I have been a Christian for only around 4 years and I was a member of a local evangelical non-denominational Church. Right from the beginning I had a love of Church history. I loved reading about the Apostles, the Early Church and the Church Fathers. This was a major factor that led me to the doors of the Orthodox Church.
Well, I truly believe that the Orthodox Church is the Original Church – the Church that Christ established through His Apostles. History proves this, and that her teachings have remained the same since the first century. Recorded evidence shows that the theology of the Orthodox Church is that of the Early Church, everything is fully available to those that seek.
Orthodoxy is for everyone – it is for the ordinary everyday person. I am an ordinary woman, born into an ordinary working-class family; in an ordinary working-class part of the UK. A quick look at the history of the Early Church in my own country shows that England was fully Orthodox in its doctrines for almost the first 11 centuries of Christianity. During this time, Orthodoxy was practiced by ordinary average people, just like me.
The Orthodox Church was responsible for compiling and approving the New Testament. In my eyes, this provides an enormous sense of reliability and trustworthiness, something I have not found anywhere else. This is extended into the uniformity of the teachings of the Orthodox Church, it doesn’t matter which Orthodox Church I visit, or which Orthodox priest I speak to (and I have spoken to many), the teachings do not vary. This is such a refreshing blessing. I love the fact that the Orthodox Church is Apostolic, and that every priest can physically trace back his ancestry through the Church directly back to the 12 Apostles.
One of the major attractions for me regarding Orthodoxy is that it not all about “me, me, me” “I, I, I”. It is all about God. Everything about Orthodoxy, from the doctrines to the worship – are all about glorifying God in His fullness – about worshipping the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
I also love the emphasis that Orthodoxy places on the Divinity of Christ, fully God, fully Man – always. This is unsurprising, considering how many times this was defended against heresies in the first few centuries – and how many Orthodox Christians died defending the Faith. Orthodoxy aims to actually “make” us holy, not to simply appear to be so.
One of the great blessings I found in the Orthodox Church is that it meets you where you are, and guides you by the hand on a life-long journey. Orthodoxy does not teach that you must be Orthodox to be “saved”, or that all Orthodox Christians are “saved”. Nor does it teach that it is the only way to reach God, we reach God with our heart. This is refreshing and contrasts somewhat with many modern evangelicals who often base ones salvation on who jumps around the most, waving arms and speaking in “tongues”. This is emotional worship, not spiritual. To think that a person is uncomfortable or standoffish with the Holy Spirit for not wishing to worship in this way saddens me greatly, and shows an incredible level of shallowness and ignorance.
In Orthodoxy, the worship is breathtakingly beautiful, and mysterious. There is an unbroken continuity in the style of worship, with a reverence and holiness unlike anything I have experienced before. It stimulates all my senses simultaneously. It hasn’t tried to rationalize it - as in the case of the Roman Catholic Church, nor has it tried to remove it in the way that Protestants have. It is simply unchanged heavenly worship, with more Scripture per service than you can shake a stick at.
During my initial research into Orthodoxy, my only real challenge was a common one amongst Protestants, and that is the intercession of the Saints. But, after much prayer, study and many in-depth discussions with many Orthodox clergy – I soon overcame this hurdle and I now have no theological problem with it.
I have struggled accepting just how far in general Christianity has drifted from the Early Church, so much has changed. The gifts of the Holy Sacraments have become mere “symbols” and the theology varies depending on who is reading the Scriptures and how they interpret it.
No. God does not change, and neither does His teachings. That is why He chose His Disciples and gave us His Church.
My journey into Orthodoxy has seen me lose many friends on the way, I will always pray for them. For hearts, minds and eyes to be opened – so that they can see this beautiful treasure for what it truly is.
The narrow path is very narrow. As a person, I feel I have changed a lot since my journey into Orthodoxy first began. I have matured, and I am more aware of my (many) faults and I try (usually unsuccessfully) to address them.
It is very exciting to wonder what the future will hold for me, an Orthodox Christian. I don’t wish to simply “read the Gospel”, I wish to “live the Gospel” – the first century Gospel.
I am saved, I am being saved – I will be saved.