My wife and I returned last night for Detroit, Michigan, having attended and been part of a Colloquium on the Orthodox Faith, aimed primarily at Episcopalians and Anglicans. We met a wonderful group of people and were struck by the quality of the conversation that took place.
I thought I would share a thought or two of my own from the conference (in the next weeks I’ll have links set up so that you can listen to any of the presentations). Ancient Faith Radio was kind enough to record the entire event.
One of the thoughts that I shared was that “we are all ‘cradle born’ Orthodox (I’m beginning to tire of the distinction between ‘cradle born’ and ‘convert.’ Everyone in the Christian faith must be a convert – and must be a convert as often as possible.
But I commented that “I was a ‘cradle born’ Orthodox who lived in schism from myself for 44 years.” In that sense I stated that I thought everyone was a ‘cradle born’ Orthodox, if this is indeed the Truth as found in Christ. We were not created for anything less than the Truth.
But living in schism from your true self is a great sin indeed. For me, it led to much and continued confusion. I was constantly being drawn in a direction that ran counter to what I was doing and made demands on me that I wanted to avoid. In short, this is simply the problem of being a human being pursued by God. And we are all human beings pursued by God.
I noted that Bishop Kallistos Ware not only said that “God became man so that man could become God,” but also that “God became man so that man could become man.” This I believe with all my heart and think is frequently more to the point. It is our willingness to live on something less than a human level that is the hallmark of our sin.
Conversion for me, means daily saying to God, “Here am I!” (to quote Scripture). It is as Cranmer’s Anaphora says, “And here we present unto Thee our selves, our souls and bodies, a reasonable and living sacrifice” (echoing St. Paul’s admonition in Romans 12).
We are not meant to live out of union with our heart, much less out of communion with God. I recently quoted Yeat’s The Second Coming.
In his poem he said:
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Those lines echoed in my mind as I thought about the journey I have made over the years. Continuingly losing innocence as I was initiated in the world of men, where lies and half-truths reign, where decisions are made for political expediency and you simply learn how to “get on.”
I saw that the “best” did lack all conviction and were willing to let the larger part of the Christian faith disappear, so long as the institution remained healthy (i.e. solvent).
And those of us who complained were brim-full of passionate intensity, constantly angry and losing our souls in the process.
The narrow path that came to me in the Orthodox faith, was the simple path of accepting that there really is a God Who has made Himself known in Christ Jesus, and that He established a Church which has faithfully maintained that living relationship in its fullness.
My conversion was a return to the cradle for which we were all born – the cradle of humanity – where God Himself can be found – having once lain there as the first true man. United with Him. heart to heart, I now meet real human beings on a regular basis, who have also taken up the cross of Christ’s humility and found it to be the way forward to the fullness of their humanity.
My last thoughts are that none of us should think about movement from some ecclesial body to Orthodoxy as moving from one “Church” to another. That’s the Protestant model and it misses the point. If there is a coming to Orthodoxy, it can only be because we are coming to God. The Church is about God, and only about God. Coming to anything else is to not discern the Body of Christ, and to still maintain the delusion that leaves us trapped in something less than the fullness of our humanity. To embrace the Orthodox way is to embrace a journey back to God, nothing less. God help me, I don’t want to forget that. Nor let others around me fail to hear that witness.