Hit your thumb with a hammer and it is very clearly revealed. Every atom of your body knows where your thumb is and what it needs.  It's somewhat the same with the heart. We are not aware of it most of the time until it hurts.  So, then to find the heart we pray earnestly for those whom God brings to us, and for ourselves; eventually grace will soften us enough so that we feel a prick of pain over someone else or for our own sins and shortcomings.  Then when that pain comes we follow the pain down with prayer, changing pain to prayer, opening the heart to grace.  Pain reveals the heart. Prayer transforms it. Do this enough and one become accustomed to knowing where the heart is and entering it in prayer…then the deeper works can begin as God's grace permits.
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« Reply #20 on: December 28, 2010, 06:16:06 PM »

Thank you for sharing that, Seraphim98. It was beautifully stated.

I would have been a convert of heart, if I had not been such an intellectized westerner. I came from the systematic theology of the Reformed church, Presbyterian specifically, and I had always observed Orthodoxy from afar as beautiful yet out-dated and wrought with errors (from all that Greek philosophy and such). Yet, when I first stepped into an Orthodox temple, my heart was at home. It was beautiful, and I loved it. But, my head wouldn't let me keep going. There was too much my own mind had decided was wrong about Orthodoxy in order for me to jump on board.

I had to research. I had to study. And I did. It took me months of digging into Orthodox history, theology, liturgy, etc. before my mind would let me accept the Church. But, why did I keep digging into the issue so deeply? I have to say that it was because of my heart. I realized, in my heart, something special within Orthodoxy. It felt right, for some reason, in spite of all of my objections, and I suppose I had to know why I felt that way.

I had rejected other traditions, including other Protestants and the Roman church, without this much fanfare. But, Orthodoxy was different. I thank God for tugging at my heart and causing me to strive so diligently to understand Orthodoxy. I had already rejected it in my head, and so the Church tugged on my heart, which I had almost forgotten about amid the scholasticism I was in. Now, I struggle to finally regain my heart as the center of theology, instead of my head. Lord, have mercy!
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« Reply #21 on: December 28, 2010, 07:57:22 PM »

I just wanted to emphasize a point already made and add a bit more. As you grow in your prayer life, making it part of your daily life you'll discover that the liturgies and other services will be an extension of your worship. It will no longer feel like some extra thing you do on Sundays, but become a fuller, deeper part of your relationship with God.
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« Reply #22 on: December 28, 2010, 09:35:36 PM »

What does one mean by "Change in heart?"  Like a change in perspective, where you ground your beliefs?  Or an emotional feeling or change in demeanor?   
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« Reply #23 on: December 28, 2010, 10:27:01 PM »

I would say something more akin to a reorientation of the heart and its energies….pride to humility, judgment to mercy, apathy to compassion, fear and worry to peace, busyness to calm, scatteredness to collectedness, complexity to simplicity. The heart must grow still like a deep lake so that it reflects the face of Him Who shines upon it without distortion.  At least this is what I understand the saints and fathers to teach us about our desired interior state.  The mind must be recalled and reunited with the heart. It cannot come by intellection, but having come intellection can serve it.

The heart must also grow in its capacity…its "me-ness" must be enlarged so that in terms of compassionate identity it can encompass the whole Adam. This is at the heart of what Christ said when He spoke of "inasmuch as you have done/not done it to the least of my brethren, you have done/not done it unto Me." It is co-suffering, and thus provides opportunity to transform all grief and sorrow into prayer of the heart…which draws down grace, which is the very presence and Person of the Holy Spirit in Whom sorrows are transformed into joy.  Our me is not separated the me of the other. Our "Lord have mercy on me" includes the need of our brother. His pain is my pain, my pain is always offered as prayer; true prayer obtains grace.  The great old monastic champions of prayer identified themselves with the whole Adam, and thus upheld the world in prayer.
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