Dearest Catherine, I am a convert from roman catholicism. Let me tell you, the first time that I visited an Orthodox Church, was for Vesper services. I feel that this is a great way to introduce people to the worship of the True Original Ancient Church Worship as these services tend to be shorter than the Divine Liturgy. I went to an OCA church so the Chanting was (Russian) Slavonic Style but in English, these tones a bit more friendly to a western ear, yet still, different, and I will tell you I completely fell in love. "Blessed is the man, who walks not in the council of the wicked, alleluia." Was the introduction to the service from Psalm 1. It was so beautiful that tears began to break from my eyes. I thought to myself: "this is what the roman catholic church is missing!!" The service was everything that the worship of God should be: "reverential, solemn, sober, beautiful, inspiring, penitential, deeply rich in Biblical allusions, quotations and themes." I knew that this was something special so after that experience, I went on the net and bought every book that I could investigating Orthodoxy. I was a History major in college and I remember an Orthodox Priest telling me: "we are the original, historical early Church!" Well, you do not tell that to a history-major without being investigated, and the more research I did, I discovered, he was right!! In one of your comments you tell us that you worry about abandoning your old church because you feel you may be a "traitor"? That is impossible when you are seeking The Truth. Don't forget what the Lord has said about abandoning mother and father for His sake. You are on that path, Holy Orthodoxy is ONLY for those people who truly, wholeheartedly seek The Truth are tired of all the inadequacies of their denominations or religions and realize how they lack in truth, worship, doctrine, correct worship (Orthodoxy, in other words). What is important is what your soul is hungry for and not what John and Mary would say from your previous church. I left many beautiful people from my roman catholic church but I am much more at peace in my mind and soul in embracing Orthodoxy. I am a bookworm, by the way, I used to have over 1,000 but had to greatly reduce it since I moved homes a few times within the past 5 years. Let me tell you, of all those books, I have kept 100% of my Orthodox books; that is how important they are. The Orthodox Way by his Grace, Kallistos is a great book, though, if I may, I will tell you that the book that did it for me was:
"Being as Communion" by John Zizioulas. This book is not an easy read and if you have good knowledge of the philosophy of Ancient Greece/Rome, it will help tremendously, especially the first few chapters. Also, if you know some trends of philosophy, especially regarding Existentialism, it will help you as well.
This is one of the most beautiful and profound books I have ever read in my life. After I read this, I asked myself: "how could this not be The Truth?" -that was my dilemma!! (Imagine that!!) The book is highly profound and I would recommend that you attend at least a year of Orthodox Services, or a good amount and also begin to understand what is going on in the Liturgy as the Liturgy is not just going to dedicate songs to God. This book helped me realize that ( get ready and brace yourself for this) being in the Liturgy on Sunday, the 8th Day, (Apocalypse 1:10: "I was in the Spirit on The Lord's Day."), the day "after" the number 7 (which is the representation of human perfection) you are actually entering THE REALM OF GOD; THE NUMBER 8 REPRESENTS; BEYOND NUMBER 7, BEYOND HUMAN PERFECTION: GOD'S TIME!!!! In doing so, you are joining the heavenly Liturgy, you are being united into that dimension of God's Realm, you are partaking of what is going on in the Worship of Heaven. Just like how you read in Apocalypse Chapter 4 and 5 about all that is going in heaven with the 7 Candles (Apoc.1:12-13), the Incense representing the prayers of the saints (5:
, the Witnesses in their white robes, representing the martyrs (Look at the Icons of the Saints in the Church to remind you of this), the 24 seated Elders, The singing of the Thrice Holy Hymn (which you will also sing in Church), broken Lamb (as representing the Communion, the body and blood of Christ; the Divine Liturgy is that experience of Heaven!! It is what St.Paul talked about making things patterned after what was shown in the mountain (Exodus 25:40 and Hebrews 8:5), the Copy and Shadow of Heavenly things!! You bring yourself to the Church to join what Ancient Christians did in the past (history), yet you do it today, joining God in "the present" for God ever lives in the present, and keeping in mind that Orthodox Churches are built "facing the East" because it is from the East that Our Lord God will come His 2nd time (St.Matthew 24:27), in other words: looking forward to the afterlife (the future), facing the future, being ever-expectant, living in the expectation of Our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ's 2nd coming: all of this, just imagine, you are partaking of that at the Divine Liturgy!!!!-How could this not be the Truth?
Also, think really well about this: The (Old Testament) Bible of the early Church, the Bible of Ancient Israel and of the Early Church, was the Septuagint (LXX), which is the OT in Greek!! (not hebrew, for the current hebrew bible was started in the year 500 A.D. and finished by 1009 A.D. by talmudic jews); this Greek OT was the Bible of the Early Church AND IS STILL the OT of the Orthodox Church!!!! There is only 1 Church in this planet that still uses, without chronological interruption, that OT Greek, and that is, the Orthodox Church!!! This was also a very heavy factor that just told me: "This is the Ancient, Early Church!"
I would love to recommend, a bit of an easier read, with many historical quotations by Early Christians, the following Book:
"EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES" BY J.N.D. KELLY. I promise you, if you have not read anything similar to this, it will blow you away!!! (in a positive way). Compare what early Christians say about their church (witnesses from the 1st to 4th Century) and compare it with what you see in the Orthodox Church today, and I promise you, it will give you big boost of reassurance.http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Early-Christian-Doctrine/J-N-D-Kelly/e/9780060643348
I have found it as cheap as $7.99 from Christian Books Supply in the past but I think they sold out of this sale!!!
I could speak volumes of other books to recommend, or videos, audio material to help you in your journey, if you would like. I hope my explanation here has not been tedious or boring for you.
I will keep you in my prayers for The Paraclete to continue helping you to convert your heart, to THE TRUTH, which is Holy Orthodoxy.