Orthodoxy as a tea bag

Christ is Risen!

I know, I know…a weird title. But for some reason it’s been on my mind lately, with absolutely no disrespect intended.

As a Baptist, I was always well-warned of the dangers of ritual and tradition. They were BAD, and to be avoided like dancing, Catholics, and the movies. We didn’t cross ourselves, we had no creeds, we never knelt in church, and rarely, if ever, said the Lord’s Prayer. In all seriousness, I heard quite often about the command to abstain from “vain repetitions.”

The key there, though, is the whole “vain” thing. We’re not commanded to avoid repititions, any more than we are commanded to avoid speaking the name of God. What we are commanded to do is to not do such things in a vain, or useless manner. The sin is not in the saying or the doing, but in saying or doing in a way that means nothing, is useless, or trivializes that which is holy. (I would argue that much of what passes for contemporary Christian culture smacks of invoking the name of God in vain, but more on that later.)

Growing up, I believed that the more you said or do these things, the less they meant. Those who had been raised in those liturgical churches could not possibly mean what they said or did all the time. That’s part of the dangers of those churches, I was told, that trapped in all the vain repeating, the truth of the Gospel is lost. So it was a big adjustment for me to get used to all the trappings of Orthodoxy, even now as an Orthodox Christian. Venerating the cross, reciting the Creed and Lord’s Prayer, and daily written prayers from *gasp* a prayer book, all felt very foreign, scary, and a tad sinful. The error, of course, was not in my actions, but in my perceptions.

The more I reflected on WHAT I was doing, HOW I was doing, and WHAT it meant, the more I understood the theology behind my faith in general, and the more I felt God’s hand drawing me to Himself.

(Here comes the teabag connection.) It was as if I became steeped in theology, my life infused with the richness of the knowledge of God’s love and His great gift of salvation.

This week, this kind of hit me–my life as a teapot, filled with the Holy Spirit, and infused with the Body of Christ, His Holy Church. (I know this analogy breaks down on some levels, but work with me here.) I have to be open to it. I have to believe it, I have to receive it, and I have to do it. No one will do it for me. And if I’m not willing, or not serious, or don’t believe, well, that’s on me.

I am finding, the longer this goes on, I know more about Christian history, Christian theology, and the beauty of the Mystery. I’m able to relax in those things I can’t know. I trust Him more. And church MEANS more because everything I do there means something. I am not just gathering together, and listening.

I am doing. I am receiving. I am steeping.

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Author: Rebecca

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

10 thoughts on “Orthodoxy as a tea bag”

  1. Uh, well that’s a new theological metaphor for sure…. 😉
    Seriously though it is a pretty good way to think about the faith. Sometimes people who convert to Orthodoxy try to umm… squeeze the teabag?, instead to letting Orthodoxy naturally disperse into their lives.

  2. I’m a Greek Orthodox and have recently returned to the church. I find it very comforting and I’m glad I made the decision to go back. I like your metaphor.

  3. Very nice blog! While i think i would differ your views, i have to admit that they are very nicely put! I do not believe in the rigidities more often than not take the focus off whats important, ie, being good honest human beings. Anyways, this isn’t something one would contain in a mere comment, i did enjoy your your blog. Do visit mine http://opinionsunlimted.blogspot.com/

    cheers

  4. Radoje–Thanks! I hope I’m not squeezing the teabag too much myself. In my evangelical background, there is no “time” for growth and learning. You get saved, and then you get down to business–teaching or whatever. So now, in this environment of worship and learn, I find myself often chomping at the bit. One thing about the blog is that it has allowed me to reflect on what I’m learning. I have to keep reminding myself that in this 2,000-year old church, there is no hurry.

    Kate–glad you came back! God bless.

    R–I’d love to hear how the “rigidites” take the focus off of what’s important (which is God). If the things I do point me in the correct way to God and give me a proper understanding of Who He is and who He created me to be, than the “good honest human being” is sure to follow. Thoughts?

  5. I sincerely hope you didn’t take my comment personally, I was entirely speaking in general terms (open mouth, insert foot).
    As far as the “rigidity” of the services, I always found them to be very spiritually helpful. I know exactly what is going to happen, and I can learn the services by heart and make them a part of myself. At the very least I can attend any Orthodox service in the world, and know exactly what is happening, and join them in a community of prayer regardless of whether or not I have the faintest clue about the language the service is in.
    A very good friend of mine is an evangelical (Foursquare), and when I go over to his house for dinner I am always a little embarassed because he always says a prayer over the meal, but he feels he has to be spontaneous and thus stumbles over it, and it sounds very awkward. I’m sure God knows his heart is in the right place, but I find it much easier to focus on what I am praying when I don’t have to at the same time worry about what words of prayer are coming out of my mouth next.
    Sorry for the long response…

  6. Christ is Risen!

    That is a refreshing refutation of the “vain repetition criticism”.

    Keep steeping. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God”. Praxis and ascesis lead to the light of Christ; His Energies; His Grace.

    Well done. May God continue to bless you.

  7. Radoje–Don’t worry! I didn’t take your comments personally at all. Ah, the problems with electronic communication.

    “Foursquare” denomination–that’s one I’ve tried to figure out but haven’t been able to yet. Any insights as to their theology or how this is defined? I know it’s an evangelical denomination, and that’s about it.

    Give me “rigidities” any day!

  8. Glad to hear it, nothing makes me more nervous than trying to get things across in writing.
    I’m afraid I don’t know too much about the Foursquare Church except they are some flavor of Pentecostal. Call me a coward, but I try to avoid deep theological discussions with Protestant friends…

  9. Christ is risen!

    Recently, I read that the Foursquare denomination was founded in the 1920s by Aimee Semple MacPherson, who was among the first to exploit mass media to promote the Gospel –her version of it, anyway. Her story is colorful and tragic.

    In my pre-Orthodox existence, I used to pray extemporaneous prayers that rivaled the “grace” said by Ben Stiller’s character in the movie “Meet the Parents”. As I was becoming Orthodox, I had NO problem laying my own poor prayers aside to read prayers from an Orthodox prayer book. I continue to be astounded at the depth, wisdom and beauty of these prayers. They totally transcend my puny, whiney, self-centeredness. Glory to God in all things!

  10. Bec,

    Your posts have helped me more than you’ll know.

    As an Ortho inquirer, I’m often asked by other evans how Orthodox view assurance of salvation. I know this is an “ask yer priest” question as far as the theology goes, but has this been a problem in your view as you converted?

    Thanks,
    S

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