Chrismation: A Rambling Path into Orthodox Christianity

A reverent fear of God and relationship with Jesus served as the spiritual foundation in my parents’ household, and I am eternally grateful for their devotion – especially the unwavering hope of my mother. But children don’t remain in their parent’s home forever – at least that’s the usual plan – and sometimes the foundation they’d been raised on gets jack-hammered by doubts.

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Theotokos

I wasn’t raised to kiss or venerate icons.

My spiritual leaders told me it was an archaic form of idolatry.

So I sought the attributes of divinity in nature, human faces and modern melodies.

I smelled fragrance of God on all of them.

But then I sought refuge with a brotherhood of monks.

They embraced me like the prodigal.

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Inevitably, this too will change

It was sunny this morning as I walked to a coffee shop near Michigan Ave. on my way to the oldest Orthodox Cathedral in the city. I took a longer route to keep out of the shadows cast by the skyscrapers, so that I could stay in the sunlight and feel its warmth against my skin.

Last week, at this very same time, snow was beginning to fall. 

Much has changed this week; so much of it good and most of it simply different than what I knew before. I haven’t left Chicago since my last letter, but I’m writing you from a different physical and mental space. What’s that saying about change? It’s our only constant? Yeah. I suppose I’m living that definition.

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The World's Gonna Eat You Alive

Before I left the monastery, I timidly told Father Silouan that maybe God was sending me back to the world to spread the peace and love I’d encountered in their refreshing monastic refuge with the chaotic world outside. He quickly laughed at me, which activated a pride that had remained relatively dormant for the last few months, and said some words that stuck with me ever since:

“The world’s gonna eat you alive,” he said.

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I am Loved, Therefore I am

Academically speaking, I travelled to the Holy Monastery of the Archangel Michael to ask questions and conduct research for a series of essays. Existentially speaking, I was prodded by some vague longing to dive deeper into the mystical world of Orthodox Christian spirituality.  

Now, I leave with the feeling that my journey is only beginning, as my monk brothers bid farewell to a man called Porphyrios. Dane, it seems, has been swallowed up by a new mode of existence.

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I am a Beautiful Speck

There’s no permanent trail leading to the ridge overlooking “Little Cappadocia” ­– those spired and spindling rock formations behind the monastery property that sprout up like stalagmites from the desert floor. But, if you’re willing to slug through soft sand and shifting hillside, you’ll eventually arrive at a vista point that rewards you with a scene that offers no assistance in replenishing your breath.
 
From here, you can witness the wind transporting white clouds swiftly overhead and their shadows changing the color of the earth-tone canvas below to a darkened brown. Lake Abiquiu’s blue coves cut away at the red rocks and the water beams like turquoise jewelry on native skin.

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