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Archive for September, 2010

A New Man

This is going to be a relatively short post about new beginnings. For starters, this is my maiden voyage in the wonderful world of WordPress blogging, so please forgive any evidence of my lack of experience in this medium. The title of my blog has its origins in my experience of belonging to a “canonically irregular” space in the life of the Church; that is to say, more often than not, I do not feel like I really fit into the Orthodox Christian mainstream. (One of my friends quips that if I am indeed canonically irregular, the sure remedy for that is some moral fiber. *groan*)  

More significantly, after having lapsed from Orthodoxy for a number of years, I made my first confession in years to a priest of the Antiochian Archdiocese shortly before the Elevation of the Holy Cross. For the first few years after I was initially chrismated as a young adult convert from Roman Catholicism, I had the typical convert’s zeal. However, once my initial zeal faded, I began to feel isolated in a conservative, patriarchal cultural setting where I did not feel entirely welcome. In the interim, I became a spiritual seeker in the classic American mold, exploring a wide variety of theologies and spiritualities. During that time, my ecclesiastical loyalties vacillated between the Episcopal Church on the one hand and the Eastern Catholic Churches on the other. To this day, I value my spiritual journey through Episcopalianism and the Roman and Eastern variants of Catholicism.

However, this past August, during the weekend of the Transfiguration, I made a pilgrimage to the Communities of New Skete, a monastic foundation under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). At New Skete, I found the ancient faith of Orthodox Christianity put in to practice in the lives of some of the most grounded and authentically Christian people I have ever met. Keep in mind that the monks, nuns and companions of New Skete are not the most traditional of monastics. As described in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Skete): “Among Orthodox Christians, they are unique in that they have instituted wide-ranging reforms to the divine office and eucharistic liturgies of the Eastern Orthodox Church, aimed at rendering the services more comprehensible. They maintain an open stance regarding ecumenical contacts with other Christian groups; the nave of their newer temple features iconographic portraits of prominent non-Orthodox such as Pope John XXIII, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and the communities celebrate the feast of the Roman Catholic saint Francis of Assisi. This openness has brought them criticism from Orthodox conservatives and traditionalists; but the Monks and Nuns strongly defend their renewal of liturgy and monastic life as a necessity if Orthodox monasticism is to be more than ‘museum-keeping’ in the modern world.” Needless to say, they are progressive Orthodox Christians after my own heart.

During the liturgical services, I had a powerful, overwhelming mystical experience of the transfigured Christ. Previously, I had wandered far and wide in my spirtual explorations, but on the holy mountain in upstate New York, I felt a call to repentance and conversion of life. At first, I was not sure what it meant completely. I thought initially that I might have been called simply to be a more faithful Orthodox-minded Episcopalian, but more and more I became pulled in the direction of canonical Orthodoxy. In the mean time, I had the good fortune to find a multi-ethnic English-speaking parish where I was made to feel welcomed with open arms as one of the family. Ultimately, one day in early September, I was led to make an appointment with the pastor to ask him what it might take for me to be received back into full communion with canonical Orthodoxy. My way back into the Orthodox Church could not have been made easier. It was as if the Holy Spirit had rolled out the red carpet for me. A good confession prior to Vespers was all I needed in order to return to the sacraments.

Although, I am now firmly in the bosom of canonical Orthodoxy, I no doubt will continue to struggle with my faith, and in particular with how my Orthodox Christian faith is to be lived out in my life as a member of contemporary American society. I plan to continue the conversation around these and related topics in my blog, and I invite fellow travellers, believers, seekers and other interested people of good will alike, to read and comment as you feel moved. Until then, I wish you peace and all good.

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