We were first introduced to Orthodoxy in the Spring of 2008 (or so it would seem, but that is another story for another post) by a friend (Forrest) who had recently spent a year hoofing it through Mexico, and Central America, and back again. During that time he came across an Orthodox monastery and was baptized there. Laura and I were able to meet up with him in Tucson after he had returned from his amazing adventure. Forrest had attended the youth group at a church in Arizona where I helped lead for a time. He had also taken over a bible study that I led during the lunch hour at our high school. Over the years, we had had similar journeys regarding our faith, and I have always felt a kinship with him. It had been over 5 years since I had last seen him face to face, so I was naturally very excited to be able to meet up with him.
He invited us to join him for church at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, and since one of our goals was to explore different churches, we happily attended. I was immediately uncomfortable. There was so much going on. Bells were being jangled. Incense filled the room. Everything was chanted. Everyone was standing. Then everyone was bowing. Pictures of saints I didn't know where all over the walls. Priests were walking up and down the aisle carrying crosses and more pictures of saints I didn't know. Mary was mentioned a lot. Too much. And no one except us had a bible!
I hated it.
Whatever that was, I didn't want any part of it. And I told my friend the same. So putting that experience behind me, Laura and I continued on our merry way to see more of the USA. Summer 2008 brought fuel prices to an all-time high and forced us off the road for a while. We stayed in Oregon with Laura's parents, Donn and Michelle, to wait it out. During that time memories of that church kept slipping into my mind, day after day, until finally I started researching it. And to my surprise most of my concerns and objections were met with reasonable answers. Things that I thought must have been foreign to Christianity and surely added at a later date by unscrupulous leaders with a lust for power were in fact part of an authentic ancient form of Christianity that I was shamefully ignorant of.
There was one aspect that I took to immediately: Pascha, or what I would have called Easter. I came across a short video on Youtube about how Orthodox Christians celebrate Pascha that made me want to visit an Orthodox church again. I had always been annoyed that we celebrate Christmas so joyfully with vibrant colors, and plays, and music, but with Easter (Pascha), the day of the resurrection of our Lord, we just wear something nice. The video does not do justice to the splendor that is Pascha, but it gives you a taste of the symbolism and celebration that is more fitting the occasion.
We decided when we got to California that Fall, we would be looking more into this thing called Orthodoxy.