Back in April, I posted my reflections about my friends’ reception into the Holy Orthodox Church. One of the most moving moments was when Fr Patrick whispered into the ear of one of my friends and said “Welcome home.” Even as I write this eight months later, I still remember the ache in my heart at hearing those words. It seems my entire Christian journey, which began back about 25 years ago, has been one of searching for “home.” As much as I have encountered the Living Christ throughout the various stages of my journey, I’ve always known that he has been leading me somewhere.
My family’s experiences during the Paschal season at St Peters convinced me that Holy Orthodoxy was the “home” I’ve been searching for, even though I never would have envisioned it as such through most of my journey.
And now this coming weekend, a new phase of my journey begins as our family and our best friends, Mark and Barbara, are received into the Holy Orthodox Church. My entire family is very excited and a bit nervous. In some ways, I feel like the prodigal son finally coming home. And the warmth and love from our friends at St Peters and St Lukes, as they anticipate our reception this weekend, has embodied the Father running to meet me and my family and to usher us into his home.
But coming home isn’t the end of the story. It never is. Life, even New Life, goes on. The story will continue as we learn to live in the Father’s home with our brothers and sisters, fully communing with the Living Christ. Knowing the depths of my own heart, I know I will make mistakes and offend. And I know I will be offended. I learned long ago that when two or more Christians gather… someone’s going to get hurt. But everything we will experience — the joys, the sorrows, the forgiveness, the thrills, the pains — is for our salvation if experienced and processed properly. Fortunately, our family is part of a larger family with the same desire to commune with Christ and to grow into his likeness. Now in our new larger family we will worship together, commune together, fast together, pray together, serve together, and love together, as we are guided by a wise and caring priest who embodies Christ, aids in our confession, gives us spiritual direction, teaches us, and extends God’s grace through His holy Mysteries and as we are joined by the entire Body of Christ as they are made known through the icons, hymns and stories.
And the ones of whom I am the proudest and most moved are my family. Debbie’s courage at the unknown and her embracing of the various disciplines of prayer and fasting have continually inspired me. My children’s quick receptivity of Orthodox theology and practice, such as venerating the icons, led me into a fuller practice and experience of Christ’s life. And although I was the one that initiated our one-year commitment to attend St Peters, it has been my family that has quietly encouraged me to stay connected when all of my wounds and fears from the past screamed for me to remain disconnected at best or to pull me away at worst. I really believe I have been the “weakest link” in my family’s journey to Orthodoxy. And I am very thankful for their living example of strength and courage, especially in my weakness.
I cannot express how thrilled I am as I anticipate standing with my wife and children and friends in our “Chrismation whites” with our sponsors to be received into the Father’s home and to fully eat at his table. And while I am painfully aware of my unworthiness, I am even more grateful for the overabundance of my Savior’s and God’s grace.
I’m finally home. Glory to God!