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With New Eyes
By Else Maria Tennessen

I used to be Protestant. I am becoming Orthodox.

This is the end of a search that subconsciously began many years ago when I noticed that I was uneasy and unhappy when I attended church (first Methodist, then Presbyterian), even though I loved God deeply. My soul and heart kept asking, Is there more? More to worship, more to living the Christian life, more to God?

To me, worship felt more like a town meeting or an entertainment venue. 'Communion was served infrequently. God's holiness was less popular than socio-political agendas. There wasn't even quiet in the sanctuary-it was so loud all the time!-with folks talking and visiting instead of realizing where they were, in the Lord's house.

The spiritual and mystical aspects of God were not even mentioned-God had to be "figured out" and explained. Rational thought was more a god than God Himself. The Trinity was not mentioned too often-resulting in an uneven balance between God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It seemed to me like folks were picking and choosing what they wanted to believe and how they wanted to practice the faith.

More questions bubbled to the surface. Was this how it was in the ancient church, in the beginning? Is this what the Lord intended? For it certainly didn't square with Scripture in many ways.

The Apostles didn't have entertainments, giant TV screens, megachurches, numerous creeds and variety in practice. How did the church get from the church of Acts to where it was today? I still didn't know anything about Orthodoxy. I didn't even know I was asking about Orthodoxy. I didn't know where to turn for the answers, but God made a way. The Lord left a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow, some Orthodox, and some not.

For example, during my search, I read a book about the mystical life of C. S. Lewis. So much of what he wrote about the "mysterious" resonated with me. But did anyone in church talk about God's mystery and the "numinous"? Of course not-it was "not rational" and couldn't be explained. Yet I felt the reality of it; that feeling that there is more than what we see; that there is something 'round the bend besides our present reality and what I was being told about God.

I discovered Rublev's ikon of the Trinity. I started asking, Why did the artist create this ikon? What was the story behind it? The explanation, the mystery of it, was mind-boggling. I read an article where a woman (not even an Orthodox) derived comfort from contemplating an ikon. There was something ancient and meaningful here.

When I began reading church history, investigating the early church and going back to the beginning of things, I found out that much had been left out of what I was taught. In Protestant churches, history before the Reformation wasn't even talked about, so I knew nothing about it. Reading history, I discovered what the early church was about, its practices, its beliefs and the Apostolic succession. It seemed to me that God had clearly communicated what was required of us through His Son and the Apostles and church fathers.

Next, I saw an online article about a "call" back to the ancient Christian church, ironically authored by-Protestants! It briefly mentioned Eastern Orthodoxy as a place one could find some aspects of ancient Christianity. So I began reading about the Orthodox church.

And the light went on. I saw with new eyes.

Indeed, this was the ancient church, the first Church, the true Church. What had come through the Apostles was still alive. And one could still be a part of it. Orthodoxy believed what was handed down from the Lord: that communion is actually His Body and Blood, that there was ONE creed that everyone agreed on, that the church was Apostolic. That the Apostles didn't start out with the Bible; there was traditional teaching before the Scripture. I saw that Protestant reliance on sola scriptura led to an incomplete understanding of the faith, too prone to individual interpretation. That there was a real, liturgical way to worship God and that I could still do it. That "being saved" meant actually doing something and living a certain way. That the Church is us, not an institution. Most of all, I didn't have to figure out everything about God. He was Mystery and that was okay. I read some books by Orthodox writers: Peter Gilquist, Frederica Mathewes-Green and Timothy Ware. I knew in my heart that it was Orthodoxy was completely true.

In January of this year, I attended my first Divine Liturgy here at St. Luke the Evangelist. And I felt God's Holiness and His Majesty. I felt in the midst of the Sacred. It was a relief to let God be God. The rest, as they say, will be history. I'm sure God smiled at all my realizations. Praise Him for His endless patience and mercy in bringing me-HOME.

(Author's note: I will be chrismated October 28, 2007. Praise Him! If you are interested in learning more about Protestantism so you can be a witness to your friends, neighbors and coworkers, I would be delighted to talk to you.)