No, Really. Say what you will about memes. They helped me to find my way toward Orthodoxy.
Bees respect icons and do not build wax combs across them:
Prostrating is a Christian thing:
3. Monks and animals go together like PB&J!
4. They take scripture serious:
5. Orthodox Christians have a great sense of humor:
6. God is good and He loves us. (I already knew this but the Orthodox say it in every service. Perhaps so that we do not forget. Especially when we are going through hard times. )
7. It all began with t he Orthodox Christians after Pentecost; the bible, how services are run, prayer, fasting, etc. It can be exasperating when Protestants ask if we know, Jesus.
8. How deep a faith you wish to have is completely up to and reliant upon what you’re willing to give up in, Jesus name. (I knew this too but it seems to be lacking more and more in modern church sermons.)
9. It’s okay to acknowledge and venerate, Mary:
10. Sometimes, the peculiar things you read about being in heaven show up on the walls of the temple… and that’s ok.
11. There is more to fasting than just food:
12. Orthodox Christians know how to celebrate & worship God with all five sense:
Something amazing happened in Temple today. Aside from the usual wonderment that takes place when one is in the presence of, God.
I had stepped outside to see if my guest had arrived. I keep telling people to come early but… As I stood in the parking lot visiting with one of the men who help out in the narthex, two ‘older’ gentlemen- one that appeared to be in his 60’s and the other older but of an indeterminable age, came shuffling across the parking lot. I think they are monks. They did not carry signs that read, ‘Hey! We are monks!’ and I hate to admit it but when the high priest was talking about them I was asking someone about a mural on the wall. However, they looked like they could be monks, or priests but I’m pretty sure they are monks. The older man was shorter, a bit hunched and needed a walking staff and the other man to assist him in walking. He was very obviously suffering as he walked. Their progress was slow, my guest was late, service was starting so back inside I went. We get many visitors at our church so I didn’t think too much about it until they entered the nave.
Ka-whoosh! As they shuffled slowly into the room, the atmosphere physically changed. The room seemed unable to contain the presence that was contained within these two men. The spirit of God was so huge in these two, humble men; one shuffling, the other assisting, that you could feel the pressure in the room increase. So much so that my ears felt like they were going to pop. When my guest arrived, I asked her if she felt it too. She said she had. She was venerating icons, felt something behind her, turned and that’s when she saw them.
That’s how I wish to be. So filled with the spirit of God that His presence in me fills a room.
God, be merciful to me a sinner! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me! Many pronounce these brief prayers with great haste, caring only to say the required number of them. By this manner of praying, they do not allow the prayers to penetrate the heart and produce their inherent effect, which is tender feeling. The holy Fathers justly note that whoever prays thus prays to the wind, and not to God. Why do we get bored in church? Because we have not felt the effect of prayer. Why do we rush to a lavish table? Because we know the meaning of material food from experience. Why do we not rush to church, but try to come a little later, when a significant portion of the Divine services are already over? Because we do not know from experience the meaning of prayer, which is food for the soul, and which imparts spiritual strength to the soul. We do not know from experience the meaning of prayer because we pray hastily, superficially, and without attention. The effect on the soul of long but inattentive prayer is like the effect of copious rain upon a metal roof, from which all the water runs off, no matter how much it pours, without having any effect at all upon the roof. In contrast, attentive prayer can be likened to a beneficial rain that waters a planted field, giving nourishment to the growth there, and preparing a rich harvest.
The disciples of prayer who lean upon its breast—the holy Fathers—correct a major mistake that deprives the praying ascetic of all the fruits of his ascetic labor. They instruct us to pronounce the words of short prayers and of all kinds of prayer without haste, observing scrupulous attention to the words of the prayers. When the prayers are read unhurriedly, it is possible to have such attention, while hurried reading leaves no place for attention. Prayer without attention is like a body which the soul has left: it has no fragrance of humility, it does not ascend to God. Stricken and deadened by dispersed thoughts, it crawls along the earth of corruption and foul smell, imparting this corruption to those who pray carelessly and coldly. Mental attention at prayer is reflected in the heart by blessed grief over sins, which is that very repentance that God commands us to have. When the heart is filled with a feeling of repentance, it in turn draws the mind to increased attention. Once there is attention and tender feeling, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit enter into the soul, making it a temple of God.
Let us provide our prayer with two qualities: attention and repentance. Let it fly up to the heavens with them as upon two wings, then appear before the face of God, and intercede for us to gain His mercy. The blessed publican’s prayer had these two qualities….
~St. Ignatius Brianchanivov
If you are in the habit of arriving late to church, perhaps this is the year you take your prayer life more serious and arrive early to pray, and venerate the icons?
when I began my journey that lead me to Orthodox Christianity, one of the things that influenced me was the life of, Fr. Lazarus. I watched his documentary several times. I was truely amazed at his transformation from atheist to devout monk. His sweet spirit shone through even past the camera lens. These monks go about doing their thing; praying, fasting, worshiping, etc., not knowing if what they do is impacting anyone’s life. Thousands of miles away, in America, here I am watching videos about them and thinking, ‘Whatever it is they have, it’s missing from the Christian walk and I want it!’. I did more, and more research until I found what I was looking for which lead me to my new parish home. Now, these monk’s lives, and more, are being threatened by, ISIS. Some monasteries have already been destroyed. The bodies of saints have been desecrated and the monastery walls bulldozed to the ground. Centuries of history wiped out in a single day by mad men.
Please join me in praying for the protection of these, and other holy sites. Whether or not you realize it, our Christian heritage is being erased. YOUR Christian heritage is being erased. Tombs of saints we read about in the bible are now gone. Ancient places of worship no longer exist. People are dead and dying. Lord have mercy. Please pray!
I’ve been attending my local Orthodox parish since September and I’m looking forward to my upcoming baptism into the Orthodox Church. I’ve ventured out a bit more into the social aspects of the church by attending the Lady’s Group. It’s a study group in a book club type format. Presently we are reading The Great Divorce written by, C.S. Lewis. For me, it is a refreshing change from the fill-in-the-blank bible studies I’ve become accustomed to, but never really liked. Some, like me, enjoy this format while others struggle with the lack of traditional structure and conformity of read and answer ‘here’ type studies.
As I said, I am enjoying the study but it is sad to read about people unwilling to give up their passions for the Ultimate Passion… Christ. Also, because I am going to be baptized soon, as I read the book, it is helping me to remember items that need to be added to my life confession I will be doing with my priest soon. Believe it or not, little memes I run across on Pinterest, as well as reading books on the lives of the ancient fathers and their experience with confession, sin, and temptation are helping me not to be too panicked about baring my life’s dirt to a priest. This concept is unheard of in protestant churches and is very new to me. As a protestant, I would confess to God, or my husband and hope no one else ever caught wind of what I did because people, especially Christians, can be incredibly judgmental. I have also been judgmental, and it is something I work on everyday. It is something I work on with the help of; the writings of the ancient fathers, (a resource not available in protestant churches sadly), my priest, the weekly opportunities for prayer & worship in my temple, and my at home prayer life.
As I said, this is all very new to me because in protestant churches, especially evangelical and charismatic churches, sin seems to be encouraged as a way for the grace of God to move in our lives. I call it ‘The Chili Dog Gospel’. Why? Because I have heard many pastors say that since scripture tells us we can tread on poisonous things and not be harmed, we should also be able to eat ‘poisonous’ things, like chili dogs, and not be harmed. ‘Go ahead and eat that chili dog and watch God move mightily in your life!!’. Um, no thanks I’d rather not eat it, fast & pray and see what happens when I move in obedience. There is very little talk, at least that I ever heard in the churches I attended, about giving things up for our sanctification. Sanctification was not something openly spoken about or encouraged. What does all this have to do with, The Great Divorce’? This is a book that talks about the things that people do that they are unwilling to give up in ordered to be perfect as Christ is perfect. From homosexuality, to one’s intellect, to one’s ‘rights’ (the right to be offended, angry, greedy, respected, etc.) to people not wanting to give up what they perceive as security even though it keeps them in hell. Lewis lays it all out for examination by the reader. ‘Pick one or all that apply.’, he seems to be saying. Even now, over 70 years since its writing and publication, it is relevant in the life of, Believers.
People these days like to think they are, ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’. What do these words mean? If you are not willing to give up whatever sin you are justifying with these words, they are just as much a chain holding you back from heaven as they’ve ever been. We are not the first generation to use those words, or to try and talk ourselves out of giving something up we love… our ‘pet sin’. Is the need to always be seen as being right important to you? Is it so important that you are willing to give up the blessings that come from being a peacemaker? Trust me, there are more blessings from God for those who are peacemakers than those who are willing to assassinate relationships in order to be right. Interestingly enough, I don’t know of a single person who was argued into the kingdom of God…do you?
Our passions are creating a spirit of disunity within our churches and our communities. Not only do they separate us from God, but from one another as well.
People’s passions against icons keep them out of the Orthodox Church. Here is one that you might enjoy. You’re welcome.
This bit about icons is a bit off track but not too much as there are those who are passionately against icons and yet are ok with nativity sets, Easter eggs, crosses, etc. All of which, including our bibles, are icons. I just wanted to show those who are passionately against icons and point fingers at the Orthodox church that protestants also have icons. They just call them ‘Christian art’. This iconophobia is just an example of a passion that needs to be given to the Lord. The passion that only fill-in-the-blank bible studies are real bible studies is another passion that can be given up. We all have them. Some people refuse to try anything new unless it was their idea first and they were able to lead their friends and family to it. This passion causes them to lose out on so much!
I hope this partial review (more to come possibly) has given you food for thought about the passions you hold on to that are holding you back from a more mature, complete, and fulfilling relationship with God. Oh, how I wish this book was read in schools all across America! Would people, ‘get it’? Would it help us to be more unified and to let some things go that we needlessly hold on to that are killing us and our communities? Or would most people read it and think it is for someone else but not for them?
If you’re looking to change your community, you must first be changed. How? How do we transform our communities, our places of work, school and worship through ourselves?
May I recommend asking God to show you right now your passions that are interfering with your sanctification? Then, if you’re Orthodox, take them to your priest and confess before Sunday and enjoy a Liturgy and Eucharist free from hidden passions/sins. What a weight will be lifted from your shoulders! If we do not kill our passions, they become our idols. They interfere with our sanctification, drawing nearer to God and our quest for perfection. I’m actually looking forward to my life confession. With appropriate trepidations of course. It’s not going to be fun, but it will be freeing.
Does it bother you when someone says to you, ‘Do as I say, not as I do?’. It bothers me. This is just one of the things, Jesus came up against in His ministry. The pharisees were oppressing people with impossible standards while they continued to behave in a manner totally opposite of what they were preaching. They tweaked the law to feed their greed and corruption all the while they enjoyed a life filled with gifts, bribes, and treachery. Even unto their own parents.
I have had protestant pastors admit on the pulpit that they are picking and choosing which scriptures they will obey. The audience chuckles but no one confronts him on his own admission of sin and heresy. Imagine my surprise when the head priest of our local parish submits himself to the same rigors of scripture we are all trying to walk out daily.
During the annual Forgiveness Ceremony at temple, there he is with all the other priests, deacons and sub-deacons prostrating before his spiritual children, asking us for forgiveness. Our priest!! Then, the other night in class, he talks about how he is headed up to Alaska soon to help build a monastery for some nuns. This is a 50+ year old man but because he had been up there 15 years ago and they remembered him, he is going because they asked him to! I love that our parish has such an example. In Orthodox Christianity, it’s not about, ‘The Guy’. You know, who is going to be the one who preaches well, as a charismatic personality, who can get the people wound up and in a frenzy to give, give, give. No. While our head priest is gone, another priest will step in and fill his shoes, so-to-speak while he is gone. Life will go on without him because our lives are about God, not ‘The Guy’. Will Father be missed? Yes. He is part of ‘the family’. He is our spiritual father & confessor and we love him (he will come back). But that’s not the point. The point is, he gets his hands dirty, literally and figuratively. I’ve been in churches where the pastor’s anointing was carefully guarded as if he were some sort of demi-god who needed to be locked up in some protective inner chamber. Well removed from those who might sully him. Who… his congregation? Yes. He needed to be protected from his congregation. I’ve been to churches, and I have heard stories from people in other churches as well, where the pastor never interacted with the church community. They felt they only had to deliver the sermon on Sunday and they left the ‘ministering’ (praying and interacting with the congregants) up to the deacons and elders. They are not true shepherds. They are not spiritual fathers. I like having a spiritual father. Especially one who walks out the scriptures. When you have a spiritual father who sets the example, it’s hard to find an excuse as to why you’re not being obedient with what you have been given to do by the Lord. The speed of the leader is the speed of the ‘gang’. If your spiritual leaders are leaning on the shovel and not giving their all, neither will you. I believe this is part of the reason why so many churches have fallen asleep and then ended up shuttering their doors.
Physics applies to churches. Newton’s 1st law of motion; In an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a consistent velocity, unless acted upon by a force. In other words; an object in motion tends to stay in motion while a body at rest tends to stay at rest, unless something happens to change either attitude.
People are looking for more in their religious journey. I was, and my search lead me to the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church does its best to walk out scripture. To live in peace with those around them, to die to their passions & desires, and they take it (the Christian Way), and God very serious. Serious enough that His Word is for every member of the body in the parish, even the head priest. There is no, ‘us and them’ mentality that I have seen to date. I don’t know if I can fully express how important this is to me to see those in leadership being treated as a part of the body and not apart from the body. It fills my heart with joy to know my parish priests, and others in leadership are in the same boat as I when it comes to walking out our faith. We are imperfect, struggling and doing the best we can. Lord have mercy.
Hank Hanegraaff, ‘The Bible Answer Man’ has faced swift retribution for converting to Orthodox Christianity on Palm Sunday. The owner of the radio station that hosted his program has removed Mr. Hanegraaff’s program from their roster. You can read the full story HERE.
I’m not at all surprised. Kind of saw this coming a mile away. I wonder if it bothers these people to be so transparent in their intolerance and bigotry? ALL MODERN CHURCHES CAME FROM THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. The bible you read has its roots in the Orthodox church because the Orthodox Church wrote the first bible. Hanegraaff is THE BIBLE ANSWER MAN. He had been exploring Orthodoxy for TWO YEARS before converting and not once did he say anything unbiblical but suddenly when he is transparent about joining THE CHURCH, his biblical accuracy is called into question. I’d like to know who all put pressure on Bott Radio Network owner, Richard P. Bott, II to drop Hanegraaff’s show. Just as those in the crowd were, ‘encouraged’ to scream for Jesus’ blood, so too do individuals today face pressure from their peers to tow the line or lose sponsorship. Money talks, but it also silences. In this case, people professing to be Christians showed the world their true colors by demanding the termination of a radio show that has aired for decades because the man hosting it does not subscribe to their party line.
May the retribution of the Lord fall upon those who have shown Mr. Hanegraaff religious intolerance and persecution in the name of Christianity. Shame on you.