My impressions from visiting Russian Orthodox church

tractor

Robin
Hey brothers and fellow Christians. Last Sunday, I decided to visit the Russian Orthodox church (I'm of Russian descent and live in Germany). Let me give you some context first, before I share my impressions with you.

As some of you, I started actively seeking God not so long ago. In my case, in the end of 2019/beginning 2020, after my son was born. Thanks to Roosh's and also Owen Benjamin's streams, my faith in Him was growing and thanks to Covid became even stronger (Fr. Josiah Trenham's video on Corona Viroosh also helped a lot). In August 2020, I was finally baptized in the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church. Mainly due to the fact that my wife was a parishioner there for several years and we also baptized our son in this church. I don't want to talk bad about the priest and other people there but... I always felt like missing something.

After my visit to the Orthodox church I now understand what it was - I would call it spiritual discipline. It's like going to the gym but instead of muscles you work out your spirit. What I exactly mean:

1. No confession/repentance, no eucharist. I don't know about Catholics but in my church you get the blood and body of Jesus Christ without confessing anything. Of course, you kind of "repent" when you say Our Father but how can you be saved without explicitly confessing what you have done and experiencing a bit of shame by sharing your sin with the priest? In Russia, there's a beautiful saying: Put your trust in God but don't be a failure (meaning you still should fear God and live by His Commandments even if you know that He loves you, a sinner).

2. Fasting. Not a word about this crucial part of Jesus's teaching. Yeah, you can do it of course but my church sees it as optional. But if you don't fast, how can you experience at least a modicum of suffering our Father Jesus Christ was subjected to? Especially in our age of comfort and self-indulgence. Moreover, as an Orthodox you HAVE to fast THREE DAYS (no meat & dairy) before confession/eucharist (and also skip breakfast the morning before the liturgy).

3. You don't have a feeling you're in a cinema or theatre. The emphasis in my church (as perhaps in other major Western churches) is put on the sermon. And most of the time it's about hunger and poverty in the world, refugees, dangers of Corona virus. It's like watching TV with some commentary from the Bible. No wonder it never touched my heart and my thoughts were somewhere else. Add to this the "effortless" eucharist ("free popcorn"), and your salvation seems indeed very fun and entertaining. But what do you feel after that? I felt nothing. I thought "Ohh, I have to catch my train." When you enter the Orthodox church, you start with lighting a candle for prayer. It's optional, of course, but it gives you a focus for the coming liturgy (even if you don't confess, cause as a non-Orthodox I'm not allowed to). Then at least the next 45 minutes consists of singing and saying prayers. During this time you make the sign of the cross literally hundred times. It's intense! But you remain focused and your thoughts don't walk as they please. No, it's not entertainment. You WORK for your salvation.

4. The Orthodox church isn't ashamed of the Gospel. A lady in the Church (not the priest, of course) gave me some leaflets about the Orthodox faith. After reading the first two pages, I was like "I'll end up in Hell". :laughter: Not only they aren't ashamed of calling out sodomites they also use the words "deadly sin" to describe adultery, pre marital sex, talking bad about your parents etc. What impression do you think would it have on an average Westerner, if he or she saw it in their local protestant church? These churches would have 0 parishioners next day, I guarantee ;)

5. Only church marriage is marriage. My church doesn't have the sacrament of matrimony. It's bad. And you hear it from someone, who married in a city hall. But what did I know when I was a liberal? The first thing I will do if I decide to convert to Orthodoxy would be reinforcing my marriage through His blessing. Period.

Some nice (but not crucial) aspects: Bearded priests.

Negative: Very few men and mostly people over 50. But it doesn't have to do with the faith itself of course.

Neutral: Iconography. I like the idea that the pictures of saints and of Jesus can "kind of" facilitate your prayer. But I have the impression that some Orthodox Christians put too much weight on icons. I mean icons are very important in the context of the Orthodox faith as a whole but without attending divine liturgy, without confessing and taking part in eucharist they're meaningless.

So, do you have similar thoughts on (Russian) Orthodoxy vs. Western churches? I'd also like to hear about other Orthodox churches. Are they similar to the Russian church?
 
1. No confession/repentance, no eucharist.

I may be misinterpreting you. In my experience in the Catholic church majority of boomer and cradle Catholics merely walk up every week and receive communion without much reverence or by being in a state of mortal sin by not having gone to confession in months and some cases years. This is of course wrong and they are unknowingly in a state of mortal sin for receiving the Eucharist without being in a state of grace.
However the blame cannot be solely put on them because they were simply not taught correctly. As Christians we have to have charity for our boomer elders who may have their heart in the right place however there catechism was severely lacking (Post Vatican II)

I attend a novus ordo mass but my priest is super based and he incorporates a lot of pre vatican 2 liturgy like facing the altar, communion rails, receiving on the tongue, hymns in latin, women wear headdress, altar boys.
The parish community is by far the most devout in my city and 75% of the parish faithful would attend bi-weekly or monthly confession.

My priest who is 75 years old has done homilies on the "Great Reset" and kept the doors open even during lockdowns. The other Priest, 2nd in command sort of say, is 88 years old and stands on his two feet for an hour 1+ during the liturgy singing hymns. Both these men radiate holiness and they represent the true old guard of the Catholic Church.

Happy to hear you've found a church with true apostolic succession with valid sacraments. Keep on the horse and maybe shop around for other Orthodox parishes. My advice to you is to get involved in a parish some how and establish a relationship with a priest you trust.

God bless
 

Posadskiy

Pigeon
Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Several of the stricter practices you mention are found mostly in the Russian Church and more traditional parishes of other Churches.

I'm enjoying the demographics at parishes here in Russia—slightly more old women, but plenty of men, plenty of young families. Vibrant communities!

Iconography is quite central to Orthodox belief and practice, though you're correct that if one were to sort things in some sort of forced ranking, Holy Communion and the Divine Liturgy would surely come first. But there's something important there that takes time to soak in.
 

DanielH

Pelican
In America there are more Orthodox men than women as confirmed by the Pew Religious survey. American Orthodoxy seems to be the outlier as far as Christianity worldwide regarding this. Young men seem to be attracted to the traditionalism of the Church - I pray the bishops would pick up on this.

Glad to hear of your positive experiences, similar to mine, baptized Orthodox in 2019.
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Gold Member
One of the great things about my ROCOR parish is that there are a ton of men there, of all ages, who are very engaged in what's going on. I think there might be more men than women, but I'm not absolutely sure.

But yeah, ROCOR is the way to go, if your local parish is in your native tongue and the environment is welcoming to non-Russians. It's the most traditional and uncompromising branch of Orthodoxy, though there are great parishes in other jurisdictions as well.

I don't think there's anything in Orthodoxy as divisive for protestant inquirers as icons. For me, personally, I loved icons right from the start and understood exactly what the Church is trying to accomplish through it, but I get why people have hangups about it. I would suggest thinking of it this way - people are visual creatures, so icons are sort of a way of God connecting with us through our visual sense. They help to open a "window to heaven" that facilitates connection to God through our senses and in prayer.

When you drive out holy images, the smell of incense, somber music, candles, relics, and other tactile elements, even partaking of the Eucharist as the central act of worship - as happened in wake of the Protestant Reformation - you're depriving your senses of holy avenues to connect with God and reduce Christianity to rationalistic mental assent. The ways that contemporary evangelicalism has tried to compensate for this, through euphoric emotional experiences, has just created more problems than it solves.
 

tractor

Robin
Several of the stricter practices you mention are found mostly in the Russian Church and more traditional parishes of other Churches.

It's kind of funny that my Lutheran church is considered very traditional compared to the "official" government-sponsored Evangelical church but still lacks some things I now consider crucial after my visit to the Orthodox church.

I'm enjoying the demographics at parishes here in Russia—slightly more old women, but plenty of men, plenty of young families. Vibrant communities!

Awesome! As it should be.

Iconography is quite central to Orthodox belief and practice, though you're correct that if one were to sort things in some sort of forced ranking, Holy Communion and the Divine Liturgy would surely come first. But there's something important there that takes time to soak in.

You're right of course. As I said, I don't reject it. One just needs to first understand what they are.
 

tractor

Robin
In America there are more Orthodox men than women as confirmed by the Pew Religious survey. American Orthodoxy seems to be the outlier as far as Christianity worldwide regarding this. Young men seem to be attracted to the traditionalism of the Church - I pray the bishops would pick up on this.

Glad to hear of your positive experiences, similar to mine, baptized Orthodox in 2019.

That is certainly a very stange fact. Pleasant to hear though. Maybe it's because the U.S. is simultaneously the epicenter of the Clown World and still second to none in the West in terms of religious freedom. I hope these young men have strong faith and don't convert to Orthodoxy merely because priests have beards (therefore, based) ;)
 

tractor

Robin
But yeah, ROCOR is the way to go, if your local parish is in your native tongue and the environment is welcoming to non-Russians. It's the most traditional and uncompromising branch of Orthodoxy, though there are great parishes in other jurisdictions as well.

I think ROCOR is the Russian "emigrant" church, right? So Russian in spirit but independent from Moscow. It's great to hear that they still remain this purity of faith even being on their own in the midst of alien oppression :alien: and boomer ignorance.
I don't think there's anything in Orthodoxy as divisive for protestant inquirers as icons. For me, personally, I loved icons right from the start and understood exactly what the Church is trying to accomplish through it, but I get why people have hangups about it. I would suggest thinking of it this way - people are visual creatures, so icons are sort of a way of God connecting with us through our visual sense. They help to open a "window to heaven" that facilitates connection to God through our senses and in prayer.

Indeed. My wife first objected to my curiosity about Orthodoxy by saying that they idolize icons. I responded almost exactly as you laid it out.

When you drive out holy images, the smell of incense, somber music, candles, relics, and other tactile elements, even partaking of the Eucharist as the central act of worship - as happened in wake of the Protestant Reformation - you're depriving your senses of holy avenues to connect with God and reduce Christianity to rationalistic mental assent. The ways that contemporary evangelicalism has tried to compensate for this, through euphoric emotional experiences, has just created more problems than it solves.

That's an interesting point. I agree that reducing the faith to the "scripture only" by excluding the teachings of saints (and thereby their holy images) was not the best idea. By removing the saints, you compromise the succession of faith from generation to generation. Now even a sodomite can somehow forge a "f*g loving God" out of thin air. Also, even the most based protestant or baptist churches won't outlive their founders.

The question of succession is indeed quite important to me. I don't want to be in a church or denomination that may not even exist when my kids enter their adolescence. What can I pass on to them?
 

tractor

Robin
1. No confession/repentance, no eucharist.

I may be misinterpreting you. In my experience in the Catholic church majority of boomer and cradle Catholics merely walk up every week and receive communion without much reverence or by being in a state of mortal sin by not having gone to confession in months and some cases years. This is of course wrong and they are unknowingly in a state of mortal sin for receiving the Eucharist without being in a state of grace.
However the blame cannot be solely put on them because they were simply not taught correctly. As Christians we have to have charity for our boomer elders who may have their heart in the right place however there catechism was severely lacking (Post Vatican II)

I attend a novus ordo mass but my priest is super based and he incorporates a lot of pre vatican 2 liturgy like facing the altar, communion rails, receiving on the tongue, hymns in latin, women wear headdress, altar boys.
The parish community is by far the most devout in my city and 75% of the parish faithful would attend bi-weekly or monthly confession.

My priest who is 75 years old has done homilies on the "Great Reset" and kept the doors open even during lockdowns. The other Priest, 2nd in command sort of say, is 88 years old and stands on his two feet for an hour 1+ during the liturgy singing hymns. Both these men radiate holiness and they represent the true old guard of the Catholic Church.

Happy to hear you've found a church with true apostolic succession with valid sacraments. Keep on the horse and maybe shop around for other Orthodox parishes. My advice to you is to get involved in a parish some how and establish a relationship with a priest you trust.

God bless

No, you didn't misinterpret anything. I didn't want to make comments on the Catholic church, since I'm not very informed. So my impressions mainly revolve around my current Lutheran church and the Orthodox church I visited.

Thanks for clarifying the Catholic view. Vatican II seems to have really compromised this great church. Keep fighting for the Truth. Amen!
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Gold Member
I think ROCOR is the Russian "emigrant" church, right? So Russian in spirit but independent from Moscow. It's great to hear that they still remain this purity of faith even being on their own in the midst of alien oppression :alien: and boomer ignorance.

ROCOR was pretty much founded by Russians fleeing the Bolshevik takeover of Russia, and tended to aggregate the most conservative and pious Russian believers. It seems that before the 2007 accords with Moscow, ROCOR pretty much considered itself to be the true Russian church in contrast to the Moscow patriarchate which had been infiltrated and compromised by Communist influence.

The real picture is a bit more complicated than that, and today they're on good terms with each other. But as a general rule, ROCOR is at least as based as the Moscow patriarchate and extremely suspicious of modernist and liberal teaching. I think the closeness of the MP with the Russian government makes many in ROCOR uncomfortable, and it perhaps wouldn't be too inaccurate to say that today ROCOR functions as a sort of missionary arm of the traditional Russian Church. Holy Trinity Seminary, along with their publishing arm and various ROCOR monasteries, is doing a fine job of holding true to the faith.
 
In addition to what Hermetic Seal said, keep in mind that the majority of people were illiterate for the majority of human history. Icons depict the events of the Gospel not just to help inspire us with holy images, but also served the purpose (in ancient times) of communicating the lives and deaths of Christ, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the Saints, etc, to the large percentage of parishioners who could not read about these stories on their own. Outside of sermons and oral storytelling, icons were the best way to show people what life and death often look like on the Christian path.
 

Liviu

Chicken
Conratulations, Robin for the comprehensive impressions. Very good and accurate observations. I am Romanian,46 years old, have a degree In Christian-orthodox Pastoral Theology and I work for the Romanian orthodoxy. I can tell you in the Romanian Christian-Orthodox Church are the same things you observed in the Russian Church.
 
In the Catholic Church it is required to confess mortal sins at least once a year and before taking the Eucharist. Granted some people do not do that, but it is a requirement skipped at their own peril.

Pre-Vatican II, every Friday was a meat-free day. Afterwards it was required during Lent, BUT the requirement to do some sort of mortification every Friday remained. Only it was supposed to be up to each individual as to the form of it "to make it more meaningful." Most Catholics heard the meat is OK part but did not get the part about mortification still being required every Friday. For my family, every Friday is a meat-free day, and one child who does not eat meat anyway volunteered to give up dairy every Friday.

Catholic Churches that have not been wreck-ovated, have traditional devotions, burn incense, have an organ instead of guitars and drums, have small-o orthodox Priests, where extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist are not ordinary, and long lines for confession do exist. I am not qualified to discuss Orthodox Churches vs Catholic Church from a theological point of view, but if one looks some decent Catholic Parishes are out there. I hope some day the Orthodox, the Catholic, and the remaining small-o orthodox Anglican Churches reconcile their differences and unite.
 

Cervantes

Woodpecker
In the Catholic Church it is required to confess mortal sins at least once a year and before taking the Eucharist.

I know what you mean here, but it's not very clear.

You are required to confess any mortal sin before taking the Eucharist at all, and you're required to take the Eucharist at least once a year at Easter. One practical result of this is that you can't hold on to an unconfessed mortal sin for more than a year.

The recommended practice is to confess venial sin at least monthly.
 
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