Guest appearances

Since my conversion to Orthodox Christianity, I am constantly shocked by how “Orthodox” I must have always been. Nowhere is that more evident then when I get to visit the Protestant churches of my friends and family.

Note to readers, especially the aforementioned friends and family, this is NOT meant as a criticism of your specific churches, but rather part of this continued discussion on WHY I’m no longer happy in many of those specific churches.

I attended one of those churches on Sunday. It was all the things I would have thought I was looking for in a church 10 years ago: friendly, warm, upbeat/talented worship, and a good (but brief) sermon.

As I walked into the cream-colored sanctuary, the absolute only thought in my little brain was “where are the icons.” I was dying for something to kiss, to venerate, to respect. There was no Great Entrance, no time to literally and physically bow in awe of the gift of salvation. There was no corporate prayer. It just doesn’t feel like church without a few “Lord, have mercy”s. And I cannot describe the size of the hole left by the absence of the Eucharist.

The word liturgy comes from the Greek word for, and I’m sure someone can correct me if I’m wrong, an act of the people.

It is this thing we do together. We don’t sit and watch a great concert, or a drama, or a film clip. We don’t clap and sway to the music as if at a dance hall. We come before the throne of the great Triune God and together we seek His face, together we seek His mercy, together we worship Him.

In my church on Sunday, the priest comes out and stands before us, not as one who is between me and God, but as one who helps to lead me, and as one who stands among us.

We are all in this together.

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Author: Rebecca

Orthodox Christian. Writer. SAR K9 handler-in training. All three of those are deeply related.

6 thoughts on “Guest appearances”

  1. A few years before I knew anything about Orthodoxy, I was at a baptism at my uncle’s house (big pool in the back yeard.). A few of my cousins were being baptised. And then a couple of other cousins were rebaptised! My oldest son, then 8, asked if he could be rebaptized. I said, “No, its wrong. There is only one baptism”. Boy the look I got from my aunts!

  2. it’s appealing to me that we all do things together. it always has been. and now that we have been involved in highly interactive gatherings, there ain’t no going back sista’.

  3. Am I becoming Orthodox?

    Yes, I know what you mean Bec. As my westernized Christianity “progresses” I realize how much I have become a MTV worship service junkie. Drums, electric guitars and other musical instruments – skits, dramatic presentations, etc… — really have become a draw for me.

    Sure, I often get an emotional lift at the services. Yet, too often I — and according to my family, friends and Pastors over the last 30+ years – the emotional low which follows brings me crashing down, feeling let-down and despondent.

    Over the years I have found that a true experience of worship brings with it a profound change in life. At such times my heart, soul, body – all that I am – is infused with wholeness, a completeness, which is beyond words – but is strangely related to context.

    Accordingly, I must admit – although reluctantly – that when I visited an Orthodox Church I was filled with a mixed bag of thoughts and seemingly innate responses. My Protestant reductionism did not want to give-way to the striking presentation of the Church and its worship services. I wanted to reject the icons, the incense, and especially the priest. My mind was filled with all sorts of justifications which supported my rejection of all I saw, smelled and felt. “This was way too Catholic,” was my most prominent thought.

    However, I also felt something stir tenderly inside of me. It seemed that “a certain” recognition existed in my heart of all these things. This was unexplainable to me as I had never experienced anything like this before. Thus, at the very same time I was trying so hard to reject all that I was experiencing, it seemed my spirit leaped forth with a subtle but true joy. I could justify my rejection with logic and my human reason. But my being drawn to this “Divine Worship” could not be explained.

    An unexplainable recognition, an unwanted sense of identity, a perception of sacredness, an uneasiness about how this experience of God had changed me at least a little bit deep inside – with all this I am left wondering if Isaiah felt the same thing when he viewed the worship in Heaven:

    (Isa 6:1-10 NKJV) “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe (vestments?) filled the temple. {2} Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. {3} And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” {4} And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke (incense?). {5} So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” {6} Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. {7} And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” (The Eucharist?) {8} Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” {9} And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ {10} “Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.””

    Or what about what the disciple John saw during his vision of heaven:

    (Rev 4:8-11 NKJV) “The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” {9} Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, {10} the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: {11} “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”” (Rev 4:7-11 NKJV) “The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. {8} The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” {9} Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, {10} the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: {11} “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”” (Rev 5:1-13 NKJV) “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. {2} Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” {3} And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. {4} So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. {5} But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” {6} And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. {7} Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. {8} Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. {9} And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, {10} And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” {11} Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, {12} saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” {13} And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!””

    Somehow, I recognize this same aspect of worship in the Orthodox Church. Is there healing in the Orthodox Church for me? I do not know — but I am beginning to think so. I know I need to be healed. I am praying that God will open the eyes of my heart and let me know that what I am feeling – more importantly – where I am apparently heading, is to His truth and salvation.

    I will repeat the words I heard so often when at Orthodox worship – “Lord, have mercy!” Yes, Jesus, please have mercy.

  4. Those passages make me think of a sermon I just heard from a Romanian priest, I think, on the book of Revelation. Growing up in the churches I did, as I mentioned, we had an inordinate fascination with all things dispensational. But I had never heard it explained quite this way before. The priest used the Divine Liturgy to interpret that mysterious book, describing the imagery within the context of the worship. It was incredible and something inside my little brain clicked like cogs in a gear.

    One of the things I found the most striking about my first few visits to the Orthodox church was the bold statement claim to true worship. But I found myself feeling very early on like it was what I was made for, that this is the right way to approach God. And if you have ever seen the prostrations during the service, you would know what I am talking about.

    I, too, will make that bold statement. This IS what we were made for.

  5. Is there healing for you in the Church?

    YES! YES! YES!

    The sacraments of the Church are given to us for our healing. They are not the means with which we earn our way to heaven, nor do we do them to curry favor with God. On the contrary, out of His great love for us, He gives us these things as a medicine for our souls.

    I believe that this is true. It is, ultimately, the thing that I am hanging my soul’s hat on.

    When I pray the pre-communion prayers, I say that I come as the woman who touched the hem of His garment for healing, trembling in hope and fear. He did not draw away from her, and He will not draw away from us.

    I am that woman.

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