Journeys of faith are bizarre. And by journeys of faith, I don't refer broadly to "going through hard times." Rather, I mean the experience of suffering through a protracted shifting of belief about something (or some things) that can involve the painful uprooting of long held and cherished non-negotiables. I want to take this moment to divulge such a journey as I have been on for nearly three and a half years now, and on which my wife blessedly came to join me in recent months.
It is necessary to issue a disclaimer: the purpose of this announcement is not to retrace my spiritual, intellectual and theological steps from the beginning of this process. That would take much longer than I have the energy to do in writing at present, but more importantly, it would introduce a whole swath of questions into the minds of some of you that I had the luxury of being confronted with at my own slow, steady pace. While I believe many of those questions should most certainly be grappled with by all Christians, I had the blessing of being able to encounter them relatively gently and ultimately in God's timing. I'm therefore not interested in laying out a detailed bio here, nor in presenting an apology for why my wife and I are walking down the path we are. My purpose in this announcement is just that, to announce where we are.
Why now? Five years ago, a close friend of mine named Chris, a life long Evangelical and a groomsman at my wedding, told me he was becoming Roman Catholic. Despite the fact that even then, two of my favorite Christian authors of the 20th century were Catholics (G.K. Chesterton and Henri J.M. Nouwen), I was thrown off by Chris' announcement. In hindsight, I needn't have been. Chris had made the decision to chronicle his journey on his blog as it unfolded. I have a vague memory of knowing he was doing that, but writing it off as merely a phase of his. After all, he was one of my college friends with a characteristically active mind and who had already undergone a few significant theological shifts since I'd known him. But when it became clear he had passed a point of no return, we had an unfortunate exchange during which I chose some words I now regret.
Those words beget five years of estrangement between us. Thanks be to God, my friend and I have recently reconciled. But in looking back at our falling out, I'm convinced it would never have happened that way had I taken closer, earlier notice of his developmental process. It is with that in mind, and with a concrete decision not yet having been made by my wife and I that we make this announcement now: we are not becoming Roman Catholic. But of course I haven't made you wait four paragraphs to be told that. Actually, for the last three months my family have been attending a Greek Orthodox parish here in the Dallas area. I imagine this information is probably being received in different ways. Firstly, and probably more commonly, you may be thinking about 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' and asking yourself, "Are they going to have to get wiped down with oil by a God-parent and then baptized in an inflatable baby pool?" Others of you may just be so ignorant of what Eastern Orthodoxy is that this announcement is either a boring let down or vaguely uncomfortable in its being so foreign. Others may have some level of knowledge about the Orthodox Church and are shaking their heads in disappointment, or you may be familiar with Orthodoxy and are glad for us! Still others of you may have questions and intrigue.
It's to the latter three groups that I want to speak now. To those bothered by this news, I ask you to pray for us. Pray that, as we have attempted to faithfully do thus far, we would ourselves remain prayerful. To those few who are rejoicing over where we find ourselves, you are loved and we need to hear from you! For those intrigued, we invite you to ask us questions. In some ways we are standing at the threshold of a new Church. In others there is much left to unfold. Despite any desire on our part, the parish we're visiting formally brings in new members only once a year, the week before Easter. This means we are most likely looking at another year of "discovery" before anything is truly set in stone.
My wife and I have recently found it awkward and difficult to keep our growing Church affiliation quiet amongst family and closer friends, so rather than spend the next year (or however long God sees fit to keep us on this path) sneaking off to Church every Sunday and disguising what we're doing out of fear of reproachment, we have decided to let any chips fall now and continue our journey in open air.
In the Orthodox Church, there is no celebration of 'Easter,' per se. Instead, there is Pascha, which is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word for passover. "Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch. You are indeed unleavened, for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed," (1 Cor. 5:7). Every Pascha (which often falls on the same Sunday as Easter, as it did this year) a centuries-old Orthodox tradition is to read the famous Paschal sermon of St. John Chrysostom, the man who penned the primary Liturgy that is observed throughout most of the Orthodox calendar year. In the interest of securing between my family and you that we still serve the same risen Lord, I'd like to finish by simply quoting from that Paschal sermon:
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
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