Skip to content

March 17, 2013


Sometimes the hardest part is simply believing…

It’s been an interesting year, we have finally moved and are settling into a new place. Our old house is getting foreclosed on, and there is simply nothing we can do about it, despite that we never missed a payment and held up our end of the bargain, we are now stuck with a foreclosure.

After a long year of questioning we decided to journey into the Orthodox Church, that decision has brought both pain and joy.

I had an accident on January 28th, and it took me out for three weeks, and I’m still not fully recovered. I’m not sure if I ever will be the same again.

My oldest son moved out on his own, and immediately lost his job, so he is constantly on our minds.

My Daughter made some bad decisions and did a good deal of damage to my car, it was in the repair shop for two full weeks while they fixed it.

We have been struggling to just keep up with life, so much is happening that most days we collapse from exhaustion.

Then today I walked out of a Vespers service because I finally hit a portion of Orthodox Asceticism that I could not reconcile. I’m sure I’ll go back, but I had to stop and take a deep breath so I can think, everything has begun to squeeze the air out of my life.

You see in the Orthodox faith they use a different calendar, and they take lent VERY seriously. Catholics give up something for lent, but the Orthodox turn that up to 11, first you give up meat, then you give up anything dairy, meaning you go vegan. It’s not a requirement, you can do less and be fine. But the bar is set. Then today they celebrated a forgiveness service, it’s a vespers service where you prostrate on your knees (think muslim prayers), and ask for forgiveness from EVERYONE in attendance. Not as a group but person by person, the idea is to be humble, and in turn each person does the same for you.

But the whole thing seemed to me to be overly pious, how can I ask forgiveness if I don’t even know everyone very well. I’m not a monastic, I’m a man with faults and failures, and there are SOME people who I need to ask forgiveness of, but I’m not about to do it in a public service. There was a push to ask forgiveness of EVERYONE I know, that sounds like a good sentiment, but in reality it would cause more issue than it would help with some people I know.

So it’s not enough to have a late Lent, to use almost a whole Sunday for church every week, long services where you stand (you can sit, but standing is more Ascetic), to go far beyond anything the Catholic faith required (and many times I think they didn’t require enough). But then I’m supposed to humiliate myself, prostate before strangers and ask for forgiveness when I’m not even sure of the persons name.

Called to the priesthood I am not…

So today after the Agape meal, I began to feel confined and trapped, getting up and down on my knees 50 to 60 times seems pointless. It’s a show that I’m pious enough to be Orthodox, it has nothing to do with my heart, how I feel, or how I see things.

So instead of prostrating 60 times, throwing my back out, and tearing up what little is left of my knees. I walked out…

I left..

I need time to think things over, I need some air.

I don’t want to be Orthodox and go through the motions, just because that’s what we do. If I’m going to do anything it’s because not only do I understand what we are doing, but because I believe in my heart it’s the right thing to do. I cannot believe in something I don’t understand, so right now I need time to think, to breathe a little and come to terms with what it means to be Orthodox.

Which is strange because right now I’m stuck between two worlds, I can’t go to reconciliation because I’m not Orthodox yet. I would go back to being Catholic, but I don’t believe in Papal Infallibility, Universal Jurisdiction of the Papacy, the Marian Dogmas, or Indulgences.

So I’m a man without a home, back into the wilderness once more for a time…

What I need more than anything right now is prayer, and time to reflect…


Read more from Faith
6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 17 2013


    Peace be with you. Have no fears, God loves you. What you describe is more like what is (or was) done in monasteries and in the early Church for a time. But it strikes me as extreme given our current society and way relationships exist (or don’t exist).

    The fasting is in line with how it was done all over the Church during the medieval era (and beyond). These are disciplinary rules and not dogmas, as you know. If the Orthodox people at your church think less of you, then that is their problem.

    In any case, hold firm to Christ. Find good friends, who can walk with you during this time.

    God bless,

  2. Mar 17 2013

    Thanks Devin,

    I’m certain no one will think less of me, except me.

    That’s an issue that I need to deal with, I’ve asked my sponsor for some time this week to sit and discuss. The one thing about Orthodoxy is that you only do what your capable of doing. Michelle and I are only doing vegetarian this lent, but you know there is always the social aspect, and no one is fully immune :)

    There is a definite push to be more in line with Monasticism, but that comes from both the history and viewpoint of Orthodoxy. I’ve been warned that beginners sometimes burn out for the very reasons I’ve listed here. I do find some of it extreme, but in moderation it can be a fabulous tool in helping us grow to be more like Christ.

    Thank You again, you have always been a grace filled voice of compassion, even when we disagree :)

    I hope that someday we can sit and have a cup of coffee, and talk theology, and maybe, just maybe someday we can commune together.



    • Mar 18 2013

      Paul, sounds good to me. You know, we all have to make decisions as best we can, do our best, and be understanding with each other. It would definitely be great to get to hang out!

  3. Ephraim
    Mar 18 2013

    I happened upon your blog and have looked at it from time to time. I am Orthodox, but I have only a couple of brief comments.

    1) While there is a communal aspect of asceticism, piety is personal and everyone is at different levels. If you think that everyone in Orthodoxy is fully completing the “bar” of the Fast, you would be in error. As Orthodox, my family and I have had years where we did nothing more than a vegetarian diet during Lent and I know of many who have eaten meat during Lent. Since this sounds like your first Lent within Orthodoxy, now would be a good time to hasten to Pascha and note the homily that is read every year at Pascha:

    So, it is not anyone’s business but your spiritual father’s what level, if any, of the fast you are keeping (these decisions should be made, though, with your spiritual father). As for what others may think, Orthodox are taught not to worry about what is on their brothers’ plate, we each have enough of our own sins to worry about and Lent is about our own repentance, not the concerning of ourselves with others’ fasting habits. More, if we are looking at what is on our brother’s plate and judging, it is a *sin* and we take that to confession with our priest.

    2) You mentioned “reconciliation.” Especially if you are a catechumen, but even if you are not, an Orthodox priest should hear your confession (though he cannot give absolution until after you are received into the Church through baptism/chrismation). In fact, I think it is considered good practice to confess even as a catechumen. Ask your spiritual father.

    3) As to Forgiveness Vespers, here I will only note that this illustrates the profound differences in thought between East and West. While Orthodoxy may look on the outside similar to Catholicism, and there are certainly points of contact and similarity, there are also very different views on the way Orthodox and the West approach certain subjects. In Orthodoxy, there is no such thing as a private sin – a sin that effects no one but me. Sin contributes and adds to the muck of the world, it ripples out from the privacy of our life or a relationship and effects everyone – the whole of the kosmos (St. Paul says even Creation itself was thrown into corruption by the sins of man). In other words, my sins effect everyone, even you – they effect the birds I hear chirping out my window (the Brothers Karamazov, while fictional, provide a wonderful illustration of this concept). In the context of the Orthodox understanding of sin, Forgiveness Vespers is not only helpful and beneficial to the soul (this is forgiveness, a fundamental Christian act), but it is even necessary, regardless of whether or not one knows the person. More, and I am sorry this was not explained to you, if you are physically unable, you certainly should *not* make prostrations – just make a metania – no one will think less of you and you will find it is quite common for those unable to make prostrations.

    With all of that in mind, Forgive me, a sinner.

  4. Mar 18 2013


    Thank you so much for that, I’m not afraid to dump my feelings here, right or wrong, good or indifferent, at least I try to be honest.

    Your explanation about forgiveness makes sense, in fact it makes me wish I had known that before, it would have changed the way I viewed it.

    We are doing Vegetarian this lent, nothing more. But I have been a little concerned at the emphasis put on a monastic lifestyle, or the reverence that it is held in. I should have been more clear because no one has pushed us any further than what we discussed with the good Fr.

    But the mens group wants to do the ladder, and then a retreat to a monastery, nothing wrong with either mind you. But I am not ready to start adopting a life of aesthetics into my family, that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to change. Heck I already grew the beard :)

    So now that you have explained so graciously…

    Please forgive, not a sinner, but *the* sinner.


    • Ephraim
      Mar 18 2013


      God forgives and I forgive! Have a blessed Lent!

      One of the things that drew me into Orthodoxy was that it is okay to “dump” one’s feelings – something I did not feel in my previous experiences. We express doubt, confusion, and even frustration from time to time – that is just being part of the family. 😀

      The ascetic labors are difficult, but should be approached slowly. One does not run a marathon when only beginning to run, nor try to bench 300 pounds on their first try. In my experience, one of the benefits of doing things with a spiritual father is that he is there to slow me down, when my zeal would push me to do more than I am able. One should take things slow and steadily make some progress. My first Lent, my spiritual father said to do “X+1,” so whatever I was doing before Lent, to just try to add a little more. In my case, I was only fasting on Wednesday during the regular week, so my X+1 was to add Friday to my fasting regimen – so all of my first Lent, I only fasted Wednesday and Friday (what most everyone else was doing during the regular weeks of the rest of the year!) – and it was likely just vegetarian to boot! As for trips to the monastery or reading from the Ladder (a book that I think is beyond me, and I have been struggling to live the Orthodox life for a while now), do what you are able and what your spiritual father recommends, and don’t feel bad for things you cannot do. Everyone who is Orthodox now, who have been walking this path longer than you, were once where you are now, trying to make it through the struggle and challenges of their first Orthodox Lent – and wait, often it only becomes more of a struggle and harder to do. At Pascha, you will look back on the Lents in which you struggle most, doubt the most, even fight the most (crisis often strikes in Lent), yet endured to the end, as far more fruitful and beneficial to your soul than the ones that went by easy.

      Asceticism is meant to help us deny ourselves and to carry our cross so that we break down our own self will and passions that damage and hinder our relationship with God. Just as in marriage, the sacrifices we make and the denial of self that we do is meant solely to help us grow and expand our relationship with the one we love. My relationship with my wife has grown over the last sixteen years when I deny my own self, and it has been hindered in the many times I have tried to push my own will. So is the purpose of asceticism – to help us get rid of the muck and self will that hinders our relationship with God and His will. You are right, there is less distinction in Orthodoxy between monasticism and laity (and, I think, between laity and clerics) – in a sense, we are all called to be somewhat monastic in our life, from an Orthodox point of view. Monks do it full time, and often in retreat from the world, laity do it to the best of their ability, fully engaged in the world. I am not sure which is harder, lol.

      All the best to you in your Lenten struggle,


Leave a Reply to Devin Rose


Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments