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My Baptism – part I

March 2, 2009

Anyone who would doubt my tendency to be emotionally driven need only spend a few minutes with my wife who could attest via first hand experience to my over reaction to just about–well–everything. She could tell you, though I doubt she’d be so forthcoming as to dissect me to that extent, of the often times I have turned mountains into molehills or climbed upon my imaginary soapboxes pounding my fists over some hidden moral agenda in the latest new television programing.

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It is I’m afraid a Feliciano family trait. I recall with fondness the first time I brought a high school sweetheart home to experience her first Feliciano family meal. As we passed around the food and the conversation “revved” up, I noticed that my friend was looking very concerned. When I asked her what was wrong she looked at me puzzled and asked in all sincerity why we were all fighting. I laughed and explained to her that we were merely conversing and that this was the way we normally talked around the Feliciano household, each with the impassioned, fervent voice necessary to convey what was on our heart at the moment, even if all that was were the events of the day just passed. She should have bolted for the door then and there.

It is this propensity to over reaction that has kept me from writing about my recent Baptism and conversion into Orthodoxy. I have wanted to allow my initial flood of feelings to flow into a more rhythmic, daily stream of life before I attempted to put my experience in writing. You see I am learning to keep silent. Far to often I come out of the oven half-baked, only having to come back at a later date to apologize and confess that something I was all worked up about had turned out to be very unimportant. For a Feliciano, keeping silent is VERY HARD.  Besides which,  two of the three people who actually read this blog, have asked me again to express what has transpired in me. So I will do my best to do so in a way that makes sense, but that won’t be easy, because very little of what I am experiencing in all of this makes any earthly sense at all.

The days leading up to my baptism and our Chrismations (my wife, our best friends, their 4 kids and several other new friends) were filled with a great deal of agitation. I specifically choose this word because I was awash with so many different feelings that it seemed the most appropriate way to describe what I was experiencing. I don’t want to try to speak for any of my other comrades but for me, converting to Orthodoxy was a decision of huge import, made at the expense of a great deal of sweat and not a small amount of angst. You see I had been on a very long journey, and by that I don’t mean my journey towards true Christlikeness, I believe that is a journey that all true believers share. Since my early twenties I had been on a secondary journey as well; at least, at one time I saw it as such; That journey was a search for the Church of the Apostles, and believe me when I say; in my minds eye it looked nothing like Orthodoxy.

This is not a journey common to all believers. If it were, I believe today that the roads of most would eventually lead to this very intersection. Many people in the Church are far to content to look at their church life as somehow separate and apart from their “personal relationship to Jesus.” Worship becomes a matter of preference and not a shaper of life. But I have never viewed the Church in this way. To me the Church has always been something mystical yet concrete. A BODY if you will, that is formed for the very purpose of making visible the invisible Christ. A mystical Body yes, but one that like Christ himself can be touched, held and seen. A Body not formed by personal preference but by the will and love of God Himself.  To me this meant by definition a group of people whose walking out of the life of Christ could not be separated from another, could not be walked out independent of each other.

So becoming Orthodox for me meant something huge. It meant a converging of my journeys, it meant that I was saying that these two journeys I had been on were really all about one and the same thing. It meant coming to grips with many things in the scriptures and the writings of the early Fathers that over the years, I had been indoctrinated against. It meant I was saying there was value in things that I once held as detrimental to my life and spiritual well being. It meant coming to grips with Baptism, something I had grown up despising. Not in the sense of hatred but in the old english sense of looking down on something. I didn’t need to be dunked to believe! After all, St. Paul seemed pretty pleased he had not baptized anyone from the Corinthian Church. It meant coming to grips with the body and blood of Christ. Eating my flesh? Drinking my blood?  For me, it was not like deciding where to hang out on a Sunday morning, it was like turning my life in a completely different orientation to the light.

So there I was with all this convergence happening in me. I had seen the import and mystery of the Church rightly, but my world view had kept from seeing the Church in any other way then through these post reformation clouded glasses that had allowed me to throw out the bath water AND the baby.

This is getting a bit longer then I had anticipated to I’ll split it into a two parter here.

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