In my journey of being a Protestant to joining the (Eastern) Greek Orthodox faith, there has definitely been some ups and downs. The first down was in the beginning of dating my husband and discovering that we not only had many cultural differences but religious ones too. I then lacked the faith that we could find some common ground to stand on together without trying to persuade one another to the other side, God proved me wrong! At that point though, there was already an abundance of love pulling us together, so from there we began the challenging road of figuring out how we could be together and what it would look like in an everyday life setting. The first high came when I began to look into the history of Christianity and Orthodoxy. I was enthralled to discover so much about not only the roots of the Christian faith itself but also the foundations of the Orthodox faith. I became captivated about where, when, and how Christianity started and even carried on today in so many of the same ways!
I won’t recount all of the ups and downs I have faced thus far, but another one of the difficulties I had in accepting the faith was all the emphasis the Orthodox place on the Virgin Mary. Growing up Protestant, the only fuss made about Mary was around Christmas and even then it wasn’t such a big deal. Through all my reading and asking about why there is so much attention given to the mother Mary, I have learned or realized why more in depth through a few of the following reasons: …(this is not an extensive list)
1. Mary was chosen by God to bear his son; God specifically chose to not only use a human, but MARY uniquely!
2. She is seen as the bridge God used to send Christ to earth and because of this bridge, she is called “All Holy” and receives veneration.
3. She is seen as the fulfillment of the Old Testament archetype revealed in the Ark of the Covenant, because she carried the New Covenant in the person of Christ, giving her respect and reverence as a result.
4. The Orthodox make a great distinction between worship and intercessory prayer, just as we ask others to pray for us, asking the Virgin Mary or other Saints of the faith to intercede on our behalf is common practice. This though is much different than praying to them or giving them your adoration, which in the Orthodox faith is held only for Christ himself!
5. She is called the “Theotokos” as an affirmation of the divinity of Christ being both fully God and Man.
6. She is recognized as the highest saint of the faith because she accepted the will of God without hesitation, thus making her the perfect Christian model for us to eagerly follow.
Although, I honestly cannot say that I have asked Mary to intercede on my behalf, I do not see it as a division of my faith anymore. I especially like the example of heeding God’s will and creating a “saint worthy” life to be left as my mark. There is still so much I am learning about this faith, and in spite of the fact that I am living in the country that full force practices Orthodoxy, I feel lost so much of the time with the language barrier. Church itself is so very different in practice than what I am used to or how I would even prefer to grow spiritually, but I am pressing forward with determination to make the most of where God has placed us for the time being!!!
Tomorrow, August 15th, is the “Dormition of the Theotokos” (Mother Mary) celebrating the death, resurrection, and glorification of Christ’s mother. According to Orthodox tradition, Mary died like all humanity, “falling asleep” not voluntarily, like her Son, but by the necessity of her mortal human nature which is invisibly bound up with the corruption of this world and then the ascension of her body into heaven. For a greater understanding and explanation of the icon (above) for this feast, please visit the GO ARCH webpage (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America). We plan to celebrate with a huge feast for lunch, I will include a picture asap with all the wonderful delights we have/will prepare!
All of the struggles we have and will face, by the grace of God, make us not only stronger individually but together in our marriage and the unique faith we have found together! My prayer for each of you today is to not only be thankful for where God has you now (despite the ease or difficulty of season), but to whole heartedly trust – without evidence of what your eyes see, be led by your spirit instead – where He is taking you! I am in the middle of trying to do the same, so let’s journey together!
Side note: we will be in Lesvos another year after MANY ordeals and lack of communication from anyone within the department that sends teachers abroad! This is me trusting and looking by faith that God’s plan for our lives is better than our own, amen!