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Author Topic: Cradle vs Convert - different strengths - what can we learn?  (Read 979 times) Average Rating: 0
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Anna.T
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« on: April 09, 2014, 12:32:22 PM »

I was in a Bible study at church yesterday. Usually older Orthodox are the main ones that attend, mostly cradle.

Please don't take what I'm about to say as any criticism - but it is needed to ask my question (at least I can't think of another way to do it).

I have noticed that older Orthodox often don't have as much of an understanding of theological points, or the things I tend to find online. I listen to them talk about their lives, and I find that many came to this country (I am in the US) at very young ages, and often there was no Orthodox church for them to attend. They had to attend Episcopal, and many of them essentially went through a good part of their lives with no Orthodox teaching for that reason. So I really don't fault them at all, not in any way. Instead, I admire them for holding onto their convictions and roots even with no steadying influence of the church for many years.

(And indeed, I spent years in a heterodox church and didn't bother looking into theology for years either, so I don't mean to say I'm any better because I'm certainly not.)

Converts, I have found, like me, often do a lot of studying. I think maybe because in many cases - the ones I know - it was studying that brought us to choose the Orthodox church. We may know some of the theology, but I also know there are many other things that can't be learned by studying.

So as a convert, I am wondering - what are the kinds of things that we can learn from the established Orthodox members? The things we aren't going to be able to learn from study?

I would really appreciate hearing your thoughts on this?
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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2014, 03:13:40 PM »


You bring up some good points.

I agree with your statement that converts, as a rule, are better versed in theology, doctrine, dogma, etc.  However, the cradles have the traditions down.  We need both.

Each parish will have their ethnic or other traditions and Traditions.  These are usually not listed in any book. 

You can learn as a convert about Jesus entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, the meaning of it, the implications, etc.  However, the book Orthodoxy 101 probably won't inform you that the priest will be blessing palm fronds or pussy willow branches.  It won't teach you the little blurb to recite as you whack your friends over the head that day. 

Your text books won't teach you about what to put in your basket to get blessed on Pascha, what it symbolizes or what to do with it.  You won't find the tradition of rolling colored eggs over gravesites up and down, while declaring "Christ is Risen!" and then sideways (making the sign of the Cross over the grave), exclaiming "Indeed He is Risen!"

Books won't tell you to prepare 12 Lenten dishes to serve on the Eve of Nativity, representing the 12 Apostles...or that the meal should begin with a wheat dish - representing Christ (Life)....

You would learn about the Transfiguration, the meaning of Moses (dead) and Elijah (living) being on the mountain top....but, you won't learn to bless a basket of fruit on that day, nor to bless candles on the Presentation of the Lord.

Books are great. Everyone should study up on their Faith.  It is a sad fact that many cradle Orthodox don't know it better.  However, it is these same cradles that add flavor to the mix. 

You need a bit of both.
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2014, 03:18:51 PM »

Besides all of Liza's points, which I agree with.


We converts, can learn to -relax- from Cradles. 

By relax, I mean, learn to go a bit easier on ourselves when we fall short.  (this is not saying don't confess, etc)

We tend to beat ourselves up over things like missing a service, or being late. And we start down the slippery slow of 'rule following hyper zeal'

rinse repeat and the ability to drive oneself into a frenzy over the 'Rules' is very possible.

Cradle folks are much more relaxed, and its something to be envied, just a bit.

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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2014, 03:29:22 PM »

I have always been humbled by the deep and natural faith of the yiayias. They already have the faith in their hearts - it's as natural to them as breathing. I remember what His Grace Bishop Gregory of Nyssa said, that conversion is the process of moving the faith from the head to the heart.
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2014, 03:43:53 PM »


This reminds me of the "Three Hermits" story by Tolstoy.  The three hermits are representative of cradle believers.  They were old, uneducated, and lived on the island, praying in their own words.  They had no church, no official theological education, etc.

They get visited by a bishop who looks down on them...and tries to teach them proper prayers, etc.  After the bishop leaves, one of the hermits is spotted approaching the boat upon which they are sailing, walking on the water, in order to ask the bishop to remind him of the proper words to the prayer.

The bishop is humbled.  He has realized his sin in judging the hermits...while acknowledging the fact that even though uneducated in proper theology and dogma, the three hermits were loved by and pleasing to God....for the highly knowledgeable, educated, and pious bishop, was not able to "walk on water", while the hermit was.

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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2014, 03:43:58 PM »

I remember what His Grace Bishop Gregory of Nyssa said, that conversion is the process of moving the faith from the head to the heart.

They really ought to have given him a different titular see.  That's just confusing.  Tongue
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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2014, 04:07:01 PM »

I think converts could learn to be more relaxed and more patient with themselves by paying attention to the cradles. Also, they could learn consistency from them too. We don't become zealots one week then throw in the towel the next. So many converts quit Orthodoxy because they just can't be consistent and are pulled by the next fad or trend.  Many give up at the first sign of episcopal scandal, even though scandals have been with us since the beginning. The Church is a hospital for the sick, not a place for those who think they are "perfect."
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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2014, 04:11:09 PM »

i arrived at church too late for Holy Communion twice in one day!
is this a record?

do this make me almost a cradle orthodox Christian?
 Wink

(will leave extra early on palm sunday now...)
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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2014, 04:27:14 PM »


Twice in one day?

How'd that happen?
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« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2014, 05:19:40 PM »

Older & Wiser Orthodox often help me with my attitude and the general outlook on life.
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« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2014, 08:59:44 PM »

I think converts could learn to be more relaxed and more patient with themselves by paying attention to the cradles. Also, they could learn consistency from them too. We don't become zealots one week then throw in the towel the next. So many converts quit Orthodoxy because they just can't be consistent and are pulled by the next fad or trend.  Many give up at the first sign of episcopal scandal, even though scandals have been with us since the beginning. The Church is a hospital for the sick, not a place for those who think they are "perfect."

Well put.
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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2014, 09:44:41 PM »

I have read this letter from an Orthodox nun to a convert over and over when I need to be reminded that cradle Orthodox are not the enemy (they have their problems sure).  Here are some excerpts with some emphases in bold that I have made:

It sounds like you have a pretty good case of Calvinist-Jansenist indigestion [1]: uncomfortable and debilitating, but not inevitably fatal. A lot of western converts to Orthodoxy—Americans, Germans, etc., suffer from this to one degree or another, especially early on in spiritual life. Our gerondissa at St. Paul’s calls it the Medieval Sickness, a combination of moralistic nitpicking, pride,secretiveness,lack of faith in God, and lack of belief in the compassion of God. It makes one pretty joyless, prone to ill-considered and short-lived bursts of ascetic effort (often as not alternating with equally ill-considered and short-lived bursts of carnal distractions of one sort or another), often melancholy, often judgmental. If you know much about the early history of New England colonization, you can see that the Puritans represent the acme of this spiritual type.

Those who have this mindset tend, by nature or training, to see God always as the stern, unappeasable Judge, whose dealings with man are always based on law and justice, and who demands of us an exact fulfillment of rules and rubrics.
...

This is not an Orthodox view of God. And having this false image of God makes having an Orthodox experience of God difficult.

People born in what remains of the Byzantine world don’t suffer from this as readily as we do. (They have other crosses to carry, of course.) And unless they’ve dealt with it in working with westerners, they don’t always find it easy to understand. Greeks, for example, can be rebellious, worldly, egotistical, materialistic, avaricious, cunning hedonists, but they have a basic optimism and confidence in the goodness of God, the beauty of the world, and their own worth as immortal persons, which makes repentance less complicated for them. Even if they have turned away from the Church, in their hearts they still have a fundamental understanding that God is a loving Father, the Theotokos is a longsuffering Mother who will come to their aid if they turn to her, and the world of creation is ultimately a place of meaning and beauty. In a funny way, they enjoy a sinful or worldly life, while they’re living it, more than we do, because they enjoy life more than we do, and they repent in a more child-like way because they can still touch a child’s belief that home—the Church—really is the place where “when you go there, they have to take you in.” The dread Pantocrator, gazing down in majestic judgment from high up in the dome of the city cathedral is also Christouli mou, “my little Christ,” who really listens when you run in to your neighborhood church on the way to work to cry and light a candle because your daughter is in trouble at school. The untouchable and all-holy Mother of God is also Panayitsa mou, who really will take your part before the court of heaven because, just like your own mom, she’ll always stick up for her children, no matter how badly they’ve behaved.


She says that the cradles have a better understanding of a compassionate God than those of us received from confessions of Christianity which enforce a juridical model of salvation or view God as some unmovable judge like Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the hands of an angry God." 

YOu can read the entire letter here: http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/safely-home-to-heaven.aspx

All ORthodox persons have problems.  Sunt bona mixta malis!  Cradles have much to offer converts and vice versa.  There are some things that I see cradles do that I won't and I know of many cradles who will not approach liturgics as straight and narrowly as I do. Thank God our salvation is not dependent on that!
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« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2014, 12:01:07 AM »

I have read this letter from an Orthodox nun to a convert over and over when I need to be reminded that cradle Orthodox are not the enemy (they have their problems sure).  Here are some excerpts with some emphases in bold that I have made:

It sounds like you have a pretty good case of Calvinist-Jansenist indigestion [1]: uncomfortable and debilitating, but not inevitably fatal. A lot of western converts to Orthodoxy—Americans, Germans, etc., suffer from this to one degree or another, especially early on in spiritual life. Our gerondissa at St. Paul’s calls it the Medieval Sickness, a combination of moralistic nitpicking, pride,secretiveness,lack of faith in God, and lack of belief in the compassion of God. It makes one pretty joyless, prone to ill-considered and short-lived bursts of ascetic effort (often as not alternating with equally ill-considered and short-lived bursts of carnal distractions of one sort or another), often melancholy, often judgmental. If you know much about the early history of New England colonization, you can see that the Puritans represent the acme of this spiritual type.

Those who have this mindset tend, by nature or training, to see God always as the stern, unappeasable Judge, whose dealings with man are always based on law and justice, and who demands of us an exact fulfillment of rules and rubrics.
...

This is not an Orthodox view of God. And having this false image of God makes having an Orthodox experience of God difficult.

People born in what remains of the Byzantine world don’t suffer from this as readily as we do. (They have other crosses to carry, of course.) And unless they’ve dealt with it in working with westerners, they don’t always find it easy to understand. Greeks, for example, can be rebellious, worldly, egotistical, materialistic, avaricious, cunning hedonists, but they have a basic optimism and confidence in the goodness of God, the beauty of the world, and their own worth as immortal persons, which makes repentance less complicated for them. Even if they have turned away from the Church, in their hearts they still have a fundamental understanding that God is a loving Father, the Theotokos is a longsuffering Mother who will come to their aid if they turn to her, and the world of creation is ultimately a place of meaning and beauty. In a funny way, they enjoy a sinful or worldly life, while they’re living it, more than we do, because they enjoy life more than we do, and they repent in a more child-like way because they can still touch a child’s belief that home—the Church—really is the place where “when you go there, they have to take you in.” The dread Pantocrator, gazing down in majestic judgment from high up in the dome of the city cathedral is also Christouli mou, “my little Christ,” who really listens when you run in to your neighborhood church on the way to work to cry and light a candle because your daughter is in trouble at school. The untouchable and all-holy Mother of God is also Panayitsa mou, who really will take your part before the court of heaven because, just like your own mom, she’ll always stick up for her children, no matter how badly they’ve behaved.


She says that the cradles have a better understanding of a compassionate God than those of us received from confessions of Christianity which enforce a juridical model of salvation or view God as some unmovable judge like Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the hands of an angry God." 

YOu can read the entire letter here: http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/safely-home-to-heaven.aspx

All ORthodox persons have problems.  Sunt bona mixta malis!  Cradles have much to offer converts and vice versa.  There are some things that I see cradles do that I won't and I know of many cradles who will not approach liturgics as straight and narrowly as I do. Thank God our salvation is not dependent on that!

I can really relate to this message even though I am not of Greek heritage. Middle easterners are not the same as Greeks but there are many similarities. They don't have the same level of confidence as Greeks because  they never had their own Orthodox country but they are more playful, like children and very hospitable. 

It took me a long time to understand the judgmental god of Protestantism that I didn't recognize as the God I knew. But when evangelical friend told me about her sister, who was thrown out of the church because she divorced the pastor's son ( he was a wife beater),  I got a pretty good glimpse of what they are taught. The church wrote her a letter and stated she was no longer a Christian. She now is an unbeliever.
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« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2014, 12:45:52 PM »

liza s, there were 2 liturgies in 1 day (2 priests, and some people needed early liturgy so they can fast less and some needed one after work).
so i had less to do at work then i planned, so ran off to church, remembering the time wrong.
go there as father was cleaning the holy vessels after Holy Communion.

then thought, maybe i can finish work early and get to later one, but as it happened, i finished very late.

had extremely unrealistic optimism about how fast one can cross a big town in rush hour using public transport, but only actually realised i was too late when i arrived and saw people already coming out of church!
how come my church actually finished on time for once?!

but i learnt a lot through the day about the importance of thirsting for God and the equal importance of noticing the people around us and not just rushing past them to get to church!
now will have to wait till sunday as working saturday.
it is really good for the spiritual life to practice waiting, so i will try to do it with patience!
(and Bible study tonight should help me cope!)
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« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2014, 12:56:20 PM »


Wow!  Kudos to you for your effort in getting there.

How many people have the time, but, just don't care to go.

May God bless you and help you make it on time, next time!  Wink
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« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2014, 09:52:07 AM »

aah, you're very sweet.
i nominate liza symonenko as orthodoxChristianity.net mother...
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« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2014, 10:51:00 AM »

I don't think I've yet posted a reply on here, but thank you all so much for your comments. They have been very enlightening.

And the very day after I posted this, there were two ladies who stayed after class, and I was drawn into their conversation. That gave me quite a bit of enlightenment as well! One of the ladies who attends the catechumen class is actually lifelong Orthodox, and I did not know this. The other was the woman who basically keeps all the nuts and bolts of the church running, and was involved in everything. They were both very sweet, and helpful, and I have been invited to all sorts of things now. Smiley

I love people anyway, but certain ethnicities really endear me to the way they are. There are so many Greek women at our church. I love to be around them. They love to talk - I'm quiet by nature and I have a feeling I'm never going to get to say anything, LOL, but that's ok. Smiley Some of them seem to love to teach, and I love to learn, so that's good. Smiley  And I enjoy helping. I'm sure I don't know how to cook the recipes they use (and a lot of cooking goes on at our church) but hopefully I can at least help.

(And just as surely - I have learned nothing about the Greek men - which is ok. I am happy to be with the women. But the men, other than to be polite, I hear nothing from them, and they seem to disappear to somewhere, LOL)

And I learned more in the offhand comments and a couple of quick questions asking those two women (well, more things off of my list of particular questions) than I actually do in several classes from Father, since he tends to concentrate on the same things I'm reading online while they know the answers to the day-to-day how things are actually done, as well as parish traditions, that Father doesn't speak about (though I'm sure he knows most of it as well).

I feel so much like I am home when I am with the people in the Church. It's like what I've been looking for my entire life, and it brings tears to my eyes to think that they really do exist.

Believe me when I say, I meant no disrespect at all to the cradle and longtime Orthodox when I asked the question. I just notice a difference between what I learn online and in books, and what they know, and I wanted to understand better.

Thank you all so much.
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« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2014, 10:58:53 AM »

liza s, there were 2 liturgies in 1 day (2 priests, and some people needed early liturgy so they can fast less and some needed one after work).
so i had less to do at work then i planned, so ran off to church, remembering the time wrong.
go there as father was cleaning the holy vessels after Holy Communion.

then thought, maybe i can finish work early and get to later one, but as it happened, i finished very late.

had extremely unrealistic optimism about how fast one can cross a big town in rush hour using public transport, but only actually realised i was too late when i arrived and saw people already coming out of church!
how come my church actually finished on time for once?!

but i learnt a lot through the day about the importance of thirsting for God and the equal importance of noticing the people around us and not just rushing past them to get to church!
now will have to wait till sunday as working saturday.
it is really good for the spiritual life to practice waiting, so i will try to do it with patience!
(and Bible study tonight should help me cope!)

I applaud you trying to get there too!

Church is about 45 minutes away for me - if I take the interstate almost the whole way and if there is no traffic issues. I've been 10 minutes late the last two times myself. Sad 

And yes, I certainly see, people DO get very relaxed about when they come to service. When it starts, I am always surprised how few are there. When it's over, the church is much more full. Wink

And if I am on the back row, the women almost all come and ask me where we are in the liturgy.

But I have only been to weekday services so far, and I know people have work, and so on. I'm pleased to see so many make it such a point to come, and so often.

I have to say, from a Protestant background, it is very different. I have had the "door person" get very upset and even mean with me for being late (hard to be on time every time because we were always snowed in) and the attitude seeming to be that if you can't conveniently get there on time, you shouldn't bother to go. I can appreciate a more relaxed attitude so much more.

Though Father does put on the Church's website that there are certain points in the liturgy that one should not enter, and wait until that part is over if you come in then.
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« Reply #18 on: April 11, 2014, 11:59:37 AM »

I think converts could learn to be more relaxed and more patient with themselves by paying attention to the cradles. Also, they could learn consistency from them too. We don't become zealots one week then throw in the towel the next. So many converts quit Orthodoxy because they just can't be consistent and are pulled by the next fad or trend.  Many give up at the first sign of episcopal scandal, even though scandals have been with us since the beginning. The Church is a hospital for the sick, not a place for those who think they are "perfect."


My first experience after converting was to try to control my enthusiasm, triumphalism if you may.  I could not for the life of me figure out why the cradles weren't head-over-heal with this wonderful faith.   Later on I realized it wasn't the Zeal that was so important but the way in which you live your life that counted.  It took a while to get 'used' to this moderation and since then I find my self more accepting of things that are.  I do however, hear from cradles who say that they are impressed by my love for the faith.  Sure, there are some who for what ever reasons, have turned away from he faith but I find that the cradles were less prone to doing this than some disappointed Convert who was expecting sparks to fly and the moon to reverse orbit.
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« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2014, 12:19:11 PM »

anna t,
i laughed to see you worried to be 10 minutes late!
this counts as 'early' in most orthodox churches!

i also love not having a door person. it's so nice to sneak in and no one to look at you!
although many orthodox churches have people who will go up to someone who looks lost and offer to help.
i think this is the right balance.

also i personally feel uncomfortable shaking someone's hand if we are not about to become acquainted with a small chat.
it feels in some protestant churches like i'm on a conveyor belt of 'hello' - fixed smile - on to next person...
(especially one baptist church i was in - i used to hide behind a bigger person and try to sidestep the conveyor belt!)
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« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2014, 12:24:36 PM »

anna t,
i laughed to see you worried to be 10 minutes late!
this counts as 'early' in most orthodox churches!

i also love not having a door person. it's so nice to sneak in and no one to look at you!
although many orthodox churches have people who will go up to someone who looks lost and offer to help.
i think this is the right balance.

also i personally feel uncomfortable shaking someone's hand if we are not about to become acquainted with a small chat.
it feels in some protestant churches like i'm on a conveyor belt of 'hello' - fixed smile - on to next person...
(especially one baptist church i was in - i used to hide behind a bigger person and try to sidestep the conveyor belt!)

We have assigned Greeters on Sundays to welcome visitors especially for the first time.  We ask them to fill out a card where Fr. can contact them at a latter date.  It seems to work out for the most part. 
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« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2014, 01:51:13 PM »

anna t,
i laughed to see you worried to be 10 minutes late!
this counts as 'early' in most orthodox churches!

i also love not having a door person. it's so nice to sneak in and no one to look at you!
although many orthodox churches have people who will go up to someone who looks lost and offer to help.
i think this is the right balance.

also i personally feel uncomfortable shaking someone's hand if we are not about to become acquainted with a small chat.
it feels in some protestant churches like i'm on a conveyor belt of 'hello' - fixed smile - on to next person...
(especially one baptist church i was in - i used to hide behind a bigger person and try to sidestep the conveyor belt!)

I should have been more specific. I'm usually early to service, but I was late for CLASS, which bothers me because I'm afraid I might miss something. (And indeed the Bible study has a wonderful prayer and hymn at the beginning that I am sorry I missed.) Service is usually after a class, with 30 minutes in between, so I'm usually early.

Except the other day, I stayed to speak with someone, and I went over to the service thinking I'd be 5 minutes early - and they had already started and were about 3-4 pages into the liturgy!

I think I am seeing that Orthodoxy runs on "about this time" and nothing exact. Father will often wait to begin the class in case people come late, if he has something special in mind.

The last church I went to with my husband was a Church of God, and I'm not sure I've ever had so many people shake my hand! They really were many of them very warm and genuine about it and chatted a moment, but I did feel like I was on a conveyor belt - I must have had 30 or 40 people greet me!

In the Orthodox church, I find people will much more often chat or greet after the service. Before, I usually like to hang back and see what other people are doing if I don't know yet what to do, and I feel less self-conscious when they let me do that. Though I wouldn't have minded if there was someone to point out things to people who obviously don't know what to do either. Smiley
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« Reply #22 on: April 11, 2014, 10:53:07 PM »

I think converts could learn to be more relaxed and more patient with themselves by paying attention to the cradles. Also, they could learn consistency from them too. We don't become zealots one week then throw in the towel the next. So many converts quit Orthodoxy because they just can't be consistent and are pulled by the next fad or trend.  Many give up at the first sign of episcopal scandal, even though scandals have been with us since the beginning. The Church is a hospital for the sick, not a place for those who think they are "perfect."


My first experience after converting was to try to control my enthusiasm, triumphalism if you may.  I could not for the life of me figure out why the cradles weren't head-over-heal with this wonderful faith.   Later on I realized it wasn't the Zeal that was so important but the way in which you live your life that counted.  It took a while to get 'used' to this moderation and since then I find my self more accepting of things that are.  I do however, hear from cradles who say that they are impressed by my love for the faith.  Sure, there are some who for what ever reasons, have turned away from he faith but I find that the cradles were less prone to doing this than some disappointed Convert who was expecting sparks to fly and the moon to reverse orbit.

I love Eastern Orthodoxy too. But not with a sense of triumphalism, because God has given me everything so much more will be expected of me than a Roman Catholic or a Protestant. The deeper I go into Orthodoxy, I see how much I don't know.

Really, the distinctions of who is a convert should erode with time because we all need to be converted daily.
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« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2014, 07:52:35 AM »

I think converts could learn to be more relaxed and more patient with themselves by paying attention to the cradles. Also, they could learn consistency from them too. We don't become zealots one week then throw in the towel the next. So many converts quit Orthodoxy because they just can't be consistent and are pulled by the next fad or trend.  Many give up at the first sign of episcopal scandal, even though scandals have been with us since the beginning. The Church is a hospital for the sick, not a place for those who think they are "perfect."


My first experience after converting was to try to control my enthusiasm, triumphalism if you may.  I could not for the life of me figure out why the cradles weren't head-over-heal with this wonderful faith.   Later on I realized it wasn't the Zeal that was so important but the way in which you live your life that counted.  It took a while to get 'used' to this moderation and since then I find my self more accepting of things that are.  I do however, hear from cradles who say that they are impressed by my love for the faith.  Sure, there are some who for what ever reasons, have turned away from he faith but I find that the cradles were less prone to doing this than some disappointed Convert who was expecting sparks to fly and the moon to reverse orbit.

I love Eastern Orthodoxy too. But not with a sense of triumphalism, because God has given me everything so much more will be expected of me than a Roman Catholic or a Protestant. The deeper I go into Orthodoxy, I see how much I don't know.

I have to agree so much with this. I don't have an analogy for what it is like, but so many other traditions I study are fairly black and white - here's the question, and that's the answer. In Orthodoxy, it seems there are layers, and then more layers. To me it is exciting because I love to discover things. I think I see why they say it might not be a faith well-suited to intellectuals. If one enjoys "knowing all the answers" that person is not likely to find satisfaction in Orthodoxy.

Today in class I asked a question. Father answered, then a visiting seminarian gave a different answer from his point of view, then a catechumen gave another answer, and none of them were the answer I got from thinking on it for two weeks. They were all good answers, and worth meditating on. But not a simple faith, surely. Smiley  I love it.
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Really, the distinctions of who is a convert should erode with time because we all need to be converted daily.

Interesting. Of course this is true, but I was thinking this for different reasons. I know a cradle Orthodox who has recently become intensely interested in the details of the faith, and reminds me of a catechumen. And I met a catechumen who has depth and reminds me of a cradle.
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« Reply #24 on: April 14, 2014, 04:47:02 PM »

I think the most important thing converts can learn from cradle's is that its all about"FAITH", not knowledge. Like LizaSymonenko ilistrated with the story. We/you dont need to know anything if you have faith, thats all it realy takes, realy!

But cradle's can learn a thing ot two from converts...i think we cradles get offended or intimidated when we talk with converts and they (the converts) correct us, regarding theology. We could be thinking, who the heck is he/she to tell me of my religion, when i have been orthodox all my life and he/she just got chirizmated! realy converts cant be outdone when theology comes into play, especially now more so since the internet info boom. see, we cradles did not have all this info at our fingertips like you guys do. we had to ask people, and even then it was hard to know if it was correct the way we were taught. now that i think of it converts could be missing out cause they rely on the internet for there info. there is a lot of tradition that is only known by older cradles and those older cradles will neve post or write about them on line, they just dont use the internet. so i guess its good to not segragate ourselves cause both have something to teach the other.

please dont forget the frist thing i said, about FAITH thats all its about. its about keeping it when your told your wrong, there is not god. its about keeping it when you read abt priests molesting children. its about keeping it when you find contradictory facts about christ or christianity. its about keeping it when your world is comming apart and you dont know why or what to do abt it. alway keep your faith.
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« Reply #25 on: April 21, 2014, 06:12:37 PM »

I have read this letter from an Orthodox nun to a convert over and over when I need to be reminded that cradle Orthodox are not the enemy (they have their problems sure).  Here are some excerpts with some emphases in bold that I have made:

It sounds like you have a pretty good case of Calvinist-Jansenist indigestion [1]: uncomfortable and debilitating, but not inevitably fatal. A lot of western converts to Orthodoxy—Americans, Germans, etc., suffer from this to one degree or another, especially early on in spiritual life. Our gerondissa at St. Paul’s calls it the Medieval Sickness, a combination of moralistic nitpicking, pride,secretiveness,lack of faith in God, and lack of belief in the compassion of God. It makes one pretty joyless, prone to ill-considered and short-lived bursts of ascetic effort (often as not alternating with equally ill-considered and short-lived bursts of carnal distractions of one sort or another), often melancholy, often judgmental. If you know much about the early history of New England colonization, you can see that the Puritans represent the acme of this spiritual type.

Those who have this mindset tend, by nature or training, to see God always as the stern, unappeasable Judge, whose dealings with man are always based on law and justice, and who demands of us an exact fulfillment of rules and rubrics.
...

This is not an Orthodox view of God. And having this false image of God makes having an Orthodox experience of God difficult.

People born in what remains of the Byzantine world don’t suffer from this as readily as we do. (They have other crosses to carry, of course.) And unless they’ve dealt with it in working with westerners, they don’t always find it easy to understand. Greeks, for example, can be rebellious, worldly, egotistical, materialistic, avaricious, cunning hedonists, but they have a basic optimism and confidence in the goodness of God, the beauty of the world, and their own worth as immortal persons, which makes repentance less complicated for them. Even if they have turned away from the Church, in their hearts they still have a fundamental understanding that God is a loving Father, the Theotokos is a longsuffering Mother who will come to their aid if they turn to her, and the world of creation is ultimately a place of meaning and beauty. In a funny way, they enjoy a sinful or worldly life, while they’re living it, more than we do, because they enjoy life more than we do, and they repent in a more child-like way because they can still touch a child’s belief that home—the Church—really is the place where “when you go there, they have to take you in.” The dread Pantocrator, gazing down in majestic judgment from high up in the dome of the city cathedral is also Christouli mou, “my little Christ,” who really listens when you run in to your neighborhood church on the way to work to cry and light a candle because your daughter is in trouble at school. The untouchable and all-holy Mother of God is also Panayitsa mou, who really will take your part before the court of heaven because, just like your own mom, she’ll always stick up for her children, no matter how badly they’ve behaved.


She says that the cradles have a better understanding of a compassionate God than those of us received from confessions of Christianity which enforce a juridical model of salvation or view God as some unmovable judge like Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the hands of an angry God." 

YOu can read the entire letter here: http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/safely-home-to-heaven.aspx

All ORthodox persons have problems.  Sunt bona mixta malis!  Cradles have much to offer converts and vice versa.  There are some things that I see cradles do that I won't and I know of many cradles who will not approach liturgics as straight and narrowly as I do. Thank God our salvation is not dependent on that!

Thank you for posting this link. It's extremely helpful.
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« Reply #26 on: April 21, 2014, 06:20:41 PM »

I think the most important thing converts can learn from cradle's is that its all about"FAITH", not knowledge. Like LizaSymonenko ilistrated with the story. We/you dont need to know anything if you have faith, thats all it realy takes, realy!

But cradle's can learn a thing ot two from converts...i think we cradles get offended or intimidated when we talk with converts and they (the converts) correct us, regarding theology. We could be thinking, who the heck is he/she to tell me of my religion, when i have been orthodox all my life and he/she just got chirizmated! realy converts cant be outdone when theology comes into play, especially now more so since the internet info boom. see, we cradles did not have all this info at our fingertips like you guys do. we had to ask people, and even then it was hard to know if it was correct the way we were taught. now that i think of it converts could be missing out cause they rely on the internet for there info. there is a lot of tradition that is only known by older cradles and those older cradles will neve post or write about them on line, they just dont use the internet. so i guess its good to not segragate ourselves cause both have something to teach the other.

I understand that. Many of the cradles (I think I said earlier in this thread) didn't even find Orthodox churches to attend when they immigrated. And of course no internet. Truly, I have many more resources than they could have had.

Spending so much time at church this last Holy Week, especially in helping out with all that needed done, I got to take a few breaks with the older cradles in the church. Sometimes they would "teach" things that were not correct as far as theology, but I did not correct them. It doesn't seem my place, being brand new to the church and they've been there for decades.

I always take those discrepancies and double-check them though, in case I've learned the wrong things myself. But I don't correct older church members.
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« Reply #27 on: April 22, 2014, 02:02:35 PM »

great thread, I had never really thought about it, thanks for everyone's contribution to it.
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« Reply #28 on: April 22, 2014, 04:03:16 PM »

During this Lent, I learned when to bow and prostrate and for how long....from "cradles".
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« Reply #29 on: April 22, 2014, 04:17:50 PM »

Coming from a Roman Catholic background, where we had to be early for Sunday 8am Mass (after delivering the Sunday newspaper to about 80 homes), I think I, and others with a similar background, add the ability to be on time for Liturgy.  When the Liturgy starts there really are only about 5 people in the church and maybe 2 up in the choir loft.  Then 40 or 50 more show up eventually, even after the priest's homily.  As the Liturgy progresses, the choir gets stronger and stronger and stronger as more people show up. Smiley
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« Reply #30 on: April 22, 2014, 05:17:24 PM »

Another thing I have learned over the years as an Orthodox Christian is, it is not necessary to read excessive amounts of books on our theology. If one attends many of the services, which are hopefully mostly in English, then one would over time acquire a good deal of knowledge about Orthodoxy in the hymnography. It will become a part of the person in a very organic way, almost without realizing it. Over time, former mind sets will change just from singing the music. But if one attends a church that uses mostly a foreign language, reading Orthodox books and attending an Orthodox Bible study will be necessary to help acquire a more Orthodox mindset.
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« Reply #31 on: April 22, 2014, 05:25:09 PM »

Another thing I have learned over the years as an Orthodox Christian is, it is not necessary to read excessive amounts of books on our theology. If one attends many of the services, which are hopefully mostly in English, then one would over time acquire a good deal of knowledge about Orthodoxy in the hymnography. It will become a part of the person in a very organic way, almost without realizing it. Over time, former mind sets will change just from singing the music. But if one attends a church that uses mostly a foreign language, reading Orthodox books and attending an Orthodox Bible study will be necessary to help acquire a more Orthodox mindset.

I love the amount of theology that is included in the liturgy and the iconography. The icons I don't "get" all the details, of course, just a bit. But the liturgy tends to go over it a few times, I've noticed (in the recent ones anyway, which is all I know).

I can also see the way I think changing gradually, though I'm not quite sure what to attribute it to. I know that it's not reading posts online, because I've been doing a LOT of that for months, and other than some theology and basic trivia, all I could pick up is that I was "different" from everyone who was Orthodox. But I am just starting to get a glimpse. New people come and say things, and my first thought is that their question seems so foreign, even. Then I see Orthodox saying that to them, and I realize I am changing, just a little.

It has to be practice or experience though, not just reading words. Prayer rule, attending liturgy, being part of the community? I'm not sure. But something is having an effect.

I can also say - I learned from the cradles how to make DARK red Pascha eggs! You don't use white eggs and store-bought red dye (which gives pink eggs). You use dark brown eggs and imported Greek dye. See, I learned something. Wink  Oh, and I can fold crosses from palm fronds too, which I desperately wish I could practice through the year, because I'm pretty sure I won't remember how by next Palm Sunday, though I made a good many of them. Smiley
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« Reply #32 on: April 22, 2014, 05:32:53 PM »

During this Lent, I learned when to bow and prostrate and for how long....from "cradles".

Ah, I'm just starting to learn when to bow. I feel quite awkward and only get in two when I'm supposed to be doing three.

At least I have a very good idea of when to sit and when to stand. Yes, there are pews in our church, in both Orthodox churches I have visited here, and the parishioners sit during about half of the service. It makes other people uncomfortable if I stand, unless I am in the back row.

But we stand when Fr. M. brings out the Scriptures, when he brings out the Eucharist, when he comes to cense, when he reads the Gospel. We don't enter the church during those times either. And we bow and cross ourselves when he passes, and turn to follow with our bodies. And we stand during the prayers. But we sit for the readers. And we kneel when he prays for the Holy Spirit to descend on the Eucharist. And sometimes we kneel when he brings out the Eucharist? It seems to be different from one time to another. I don't have it all yet. But I'm getting there. Smiley
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« Reply #33 on: April 22, 2014, 05:33:14 PM »

I can also see the way I think changing gradually, though I'm not quite sure what to attribute it to. I know that it's not reading posts online...

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« Reply #34 on: April 22, 2014, 05:37:07 PM »

Coming from a Roman Catholic background, where we had to be early for Sunday 8am Mass (after delivering the Sunday newspaper to about 80 homes), I think I, and others with a similar background, add the ability to be on time for Liturgy.  When the Liturgy starts there really are only about 5 people in the church and maybe 2 up in the choir loft.  Then 40 or 50 more show up eventually, even after the priest's homily.  As the Liturgy progresses, the choir gets stronger and stronger and stronger as more people show up. Smiley

Oh, I got so embarrassed during my first Orthros! I was a few minutes late, and no one was there but me. So I went on in after a minute, and went to the general area I often sit and stood there. I just stayed standing because I didn't have a clue then when to sit/stand. After quite a long time, I looked around and saw I was still the only one in church (other than the priest, readers, etc). But the Narthex was full of people, and it wasn't one of those times we were supposed to wait to enter. So ... I thought maybe I had made a major mistake by coming into the church! I got my purse and sneaked out, but the usher in the Narthex told me "Get back in there!" (nicely, LOL), so I went back in, and then everyone else came in.

It was very odd, and I still cringe when I think about it. It's hard to think that I didn't make a major mistake somehow!
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« Reply #35 on: April 22, 2014, 07:10:01 PM »

Another thing I have learned over the years as an Orthodox Christian is, it is not necessary to read excessive amounts of books on our theology. If one attends many of the services, which are hopefully mostly in English, then one would over time acquire a good deal of knowledge about Orthodoxy in the hymnography. It will become a part of the person in a very organic way, almost without realizing it. Over time, former mind sets will change just from singing the music. But if one attends a church that uses mostly a foreign language, reading Orthodox books and attending an Orthodox Bible study will be necessary to help acquire a more Orthodox mindset.

That's true, and one thing I greatly appreciate about how things are done - you go to Liturgy and realize quickly that the hymnography and readings, all the services are presented in such a way as to really immerse you in the teachings of the Church, and after a while it starts making sense and building upon itself. I'm really glad that you're required to be a catechumen for that one year or so - being able to see the cycle of services throughout the year (most especially the less common ones, like Matins/Vespers, Compline when done with a Priest in attendance, etc), really does help you learn more about the Church than you could likely learn just by reading. I mean, for my part I remember not knowing what on earth the Nicene Creed was the first time I went (having only encountered it once) and after a few months walking to get the mail and realizing I somehow was able to recite it almost perfectly without having attempted to memorize it. And I say this as one who would prefer to read haha. Very organic is right...
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« Reply #36 on: April 22, 2014, 07:34:00 PM »

Another thing I have learned over the years as an Orthodox Christian is, it is not necessary to read excessive amounts of books on our theology. If one attends many of the services, which are hopefully mostly in English, then one would over time acquire a good deal of knowledge about Orthodoxy in the hymnography. It will become a part of the person in a very organic way, almost without realizing it. Over time, former mind sets will change just from singing the music. But if one attends a church that uses mostly a foreign language, reading Orthodox books and attending an Orthodox Bible study will be necessary to help acquire a more Orthodox mindset.

I love the amount of theology that is included in the liturgy and the iconography. The icons I don't "get" all the details, of course, just a bit. But the liturgy tends to go over it a few times, I've noticed (in the recent ones anyway, which is all I know).

I can also see the way I think changing gradually, though I'm not quite sure what to attribute it to. I know that it's not reading posts online, because I've been doing a LOT of that for months, and other than some theology and basic trivia, all I could pick up is that I was "different" from everyone who was Orthodox. But I am just starting to get a glimpse. New people come and say things, and my first thought is that their question seems so foreign, even. Then I see Orthodox saying that to them, and I realize I am changing, just a little.

It has to be practice or experience though, not just reading words. Prayer rule, attending liturgy, being part of the community? I'm not sure. But something is having an effect.

I can also say - I learned from the cradles how to make DARK red Pascha eggs! You don't use white eggs and store-bought red dye (which gives pink eggs). You use dark brown eggs and imported Greek dye. See, I learned something. Wink  Oh, and I can fold crosses from palm fronds too, which I desperately wish I could practice through the year, because I'm pretty sure I won't remember how by next Palm Sunday, though I made a good many of them. Smiley

Anna,

Just be very, very, patient with yourself. I have been Orthodox since I was a baby and I still feel like a newby in many respects. Being in a good Orthodox community, with a mixture of various people, really helps you learn alot. I was lucky when I was growing up to be in a community of people from various Orthodox cultures (Greek, Russian, Syrian, Egyptian, Romanian, etc). I was able to learn some of the various traditions from other Orthodox cultures besides my own (Syrian).
It really gave me a sense of how cultures absorb the Faith and make it their own.

Now I attend a parish with people who are mostly converts from various Protestant churches. I have learned much from them too. I like the way they focus the energy of the parish on helping the less fortunate and how everything is always organized, on time and done with such precision and care. Also, I LOVE that all the services are completely in English, especially during Holy Week. It has become so much more meaningful for me. I still can't get over the fact that Christ died for us, went down into Hades, destroyed the power of death, preached to those who were prisoners in Hades, then took them all out of there because He loves mankind so much.  Cry
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« Reply #37 on: April 22, 2014, 07:37:30 PM »

Another thing I have learned over the years as an Orthodox Christian is, it is not necessary to read excessive amounts of books on our theology. If one attends many of the services, which are hopefully mostly in English, then one would over time acquire a good deal of knowledge about Orthodoxy in the hymnography. It will become a part of the person in a very organic way, almost without realizing it. Over time, former mind sets will change just from singing the music. But if one attends a church that uses mostly a foreign language, reading Orthodox books and attending an Orthodox Bible study will be necessary to help acquire a more Orthodox mindset.

That's true, and one thing I greatly appreciate about how things are done - you go to Liturgy and realize quickly that the hymnography and readings, all the services are presented in such a way as to really immerse you in the teachings of the Church, and after a while it starts making sense and building upon itself. I'm really glad that you're required to be a catechumen for that one year or so - being able to see the cycle of services throughout the year (most especially the less common ones, like Matins/Vespers, Compline when done with a Priest in attendance, etc), really does help you learn more about the Church than you could likely learn just by reading. I mean, for my part I remember not knowing what on earth the Nicene Creed was the first time I went (having only encountered it once) and after a few months walking to get the mail and realizing I somehow was able to recite it almost perfectly without having attempted to memorize it. And I say this as one who would prefer to read haha. Very organic is right...

Yeah, so organic that sometimes, as one growing up in the faith, I didn't even realize how much I knew until I would hear something stated that was incorrect in regards to theology. I would know in my heart what the right answer was but I couldn't figure out at the time why I knew the answer. Years later it dawned on me that singing in the choir since the age of 14 really was a very stealthy form of catechism.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2014, 07:39:09 PM by Tamara » Logged
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« Reply #38 on: April 22, 2014, 08:20:49 PM »

Years later it dawned on me that singing in the choir since the age of 14 really was a very stealthy form of catechism.

Stealthy form of catechism, I like that.  Grin

When I asked the secretary if it would be possible to find out in advance what the hymns would be so I could attempt to learn them (in order to understand better and study Greek at the same time), she asked the choir director, who immediately wanted me to join the choir.

I would love to, but the secretary thought I should be baptized and chrismated first.
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« Reply #39 on: April 22, 2014, 08:30:20 PM »

Years later it dawned on me that singing in the choir since the age of 14 really was a very stealthy form of catechism.

Stealthy form of catechism, I like that.  Grin

When I asked the secretary if it would be possible to find out in advance what the hymns would be so I could attempt to learn them (in order to understand better and study Greek at the same time), she asked the choir director, who immediately wanted me to join the choir.

I would love to, but the secretary thought I should be baptized and chrismated first.


Check with the priest. I sang in the choir for months before I was chrismated, but a lot of priests just want you to concentrate on worship, prayer, and study before you become Orthodox.
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« Reply #40 on: April 22, 2014, 08:41:19 PM »

Years later it dawned on me that singing in the choir since the age of 14 really was a very stealthy form of catechism.

Stealthy form of catechism, I like that.  Grin

When I asked the secretary if it would be possible to find out in advance what the hymns would be so I could attempt to learn them (in order to understand better and study Greek at the same time), she asked the choir director, who immediately wanted me to join the choir.

I would love to, but the secretary thought I should be baptized and chrismated first.


Check with the priest. I sang in the choir for months before I was chrismated, but a lot of priests just want you to concentrate on worship, prayer, and study before you become Orthodox.

Well, tbh I need to become more steadfast in prayer. I miss the services of Holy Week, and yet I am not keeping my prayer rule. Sad Sad Sad

I will try to be more faithful in prayer and study, and if it seems as though I am progressing, I will ask him. It would probably not be wise to put another responsibility on myself if I am not fulfilling the ones I have already set for myself. Hopefully this is a temporary lapse. Spiritual laziness is not usually one of my particular sins, though I have plenty enough of them to concern myself with otherwise.

Thank you for the suggestion though. It may be that he will allow it, and it may be that it would be a good thing for me. Hopefully soon I will be in a position to ask. Smiley
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Christ is in our midst!

My replies should not be taken as representing Orthodox teaching - I am only just learning myself.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
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