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Author Topic: Orthodox inquirer - What to do?  (Read 803 times) Average Rating: 0
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jmk1988
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« on: September 28, 2011, 06:48:57 PM »

A few months ago I started attending the Orthodox Church in my community after being dissatisfied with my current church home and a few more that I had visited.  I absolutely love it and I feel that this is the path that I need to continue on in my life.  I have a few questions that I am uncomfortable asking church members.  What is it that I suppose to be doing?  How much do I need to participate?  Do I need to venerate the cross?  Do I need to kiss the icons?  Do I need to do the sign of the cross?  Do I need to cover my hair?  Do I need to set up an icon corner in my home or wait?
I have purchased some books to read about Orthodoxy but I am still unsure if I should be sitting and observing or participating on some level.
This is a mission church and the priest only comes once a month.  I, in no way want to do something inappropriate that would offend someone.  Can someone please advise me in this matter?
Thank you in advance for you help.
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« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2011, 06:58:58 PM »

Welcome to the forum!

You don't *need* to do anything...except perhaps contact the priest.  If you're interested in going a bit further with this he'll be the one to direct you.

If you feel comfortable, then sure, you can venerate icons and cross yourself.  We tend to cross ourselves at many different points in the service, but the most universal time to do so is when the Trinity is invoked.

Its:   first three fingers on the right hand together to form a point (for the Trinity), and the last two fingers down towards your palm (for the 2 natures of Christ).  Forehead, chest, right shoulder, left shoulder.   When I taught my son I showed him by saying "Father, Son and Holy-Spirit" for each of the points on the body.

When you kiss an icon it isn't proper to kiss them on the face or mouth.  Usually people just kiss the corner.  I will sometimes kiss the feet of the person in the icon, if that part is showing.  
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 06:59:16 PM by PrincessMommy » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2011, 07:00:34 PM »

Welcome aboard.  Smiley My advice would be to just take it easy at first. If you go to a service, try to do what everyone else is doing. (When they cross themselves, you do it too, etc.) Most parishes do not make it mandatory for women to wear head coverings, but you may if you want. This is one of those things that may differ from one church to another. You can ask the parish staff what is the practice there.

When you think you are ready, see if you can visit the church office and speak to the priest.

There are lots of nice people here, and I'm sure they'll help you.  Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2011, 07:03:50 PM »

A few months ago I started attending the Orthodox Church in my community after being dissatisfied with my current church home and a few more that I had visited.  I absolutely love it and I feel that this is the path that I need to continue on in my life.

Welcome to the Church and to the forum!

I have a few questions that I am uncomfortable asking church members.  What is it that I suppose to be doing?  How much do I need to participate?

I think the general rule is - attend as many Divine Liturgies as you can. Also, meet with the priest of your parish and talk to him, he will explain many things to you.

Do I need to venerate the cross?  Do I need to kiss the icons?  Do I need to do the sign of the cross?

I don't think anyone in the Church is "required" (forced) to do any of these things. One thing you might really want to do is watch the clergy (priest, deacon(s)) as they cense you or otherwise give you signs of blessing. It is a good etiquette to bow in this case, and also to cross yourself (although it's not a requirement, strictly speaking).

Do I need to cover my hair? 

If you are a lady, watch how other ladies come to church in your parish. In some parishes, it is a custom to cover hair, so you wouldn't want to look like you disrespect this custom. In other parishes, women do not cover their hair, and then it's perfectly normal, I believe, for you to not cover it (unless, of course, you want to).

Do I need to set up an icon corner in my home or wait?

I would think you need it. The Seventh Ecumenical Council is very strong about praying in front of holy images. Your icon corner does not have to be very fancy though. It might be simply a small desk of lectern with one or two icons on it.

I have purchased some books to read about Orthodoxy but I am still unsure if I should be sitting and observing or participating on some level.

"Easy does it."  Wink
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jmk1988
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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2011, 07:20:20 PM »

Thank you so much for your prompt replies to my questions.  As I stated in my original post that the priest only comes once a month and I am shy about hunting him down to ask questions when he is there.  I will have to build up my courage and ask him my questions.  When I attended the LCMS church we made the sign of the cross but it was in the opposite direction.  I just didn't know if my participation would be appropriate. 
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2011, 07:30:07 PM »

Thank you so much for your prompt replies to my questions.  As I stated in my original post that the priest only comes once a month and I am shy about hunting him down to ask questions when he is there.  I will have to build up my courage and ask him my questions.  When I attended the LCMS church we made the sign of the cross but it was in the opposite direction.  I just didn't know if my participation would be appropriate.  

No one will think anything of it.  It's funny, I learned from my LCMS pastor brother-in-law to make the sign of the cross from right to left as the Orthodox.  But, most of my fellow parishioners at the time did it left to right.

My priest is nearly impossible to talk with on Sunday morning after Liturgy.  One way for you to get in touch with the priest is to call him during the week and set up an appt.  This still may be difficult. If he only comes once a month it may very well be because he's driving a long distance.  But, at least you'll get things started and perhaps he'll want to meet with you after Sunday liturgy or something.  Anyway, give it a try when you're ready.

I also understand your reticence.  It was very difficult for me to make that first contact too.  I just wanted to blend in and not bother anyone.  I had quite a few battles with myself before making that first call.  It was hard to do it alone.   Don't rush yourself if you aren't ready yet.

And like Heorhij said - careful with the books.  Go slowly.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 07:31:09 PM by PrincessMommy » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2011, 07:40:18 PM »

It sounds like you are doing just fine.  Continue to attend and to pray.  Don't worry about if you crossed yourself the right way at the right time or if you are standing correctly or whatever.  Just do your best to be attentive.  So much will come with time.  I'm sure the priest will be thrilled to speak with you.
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jmk1988
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« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2011, 11:34:54 PM »

You will be happy to know that the books I have read have been the ones recommended to me from church members or I have used a link from the Diocese's website.  I felt pretty comfortable with my choices but I will take your advice and go easy with the books.
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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2011, 02:49:32 AM »

i just want to say that i am also an inquirer, and hopeful future Orthodox.  as far as contacting the Priest goes, PLEASE do not feel intimidated to do so.  I know that he might have a long beard and wear a robe, thus making him look sort of intimidating, but in my 'limited' experience, the Priest are VERY relational and WANTS to be there for you and help you.  The Priest at my local parish actually contacted me and asked me about setting up a meeting.  It is intimidating at first, but dont think too much of it!

As far as certain practices go, the only thing you shouldnt do is take communion. Everything else should be fine.  I have an icon corner and it has helped my prayer life tremendously.  You will not regret having one!!

However, I was instructed on this forum that I probably shouldnt fast like Orthodox do, although I do fast during Lent. (fasting during Lent is common in most all denominations, as you may know)  Maybe someone more educated on the subject can help you more with that... I cant imagine fasting like an Orthodox would be wrong, but i guess like other people have mentioned, take your time! Dont jump in too quick!

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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2011, 03:00:55 AM »

However, I was instructed on this forum that I probably shouldnt fast like Orthodox do, although I do fast during Lent. (fasting during Lent is common in most all denominations, as you may know)  Maybe someone more educated on the subject can help you more with that... I cant imagine fasting like an Orthodox would be wrong, but i guess like other people have mentioned, take your time! Dont jump in too quick!

It is definitely not wrong. And in fact if you are certain you are on the path to conversion, it's a good idea to take some steps in the direction of the the full Orthodox fasting rule (say no meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, etc). But people are councilling you against trying to follow the full rule is a practical matter. The full rule can be quite demanding--and as an inquirer/catachumen you don't have the the sacraments (not just communion but confession and everything else) yet to support you. Even the newly baptized are often instructed by their priests to 'ease into' the full regimen. It is too easy to slip a little and from that start getting discouraged which turns fasting into a stumbling block instead of being the aid it is supposed to be.
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« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2011, 04:33:51 AM »

In Orthodoxy, we are not called to do things because everone does it.  Most of what you've asked about, are helps church tradition and practice offers to us to assist in our prayer life and worship and our spiritual growth. Venerating an icon is supposed to draw us closer to the image portrayed in the icon; crossing oneself is a silent prayer.  I would recommend you start implementing these practices as you learn about their meaning, if by performing these physical spiritual functions, they enhance your spirituality, but only perform them as you develop these feelings.  I would not recommend performing them as acts just make one appear to be part of the group, so to speak
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2011, 08:54:59 AM »

I wouldn't go as far as saying that I wanted to fit in but I want to do what is appropriate for an inquirer.  I am going to email the Priest today and ask his guidance on this matter.  I'm going to be brave, I'm going to be brave, I'm going to be brave, ...........
My faith in God has never been stronger and as many on this forum have stated they want to plow forward before they are ready.  My heart wants to plow forward but brain has me digging in my feet with intimidation.  Remember when you were in school and you wouldn't raise your hand because you feared it would be a dumb question?  That is exactly how I feel right now and I'm 42.  Please do not say there is no dumb questions because I've asked several in my lifetime.  Ha! Ha!
I have no problem sitting quietly and observing but I wanted to know what I can do when I am more comfortable participating.
I also have my 16 year old daughter who is hot on my trail behind me and she is asking questions also.   

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« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2011, 11:51:49 AM »

...the priest only comes once a month and I am shy about hunting him down to ask questions when he is there

Don't worry about it; he positively lives for that stuff. Contact him, make an appointment to meet him, and let him put you under his protective wing. He'll tell you what you need to know.

Welcome to the Holy Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2011, 11:53:02 AM »


I also have my 16 year old daughter who is hot on my trail behind me and she is asking questions also.   


When I got to the word "hot" I thought to myself, "What a very odd thing to tell us."  Then I finished reading the sentence.  Wink  That is very cool.  I wish my family would be interested.
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jmk1988
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« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2011, 12:15:10 PM »

I went back and reread that sentence and laughed.  We have many colloquialisms here in the South that may be hard to understand.

I did not take her with me on my first visit but she has attended with me ever since.  She is on board but it seems we are "dancing around the services with two left feet."  (There is another one for you!)  Wink 
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« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2011, 01:13:01 PM »

...the priest only comes once a month and I am shy about hunting him down to ask questions when he is there

Don't worry about it; he positively lives for that stuff. Contact him, make an appointment to meet him, and let him put you under his protective wing. He'll tell you what you need to know.

Welcome to the Holy Orthodox Church.

Yes, please contact the priest! I'm not sure how far he has to come to servce Liturgy at the mission, but perhaps it might be possible to make arrangements to meet him on another day than when he comes to serve Liturgy.
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« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2011, 02:35:49 PM »

In Orthodoxy, we are not called to do things because everone does it.  Most of what you've asked about, are helps church tradition and practice offers to us to assist in our prayer life and worship and our spiritual growth. Venerating an icon is supposed to draw us closer to the image portrayed in the icon; crossing oneself is a silent prayer.  I would recommend you start implementing these practices as you learn about their meaning, if by performing these physical spiritual functions, they enhance your spirituality, but only perform them as you develop these feelings.  I would not recommend performing them as acts just make one appear to be part of the group, so to speak

A GOA bishop I know says that all these practices are "tools, not rules."
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« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2011, 02:43:38 PM »

I wouldn't go as far as saying that I wanted to fit in but I want to do what is appropriate for an inquirer.  I am going to email the Priest today and ask his guidance on this matter.  I'm going to be brave, I'm going to be brave, I'm going to be brave, ...........
My faith in God has never been stronger and as many on this forum have stated they want to plow forward before they are ready.  My heart wants to plow forward but brain has me digging in my feet with intimidation.  Remember when you were in school and you wouldn't raise your hand because you feared it would be a dumb question?  That is exactly how I feel right now and I'm 42.  Please do not say there is no dumb questions because I've asked several in my lifetime.  Ha! Ha!
I have no problem sitting quietly and observing but I wanted to know what I can do when I am more comfortable participating.
I also have my 16 year old daughter who is hot on my trail behind me and she is asking questions also.

We converted from Lutheran as well.  We were LCMS, then WELS, before becoming Orthodox.

My advice mirrors what everyone else has said.  Participate exactly to the level you feel comfortable.  It took us some time to learn where to make the sign of the cross (we too did it as Lutherans, but not in the same portions of the liturgy as the Orthodox do in some cases), and it took us a bit more time to be comfortable approaching to venerate the cross, icons, etc.  The key to understand is no one is judging you or expecting anything from you.  Just keep yourself comfortable and absorb what is going on around you.

Further advice would be this -- read as much as you are comfortable digesting, and learn as much as you can.  But for us at least, it wasn't until I put the books down and began faithfully attending, praying, fasting and almsgiving that I "got" Orthodoxy.  It is far more a way of life than an intellectual construct.  In a sense, Lutheranism is too, but not nearly to the same degree.  Orthodoxy can and should be learned, but it must above all be lived.  It is in the Sacramental and Liturgical life of the Church that the faith makes the most sense. 
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« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2011, 03:08:58 PM »

Dear jmk1988,

It is lovely that you (and your daughter! wow!) are visiting an Orthodox Church.  As for me, I find my "dumb questions" are ones I especially need to ask.  If nothing else, they are a way to learn about humilty. 

Love, elephant
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« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2011, 03:42:18 PM »

But for us at least, it wasn't until I put the books down and began faithfully attending, praying, fasting and almsgiving that I "got" Orthodoxy.  It is far more a way of life than an intellectual construct.  In a sense, Lutheranism is too, but not nearly to the same degree.  Orthodoxy can and should be learned, but it must above all be lived.  It is in the Sacramental and Liturgical life of the Church that the faith makes the most sense. 

As a former Lutheran also, this was the same for me. Although from the beginning, I felt very "comfortable" with the Liturgy. The way of life is to help us grow closer to God - remember - "tools, not rules"!
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« Reply #20 on: September 29, 2011, 04:05:36 PM »

Unfortunately visiting with the Priest on his turf would involve a plane ticket.  I called him today and left him a message.  I have also called and left a message with the sub deacon.  Maybe between the two of them I can get some answers and a direction to go in.
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