Why the Russian Church?

I am new here and I hope this is the right place to ask this question. I am a Roman Catholic, but I have been seeing an increased interest in the Russian Orthodox Church.

I have been trying to do research on it, but information seems scarce or biased. I wanted to ask why a Catholic should convert?

What makes the Russian Orthodox Church the true Church of Jesus Christ and not the Catholic Church? I've read the Church's history, but I must admit I do not know a lot. I honestly just want to know why it would be better for me and my family's souls if we were to convert.
 
Last edited:

Roosh

Cardinal
Orthodox
Within Eastern Orthodoxy, the Russians have strongly preserved the faith, and through their experience with communism, has developed an awareness or immunity for a similar course of events to happen again, especially for the Russian Church Abroad (ROCOR). Your question seems a bit broad, and is not specific to the Russian Church alone. You can share what specifically you want to learn.

First you decide on Orthodoxy, and then you pick a Church, which comes down to visiting parishes. If you're not sold on Orthodoxy yet, then you should first read about the differences. The book called Two Paths is highly recommended.
 

OrthoLeaf

Sparrow
Orthodox
Well, first of all the Russian Orthodox Church is simply the Orthodox Church in Russia. When the Orthodox Church is established in say Serbia, it is the Serbian Orthodox Church, if in Greece, the Greek Orthodox Church etc. Don't fall for this word-concept fallacy that many use trying to claim the Orthodox Church is divided because of these distinctions. It remains one Church, organized within distinct geographical or national boundaries. No different than the ancient Church - the Antiochian patriarchate was not a separate Church from the Roman patriarchate, for example.

Now as for why you should convert. The answer is really quite simple, it is the Church founded by Christ, through His Apostles and preserved uncorrupted to this day through the Holy Spirit. Rome can trace its founding back to an Apostolic origin, but unfortunately she broke off 1000 years ago from the rest of the Church (the other 4 patriarchates) and has been drifting further and further away from the ancient faith ever since. Our perspective is really quite simple, although many outside the Church may find it offensive. You should be baptized into the Orthodox Church because we are the One True Church. We retain the only God-ordained priesthood and thus the only valid sacraments. It is in our Church that Heaven and earth meet and nowhere else on earth. Thus, it is only in the Holy Orthodox Church that man, through the grace of God, is able to overcome the passions and transform himself into the likeness of God - Theosis.

As Roosh noted, your question is really quite open ended, so I'm not quite sure what specifically you're looking for but I will link for you here, what is quickly becoming our "go-to" video series on the introduction of the Orthodox Church that we should probably just make required watching for all inquirers at this point. I recommend you watch this playlist and then come back with any questions you may have and hopefully we can give you more specific answers.

 
Well, first of all the Russian Orthodox Church is simply the Orthodox Church in Russia. When the Orthodox Church is established in say Serbia, it is the Serbian Orthodox Church, if in Greece, the Greek Orthodox Church etc. Don't fall for this word-concept fallacy that many use trying to claim the Orthodox Church is divided because of these distinctions. It remains one Church, organized within distinct geographical or national boundaries. No different than the ancient Church - the Antiochian patriarchate was not a separate Church from the Roman patriarchate, for example.

And when the Orthodox Church is established in America, you get a large variety of jurisdictions, which is complete opposite of what you just said :laughter:
 

tractor

Woodpecker
Orthodox
I don't know very much about the Church history but overall, I second the other forumites that the Russian Orthodox Church (as the Orthodox Church in general) has preserved its faith.

The only thing that caught my attention was that at some point in history the Russian church developed a weird approach to the Eucharist. A few centuries ago, it was common to fast a whole week before receiving Blood and Body of Jesus Christ. If you wanted to commune every Sunday, you had to be a vegan basically. So eventually, Russian people started to commune once a year (!) or maximum 4 times a year (during the four fasting periods) that was of course retarded and many saints (including Seraphim of Sarov, John of Kronstadt and I'm sure many others) called out this nonsensical practice.

As of today, this approach to Eucharist - thank God - is not practiced or recommended by the Church but unfortunately many parishioners still think it's enough to commune once a year (during the Great Lent).
 

Penitent

Robin
Orthodox
I don't know very much about the Church history but overall, I second the other forumites that the Russian Orthodox Church (as the Orthodox Church in general) has preserved its faith.

The only thing that caught my attention was that at some point in history the Russian church developed a weird approach to the Eucharist. A few centuries ago, it was common to fast a whole week before receiving Blood and Body of Jesus Christ. If you wanted to commune every Sunday, you had to be a vegan basically. So eventually, Russian people started to commune once a year (!) or maximum 4 times a year (during the four fasting periods) that was of course retarded and many saints (including Seraphim of Sarov, John of Kronstadt and I'm sure many others) called out this nonsensical practice.

As of today, this approach to Eucharist - thank God - is not practiced or recommended by the Church but unfortunately many parishioners still think it's enough to commune once a year (during the Great Lent).
The reason people started to fast for several days, or even up to a week before receiving was that they were not receiving very often to begin with (not the other way around). It may have been appropriate to fast a bit more to prepare oneself spiritually if you only received once a year. The majority of the population was Orthodox but they were not all pious or regular in their participation in church life, and they would come to receive the Eucharist once a year because the Church had made it a rule that you must receive at least once a year to remain a member of the Church. This practice of fasting for several days that you see among Russians now is a hold-over from those times.
 

soli.deo.gloria

Robin
Orthodox Inquirer
As Roosh noted, your question is really quite open ended, so I'm not quite sure what specifically you're looking for but I will link for you here, what is quickly becoming our "go-to" video series on the introduction of the Orthodox Church that we should probably just make required watching for all inquirers at this point. I recommend you watch this playlist and then come back with any questions you may have and hopefully we can give you more specific answers.


Thank you so much for sharing this. I watched the first video in the series and plan to view the rest soon. I like history and politics so it was honestly very enjoyable and I learned quite a bit. This morning I sent an inquiry to a nearby ROCOR mission to request information and spiritual guidance. I hope to hear back from them very soon.
 

soli.deo.gloria

Robin
Orthodox Inquirer
Priests are not the best with technology, so plan to go anyway for the Liturgy.

Thanks for the suggestion Roosh. I'm not sure what is the situation with this particular mission. I found them via the ROCOR parish and clergy directory. The address listed appears to be someone's house (referred to as a "mission house"). It also mentions larger services are sometimes held in a nearby (Episcopal) church. Does that sound right? It's honestly not what I was expecting but it is much closer than other options so my plan is to go in without high expectations or preconditions and just see what they have to say and give it an honest chance. I figure if it is meant to be then God will see to it and if not I will just keep looking, no big deal.
 

soli.deo.gloria

Robin
Orthodox Inquirer
After no response via email or phone I went to the address listed and it is indeed someone's house, but there was a large wooden plaque with the name of the mission as well as an icon next to the door. I knocked repeatedly and waited for some time but noone answered the door. I plan to return later tonight to try again.
 

soli.deo.gloria

Robin
Orthodox Inquirer
I visited again tonight during the time that was listed for compline service. Turns out the mission is "closed" due to the coof. I had an awkward conversation with the subdeacon while standing on the sidewalk being eviscerated by mosquitos in pitch black darkness and was referred to an OCA church in a nearby city. He said the nearest ROCOR church is an hour and a half away. I am a little disappointed but undeterred. I plan to touch base with the OCA folks just to see what's what but I intend to go visit the ROCOR church, probably this weekend. Please pray for me that I may find the support and fellowship that I am seeking. Thanks for reading.

PS - @Roosh was right. Turns out they got my email but were unable to reply due to a technical problem. And the phone was turned off since they aren't accepting members. I guess sometimes you just have to do things in person if you want to get a proper answer.
 

Penitent

Robin
Orthodox
I visited again tonight during the time that was listed for compline service. Turns out the mission is "closed" due to the coof. I had an awkward conversation with the subdeacon while standing on the sidewalk being eviscerated by mosquitos in pitch black darkness and was referred to an OCA church in a nearby city. He said the nearest ROCOR church is an hour and a half away. I am a little disappointed but undeterred. I plan to touch base with the OCA folks just to see what's what but I intend to go visit the ROCOR church, probably this weekend. Please pray for me that I may find the support and fellowship that I am seeking. Thanks for reading.
Now you have me interested; will you keep us posted? I’ll be curious to see how this turns out.
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Orthodox
Gold Member
Glad you didn't let one bad experience deter you. Will pray that you get to visit a parish properly soon, and have a great experience there.
 

soli.deo.gloria

Robin
Orthodox Inquirer
Glad you didn't let one bad experience deter you. Will pray that you get to visit a parish properly soon, and have a great experience there.

Thanks! :)

I got a reply from a Friar at the somewhat nearby OCA parish tonight and he was very kind and welcoming. I plan to visit there asap but I am thinking I will make the 2 hours drive to visit ROCOR for the divine liturgy this Sunday. If I am able to go I will post details about my experience and some pictures of the church if possible. I am really looking forward to it.

I have a small problem though. I have lost so much weight over the past 6 months that I have nothing approriate to wear to the liturgy. So I guess tomorrow I have to go buy some pants and a nice shirt, lol. I can't even remember the last time I've been to an actual store to buy clothes. Wish me luck I guess. Haha.
 
Last edited:

soli.deo.gloria

Robin
Orthodox Inquirer
Well I went to my first Divine Liturgy this morning. It was quite an experience and I think I will need some time to process before I can fully understand everything. I'm mentally and physically exhausted and my brain is still humming from the road noise but I will try to share some details for those who asked.

Got up super early and after a nearly two hour drive I arrived about fifteen minutes before the Divine Liturgy was to begin. As I pulled up I noted the exterior of the church & grounds was unremarkable; it looked like pretty much every other Catholic church I've seen (which is okay). There were not many cars in the parking lot and as I approached the front door I was greeted with multiple scary looking signs informing me that masks and social distancing are REQUIRED. I was both surprised and a little disappointed to see this (it is one of the reasons I went for ROCOR) but I drove all that way so I decided to play along and give it a shot anyway, so I went back to my car and got a mask. Once I got inside people were moving around doing various things to prepare and I got a brief glimpse of the Father/Heriodeacon in his cool outfit (what is this called? Also during the service there was another guy with an even cooler outfit. I need to research this).

There was not anyone near the front door to greet me so I stood there awkwardly for a few moments until I was able to flag someone down. I explained I was a visitor and asked for assistance and I also noticed he wasn't wearing a mask so I asked about that and he basically said it's voluntary so I took mine off. He seemed confused and/or irritated I think because apparently I was in the "shop" area (where they sell candles and other things) but he graciously guided me to the main worship area and then went and found some information for me to read. This first interaction made it apparent to me that I was facing a bit of a langauge and culture difference as the members of the church are (mostly) english speaking ethnic Russian and Ukranian, etc. I expected that to a degree and is not a deal breaker but as I cannot speak Russian currently it will definitely make it more difficult if I choose to pursue becoming a full member of their community (if that is even possible to be fully accepted).

I sat and read through the provided information (a rough outline and translation of the service/prayers) as I waited for the appointed time and I stood up when the service began. I did not sit down again for I don't know how long but I am guessing between 1.5 to 2 hours. I tried to prepare for this and I was doing ok at first but I am not used to standing for that long and I suffered immensely throughout (and am still in a lot of pain as I type this). A few other folks sat down at various times (mostly the women and/or elderly) and I figured if I did they probably wouldn't be too upset but I just kept telling myself it was nothing compared to what Jesus went through and also that if I was serious I would not sit down so I never did.

The service was amazing and beautiful with wonderful singing and chanting and sights and smells and I did my best to follow along and nod at the appropriate times and so forth but more than half of the language was in Russian Slavonic so that was interesting. People were standing and sitting and moving around and praying at different places and times all throughout and it was difficult to make sense of much of it. At one point someone kindly informed me I wasn't supposed to put my hands in my pockets during church (oops) so I made sure to keep them at my sides or crossed in front after that (why didn't you guys tell me! lol). Some people took communion and/or received something from a spoon looking thing up at the altar, not sure what that was for. There was a water cooler with a sign that read "holy" water and folks seemed to be enjoying it. I was quite thirsty but unsure and didn't want to offend so I never took any. I spent a lot of time looking around the room at all the wonderful icons and things they had setup and when I couldn't follow along I mostly just looked at the icons of Jesus and prayed.

When the service was over I sat and waited to see if anyone would approach me. A few people did and only chatted briefly but most avoided even making eye contact and quickly left the area. Finally the Heirodeacon/Father came over and we talked for a bit. He remembered me from my email and asked a bunch of questions and it was enjoyable talking with him. At one point he was telling stories and explaining stuff and we got angrily shushed by a group near the altar who were doing some kind of ceremony (for someone who died, he later explained). I felt bad as I didn't realize it was inappropriate to be talking since they were on the other side of the room and also he was speaking quite loudly to me the whole time and never indicated we should be quiet. It just shows I still have a lot to learn I guess.

He explained that they don't currently have a priest on site but that one would hopefully be arriving some time in the fall or early next year and that he would forward me some information but I should wait for the priest to receive spiritual guidance. Not sure how I feel about that as I had hoped to be actively working towards my salvation and getting baptized sooner rather than later. Should I look for another church? After that he stepped away and someone else approached and sat down and we talked for a bit. He was a nice fellow and I enjoyed our conversation for the most part but at the end he brought up the coof and when I didn't agree he began ranting and kept using the phrase "on the tv" when telling me about the grim details to prove his case. I didn't want to have a confrontation in God's house so I just let him say his thing and then wished him well and we went our separate ways.

I think that is all of the relevant details. I guess I have some more thinking and research to do. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask. Constructive feedback/advice is always welcome. Btw I didn't take any pictures because as an outsider I just didn't feel it was appropriate. Maybe another time. Also I am an idiot. I am sure most of you are aware of that fact already but in case noone noticed, in my previous post I accidentally wrote Friar instead of Father. If anyone needs me I will be sitting in the corner. :)

Thank you for reading & God bless.

@Penitent
 
Last edited:

Penitent

Robin
Orthodox
Congratulations @soli.deo.gloria! You have just had your first taste of traditional Russian Orthodox spirituality. What you have described here is a familiar scene to me, and by the way you have described it I would guess that the parish you have found is a gem. A few observations on your comments:
I wasn't supposed to put my hands in my pockets during church (oops)
Sorry we forgot to mention this. So much to remember! There is a steep learning curve when you are new to Orthodoxy.
Some people took communion and/or received something from a spoon looking thing up at the altar
If the faithful were lining up to receive something from a spoon, they were taking communion. This indicates that the service being celebrated was the Divine Liturgy, and that a priest must have been present. You have used the term Hierodeacon to describe one of the clergymen. A hierodeacon is a monk who is also a deacon. There may have also been a hieromonk present (a hieromonk being a priest who is also a monk). Sometimes when a parish does not have a resident priest they will be served by clergy from a nearby monastery who may have an "extra" priest that is able to travel to serve at a parish. My guess is that this is the situation at the parish you visited.
I had hoped to be actively working towards my salvation and getting baptized sooner rather than later.
First things first. Before being baptized you will have to undergo a period of formal instruction (the Chatechumenate) which can be of variable lengths of time. I was a catechumen for less than a year; I know of people who were catechumens for over a decade (not optimal). Expect it to take between 6 months and 2 years.
Btw I didn't take any pictures because as an outsider I just didn't feel it was appropriate.
Probably a good idea. If I were you I would ask permission before taking any pictures inside the church.

There's more that I could say but you have enough there to chew on for a while already. It is sad that even in the Russian church you find people who are sold on the covid narrative, but what can we do? I see it at my parish also, and I generally try to overlook it when I come in contact with these attitudes. At least you didn't have to wear a mask.
 

Aboulia

Woodpecker
Orthodox
I got a brief glimpse of the Father/Heriodeacon in his cool outfit (what is this called? Also during the service there was another guy with an even cooler outfit. I need to research this).

It's a vestment. Vestments change according to rank and different colours are used depending on the time of year. They should have been blue vestments for the Dormition.

You did well standing that long for someone not used to it, and it's good that you're paying attention, it helps show that you care.

That's really weird that they would be doing a service for the reposed on a Sunday.

Don't expect to be baptized immediately, you need to learn what the faith is, what exactly you're joining, and understand why you're joining. Working towards understanding Orthodoxy is, is working towards your salvation.

If the faithful were lining up to receive something from a spoon, they were taking communion. This indicates that the service being celebrated was the Divine Liturgy, and that a priest must have been present. You have used the term Hierodeacon to describe one of the clergymen. A hierodeacon is a monk who is also a deacon. There may have also been a hieromonk present (a hieromonk being a priest who is also a monk). Sometimes when a parish does not have a resident priest they will be served by clergy from a nearby monastery who may have an "extra" priest that is able to travel to serve at a parish. My guess is that this is the situation at the parish you visited.

Not necessarily, You cannot prepare communion without a priest, but it can be distributed by a deacon under certain conditions, the travel restrictions nowadays is probably the reason he has a blessing.
 

Penitent

Robin
Orthodox
Not necessarily, You cannot prepare communion without a priest, but it can be distributed by a deacon under certain conditions, the travel restrictions nowadays is probably the reason he has a blessing.
The length of the service he quoted was 1.5-2 hrs. which is typical for a liturgy, which may not be served without a priest. Neither may a moleben or pannykhida be served without a priest, which he also indicated. Also, a deacon may not vest without a priests blessing.

see article https://goodguyswearblack.org/2012/01/14/the-duties-of-the-orthodox-deacon/
 
Top