Witness

A long time ago I realized the Grace of the Holy Spirit was not to be found in the Roman Catholic Church. It grieved me to step back and see just how far Rome had deviated from the Church. In the last century the slow destruction of orthodoxy has accelerated into a maelstrom. Where there was once at least dignity, if not Truth, there is now nothing. The affection I once felt for Roman Catholicism in a nostalgic sort of way (the faith of my family going back countless generations), is gone. Now there is only disgust and revulsion.

There have always been, and will always be, clergy in any profession of faith who live an upside-down life, embracing sin, using the church as earthly institution for their own fleshly gain. Wherever there are humans, you will find them; none is exempt. However, when an institution has corporately engaged in corruption for generations, they begin to flaunt it publicly, preaching depravity and punishing virtue. Witness the the horror that is the Episcopal Church. Roman Catholicism is going the same way, and in a spectacular fashion.

I have never engaged in much evangelism and avoid polemics. If someone told me they were considering becoming Catholic or Episcopalian (or any type of Protestant) I would express polite interest, possibly inquiring after the reason they were considering it, etc. If they asked about Orthodoxy I would answer their questions, but Truth is not a matter of debate; it just Is. I’m nonconfrontational and afraid of misrepresenting my Faith accidentally.

However, we’re in the last days. The evil one is showing his hand. I am not intending to be ugly, but from now on, if someone tells me they’re thinking about Catholicism, etc. I will tell them in no uncertain terms to run in the opposite direction. The time for polite nothings is past. I debated about posting this but I feel I can’t in good conscience keep silent.

On the other hand, I know well the feeling of, “but if I admit this church is wrong, there’s nothing left. Where will I go?” It’s like telling yourself that there is no God. You can’t even contemplate it. I remember this feeling so clearly, even this many years later. This is why so many good people are closing their eyes and ears and refusing to see what is happening in front of them: leaving is quite literally unthinkable.

I look back and wonder what made me take off the blinders and realize Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is Orthodoxy. I guess it was the Grace of God. Certainly no one argued me into it. That makes this post kind of pointless, in a way, but I am sticking my neck out there and posting it anyway. You may disagree with me and point out your saintly non-Orthodox relative/friend/priest as proof that I’m wrong. I’m not here to argue. I know that Orthodoxy is the Truth, the only Church. I can’t express it very elegantly, and I’m not formally trained in theology. (I will forestall some of those protests by saying that I am well aware that Orthodoxy doesn’t have a monopoly on holy people. I have very devout family members who are without a doubt much better people than I am. But Christ’s Holy Church is Orthodoxy, and nothing else.)

I’ve lost friends over the years partially as a result of divergence of beliefs. I’m not as close to my family as I would like. Christ tells us that we are but strangers in this world, our “native land” being the Kingdom of God. It would be “smarter” in a worldly sense to keep quiet, be Nice, tell little lies of omission. I will not, however, take the easy path of pretending each religion is as good as the next. It doesn’t make you a popular person, and in coming times will result in being labeled a criminal. But I’ve chosen my path and I will not depart from it.

If I have expressed any of this poorly, resulting in misunderstanding, it is solely my own responsibility. Please forgive me.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner!

22 thoughts on “Witness

  1. I considered Roman Catholicism over ten years ago, even attended RCIA classes to learn more. But a few things held me back, in particular the effeminacy of their priesthood, before I knew much about Orthodoxy. Then a few months later I was introduced to Orthodoxy on a person level by a lovable, old Greek priest who taught an introduction to Greek for Adults class. My Baptist family was perplexed by my conversion in 2009. Years later one family member has come to love Orthodoxy, in particular one monastery, another is impressed by the outreach work with the poor at my current parish and another just likes the people and the consistency of Orthodoxy so he often goes to liturgy. The Lord has moved them in such different ways from how he moved me. And how thankful I am for that.

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  2. I believe many Catholics know there are big problems within their church but so many are afraid to leave and feel powerless to cause change. Unless change comes from the very top, I feel change with them can never happen. A Catholic friend came to visit us a year ago. He knew of my conversion and had asked years ago why I didn’t choose Roman Catholicism. I did my best to politely tell him why and we both left it at that. Well, while he and his convert wife were visiting us he told us he wanted to attend liturgy with us. And he loved it! Unbeknownst to me, he had been reading about Orthodoxy. And he wanted a service book so I gave him a spare. As to what will happen down the road, I don’t know. But a seed has been planted. I just try to remember that there are many who are far better Christians than I and they aren’t Orthodox. So as to proclaiming this is the true Church, I may not do that as often as I should.
    But I am trying to show love to all because it was the love of that kind, old Greek priest that drew me in and the love of sisters at one monastery in particular that keeps me here.

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    • Absolutely. I feel that I am a poor example of Orthodoxy and don’t want to discourage someone from looking into it because of my own failings. Also, in this day and age people do not take it well if you say that Orthodoxy is the Church. Everyone has been primed to courteously declare that “you have the right to your opinion but it is absolutely wrong to say that your church is the true Church and none other.” In other words, most people believe truth is relative. An insanity, if examined closely, but no one examines it closely; they just take it for granted.

      I only come out and say this now because it’s so painful to see people laboring in the wrong place, suffering needlessly, trying futilely to reconcile what they think they believe with what they actually see, feeling a loss of hope, and trying to decide between a few wretched options because they believe those are the only choices. I want them to know that Orthodoxy is HERE! It has been here all along, and you don’t have to be stuck between the rock and the hard place. I want that for everyone out of *love*, not hate or anger. I want everyone to have what I’ve been given, unworthy though I am. Sure, people will interpret me wrongly, assume all kinds of bad motives for me, etc., but isn’t it worth it to suffer a little in order that someone may find the True Faith?

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      • Absolutely. Completely agree. I have a relative who doesn’t hesitate to tell folks that the Orthodox Church is the ancient Church, and he isn’t Orthodox! Tickles me every time I hear him say that because I know he’s approaching his realization from a purely factual historical view. It’s so clean and clear for him because there’s no emotion in the way. I didn’t interpret anything in your original post as coming from anywhere but love and I doubt anyone else would. Keep keepin’ it real, Matushka! We need you!

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  3. Do you like to listen to or watch videos of Abbot Tryphon? He gave an interesting talk at St Barnabas Orthodox Church in Costa Mesa, CA that is uploaded to YouTube. I remember him talking about seekers and how we in the Church have to make every effort to embrace them when they come through our doors. It’s sort of that next step to your post. The seekers have come, so how what? How are they treated by parishioners? I never had the bad first-time visitor experiences that he mentioned but I wonder am I doing enough to welcome visitors when they come through the door.

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    • I’ve had some iffy experiences myself, but not at OCA churches. I think it was only at Greek churches. I think that’s pretty common, unfortunately. Our parish is very welcoming of visitors.

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  4. Have you inherited clothing from grandparents? If so, have you found creative ways to repurpose them? Sorry if you’ve posted about this and I missed it. I have some clothes from a grandmother. I’d like to find a thoughtful way to repurpose them. I know nothing about making quilts and my sewing experience is very limited.

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    • The thing that leaps to mind are two shirts that were my grandmother’s. One was a sorority shirt and I can’t remember what the second one was. Anyway, I had held onto them for years without knowing what to do with them. They were not in good enough condition to be worn, but they had been HERS and I kept them. Two Christmases ago I hit on an idea. I carefully cut out a small rectangle from each shirt which contained the insignia or her embroidered initials. One shirt had her name stamped inside the collar and I snipped that out too. I made two sachets with ribbon hangers, one for my mother and one for my aunt, her only sibling. I didn’t save the rest of the fabric from the shirts; I had the important parts. Sometimes you can make something small from some much larger items and thus enjoy the memory, much better, in fact, than having some clothing folded up in a box somewhere.

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  5. I enjoyed reading this article. I am a Protestant convert and my now husband guided me into Orthodoxy while we were dating. While being respectful of Orthodox practices, I was completely resistant to converting myself. I would argue with my boyfriend about Orthodox practices and he was so patient and gentle in his responses. In the end, he simply asked me to do my own research. I listened to a podcast on the intro to Orthodoxy in which the Father teaching the class said he was not attempting to convert anyone, but to tear down what they understand about Christianity and rebuild it from a historical perspective. He helped shape my understanding of Orthodoxy and I felt as though I had been blind and could now see. Where before I thought I had been open minded, I really was only looking at Christianity through a Protestant lense which I had never challenged or done proper research.

    Although I was combative initially, the gentle response of the Orthodox people kept me from running away and helped me be willing to learn more.

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  6. “but if I admit this church is wrong, there’s nothing left. Where will I go?“

    I have been there. Not with Catholicism, but with Evangelical Protestantism. I kept going from church to church, like going through the closet to find the right clothes to put on but your body has changed and they no longer fit.

    I looked into church history and there I found the Orthodox Church. It took me months to even walk through the doors.

    But you welcomed with open arms, me and my little family. In catechumen classes, I’ve spent time sifting through the lies I was told for decades and uncovered a beautiful truth, but an ugly, fractured procession of Rome and Reformation that nearly buries it.

    Orthodoxy, for me, is the pearl of great price. I’m tight-lipped about it for the most part. My family is still Baptist and Evangelical, after all. I want to keep the peace. But for how long? And at what cost to their souls? I’m right there with you.

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    • Dani,
      I grew up Baptist but was exposed to Pentecostalism in childhood, Methodism in college and Catholocism some during college but more afterwards. When I knew Orthodoxy was the truth, I had been attending an Orthodox parish for ten months. Then I told my parents. I had been a catechumen for almost four of those ten months before they found out. For both of my parents I had to tell them by showing them. I took my mother to the local Greek festival where she received good food and a tour of the nave from the priest. Her response: “I think you’d like it here!” Between that phrase and her accepting Orthodoxy, it took a few years. But she has embraced our faith as much as she can without having a parish near her. She has icons, a prayer book, many other Orthodox books and a love for a certain women’s monastery. I took my father to my parish after hours and explained everything as best I could using the Greek priest’s explanation of their nave at the Greek fest as a guide. He liked what he saw and gave me his blessing. Since then he has had some issues with differences in our faiths, but with time those differences have become less important to him because he sees that my faith has been good for me and that he didn’t fail me as my parent. My husband, though not yet formally converted, often identifies as Orthodox when people ask him his faith. My mistake and one I recommend all converts avoid is don’t be overbearing and too zealous with family. It is good for them to see that I have faith in God but awful for them if I make them feel like their faith is less than mine. After all, I was once where they are now. And without humility and love I am less than Orthodox and haven’t truly embraced our faith at all.

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