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Author Topic: Choosing an Orthodox Church? Personal struggles and constraints.  (Read 933 times) Average Rating: 0
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dgd717
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« on: August 17, 2012, 11:13:14 PM »

Hello,

I'm new here.  I've spent the last three years examining and reading about Orthodoxy from an outside perspective.  I've attended some Lutheran and mostly Protestant churches growing up.  At some times, abandoning my faith entirely.  For the last year and half I have believed everything I've read about in Eastern Orthodoxy.  I follow this faith behind closed doors.  Yet, I have some Greek Orthodox friends who are frustrated with my spiritual path in the Orthodox Church without being baptized.  I've only been to Liturgy a couple times.  However, I think I have a problem to commitment and I'm not sure entirely which kind of Orthodox Church to attend and be baptized in.  My beliefs follow mostly Greek Orthodox, (then outside readings from ROCOR).  As much as I am a structured person, I still have a problem performing rituals too.  I don't know entirely what I am doing or if I offend anyone by not kissing the icons.  I'm worried I'll offend the church by not attending Orthos in the morning, but the truth is I don't know know if I am allowed to attend Orthos before Liturgy if I'm such a Novice to Orthodoxy.  

Also, I am afraid of compromising my real internal relationship with Christ for an external relationship, while performing these traditions.  I finally warmed up to the Saints and Angels existing around me, but I am not quite comfortable praying directly to them.  I do pray indirectly to them through God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Also, I'm trying to confess by my tongue that the Theotokos is Holy, but it's difficult for me to fully accept.  I know I need to talk to a priest about all this.  It is kind of like swimming.  The water is cold, but once I swim around enough I'll get use to it.  I know I just need to attend Liturgy on Sundays regardless.  

However, my other minor details are like surrounded in the fact I need to get nice clothes to wear for service, and that actual Greek Churches are really far away from where I'll be living soon.  The truth sometimes is I wonder how much God really cares that I am Orthodox?  I wonder if that before the Throne He will judge me for being Orthodox or not.  I don't want to fall into heresy and false teaching (as seen in 2 Peter), but I guess I am just kind of lost at words and confused.  My Orthodox friends confused me.  Some of them don't live the "holy lifestyles" I would imagine.  They then seem to judge me entirely for just simply not being baptized yet.  To them, it seems their "salvation" comes before mine, simply based on Orthodoxy (I know too, overall, I should not be critical and keep to myself).  That is what keeps me scared and skeptical of the whole situation.  I guess, what advice would you have for someone like me?  I know I need to just attend church and dive in, and ask a priest.  What more can anyone say about this?  Thank you.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2012, 11:22:14 PM by dgd717 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2012, 02:46:02 AM »

Hello,

I'm new here.  I've spent the last three years examining and reading about Orthodoxy from an outside perspective.  I've attended some Lutheran and mostly Protestant churches growing up.  At some times, abandoning my faith entirely.  For the last year and half I have believed everything I've read about in Eastern Orthodoxy.  I follow this faith behind closed doors.  Yet, I have some Greek Orthodox friends who are frustrated with my spiritual path in the Orthodox Church without being baptized.  I've only been to Liturgy a couple times.  However, I think I have a problem to commitment and I'm not sure entirely which kind of Orthodox Church to attend and be baptized in.  My beliefs follow mostly Greek Orthodox, (then outside readings from ROCOR).  As much as I am a structured person, I still have a problem performing rituals too.  I don't know entirely what I am doing or if I offend anyone by not kissing the icons.  I'm worried I'll offend the church by not attending Orthos in the morning, but the truth is I don't know know if I am allowed to attend Orthos before Liturgy if I'm such a Novice to Orthodoxy.  

Also, I am afraid of compromising my real internal relationship with Christ for an external relationship, while performing these traditions.  I finally warmed up to the Saints and Angels existing around me, but I am not quite comfortable praying directly to them.  I do pray indirectly to them through God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Also, I'm trying to confess by my tongue that the Theotokos is Holy, but it's difficult for me to fully accept.  I know I need to talk to a priest about all this.  It is kind of like swimming.  The water is cold, but once I swim around enough I'll get use to it.  I know I just need to attend Liturgy on Sundays regardless.  

However, my other minor details are like surrounded in the fact I need to get nice clothes to wear for service, and that actual Greek Churches are really far away from where I'll be living soon.  The truth sometimes is I wonder how much God really cares that I am Orthodox?  I wonder if that before the Throne He will judge me for being Orthodox or not.  I don't want to fall into heresy and false teaching (as seen in 2 Peter), but I guess I am just kind of lost at words and confused.  My Orthodox friends confused me.  Some of them don't live the "holy lifestyles" I would imagine.  They then seem to judge me entirely for just simply not being baptized yet.  To them, it seems their "salvation" comes before mine, simply based on Orthodoxy (I know too, overall, I should not be critical and keep to myself).  That is what keeps me scared and skeptical of the whole situation.  I guess, what advice would you have for someone like me?  I know I need to just attend church and dive in, and ask a priest.  What more can anyone say about this?  Thank you.

To offend anyone by not attending orthos, someone would have to attend orthos and see that you're not there.
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akimel
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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2012, 09:09:20 AM »

dgd, there is only one way to resolve most of the concerns you have raised: you need to attend the Divine Liturgy every Sunday for a year.  Becoming Orthodox is like learning a foreign language.   The best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in the culture. 

Remember: you have been raised in a Protestant-secular culture.  This culture has shaped you in more ways than you know.  There are many things you must unlearn. 

And go speak to the parish priest and ask him all the questions you have.  Ask him how to make the sign of the cross, how to reverence the icons, etc., etc.  Don't worry about whether folks are evaluating your "performance"--they aren't!  They aren't watching and evaluating you.  Read:  "Twelve Things I Wish I'd Known ..."  And if you haven't yet read Met Kallistos Ware's The Orthodoxy Way, read it immediately.  But the important thing to do is to just start worshipping with the Orthodox.  Only by learning, and doing, the language and practices of the Orthodox faith will your questions be answered.  Just be patient.  It takes a good while to learn a foreign language--maybe a lifetime.
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2012, 10:14:28 AM »

Attend the closest Orthodox Church, nationality does not matter. Wear the best that you have and don't worry about the rest, but most importantly, just go.
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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2012, 10:34:10 AM »

Orthodoxy has no ethnicity, it about our union to God. Everything else ( small traditions) is secondary. All the rituals/sacrements are to open us up to a personal relationship to Chrust in his body the church.  Entrance into that body is by baptism. I would think that is why your friends keep talking about it. They want you to be the body.  However take your time like the above post have said attend service and let God's grace do it's work.
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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2012, 03:02:45 PM »

My wife and I visit the closest Orthodox Church to us.   

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« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2012, 04:10:48 PM »

I think you are all right.  I like what you said, akimel.

dgd, there is only one way to resolve most of the concerns you have raised: you need to attend the Divine Liturgy every Sunday for a year.  Becoming Orthodox is like learning a foreign language.   The best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in the culture.  

Remember: you have been raised in a Protestant-secular culture.  This culture has shaped you in more ways than you know.  There are many things you must unlearn.

There is so much I need to unlearn.  I need to make the process of Orthodoxy natural to me, in my thoughts, hearts, and actions.  I am afraid that the Protestant culture has poisoned too much of my psyche.  I have to become too much of a skeptic and passionate person, ruled by emotions and rational thought, depending solely on scripture ("Sola Scripture").  I just need to find a way of undoing all these thoughts and inclinations.  So, you're right.  I need to unlearn everything.

I just need to attend every Liturgy on Sunday (without worrying about Orthos) for a whole year.  I'll ask the priest privately if there is anything I should do.  I won't worry about offending others, and just try looking my best.  I won't worry about the nationality and identity of the Orthodox Church.  I'll just attend the closest Orthodox Church.  I'll just follow what the others do.  I'll be sure to read the Orthodox Way.  I've been meaning to anyway.  I did read "Things I wish I had known" article a couple times before.  I should reread that as well.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2012, 04:12:26 PM by dgd717 » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2012, 07:47:42 PM »

I think you are all right.  I like what you said, akimel.

dgd, there is only one way to resolve most of the concerns you have raised: you need to attend the Divine Liturgy every Sunday for a year.  Becoming Orthodox is like learning a foreign language.   The best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in the culture.  

Remember: you have been raised in a Protestant-secular culture.  This culture has shaped you in more ways than you know.  There are many things you must unlearn.

There is so much I need to unlearn.  I need to make the process of Orthodoxy natural to me, in my thoughts, hearts, and actions.  I am afraid that the Protestant culture has poisoned too much of my psyche.  I have to become too much of a skeptic and passionate person, ruled by emotions and rational thought, depending solely on scripture ("Sola Scripture").  I just need to find a way of undoing all these thoughts and inclinations.  So, you're right.  I need to unlearn everything.

I just need to attend every Liturgy on Sunday (without worrying about Orthos) for a whole year.  I'll ask the priest privately if there is anything I should do.  I won't worry about offending others, and just try looking my best.  I won't worry about the nationality and identity of the Orthodox Church.  I'll just attend the closest Orthodox Church.  I'll just follow what the others do.  I'll be sure to read the Orthodox Way.  I've been meaning to anyway.  I did read "Things I wish I had known" article a couple times before.  I should reread that as well.

I'll add to this that not only will regular attendance help your concerns, but in fact regular attendance and following a prayer and fasting rule will teach you what it means to be Orthodox.  I learned far more about Orthodoxy after I quit looking for the book that was going to teach me everything and just started living the Orthodox Christian life.

That's not to denigrate reading.  Just saying being Orthodox isn't so much about what you know.
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« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2012, 12:58:08 AM »

As far as "doing rituals" is concerned, no one expects you to do anything. You can feel free to just stand there and listen for as long as that is what you're comfortable doing.
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« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2012, 04:24:46 AM »

Attend church which focuses the liturgy mostly in english.
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« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2012, 01:25:42 PM »

Attend the closest Orthodox Church, nationality does not matter. Wear the best that you have and don't worry about the rest, but most importantly, just go.

^ Good advice.
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« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2012, 01:21:23 AM »

One of the things that helped me with actually begin able to ask the blessed Theotokos and the Saints for their prayers was to read the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov, to see how he grew from a pious child to a miracle working saint. When I got the part about his experience of the uncreated light…his transfiguration before his spiritual child…I had to myself a couple of questions.
1. Was St. Seraphim a special case in Christian history. A. While not common, his type if not his always his caliber have been consistently present in the Orthodox faith since at least St. Stephen at his martyrdom. Every generation have had such saints, some generations more than others, and ancient times more than to day…still the line of this depth of life in and experience of Christ remains unbroken from NT times to the present in Orthodoxy.
2. How many of these sorts can be found in the protestant tradition. A. None that I know of though there were of few of deep piety and personal holiness who could be said to have come close…still to my knowledge no one like St. Seraphim, and certainly no unbroken tradition of such souls.
3. How did St. Seraphim view his devotion to the Mother of God and the Saints? A. He believed those relationships helped him love Christ all the more.
4. On what basis of my own knowledge and experience or of that of other would lead me to believe St. Seraphim might have been mistaken as to what did or didn't help his walk with Christ? A. Nothing…folks in my tradition did not get so close to God they were transfigured like Christ…yet it happened regularly throughout history in the Orthodox faith.
5. Which faith tradition then is more likely, if followed, to lead one into the very deepest possible relationship with Christ. A. Based on its history of transfigured, miracle working, heart knowing, constantly praying saints, I would have to say Orthodoxy.
6. If I wanted a shot at a faith in Christ and a transformed life like St. Seraphim was it possible to get some other way than the Orthodox way? A. Not likely. If I wanted even a taste of what he knew it made sense to trust him that he understood something of what it took to be open to such graces as he knew.  So if I wanted access to what he had the only way was to walk and believe as he walked and believed…and that included prayer to the Theotokos and the Saints.

My first tentative prayer to the saints was to St. Seraphim. 

Now I'm not suggesting that only the life of St. Seraphim is what you should read…pick one St. John of Kronstadt, St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, St. Silouan, St Arsenios, St. Paisius, Elder Porphyrhios, St. Nectarios, St. Herman of Alaska, St. John the Wonderworker, there are several. Pick a life…and follow how they became who they were by the end of their earthly lives and ask if that stature of holiness and Christlikeness could have come to them any other way than the way they followed. And if the only answer is the way they followed, then it follows their practices that they considered virtuous, laudatory, and needful for the Christian soul are bound to have helped…that means asking the intercession of the saints in private or pubic is a way to grow in grace….not to sidestep it.
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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2012, 03:48:33 PM »

When I first started researching Orthodoxy, I was very apprehensive about going to a church for the first time so I began email correspondence first with the priest and then had phone conversations with him.  That made the first Orthodox Church visit easier to make happen for me.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2012, 03:49:21 PM by jerry » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2012, 05:43:20 PM »

I second those who advise you to start an Orthodox way of life, which does not begin and end with the Divine Liturgy. You need to try to incorporate into your life: fasting each and every Wednesday and Friday, as well as observing all four Fasts; reading from the Holy Scriptures (you could just read the passages appointed for each day); praying in the morning and evening; giving alms; and, of course, attending as many of the services that you can. Depending on the area and jurisdiction, major feasts are celebrated as they fall on a week day, and there may be services on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.

I am not suggesting that you do everything all at once and without fail; I am suggesting that you start living a different way of life. All your questions will be answered in time. Do not delay doing this until every question is answered, every concern addressed and every objection overcome. Whether you do it perfectly right or not, whether you wear Sunday best clothes or not, whether or not you have assented to all Orthodox beliefs, just go to church to pray and to worship--in essence loving back the Lord who loves us. Everything else will fall into place in His good time.
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2012, 01:34:46 PM »

In anything, to get into it, you have to live it. So if you want to be proficient in a sport, you have to train and do it. It is the same with being Orthodox: you have to live it, as many here have said. Start with the Divine Liturgy, and have a fruitful prayer life done each day. And of course, live your life the way Christ intended us to live it, by loving God and one's neighbors.
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« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2012, 01:53:18 PM »

Go to the closest Orthodox church and pray for guidance. (You don't have to pray to the saints if you're not comfortable right now.) Those are the two best things you can do.

Rest assured, you can go to any service you want. The only thing you can't do is go up for communion. Don't overdo it and burn out, but if you can attend Orthros and Liturgy it's a good idea to do so.

I would not recommend fasting and all that right now. You're under no obligation to do so, and sometimes these things can be more harmful than helpful if you're not ready to undertake them. Talk to the priest to decide when to take on more, but for now I would say attending services and praying daily for guidance is the best thing to do.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2012, 01:54:06 PM by age234 » Logged
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