When my husband and I first learned about Orthodoxy we initially brushed it aside as “too Catholic.” We saw pictures of Divine Liturgy at a nearby parish and I told him in an email “Don’t think I could get into this. Maybe I could if I lived in Europe and had an old-world kind of lifestyle.” The pomp and circumstance of the Liturgy just seemed so far from what I was accustomed to in my modern suburban life. As a Protestant I couldn’t relate to a style of worship that contained anything visually ornate.

We had read a lot about Orthodoxy and I think we could have continued down the path of mere scholarship for quite a long time, but several different people gave us the advice to jump right in by attending Liturgy. Divine Liturgy is meant to be experienced, and we were going to miss the main event if we only focused on scholarly pursuits.

I became determined to visit. David also wanted to visit but he was nervous – mostly afraid of the unknown of a new situation or of making a faux pas. We decided to attend a nearby parish that a friend had visited before. As we pulled into the parking lot, we were a bit nervous. As we made the decision to get out of the car, we were still nervous. As we stood inside the building but just outside the temple, we were really nervous! We had read Frederica’s 12 Things I Wish I’d Known and it was extremely helpful but we still weren’t entirely sure what to expect. We stood in the narthex for a minute or two, undoubtedly looking completely bewildered. A nice lady saw us and before we knew it we were inside the temple and observing our first Liturgy.

The next week we decided to try a different parish (OCA). We’ve been going back ever since.

If you are looking into Orthodoxy, you really must attend Liturgy. The Orthodox Church is so amazingly rich and you are doing yourself a disservice by not attending Divine Liturgy. If you are nervous like we were – don’t be! You can duck into the back of the temple and stand to the side and be completely anonymous if you would like. Just soak it all in. The next time you visit, you might want to look around and see if there is a copy of the printed version of the Liturgy. It is immensely helpful to be able to read along – so much is happening during Liturgy, it is easy to miss some of the words.

After our first Liturgy, David commented that it was almost hard to believe that this was the same religion that we had grown up in. Divine Liturgy was so different from anything that we had experienced. As the weeks and months pass by, we continue to be drawn to Orthodoxy both in scholarship and in practice. If you have not yet attended Liturgy, please consider doing so soon!

A fellow convert recently asked us this question. It took me by surprise. No, we did not come anywhere near the consideration of Roman Catholicism. There’s a multitude of reasons why it was never even on our radar:

  • Both of us have fathers who were raised RC and subsequently left the church to become Protestant
  • My interactions with my staunchly RC grandparents were always less than stellar
  • The Papacy always seemed like a fraud (though admittedly – I grew up in a biased environment)
  • We both knew enough about the Protestant Reformation to know that there were many problems within the RC church – too many problems for us to take it too seriously
  • Personally I have never known any serious Catholics other than my grandparents – and note comment above
  • I was told that Catholics worship Mary and that always seemed strange

Looking back on what I thought about Catholicism even just six months ago, I see a major shift in my views. I can now share much more meaningful reasons for why I would not consider Roman Catholicism:

  • Again, the Papacy – but I now know more about the history of this issue. I see a grossly misplaced concentration on the Bishop of Rome.
  • The filioque.
  • The doctrine of transubstantiation, and other similar rationalistic approaches to what is mystical.
  • The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary.
  • Clergy who are not allowed to marry… and too many cases of abuse that seem somehow related to this rule.
  • Much too much change within the church
  • Too many varying interpretations within the church (on the last two points, my husband recently pointed out that you wouldn’t expect this given that the RC church is under centralized leadership. The Orthodox on the other hand have a leadership that is comparably more decentralized and do not experience this same problem within the church).

At the same time, there are some things that RC and Orthodox Christians have in common. Unfortunately this is very confusing to your average Protestant who doesn’t know much about Orthodoxy. Commonalities include:

  • Belief in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist (though Orthodox Christians don’t try to explain how this happens – it is simply accept it as mystery)
  • Crossing oneself (though in a slightly different way than RCs)
  • Venerating Saints
  • Praying to Saints (no different really than asking a fellow Christian to pray for you)
  • Asceticism, incense, monasticism, observance of the liturgical calendar

Some of these things may be of great concern to my Protestant friends. Before investigating Orthodoxy I also thought that these things were “too Catholic” so I understand any concerns. Please stick around, I will explore these in greater depth at some point.