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NotAnHourGoesBy
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« on: May 31, 2013, 08:51:46 AM »

Hello,

I'm a Protestant looking to convert either to the Roman Catholic Church or Orthodox Church.  I can't form a firm decision -- one day, the RCC seems right and the next day, the OC seems right.

Anyway, if there are converts from Protestantism or Catholicism, were there things you had to give up (e.g., certain religious music with too much drums and guitar, praying to post-schism Catholic saints)? 

What was the hardest thing in terms of adjusting to a whole different mindset?

On a similar note, do any of the Orthodox members here listen to non-Orthodox Christian music or pray to or have icons of Catholic saints?

Thank you.
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2013, 09:57:12 AM »

Welcome to OC.net! Smiley

Your situation sounds confusing; I hope our motley crew around here doesn't confuse you worse! Grin

Speaking only for myself as a cradle Orthodox, I love non-Orthodox Christian music. Gregorian chant is high among my favourite music genres. Also, my patron saints are St Brigid of Ireland and St Benedict. They are both Orthodox saints, as they are well pre-schism, but their Western popularity makes many people forget that.
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2013, 09:58:54 AM »

On a similar note, do any of the Orthodox members here listen to non-Orthodox Christian music or pray to or have icons of Catholic saints?
There's no rule that says you can't listen to non-Orthodox Christian music. I don't, but it's not like there's some canon anathematizing Stryper.

As for the second question, people here have been trying to hash that one out for years.
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« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2013, 10:01:57 AM »

I enjoy listening to catholic and anglican music.

I especially enjoy gregorian and mozarabic chant.
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2013, 10:08:19 AM »

I listen to all kinds of music except for the so-called contemporary Christian - can't stand most of the lyrics.

There were several things that I wrestled with: the all-male priesthood, for one, sola scriptura for another, and the notion that I was a fairly good Christian who knew a lot of stuff. The latter the most difficult to give up, btw.
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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2013, 10:15:20 AM »

On a similar note, do any of the Orthodox members here listen to non-Orthodox Christian music or pray to or have icons of Catholic saints?

I listen to Ravi Zacharias as an apologist. I like his stuff. I listen to Latin/Gregorian chant at times but not CCM. Too weepy/sentimental, as a friend said like a bunch of bad Coldplay covers and very dated by about 10 years in terms of sound. Only Catholic saints which were Orthodox and before the schism. I can't connect with the few I've encountered after the split. Just so very different.
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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2013, 10:41:48 AM »

Hello,

I'm a Protestant looking to convert either to the Roman Catholic Church or Orthodox Church.  I can't form a firm decision -- one day, the RCC seems right and the next day, the OC seems right.

I haven't converted to either, but I've recently realized that the RCC and the OC are the best two choices for Christians. Some background: I've been a Protestant for nearly 30 years now, and lately I have become pretty convinced that it is too much of a stretch to believe that both the East and the West had it wrong on crucial doctrines for the first 1,500 or so years of church history. Thus, for me, any honest inquirer into the question of which church is the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church will ultimately, inevitably be reduced to these two possibilities: Rome or Constantinople. Last year I did an intensive exploration of the Catholic Church, and now I am doing the same with the OC.

More to your question: What is keeping me leaning more toward the OC (as opposed to continually fluctuating between the OC and the RC) is primarily the OC's attitude toward apostolic teaching, namely, that they prefer to go only so far in explaining doctrine. To me, this ensures a closer adherence to apostolic teaching and much less of a tendency to add unnecessary teachings to what the apostles originally handed down. The way I see it, this is an essential attribute of any church that is apostolic.

Example:

The OC does not accept the idea of merit in salvation, whereas the Council of Trent specifically taught that our works merit salvation, even though they are themselves the grace of God. That is troubling to me because it essentially says that God's grace enables us to earn our salvation. Since the OC does not go so far in trying to explain such things, it has held to the apostolic view of salvation, IMO.

The issue of how we are saved is the most important one for me as I examine possible conversion to the OC.

Regarding the music issue, that does not factor into my decision at all--unless the OC plays rock music during divine liturgy and turns it into a rock concert. :-)
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NotAnHourGoesBy
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« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2013, 11:46:26 AM »

Thanks everyone for your replies.  Smiley

I guess the other thing is papal primacy/supremacy.  Is it really only a place of honor or jurisdiction?

Jesus singled out Peter, so he was special in that sense...but I'm not sure how I feel about papal infallibility in matters of faith and morality.

(I've been asking and inquiring the same thing on a Catholic web forum as well.)

And I happen to like St. Catherine of Siena and St. Francis of Assisi... But not all Orthodox believers seem to agree... Undecided

And lastly, the RCC makes a distinction between latria and hyperdulia --- I honestly cannot see the difference in how both the RCC and OC venerate, but not worship, the BVM/Theotokos.  I know the prayers are poetic exaggerations but it's sort of unsettling at first.

I do like the iconography of the OC more than that of the RCC...but I hear veneration of icons is prominent in the OC, and I'm terrified of attending my first Divine Liturgy and looking like a fool for not doing it properly...maybe I'll just sneak in quietly.
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« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2013, 11:52:55 AM »

And lastly, the RCC makes a distinction between latria and hyperdulia --- I honestly cannot see the difference in how both the RCC and OC venerate, but not worship, the BVM/Theotokos.  I know the prayers are poetic exaggerations but it's sort of unsettling at first.

I have to admit that this bothers me, too, but I suppose it depends ultimately on whether one is required to pray to saints/icons. If not, perhaps one could still become Orthodox but avoid venerating icons, not out of rebellion but out of sincere doubt/still exploring the issue/willing to learn.

Quote
I do like the iconography of the OC more than that of the RCC...but I hear veneration of icons is prominent in the OC, and I'm terrified of attending my first Divine Liturgy and looking like a fool for not doing it properly...maybe I'll just sneak in quietly.

I haven't been to many OC divine liturgies, but in the ones I went to, I never venerated an icon, and I never felt out of place for not doing so. I simply walked into the church and sat down and attended the liturgy. During the Liturgy itself I never (nor did anyone else, as I recall) had to venerate an icon.
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« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2013, 11:56:00 AM »

Dear NAHGB,

The Orthodox Church will not dictate your taste in music, or the people you ask for intercession during private prayer.  

Of course, during Church services you will not experience instrumental music or hear prayers asking for the intercession of saints not recognized by the Church.

When visiting an Orthodox Church you will not be compelled to venerate icons.  But if you wish to do so, that's fine.  Looking like a fool means you will look like everyone else and fit right in!  

Love, elephant
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« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2013, 02:38:18 PM »

I guess the other thing is papal primacy/supremacy.  Is it really only a place of honor or jurisdiction?

IIRC, St. Peter was the first Bishop of Antioch and Linus the first Bishop of Rome. I think both St. John Chrysostom and the Apostolic Constitutions mention that, but I can look up the references, if you wish.
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« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2013, 02:48:34 PM »

Anyway, if there are converts from Protestantism or Catholicism, were there things you had to give up (e.g., certain religious music with too much drums and guitar, praying to post-schism Catholic saints)? 

Myself. That is I don't determine my own faith and religious practice anymore.

I still swear, drink beer, smoke and listen to Metal music though.
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« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2013, 04:09:56 PM »

I'm in roughly the same boat as you, OP. It seems like a very tough journey that we're in the middle of.

One thing that really gets under my skin is that we, as laypeople, have to pick a side in a dispute that's 1000 years old and hope to God we pick the right one. It's absolutely criminal that the leaders of both churches just let the schism go on and on and on. But, I guess we just have to keep slogging through.
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« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2013, 04:17:52 PM »

It's absolutely criminal that the leaders of both churches just let the schism go on and on and on.

It's not about just letting the Schism go on. It's about theological differences that won't go away simply by snapping fingers or singing Kumbaya.
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« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2013, 04:22:35 PM »

Hi OP.
I've been in the exact same situation as you where I studied both catholicism & orthodoxy to the best of my abilities to A: find out which one contains the most reverent worship & deep practical spiritual tools for my spiritual needs & B: to find out which of the 2 churches has the best shot at being the "One true Church".

Concerning A: for me, orthodoxy is simply the best branch of christianity for a serious spiritual voyager just searching for the best teachings on how to reach our ultimate goal if one tries to look at the 2 traditions with some kind of distance to the obvious bias we all have towards the fact that it's christian. What I mean with this is that in todays world many westerners view religion as just another service to help one reach specific goals, wether it's inner peace or theosis, & I honestly believe that only orthodoxy can offer a serious alternative to eastern oriental methods of spirituality (such as yoga & buddhist meditation etc) in the form of basic practical methods for spiritual advancement. Thus it has a serious potential to be able to evangelize our culture by offering individuals these practical teachings as well as what should be (but unfortunately is not these days) the real function: a genuine relationship with God.

B: i personally am not sure if there is such a thing as "One True Church" in the sense that it's One visible organisation on earth because of the fact that the orthodox was split into 2 factions at the council of Chaldeon over what seems to me to be a combination of theological issues & political issues. I just don't know how to decide if the copts or byzantines are the "truest" of the bunch.
However, it has become pretty clear to me that the catholic church is unable to live up to it's extraordinary claims of divine authority, infallability etc.

For example the Catholic Church claims that it is protected by God to teach error & that this protection applies to all statements made by the Pope "ex cathedra" ie. official dogmatic statements. Just this last week pope Francis (an honorable man btw) claimed in front of an audience that everyone has been redeemed by Christ's sacrifice & tht even atheists, with no connection what so ever to the church of Rome can get to heaven by simply doing good deeds. The same teaching have been expressed in the official documents of the vatican II council & the reason they become problematic for the credibility of the vaticans claim of infallability is that there are Papal Encyclicals (official teachings by former popes) that specifically states that unless you are a member of the catholic church you will go to Hell! (Google it. I dont remember the exact encyclical but can find out if you want)

I brought this up on a famous catholic forum during my own investigations & asked the apologetics how one can harmonize a statement that offers as an official teaching of the catholic church that "all who are bot part of te catholic church go to Hell after death" with the later official teachings of the vatican 2 that states that muslims, jews & people who have never heard of catholicism can enter heaven. I was told to "read it in context" but that seems to me to imply nothing less than moral relativism which is officially condemnded by the catholic church. This resulted in me being banned forever for "wrongfully based contempt of the faith".

I really dont have anything against the catholic church but I think they are tying themselves up in a labyrinth where they ultimately have to act as lawyers on behalf of themselves to use whatever philosophical means available to avoid stating what to me seemed obvious: that a mistake was made. Either in the distant past Or in the relative past
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« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2013, 05:35:46 PM »

Hi OP.
I've been in the exact same situation as you where I studied both catholicism & orthodoxy to the best of my abilities to A: find out which one contains the most reverent worship & deep practical spiritual tools for my spiritual needs & B: to find out which of the 2 churches has the best shot at being the "One true Church".

Concerning A: for me, orthodoxy is simply the best branch of christianity for a serious spiritual voyager just searching for the best teachings on how to reach our ultimate goal if one tries to look at the 2 traditions with some kind of distance to the obvious bias we all have towards the fact that it's christian. What I mean with this is that in todays world many westerners view religion as just another service to help one reach specific goals, wether it's inner peace or theosis, & I honestly believe that only orthodoxy can offer a serious alternative to eastern oriental methods of spirituality (such as yoga & buddhist meditation etc) in the form of basic practical methods for spiritual advancement. Thus it has a serious potential to be able to evangelize our culture by offering individuals these practical teachings as well as what should be (but unfortunately is not these days) the real function: a genuine relationship with God.

B: i personally am not sure if there is such a thing as "One True Church" in the sense that it's One visible organisation on earth because of the fact that the orthodox was split into 2 factions at the council of Chaldeon over what seems to me to be a combination of theological issues & political issues. I just don't know how to decide if the copts or byzantines are the "truest" of the bunch.
However, it has become pretty clear to me that the catholic church is unable to live up to it's extraordinary claims of divine authority, infallability etc.

For example the Catholic Church claims that it is protected by God to teach error & that this protection applies to all statements made by the Pope "ex cathedra" ie. official dogmatic statements. Just this last week pope Francis (an honorable man btw) claimed in front of an audience that everyone has been redeemed by Christ's sacrifice & tht even atheists, with no connection what so ever to the church of Rome can get to heaven by simply doing good deeds. The same teaching have been expressed in the official documents of the vatican II council & the reason they become problematic for the credibility of the vaticans claim of infallability is that there are Papal Encyclicals (official teachings by former popes) that specifically states that unless you are a member of the catholic church you will go to Hell! (Google it. I dont remember the exact encyclical but can find out if you want)

I brought this up on a famous catholic forum during my own investigations & asked the apologetics how one can harmonize a statement that offers as an official teaching of the catholic church that "all who are bot part of te catholic church go to Hell after death" with the later official teachings of the vatican 2 that states that muslims, jews & people who have never heard of catholicism can enter heaven. I was told to "read it in context" but that seems to me to imply nothing less than moral relativism which is officially condemnded by the catholic church. This resulted in me being banned forever for "wrongfully based contempt of the faith".

I really dont have anything against the catholic church but I think they are tying themselves up in a labyrinth where they ultimately have to act as lawyers on behalf of themselves to use whatever philosophical means available to avoid stating what to me seemed obvious: that a mistake was made. Either in the distant past Or in the relative past

To be honest, this is the impression that I got when I was struggling with this question as well. Rome has set up a perfect system for itself, with a distinct leader (the pope) and decisive rules on modern issues like contraception. You could spend your life studying the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, or even the Catholic Catechism, and grow into a powerful apologist with tons quotes from scripture and the Fathers at your disposal. You would not need to worry about who had final authority, because you could turn to a single, living person for that authority.

It was all just... too logical for me. I looked into the history of the Early Church and did not see the sort of locked-tight structure that the Roman Catholic Church has today. I did not see a "supreme pontiff" in the bishop of Rome. Rather, I saw a more natural collection of bishops who, united in their Faith and guided by the Holy Spirit, formed the inerrant Church that Christ founded.

However, at the end of the day, I chose Orthodoxy because I felt drawn to it more than I did to Catholicism. God had put various events in my life (such as running into an Orthodox priest at the airport) that influenced my eventual decision to become Orthodox.

I still love Catholics, especially the priest and deacon who helped me out during the first stage of my journey. I can understand why someone would choose Catholicism after debating this question, and I don't blame them. Schism is a terrible thing, but this is not a perfect world. Follow Christ, and you'll find his Church.
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« Reply #16 on: May 31, 2013, 09:58:04 PM »

I almost feel as though my faith (within the Protestant church) has been a mirage.  What I thought was real, what I thought I understood as truth, what I thought was a path Christ was leading me on....it's almost like it's been taken away.

Looking back, I'm wondering, whenever we praised God, did He even listen or care?  When I took communion (crackers and grape juice), was it completely null and void?  When I got baptized, was the Holy Spirit present?

And I'm not sure I can fully get into the chants...
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« Reply #17 on: May 31, 2013, 11:57:10 PM »

I almost feel as though my faith (within the Protestant church) has been a mirage.  What I thought was real, what I thought I understood as truth, what I thought was a path Christ was leading me on....it's almost like it's been taken away.

Looking back, I'm wondering, whenever we praised God, did He even listen or care?  When I took communion (crackers and grape juice), was it completely null and void?  When I got baptized, was the Holy Spirit present?

And I'm not sure I can fully get into the chants...

I don't think that you should view your Protestant past so negatively. I think the healthiest converts to Catholicism and Orthodoxy have a strong appreciation and respect, in spite of disagreement, for the backgrounds they came from where they first encountered Christ and learned to love and seek after him.

I think the often repeated idea around here rings true: if God doesn't listen and give grace to those who are earnestly trying to seek him, however could they become a part of the Church?
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« Reply #18 on: June 01, 2013, 12:20:10 AM »

I almost feel as though my faith (within the Protestant church) has been a mirage.  What I thought was real, what I thought I understood as truth, what I thought was a path Christ was leading me on....it's almost like it's been taken away.

Looking back, I'm wondering, whenever we praised God, did He even listen or care?  When I took communion (crackers and grape juice), was it completely null and void?  When I got baptized, was the Holy Spirit present?

And I'm not sure I can fully get into the chants...

Your Protestant faith is what got you where you are today. Don't disregard it. This is just another chapter in your journey, and Christ has been there with you since the very beginning.

Technically speaking, the "communion" that you took was not sacramental, but that doesn't mean that it was useless. Also, if you were baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, then your baptism is valid and most Orthodox jurisdictions will receive you via chrismation (annointing).

God was always listening, and now you're beginning to hear his answers.
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« Reply #19 on: June 01, 2013, 01:38:44 AM »

I recommend reading this:

http://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Church-New-Timothy-Ware/dp/0140146563

"This is the best single-volume introduction to Eastern Christianity currently available. Bishop Ware's approach covers virtually all aspects of the Eastern Church -- history, theology, sacramentality, church organization, and the Orthodox diaspora with a special emphasis on rendering Orthodoxy comprehensible to Western Christian readers. Ware's approach is very ecumenical, and he frankly and even-handedly addresses the issues that unite and divide the Christian East and West. Because of his own dual background as a Westerner (he teaches at Oxford) who chose to become Orthodox, Ware is particularly well-situated to explain the wondrous and beautiful mysteries of Eastern Christianity to Westerners. While the book is in the nature of a broad overview, it actually covers the issues addressed in an impressive level of depth. The bibliography is also a great starting point for further reading and research, broken down helpfully by topic. This book is a must-read for anyone wishing to acqaint themselves with the riches of the Eastern Christian tradition. "
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« Reply #20 on: June 01, 2013, 01:45:14 AM »

It's absolutely criminal that the leaders of both churches just let the schism go on and on and on.

It's not about just letting the Schism go on. It's about theological differences that won't go away simply by snapping fingers or singing Kumbaya.

Never said it'd be easy. But it seems like the two sides aren't really even trying that hard. Last I heard, the RCC and some representatives from the EO meet once a year or so to discuss things. Gimme a break. Why aren't people on this full time? I've even seen people (on this very forum, I believe) say that there was "no pressing need" to hurry for reunification at this time. Lovely.

In the meantime, I feel like I have to slog through the weeds of church history while these two groups both are busy congratulating themselves for being the "One True Church." It's very frustrating and it seems an absurd position to be in.
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« Reply #21 on: June 01, 2013, 01:51:28 AM »

It's absolutely criminal that the leaders of both churches just let the schism go on and on and on.

It's not about just letting the Schism go on. It's about theological differences that won't go away simply by snapping fingers or singing Kumbaya.

Never said it'd be easy. But it seems like the two sides aren't really even trying that hard. Last I heard, the RCC and some representatives from the EO meet once a year or so to discuss things. Gimme a break. Why aren't people on this full time? I've even seen people (on this very forum, I believe) say that there was "no pressing need" to hurry for reunification at this time. Lovely.

In the meantime, I feel like I have to slog through the weeds of church history while these two groups both are busy congratulating themselves for being the "One True Church." It's very frustrating and it seems an absurd position to be in.

Granted this is a poor analogy, but it is sort of like asking the United States to reunify with Great Britain.  It COULD be done, but there is so much difference now and neither side would want to do so without the other conforming. 
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« Reply #22 on: June 01, 2013, 07:19:31 AM »

I almost feel as though my faith (within the Protestant church) has been a mirage.  What I thought was real, what I thought I understood as truth, what I thought was a path Christ was leading me on....it's almost like it's been taken away.

Looking back, I'm wondering, whenever we praised God, did He even listen or care?  When I took communion (crackers and grape juice), was it completely null and void?  When I got baptized, was the Holy Spirit present?

And I'm not sure I can fully get into the chants...

I can understand these feelings, but just as I accept the Mysteries of the Church, neither do I attempt to explain how God works outside of the Church. I had rather focus on what the Orthodox Church is and not what these others are not.

As far as chants, Christos Anesti is my favorite this time of year as it is sung until the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord. Just search youtube for Christos Anesti, and there are many recording available there.

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« Reply #23 on: June 01, 2013, 09:36:47 AM »

One beautiful lecture, from a video that I can´t remember, really stroke me hard on my journey towards the orthodox church.

The priest talked about the early church and how it in times of heretical attacks got so defensive in its teaching, that it concentrated much of it, and spread it out in monastic form. When i saw videos from mount athos, or any other lecture, by a monk. The teaching of Christ was so deep and life changing through faith. That made me change my entire attitude, a glimpse of orthodoxy in our everyday life, and Matthew 16:24 is really at hand. The same monks I once though were so "religous" in a bad matter, because of my previous westernized attitude, are the same monks that I now see bring true life to their heart just by one Jesus prayer. Or the ones who humble themselves to a level I never thought was able before. The orthodoxy church brings Gods grace, power, love in Jesus Christ to a level unknown to westerners, that even among many bishops, patriarchs, may they all remember me in their loving prayers.

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« Reply #24 on: June 01, 2013, 11:56:08 AM »

Hello everyone. (First post here!)

NotAnHourGoesBy, I am a pretty recent convert from the Protestantism. I was brought into the Orthodox Church (through Baptism and Chrismation) last September after inquiring for over a year. If I may ask, what denomination are you currently in? I grew up and remained Southern Baptist until September, though I also attended a Methodist church as a pianist/organist throughout college.

Users here have already provided great support, comments, and advice, and I only hope to add on to it.

Though it has been a lot of spiritual work, and continues to be, I feel more open to living and life since becoming Orthodox. Through my inquiring period, I came to realize many obstacles that faced my experience as a Christian that were innate simply by being Baptist. Put one way, there are some good things about Protestantism, but those things that are good and true stem from the living presence and tradition of Orthodoxy that has existed long before which accounts for it all. I realized that, as a Baptist, I was only getting a small sliver. For one aspect of many, as a Baptist, I somewhat felt like I was being kept in the shadows. We had the Bible, and that's all that was needed. We never talked, and I certainly never knew, about other Christian authors outside the Bible that provided living witness and truth to what the Bible stated. Why, I thought, are these writings and authors who bear witness being ignored? In my reading and journey, it seems there has been much written and experienced that we Baptists simply ignored. So, if all of this was being kept away and/or ignored, either on purpose or otherwise, what else could be? I won't go so far as to say I was being swindled, but in my heart and soul I just knew that Christ still had a living impact on the world that was richer and fuller than I was receiving, and I had to find it. These thoughts then naturally brought about other thoughts and questions, but the historicity of it all was an initial basic one that led me on my path. I won't go into more detail unless asked, but needless to say, my questions, concerns, and cares were all answered through Orthodoxy.

Related to what was "given up" in the conversion, I feel like I gained so much more, likely more than I will ever get to fully appreciate and know in my life. All the writings alone could take one lifetime, much less intense disciplined prayer. From a more "practical" perspective, differences include the music, lack of "mysteries," long sermons (often meant to be the showstopper, the main event, where lay people would switch churches based on who gave more energetic sermons), spontaneous prayers that basically anyone could lead, invitations (I went to some churches that did altar calls, but my usual experience was with pastors urging people to rededicate their lives to Christ, if you're lost to "come back home," and so on, publicly), and bluegrass tent revivals! Of everything, the music was missed the most. While I find some of the music very nice and still listen to it occasionally, I never found that it aided or participated in worship beyond emotional connections anyways. In contrast, the beautiful chants I get to hear in church now play a role in the worship and are very much connected, such as the whole multitude coming together in one voice to proclaim the love and word of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Hence, why I find instruments not necessary. It needs to be voices with words. In Revelation, even the animals sing instead of making their animal noises!) The services are also very melodic and if one counts chanting and all, there is a lot more music present in the Orthodox service.

Others earlier addressed your concerns about it all being a "mirage," and they provided good answers. We all come from different backgrounds, are raised certain ways, and have access to different things. It is a part of your story, everything that you experienced, and this story is leading to your realizations. I found it very fruitful to consider my past as I was inquiring because it gave me a measure to compare. It's also not my place to say what was good and "true" in God's eyes or not as I cannot judge, but in Matthew 7:21 it is written, "Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." Let us all try to do His will to the fullest.

I wish you all the best luck in your search! There's a lot of great posts on this forum to sieve through, as well as helpful individuals. Please keep updating on your thoughts and progress!
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« Reply #25 on: June 01, 2013, 06:06:55 PM »

some great posts here.
hi to all our new friends!

off topic:
agabus; stryper? really?
are you showing your age?!
(and i have to make the point that i was very, very young when i used to listen to that!)
 Wink

on topic:
we are all on a spiritual journey. finding one church has really amazing theology and a much deeper spiritual life doesn't mean that everything else was fake.
it just means that (some of) it was shallow.

have a look through the convert issues for some of the other topics we have discussed recently
like this, for example:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,50709.0.html

keep up your prayer and Bible study and keep searching until you find what you need.
may God guide you.
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« Reply #26 on: June 02, 2013, 02:15:25 AM »

There seems to be multiple jurisdictions.  Do I just go to a parish that's nearest me?  (Assuming they have the Divine Liturgy in English.)
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« Reply #27 on: June 02, 2013, 02:58:54 AM »

Start with that dear brother, talk to the priest in your closest orthodox jurisdiction and ask for the help you need.
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« Reply #28 on: June 03, 2013, 03:22:58 AM »

I know this will sound silly, but it's at least a half-serious question:  why do most of the icons look very stern and angry, especially icons of Jesus?

Every time I see one, I feel like a hopeless sinner who's being sternly rebuked by an angry look of a parent who's always disappointed.  Is that the purpose and part of the tradition/canon of writing iconography?

I almost get overtaken by shame when praying in front of them.

Does that feeling ever subside?
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« Reply #29 on: June 03, 2013, 03:45:58 AM »

I know this will sound silly, but it's at least a half-serious question:  why do most of the icons look very stern and angry, especially icons of Jesus?

Every time I see one, I feel like a hopeless sinner who's being sternly rebuked by an angry look of a parent who's always disappointed.  Is that the purpose and part of the tradition/canon of writing iconography?

I almost get overtaken by shame when praying in front of them.

Does that feeling ever subside?

Really? I'll admit, there are some icons that look a little stern, but personally, I have seen many icon (also of Christ) that looked very neutral or even compassionate.
Maybe, it's a matter of perception.

Anyway, just remember that God is good and merciful and the saints are our friends who pray for us all.
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« Reply #30 on: June 03, 2013, 03:53:13 AM »

I know this will sound silly, but it's at least a half-serious question:  why do most of the icons look very stern and angry, especially icons of Jesus?

Every time I see one, I feel like a hopeless sinner who's being sternly rebuked by an angry look of a parent who's always disappointed.  Is that the purpose and part of the tradition/canon of writing iconography?

I almost get overtaken by shame when praying in front of them.

Does that feeling ever subside?

Think awe and reverence. The Byzantine style is very old and reflects a pre-Renaissance way of looking at art. The icon is supposed to represent the "inner" self of the person being depicted, which often translates to a somber, peaceful expression. The depictions of Christ are often more "assertive" than some of the more modern interpretations (e.g. "the bearded lady," or "hippy Jesus"), so I can see how you might be perturbed by his stern expression. It's important to see Christ as our Judge, but we should never misconstrue his expression as one of anger or disappointment. Christ wants us to succeed in the spiritual battle, and the only way we will succeed is with His help. Still, there's that reverence that I think the icon conveys better than other artwork.

There is a surprising amount of heterogeneity within Orthodox icons. For example, here are two renditions of "Christ the Pantocrator" with very different feels:



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« Reply #31 on: June 03, 2013, 04:06:30 AM »

Definitely less frightful of the second icon.

Am I supposed to confide in the maternal love of the Theotokos?  Running to the Blessed Virgin Mary/Theotokos because Jesus is/looks angry doesn't seem like the right reason...Kind of like running to one parent because the other one scolded you...Although I guess God is our Father, and God the Father is not depicted, but if you have seen the Son you have seen the Father...[Cannot grasp the mystery of the Holy Trinity]
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« Reply #32 on: June 03, 2013, 05:45:09 AM »

Definitely less frightful of the second icon.


Many of the best icons of Christ show Him with a slightly different expression in each eye: one stern and majestic, reflecting Him as the Righteous Judge and God; the other reflecting His infinite compassion and mercy. This duality, however, must be kept subtle, almost imperceptible, so as not to make Him look grotesque.

Here are two of the finest historic icons which have survived to this day, which show this duality:





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« Reply #33 on: June 03, 2013, 02:07:56 PM »

My input would be that the icons doesn´t become an icon of how it looks, but of what truth is seen through it. Tremendous joy and huge smileys are often things linked with Jesus out of a western perspective. One might ask, If Jesus on the last day comes on the clouds of heaven, with the peaceful and still look many icons depict him with, wouldn´t we recognize his true and loving mercy? Smile doesn´t equal joy, which Jesus otherwise is full of in more  than our humans ways of just smiling Cheesy
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« Reply #34 on: June 03, 2013, 02:21:46 PM »

coptic icons seem to be less scary to me. don't know if anyone else holds that opinion.
but since becoming orthodox, i appreciate the eastern orthodox icons more, and realise they are serious, not meant to be scary.
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« Reply #35 on: June 03, 2013, 09:58:15 PM »

NotAnHourGoesBy, icons were kind of tough with me at the beginning too, so I understand. Other posters have provided great responses! Icons bring about greater emotional responses than paintings (at least to me) because they touch us quite deeply by their style. The style of iconography, of which I'm in no way versed, through the physical elements of painting and drawing, go deeper than our eyes and to our hearts and souls. Not to degrade icons spiritually, but if you think of symbolism in a book, often deeper meanings can arise from a well done symbol than simply just stating the thing/event obviously. Art operates this way too, but with icons, this meaning really strikes your soul.

Compare these two, since you mentioned the Theotokos:





In the first, they are merely people, no matter how fine a painting it is. The icon, however, is quite striking if you look at it deeply. You experience something holy with it, you experience a mother's compassion and protection, and you can sense they are quite beyond our lowly selves. Icons are very powerful, and I'm so glad to have them as part of my life and faith now. Maybe take some time as people have said and look at various icons. You are feeling something from them already, which is great, so continue exploring them deeper and take note of your responses and feelings. You may learn a lot about your inner being from this practice, especially looking at icons of Christ. We can certainly confide in the Theotokos; what a wonderful and pure example of holiness we have in her! I admit, like you admitted, to initially also having to "sort out" things such as the Trinity and Mary's place. (We only mentioned her on Christmas, at most. Often, she was just Jesus' mother done in a Christmas play who, more often than not, didn't even have a line.) Talking to a priest will help with that, though you will also find some great help here as well!

I think Coptic icons are less "scary" as well, but I am not familiar with that tradition of iconography. It is rather unique and I find them beautiful as well, but they are different to what I normally see!

The Pantocrator icons are so amazing to me.
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« Reply #36 on: June 05, 2013, 03:32:00 PM »

I have been on a very similar journey to the OP and others in this thread.  As a life long Southern Baptist I seriously explored Eastern Orthodoxy (and Roman Catholicism, to a lesser extent) for a few years about 7 years ago. Ultimately, however, when I arrived at the fork in the road at 1054, I took it.  Grin
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« Reply #37 on: June 05, 2013, 08:37:56 PM »

I know this will sound silly, but it's at least a half-serious question:  why do most of the icons look very stern and angry, especially icons of Jesus?

Every time I see one, I feel like a hopeless sinner who's being sternly rebuked by an angry look of a parent who's always disappointed.  Is that the purpose and part of the tradition/canon of writing iconography?

I almost get overtaken by shame when praying in front of them.

Does that feeling ever subside?

This is a problem that I've encountered numerous times in real life--people thinking icons are sad, or scary, or something like that.

I myself have never felt that way.

I've even heard people make some rude comments about icons because they didn't look "happy."

NotAnHourGoesBy, I'm sorry you feel this way. Do you think there's a reason why you perceive the icons of Christ as putting you down?
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« Reply #38 on: June 06, 2013, 06:44:11 AM »

I know this will sound silly, but it's at least a half-serious question:  why do most of the icons look very stern and angry, especially icons of Jesus?

Every time I see one, I feel like a hopeless sinner who's being sternly rebuked by an angry look of a parent who's always disappointed.  Is that the purpose and part of the tradition/canon of writing iconography?

I almost get overtaken by shame when praying in front of them.

Does that feeling ever subside?

This is a problem that I've encountered numerous times in real life--people thinking icons are sad, or scary, or something like that.

I myself have never felt that way.

I've even heard people make some rude comments about icons because they didn't look "happy."

NotAnHourGoesBy, I'm sorry you feel this way. Do you think there's a reason why you perceive the icons of Christ as putting you down?

Not putting me down per se, but how can I not feel shame and guilt when praying in front of an image of Jesus?

And I would imagine an Orthodox parish is full of icons --- I know God is everywhere, but the visual reminder that He is present is a heavy burden.
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« Reply #39 on: June 06, 2013, 07:58:44 AM »

Dear NAHGBY,

Saint Issac of Syria said that it is a spiritual gift from God for a man to perceive his sins.  Our Lord came to save repentant sinners. I'm sure our perception of the Church, of Scripture , of icons, of prayer changes over time as we are healed from the wounds of sin. 

Love, elephant
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« Reply #40 on: June 06, 2013, 09:51:55 AM »

I have recently started reading some of the posts in this forum an have been so impressed with the knowledge of participants! (Hate to post anything knowing that!). I grew up Catholic, went to the Baptist church, then converted to Orthodoxy 25 years ago. 

What helped me is knowing that the farther away the faith went from Jesus Christ, the more the thoughts and desires of man to "humanize" the workings of the Holy Spirit came into play.  Finding the faith most like that of the apostles is what I believe to be the most important consideration. Of course Orthodoxy is the oldest and most adherent to the early apostolic church but even we have added teachings and changes to the liturgy.  I really desired to feel the zeal, love, and knowledge expressed by St Athanasius when he wrote "On the Incarnation".  But.....Orthodoxy is so very hard to convert to successfully.  It is not just a change in worship but a change in your inherent belief system.  If the church is Coptic, Greek etc, you will find difficulties merely making friends and social circles due to your conversion.  These churches can be superficially welcoming but somewhat closed socially due to language and culture unless one considers an American Orthodox Church. 

Your music question is interesting as I daily instruct my teenager to shut off the "junk" he listens to! Even I have some pretty cool playlists for my run or workout.  I love a bit of jazz and motown. It's just too hard for me to get the adrenaline going for a good run listening to "thok te ti ghom"!

I'm sure the Holy Spirit will guide you in your quest.  Good luck...
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« Reply #41 on: June 06, 2013, 10:06:03 AM »

Dear haddoxmd,

Welcome! 

I have found the members of my parish to be far from superficially welcoming and would not discourage anyone from visiting. 

Love, elephant
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« Reply #42 on: June 06, 2013, 10:21:24 AM »

It's just too hard for me to get the adrenaline going for a good run listening to "thok te ti ghom"!


Now that is an image...   Cool
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« Reply #43 on: June 06, 2013, 12:50:59 PM »

About the icons of Christ looking stern.
In western christianity I believe the human side if Jesus is more emphasized: the suffering, the self-sacrifice, the compassion etc. I believe paintings in the western tradition show this too.
In the eastern tradition the Kingship of Christ seem much more emphasized, the fact that Christ is the ruler of the whole universe who incarnated on earth. If you look at the face of Jesus on the orthodox icons you can see that one eye looks compassionate/forgiving while the other eye can look more firm/just/judging. The small mouth also has a meaning (which I don't remember)
If you try to look at the icons from the perspective that this is the King of the Cosmos who humbled himself to take on human flesh it might make you feel different?
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« Reply #44 on: June 06, 2013, 06:35:27 PM »

I was raised Protestant, converted to Roman Catholic at 17, and then to Orthodoxy at 23 (I think?).

My years as a Protestant were only not wasted because I learned two things as a Protestant: To love God, and to do whatever He tells me to do. I don't say everything else was a waste because of Protestantism, but because of myself. I didn't realize how bad a Protestant I was until I met and married my wife, who is a convert to Orthodoxy from devout Protestantism. She knows classic hymns, can recite long tracts of Scripture from memory, knows Protestant theologians, theological theories, and can still navigate different Protestant views on things like salvation, dispensationalism, and all those rapture theories. I know none of that. At 17 when I decided that I needed to figure out the finer details of my faith, I very, very quickly became frustrated with just the Bible, discovered Tradition, and realized it came down to Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism.

Faced with those two choices I disregarded Orthodoxy almost out of hand, because I had by that point learned (from the Roman Catholics) that the early church regarded itself as Catholic, and I thought the Orthodox church was divided ethnically, and didn't pursue it beyond that.

For my time as a Roman Catholic I was very devout. I was a Youth Group Leader, a CCD teacher, attended Latin Mass, could pray the basic prayers in Latin, said the rosary often, and really knew my faith. I think I missed Mass a handful of times. My problems there were the disregard of beauty in the Liturgy, the practical hatred of tradition and history, and, worst of all, the rampant liberalism among the hierarchy and religious. One day I was complaining to my only Orthodox friend about the Pope rolling over and apologizing for having defended the faith yet again, and he said "all I'll say is find me papal infallibility in the early church."

I thought that would be easy, so I went to get the exact quotes from the Early Church Fathers and realized that they didn't necessarily say what I had always been told they said. The Orthodox interpretation made sense also. I dug deeper and eventually came to the conclusion that the Orthodox Church is the preserver of the faith of the apostles. I was Chrismated on Pentecost.
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