A year spent living with my dear sister and brother-in-law also includes a year spent living in rhythm with the Orthodox Church, of which they are part. I am loosely affiliated because I am also a Christian. But I am clearly not one with that rhythm.
I could live to a different rhythm, as I have all these years. Participation in faith-practice with them is not mandatory. At any point, I could go alone to any number of Protestant churches where I would be invited to take Communion, where, although I would still be an outsider, I might at least recognize a song or two, where a printed bulletin might clue me in on a different manifestation of the same old Protestant celebration of faith.
But for the time being, participation is practical. I know no one in this city. Why go out and try to start friendships from scratch when I can cling to the coattails of my sister’s already-existing friendships, at least for now? Why buy a refrigerator of my own food when we can share meals together, even if that means vegan Wednesdays and Fridays and the mildly terrifying spectre of Lent (a vegan fast beginning in a couple of weeks – ancient calendar differences mean Western and Eastern Lents begin at different times)? I would be quite lonely here and they, my family, have taken me in. It seems to honor them to at least listen and learn.
In the meantime, the wonderings and musings and questions seem endless. My brother-in-law is always willing to engage in a theological discussion and so we have discussed the life of the Virgin Mary, the authenticity of relics, how the canon of the Scriptures was developed and apocryphal books, venerating icons and praying to the saints, the doctrine of original sin, gender roles, fasting, and usually all over dinner or washing the dishes.
I am realizing that I have a lot to learn and realizing that I don’t know as much in depth as I thought about various theological positions held by the church I grew up in.
And so far it seems we Protestants and the Orthodox are more similar from a theological standpoint than I would have thought, although maybe this impression is due to my lack of knowledge and understanding of above-mentioned theological positions. The main differences seem to be in practice, not in belief. And where our beliefs are different, I think the Orthodox might have a more-than-reasonable argument.
I have a feeling this will be just the first of many reflections on what I’m learning through living in an Orthodox household this year.