I am an Orthodox Christian!

After nearly a year and a half of attending Orthodox churches, I have now been admitted into the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church by Chrismation as of last Sunday.  It was also a delight to have my fiancee and my twin daughters, who turned five on Sunday, baptized straight after my chrismation.  You can watch my chrismation service below:

Some of it may be hard to hear, so here is the text of the service.

Filipp,_mitropolitt_of_MoscowAs you will hear on the video, my Church Name is Philip.  Philip was the name on my original birth certificate, before I was adopted by my parents, so in my adoption by the Church I thought it appropriate to take the name back.  My Name Saint is Saint Philip of Moscow, a brave Metropolitan of the Church who stood up to Ivan the Terrible by denying him communion, and paid for it with his life.  I liked the idea of a Saint who stood up to politicians!

It is an indescribable joy to finally be united with Christ’s Church.  In the words of the Divine Liturgy:

We have seen the true light,

We have received the heavenly Spirit;

We have found the true faith,

Worshipping the undivided Trinity:

For He has saved us!

4 thoughts on “I am an Orthodox Christian!

  1. […] care now far more about the gospel being preached. When I see blogs about baptism I’m glad. I find that I’m defending the Catholic church frequently: the […]

  2. Blair/Philip I had a question for you. After briefly attending membership classes for an orthodox church, I balked at the statement in liturgy that states, “Mary, save us.” My belief is that only Jesus saves… and so I could not reconcile the two viewpoints into something that worked for me. What are your thoughts?

    • The words “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”, sound blasphemous to Evangelical ears, simply because the way most Evangelicals are taught salvation works is both incomplete and somewhat distorted.

      To understand why this phrase is used, one firstly has to get away from this idea that salvation is God changing His mind about us – that we are in a legal category called “sinner”, which necessitates judicial punishment, but if Jesus instead takes that punishment on himself, then God will recategorise us as “saved” and let us off the hook. Because under this model, saying “Most Holy Theotokos, save us” makes no sense. Mary would have to be part of the punishment somehow, or have special powers to alter our legal status. We know that this is an obviously false notion, so to say that Mary saves us under this model is indeed blasphemous.

      Fortunately, while Christ is indeed an atoning sacrifice for our sins, this is not what Christian salvation means. For an Orthodox Christian, salvation is a process, a gradual restoration of our full communion with the Divine Energies of God. And not just us as individuals, but all of creation. It is not merely an entry ticket to heaven upon death, but a transformation and transfiguration of both body and soul to conform us to the likeness of Christ. Furthermore, it is this transformation itself that ensures our passing from death to life.

      On this basis, the meaning of the word “save” becomes much broader in a Christian context, and if you examine the Bible, you will see it is used in a variety of ways. Women are, for example, according to the Apostle Paul, “saved” through childbirth! More pertinently, we are saved through faith, through repentance, through baptism, through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, through the Body and Blood of Christ, through obedience, through our deeds, and finally, through the words “Well done, good and faithful servant”. All of these “saves” are summed up in the word “theosis” – a movement towards unity with the Energies of God.

      It is in this context which we say “Most Holy Theotokos, save us.” I like to say that everything in Orthodoxy is not “either/or”, but “yes, including…”! The Theotokos is part of our salvation, not instead of Christ, nor even in addition to Christ, but within Christ and by Christ. If salvation is theosis, then the Church is not just being united with Christ, but with each other also. The Theotokos, as the greatest of all the Christians, is, as a Mother to the Church, working to pull us all in and draw us closer to her son through herself, her acts, her intercessions, and the power that Christ Himself has given her.

      You might ask why it is necessary to pray for Mary (or any Saint) to save us if she works through Christ. Why not just pray to Christ? This is, of course, ultimately a mystery, but the reality that we see is that Christ uses others – He uses His Church – to accomplish things. Christ had, no doubt, the power to clone Himself, go to all the villages of Galillee, and simultaneously preach repentance, heal the sick and cast out demons in all of them. He chose not to do this – He gave power to seventy of His followers instead and sent them. If those sinful men had such power on earth to help others, what sort of power do they now have in heaven, having been perfected in Christ?! Christ worked, and continues to work, through His Church, of which Mary, the Theotokos, is the greatest of that number, and its mystical embodiment. And if we are saved through Christ’s Body, the Church, then to say “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”, is to mystically seek the Church, its saving power and its intercessions. It takes our relationship with Christ from a binary and exclusionary one, to an inclusive “catholic” one, where mutual love and salvation can reach its fullest measure, even unto overflowing!

      I could write a great deal more on this topic, and already I feel like I discoursed too long, but I hope this helps explain in some measure. I would actually encourage you to go back to the church you were at and talk about this stuff with the Priest – I guarantee you he will be able to explain things a lot better than I can as a new and spiritually weak convert on a vanity blog. But I do understand your reticence at the choice of words, because it took me a very long time to understand and be able to say them myself. It’s difficult, because it involves a whole new mindset and way of looking at Christian faith, and that can be too much for some people, and take too long to get a handle on. For my part, I still felt that Orthodoxy was closer to the truth than anything else, and that even if it had some things wrong, it had more right than anything else, and I proceeded on that basis. Now, by God’s grace, I feel like most aspects of it, including “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”, have been illuminated for me, and I can integrate them into my Christian faith with full confidence.

  3. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer as comprehensively as you did. You certainly do raise some thought provoking elements and brought up explanations that were not covered in OCA membership classes. Interestingly enough that older, part time priest told me at the end of the classes that, while he was pleased with my seeking – he felt I needed a bit more acceptance/awareness of the theology in OCA before recommending my membership. Yet, another orthodox church further away from my house – in the
    Greek Orthodox Direct Archdiocesan District – where I had also met several times with a younger priest, – were more than happy to have me join as a member sooner than later. I will continue to seek and study. Thanks again.

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