Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Saturday evening before vespers, I was made a catechumen in the Orthodox Church. The service went something like this; there was renouncing of Satan, spitting and blowing, exorcising, and other things. In the Orthodox church, the catechumenate is a period in which through instruction and appropriating spiritual disciplines a Christian is made ready to be baptized and/or chrismated, and received fully into the church. The amount of time that this takes varies and is only complete when the priest and the candidate consider it the proper time, but the process generally takes six months to a year. In the early church, catechetical instruction usually took three years, so I guess this is short.

As I go through this process, I might occasionally write about Orthodoxy and why I'm doing this. There are plenty of theological and historical issues, personal preferences, happenstances and intuitions, and other things that made me want to become a catechumen. Generally speaking, I think I reached an impasse. The last time I was under any church authority was when I graduated high school and left the Southern Baptist church in which I was raised. I've spent my years in college floating around, visiting churches, reading books, having conversations - I've been trying to figure out what I'm doing. I've thought about Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Orthodoxy, all while I was more faithful to the PCA student ministry than anything (and even then I've been pretty flaky with that).

After going through this for a few years, I've come to some conclusions about things - not everything, but definitely some of the most important things. Yet, I've also realized that I could potentially stay in this position of not being attached to any particular church for a long time. I could continue to neglect fidelity to a local body of believers just because I'm trying to intellectually figure things out. More than anything else I've learned that this is an incredibly unhealthy place to be in. So, part of the reason I've decided to become a catechumen is that it's not good to be alone. I haven't fully understood everything about this decision that I'm making, but I think I can live with the decision I've made and that's good enough for me.

The catechumenate has put an end to this restlessness, and I feel a sense of relief. Then again, I realize that I've grown accustomed to being a loner and I've developed a fear of commitment. But on Saturday, I declared my submission to the ecclesiastical authorities of the Russian Orthodox Church, and I promised to confess Orthodox dogma unto death. This is not something I take lightly, and it's a little scary.

And if there is joy in joining myself to the church, there is also a sadness over separating myself from others. As they talk about at weddings, there is a leaving and a cleaving. I haven't liked the idea of separating myself from friends and family and entering into what seems like a very weird/un-American kind of Christianity. It's not just that I'm averse to having that conversation with my aunt about how I'm going to hell, I'm also sad to know that regardless of how amiable we may be, I will never have the bond that I once had with my Baptist and Reformed friends.

But perhaps there's hope that what seems like a separation is really no separation at all. When the Lutheran Richard John Neuhaus became Roman Catholic he wrote these words, the sentiment of which I'd like to express as well:

To those of you with whom I have traveled in the past, know that we travel together still. In the mystery of Christ and his Church nothing is lost, and the broken will be mended. If, as I am persuaded, my communion with Christ's Church is now the fuller, then it follows that my unity with all who are in Christ is now the stronger. We travel together still.
Pray for me, if you would, as I go through this process.


DrLeoMarvin said...

Good thoughts, man. I hope you keep sharing them. Orthodoxy!

schupack said...

Really good to read. Seems like a good step. I want to know more.

katietracy. said...

I love that Neuhaus quote, and it made me cry a bit. We love you, K, and I'm excited to hear and learn more from you as you go through this process. We travel together still.

The Idler said...

Thank you - this helped me out. I am joining the Catholic Church this month after some years of studying hard, and it's frightening for me too. God bless you on your way friend.

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