Searching for the Church
The story of George:
Even though my wife and I were not attending any religious congregation, our search was quite sympathetic. The multitude of religious books in our home library gave us the ability to research every religion, its history and its doctrine. We rejected all ‘protestant denominations’ because they had serious contradictions and they were relatively new.
Their basic contradicting logic was that they were accepting the Holy Scripture (at least most of it) without accepting the church, which introduced to the world and declared it God-inspired: they were repeating “we only accept only what the Holy Scripture says”. Yet this “only” (sola scriptura) what the Scripture says, cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, leading them to a tragic self-contradiction. Furthermore, the Holy Scripture itself does not record which books are of the New Testament, however they were accepting them exactly how Saint Athanasios had compiled them in the 4th century.
In terms of history, they were all children of the reformation, an offspring of the 16th century. According to their logic, the true church of God did not exist for fifteen centuries. If it did exist, it was certainly not protestant! However, if God was accepting some Christians as his children, we needed to find to which church they belonged.
We studied all the early Christian texts we had gathered and we searched everywhere. We searched as far back as we could, and we did not find any other church except the Orthodox, regardless if it were not yet named as such. Even the non-Christian religions did not escape our search.
Thus while researching the Orthodox Church; we concluded that it had something in common with the non-Christian Eastern religions. Specifically, being that the Orthodox repeated incessantly the prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me” for the purpose of illumination, this practice reminded us of eastern meditation. Consequently, we believed that we needed to reject Orthodox and to concentrate our search elsewhere.
At that very time however when we were comparing and studying the relationship between Eastern meditation and the ‘Jesus prayer’ of the Orthodox, the Lord spoke to me, while at the same time my wife felt a certain confirmation inside her. He told how his church was the Orthodox and that He would lead His Church. He assured us that we would soon meet an athonite elder and he would resolve our final doubts and questions.
Indeed, a few days later, a woman friend of ours spoke to us about some hagiorit elder, who visited Attica at times. Immediately we thought that perhaps he was the one the Lord spoke to us about, and we called him. In reality, even from the first phone call, without us asking him, he began to answer the reservations we had against the Church of the Lord. We realized that this was not by accident and certainly not coincidental.
After several more meetings, we were truly convinced that we had found the Church of the Lord. The reason why the Lord was speaking to me and not to my wife was that she was still un-baptized. I however was baptized Orthodox at a young age. From the moment the Lord, send us to the Orthodox elder he did not speak to us again, until we would reach the state of illumination. From now on, we would learn about his will through the hagiorite elder.
This elder helped us to understand many things. As time passed all our questions were answered satisfactorily. We understood that it is not imperative for someone to be baptized at a mature age, and we studied carefully the verse at the end of the gospel of Matthew. There it does not say that you first become a disciple and afterwards you are baptized as we were schooled as protestant, but the opposite is true. It says, “Make disciples”. How? By “baptizing them” first and afterwards “teaching them”. Neither does the Holy Scriptures mention anything anywhere against infant baptism. As God gave Adam and Eve the Holy Spirit when He created him, without asking them, likewise the mystery of baptism, given the Holy Spirit (his grace) to an infant, from the beginning of its life. This explained how Panagiotis from Canada had so many miraculous events in his life, although he was not Orthodox, his neighbors ha baptized him secretly! Moreover, even Luke writes in the first chapter of his gospel 1:15, that John the Baptizer would be full of the Holy Spirit, even from his embryonic stage! In addition, if an embryo received the Holy Spirit, how so can this apply to a born child? That is why baptism in the language of the Scriptures is also called ‘circumcision of the heart’ (Romans 2:29). It is well known that primarily infants were and still are being circumcise.
Finally, we read ancient manuscripts of the second century, where Tertulian was writing clearly that infant baptism was a common practice then, in other works from the ancient church. Shortly thereafter, I went to holy confession and I received the true body and blood of the Lord. Now we were both united with all the Christians of all centuries.
I called my friend Manolis who was a former ‘witness’. He was among the first people who started their studies with Friskoulas. I found out that he also had become Orthodox. He was excited about my conversion and he also shared with me his won experience.
As a protestant, he was pressured by his father to visit Porfyrios of Oropos, a charismatic Orthodox elder. He went with the intention to rebuke him as a deceiver and cacodox. Although, they never met him before the elder called him by his name, before they were introduces, and during their discussion, the elder revealed to him personal secrets, which logically he should not have known. While departing, the elder also kissed his hand, making him to feel ashamed for his egotism. Thus, the following time he went he was a changed man. He now went to receive help.