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Do You Want To Be Orthodox?

learning to be orthodox

One of my favorite films is Martin Scorcese’s The Departed. It’s a thriller about an undercover cop sent to infiltrate the Irish mafia. His mission is to uncover a mole inside the Boston police department.

There’s a line in the film that I recite all the time to my long-suffering wife. In my best Boston accent, I repeat a question Police Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) delivers to a young recruit, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio):


“Do you want to be a cop, or do you want to appear to be a cop?” Queenan asks Costigan. “It’s an honest question. A lot of guys just want to appear to be cops. Gun, badge, pretend they’re on TV.”

Queenan is taking the measure of young Costigan. He wants to find out if his recruit is willing to do the dirty work ahead, or whether he just wants to bask in the glory of the uniform. With lives at stake, Queenan wants dedication, not mere playacting.

Appearing to be Orthodox

I’ve entered my third year as an Orthodox Christian. My convert’s zeal is running out of steam, and I’m faced with the task of actually living Orthodoxy in my daily life. Results have been mixed.

My prayer rope is on my nightstand more than it is on my wrist. The icons on my wall look at me far more often than I look at them. What started out as weekly posts on this site have become fewer and farther between.

This last item may be a good thing. How can I talk to all of you about Orthodoxy when I know so little of it, and practice it so badly?

Do I want to be Orthodox, or do I want to appear to be Orthodox?

Living Orthodoxy is more than the forms of the faith. It’s more than your conversion story. At some point you must settle in and just be Orthodox.

I’m still figuring out what that means. As I go through the process of learning, I will continue to try sharing that with you. That includes my lapses, my ups and downs, and my struggles. It also means sharing the continued peace I have in knowing I have found the true Church of the Apostles. It’s knowing that I am in the Church that will never pass away. It means I am part of a community that has lasted over 2,000 years.

I’d love to hear from any of you that have experienced this. Have you passed through the conversion phase and into a place of truly living Orthodoxy? Your thoughts and advice are welcome.

I don’t want to merely appear to be Orthodox.


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Comments 6

  1. Becoming a convert is a little like getting married. Eventually, we settle in and live a life where there isn’t so much excitement – sometimes. Sometimes it’s as if we are just slowly moving along and it isn’t so easy for some things to be automatic anymore.

    It ain’t the end of the world. Talk with those that have been doing this for a while and seek advice from people at church that you respect. Don’t despair. Just keep trying.

    As far as your posts go, maybe you can find a few other people that can contribute once in a while. It doesn’t have to be all on you.

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  2. I love that you shared this. It’s a very real thing within Orthodoxy that many struggle with. It seems like so much to keep up with. I really liked the analogy Richard put above in comparison to marriage. The honeymoon phase is over…and now to settle into to the everyday tasks.

    When I struggle with these types of things (fasting, prayed, etc.) I think…you know, God did his part. He’s laid this groundwork. And me feeling like I’m not doing my part…is really Him urging me on. I also find that finding any spare moment to add a quick prayer is helpful. My aim is to include time with him. I say the Jesus prayer when I’m driving. I listen to a good podcast (my fave is Fr. Josiah’s the Arena) while cooking. Sometimes I just talk to my patron saint as I’m cleaning. This isn’t easy…but it’s our race to run. I miss you Brelands!

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      Thank you for the encouragement. Podcasts do help, and the Jesus Prayer is (or should be) a constant companion on this journey. It’s also good knowing you have a church family (past and present) helping you along.

  3. Hi Tony, you’ve just put some words on my what I’ve been living for a while now. I just feel like I am more and more openly claiming my belonging to the Orthodox Church while failing every try to actually live an Orthodox life, or even worse, sometimes I even think I’m regressing.
    Being a christian obviously isn’t an easy thing, it actually takes a entire life of efforts and perseverance but well, what if I’m dying tomorrow ? What fruits did I bear ? Did I really leave my old self when I got baptized ? I’m thinking of asking my priest for advice, you should too.

    The marriage comparison is outstanding, and also very smooth ! Keep praying, God will support you.
    Great post, by the way !

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