Specials

Jonathan Jackson: My Journey into the Orthodox Church.

Parish Life Conference - 2013: Dioceses of New York and Charleston

St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Emmaus, PA hosted the 2013 Parish Life Conference, July 3-7, 2013. Our thanks to Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick for providing the talks from Samuel Noble, Fr. Noah Bushelli, Jonathan Jackson, and Dr. Christopher Veniamin.

July 2013

Jonathan Jackson: My Journey into the Orthodox Church.

Jonathan Jackson is a five-time Emmy Award winning actor and musician. Among many roles in both film and television, he has starred as “Lucky Spencer” in General Hospital (1993-1999, 2009-2011) as well as “Avery Barkley” on Nashville (2012-present), and he is the lead singer of the independent rock band Enation (2004-present). In 2012, Jonathan and his family were baptized into the Orthodox Church.

July 8, 2013 Length: 45:10


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Jonathan Jackson: Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this conference.  It’s, I hope it’s been a blessing to many of you, because it’s certainly been a blessing for me to be here.  Father Andrew and I met in person at the Newark Airport parking lot, of all places, and it was the only way the schedules worked.  I was driving through with my band to do a show, and he was kind enough to drive up and we met in the car and he had a little microphone there and we just talked for a couple hours and it was an amazing time.  That interview, to my surprise, has had such a great response around the world.  It was transcribed and translated into Romanian, into a little booklet, and the people that did that, they were passing it out to young people in Romania, which was really beautiful, and it’s in some of the monasteries there, so I am indebted to Father Andrew for his kindness.  And his book as well helped me in my journey to the faith.

So, what I’d like to talk about today is sort of just autobiographical journey.  How did I get here, at an Antiochian conference?  I’m neither Greek, Russian, Romanian, or any of those things, and yet this is my home.  So, you know I’ve been an artist since I was very young, I like to speak the language of music and poetry, so I’m going to kind of intersperse some poems along the way, because I feel like poetry is music without music — [Jonathan chuckles, audience laughs] it’s music with words — to express those things.

So, as a young child I remember having some very specific moments with God.  I would lie in my bed and all of a sudden be overwhelmed with gratitude for my parents and for my brother and sister.  At a very young age, maybe four or five, I remember losing, which was my great-grandmother, that I barely knew, and for some reason at that very young age I would just sit in bed and weep because I missed her so much.  These were beautiful moments, and they’re ones that transcended logic and all of those things, the grace that little children receive, I guess.  My parents were very devout.  They were both fourth-generation Seventh Day Adventists; I don’t know if any of you know that denomination, but it’s a very particular denomination that believes that Saturday is the Sabbath and has a very unique interpretation of the Scriptures and such.  My parents left that denomination when I was about nine, nine or ten years old, and we kind of went off into no-man’s land as far as church is concerned.

We moved to Hollywood when I was just turning eleven years old and I had somehow, along with my brother, convinced my parents to drag us down to L.A. with no connections or anything because we wanted to get into acting, and for some reason my parents were crazy enough to say, “Yes.”  So my mom took us down there, and my father, who is a family practice physician, stayed up in Washington state and would fly down every weekend for eight years.  So, amazing parents who were very supportive of us pursuing those things. 

I would say around the ages of eight or nine, I kind of lost that initial intimacy with God to some extent and I became pretty angry, and kind of inward-focused.  So by the time I started acting, and I’d moved to L.A., I would say I was a pretty narcissistic kid.  I was the youngest of three and I had some sort of random anger about being young.  I don’t know what that was about, but it was there. So, I would say eight to, probably eight to twelve was my rebellious years.  Maybe it’s better that it happened at a young age. 

When I was twelve years old I was listening to cassette tapes every night, of sermons that my dad would give us from various people.  Again, in Hollywood we didn’t have a church that we went to, but my parents were very devout. So, I would listen to these cassette tapes, and I don’t know why, I don’t know how this happened, but one evening when I was listening to a particular sermon, the Holy Spirit came to me and did something in my heart, completely transformed me. I remember that the sermon was on the pride of the human heart, the holiness of God, and how impossible it is to impress God with our own righteousness.  I don’t know why as a twelve-year-old that spoke to me, but it did.  I had always seen myself as a good person. You know, I had this sort of shallow introspection that I hadn’t done this great sin, or this great sin, and so therefore I’m a pretty good person, and therefore I’m not in need of very much from God.  And for some reason in that moment I knew that I was in desperate need of him and I could feel that I was very far from him. 

Around that same time, I read Matthew 25, which actually I learned when I got here is kind of the theme of the conference, The Last Judgment.  Heavy reading for a young person, but I think very necessary. And then I also read Matthew 5 where Christ talks about, “If your righteousness doesn’t exceed that of the pharisees, if you even look at a woman with lust you’ve committed adultery in your heart, if you say ‘You fool!’ to your brother you’ve committed murder in the eyes of the law.”  And I just felt this overwhelming sense of incredible inadequacy before God.  And I just cried out to him, and I said, “I can’t do this.  I can’t do this.”  And in that very moment I felt the Holy Spirit say that, “That’s exactly what I wanted you to feel, because that’s how you come to understand my grace.”

So, I’m gonna read a quick little poem, it’s just a reflection on childhood.

I came from the womb of a shining poet, and the loins of a musical physician.  I was brought up on visions of grace and songs of mercy.  Argument was fed to me for bread, and thought for milk and honey.  Preciousness was hummed over my bed of waking dreams, and awareness was planted in the soil of my heart.  Beneath fabled skies, conviction caressed my senses in mystical awe, like the softness of a mother’s hand.  Lion’s eyes were fixed into my skull, and the teeth of wolves were placed into my gums.  I was given an eagle for a brother, and a mare for a sister.  Both guided me through tunnels and streams of joy and bliss, bearing the burden of transient creatures.  I missed you most during the night, lying on petals of violet fascination, tears of Eden would swell to overflowing as we rehearsed our coming death through the discipline of sleep.  O, author of beauty, you would visit me with visions from within and beating drums and tolling bells, and visions from without, of living effigies wrapped in cloaks of flesh, plucking nylon strings of blood and laughter. Death stands before me every hour, glimmering life into reflection.  I welcome its shadow, for I need this wound to separate the day from the night.

That was another thing that I felt growing up; I think that was probably why I was weeping for my great grandmother as a young child: there was some awareness of mortality even at a young age, that was there, and when I was twelve and I encountered God in that way, there was a remembrance of death that was present that really led me to him.

So fast forward to Hollywood. I’m suddenly surrounded by a very unique business, working with mostly adults, in what many would say is spiritually a rather dark atmosphere.  But, I will say that it was under the skies of Babylon that I encountered God; it was in the darkness where He came to me.  I’m so thankful for the years, those crucial years of growing up from the ages of eleven to eighteen or nineteen, especially in Hollywood.  It’s a polarizing atmosphere, and I was confronted at a very early age with what kind of a person I wanted to be, and I’m very thankful for that. 

So throughout my teenage years, I began reading a lot of C.S. Lewis, which was a real strength and blessing for me.  I would say that the next really pivotal moment for me was, I had a couple misadventures in romance in my later teenage years, and for some reason that, even though I had had this encounter with God, and I thought I had put him first in my life, I had compartmentalized, and romance and relationships just, I felt like that was just a different realm that somehow God wasn’t quite as necessary, which is silly, but nevertheless …

So God in his grace broke my heart through some different circumstances and I learned through those painful circumstances that there is such a thing as sacred romance.  I learned about Christ being the bridegroom and the church being the bride.  I read the Song of Songs.  I learned that there was a place in the heart that God abides in that’s deeper than any human relationship can give us.  That was, I would say, a preparation.  After that I spent a few years that I would call, were a few years of real purification and sanctification with the Lord, preparing me for a true love story, preparing me for my wife.

I’ll briefly tell you that story because I think it has some relevance.  My wife was raised Roman Catholic.  She walked away from God in her late teens.  She’s also an actress; we met in Los Angeles.  And, when she walked away from God and went into the world completely, she would say that she lost herself, she was fed to the wolves, in essence. Very beautiful actress in the world, and she went through a period of probably about ten years that were basically hell for her, various relationships and abuse and all those kinds of things took place.  So she was completely enveloped in darkness.  We were having a Bible Study at our home.  By this point, my family and I had sort of gravitated towards non-denominational charismatic Christianity.  It’s just part of the Protestant world.  And so we were having these Bible studies at our house and we would invite friends over.  Somebody invited Elisa, my future wife, and she came.  And she had been going to psychics, and New Age, and just you know listening to gurus in her car, and she just tried everything. She’d been into all of this stuff, and when someone invited her to a Bible study, she thought, “Wow.  How boring.” [Audience laughter] But she thought, “Well, so-and-so’s gonna be there; so-and-so’s gonna be there.” You know, God will use anything, even people that work on television or play music.  He spoke through a donkey, so I take great comfort in that. 

So she came and she kind of thought in her New Age guru wisdom, she thought, “I’m gonna come and I’m gonna share my wisdom.”  And, so what happened, was she was somehow confronted with her lifestyle, not in a contentious way, but she was confronted with the truth of the gospel, and she had a moment where she thought, “Okay, I can run out of this house right now, or I can stay and I can humble myself and I can listen.”  Thank God she stayed, because when she left that evening, she said that she had to pull over to the side of the road because she couldn’t drive, and she just started weeping, and she just wept, and wept and wept. And God came upon her in some mysterious way, and she felt as if the Father — she hadn’t heard, she was very close to Christ as a young child, but she hadn’t heard his voice in so many years — and she felt as if the Father said, “I’m going to show you what true love is.” 

So she started coming to this Bible study every weekend for about two years.  We would see each other pretty much every weekend in this group environment.  We never went to coffee alone, never flirted, it wasn’t anything like that.  It was very focused on Christ.  So, a couple years goes by, and I start talking to some of my closest friends, and I start hearing my own voice saying things to them like, “You know, whoever I end up marrying, it’s going to be a lot like her. I mean, like a lot like her.  There’s just something about her, you know her spirit, her heart, the way she loves Christ.  There’s something there. There’s a connection.”  Now, she was quite a few years older than me, so I really didn’t think that that was a possibility, so I thought, “somebody like her only a few years younger, that makes sense, that’s the way the world works, okay.”  But after I heard my voice saying this enough times, I kind of realized, “Maybe it’s her. Maybe it’s her!” And I thought, “Oh, boy.  She a little bit older, you know in terms of society’s standards, she’s older than me.  I was a young kid at the time. I was probably eighteen or nineteen years old.  She had already been through so much.  I thought, “Is this possible? How am I capable of handling what she’s been through? Is this really from God?”  So I was up at two in the morning one night, and I was praying, and I asked God, I said, “Lord, is she the one?” And before I even finished saying it, I felt absolute peace, that yes, she was the one.  And I felt as if the Holy Spirit somehow commuted to me — I don’t know how these things work so forgive the language — but somehow the Holy Spirit spoke in my heart.  He said, “The reason this is so holy, is that you’ve been wooing her to me the whole time, and not to yourself.”  Because, for two, two and a half years, we’d been meeting; it’s all about Christ, all about the kingdom.  So this was such a shock for all of a sudden God to say, “This whole time I’ve been preparing your bride.” 

So, I called her up one night, I said, “What are you doing?” She was just hanging out.  Again, we had never been alone.  We’d never talked about having feelings for each other, or anything like that.  But somehow I just, it was one of those bizarre things, I just knew. So I went over to her house, and I had some flowers, symbolically from the Song of Songs, a lily with some thorns, and she had no idea why I was there.  She was a little [chuckling], I mean, she’s like, “Umm…” even though I had flowers it still didn’t register.  So, I ended up talking with her for awhile, playing some music for her, and it turned into this incredible, I would say holy moment, and I proposed to her, right then and there.  [Jonathan and audience laugh] Yes, for you, if there are younger men, I’m not saying… Don’t do this; this is a unique situation.  And I found out that she had been in love with me for a year and a half [collective “awe” from audience] and she was just trying to give it to God.  She said she was crying all the time, she was begging God to take this away from her, and she was so shocked when I proposed to her, and I had a ring, that she couldn’t answer.  She literally couldn’t speak, and she said, “I have to go get some water.”  [Audience and Jonathan laugh] So I was sitting there for two minutes kind of like smiling with God, going, “Okay.  I was ready for this.  Okay, you’ve been preparing me. I’m ready to live just with you if that’s my calling.”  So she came back, and I very swashbucklingly said, “I know what I’m doing,” which I didn’t.  But I said it anyway with the utmost confidence.  And so she said yes, thank God, and our first kiss was when we were engaged.  We got married two months later.  We just celebrated our eleventh anniversary last week.  [Audience claps] Thank you!  Thank God! 

And so all of that is a set-up for what took place after the engagement, and after the marriage which was an incredible amount of spiritual warfare and healing, and reliance on the grace of God.  As soon as we got engaged, it was like this fast track of, you know we got married in two and a half months after being engaged, but it felt like we’d been engaged for a year, because the amount of work that God did in our hearts was very profound, and we’d known each other in a spiritual way for over two years already.

So, her history and her past started to come to the surface. You know, she would have continuous nightmares.  She was haunted by these things to a very serious degree, and I found myself in the midst of an overwhelming situation spiritually, that I knew I’d signed up for, but nevertheless it was very overwhelming.  You know, one of my favorite movies — I don’t know if you’ve seen it, it’s called Moll Flanders, Morgan Freeman and Robin Wright — and I was fifteen years old when I saw it. I was weeping like a baby, and I think I know why now, because that was a preparation for what I was going to go through.  A quick flash of that would be waking up at three in the morning with a nightmare of some sorts, some sort of attack from the enemy, and walking through that with her, and praying together, weeping together, and at the same time, I found myself needing to be very strong for her sake.  And usually what would happen is, after a couple hours, she would fall asleep, and I would be left alone, with the brunt of what had just taken place, going, “What do I do with this?” There were moments where I would have to leave and go into another room, into a closet, and I would just fall on my face before God and cry out to him, and ask for his strength and his grace.  And what I experienced in the reality of the cross, I wouldn’t trade for anything, because I asked God, “What do I do with this?  What do I do with these, these memories, these things that my beloved wife is bringing out into the light for healing? What do I do with this?”  And every time the Holy Spirit would bring the cross into my mind and into my heart, and ask me some very pointed questions, that Christ either took the sins of humanity or he didn’t.

And there’s another little poem I’d like to read, about that.

You gave me a precious sparrow to shepherd.  Her spirit was shaken by the wrath of many winters and the lust of many hunters.  Her wings were clipped and her feathers were plucked in shameful sport.  But when she came to me, her body still trembled beneath the day.  But her eyes spoke to me silently, and I saw her holiness.  You placed her in my hands to give her back to love.  Electric visions of war shot through my blood.  I witnessed the destruction of her temple.  I saw her fluids fill cracks in the marble floor.  Pillars crumbled one by one, curtains fell in flames, incense from the altar mixed with the smoke of destruction rose towards the sky.  But there was no answer.  There was no reply.  I saw her little bones broken in jest. I saw the cage in which she was bound.  My heart was grieved beyond my strength.  I held her gently, close to my chest, then placed her in bed after she had fallen asleep.  I moved to my closet to close the door and weep.  What do I do with these visions?  What do I do with this darkness?  What do I do with this grief?  How can I bear the sight of this evil?  Can her wings ever grow back?  Will her glory ever be restored?  Will her body ever cease to tremble from trauma?  What do I do with my anguish?  Is this it? Is there no answer, no justice?  Does evil rape and destroy and never face your law?  What do I do with the weight of this sin?  You whispered beneath my weeping, “Go to the place where evil and light crossed each other.  Go to the place where justice and mercy met.  Go to the place of divine retribution and grace.  Go to the hill.  Go to the place where the serpent was lifted up.  Go to the place where the lamb was slaughtered.  Go to the Mount of Moriah and magic.  Go to the Place of the Skull and reality. Go to the place of meditation and absolution.  Go with your anger.  Go with your rage.  Go with your grief.  Go with your ashes.  Go with your despair.  Behold the figure dripping with blood.  Behold the eyes of mercy and love.  Behold the cup of wrath beside the tree.  Behold the magic bullet shot into the heart.  Behold atonement.  Behold salvation.  Behold forgiveness.  Behold salvation.  Behold atonement.  Behold forgiveness, the blessing, the light, the consummation of yearning. Behold the pain, the grief. the darkness.  Behold the light.”

So, by God’s grace, my wife and I experienced a glimpse of the power, the transformative power of the cross. And my strength was looking at the scriptures and seeing that Christ, when it says, “Husbands love your wife as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her;’ without that reality I wouldn’t have been able to get through any of that. It was definitely way beyond me. 

So, I’d like to transition from that love story to another love story.  The love story of the Church.  This is, for me it’s another romance, it’s part of our romance, my wife and I.  In 2007 I was sent to Romania to shoot a film.  I was there for three and a half months, with my wife and two kids at the time.  I thought I was there to shoot a film, but my whole character was cut out of the film [Audience and Jonathan laugh], which was, um, so I think I was there for other reasons, it’d be safe to say.  So, I encountered the Orthodox Church in Romania, but I have to say that in some ways I didn’t, because I was so ignorant and had so many biases against any form of traditional Christianity, that it just didn’t mean anything to me, which is sad.  I just kind of brushed it off as some bizarre offshoot of Roman Catholicism, and that was the only context I had of it.  So, I visited some cathedrals.  The first day I got there, my wife and I went into a little church, and it was more icons than you can imagine in this tiny little space, and as soon as we walked out, we were mugged by gypsies.  [Audience laughs]  We were just talking about that recently, my wife and I, and we were like, “You know what? I bet that was like to completely distract us from just being in that church,” because we were completely like, the rest of the day was all about the fact that we got robbed by gypsies.  We didn’t even remember where we just were.  That was a “Welcome to Bucharest” moment.

Audience Member: Where in Romania?

Jonathan: Bucharest. Yes, I did spend some time in Transylvania, as well, which was beautiful.  So, I had a week off from work, and my wife is Italian, so we thought, “Hey, let’s go to Rome.”  Right?  Because Bucharest is an intense city.  They’ve been through a lot there, and I think we were looking for a little bit of a reprieve.  So, we went to Rome.  It happened to be Palm Sunday, which we didn’t know until we got there. You know, we’re regular Protestants, no liturgical calendar.  I mean it’s like, we’ve got Easter and Christmas.  And other than that it’s like, “Holy Week? What?” It’s funny and sad.  So we show up in Rome, and it’s Palm Sunday, and I had my Protestant biases up, right, so I’m thinking, “Oh, this is just gonna be dead religion, but it’ll be fun to see some historical buildings and thing like that.  We experienced the complete opposite.  The Holy Spirit was just filling the place, I mean I was just in awe, and my wife as well.  We went to the Colosseum and we saw this big cross commemorating the martyrs, and I truly believe that in that moment, the prayers of the saints just descended upon us, because our lives were changed in that moment.  And I knew that what I had experienced up until that point, although it had been very deep in terms of our relationship with Christ, and the cross, and the Holy Spirit, there was something missing, and it was, “What on earth is church?  What on earth is this?  So I began reading Christian history.  I ordered as many books as I could off Amazon, and I just started reading, and I went about three and a half years of reading Christian history.  All the books were written by western historians.  I didn’t know this at the time.  Everything I read was Catholic, Protestant, Catholic, Protestant.  So, I thought, “Well, maybe this is the historic church, is the Roman Catholic Church.”  I mean, that’s the only reality that I had ever seen.  So I spent a few years wondering, “Maybe I’m gonna become Catholic?” I was encouraged by a lot of the faith and spirituality in the Catholic Church.  I read probably sixteen books from Pope Benedict, and Pope John Paul II, and G.K. Chesterton, and so on.  But there were some things that I just couldn’t reconcile in my heart with Rome. 

So I found myself at a crisis, after about three and a half years. I no longer felt at home in the Protestant world where there were 33,000 denominations. “A house divided against itself can’t stand.”  And so I didn’t understand any of that anymore.  And yet the spiritual monarchy of Rome didn’t make sense to me either with what I was reading about Christian history.  So I was really in a place of despair.  I mean it was sort of a, not to be melodramatic, but it felt like a dark night of the soul to some extent, and I was crying out to God just saying, “Lord I feel like i just, there is no home.  There is no home.  You said the gates of hell will not prevail against your church, so where is your church?”  And somehow, I honestly don’t remember how this happened or how the thought came into my head, but somehow the Great Schism was in my mind, and I realized that I hadn’t really studied that, I’d kind of studied a lot prior and a lot after, but I hadn’t really looked at the Great Schism itself, and so I ‐ God bless Google ‐ I went on Google, and the first thing that popped up was this book called The Orthodox Church.  It was a new book by Father Anthony McGuckin, and I downloaded it on my iPhone, and I stayed up until four in the morning every night just reading through it, and as soon as I read that I was like, all the little dots started connecting.  I just couldn’t believe it!  I could not believe that there was an entire world of Christianity that nobody in our culture knew about, that was the most authentic, pure expression of the gospel.  I was just, it was like a miracle.  So, we started going to a couple Orthodox churches, and I’ll just, real quick, because I know we’re probably running short on time, but, how much time?

Male Voice: 20 minutes

Jonathan: Okay. I’ll just briefly say one of my first encounters, when I walked into an Orthodox church. I’d been to a couple Greek churches, and I was very impressed, but there was something specific that I was looking for.  I had a dream about being in an Orthodox church before I’d ever been to one, and there were no pews in this particular church, and there was a very specific sense of prayer, and I found this church online and the picture was exactly like the dream that I had had.  So, I thought, “I have to go here.”  So I went, it was a little tiny church, really beautiful.  But I had already read these books, my heart was already inspired and aflamed towards the ancient faith, and yet when I stepped into the church at 9AM for liturgy, I was, there was something that just came over me that was just like, “Run.  You do not want to be here.  Leave.  Go.  This is too foreign.  It’s too bizarre.  You don’t want this.  Just go.” And I sat there going, “Well, that’s odd.”  It felt too anxious to be God, so I just sat there, so my palms started sweating, and these are all strangers, I don’t know anybody, and I’m just kind of going, all these tons of icons, which I was raised to think are idolatry and everything, and I’m just going, “Okay.” So I prayed, and I felt as if the Holy Spirit in my prayer said, “Stay for the whole thing, and then you’ll know how you feel about it, one way or the other.”  So the first forty-five minutes was kind of, kind of torture to be honest.  [Audience laughs]  Everybody’s standing, and I’m just like, “What is this?”  I mean, I’m super intrigued, but you know I came from, like, charismatic like rock and roll services [Audience laughs], which I was totally fed up with by that point, but still, I thought, “Really?” Halfway through what I now know was the moment of the Cherubic Hymn ‐ I didn’t know it at the time ‐ the entire room transformed.  It was as if light came into the whole place and I really can’t describe what it was, but all of a sudden I found myself in tears. I went from really desperately wanting to leave and feeling so uncomfortable, to feeling as if this was my home, as if I didn’t want to be anywhere else on earth except right here, with these people, praying, doing the sign of the cross, bowing, prostrating before God saying, “Lord, have mercy.”  I’d never seen such humility before God.  It wasn’t a self-abasing morbid humility.  It was rooted in some kind of joy, in some kind of intimacy, some kind of sober intoxication with the Spirit.  It was profound.  And, that was basically it.  At that moment I knew, and from then on it’s been a process of continually coming up against these moments that are very uncomfortable.  I’ve talked to some of my friends and said, “Becoming Orthodox is kind of like moving to a foreign country in many ways in terms of your faith.  It’s, the expression of it, is very, very different, and it took me a long time — and thank God salvation truly is a journey, and it’s not about arriving, because I gain a lot of comfort in that; being in-process is really wonderful.  But I found out that there’s a blessing on the other side of discomfort.  There’s a blessing on the other side of being stretched past what you’re comfortable with, that I wouldn’t trade for anything. 

One more brief little moment was, I was in my dressing room at General Hospital.  There are no windows there, it’s a little bit like a cell [Audience laughs], and I would go there in the morning and I would turn all the lights off, and again, God bless technology and the internet in this respect, because I’d put my iPhone in, I’d listen to Ancient Faith Radio, the chanting and the hymns.  I’d have all the lights off and I would just sit there and just pray in silence.  And that was sort of what got me through all of those things. When I was reading The Orthodox Church by McGuckin, it was the first time I encountered the prayers of the Church.  I was in my dressing room one day, and I was just reading it, and all of a sudden there was like this weight of holiness came over me, that I physically felt like I had to kneel, like my body was being pressed to the ground in worship and adoration to God because I felt as if in that moment I had never heard the prayers of the Church.  And I knew that these prayers were not written by one individual, they were written by a cloud of witnesses.  And I was probably on my knees, I don’t really know for how long, maybe twenty-five minutes, I don’t remember, but I experienced the communion of saints in that moment.  It was beyond my mind, it was, you know again that was another part of theology that I had been raised was — I was raised to believe that that took away from the glory of Christ, which is sad.  But, in that moment I experienced the communion of saints, and that was another one of the powerful, beautiful things coming into the Church, as well as really receiving the Mother of God, which is something that as you know Protestants are taught to kind of just leave her aside.  So, there have been little moments of grace like that throughout the journey.  Coming into the Church, a lot of people close to me didn’t respond too well to it.  And that was very difficult.  There was one day where I was in my living room on my knees weeping, because I’d kind of lost all of my closest friends because they just were very opposed to this journey, and I knew I needed to go to the church.  It was in the middle of the week but there was a Divine Liturgy so I went in the morning, and the whole liturgy, I was just crying, and I found myself praying to God, thanking him and thanking the Holy Spirit for making me a son of the Church. 

So, in closing, all I want to say is that what I see in the Orthodox Church as someone from the outside coming in, is the pearl of great price, the fullness of the faith, and something so beautiful.  It was Dostoevsky said, “Beauty will save the world.”  Living in Hollywood, living in that environment, I will say that what people want is beauty, what they want is joy; what they see in Christianity unfortunately is something void of joy, and they see the forms, they see the externals, and they know the legalisms of their western baggage; they’ve not encountered the mystery.  They’ve not encountered the beauty and the power of the resurrection, the light of the transfiguration of Christ. I just want to say, thank you for welcoming me into the Church, and my prayers is that the joy of Christ and beauty of the faith will continue to radiate.  So, thank you. Thank you, very much.


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