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Author Topic: Length/purpose of catechism?  (Read 1012 times) Average Rating: 0
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Martyr Eugenia
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« on: April 16, 2013, 12:15:57 PM »

What is the purpose or goal of catechism? I know it is to become a member of the church, but what is its short-termed goal? I find it overwhelming to think that I can ever grasp every jot and tittle of what orthodoxy is, and believe it will take me a lifetime and beyond. Is it procedures, the creed, a little history? Is it conditional? Lets say someone is farther along in their journey/studying are all catechumens subjected to the same catechism? How do you get a one on one catechism? Visit a monastery?

Wondering why I know someone who read up on Orthodoxy while in college, visited a parish one day and was told to come the next day to be baptized and enter the church, and has been there ever since. And other sincere friends wanting to convert took 1-2-3yrs. Dont understand the inconsistencies.

Isnt God the one that adds to the church, Acts 2:47? I still have a problem with authority. I feel I was added to His kingdom as an infant, baptized in the Roman Catholic-rite. I have been through other catechisms, just wondering when will I ever be worthy if ever in man's eyes to join God's church.
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« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2013, 12:31:57 PM »

You may be conflating two things which are overlapping but distinct- the catechumenate and catechism.

The catechumanate was often a prolonged period in the ancient church. Its purpose is not to teach you "every jot and tittle" but to ensure that the new Christian is well-grounded in the basic dogmas as well as the practice of the faith (prayers, fasting, morality, etc.) and also that he is sincere and committed to Christ. After we are baptized, while our old sins are remitted, we have an new weight of responsibility to fight against new ones. This is why some solid grounding in the faith and spiritual struggle is important before full initiation, and also why in ancient times some catechumens put off being baptized for many years, sometimes even waiting until they were on their deathbed.

But how long your catechumenate will last depends on the priest (and perhaps his bishop in some cases). Someone showing up and being baptized the next day would be highly irregular and I would guess that the person you know had some special circumstances. That said, the Orthodox Church does not have a standardized program for catechumens like the Catholic RCIA. Some parishes will have classes, while in others the priest will give you one-on-one instruction.

You shouldn't need to go to monastery to receive instruction in the faith. If you are currently attending a parish, the priest should be happy to make time for you, or if he doesn't have time, find someone else qualified in the parish to instruct you.

As for catechism, that is, general instruction in the faith, it is something we all need throughout our lives.
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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2013, 02:19:15 PM »

When you officially become a catechuman you are prayed for at the altar.
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« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2013, 03:31:41 PM »


Yes, we all pray for the catechumans.

The length depends on your priest.

You will NEVER know everything..... there are a few posters on this Forum who are under the impression they have learned it all, and are more than willing to teach the rest of us....however, I doubt anyone "knows" it all.

Enjoy your "training" time.

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« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2013, 04:43:41 PM »

You may be conflating two things which are overlapping but distinct- the catechumenate and catechism.

The catechumanate was often a prolonged period in the ancient church. Its purpose is not to teach you "every jot and tittle" but to ensure that the new Christian is well-grounded in the basic dogmas as well as the practice of the faith (prayers, fasting, morality, etc.) and also that he is sincere and committed to Christ.

Very good point. I think the catechumenate and catechism are conflated far too often.
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« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2013, 04:54:54 PM »


Yes, we all pray for the catechumans.

The length depends on your priest.

You will NEVER know everything..... there are a few posters on this Forum who are under the impression they have learned it all, and are more than willing to teach the rest of us....however, I doubt anyone "knows" it all.

Enjoy your "training" time.


I was just talking about this with someone.  If you want to know all of Orthodoxy, first drink the ocean. 

A catechism resembles a basic grammar of a language which includes the necessary rules and the basic vocabulary you need to communicate.  The ability to appreciate and write great literature comes later.

The catecumenate weeds the field, tills the soil and plants the seeds so that the rain of baptism and the other Holy Mysteries can make them grow and bear fruit.
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« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2013, 07:36:49 PM »

I have searched online at different parish/jurisdiction websites looking for what their membership classes require. It seems a year of attendance is the norm, booklists, and some classes. But none give any indication that they take you where you are or give any 'individual' guidance.

From the perspective of someone who has spent their entire life using the Bible as their guide, wandering in and out of churches and searching for the truth, it seems that if I have found what is the true church, why is it so illusive? Why has it been hidden? One has to purposefully search around for early church history to find it. Beginning to doubt if this Orthodox church is truly of God. 

I have an inner pain more of an ache in my soul, a deep hurt where no tears appear, no audible sounds, thinking I am so close, yet so far. There is no comfort going to Divine Liturgy. The goal just keeps getting farther and farther out of reach. It would be easier for me to revert to Roman Catholism just to feel accepted and understood and not treated like a total outcast.
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« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2013, 08:19:11 PM »

I have searched online at different parish/jurisdiction websites looking for what their membership classes require. It seems a year of attendance is the norm, booklists, and some classes. But none give any indication that they take you where you are or give any 'individual' guidance.

From the perspective of someone who has spent their entire life using the Bible as their guide, wandering in and out of churches and searching for the truth, it seems that if I have found what is the true church, why is it so illusive? Why has it been hidden? One has to purposefully search around for early church history to find it. Beginning to doubt if this Orthodox church is truly of God. 

I have an inner pain more of an ache in my soul, a deep hurt where no tears appear, no audible sounds, thinking I am so close, yet so far. There is no comfort going to Divine Liturgy. The goal just keeps getting farther and farther out of reach. It would be easier for me to revert to Roman Catholism just to feel accepted and understood and not treated like a total outcast.
That is because, in Orthodoxy, the standard is to talk to your priest. You're priest will know what is best for you, and will know resources to give to you. He will also know your situation the best, and it'll be the right amount of time.


ALSO, re the topic at hand.

Mine was about a year(two days shy), because my priest said that the catechumenate is both about learning, and to ensure that it is a commitment, and you will not just fall away.
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« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2013, 08:36:17 PM »

I have searched online at different parish/jurisdiction websites looking for what their membership classes require. It seems a year of attendance is the norm, booklists, and some classes. But none give any indication that they take you where you are or give any 'individual' guidance.

From the perspective of someone who has spent their entire life using the Bible as their guide, wandering in and out of churches and searching for the truth, it seems that if I have found what is the true church, why is it so illusive? Why has it been hidden? One has to purposefully search around for early church history to find it. Beginning to doubt if this Orthodox church is truly of God. 

I have an inner pain more of an ache in my soul, a deep hurt where no tears appear, no audible sounds, thinking I am so close, yet so far. There is no comfort going to Divine Liturgy. The goal just keeps getting farther and farther out of reach. It would be easier for me to revert to Roman Catholism just to feel accepted and understood and not treated like a total outcast.
That is because, in Orthodoxy, the standard is to talk to your priest. You're priest will know what is best for you, and will know resources to give to you. He will also know your situation the best, and it'll be the right amount of time.


ALSO, re the topic at hand.

Mine was about a year(two days shy), because my priest said that the catechumenate is both about learning, and to ensure that it is a commitment, and you will not just fall away.

Ditto.  To be prematurely received into the Church only to walk away would be harmful to our salvation and, I would assume, also to the Church.  I appreciated that I wasn't beaten over the head to "hurry up" so that they could add one more number to their membership list.  My priest made himself available to me any time I needed him (even though he didn't specifically state that on the website) but would then step back and allow me my space.  I did my part, I hope, and continued praying, reading and attending liturgy.  I made it a point to spend one day of the week studying nothing but liturgical topics and that greatly enhanced my experience each Sunday.  The effort was mine to make.  It wasn't easy, though, so I don't mean to make it appear that I don't believe you are making an effort, Martyr Eugenia.  I can't know that.  But, at the end of the day, I'm figuring out that there isn't anything easy about being Orthodox.  Nothing worth having ever is.

If I may be so bold, part of the struggle you are having, Eugenia, may be that you have been wandering for so long.  That leads to confusion.  I moved around a lot as a kid and went to many different "brands" of churches.  "Belief buffets" seem like a good idea but they usually end up just giving us a gut ache.  It took me quite awhile to find my way through that and get things sorted out.  May God bless you with peace and strength for your journey.
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« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2013, 09:31:36 PM »

I have searched online at different parish/jurisdiction websites looking for what their membership classes require. It seems a year of attendance is the norm, booklists, and some classes. But none give any indication that they take you where you are or give any 'individual' guidance.

From the perspective of someone who has spent their entire life using the Bible as their guide, wandering in and out of churches and searching for the truth, it seems that if I have found what is the true church, why is it so illusive? Why has it been hidden? One has to purposefully search around for early church history to find it. Beginning to doubt if this Orthodox church is truly of God. 

I have an inner pain more of an ache in my soul, a deep hurt where no tears appear, no audible sounds, thinking I am so close, yet so far. There is no comfort going to Divine Liturgy. The goal just keeps getting farther and farther out of reach. It would be easier for me to revert to Roman Catholism just to feel accepted and understood and not treated like a total outcast.

Have you actually tried to talk to the priest and explain your background to him?
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« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2013, 11:22:31 PM »

I have an inner pain more of an ache in my soul, a deep hurt where no tears appear, no audible sounds, thinking I am so close, yet so far. There is no comfort going to Divine Liturgy. The goal just keeps getting farther and farther out of reach. It would be easier for me to revert to Roman Catholism just to feel accepted and understood and not treated like a total outcast.

How are you made to feel like a total outcast at your ROCOR church?
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« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2013, 12:29:14 AM »

I attended the church for about 6 months and was a catechumen for about 10 months.  The waiting was difficult.  It was also very, very good.  Don't view your time as a catechumen as exclusion.  Rather, view it as being a baby chick under the protective wings of the mother hen, the Church. 

From the perspective of someone who has spent their entire life using the Bible as their guide, wandering in and out of churches and searching for the truth, it seems that if I have found what is the true church, why is it so illusive? Why has it been hidden? One has to purposefully search around for early church history to find it. Beginning to doubt if this Orthodox church is truly of God. 

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

Matthew chapter 13.
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« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2013, 04:31:03 AM »

What is the purpose or goal of catechism?
To learn not only academics, but how to be an Orthodox Christian.  Additionally, to make sure the person actually does want to be Orthodox.

I know it is to become a member of the church, but what is its short-termed goal?
 
To learn.  Keep in mind, “short-term” here could be several years.

Dont understand the inconsistencies.

Each situation is unique and the steps required to be taken are determined by the Bishop.  

I studied Orthodoxy on my own for about a year, prior to that I spent another year researching a variety of Christian disciplines, and then I spent around six months visiting an Orthodox Church, finally becoming a Catechumen for about another six months.  I finished all of the academic requirements given to me much faster than expected.  I know this when I turned my final product into my priest for review and he was surprised it was all completed.  The rest was mainly experiencing life in Orthodoxy, asking questions, the occasional assisting the priest during liturgy.  It was a lot to learn and looking back, very little compared to what could be learned.  I have been a member of the Orthodox Church over two years and still feel I know almost nothing.  

Don’t stress over it, just enjoy the journey.  It’s a once in a lifetime event so soak it all in slowly, deliberately and experience the Church, not just learn about her.
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« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2013, 09:38:03 AM »

I have searched online at different parish/jurisdiction websites looking for what their membership classes require. It seems a year of attendance is the norm, booklists, and some classes. But none give any indication that they take you where you are or give any 'individual' guidance.

From the perspective of someone who has spent their entire life using the Bible as their guide, wandering in and out of churches and searching for the truth, it seems that if I have found what is the true church, why is it so illusive? Why has it been hidden? One has to purposefully search around for early church history to find it. Beginning to doubt if this Orthodox church is truly of God. 

I have an inner pain more of an ache in my soul, a deep hurt where no tears appear, no audible sounds, thinking I am so close, yet so far. There is no comfort going to Divine Liturgy. The goal just keeps getting farther and farther out of reach. It would be easier for me to revert to Roman Catholism just to feel accepted and understood and not treated like a total outcast.

It's not so much elusive as it is individual. Each person's journey to salvation is unique and most priests take that into account. One of the reasons for a longer catechumenate is so both you and your priest are convinced this is for you. Orthodoxy is not so much an intellectual or emotional assent to a set of beliefs as it is a radically different worldview and way of life. Thus, as kerdy said, one reason for the length of the catechumenate is to "learn" to live as an Orthodox Christian.

Have you talked to your priest, in depth and at length, about this?
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« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2013, 09:47:05 AM »

As an ex-catechumen (now orthodox) I can advice you to attend as many services as you can, pray, read, socialize with people in the parish, attend classes and listen to the priest`s advices.

One thing is classes, another thing is the services and being orthodox. I am fairly new and know that this is now the life and it will take time to get into things, because it has to be this way.

It is much like growing up: first: learn to walk, then: learn to stay up and walk properly, then: run, but do expect to: fall, cry, stumble and then: get up again and keep going.

Give yourself the needed time and trust in God.

I wish you the best of luck and will pray for you. Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2013, 12:26:05 PM »

I guess I am confusing terms. When I asked the priest about becoming a catechumen he started a 'faith class' I assumed that was it. It is why I have been so confused about being a catechumen (official status). I am not. I attend faith class. So its up to the priest to decide when you can be 'official'? When I started looking into Orthodoxy it reminded me of all the things I missed in Roman Catholicism. But RC has changed. I just want to go back to what it used to be. I guess I cannot. I do not recognize the church of my youth and I am not recognized by any church. I am not a catechumen, I am a Christian.
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« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2013, 12:50:31 PM »

I guess I am confusing terms. When I asked the priest about becoming a catechumen he started a 'faith class' I assumed that was it. It is why I have been so confused about being a catechumen (official status). I am not. I attend faith class. So its up to the priest to decide when you can be 'official'? When I started looking into Orthodoxy it reminded me of all the things I missed in Roman Catholicism. But RC has changed. I just want to go back to what it used to be. I guess I cannot. I do not recognize the church of my youth and I am not recognized by any church. I am not a catechumen, I am a Christian.

I simply attended the classes, liturgies and spent time at our agape meals getting to know folks.  Prior to being received into the Church at my chrismation (a year from start to finish), nothing "official" happened that was similar to what others have described.  I didn't have what others have described by being prayed for and given the specific title of "catechuman."  I guess it was assumed.  I was there.  I was participating.  I took the classes.  I was received. This is why folks are suggesting that you speak with your priest.  Things vary.
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« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2013, 12:56:25 PM »

I guess I am confusing terms. When I asked the priest about becoming a catechumen he started a 'faith class' I assumed that was it. It is why I have been so confused about being a catechumen (official status). I am not. I attend faith class. So its up to the priest to decide when you can be 'official'?

Not all priests will formally enroll you as a catechumen. My priest did not. You should talk to the priest to clarify his process for you. I can understand wishing there was something of the regularity and predictability of the Catholics' RCIA, but the important thing is that you are on the way to being received.   

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I am not a catechumen, I am a Christian.

Catechumens are Christians. If you are committed to the Orthodox faith and you intend on being received into the Church, you can call yourself an Orthodox Christian already.
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« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2013, 01:22:42 PM »

So its up to the priest to decide when you can be 'official'?

There is a blessing (some priests do and some don't) which makes you "officially" a catechumen. It's kind of like the difference between dating someone and getting engaged. You and the priest together decide when (or if - he may not do it this way) you become an "official" catechumen.

(p.s. fwiw, my husband who is former RC said that he found the true Catholic Church in the Orthodox Church.)
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« Reply #19 on: April 19, 2013, 02:38:51 PM »

In my parish the catechumenate lastes a year, six months in some circumstances. Father has a class one evening a week, and uses Father Michael Pomazansky's "Orthodox Dogmatic Theology". He also will talk about other aspects of the faith as well from time to time as they become relevant (litugical seasons, feasts, fasting, prayer, scripture, etc). The idea is to give the catechumen time to really discern if becoming Orthodox is what they wish to do, and give them the opportunity to experience a full church year before being baptized or chrismated.

These classes also draw Orthodox who wish to learn more about their faith, or feel the need a refresher.

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« Reply #20 on: April 21, 2013, 05:43:27 AM »

Not all priests will formally enroll you as a catechumen.

An official catechumenate seems to be an almost exclusively American thing nowadays. It's something I hope will become more common elsewhere.
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« Reply #21 on: April 24, 2013, 02:07:56 PM »

I have searched online at different parish/jurisdiction websites looking for what their membership classes require. It seems a year of attendance is the norm, booklists, and some classes. But none give any indication that they take you where you are or give any 'individual' guidance.

From the perspective of someone who has spent their entire life using the Bible as their guide, wandering in and out of churches and searching for the truth, it seems that if I have found what is the true church, why is it so illusive? Why has it been hidden? One has to purposefully search around for early church history to find it. Beginning to doubt if this Orthodox church is truly of God. 

I have an inner pain more of an ache in my soul, a deep hurt where no tears appear, no audible sounds, thinking I am so close, yet so far. There is no comfort going to Divine Liturgy. The goal just keeps getting farther and farther out of reach. It would be easier for me to revert to Roman Catholism just to feel accepted and understood and not treated like a total outcast.

We both are suffering from 'confusion'.
I can tell you that the RCOR folks are CONSIDERED strict, and am surprised from your posts.
Being a 'cradle Catholic' with Catholic education and all, there is no RC church to 'return' to. Orthodox seems to be the only way, at least for me. However there are still issues that need to be worked out, so you are not alone, Sister!
Divine Liturgy is killing me too. I stayed once and those inner tears squirted out as we are denied The Eucharist, so now when I hear, "Catechumens depart" it is with sadness and haste I flee, as I can no longer stand to witness what I am dying for: the True Body & Blood. My priest gave me permission to be baptized, but there are things that are still strange to me and I am not ready.
You are not The Lone Ranger in this walk, so please post.
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« Reply #22 on: April 24, 2013, 06:16:11 PM »



From the perspective of someone who has spent their entire life using the Bible as their guide, wandering in and out of churches and searching for the truth, it seems that if I have found what is the true church, why is it so illusive? Why has it been hidden? One has to purposefully search around for early church history to find it. Beginning to doubt if this Orthodox church is truly of God. 

I'm pretty sure I know who you are and want you to know I pray for you every day.  But the part I put in bold is what I want to address.  Why would you want to enter a church you weren't certain was of God?  If you are putting this out there to your priest at all, he has been wise to encourage you to wait. 

I wasn't made to wait because of my priest, but because of my dh and I can look back and say that yes, it was a dark time in my life as I longed for true Communion with the Church and with God, but it was a time of real growth, more than I'd experienced in a very long time.  And I can look back on the suffering as something that was truly good for me to go through.  As Christians, we were promised suffering.  It just IS.  And given that you're suffering for your faith, you can be assured it is for your good.  Keep pressing in! 
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« Reply #23 on: April 25, 2013, 03:24:58 PM »

Don’t stress over it, just enjoy the journey.  It’s a once in a lifetime event so soak it all in slowly, deliberately and experience the Church, not just learn about her.

I will try and take heed of this advice, to take it slowly.

Catechumens are Christians.

I am listening to an AFR podcast, Transforming Our Lives in Christ, Apr 16, part 5 episode. It is interesting that I keep hearing two different definitions of what a Christian is. Maybe it is another confusion of terms. Here is my transcript of a definition of Christian (at around 30minutes into the podcast):

"Annointed one is usually used in the OT to represent a priest, prophet or a king and they were literally annointed by oil to signify that they had been chosen or elected by God for a specific role or purpose. In the church we do the same thing, when we baptize you we annoint you. What is Christ annointed in? The Holy Spirit. When we chrismate you we say, "the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit." The sealing with chrism. But Christ received the Holy Spirit himself. When we say you're a Christian, that means you are an annointed one in the Holy Spirit, that is an activity that occurs by grace, not by right. You dont own the Spirit, Jesus does."

So I hear what Iconodule states all the time, catechumens are Christian. I also hear some Orthodox people say that the (Orthodox)Church acknowledges that some Christians exist outside of the (Orthodox)Church. The definition above of Christian is that you are chrismated/sealed with the Holy Spirit. And that that occurs by grace, no one owns the Holy Spirit, Jesus does. So does Jesus bestow this annointing/Holy Spirit/chrismation without the Church? If not, how do you know? What if Jesus does? Something else puzzling, so outside of the Orthodox church, what is a Christian? What do you consider those people in a non-canonical or outside of the mainstream Orthodox jurisdictions? Through no fault of their own, their 'leadership' makes decisions that leave them outside of the loop. That is how I feel. One day you think of yourself as a 'Christian' and then you find out you are not...technically. Someone has put up confusing stumbling blocks in your path.

We both are suffering from 'confusion'.

 Roll Eyes

Beginning to doubt if this Orthodox church is truly of God. 

But the part I put in bold is what I want to address.  Why would you want to enter a church you weren't certain was of God?

I started traveling many, many years ago, when I found something that glaringly contradicted the Bible, I moved on. I will give Orthodoxy the same chance I gave all the other 'churches'. I always felt comfortable (maybe the devil's trick) in other places I DONT FEEL COMFORTABLE in an Orthodox church. "I" want it to be "THE" church. But what "I" want is irrelevant. If this isnt His Church, there is no church on earth.
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katherineofdixie
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« Reply #24 on: April 25, 2013, 04:57:37 PM »

when I found something that glaringly contradicted the Bible, I moved on.

Just a word of caution here, often what we think is a glaring contradiction of the Bible is a glaring contradiction of our own pet theories, fantasies, wishes, etc. - IOW, our own personal interpretation of what we think the Bible ought to say based on our own experiences, personalities, education - yes, even our biases and blind spots.

It is a pious hope and prayer that there are Christians outside the Orthodox Church. We can't know one way or the other - only God knows and it's His business. We do know, as the saying goes, where the Church, the Body of Christ, is (and has been for a couple of millenia, give or take).
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 St. John Chrysostom
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« Reply #25 on: April 25, 2013, 05:15:22 PM »

I always felt comfortable (maybe the devil's trick) in other places I DONT FEEL COMFORTABLE in an Orthodox church. "I" want it to be "THE" church. But what "I" want is irrelevant. If this isnt His Church, there is no church on earth.


Have you considered that your lack of comfort is of your own making?  I know when I want to turn and run, it's usually because I'm fighting with God.  And really, how comfortable should any of us be? Why are you spending so much time trying to determine whether or not you're a Christian?  I'm not saying don't struggle but it's my contention that we make our struggles a lot worse than they need to be because of our pride and fear.  We cannot say that just because we've been to x number of bible studies, and y number of ministries, and z number of churches that we've made it to any certain spiritual point.  No one here is saying you aren't a Christian.  In fact, my priest would say you are, you're just not in THE Church where God wants all to be, united as one.  But coming into the Church means recognizing an authority on earth that is greater than ourselves.  And as we press in, we work through all of this and so much more...but it has to be in humility, recognizing we can do nothing on our own.
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"Beloved in Christ, if you ever despair, wondering if what you do for God matters, remember: each single act of holiness is like a stone thrown into an ocean—the ripples go forth, and we do not know whom they touch or where they end."

From: http://www.antiochian.org/node/18911
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