Still Unsure of Orthodoxy

What a journey!  I have not written anything about this journey for quite a while.  I think it is because I had made up my mind that Orthodoxy is the way to go.  Then something happened to make me question it all again.

 

So the investigative part of the journey began again.

The whole thing may very well have been engineered by God.  I ran across several articles and videos by protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox about justification by faith vs works and the losing one’s salvation.  I had already picked up on this somewhat from the Orthodox perspective, but I think I had just made up my mind to swallow it, thinking that maybe it was just semantics and that they were all really saying the same things.  But I know now that the words said by a protestant may have a different meaning when said by an Orthodox.

From what I have gathered from my research, the Orthodox Church does not believe in Justification by faith alone. Of course, that takes us back to the issues of the Reformation.  However, in an interview, an Orthodox priest said that we come to Christ by faith and are justified initially.  The issue is that we can lose that salvation, that justification.  I have yet to hear the exact criteria set forth to identify at what point we lose that salvation, at what sin, or at what degree of sin, or what state of mind.

It seems that in order to hold to the position that we can lose our salvation, one must necessarily believe that our works justify us, and not our faith.  Galatians 3:6 says “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” A few verses before that in verses 2 and 3, it says “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

The one event in the Bible that speaks most to this is, the thief on the cross who said ” ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’ And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”   The thief did no works.  He only believed.  Undoubtedly, had he lived, his faith would have manifested itself in works.  True faith has works.  As James says, “though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?”  Of course  not; saying you have faith does not mean you have faith.  That “faith” cannot save.  It is only the kind of faith that evidences itself by works that can save a person.  Yes faith alone can save, but faith is never alone; faith is manifested by works.

“It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Phil 2:13

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6

“For who He did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

“Love never faileth.” I Cor.13:8.

“God is love.”  I John 4:8

So then God never fails.  He will accomplish what He set out to do.  He will conform us to His image.  The good work in us that He started, will be performed.

He will not lose even one sheep of those His Father gave Him. John 6:37-39:  “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.  And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 10:28-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to  pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”

 

How can anyone say that Christ will lose any of those His Father gives to Him? How can we say that He will fail to keep His covenant?  Of course we will fail, but He will not.

 

Orthodox believe in infant baptism. Now as I understand it, infant baptism is infant regeneration or salvation.  The infant can neither have faith or do works, and yet he is proclaimed saved.  The liturgy after the infant  baptism states, ” It has pleased You to grant rebirth through water and the Spirit to Your newly enlightened servant, and to forgive his/her sins, both voluntary and involuntary….O You who through holy Baptism, have given to your servant remission of sins, and bestowed upon him/her a life of regeneration…  who has regenerated Your newly-baptized servant by water and the Spirit, and granted to him/her remission of his/her sins, .”  and to the child, “You are baptized. You are illumined. You have been chrismated. You are sanctified. You are washed; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son,. and of the Holy Spirit.”

Infant baptism is obviously more that just asking the Holy Spirit to go with the child and protect him/her.  It is salvation, regeneration, sanctification, forgiveness of sins, and rebirth. I do not see this taught in the Scriptures.  And here we have the crux of the matter.  Orthodox will say, “but it is taught in tradition.”  I do not believe that something as important as this would not at least have been mentioned or allowed for in the Scriptures.  James and Galatians speak of faith and of works, not of which the infant is able to have or do.   It does not allow for Infant Baptism/Salvation.

If becoming Orthodox means that I must give up the belief that salvation is eternal; that no one, not even myself can pluck me out of the Father’s hands, I cannot become Orthodox.  If becoming Orthodox means that I must not belief that salvation is by faith alone and yet a faith that is never alone, but always manifests itself by works, and instead believe that, according to Infant Baptism, one can be saved by works alone, since the infant is too young to have understanding and consequently faith, or in fact, since he/she is too young to have faith or to do works, one can be saved by ceremony without having faith or works, than I cannot be Orthodox.

Since it was, according to Orthodox, that the church gave us the Scriptures, than why if they thought is so  important, did they not include writings in the canon of scripture that supported or even mentioned Infant Baptism, or the veneration of icons, or the sign of the Cross, or how many times one had to immersed in order follow the “one baptism” that is actually mentioned in the Scriptures?  And if those who wrote supporting these things wrote other things that were not according to the faith or at least questionable, and that is the reason they were not included in the canon of Scripture, than how deserving are they of any credibility at all?  And by what authority did those who passed on those traditions, pick and choose from the writings those things to be followed, if not according to the authority of the very Scriptures the Church chose to include in the canon?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mary and Forgiveness

Today the sermon was about Mary, the Mother of God.  The veneration of Mary  vs the worship of Mary has been one of the obstacles I have encountered as I have entered in to Orthodoxy.  Some of the language of veneration sounds much like worship words to me.  Words like “make us worthy of compassion,” and “manifest thy power as ever.”  Those words seem to indicate that Mary has power.  I struggle to understand.

However, I have been thinking a lot about Mary.   Father Timothy said that Mary was a bridge from God to us and a ladder from us to God.  She was the conduit through which Christ was made incarnate, and when she died, she portrayed God’s redemption to mankind, a way to heaven.  The priests wore blue today and there was a blue cloth on the altar table in honor of Mary.  I did not realize that blue symbolized Mary, but then I noticed the icons of Mary after my friend Nadine whispered to me about them. Mary wore blue.

Blue.  The color of the heavens.  The color of Mary.  The color of peace and tranquility. The color of forgiveness?

I have two icons of Mary that show many swords piercing her heart.  “Then Simeon blessed them and said to His mother Mary: “Behold, this Child is appointed to cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed —” and a sword will pierce your soul as well.” Luke 2, 34-35. 

I have yet to understand the full meaning of the swords that pierced Mary’s heart, but a sword must have pierced her heart when she stood below the suffering Christ on the Cross, watching Him, looking into His eyes, His blood possibly even dripping down on her, as she longed to take His suffering, feeling helpless, with love, in great distress.  In anger?  In “mother bear” mode?  With her innate strong sense of protection rising to the forefront, and yet unable to protect?  Perhaps wanting to lash out at those who hurt Him?

Mary, did you struggle with forgiveness?

Oh Mary, Mother of our Suffering Lord Jesus, you who know the piercing sword, please pray for my children, who have caused many swords to pierce my heart, as I have watched their pain and trauma play out in their sicknesses, their decisions and their sins. I have struggled with forgiving those who hurt my children.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on them; on my children and on their offenders. And help my children to forgive, lest the root of bitterness defile them.

Today the sermon was also about forgiveness. It was about the man who had been forgiven much, penalized the man who owed him little.  Father Timothy pointed out that we have trespassed greatly against God.  We ought to forgive those who have trespassed against us, especially in that their trespasses against us are so minute compared to our great sin against God.

Father Timothy read a part of the liturgy indicating that God forgets our iniquities.  I struggle to grasp that.  Forget as in no memory of?  Or forget as in our sins not counting against us?   I truly wish I could really not remember what someone has done against me.  In my struggling, I can can come to the place of forgiveness, as in I do not want revenge, or vengeance, and I can think charitably of them, understand them, and pity them.  And I do believe that I have truly forgotten some offenses.  Yes, I can love  the offenders, even.  But in some cases,  when I live with the effects of the trauma and hurt every day in my personality, in the formation of my soul, in the sickness of mind and body, the pain it caused in those I love, and in the painful aftermath of the unwise decisions that trauma influenced, to totally forget is impossible.

I choose not to speak of it with the offenders.  I choose not to seek revenge or inflict pain.

I choose to bear it, to seek that continual state of forgiveness, and to pray for healing.

How Then Should We Worship?

I have been a church member almost my entire life.  More specifically, I have been a Baptist church member most of my life.  Attending church every time the doors were open was a priority for my family.  Not only that, but we attended neighboring revivals, camp meetings, church retreats, tent meetings, and vacation bible schools.

I have had, therefore, the opportunity to observe many church services, forms of worship, various types of singing, church leadership, church government, and pastors.  It does not make me an expert, but it has created in me areas of concern. I will address these areas of concern and try to work through to a satisfactory conclusion or at least a direction.

When all is said and done, there is only one reason I go to church.  That reason is obedience.  God said to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as believers, and that is that.  No questions asked.  Period.  It is not for fellowship.  It is not for networking.  It is not to hear good preaching, good singing, or to be entertained.  It is not to “get something out of it.”  It is not to make friends.  It is not for my kids.  While these are all  good reasons, important reasons; the bottom line is obedience. Truth be known, there are many times that obedience is the only reason I go.

However, because I do go to church, I do expect certain things.  Not getting my expectations met, will not keep me from going, but there are some issues that cause me grave concern.  I have considered that it might be, on my part, a reluctance to change with the times.  Culture does change, and the way we relate to it changes. For the most part, I have learned that whatever the vehicle of worship happens to be, I can use it.

Maze Jackson, an evangelist who did much to influence my life when I was a teenager, taught me that I can praise the Lord no matter what kind of church service happens to be going on.  My body is the temple of the Lord and my heart is His sanctuary.  I am at home with the Lord at all times in my heart, and nothing but my own sin can hinder my worship of God.

Having said that, why then as I sit in the contemporary worship service of today, does my heart feel heavily burdened, and my desire for something more, something long gone, sits unrequited in the depths of my soul?  Something is missing.  Something is gone.

Perhaps we need to consider a bigger picture.  As we sit in our luxurious pews, our feet on carpeted floors, our ears entertained with the pleasing sounds of pianos, guitars, and drums, our minds stimulated with Bible trivia, relating to corny jokes meant to break the ice of preppy minds, have we lost sight of what is happening in the spiritual domain as the war between good and evil intensifies and the battle for souls is waged?  If we really believe what we say we do, would we be doing what we are doing?

Is there not a cause; a cause that is not about us? It is not about our entertainment or fellowship.  It is a holy cause.  C.S. Lewis describes the deep longing in our hearts for something more as a desire for another country, a better country.  We are not home yet.  We are pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land.  How dare we claim this as our own!  We are not here to acquire status symbols, prestige, fame or wealth.  That is not our purpose. We have a cause.

The Bible says a man’s gift makes room for him. This gift can be used in the secular world or in the Christian ministry. Using this gift in the secular world in order to minister Christ is noble, although at great risk for compromise leading to contamination. It would take the absolute surrendering to God of every faculty in a man to keep him at the place of humble useability. Otherwise pride and the seduction of the world would destroy him. But then, this is also true of the same man using his gift in Christian ministry. The infection of sin is constantly a threat in either case. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels…”to be sure.

But still, is there not a cause? What right have we to take our gift for ourselves? Should the gift not be subject to the Lord’s purpose?

Should the church not be subject to the Lord’s purpose? What right have we to take the church unto ourselves? What right have we to use it in any other manner expect a holy manner? How the lines have blurred between the holy and the unholy!

One could argue that it is not sin to use the arena of church to have fun, entertainment, and recreation. But is this the purpose of the church which is pictured as waging war against the gates of hell? Is there not a greater cause than fun, entertainment, and recreation in the name of Christ? All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient.

I concede that there is a great battle for the minds of our young people. Pizza parties, camping trips, and dancing to Christian rock music may not be the best venue in which to reach our children. Chanting seven words eleven times plays games with the mind and opens the doors to emotions mistaken for the Holy Spirit. And still our batting average for saving our young people remains very low. This is a battle entered too late, for it is first fought and won in the home before the age of six.

Do we think we can make the Holy Spirit more user-friendly by separating the family and congregation into age specific worship? The family lives together; can they not worship together? Would that not promote family relationship and cohesiveness? Would they not relish the memories of witnessing together God’s work among the congregation? We have fragmented the family of God in the effort of user friendly worship.

We all in our deepest core desire a greater purpose outside of ourselves to serve and worship instead of being focused on ourselves and our enjoyment. I submit that young people are much more likely to rise to the challenge of training for missions and evangelism, and in doing so become more like Christ, than they are to be changed by line dancing in the youth department.

I concede that the most effective evangelism is friendship evangelism. We reach out to our neighbors and the ones whose lives we touch. We love them with the love of Christ and pray for their souls, watching for that opportunity to give an answer when asked about the hope within us. I am not saying that having fun with friends at church is wrong. It does have its place.

What is missing is intentional evangelism in our activities. What is missing is the manifest difference between the holy and the unholy, the clean and the unclean, and the wise and the unwise. We are called to be a peculiar people. While this may be subject to interpretation, it obviously calls for a definite delineation between the saint and the sinner. Are we raising rock stars and dancing queens or people who would lay down their lives for others for the sake of the gospel?

The eye is no longer single, we have a perverted purpose. We have learned that we can safely make a decision for Christ without any kind of life change. We have believed without repentance. Gone are the days where we come to the altar to mourn our sins and repent. I can remember a revival meeting when I was a teen in which the evangelist preached a message on “My Sins.” His message addressed the verse about being less concerned with the mote in our neighbor’s eye and more concerned about the beam in our own eye. He emphasized the enormity of our own sin and the call to repentance and forgiveness. The power of God was felt and evidenced in so much that people flocked to the altar in repentance and then got up from their knees and went to their neighbor to ask forgiveness. I remember fathers going to their children, husbands and wives reconciling, and friends asking forgiveness for offenses. There was weeping, and there was great joy. It was indeed one of the most beautiful services I have ever witnessed. That was only one of the many memories I have of the altar being filled with people weeping and rejoicing.

The lack of emphasis on repentance in the church has given birth to a shallow Christianity that is satisfied to leave the doctrines of the hymns and sing songs that talk about worship and praise, chanting lines over and over until people are worked up emotionally. We have substituted this created emotion for the work of the Holy Spirit. It was Isaiah who said in the presence of the Lord, “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 mine eyes have seen the Kind, the Lord of hosts.” That would more than likely be our response in the physical presence of the Lord. We would be struck with our unworthiness to even be in His presence, a far cry from singing over and over that we worship and praise Him, and I am sure that at that moment we would know what true worship and praise really is.

The lack of emphasis on repentance in the church has also given birth to a people who can walk out of church on Sunday and feel that God will bless their efforts no matter what they are. So then, we end up with young people entering any profession expecting that God will help them and approve.

II Chronicles 7:14 says “If my people who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. What a promise! What an answer to the sickness in our lives and in our nation! This indicates that the answer does not originate in reforms of government or a promising presidential candidate, but in the repentance of God’s people.

This is not a call to stop enjoying God’s gifts to us. We are not called to legalism where women are targeted as the spiritual thermometers of the church according to their submissiveness and dress, and where the men are expected to attain to an authoritarian headship where wives dare not question and children are alienated. This kind of self-righteousness has done nothing to draw people to give “their utmost for His highest.”
It has also driven away our young people and destroyed our marriages.

Once you have experienced the convicting power of God in a worship service, you can never forget it, and you long to see it again for that is where lives are changed and the world sees God. It is not only where people are saved, but it is also where Christians are sanctified by His truth.

This is a call to fasting and praying, seeking God’s face. Did not God say, “Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loosen the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke.” Many of the old preachers, such as Spurgeon, attributed the blessings of God on their preaching to the hundreds of people praying for them, even while they were preaching.

The pendulum has swung from law to grace…from legalism to liberality. Balance the most important word in the christian language.

Carol

http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelbrown/2013/01/03/whats-right-and-wrong-with-american-christianity-n1478711?utm_source=thdaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nl

My Journey to the Way- Part 5 – Lent

I joined in about 2 weeks late, but I fasted for Lent, giving up dairy and meats.  It was not easy.  My body reacted by making me ravenously hungry. And I can’t say I read every label and completely followed every element, but I did pretty good.  I went into it not knowing really what was the purpose of Lent.  I knew part of it is to identify with Christ in His sufferings. I am still not clear about all of it, but the self-discipline of it, the denial of self, the focusing of our energies of Christ, makes us better followers of God .  I felt that.  I am eager to do it again next year.

Not just the fasting, but also the services. I attended all I could.  It is amazing how the worship services are so saturated in scriptures.  Two of the services were approximately 2 and half hours in length.  We read all of Psalm 119 in one service and several long passages in the gospels in another.  I managed to attend the Monday night Matins of the Bridegroom about the 10 virgins, the Friday night service about Lazarus, the Holy Saturday Matins, and the 11:30 pm service that lasted til 3:30 am.  We went back then for the 1:30 Sunday service.  Quite an exhausting experience, but spiritually refreshing as well.

Father Timothy had walked me through it during my session with him, so I knew some of what to expect.  There were beautiful aspects of it.  I was very moved with the icon of Christ being taken down from the Cross.  We marched around the church like a funeral procession led by the icon of Christ being borne above the heads of 4 men.  They stood in the doorway of the church still holding it high while we passed under the body of Christ and kissed the Word of God as we entered.

Time stood still as we commemorated the death and resurrection of Christ.  We stood with Mary and John there in Jerusalem at His Cross.  We went with Joseph as he brought the body of our Lord to the tomb.  We watched the stone being rolled into place and the guards set.

The lights came on, the  priests wore white, the people rejoiced as they sang “Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs bestowing life!” over and over.  Jerusalem shone and Mary was radiant.  We felt all that as that sacred moment in time stood still.

We rejoiced further to realize once again that as Christ called Lazarus’s name and he came forth alive from being in the grave 4 days, so He will call His own by name some day and we will also come forth to live with Him forever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The most important event ever to take place was celebrated.

I felt so much closer to the people after that.  I want to be closer still.

There is the matter of confession.

to be continued…

MY JOURNEY TO THE WAY- PART 4 – more hope

Father Timothy said he will interested in my thoughts about Lent.  The saturation and poetry of the scripture readings went straight to my soul where they steeped in the deep waters of my being.  I had never experienced Easter in that way before.  It was a journey with Christ from Lazarus  to the Resurrection in Holy Week.  I loved it!

An act of love I will also never forget was that of Nadine sharing her umbrella with me, holding it more over my head than hers so that she got rained on and I did not.  I felt so bad, but she insisted.  I was unworthy of such an act and so receiving that gift was extremely difficult.

The fast itself was difficult at times as well.  Part of it was that I still have yet to grasp the significance of it.  I am willing to learn.

My favorite part of Holy Week was the Friday service where the Lamentations were read.  You know that author who actually puts into words the thoughts in your mind?  This is Lamentations for me.  It is full of the echos of my soul.  I absolutely loved it!  It included Lamentations in the Bible but also had the journey of Christ to the Cross, to Hades to the Resurrection in beautiful language.

There was something special about the Lazarus story that struck my soul. Jesus called to Lazarus  after he was in the grave for 4 days.  Lazarus was indeed dead. No doubt about it.  When they removed the stone, the smell of rotting flesh must have escaped the tomb. There were people standing outside the tomb, as the icon depicts, with their hands over their nose, not in wonder, but because of the smell.  That is reality.

But what strikes me is that Lazarus had nothing to do with Jesus calling His name.  He did not ask for that to happen.  He was helpless to respond. He was dead. He did not want to respond, but neither could he refuse to respond.  He was dead.

The same principle is shown in the story about the 4 friends who let down their sick friend through the roof to the room where Jesus  was.  The story says nothing about the sick man’s desires, condition or status.  It says nothing about his morals or his righteousness.  What it does talk about is the concern and action of his 4 friends.

There is hope, therefore, for the one who has strayed from following Jesus, and cannot even see that they are dead in their sins.  They may be blind in the darkness in which they are walking and may not even have a desire to change.  Worse, they may have deceived themselves and really believe that God would have them happy in the lifestyle they have chosen.

The hope is that the prayers and faith of the ones who love them may be effectual and may avail much.  God may have mercy, give sight to the blind and cause their spiritual awakening and salvation.  This is the hope for every parent who grieves over a lost child. The hope for every lost or wayward soul who is loved by one who knows God.

My Journey to the Way-Part 3-Hope

Hope – “This day you shall be with me in paradise.”  The grace of God is obviously not limited to those who have taken the Orthodox way of Chrismation, Baptism and the Eucharist.  The thief on the cross experienced none of these and yet Christ made this statement to him.  Christ looks on the heart. I suspect there are many hearts outside of Orthodoxy that belong to Christ.  He is a God of mercy and grace and He loves mankind. I believe that “He will keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”

Father Timothy said there is disagreement within Orthodoxy on some of the issues.  They seem to be pretty laid back on many things, but strict on others.  I hope as I become more familiar with Orthodoxy that I can discern which ones are which.

Human nature is the same across the board in whatever church one belongs, and it takes a miracle to change human nature.  I am grateful to have observed the change that God can make in a person’s life.  I saw it  in my mother first of all.  She was not perfect, but instead of displaying bitterness and hate which she had many reasons to do so, instead, I remember hearing the sound of her voice  praying in her room. I knew that is how she survived.  I had great reason to follow her example many years later.

I see the difference in my thinking of my children when they choose the way of darkness over the way of light; the way of Christ over the way of self.  I see the struggle in them, and I hope I can always say of them, “at least they struggle.”

I see the wisdom of those in my life who have followed God and the difference they have made in the lives of others.  I know there is light in some, and darkness in others.  Some despair. Some have hope. Some live by the dictates of self. Some live by the dictates of God. And it is obvious. There is also a difference between those that are good, and those who are good because of the light of God in their lives. The difference is the reason, the motive, their philosophy of life. The light of God shines from their eyes.  They are happy, and they have peace.

One of the greatest disappointments I encountered as a teenager, was finding out that there were those in the church who did not truly follow Christ.  I define it as “the end of childhood.”  It is a transition that is more severe for some than for others.  However, one of the greatest joys I encountered as a teenager was finding out that there were those in the church who truly loved Christ and showed this by loving others. For instance, I was the oldest of 6 children, and we did not have much money, to say the least.  There were a couple of women from church who would take me shopping for shoes, or invite me along to see a play; take time  out of their day to notice me and take an interest in me. How great was the difference I saw back then between those who loved Christ by loving “the least of these,” and those who were more interested in image.

I believe with all my  heart that there are those in other denominations who have been regenerated by the life of Christ within them.  God meets us where we are.  He met the thief on the cross while He was on the Cross, so He meets us in our  pain, our place of misery and aloneness, because He has suffered as a man and sees fit to lift us up to dwell in Him.

What in the world would I have done as a child, with all I went through, had I not known Him?

So I am comforted.

“I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”

 

My Journey to the Way – part 2

Ok, so I have never had a beer, never had an alcohol drink really.  I sipped one once, but that was it.  Reason being, when I was a young teenager, an evangelist, named Bro. Maze Jackson, preached at our church about the evils of alcohol. His invitation at the end was for all the young people to come forward and make a vow to never have a drink of alcohol.  So I went forward and made the vow.  I have made a point of being faithful to that vow my whole life.

Last Monday night in our Orthodox class, Dale spoke about Pascha.   Apparently it is an all day affair on Holy Saturday, celebrating into the night and Sunday morning.  Rebecca mentioned that they celebrate and drink Vodka and other alcoholic drinks.  I don’t know what to make of this.  Doesn’t it loosen one’s inhibitions, making it more likely that one would do unwise things?  Also, is this required in the celebration?  And of course, what about my vow?

I have discovered that some look down on people who cross their legs in church, because it is considered disrespectful and lackadaisical.  Who knew?  Women can wear pants or a dress as long as it is modest. One should not chew gum in church. And it seems like I am picking up that one should fast on Sunday morning until he takes the Eucharist.  There are prayers that deliver one from the Evil Eye.  (kind of freaky).  The Evil Eye has its roots in paganism, but it is a feared thing by many Orthodox.

Chrismation involves removing one’s shoes and being anointed with oil on different parts of one’s body.  And you need a sponsor.  More to find out…

“Father Timothy, I made a vow when I was a teenager not to drink alcohol.  There is wine in the Eucharist and people will be celebrating with alcohol during Pascha.  I do not know what to do.”    He did not tell me to break the vow.  He told me that I was in a different situation now.  I acted on the information I had back then.  God would not hold me responsible for breaking a vow that would keep me from the Eucharist.  Common sense should prevail.  Whether or not I partook of the vodka on Holy Saturday night was up to me and my conscience.  Yeah, I guess so.

I asked him if going to confession is the only way I could know if my sins were forgiven.  He adamantly said, “not at all.”  That made me feel much better.  He explained how the process of confession works.  It is a public thing, but done in a corner at the front of the auditorium.  He will stand behind me while I confess softly.  He said no one will hear me.  He will not speak unless to guide my thoughts about confession, or confront an untruth.  Afterwards he will lay his (shawl?) on my head and absolve me from my sins.

I gather that the confession is to deal with sins that I regard in my heart and struggle with repeating them.  We cannot remember every sin.  Maybe it is the spirit of repentance that is important here. The Bible says,”A broken and a contrite heart I will not despise.”

We talked about baptism.  I remember being baptized as an 8-year-old sometime  after I went to the altar and asked Jesus into my heart.  Everything changed for me after that.  I knew God was with me. Had if not been for His love for me, I would have been destroyed as a young girl.

I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  So in that sense, it was a Trinitarian baptism.  However, Baptists are specifically named in a passage he read to me from a book that guides the practices of Orthodox, as being one the  groups that must be re-baptized  into the Orthodox Church.  That is ok.  I am willing, just in case it was not a valid baptism when I was young.

However,  the thing that bothers me is that in my reading I have discovered that unless  I was baptized by an Orthodox priest, I am not saved.  St John Chrysostom teaches that “without the existence and grace of the priesthood there is no baptism or Eucharist, and thus, according to the words of the Savior Himself, no salvation.”

Could anything be more devastating than to find out that a lifetime lived as a Christian who has done her best to abide in Christ and to do His will, taking refuge in Him in all crisis, is all a lie?  And in view of that, to have to wait a year to even take the Eucharist and thus be saved? What if I die before then?

Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

That tells me that it was Him who  gave me the desire to please Him and live for Him.  Would God have given that to someone  who was not saved? I have walked with Him all my life.  Was it a delusion? Is this life in me not of God? Is this not the Christ?

…to be continued