Thank you for joining me at "In the Light of Eternity."
Growing up I found it very confusing to understand what is the point of life, why are we on this planet, what is our purpose? Is there a God? Who is He? What is He like? What are Heaven and Hell all about?
For years I asked these questions, but I didn't find answers that were all that I needed them to be: True, clear, deep, beautiful, meaningful, logical, pure and peace-bringing; answers that had withstood the test of time. Answers that were before time, and would remain after time was done. I walked down many paths, but I found that very often things that seemed "light-bringing" were in reality deceptive and dark. At some points, despair was as close to me as my own shadow.
Perhaps it was providential that I went through all of that, because then when I met the Truth, It stood out. It looked, felt and even tasted very different from everything else. It gave answers that were deep, real, beautiful and peace-bringing, answers that had helped many generations get to the Heavenly Homeland. For the first time in my life I met something that was "in the world but not of the world", as Christ tells us that we should be. I literally felt as though before I had been struggling through a dense thicket of briar bushes, and then the cleared and well-traveled Path was pointed out to me. Although the Path has challenges too, it has been indescribably better to be on the Path than to be lost and wandering in the dark, fighting with thorn bushes and losing.
Perhaps you can relate.
The Path that was pointed out to me was "Eastern Christianity", which is also called the Orthodox Church, and Ancient Christianity. At that point, I had experienced "Western Christianity" in various forms growing up, and "Far Eastern religions" in college, but I had never heard of Eastern Christianity. The day that I did my whole life changed, because I began to finally find answers that made sense. Answers that brought real and lasting peace. And that showed me which direction to live my life in.
The name of this blog captures the essence of that direction: I have learned that by living my life "In the Light of Eternity" and in the hope of the Resurrection, everything else becomes almost infinitely easier and more clear. Decisions then fall into place, even big ones. Life finally makes sense and has meaning and purpose. I now grasp that we are each precious, unique, immortal beings created with the gift and responsibility of free will. I now understand and know in my heart that God is unchanging Love and Truth, Who is constantly inviting us to Him, through His Holy Church, and consistently honoring our free will.
I have never written a blog before. I am almost computer illiterate. But I thought my journey might help someone else. I pray that it does.
In some of the posts [the Blog section] I will try to answer questions I have been asked many times, such as "What is the difference between Orthodox Christianity and everything else, especially other groups called Christian?" It is not very easy to answer this standing in the grocery store, especially because the same words often mean very different things because the contexts are so different--which in itself would be unexpected for most people. I will try to answer this question in stages here, from the perspectives of history, art, language and spiritual approaches. Often this reminds me of trying to tease apart a ball of tangled yarn, and the task is made more difficult both because the subject matter can be so sensitive, and because the culture, context and language most of us are raised in is predominantly post-schism western influenced. (This will make more sense after reading some posts.) I would be inclined to skip writing about "the differences" altogether, except that nothing in the blog will make sense if we don't first go back to the original understanding of the most basic Christian concepts. If I am ever asked again "What are the differences....?" it is my humble hope that the Blog can serve as a helpful reference for someone.
Please understand that it's very difficult to write about religion. In sharing the Path, it's necessary to also point out the thickets by way of caution--please read each post knowing it is written with compassion and pain of heart, especially for those who feel they are still fighting their way through the thorn bushes. The articles are written with love especially for those people, remembering my own experience during my youth and not being able to easily find answers, and all of the suffering this caused. For me getting answers and clarity was the way out; perhaps that is not the same for everyone, but for those who are also built that way, I hope this is helpful for you.
I have been told I am an "intense person." I am never quite sure if that is meant kindly or complainingly, probably some of both. Either way, I thank God that the course of my life has allowed me to be intensely in love with Orthodox Christianity. After almost forty years since being baptized in the Church, my love for Her continues to grow daily; not through any strength of my own, but simply because our Saviour and Orthodoxy are so infinitely deep and beautiful.
It may seem intense to some, but this blog is written from the perspective that to call Truth "relative" makes no sense. The very definition of Truth is that it is true. In former times, people discussed and argued about what they perceived to be Truth, and the Martyrs even gave their lives rather than to deny the Truth of the Gospel, and gladly so. These things were considered deeply worthwhile and honorable; today we are taught that there is no such thing as truth and that it is "more charitable" to live in a state of relativity. Our culture seems to have lost sight of the simple reality that to say that something is right or true does not condemn anyone, it just states a fact. To say "This Path leads to life and this way leads to sin, suffering and ultimately death" is an act of kindness and love, the opposite of condemnation. After all, if we asked someone for directions we would not want them to send us off the wrong way or tell us how to go in circles. Or if we asked someone for a recipe we wouldn't want them to write down all the wrong ingredients and measurements. In most circumstances we understand that factual information is preferred.
This blog is also written from the Orthodox Christian understanding that Truth is not a formula or a philosophy, it is a Person, the God-Man Christ. To live in the Truth is not about opinions or theories, it is about living in a very close relationship with Christ, Who is our Creator, and Who, thankfully, loves each of us very intensely and personally.
In another section I hope to do simple Journal Entries. I think of these entries almost like a clipboard of thoughts that are helping me work towards understanding a particular theme that may eventually be a post. They may be quotes from something I read that day, or relating a conversation that caused me to reflect on it later. These will be casual entries that can be done quickly. I believe that daily journal entries will also help me to stop and better absorb and remember the spiritually meaningful moments of each day. The overall context may not always make sense to the reader, but in time hopefully the day to day moments will serve a purpose for both me and you.
I think of this blog as being for seekers and sufferers. Those, like myself, who need to have sound answers. In Orthodoxy we don't give our personal opinions, but rather our whole goal is to be "Tradition Keepers", to stay within that which has been handed down intact from the time of Christ and the Apostles. To stay "within the Ark", as it were. I will try to footnote things as I go along, and in time hope to also post a book list, but please just know that anything I am sharing is just the tip of the iceberg. One can be Orthodox and spend ten lifetimes going deeper into it and there is always more--as God is infinite, so is the beautiful Faith that He left to us. If the blog gives you a small taste, and you want more, there are many available books, truly inspired by the Holy Spirit from the time of the Apostles until now, that are real spiritual treasures. In reading the writings and Lives of the Saints one truly feels as if they are drinking living water. Orthodoxy is not complicated--it is both simple and deep, as the Scriptures also are.
It bears repeating that nothing in this blog is meant to be contentious or antagonistic in any way. When one speaks about Truth and The Path in a world where relativity is "the idea of the day", it is almost impossible to do so and be understood as coming from love. This one concern alone caused me to "think and pray about writing" but not write, for over five years. I apologize ahead of time if anything I write is offensive to anyone, and I am open to and grateful for any sincere comments, questions and suggestions.
In the Light of Eternity is one person's journey and reflections, offered to anyone who can find something useful in it. We are all sojourners, here only for a time. It gives me consolation to hope that perhaps my experience can ease someone else's suffering and lighten their journey. This blog is motivated solely by love, without any hope of gain except to perhaps lend a hand and feel the joy of having someone reach out, in their own desire to want to be on the well-lit and well-traveled Path and out of the thicket as well.
This, and humble prayer, are all I have to offer. Please pray for me as well.
~Your fellow sojourner in Christ our True God
P.S. At some point in my journey I became a monastic, which piece of information is needed in order to understand the context of some of the blog posts.