Welcome! If you are new to Orthodox Christianity, the best thing I can tell you is what St. Philip said, “Come and see!” (John 1:46).
Orthodox Christianity is not simply a moral system or a set of beliefs, but an encounter with the Living God in our daily struggles. It is not easy, though it has endured from the days of the Apostles until now. It requires discipline and humility, as we fall and get up again to continue our way to Jesus Christ. Yes, there are sorrows, but the joys are much greater. God's love is always triumphant over sin and death.
When you come for the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, you will be surrounded by folks just like you who are seeking God, and have converted into the Orthodox Church from many different backgrounds: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism (in many of its varieties), and Buddhism. We are an eclectic group, ranging from college faculty to engineers or farmers. We fast and we feast. We pray and we fellowship. Don't worry, you will fit right in.
Our numbers are growing steadily, and we are getting ready for many exciting changes ahead.
While I work a secular job during the week to support my family, I am available on weekends to assist you in your search. There is no arm twisting: I am here to answer questions only. You need to consult that still, small voice within your depths to tell you whether this is right for you.
May God bless you and, again, welcome!
Your First Liturgy
People who don't come from a “high church” background may ask, “What is a Liturgy?”
A Liturgy is a structured worship service FOR God. It is not for us, but for Him. It is our offering to Him. If you read the Old Testament, God told Israel how it was to worship Him, and our modern Liturgy (by modern, I mean 6th century AD, but translated into English!) is the inheritor of this ancient Tradition.
Now, even modern 'non-liturgical' churches actually have something of a 'liturgical' structure. Here's a short comedic take on what that means: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbsk9RT3hJQ
Structure is natural. It isn't bad. It helps us have good consistency in what we do.
Orthodox Liturgy is largely a recitation of the Scriptures in hymns. Before the printing press and the common ability to read, Christians learned to memorize the Gospel from the Liturgy. You'd be surprised how well this works. Our hymns are largely either direct quotations from the Scriptures or restatements of them.
Your first Liturgy may find you feeling a bit awkward. Don't worry, we all felt that way at first, but you will be surprised how quickly you will become accustomed to it.
Central to the Liturgy is the readings of the Epistle and the Gospel reading for that day, followed by the consecration of Bread and Wine.
Matthew 26 and Mark 14 make it clear that Jesus said that the bread IS His Body, and the Wine IS His Blood. He doesn't mince words. He also said,
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caper′na-um. (John 6:52-59)
We Orthodox Christians take this literally, and so we follow what we believe is Christ's commandment to us: to offer up bread and wine which He returns to us as His Body and Blood.
You may think this is impossible or improbable, but think about it: if Jesus can be raised from the dead, if we can be baptized and have our sins forgiven, if we believe in the resurrection of all mankind, the afterlife, even the existence of God... why is this somehow too much to believe in?
Christianity challenges man to believe in lots of things that are supernatural, and so we must struggle to believe things we cannot prove in a direct manner. The proof for us has been in the lives of those who have gone before us, the saints who showed the beauty of God's virtue in their lives. We pray in the same manner as they did because we saw them endure temptations and persecutions, and we see in their lives hope for our own. Stick with this long enough, and your life will change as well, if you let God change it. Willingness is the key.
So, watch some YouTube videos of Orthodox liturgies from around the world. Hear the same prayers with different music and different languages, and then come pray with us.
“Come and see!”