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