Reflections of a Catechumen
Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ,
It has been suggested that it might be helpful to others to share a little of the experience of being a catechumen in the BOC, and in that spirit I will, if others think it appropriate, share a few preliminary thoughts; if others do find it useful then I shall endeavour to persevere.
For each of us our spiritual journey is unique, and we each of us come to the borders of Orthodoxy like a traveller, weary and stained with the dust of the journey, wondering, hoping, but fearful all the same - what lies beyond the frontier posts?
One great source of hesitation was whether I was even at the right frontier? There were not lacking those who doubted that I was; Orthodox acquaintances (mostly EP) thought that the idea of joining up with a bunch of Monophysites was, even for me, an odd thing. Well, since their exclusivity and narrowness were, to me, a little odd, that seemed fair enough. So, the first thing for me was to be sure that I was not going from one schism (Anglicanism) to another.
Here the BOC website and its publications were most useful. What I liked from the start, and this was very different from what I had encountered elsewhere, was that there was no attempt at exclusivity or 'conversion'. There was an intelligent, eirenic account of what the BOC believed and how it was Orthodox. The more investigation I did - which included questioning Eastern Orthodox about where they felt the BOC was not Orthodox, the less convincing did the monophysite insults become. Even more attractive was that the BOC did not, as it were, hit back, with allegations about the EO; its members did indeed heed the Lord's injunctions to 'love one another'.
That being so, and having attended a service and talked with members of the BOC, including Abba Seraphim, the question became one of 'what now?' Here there was a sudden illumination. What use was there havering at the frontier - surely the time had come to advance across it? So, in September 2006 I asked Abba Seraphim if he would receive me as a catechumen - and, after we talked together for some time, he agreed and so received me.
We each of us arrive at the frontier with different baggage, but once across it, I suspect the difficulties are not dissimilar. I shall finish this first instalment with one or two reflections on the first few months.
The major problem is the scattered nature of the community. It is 120 mile round trip for me to the nearest BOC Church, and my personal circumstances do not make frequent visits a possibility. But here two things have helped. The internet, including this forum, and the existence relatively near by of another member of the Fellowship who is interested in holding an Orthodox Evening Prayer service twice a month. This has been a great help. But when I have been able to get to my BOC Church. St. Felix, I have found the experience so uplifting - and I cannot thank the congregation enough, or Fr. Tony, for the way they have welcomed me - and tolerate my difficulties in getting there. I know, that as I can get there more often, things will move along.
Reading had been a great resource, and the development of the OO Library had been a boon. It seemed to me essential to grasp the Christological problems that split the Church, and my route into this has been through St. Cyril of Alexandria, through whose writings I have been led deeper into the mysteries of Orthodoxy.
The publication of Our Daily Life was also a great moment, since it gave me a structure around which to build my day. I have found it a great help - not least in learning again how to pray. I feel I make little progress here at times, and my heart is sometimes dry - but to pray the Jesus Prayer is to open a spring in it - and whenever I have a spare moment, I try to pray it.
The English Katamarous, available at <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.stmarkmi.org/">http://www.stmarkmi.org/</a><!-- m --> has also been a great help, as it enables me to do the daily readings of scripture; not a day goes by without my finding there something that I thought I knew, but somehow know differently now.
Finally, I have found the use of icons a great help in prayer.
This is long enough, and gives a notion of what one catechumen has been going through on the journey. Perhaps, God willing, there will be more in later posts.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)