Hi…I discovered this forum while doing searches on Orthodox Christianity….I have a lot of questions, but first I want to introduce myself, since I have a complicated religious history.
I was born in 1959 to a father of Russian Jewish ancestry, and a mother of Italian Roman Catholic ancestry who converted to Orthodox Judaism in 1944 partly so she could marry my father. I was raised in Orthodox Judaism, but since I was closer to my mother’s family, I found myself spending more time with them, and consequently, learning more of their religion.
My mother’s family largely left the RCC as a result of the changes of Vatican II. In the late 1960s, early 1970s they often shared with me their grief over the loss of the traditions of their church; they told me, “The Church left us, we didn’t leave Her.” As a Jewish kid, I didn’t understand but I never forgot the pain my relatives felt.
I became interested in studying religions, as a result of my mixed-faith background. To make a very long story a little short (!), in my late teens I began studying (without my parents knowing about it) with an older priest at a local parish. (He used the old Baltimore Catechism, something I was later very grateful for.) I was baptized into the RCC in 1978. I tried sticking it out with the new Mass and other changes, but the memories my mother’s family had shared with me of “what it used to be like” stayed with me, and I didn’t know where to go.
A neighbor to whom I shared my feelings told me of a Tridentine Latin Mass being held in a motel not far from my home. I went there, attended it, and joined the Traditional RC movement, which at the time was forbidden by the “novus ordo” church. I didn’t care; I attended Mass faithfully.
Then the priest who said Mass for them died, and the group moved far away. I stopped attending any Mass, and gradually drifted away from the faith.I remembered the elderly priest once told us that if we could not find the True Mass, we could always attend Divine Liturgy at a Byzantine Rite Catholic parish, since the words of consecration were the same as that of the Tridentine Latin Mass. I found a Byzantine parish and although the customs were different, I stayed and came to love the Eastern Rite.
But then we had to move, and there was no Byzantine parish near me, so again I was church-homeless. I drifted along like this again, for a long time….spiritually starving but not knowing what to do or where to go. After a lot of soulsearching, I decided that if the church had become that corrupted after Vatican II, that maybe the gates of hell had prevailed and there no longer was a true church (God forbid). In desperation for some sort of communion with God, I decided, reluctantly, to return to the Orthodox Judaism of my upbringing. I wanted truth, and I knew it could be found only in Judaism or Christianity. I felt if Christianity had failed, then that only left Judaism.
But I was so spiritually starved in Orthodox Judaism….in my heart I still believed in Christ, though Itried talking myself out of it to better fit in with what Judaism teaches. I stayed in Judaism, because I didn’t think I had any other place to find truth. The more spiritually hungry I became, the more I drifted into the more mystical versions of Orthodox Judaism, such as Jewish mysticism, the Kabbalah, etc. Nothing helped, and I just began to feel worse and worse.
I met a woman online who it turned out, lives near me. She is Orthodox, and taught me so much about the Orthodox Faith…I wasn’t interested at the time, yet for some reason, I didn’t forget anything she taught me (which is all coming in handy now!) Yet I still felt that if any church should be the true one, it should be Rome. I couldn’t get that out of my head. Yet the gates of hell had prevailed against Rome!
A few months ago I met a guy who told me that the Masoretic text used by the Jews is a corrupted text, originally developed as a weapon against the early Christians. Always being curious about religious issues, I decided to research it to see if what he said is true. I was shocked at what I discovered! The Bible I had been taught was the Jewish Bible, was originally developed as an anti-Christian device to downplay the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus Christ! The more I studied, the more I learned that modern, post Second Temple Judaism was entirely manmade..it was a rabbinic reaction to the loss of the Temple and the sacrificial system, without which sin cannot be atoned for.
I’m active in animal rescue, with an emphasis on pet rats. One day I was grieving over the fact that so many sweet little pet rats are fed to snakes, and I prayed to ask God to help me stop dwelling on that. My eyes happened to glance at a ceramic music box in my china cabinet someone had given me years before…it shows a leopard lying down with a goat, and some of the words from Isaiah 11:6-9 around the base. I felt God was assuring me that when Messiah comes, all cruelty to animals and humans would end. I comforted myself in that, but then started thinking further: the rabbis say that when Messiah comes, animal sacrifices will resume in a rebuilt Third Temple. If that is so, how could Isaiah’s prophecy come true? Unless…..something happened before the time Isaiah speaks of, something which would make all animal sacrifices obsolete. Some final, once for all atonement. The Name of Jesus started flashing through my mind, and so, I took out a New Testament, and began studying it anew….I saw things I never did before, and I came to understand that Christ was the final sacrifice and atonement for sin….that was why He said, “it is finished” on the Cross, and why the veil of the Temple was torn in two by invisible hands when He was crucified! I came to realize that my initial conversion to the Roman church stemmed largely from sentimental attachment to things my mother’s family had told me….now I truly understood what the sacrifice of Jesus Christ meant.
But what to do about a church? The gates of hell had prevailed against the Roman church (I felt), so where could I go? I remembered what my Orthodox friend had told me about her church, so I began investigating it. Because of my past experience with the Eastern Catholics, I was very familiar with the Divine Liturgy and the customs of the Eastern church, so I began attending Orthodox churches. I began reading books about Orthodoxy, such as “The Orthodox Church”, the Catechism of the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Study Bible, and numerous other books (esp. anything by Fr Joseph Huneycutt!)
I found an interesting article online which answered my question about the way the Orthodox see church authority, and the way the Roman Catholics do. I finally understood that Roman Catholics obey whatever the church tells them, even if it goes against centuries of what had been previously taught. Technically, according to Roman Catholic belief, that would make the Traditionalists of the 1970s schismatics, as they were labeled by Rome. But in Orthodoxy, if a metropolitan or other church figure becomes a heretic and urges the faithful to adopt new, strange doctrines, the faithful are dutybound to break communion with him. THAT immediately struck me as the sensible, correct way to believe. I realized that those 1970s Traditional Roman Catholics were actually thinking and behaving like Orthodox Christians, when they chose to break communion with a Roman church that had become corrupted and taught new doctrines.
I was away from Rome for a long time; I only found out recently that in 2007 the new Pope decided to advocate the Tridentine Mass be restored. It is too little, too late for me. The whole situation with the changes of Vatican II have led me to find the true, original Church: the Orthodox Church. To me a hallmark of the true, original Church is the fact THAT IT DOES NOT CHANGE TO SUIT WHIMS OF CHANGING TIMES. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
Forbidden epithet replaced with something more acceptable... -PtA