Beyond Seeking and Finding – the Life of the Soul in the Eastern Orthodox Church


Since my early 20s I have  been fascinated by the life of the soul, meditation techniques, and  mystical experiences – so much so that I pursued every spiritual avenue that presented itself to me without question or discernment for years – unless it was Catholic and or too Christian.  I had rejected the Catholic Church in my teens. I could not cope with the feelings of guilt that plagued me from many of my early Catholic experiences. I believed in God, but I did not want to suffer, die and go to hell for my sins. I did not like it that Jesus suffered and died. By my mid-20s I found that having  a guru and exploring Eastern religions and New Age metaphysics was so much more exciting, inspiring and pleasant!

God patiently endured through all my diverse spiritual endeavors – at least 20 years worth of seeking and finding, but not really finding. Then I would start my quest again – only to fall short again. I had a lot of unhealthy beliefs and issues about Christianity that were holding me back from what I was seeking. I was looking for a deep, fulfilling mystical experience of worship, prayer and community life.  My spiritual thirst would not be quenched by my spiritual choices until I arrived at Eastern Orthodox Christianity and a relationship with the Living God.  Eastern Orthodoxy is the only Christian church that has truly followed and kept the doctrines, traditions and teachings of the early Church and Christ.

Are the teachings of the early Church still applicable for modern seekers?

How can these traditions help us deal with the stresses of modern life?

Are there really folks that are authentically finding God in traditions 2,000 years old? Yes – I am one of them!

Can you follow your heart and not lose your soul?

I hope to explore these and many more questions and share my struggles and joys of being an Eastern Orthodox Christian in my blog.  I invite you to journey with me.  I could use questions and engaged comments.  Thank you for visiting my blog and my God bless you!

Veronica Hughes

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7 thoughts on “Beyond Seeking and Finding – the Life of the Soul in the Eastern Orthodox Church

    1. Dear Agnikan,

      Thanks for your question! I had a lot of baggage related to Western Catholic schooling, doctrine and traumas (non-sexual) thank goodness. Before I could even approach the Eastern Orthodox Church I had to recover and process out my personal reactions and unhealthy beliefs to the Western Catholic Church and Christianity in general. Then once I could actually be in an Eastern Orthodox service in a neutral, clear, trusting space I felt I had come home. The more I explored Orthodoxy, the more I found i resonated with the original Church doctrines they had preserved from the early Church, which was amazing to me given I was so seeped in the new age/eastern cultures. That is why I wrote my story.

      I love the depth of communion and prayer I experience in the Eastern Orthodox services and my personal prayers. My early Catholic experiences before Vatican II were quite profound and more like what I feel in Orthodoxy now. While I appreciated that the church services were finally in English after Vatican II, a depth of mystical experience and connection with God disappeared for me as they shortened things, changed the direction the altar faced and more. I could not have put that into words then, but for me my spirit was not stirred or nurtured as it had been after the changes in the Catholic Church.

      The Eastern Church is much more heart/faith based vs. scholastic and legalistic. Sin is viewed from a refreshing prospective – one that allowed me to step out of feeling guilty and into taking personal responsibility for my thoughts, deeds and actions that are based in separation from others and God and my negative passions. I love the practice of the Jesus Prayer, which replaced my mantra and meditation practices I had used for years when involved in Hindu and Tibetan traditions. i wanted connection with a personal living God after all my Eastern clearing the mind – my soul was lonely. Confession is approached differently, called the sacrament of healing. I just love that the entire mass or liturgy as we call it – in fact all the services are sung without instruments or chanted. I love singing, I am in the choir at our church, which is one of the best in the S.F. Bay Area. (St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in San Anselmo, CA)

      I feel as if I am in heaven on earth when in our services! I can manage my pain and suffering from a much more rational, productive, and forgiving place.
      Any more questions – I loved this one!

      Thank you and God bless,

      Veronica

  1. Good answer, Veronica! I often have wondered how I would answer the same kind of question, but you summarized it well and succinctly.

  2. I agree that Veronica’s answer is a good one as it gives some very good reasons why a seeker might choose Orthodoxy as opposed to Catholicism. Her reply also introduces some of the main differences in East-West theology. One is that the Catholic view of sin as something meriting punishment is not held by the Orthodox Church (Veronica describes this as “refreshing”). Related to this is the Orthodox view that hell and “eternal damnation” are not a place and a state apart from God. There is no place where God is not and so if there is a fire that burns, it is nothing but the love of God, which is experienced as suffering by those who have rejected it in this life.

    These are just a couple of examples of the many ways in which the emphasis of theology shifts from East to West. From one point of view they are minor points. It is only when taken together that they do in fact seem to amount to a fundamental difference of attitude, a difference which centers on the question “How does Catholicism or Orthodoxy view and express our potential as human beings?” The Orthodox concept of “theosis” is key to the Eastern point of view. SImply put, theosis means that we can, through the grace of God, become divine ourselves. This view is mainstream for the Orthodox faithful, that is, it is an accepted aspect of the teaching of the church. A consequence of this view is that spiritual practice, asceticism, prayer of the heart, and so on, are regarded as normal and desirable for laity as well as monastics.

    The Catholic point of view, on the other hand, does not embrace union with God as a serious possibility as it tends to consider God as unknowable in any way. Consequently, experiences of union, glimpses of the divine light, and so on, are regarded as belonging to “mysticism,” which is accepted but not considered part of mainstream church life or teaching.

    To sum up, one can say then that the Orthodox Church is essentially “mystical” in character. We cannot know God in His essence, but we can know Him through his energies, that is, His grace. The Catholic Church has a mystical element, but generally founds its theology on the rational and philosophical. We cannot know God other than intellectually, through the use of reason. This of course is an oversimplification, subject to many exceptions, but hopefully it would not be regarded as unfair to either point of view.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for your comments. Truly we are blessed to know God through His Energies! My Catholic experiences perpetuated my feelings guilt about my sinful acts and a sense of hopelessness. I know many find solace in the Catholic Church and experience, but that was not the case for me.

      The remarkable spiritual gifts of the sacramental and structured prayer life/worship in the Eastern Orthodox Church have changed my life. In my book, The Pearl of Great Price, I relate several key turning points in my spiritual journey back to a personal relationship with God due to experiences of God’s Energies I had during my 2-3 year conversion period. These experiences were of a completely different nature from my new age and eastern religious “transformational” experiences. They confirmed the “truthfulness” of the Eastern Orthodox path and instilled a sense of trust in my heart.

      My intimacies/communion with the Living God in the Eastern Orthodox path freed me, while anything other continued to imprison me in my web of misconceptions about God and alienation from His Energies. New age and eastern experiences ultimately left me feeling alone and thirsting for more, while Orthodoxy has brought me peace and a way to mange and deal with my fallen state and the sufferings of life.

      Veronica

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