From the beginning, I must perform a bit of self-disclosure. I have struggled with identifying a specific aha or eureka moment during my journey through Orthodoxy. This is not because I view such events with skepticism or deny that I have experienced them. My true difficulty lies in assigning one realization with one moment.
Before I came to Orthodoxy, I was a member of a Protestant church with Anglo-Catholic tendencies. Things were much simpler in that world and so were the questions: “Do you believe you have been saved?” “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” “Do you worship Mary?” The answers were as direct and as clear as the questions. Indeed, American Christians have been molded by secular society to such an extent that our theological debates have become hyphenated by a soundbite culture. Therefore, deeply complex beliefs have been edited to the length of a bumper sticker.
But Orthodoxy can never be like that.
Due to a theological meltdown, I felt compelled to leave my former delusion. But, before the delusion became too bizarre, I was quite satisfied with where I sat. It was a new and cold place I now found myself.
Orthodoxy seemed my best, and last refuge, but the questions and answers were not so simple anymore. Due to the inconsistent vagaries of my mind, I could readily accept tenets like the reality of Christ being truly present in Communion, but had difficulty with saints and especially the veneration of the Theotokos.
I must admit to a degree of frustration in this new situation. I wanted swift and precise answers. But in Orthodoxy, the answers take time to unfold and understanding can come even slower, if at all. Indeed some answers come only in silence. Glory to God that He has more patience than we do when we desire knowledge of Him!
So, when did I accept the veneration of the Theotokos as the glorious and meet occupation that it is? I don’t know. At some point, fuzzy to my thoughts, I believed before I understood. It was a silent breeze in my ear rather than a flash of light.
Several years ago, I was blessed to travel to India in order to teach catechism with a mission group. On this trip, we worshipped and interacted with the local church. We celebrated the same Liturgy, read the same appointed Gospel and shared the same Sacrament. Indeed, we were the Body of Christ. Though we were from different sides of the planet and spoke different languages, these details seemed to be minor and without the power to divide us. We were and are One Body.
This precept of One Body in Christ had been taught to me in the Orthodox Church. At some point, I accepted that truth intellectually, but that is not the same thing as experiencing such a truth manifesting itself. Perhaps I did, but I cannot rightly recollect thinking of this while abroad in India.
In this way, I went from mental assent, to actual experience and finally to a later recognition that such a progression had even occurred. Slowly, I had been catechized. Could it be that in a decade from now I would explain this differently? Maybe. Would that hint at growth? I hope so.
Considering these things, I like to view my Orthodox journey as one ever-deepening moment of realization and acceptance.