Imagine a treasure chest the size of a swimming pool, filled with precious gems. All sizes and shapes of bright and deep colors, with light emanating from the jewels and reflecting off the millions of facets. First I notice the chest and its contents from far off, and can't see it very well.The chest is the Orthodox Church, and the gems are all the truths, doctrines, practices and traditions of the Life that is the church, the fullness of Christ. Sometimes I have described Orthodoxy as a nourishing bread, the recipe for which has a thousand ingredients some of which seem unnecessary to outsiders, but which our mother the Church knows are just what we need to grow up healthy and strong -- not by studying the recipe but by eating the bread.
Then I come closer and stand on the edge, and the treasures do look lovely, but I can't touch them. They do seem to be exerting some kind of pull on me, but only when I actually climb into the chest and scramble among the jewels do I find that they are warm to the touch, as though alive. Each one is a complex world of its own, and I get lost just looking at a single bright stone for an age. But then, I see another I want to nestle up to and get familiar with.
What can I tell you who are outside the chest? Nothing I can say will convey the full beauty and truth of these precious things -- I myself am pretty overwhelmed by the experience of knowing them even as superficially as I do, and talking about their many features and meaning feels extremely inadequate.
Another time I used the picture of Orthodoxy as a broad and deep river, containing the maximum amount of oxygen, and a multitude of species of water creatures and plant life. I was a fish who had been hatched and raised in a swampy backwater where we only heard rumors of the big river and warnings not to go there.
But I did accidentally get swept into the current and out into the river, where I got so much oxygen in my gills that I immediately could swim faster. Seeing all the strange creatures was a little scary, but I was invigorated by the whole experience and well fed by the excess of food in the water surrounding me.
So much for the allegorical; maybe the following will be more to the point. I've collected here some of my own blog posts in which I write about bits and pieces of my Orthodox experience. I pray they might give a glimpse of those treasures that I'm coming to know, and that God would cause you to forget anything that misrepresents Him or His ways.
With quotes that convey elements of Orthodox theology or spirituality:
Christ has destroyed death.
The false self vs. the heart
The beauty of Christ is grace.
What the birth of Christ's mother means to us
Censure vs. looking at your own sins
By grace you are saved.
The liturgical year is not merely a calendar.
Freedom and dependence and Mary
The Virgin Mary shows us the way.
Doing what you can
Do not judge
Transfiguration of suffering
Beauty is never necessary.
What we do during Lent
Orthodox hymns, prayers, liturgical readings:
O Heavenly King
A burial hymn with audio
Paschal homily of St. John Chrysostom
My personal experience of church life:
Theophany - The Baptism of Christ
The end of Holy Week
Pascha (Easter) Morning
I bake communion bread.
One of our beloved saints
These also are my people.
Orthodox history in California