Just because there is danger does not mean I am criticizing the Orthodox Church. I want everyone to be Orthodox. However, we have a problem with new people not hanging around and not many people are talking about it.
Yesterday I was speaking with a gentleman about the number of new members who disappear after chrismation. What happened? Where do they go and why? Well, I know where some of them go. If you were not aware that this is a problem, then talk to your priest and you will quickly learn about those who disappear from our faith after chrismation.
Many people enjoy the chase of life. I am one of those always looking for something new to chase. From the outside looking in, the journey to Orthodoxy can be intriguing and unique. But what happens after that journey is over? The day after everyone is yelling “seal” and “welcome home,” the excitement can begin to die. There are danger signs all along the catechumens journey, but maybe they are difficult to see.
When The Danger Appears
More than one wise person has compared joining Orthodoxy like getting married. There’s a courtship, engagement, wedding day, and then the marriage. You might have the greatest wedding day of all time, but that does not determine the health of your marriage. The same is true of becoming Orthodox. There’s a courtship while you inquire, an engagement when you become an official catechumen, and then chrismation day can very much feel like a wedding. So now what? This is when the danger reveals itself.
A good marriage takes focus, attention, and labor. I can be lazy and ignore my wife or focus and ask her how her day was. I can spend time on things I care about (guilty) at the expense of my marriage, or be a Christlike servant and care to her needs. Being married and being Orthodox are so similar it’s almost creepy. I have to work on my Orthodox faith at all times. I have to keep improving towards a better version of myself, almost like chasing a carrot. The difference is there is no carrot. The real version of me is waiting for me at judgment day. That is when my true self will be revealed.
I wonder if we are making a bigger deal out of chrismation day than we are the journey which comes after. St. Paul compared our earthly journey to running a race more than once (Heb 12:1, 1 Cor 9:24, 2 Tim 4:7). Chrismation day is like the gun going off at the start of a marathon. Now we have to run, and run, and run until we reach the end. Some runners only make it a few miles before dropping out. Becoming Orthodox can be similar. How many newly chrismated are dropping out of the race after a few years because they didn’t train properly. They focused more on the gun going off than they did the actual race.
We can do something about this. If you are a priest, make sure your catechumen is developing healthy relationships with people who are further along in the race. If you are laity, make sure you are helping your priest with the new people. These new people need you. You do not have to be a godparent to have a positive impact on someone new to your church.
In the next post I will share some ways we can develop those healthy relationships and avoid the danger of becoming (and unbecoming) Orthodox.