David Bryan, who blogs at Oh Taste and See, wrote about his road from evangelicalism to Orthodoxy. There is a lot there, some of it very similar to my path, but some very different, unsurprising since he was an evangelical and I was a Roman Catholic. Of the differences, however, the most jarring was this:
I knew almost nothing about the Orthodox Church at the time, but I looked a local parish up on the Internet and, on the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos in the Temple of 1999 (Fall of my sophomore year), I attended my first Orthodox service in Tulsa, OK at a mostly-Lebanese parish.
I absolutely couldn’t stand it.
My own first experience was strikingly different, so much so that it’s nearly impossible to describe. It wasn’t discreet, but ongoing, and it had begun before I realized it.
I’m not sure when I realized there were tears pouring down my cheeks, except that it was during Matins. I was being touched by God, and the resistance I had, that resulting from the strangeness and trying to figure out what was going on, melted. I gave myself up, and as I released myself the objective observer and became the worshipper, God reached into the deepest part of me and tightened His grasp.
And He took hold of me ever stronger. When the priest came out from behind the iconostasis, bowed, and said, “Forgive me, my brothers and sisters,” I felt a shaking from deep within, utterly unlike anything I had experienced. And God continued to shake me violently, waking me up, throughout the Divine Liturgy.
Part of that experience was intellectual: We who mystically represent the Cherubim sing the thrice holy hymn to the life giving Trinity . . .
That’s when I “got it,” when my head followed my heart, then led my heart into even deeper transformation. I knew then, why we were there, and why we were not. I understood what worship truly meant.
We who mystically represent the Cherubim sing the thrice holy hymn to the life giving Trinity . . .
I had then such a deep understanding of worship that I didn’t need to inquire or wonder. And that understanding gave birth to what I can only describe as waves of awe and wonder at the power and majesty of God. These things I had understood before, of course, but never had I felt such power, and never had I had to fight so hard not to drop to my knees and hide my face.
People speak of life-changing experiences so much that it’s a cliché. But this was a life-changing experience, and it was no cliché. It still happens, at every Matins, at every Vespers, at every Divine Liturgy, just as forcefully as the first time, and it leaves me shaken still. That’s how I know I’m where God wants me to be.