In my never-ending search for a spiritual home…I have found myself once again wandering away from what I hoped would be the last stop on the line.  I know, I know it appears that I am fickle…but really, it is all the same journey, the same path.  I am looking for Messiah, in Truth and in Depth of Spirit.

Maybe it is my impatience.  Or, that I keep bringing the “Same Old Me” to whatever it is that I do, therefore sullying it beyond redemption.  Maybe it is my deep awareness that I am insufficient in myself to pass on a legacy of purity, faith and love of G-d to my children.  Whatever it is, it has caused my restlessness once again to grow; the old familiar feeling of needing to go deeper, to change direction in a radical way.

In trying to find community and spiritual camaraderie, I have been left feeling quite isolated in the Quaker world….over an hour away from the closest meeting with even a few conservative Friends, knowing no other families with children living in a Christian expression of Quakerism, having no “spiritual formation” for my children.  They have no place to go and be with other families and children, seeing their soul-lives reflected back to them in community and common religious expression.

So…as a family, we have been attending a Russian Orthodox Church.  We have flirted with Orthodoxy over the past several years, but as of late, have made it our family home.  It may seem so antithetical to the Religious Society of Friends, but I have found that there are quite a few similarities (in Spirit, not in form).

Theologically, the Russian Orthodox Church is much closer to the theology and particular emphases of Georg Fox and the early Friends, most notably:

-The belief that the Spirit of Christ dwells in every single person, and that everyone has their own path to G-d.

-A mystical approach to scriptures, tradition, practice and belief.

-Hell is not a physical place of torment, but an inward turning away from Christ.

-Similar views of “Original Sin”, and that a life in Christ can actually free us from sin (in Orthodoxy this is called “theosis”), as opposed to eternally bearing the sin of Adam.

-The main act of worship is a mystical experience and connection with G-d, not an intellectual exercise (ie, a Sermon like in Evangelical Churches).  Both Quakers and Orthodox believe in the literal presence of Christ in worship.

-Scripture is not the ultimate authority…but Christ H-mself.

Also, there is a beautiful visceral  painting of G-d’s work with Man in the Orthodox liturgy and worship experience.  The “smells and bells” really do captivate the children, and have them experiencing Christ in a tangible way.  This is how children experience…with all of their senses, at once, not dividing themselves up into different intellectual and physical parts.  My children are singing prayers, learning about Saints, eating special foods to mark certain days, kissing icons, making blessings with candles….

In the Russian Orthodox Church, I have also found a large group of homeschooling mothers with young children.  I look like everyone else with my simple long skirts and head coverings.  An Orthodox Bishop (sorry, I forget which one…) once taught that children should live such simple and unadorned lives that when they arrive at Church, it is the most beautiful and stimulating thing they experience.  Because of this, many Orthodox families live what I would consider to be a Quaker lifestyle…revelling in simplicity, being Plain (in word, thought and deed), caring for the earth, living naturally.  The families I have met don’t have television for their children, don’t go out seeking a schedule packed with activities of distraction and entertainment.

The nail in the coffin, George, came when my children were gathered with three other families…11 children in all, to celebrate the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple.  We decorated beeswax candles, learned the story of the feast, and all prayed together in front of our icon corner.  The little girls with kerchiefs on their heads…the boys standing straight and tall with their voices rising in unison towards the Creator.  When everyone had left, my children continued playing “The Theotokos”.  They walked around the house singing prayers, and re-telling their stories to daddy when he came home from work. These are all signs that they had a real and integrating experience of the feast and the prayers.

I hope that my children, when they are older, will learn to love sitting in silence before G-d.  I pray that they will want to live Simple lives, removing barriers between themselves and a full communion with Christ.  I pray that when they are finally able to understand and enter into that Deep Silence that comes only from a connection to the Inner Christ, that they are feed and nourished by their pictures from Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy is attached to the rhythms of the year.  It gives us images of eternity through the movement of time.  It’s intricate physical practice gives form to its beliefs and values.  The Orthodox view of sacrament is not so far from how Friends view Silence; the actual presence of Christ available to all.

My husband, never a Friend, is happy to reclaim the Orthodox faith for his family, as his grandmother was raised Russian Orthodox, but married a Roman Catholic when she was in the camps in Germany.  She is over 90 years old now, and will witness her Great Grandchildren being welcomed into the Church of her childhood before she dies.

So, as a family, we have decided to baptize the children in the Russian Church, and raise them in this tradition.  If I didn’t have children, this would probably be a different story.  I have to adopt this for myself as well, to give our family a united heritage and tradition. George, can we still visit from time to time?  G-d, can we still meet in silence?  Can I still grow closer to you with my copy of “Testament of Devotion” in hand?  Can I maintain this Quaker path even while walking another?

Ultimately, I am going to have to look past the identifiers “Russian Orthodox” and “Quaker”, and look to Christ H-mself.  It is most important that my allegiance and worship is for H-m, no matter its form.  This is also what I want for my children…a profound and unshakable devotion to Ein Sof, the Creator, Our Messiah, The King of Kings, The Lion of Judah, The Prince of Peace!

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