Religions nowadays have become like items in a supermarket. You choose which one you ‘like’ and next month you choose another one. When I was baptised in the Greek Orthodox church, the priest first didn’t take me seriously. I am illegally adopted, so on my identity papers there is a Dutch name (which isn’t mine). No matter how I speak perfectly Greek, how my son still spoke even better Greek when he was young: I needed almost half an hour to convince the priest that I wouldn’t change religion afterwards.
Are all religions equal?
Why was he so afraid of that, you would ask. Well, he explained that two Belgian people who had been baptised in our church recently (that is in the year 2000), had changed their religion two or three times after their baptism. I looked at him with a puzzled face and he repeated his words. Then I said: “I am not Belgian or Dutch or whatever. I am GREEK and this is my religion by birth. The only thing is that I haven´t been baptised, because I was stolen from my parents and had to grow up in a foster “family”. So now I would like that corrected for both my son and me”.
I had to convince him that I had considered myself orthodox from the first time I had entered a Greek church, 15 years earlier in Thessaloniki. So if he’d baptise me or not, I was, am and will always be an Orthodox Christian. I also confessed regularly coming to the church would be difficult, because it was far away. That us not coming too often didn’t mean we weren’t serious about our belief. I have a little worship place, called iconostási, in our house so we can feel God there as well. Anyway, in the end the priest baptised us and 20 years later I found out I had already been baptised as a baby. Well, losing your roots isn’t that easy, is it?
Today we are made to believe that all religions are equal and actually the same, since the essence is that you believe in something between heaven and earth. A misplaced anti-racism idea if you ask me. A very empty remaining of a deep belief and knowing God exists and is present in your life too. Most people don’t have a clue who and what God is and don’t give others the space to be more intuitive and religious. The truth is that very ancient religions have lost their power, because after the Great Flood mankind lost the knowledge about how to heal diseases, Who God and the Goddess are and we lost our connection with our history. Two thousand years ago Jesus came here in order to reconnect us with God and with that Holy Spirit, which is the inner strength that helps you in difficult moments. It can do a lot more, but we have forgotten.
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A connection with God and His Holy Spirit
You could actually state that if you are religious and have this connection with God, that makes you an Orthodox Christian. I have told many times this church doesn’t judge us by saying we all have the original sin within us. And if we had inherited anything, it would be washed away by the baptism, because you are put under water head and tail. Before being baptised, you spit out the devil and all evil you may have in you, so it’s a quite thorough cleansing so to speak. God also doesn’t find us sinners if we make mistakes in life. Even if we leave the path He lightens up for us and start doing bad things and all, He is happy the day we come to our senses and come back to Him. God is a cool dude, young people would say. Now that is a loving religion and the true sense of who God is.
In the scope of wokeism and such I think I need to explain this article is no effort of mine to persuade anyone to become an Orthodox Christian. Everyone is free to do and to believe what he or she wants. What I do want to say, is that you might not want to miss the presence of God and His Holy Spirit or His protection if you prefer that, in your life. I have entered many kinds of churches, temples, synagogues and mosques. The only places where you can feel God are Orthodox churches and Jewish synagogues. These are places where you can find your own connection with God, so that life will be a lot easier and lighter for you. The force of the Holy Spirit is something you really don’t want to miss, because it makes you larger and wiser than you are without it. It also makes you not afraid to stand for your believes in difficult situations and it helps you to see the truth in people and in things like politics as well. Through the Jewish religion it’s however hard to reconnect with God, since you have to be Jewish to do it their way. Therefore I will explain the Orthodox Christian way that leads you to the same result.
Saints, angels, crosses and mysteries
Raised as a Protestant, I didn’t understand anything about Saints, angels, crosses and mysteries. These elements have been banned from the Catholic church by the Protestants, where they were already deformed and inunderstandable. I have always found it better not to believe in all those things than to understand them wrong, but later on when I tried to become more and more a believing Christian, I did want to know about them. So Saints are people who have fought to keep the presence of God among the people. It’s not appropriate to ask them for help, because even if they were so courageous, they are still people and need rest after their passing away. Same about the angels. They are people too and need their rest. If you need help with something in your life, just ask God.
The cross is the symbol of happiness and fulfilledness. So if you wear a cross around your neck or make the symbol of it with your hands, you protect yourself against threats and you bless yourself at the same time. It does make a difference how you make the cross though. So you take three fingers – index finger, middle finger and ring finger, not your whole hand as Catholics do – and then you start by touching your forehead. After that you touch your belly just under the diafragma, then the right chest and last the left chest. If you like, you can after that touch the center of your chest with your whole hand (not necessary). That much about the cross. It is not good to have pictures or even statues of Jesus Christ on the cross. Salvation of your soul or in better words connection with God is not possible because Jesus died on the cross, but because He surrected after His death and gave us instructions of how to have this Holy Spirit in you and how His church should become. Looking at a suffering Christ is barbarian!
Mysteries are baptism and marriage. They are performed so that God can bless the baptised child (or adult of course) and the married couple as much as possible. In the Orthodox church there is no such thing as a confirmation of your belief at an adult age or a ritual at 12 years old. When you get baptised, you are known and protected by God. Later in your life you decide what you want to do with that. If you want to stay true to God’s path or if you want to live differently. You don’t need to confirm your belief, because as the priest underneath explains: in the Orthodox church faith is about what you feel with your heart, not about what you think with your mind. You can at any time come back to God and He will be glad for it.
How to have your personal connection with God
What the Roman Catholics have done, is put the Pope in charge of their church. That is first of all against the rules of Christianity, because Jesus is the leader of the church and no-one else. Second of all they have changed the contents of what people are to believe many times, with the consequence that it’s not authentic anymore and therefore not the way Jesus meant the church to be. That is why you won’t feel God in Catholic churches. Things like the authority of the church, the narrative that we humans would allegedly be sinners even without having sinned and that we should pay for sins we haven’t even committed are in my eyes barbarian. God is love, not rejection and He lives among us through the Holy Spirit. I think that is a whole lot more welcoming and warm way to see God. If you visit an Orthodox church or a synagogue, you will experience this is not only an idea of God, but the truth of who He really is. He and She of course, since God has a wife and together they are God.
So if you want a connection with God, you may start by not feeling guilty and humble, but to be fully yourself. To stand up and fight for justice in your life and in the world in general. Even if you’ve never heard of Christianism at all, that attitude makes you a Christian. What makes Orthodoxy so strong, is the fact that it is consistent in its beliefs and that its believers know who God is: eternal genuine love. If you want to hear a real Greek priest say what I tell you here, you can listen to this video underneath. There a real theologist speaks to you and explains everything in plain English. There are of course more videos and websites or books you can read, but I chose this video because it tells you in such simple words that God is love.
Your personal connection with God can be made physical, since we are physical people, by making this iconostási in the house. You take a few icons of Jesus and Panagía, the Holy Mother and please don’t let Him suffer on the cross. Just take a nice icon of Jesus teaching or doing whatever else during His life. That’s much healthier than to see the poor man struggle for His life. You buy a kandili, a God’s light, for a few bucks in a Greek or Russian shop with a little box of these candlewicks that will last you at least for a few years. Icons are available from a few bucks to hundreds of euros and you can also print them from your computer and put them in a frame.
Then you fill the glass for 3/4 with water. Upon it you put a few millimeters of olive oil and then you let the candlewick on its cork in it to burn. You don’t need to burn it all the time, just at moments when you want to meditate, pray or when a member of your family or friends is travelling – this kind of occasions. And do air the house afterwards, because these lights suck up a lot of oxygen. If you find this complicated, you can also light a waxlight on a little plate with water and some olive oil. Voilà!
Here is the interview of a Protestant journalist with a Greek Orthodox priest in Denver, Colorado.
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