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January 16, 2013


Entering the Church and House Blessings

Last Sunday during the celebration of Theophany, we were accepted as catechumens into the Orthodox church, going from Catholic to Orthodox has been a long and complicated process. It’s been a year since we started talking to Fr Mark about converting. Digging into Theology, Doctrine, and the Orthopraxy of the church. There have numerous conversations about converting, and even going back to our local Parish. I have been ready for some time to convert, but Michelle had reservations she had to work through. But I was not going to go through the process without her, she needed my support, and so I waited patiently (sometimes!).

During the year, circumstances beyond our control forced us to re-evaluate our lives. I think what finally pushed us to make the decision was the grace and love we felt from Fr. Fenn and his wife Michelle (or “Matushka” meaning teacher, as she is known). Not once did we feel rushed or pressured, they offered nothing but support, and more importantly, room for us to work through conversion.

One thing that we began to notice was how supportive the whole Church has been, it’s hard to see when your being overwhelmed by the “Easterness” of everything. When it all finally started to become familiar, we noticed that indeed we were being welcomed.

On a very cold Sunday morning, we stood in the narthex while Father Fenn, and the whole congregation prayed us into the Orthodox church. It was a moving experience, and each Sunday now the whole Church prays for us as we move onto final confirmation.

As new catechumens we got to experience our first house blessings this weekend. I have to say right up front that this is what we have been longing for. It was a time of fellowship, warmth and a deep sense of family. Each home offered a light meal, and invited the church family to come and be part of the tradition.

There where candles, blessed water (getting tossed everywhere), and lots of singing.

We had some good discussions about history, theology, we made some great friends, drank wine, and something I’m still not sure was legal in some states. It was everything that I missed from the Protestant Churches, with Alcohol!!!

We walked away blessed, it removed any hesitation at being outsiders coming into a new world. Outside the structure of the Liturgy the parish family exudes incredible warmth and vitality.

I’ve been trying hard to not compare it to our experience in our local Catholic Parish, partly because I know there is in fact just as much warmth there. We just never got to experience it, we had fellowship to be sure, but it was always in the confines of the Parish. There is nothing wrong with that, however not since being part of a small SBC church, have we felt so much part of something more intimate.

We have also noticed some Catholic family’s starting to show up, we can spot them a mile away now, just like I could spot a first time protestant at Mass while Catholic. There is a glazed look that comes over their face, with a dawning realization of being overwhelmed by the smells and bells.I’m not sure why we are suddenly seeing more new Catholics showing up, maybe it’s that time of year. I have my own suspicions that I will write about later, I think it’s part of a movement towards the ancient, a hunt for authenticity and stability. And there are only so many choices when you head that direction…

More on that shortly…




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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tim Cooper
    Jan 18 2013

    I enjoy your blogs. I converted to Catholicism 9 yrs ago. I have also attended various EO liturgies and monesteries. You are correct about the sense of community at EO churches being generally better than Catholic. If there were an Eastern rite church in my town I would join
    My problem is the undeniable history related to the keys given to Peter and successors. Only Peter is given the charge to tend the flock.

    My other problems relate to marriage and contraception in EO. Finally I see a serious problem lack of unity in EO.

    Church needs both lungs as JP2 said. How are my perspective it’s only Catholics that seek this unity.

  2. Jan 19 2013

    Thanks Tim..

    There is some lack of unity in the EO, but I don’t think it’s as bad as some have made it out to be. In our district there are three EO churches representing Russian, Antiochian, and Greek. And all three celebrate with each other, support each other and there is no real division that I can see. The Greek and Russian do their liturgy in their native tongue, but that’s a cultural thing.

    In regards to Peter and the keys, I agree with Meyendorf that the Bishop of Rome is the primate amongst the bishops, but that does not mean that Peter and his direct successors held the keys, it was given to each Bishop. Early church history, and the writings of the church fathers makes that clear.

    Glad you enjoy the posts, It’s hard to find time to post anything right now, but I do what I can.



  3. Tim Cooper
    Jan 19 2013

    >>There is some lack of unity in the EO, but I don’t think it’s as bad as some have made it out to be.

    In our city we have 3 EO churches the largest being an OCA church along with Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox. I have close friends including the priest at the Greek Orthodox. One problem right off is the OCA is recognized by the Russian church but not the Greek church. I think the problems are deeper than just a “cultural” thing. I attended one OCA liturgy were a women religious were giving the homily and they also practiced open communion. The EO’s relationship with Anglicans is also problematic IMO.

    There is no agreement on many moral issues including the permanence of marriage and contraception. The EO churches lack any living authoritative teaching office. They have no authority to call an ecumenical council. When I read Humanae Vitae and Theology of the Body by JP2 I knew the Holy Spirit is protecting the seat of Peter from error on issues relating to faith and morals.

    >>>In regards to Peter and the keys, I agree with Meyendorf that the Bishop of Rome is the primate amongst the bishops, but that does not mean that Peter and his direct successors held the keys, it was given to each Bishop.

    Read Matthew 16 in original greek. The keys are given to Peter alone. Read Is. 22. The key of authority in the Old Testament is given to only one royal steward.

    >>Early church history, and the writings of the church fathers makes that clear.

    Not clear at all. Read Upon This Rock by Steve Ray. I think many of the early eastern fathers did understand the unique nature of Peter’s office.

    I will keep reading your blog. You are a smart person and you are a good writer.

    I think Peter’s successor is the only hope for the unity Jesus prayed for and Paul demanded. I don’t think there is any hope for unity by working from the EO perspective. Just my opinion.

    I will keep seeking the truth and I know you are doing the same. I affirm your sincerity and I view all my EO brothers as true Christians with valid sacraments.

  4. Jan 19 2013

    Thank you for the kind words Tim…

    I’m not saying now, nor would I ever say that there are not problems in the EO, history and the way the church grown generationally has left some cultural divides that the church has to deal with. It’s getting better, but there is a long way to go.

    However, I found that the Catholic Church internally was still divided over a number of issues that outsiders don’t care about, look at all the cater walling over the type of liturgy, Vatican II, the way the sanctuary is laid out. While still being united by Rome, I would love to see that for both sides.

    I read Stephen Ray, I read Akin, Madrid and a host of others, and I believed as you do. Then I wondered why the Orthodox, who received the same deposit of faith from the same Apostles believed differently? I stopped reading apologist, and instead read the church fathers for myself. It changed everything, including how I viewed Matthew 16.

    Make no mistake though, my greatest wish is to be both Catholic and Orthodox and celebrate the Eucharist with each without being condemned by either side. Each side can benefit from the other in many ways…




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