Hello everyone! This is my first post, and so I will make a brief introduction, but reserve a more full introduction for any section devoted to such a thing. My name is Tyler Gebar, and I am a young student of Pittsburg State University at Pittsburg, Kansas.
The issue I wish to discuss is the proper behavior for an inquirer of the Church to exhibit. I have attended services regularly over the summer holiday at the All Saints Orthodox Church of Salina, Kansas under the guidance of Father Daniel Griffith. Father Daniel has been an excellent guide, as well as exceedingly kind and patient. However, there are some issues I feel I have failed to communicate with him due to, perhaps, the vague nature of my questions. Unfortunately while I am in Pittsburg I am unable to attend services, as I am four hours away from my hometown of Chapman, which is about 35 minutes away from Salina. Because of this, any communication with Father Daniel during the semester must be established over the telephone. I'll be talking about some basic, mostly practical issues, but I'd like to assure you all that I will be referring to Father Daniel as to how he feels about my relation to them.
- Prayer rules: As an inquirer who is not yet a catechumen, what is appropriate prayer? Father Daniel recommended to me the morning and evening prayers from the Jordanville Prayer Book that I recently ordered, but I was wondering if there were any specific points I should keep in mind when engaging in prayer due to my lack of connection with the Church, or perhaps any other prayers I should consider. Daily prayer is a practice that I have found wonderful in all of its aspects, and is a part of the day that I much look forward to, so any help here is greatly appreciated!
- Jesus Prayer: I come to Orthodoxy from a background in antiquated philosophy, particularly Neoplatonic thought. This has unfortunately colored some of my perspectives of Orthodox ascetic practice, and I cannot help but be in awe of and excited to engage in some of the practices such as the aforementioned prayer. Father Daniel recommended attempting to recite the Jesus Prayer whenever possible, and he even blessed a prayer rope I ordered on the altar during one of the liturgies that I attended, recommending using it whenever I felt compelled to pray, or to pray for those who are ailing, and so forth. However, I have read some material saying that an inquirer should not consider engaging in such practices. What's the consensus here?
- Tracing the sign of the cross: This is something I do often during morning and evening prayer, of course, but also when leaving the house, before and after meals with a blessing, when I leave and return home from classes with a prayer for lessons, and before and after I return home from work with the prayer for tasks. I also trace the sign frequently during services, obviously. Is this proper behavior for someone in my position? Father Daniel explained to me the meaning of the sign, of the position of the hands, and recommended doing it to the capacity of my understanding and as I felt comfortable with it.
- Icon corner: I purchased the icon of the sacred kissing while on a trip to Whichita, with Father Daniel actually in order to visit the Cathedral of St. George and to meet Bishop Basil. I have it hanging on the East wall of my room and I pray before it in the morning and the evening, and venerate it before and after prayers. Once again, is this proper behavior? Father Daniel recommended this icon in particular, due to the fact that it contains both the Theotokos and the infant Christ, and an icon of Christ Pantocrator as well. He also said I should read the lives of the saints, bit by bit each day, and see if a particular saint 'resonates' with me, and perhaps seek out an icon of that saint. How do you all feel about this?
- Spiritual father: I noticed that specific portions of the intercessory prayers are to be made to one's spiritual father. Father Daniel thus far has instructed me in what to read as far as the theology of the early Church fathers, given me a loose recommendation of a prayer rule, recommended to me the use of the prayer rope, and has taught me all of the elements of Orthodox practice that I am familiar with thus far. Furthermore, he and I will be undertaking classes on the catechetical lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem over the next year, as I am able to make it home one weekend out of each month. As far as I know and am concerned, these classes are merely to assist my understanding of the writings of this blessed father, but my question is, does this make it proper for me to make these intercessory prayers to a spiritual father for Father Daniel? Or should I reserve such a thing for a formal agreement, or after I have furthered my relationship with the Church?
Thank you all so much for your help!