New Things…


So, last night, Steve and I took the kids and went to our first ever Orthodox Great Vespers.  The kids were amazingly well-behaved.  Matt was bored [“I didn’t like it because it was sooooooo loooooong!!!”]  Michaela had a hard time being quiet, but she asked if we could go back to the “Er do doc Chuwch”  which might be the cutest thing ever.  She liked it because there was a baby there, and she wants to go back to see the baby.

Although tonight, we were driving back from Shannon and Lindsay’s house and she said, “Can we not pray tonight?”  and I said, “No, we love God so we want to talk to him.”  and she said, “OH!!!  When you go to the Or tho doc Church, you have to pray.”  Michaela has gone to church since she was born, and somehow she’s never made the connection between church and prayer before in quite that way.  Wow.

Shaya was scared because when Father Elias was using the incense thingie [it’s called a Sensor, but I’m not sure if it’s Sensor or Censor, and I’m too lazy to google it right now] he was swinging it, and she thought he had his eyes closed [he may have] and she thought he was going to smack her in the side of the head with it.  Which made me giggle, even though it’s tacky to laugh when your kids are scared for the safety of their head.

After the service, which was held in Father Elias’s basement, his wife [I can’t remember her name and I feel horrible because it’s an unusual name and I kind of liked it and now I can’t remember it!  Grrrrr.] gave the kids sparkling grape juice, which made their night.  Matthew was dying of thirst.  I know this because he asked me if he could get a drink about fifteen times during Vespers.  I was a mean mom and said no.

So the service itself.  Well, I knew what to expect, so the chanting, incense and icons weren’t as shocking as they would have been if I hadn’t prepared myself.  Steve wasn’t shocked, either, because I had told him what to expect, too.  But all in all…  Well, if I’m being completely honest, it lasted a long time.  You really notice the time when you’re standing up the whole time.

I recognized several of the prayers from my prayer book that I printed out from the Internet, but I don’t have them memorized, so I couldn’t participate much.  During the Lord’s Prayer, though, man!  I was excited!  Because I know that one!!!  So I said it.  And I crossed myself, and I was happy because I’ve been teaching the kids to cross themselves when we say, “In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” and that’s when they crossed themselves, too.  So I did it right!  Woo hoo!!

Side note:  When Michaela [the four year old with the speech impediment] crosses herself, she usually forgets to go from right to left, because she’s facing me as I cross myself, so she does mirror image instead of the same way, but anyway, she says, “In the Name of the Fathew, Son, and Holy ‘Piwit”.  I don’t know why but that makes me ridiculously happy.  I think God must smile, too, because it’s freaking cute, I tell you.

So anyway, Steve enjoyed the singing and the melodies of the chants, but other than that, he said he was kind of thinking, “What’s the point?”  He said at one point that he didn’t get much out of it.  Truth be told, I didn’t get much out of it either, but I went into it not expecting to get.

I did hope for a miracle, though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.  I wanted Steve to come out of the service and suddenly understand my fascination with the Orthodox Faith, but that didn’t happen.  He still doesn’t get it, but I told him that if this is how God wants me to worship Him, then I’ll do it that way until I die, because worship isn’t about me, it’s about God…and if He likes that, then I’ll do it.

Steve understands that.  He gets it.  And he’ll do whatever God wants him to do.  He’s just not convinced that that’s really how God wants to be worshiped.  So I thought I might study the Old Testament a little [or a lot] and figure out exactly how God prescribed the worship service of the Hebrews, and see if it resembles what the Orthodox Christians do.

Because seriously, if God wanted to be worshipped with liturgy and vestments and chants and insence and icons in the OT, why in the world would anybody think that would change with the NT church?  And I have to admit, I’m curious.  I’ve read some of Exodus where God starts telling how He wants the temple built and all the stuff everyone has to wear and do to worship Him, but I haven’t really studied it.

For me, the path to Orthodoxy has been so similar and yet so different from other converts from Protestantism.  God kind of turned my world upside-down when Artem came into my life.  It’s probably the only way I was ever going to turn around and come back to Jesus, but still.  I doubt many people have had a crazy Russian hi-jack their blog and tell them the unvarnished truth about their ‘spirituality’.  😉

After I came back to Christianity, I really didn’t expect to ever talk to Artem again, but then an atheist hi-jacked my blog and Artem was the first person I thought of to go to for help.  And the conversation continued, and the next thing I knew, I was reading everything I could get my hands [or mouse] on about this Ancient Faith that was so foreign yet so familiar to me.

Orthodoxy had the answers I hadn’t found in Protestantism.  Everything about it was different but it was like it was one ‘aha’ moment after another.  Things made sense to me that had stumped and frustrated and downright pissed me off for years about the Christian faith.  I read in Acts about how the early Christians were completely transformed into the image of Christ, and how they were so freaking different, and I looked at my own life, and things had changed, but then the ‘first blush’ had worn off, and I was just struggling again and miserable.

Orthodoxy is different.  And understand that I’m really crappy at explaining things, so I can’t put it into proper words [which may be why my Protestant friends and husband look at me like I’m nuts when I try to talk about this stuff] but there’s no end, no cap to this Faith. There’s no limit to how far you can travel, or how close you can get to Jesus in Orthodoxy.

I’ve craved that ever since I first met Him.  To be able to keep going and growing and changing as long and as fast as I’m able [which unfortunately isn’t very] but the only limits now are because of me, not because my faith simply doesn’t have the answers.

So back to last night.  After the service, I talked to the people who were there, and every one of them, with the exception of the priest, were converts from Protestantism.  I listened to their stories, and it was my story. The paths were as different and individual as we are, and yet finally, finally I was with people who understand exactly what I’ve been going through, and who have reached the same conclusion I have.

I cried most of the way home because I felt like I’ve finally found my Home.  I hadn’t realized just how lonely I’ve been, how beaten down by the negative attitude of the people around me.  And I don’t hate these people, but it hurts my feelings.  Part of me aches, but a bigger part is just pissed off because they’re so offput by the externals that they won’t let themselves even entertain the idea that there might be something deeper here than they’ve found anywhere else.

Tonight I heard the same thing I heard years ago when I first became a Christian, “That’s great for you.  It’s just not for me.”  Strange that I heard the same thing from a Christian about Orthodoxy as I heard from my non-Christian friends years ago about Christianity.

It sucks, too, because my first instinct is to get all defensive and prideful about it and place myself above them.  You know the drill, “They’re just not as far along as I am” or “They’re just blinded by their own pride.”  BAH!!!!  It’s meI’m the asshole.  I hate it when I feel this way, and I hate it that it’s so freaking easy.  Pride is like breathing for me.  It will likely be the death of me.  I just hope that it’s not the death of others, too.

I dunno.  There are so many emotions I’m feeling.  This morning when I woke up, I was pissed off at Steve.  On the way home, he started asking me questions, and telling me how some of the stuff they did wasn’t stuff that Jesus did, and it wasn’t in the Bible, so it has to be bad, and then I tried to let it go so I could sleep, but apparently it just festered there like a boil on my ass and when I woke up it was about to pop.


I woke up pissed off, partly because of the conversation with Steve last night, but also because I really wanted to go to Divine Liturgy this morning, and I knew I couldn’t.  I didn’t want to go to our regular church, and I haven’t wanted to go there in a while now, but this morning it was especially bad.

But then, I found a website I had seen last night but not paid much attention to, and found that they broadcast the Divine Liturgy live from Florida.  So I watched about fifteen minutes of it [we had to get ready to go to church] and I had peace all of a sudden.

So I wasn’t a jerk to Steve, and we went to the late service at church and I survived it, so I guess that’s good, eh?

I’m shockingly human here, and not a good example of humility or love at all.  I don’t know what I’m thinking, going into this Faith, and yet I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame.  I guess that’s kind of what I am.  I’m going toward the light, knowing full well I’ll likely be burnt to a crisp, and all I can think is, “It’s so pretty… I don’t care if I die!”

And I don’t.  I don’t care if the Vespers and Liturgy are the driest, most boring thing in the world, I just want to be there. Every time.  Forever if He’ll let me.

About Shelbi

Work-at-home wife, mom of three kids, and caregiver for my brother, who has Cerebral Palsy. Never a dull moment, in other words. No idea how much I'll post, since I'm super busy these days, but maybe I'll get over here once in a while.

3 responses »

  1. – So anyway, Steve enjoyed the singing and the melodies of the chants, but other than that, he said he was kind of thinking, “What’s the point?”

    – The point was, originally, if you remember, for you to participate in the Sacraments of the Church, particularly Eucharist. In my humble opinion, your words “if this is how God wants me to worship Him, then I’ll do it that way until I die” might not be very successfully applied to the /way/ the service is held: for example, ‘lot of Orthodox Churches allow parishers to sit during the service or portions of it (sitting is part of the liturgical charter, anyway – monks, from whom our liturgical charter goes, did often had long services, but they weren’t stupid to try to survive them on foot, they were sitting all right), a lot of parishes have a lively service so it passes much faster and isn’t so tiresom (but that’s rare, since the priest must consciously maintain things this way or they fall back into lazy, slow and solemn way of doing). So they way the services are held is essentially different and there’s no point saying God whants it to be held one way or another. What is the point, thought, is that in the Church that /stayed together/ and thus held to the teachings of Jesus, – the Sacraments He established are still held in due regard and have the life-giving quality they are supposed to have. And I, personally, whanted for you to participate in the Orthodox services in order to be a part of that sacramental life of the Church and I hope you’ll see the difference with time as I am seeing it from my modest observations. (It is not the magic pill, but rather it is a presence of true intercourse, relations with God, which is successfully actualized there and which intercourse is an essential and missing “vitamin” for every human out there).
    For me, gradually, the Steve’s question “what’s the point” became important too, and that might be ’cause I sang in the church too, so just staying at the service no longer seems as a sufficiently active participation in it, the Orthodox services we have now are way too passive, but the point I clearly see is participating in the sacrament of the Kingdom as Schmemann called it, and interestingly, there was a custom in ancient times (i don’t remember already where I saw it, maybe in the book of rules, a canonical collection of the Orthodox Church) not to go to the service unless you are going to participate in the Eucharist, and that is exactly what I’m trying to do. But that is how I am now, being from 14 or so years in Church, – before, I was often captivated with the service and went there just because I liked it very much, but that (whether one is captivated or not), as you remember from my clumsy translation of st. Feofan the Recluse, – “Those wants, by which this happens, nobody can outline, even can’t forsee them one who hoisted them. [Those are the secrets of the living, and the participants themself in them recognize morally the fitness of them only for themself; but why and how all this arranged, can’t make out; only thank God, everything to their benefit arranging.]”

    – He’s just not convinced that that’s really how God wants to be worshiped.
    – I’m not convinced at all, too: Orthodox service can be held in such a way that it isn’t boresome in the least, but it requires quite a lot of effort.

    – So I thought I might study the Old Testament a little [or a lot] and figure out exactly how God prescribed the worship service of the Hebrews
    – Our Eucharistical and liturgical set up is largely equal to the image of heavenly worship portrayed in the Revelation, and to some of the Old Testament rules (for example, the clothes) and worship as well. I’m not sure you’ll find the necessary places and explanations on your own, though. If that is important, I can peruse my records and books when you ask (one source I still remember is the “настольная книга священнослужителя”, something like “desk[-top] book of a priest”, also I had some lectures if I didn’t lost them yet, and some “historical liturgics” books).

    – and telling me how some of the stuff they did wasn’t stuff that Jesus did, and it wasn’t in the Bible, so it has to be bad
    – could check this up.

    – I’m shockingly human here, and not a good example of humility or love at all.
    – I kindly disagree.

  2. Hey there,

    YOur sight was forwarded to me by a google alert. I’m just curious–were you attending Great Vespers at Father Elias Issa’s house in Kansas City? I’ve been there before and I know a few members of the congregation who are trying to build a new church in the KC area–St. Basil the Great?

    I can certainly understand your apprehension and even that of your husband’s towards Orthodoxy. It’s hard, it really is and it offers a radically different perspective on the Kingdom of God than what the Protestants provide.

    Keep searching and asking. no one will fault you for that.

  3. Hi, Chris,

    That’s exactly where I was!

    And I really enjoyed myself visiting with Father Elias and the others afterward. Talking to them and hearing their stories about how they came to Orthodoxy was very cathartic for me, and it felt like coming home.

    I don’t know how often I’ll be able to attend, since we live about an hour away, but I certainly plan to go back.

    Thanks for stopping by, Chris!

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