Greece - Coming Home

Trip Start Aug 18, 2010
Trip End Apr 09, 2011

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Flag of Greece  , Macedonia Region,
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There is a saying that parts of your past will always be carried with you.

I wrote this entry sitting in an Orthodox Church. When I entered, I found myself unconsciously mouthing the words- "Welcome home." 

I felt as though I was walking into my past - to visits to Greece many years before and to time spent in Churches so similar to the ones I visited today. The glow of the icons reflected in the light of candelabra, the smells of incense, the haunting yet beautiful sound of Byzantine chant. All of it elicited in me a remembrance of so many good feelings and of long forgotten memories. Of a time where I was still exploring Christianity, of questioning spiritual mysteries and asking questions – both to my teachers about the meaning of some contour of a church, and to myself about the nature of God or of some other bit of the Christian faith.

Orthodox Churches, in my opinion, are some of the most beautiful and spiritually powerful Churches in all of the Christian family. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of being in one, I encourage you to visit one someday. When I was considering being a Lutheran pastor many years ago,  I heard several stories about Lutheran Ministers that would convert to Orthodox Christianity.  Sitting in a Cathedral such as this, I understand why.

An Orthodox Church is intended to be a reflection of a heavenly ideal. Every inch of the church is covered in imagery. Biblical stories from both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, as well as those of Saints and spiritual heroes of all kinds greet you. The intention is to give you an impression of heaven itself, of the spiritual joys that will greet you in the New Heaven and New Earth, as well as a full history of the divine story.  Christ too is represented in a hundred different ways – Of course, there is Christ the Savior, but also you will find Christ the Teacher, Christ the Bringer of the Law, and Christ the Creator of All.

And for every image, in Orthodox theology the image's subject is actually physically there. An icon of the Archangel Gabriel is Gabriel himself standing before you. And you are encouraged to touch the icons- to welcome Lazarus from the grave, to kiss Mary herself. Liturgically, you do not just sit and receive a message or a sermon. Instead you actively move around and communicate with your spiritual heroes. To bow and kiss an icon of Christ is to kiss the object of your love, Christ, himself.

A deep part of me connects to Orthodoxy, and I find when I am here that I could be happier being Orthodox than any other type of Christianity.

Were I, of course, still Christian.

Visiting this place I find to be like visiting an old lover with whom I am still a friend : one I am intimate with and that I know and love unconditionally, but yet one whose life and beliefs and circumstances have led us both on far different paths. I shall always hold a place in my heart for this- for the incense and the holy intimacy of the icons and the spiritual searching.

But there are many lovers in the world, or perhaps I should say much love, and many ways to love, and my course has led me in a different direction. Perhaps, one day, I will return to this place for good. Or perhaps not. Only time will tell where this seed will eventually fall. 
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