by Dwynwen East
A few days ago I knelt beside a cupboard in my home ready to tackle the boring but very necessary and long overdue task of clearing it out. I could tell a great deal about that cupboard and its contents but I haven’t the space. Come to think of it that is why I started the job in the first place because I needed the space. Suffice it to say that I found among the junk some treasures that I had forgotten about, some items that I am not yet ready to dispose of, and the rest went into the bin.
What has any of this to do with becoming Orthodox?
The analogy is plain. I was very much in need of a spiritual clear-out some years ago when I was contemplating changing my ecclesial allegiance. The need to empty myself and think again was necessary to putting some order into my spiritual life. I was rapidly becoming as confused as the archbishops and bishops in my church. Theology, social pressures, worship styles, secular demands, belief! Whatever happened to my much loved Christ-centred church and is apparently still happening to-day.
Only two weeks ago Dr. David Hope said of the Church of England:-
“It is a church committee-bound, irrelevant, dull and pedestrian.”
Pope Pius X1 once said that the devil mixes up the papers in a council; men (and women) add to the confusion; then the Holy Spirit sorts it all out. Well, I decided to put this theory to the test. At that time I was fortunate to have a spiritual director, who was also my priest, to pray the way ahead with me. The rubbish was quickly disposed of, valued items were taken on board and I set out to look for the hidden treasures.
I was surprised to find many new directions open to me as I wandered freely down all sorts of avenues. I worshipped at many different churches, read as many books as I could lay hands on, prayed constantly for patience then all at once the Lord says;
‘It is time to act’.
The action came from a sheet of paper handed to me by my priest which briefly outlined orthodox worship. I joined the catechumens at Stockport and knew that the Lord had made straight my path.
‘Someone may plan his journey but it is the Lord who guides his steps.’ Proverbs 16:9
Why did I discard the other options? Mainly because it was clear that most of them offered much of the same. The precious items were not there.
I was not at all certain that I would find what I was looking for in orthodoxy but I knew I had a lot of learning to do. When one is in the middle of the muddle it is difficult to see the way forward and this was to be a testing time in faith and trust for all of us. After all, we had no money, no church building, no priest.
All these things came later by the grace of God. We did have a loving community supporting one another through the difficulties, and a very good teacher who became our priest. We had love, peace and true Christian fellowship which gave us confidence in our future together.
A final brief word about the Orthodox church and worship therein. It is a church richly endowed with centuries of history, the first church, embracing all cultures and all times. It is an unchanging church rooted in tradition and ever faithful to the one High Priest.
A Christ-centred church, a world church and yet a church very much of to-day. The space I made for myself in discarding the rubbish will evermore be filled with the discovery of its hidden treasures. I have a renewal of spiritual growth and have rediscovered the beauty and awe of worship. A learning for life which is relevant, devotional and prayer filled.
There is no perfect church tailored to individual preference. Our pilgrimage is our own and our relationship with God unique to us. We can only be true to self and to God’s will for us. Chrismation for me at the Easter Vigil in 1995 was the culmination of much searching and I was glad that my priest, who had helped me in my journey, was there that night to witness my conversion and to pray for this poor pilgrim.
My first communion after confession on Easter Day was as the first Easter – pure joy, and is with me to stay both now and for ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.