Today is the Sunday of the Exaltation of the Cross. One year ago, on the Sunday of the Exaltation of the Cross, I attended my very first Divine Liturgy in an Orthodox Church.
A year ago, I wasn’t sure if I could be Orthodox. Incense? Icons? Crossing myself? I don’t think so. I remember thinking, “Can I be Orthodox and not do the whole icon thing?” (um, no)
I knew that theologically, I needed to be Orthodox. The whole concept of Theosis just resonates within my soul. I had come to realize that my view of salvation was Orthodox! I was saved. 2,000 years ago Christ suffered on the Cross so that I could be redeemed. My faith has made me “right with God.” I am being saved. Right now, I am being conformed to the image of Christ and I strive to be more and more like Him. Lord have mercy, I will be saved when I stand before Him and behold His glory!
But even though I my heart sang with joy at the discovery of Theosis, my mind struggled with such things as icons and incense. I knew I had to *experience* Orthodoxy. Silly me, I thought that if I could experience Orthodoxy, I would “get it out of my system” and be able to return to my safe little world.
This morning I realized that I have come to love the smell of incense. I have come to love the beautiful icons, and crossing myself has become second nature. Today as I worshiped I realized that it had meaning for me and it was an expression of my love for God. A year ago, I couldn’t comprehend lighting a candle or venerating an icon and I certainly felt out of place as everyone around me prostrated before the Cross. But this morning, I lit a candle, and, with love and gratitude for my Savior, I venerated several icons. I even did my own (modified because of bad knees) prostrations before the precious, life-giving Cross.
I cried out to God and I told Him that if He wanted me to be Orthodox, He was going to have to work in my heart, and He did. There is still so much I don’t know and still so much I don’t understand but I am willing to follow Him and see where He takes me.
Through Orthodoxy, I rediscovered my love for God and have come to a deeper understanding of His love for me. I have a richer, more meaningful to me, spiritual life than I had before.
I’ve learned that seeking after God with everything I have can take me down paths I never even knew existed. It’s been a wild ride of a year!