This came to us as a comment to our article “Why I Became Orthodox: A Personal Story and Testimony” by Lance Goldsberry. It was so nice, that we asked Vasilios for permission to publish it as a separate article, and here it is.
I personally testify to the truth of the Greek orthodox faith. It would be an honour to share my experience…
I was born and baptised in a Greek orthodox church. I lived my life for the first 15 years identifying as an orthodox christian, but my thoughts and interests were almost wholly secular and I had never read my Bible. I wanted to live life to the fullest, have as much fun as possible, and retire with plenty of wealth to live out my days happily. The contradiction struck me at around the age of 16, that I called myself a Christian without knowing what the Bible actually said and what it was that I believed in. I am by nature a very rational logical person. So I figured that if I am going to profess myself to be a Christian, I should read what it is that I subscribe to and believe.
I approached the task of reading the Bible with many doubts – the whole array of rational thoughts. Why is Christianity in particular the one true religion? What if I was born into a Muslim/Jewish family, wouldn’t I believe what they believe? Every religion seems to claim that it is the one true religion, how can I be sure that Christianity is truth? Doesn’t the story of Adam and Eve seem a bit far-fetched, and isn’t there the theory of evolution? Was religion just invented by the powerful to control the masses?
In the face of these doubts, however, I held on dearly to stories told to me by my mother and my grandparents about miracles that they had witnessed themselves throughout their lives. And so, knowing that my family was testifying to these supernatural happenings first hand, I forced myself to believe, and to show some faith, that there was some power and truth to our religion after all, and to therefore shut out the doubts. After all, if Jesus Christ was indeed the true God and had suffered and died for our sins, how wrong and arrogant would it be for me to demand that the almighty God reveal himself to me, as opposed to I, as a single sinful person, approaching him.
It was the period coming up to Easter. and I started reading the bible intensely (particular Luke, Matthew and John about Jesus’ life and also the teachings of Paul in Romans/Corinthians). I was also fasting more strictly than I had ever before (not just avoiding meat, dairy, cheese, but even trying to keep from indulging in other ways in life, whether through music, TV or otherwise). The words of the bible really sunk in to me. The words Jesus spoke. The teachings. I believed them with all my heart and could see how very very far I fell short of the example and commandments that Jesus had set for us. For the first time ever felt true repentance and a desire to abandon the futile and vain pursuits of this world (money, sex, popularity and status, the luxuries of life). After all, the kingdom of God was real, and Jesus truly did suffer and die for us. He deserves our love and loyalty with all of our hearts (not just a spare 5 minutes here and there). And for the first time, I actually prayed to the Holy Trinity, with faith that my prayer was being heard, asking that they help me to the true path of life despite my impure heart and ways.
Towards the end of my fasting period, it was Holy Saturday (the morning before the night of the resurrection) I went to church and took holy communion and for the first time approached with fear and repentance, with true belief that I was receiving Jesus himself. I really was afraid, having read that communion for the unworthy is like drinking fire. The magnitude of what I was being given by the priest fully hit me, and reduced my pride and self-worth to rubble. I took it as humbly as I could, promising myself deeply to live my life fully in service of Jesus Christ, with belief that receiving Jesus would cleanse me of my evil heart and ways.
When I got home maybe 30 minutes later and was changing clothes, my brother drew my attention to something on my back. In fact, he took a photo of it. And alas what did I see (looking in the mirror and at the photo), a symbol had miraculously appeared drawn in red on my back, seemingly holy, a bit like the shape of an “M”. My parents too saw it with their own eyes. We were all in absolute awe. I keep the photo of this symbol to this day. I am blessed to have been given such a tangible sign by God, confirming to me beyond all doubts that the orthodox christian path and communion is a true path to Jesus and to salvation.
What is clear to me is that God is alive and well in today’s society. He still does miracles for those who are faithful to him. He is always here to listen and to help. But the secular world ridicules religion and have their eyes closed to him. The key for all of us is prayer. God is real, he is with us, and he wants us to talk to him. I ignored him for 15 years of my life, and yet, when I turned to him, he embraced me more mercifully than I could ever deserve. How true and powerful it is where God tells us in the Bible (Revelations 3:20)
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
And remember, Jesus said (John 20:29)
“because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.”
Approach God with love, repentance and steadfast faith, despite not having seen. Shut out the doubts. Do not give them a foothold. Our God is here, with us, always.
I wish you all the best with your search and pray that you come to Jesus through orthodoxy, which is a true path to God. The teachings of Saints such as Saints Basil, Nektarios and Paisios are readily available online and will teach you the simple truths of orthodoxy. Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages, Amen.