Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Hardest Things

Someone on asked what the hardest part about Orthodoxy was for converts. I responded with the following:

The hardest part...hmm...

...two things, I guess.

I guess the first'd have to be dealing with the (natural?) tendency of people to see the chant, the icons, the incense, the vestments, the protocol, the rubrics, and all the other "trappings" of organized religion as ends in themselves. There was a phrase I used all the time as an Evangelical Protestant: "It's just all about Jesus." Meaning, of course, that anything that got in the way of an encounter with God was to be pushed aside so that we could focus on meeting Christ. It's easy to slip into "going through the motions" (another fav saying of mine when I was Protestant) and forget that all these things are passageways to that higher reality in which my Savior waits for me.

This, of course, was a Christ who is very different from--and much less demanding than--the Christ I see now in the Orthodox Church. The Christ from my Protestant days, yes, demanded that we change, but was still going to "get us off the hook" if we weren't totally sanctified at the end, 'cause after all, nobody's perfect. This, to me, is much more attractive than the God who is a consuming fire and will save some "only as through fire"--hardly a pleasant experience to think about, and not really something that goes over well in drive-thru America. So, this is the second thing: Christ the healer, made present through the holy icons, is focused intently on our sin and won't let stuff slide; He desires our full healing now, so that we can pass through the fire purified and clean. Gone is the benign Jesus who blesses us with His "warm fuzzies" and guaranteed heavenly bliss; now we are faced with our Brother and our Judge, and it is easy to become discouraged or even resentful against this much more businesslike, sometimes colder-seeming Christ of the Orthodox. The fact that I need to see amazing love in that face is one of the hardest things for me as an Orthodox Christian, but I do know it's absolutely there...more than that, it's there more than it is in the smiling Jesus of Evangelicalism.

This, I know, is my problem; still that old dichotomy I had drilled into me for twenty years. But it's a cross I'm learning, more and more, to carry, as it's only through the cross that we'll see the resurrection...

1 comment:

Ian said...

Yes, the more being demanded is a hard thing for me at times. Orthodoxy is so demanding, yet it provides so much in the way of help in making us "true humans".