Bittersweet Feast

Today is the prelude of joy for the universe!
Let us anticipate the feast and celebrate with 
Gabriel is on his way to announce the glad 
to the Virgin;
He is ready to cry out in fear and wonder:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with You!

I have to say that The Feast of the Annunciation is a little bittersweet for me. I love the miracle of human reproduction. It is fascinating and awe-inspiring. What makes it even more so is this very feast. God The Word chose this process to redeem his race of Image Bearers. Whenever a woman has a child she is taking part in that same process. So I find myself so excited to celebrate this feast for the very first time tonight. There is the sweet.
As I meditate on The Theotokos carrying not only Life but the Light of Light, True God of True God, the One who was in the beginning, I can't help but wonder what it was like. Women who have carried children past the first few days or weeks must have a taste of her wonder. And a very literal  bitterness enters here. I am jealous. I want to understand the Incarnation and the Theotokos in the way that any woman who has given birth can. What makes it all the more painful is that many women, especially my Protestant dear ones, don't care. Today is just Friday. They have the opportunity to stand in front of Christ and His Mother and have just a glimpse of one of the most important moments in human history, and it is just Friday.
It is a similar feeling to when I read Facebook statuses about how exhausting children are and how parents wish that kids would just nap, or that they could go out on a date without having to find a babysitter. Now I don't think these aren't real frustrations and legitimate emotions. I don't think that these friends don't love their children with all their hearts. I don't even think they should keep their frustrations to themselves. But, it stings a little. I want to respond "I would give my life and everything I have for a sleepless night with a colicky infant rather than with my own depression."
So as people's Facebook statuses start to pop up with everyones Friday night plans, and laments of lost pre-baby weekends I'm going to be a little bitter. Because not only don't I have the baby, but tonight I will go to church for the feast and not have the experience of knowing that feeling of life inside of me to deepen my worship.
I think as long as I suffer from infertility this will be the hardest day of the Church Year for me.


Smoke Filled Rooms

You will have to forgive me as my blog becomes "Diary of a Catechumen" for awhile. It is hard to talk about anything else right now. I have not felt this way about anything since I first met Brian. I am falling in love. I am falling in love with Liturgy, Scripture, God, and smoke-filled rooms. All things I thought I loved before, and yet have discovered in such a new and wonderful way.
I spent a lot of time in smoked filled rooms, back when you could smoke inside. Nothing was easy to see when the smoke got really thick. Faces were distorted and it changes the qualities of light. I can't explain it but it even seemed to make bass seem heavier.
I couldn't help but think of Nocturne, a goth club I use to go to, at Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday night. Not that there is all that much in common between the two, except the smoke. I was watching The Royal Doors and the icons began to be less and less clear and the embroidery of the veil less sharp. I don't want to claim that I had any deep revelations about God or the nature of prayer. I did have a revelation about myself. It was like I looked back and saw how far I have come in the last 7 years.
I think I prefer my life now, as dull as it can seem when I am working yet another Friday night. If my world is going to seem hazy and far away I would rather it be because I am lost in a haze of prayer instead of cigarette smoke. And if my hair is going to smell I'd rather it be incense than tobacco.


Another Step On Our Road

About 6 weeks ago Brian and I were talking about our life. He had been filling out the paperwork to begin his postulancy in the Reformed Episcopal Church. We had a plan for our life and everything was working out. Then, after the Christmas break, Brian was getting so exhausted that he was falling asleep everywhere. It became very clear that he could not continue working and going to school full time. There was something that just was not right with the whole process.

At the same time we were deciding what to do about Brian’s school I started preparing a Bible Study on Esther for my Ladies’ Bible Study. I don’t know how well you know Esther, but there are 2 versions of the book. The Eastern & Oriental Orthodox Churches along with the Roman Catholic Church have a longer and more fleshed out version of the book. The Protestant church uses a version of the Old Testament based on a different text, which excludes some various sections. I decided to get my hands on an Orthodox Bible so that I could read the “extra” text. Abuna Raphael, a Coptic Orthodox priest we know, was generous enough to give us a copy of “The Orthodox Study Bible”.

As we looked at the Bible and discussed our lives and our future I was pressed with the thought that we needed to look at Orthodoxy again. We had been dissuaded easily just before our
wedding by Abuna Raphael. Our only real exposure had been in the Coptic Orthodox Church. We have had wonderful experiences with St. George’s in Norristown, but it was clearly not the place for us. First, the Oriental Orthodox Church, of which the Coptic Church is a part, is non-chalcedonian, and Brian and I do hold to the Council of Chalcedon. Second, the Coptic Church, like many branches of Orthodoxy, is primarily ethnic, meaning it is for Egyptians, in Arabic and/or Coptic.

So we turned to the one of the most useful gifts God has given modern man, Google. We did our research and discovered that there are branches of Orthodoxy that are less ethnically oriented. First there are the Antiochians, as in the Church at Antioch in the New Testament. While they are, or at least were until relatively recently, primarily Middle-Eastern Christians, they are more evangelical than most branches and have in the last 30 years been populated by more and more Protestant converts. Second, there is the Orthodox Church of America (OCA) which is the child, as it were, of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russians brought Christianity to America via Alaska and the church they planted there spread throughout the continent and became the OCA. The Divine Liturgy is in English and the population of these churches is a melting pot of Protestant and other converts, people who were raised in ethnic Orthodox churches by immigrant parents and grandparents but who are thoroughly American themselves, and beautiful old ladies from “The Old Country” whichever country that might be.

We decided to take a week and talk with an Orthodox priest and see an Orthodox service in English. We went down to St Michael the Archangel Church in Wilmington, which is OCA. One week turned into two and three and four. I was in love with the Liturgy, and more in love with Christ than I think I have ever been. We began to read everything we could get our hands on.

We learned how the New Testament Church grew into the Eastern Orthodox Church and how those first century churches maintained the teaching of Christ and the Apostles for 2000 years.
We realized how much of our personal theology, the beliefs and impressions that we had gleaned from out own learning and study, were in line with the teachings of the Orthodox Church. We were in awe of how much of a shift we DIDN’T have to make.

Everyone warned us that we would need to learn to understand and speak in different language about God and theology. This was definitely true, the language is different, words don’t always mean the same thing in the East as they do in the West. But the things we thought were points of divergence were actually points of semantics. We had inadvertently, and we’ve come to believe by the leading of The Holy Spirit, become Orthodox without the Orthodox Church. There is no other way to say it, as cliche as it has become among Protestant converts to Orthodoxy, we had come home.

So that is where we are. We are leaving Anglicanism for Orthodoxy. I won’t say it wasn’t an easy decision to make, because praise the Lord, the actual decision seemed to make itself. But it hasn’t been an easy decision to carry out. We love our family in the Reformed Episcopal Church, and our actual families have been Protestant for generations. We learned last year that Brian’s great-great-etc-grandfather planted the first Anglican churches in this area. This is a departure from many things that we love and hold very dear.

We are sad to leave people who we love, and who love us, behind. But we are filled with so much joy to be joining ourselves to the church of the Apostles and Church Fathers. We hope and pray that no one is hurt by the path we are taking, but if we turned away from the path laid before us by The Holy Spirit then we would be putting those potential hurt feelings ahead of Christ, and we can’t do that.

Some people may have a lot of questions, and we would welcome any and all of them. Some people may have concerns, and we will do our best to answer them. Some people may have criticisms, and those we would ask you keep to yourself. If you are just curious about our journey and the answers we have found there is a book we can recommend. It is called “Becoming Orthodox” by Fr. Peter Gilquist and it answers Protestant questions about why one might choose to journey into Eastern Orthodoxy better than I ever could.