Giving Thanks Beyond Measure

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I have frequently had reason to ask: who’s keeping whom? When I was received into the Orthodox faith, I and the rest of my family, stood one by one before the Gospel and a hand-cross to make a solemn promise:

This true faith of the Orthodox Church, which I now voluntarily confess and truly hold, that same I will firmly maintain and confess, whole and unchanged, even until my last breath, God helping me. And I will teach and proclaim it, insofar as I am able. And I will strive to fulfill its obligations with zeal and joy, preserving my heart in good deeds and blamelessness. In witness of this, my true and pure-hearted confession, I kiss the Word and Cross of my Savior. Amen (from the OCA service for the Reception of Converts)

My experience, with regard to the Orthodox faith, has been not so much my keeping the faith – but the faith keeping me. I recall reading, in my late teen years, C.S. Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy. It is clear that when Lewis relates his conversion to the Christian faith, he no longer asked the question: “What do I believe?” but rather asked the question: “What is a Christian to believe?” Thus, he turned his attention to Scripture and to the Fathers of the Church. The universal quality of his Christian writing is that he simply speaks from the depths of the Christian faith rather than from the depths of his own delusions and imagination. Becoming a Christian means learning what it is to be kept by the faith rather than simply joining an organization and then setting about picking and choosing one’s personal doctrines.

This aspect of the faith was clear to me in coming to the Orthodox Church. It was set before me as an oath, confirmed by a kiss of the Gospel and the Cross, and sealed by the gift of the Holy Spirit in anointing with the all-holy Chrism.

I offer thanks today – beyond measure. My family and I mark the 10th anniversary of that Sunday of the Prodigal Son (February 15, 1998), when we stood together in Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in Columbia, S.C., and offered ourselves to God and were received into the Holy Orthodox Faith.

In the years since – the blessings and struggles we have shared have always been supported by the faith which keeps us, when we could not possibly keep ourselves. May God grant His continued blessing to my family – to their ministries and their homes. May He keep them always as His own and give us hearts of grateful thanksgiving.

Glory to God for all things!

4 Responses to “Giving Thanks Beyond Measure”

  1. -C Says:

    Many, many years to you and your family, Father – and thanks for this wonderful post.

  2. Mimi Says:

    Many Years to you and your family on this anniversary!

  3. Ioannis Freeman Says:

    Thank you, Father Stephen, for sharing the OCA liturgical profession for converts. I feel grateful for the gift of God in this profession of Orthodox Christian faith.

    The language of this profession, in the OCA Service Book, immediately reminded me of confirmation promises to be made by confirmands among some of the world’s Lutherans (these are typically children aged 13). I share this for the sake of comparison, and not to suggest equivalence:

    “Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Sciptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?”
    “Response: I do.” (Lutheran Service Book, St. Louis, MO.: Concordia Publishing House–arm of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; p. 273).

    Similar language appeared in earlier versions from the mid-20th century, but removal of wording similar to remaining faithful to the Articles of Faith of Lutheran heritage is noteworthy in the 2006 version.

    One cannot help but recognize how such statements affect the spiritual path and ability to hear the voice of God. There is much to consider when professing a “confession.” That a 13-year-old child cannot profess “faithful and true” goes without saying, which is why the family as organic union–as was the case for you and your family ten years ago, amounts to more contrast than comparison in the two service books.

    Joy surprises me every day, which is a reference to Lewis’ multiple-entendre in the title to his text. Perhaps this might entail something like the “oath” of Orthodoxy professing me as person. It is that large, indeed, and cannot compare.

  4. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    God’s call on you, Father, is very evident. Thank you for being willing to be “kept in the faith” by Mother Church.

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