How to be a disciple: Orthodox observance for everyone
This is the first of a series of blog posts about Orthodox observance. By “Orthodox observance,” I mean the how of Orthodox discipleship: how to live an Orthodox Christian life.
When I was a catechumen back in the Dark Ages (really only in the Pleistocene of the early 1980’s) and all on fire for this new Orthodox thing I had found, I wanted to know how to do it. I saw people crossing themselves, venerating icons, greeting clergy, using prayer ropes. I wanted to do that, and do it right. I heard about icon corners and prayer rules… and even fasting, and honestly, I wanted to do all of that, too (I was really on fire), but I wasn’t sure how. (The first year I tried to keep the Great Fast I lived on salad and PB&J sandwiches; it was a long time before I could face a head of iceberg lettuce again.) Of course, the parish priest who received me into the Church taught me a lot, but I was always full of questions, and answers were not always easy to find. So I began collecting everything I could about how to live an Orthodox life from books, magazine articles, parish bulletins, anything I could get my hands on. I still have that file, and it’s still growing.
“Orthodoxy is life; one cannot talk about, one must live it!”
Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t the only one with questions. And after I was ordained a priest, I organized my file and wrote up some stuff for the benefit of catechumens, because, like me, they wanted and needed to know how to do it. They needed some exposure to the practical side of Orthodoxy as part of their formation in the Faith. And, like most people who come to the Faith, they came with questions, lots of questions, and most often they were the very same questions I had when I was a catechumen.
Later, I learned that there were many lifelong Orthodox Christians who were a little sketchy when it came to some of the particulars about living their Faith. Some had forgotten some things, others disregarded other things. Some, whose hearts caught fire for Christ wanted to know how to be disciples of the Lord and how to live out their Faith day to day. And others who were already living as disciples wanted to know how they might do it better.
If any of these descriptions fit you, then these blog posts are for you. They will try to show you how to incorporate some of the traditional practices of the Orthodox Faith into everyday life and help you to bring your life into conformity with the life of the Church.
Orthodoxy is a way of life. It has to be lived; otherwise, it’s incomplete. Elder Nektary of Optina (died 1928) said the same thing: “Orthodoxy is life; one cannot talk about, one must live it!” There are particular beliefs, observances, attitudes, and practical do’s and don’t’s that distinguish Orthodox Christians from others. To the degree that you can incorporate these practices into your life, the better off you’ll be. I’ve found this to be true in my own life, and if you’re willing to try, you’ll be able to prove the truth of it to yourself.
Since I have a lot of material and the subject is wide open, please leave me a comment, a question, or a request for discussion about a particular subject and I’ll do what I can to get a blog discussion going about it. Share with me, and with each other, what you were taught, how you do it, and the difference it’s made in your life. With your participation, we can all learn a lot. And then we can go out and do it.
So please: where shall we begin?