The explanation begins with two presuppositions, or understandings on my part as well as on the part of the Orthodox Church. The first of these understandings is the conviction that the Orthodox Church has been given, and even now possesses the fullness of Christianity.The second is that the Orthodox Church cannot and should not try speak for any other branch of Christianity, except to say that they do not know what degree of this fullness of Christian group possesses.
This means then that when someone desires to come into her fold, and come under her oversight and protection, she has a responsibility to explain exactly what this fullness is with her own mouth, and thus give opportunity to each person to accept or reject the Orthodox Church. In a conversation with the local bishop he said to me, “we are not used car salesmen, pushing to close the deal.” This means that it is a necessity to be honest and fair to all parties and to state the terms of this new relationship right up front. These terms are explained and made clear during the catechumenical period.
Personally,I am thoroughly convinced that these two understandings of the Orthodox Church are 100% true and accurate. I believe that the Orthodox church possesses the fullness of the faith brought to earth by our Lord, passed down to the apostles, taught to the church fathers, and retained and fought for by the undivided church of the first millennium, and I am also convinced that there is no telling what a person outside of her fold believes. Consequently, the catechumens te is essential for for everyone who desires to enter the Orthodox church, even one who has an M. Div.
What makes this difficult for westerners is a twofold problem. The first is a battle with ego, in that battle we hear a voice tell us that tells us that we may be part of a deficient Christianity; this wounds our ego deeply. In other words, the reality that the Orthodox Church possesses the fullness tells me that my Christianity may be deficient, and that’s not something I want to tell myself about myself. In fact, I want to tell myself that I am right and others are wrong (that is theego’s job).
The second problem is that this one voice of the church strips us of our individual ability to decide right from wrong apart from the whole church. This western pattern of ours began when the Pope of Rome broke away from the Orthodox Church because he wanted to make his own decisions, and later this approach multiplied with the protestant reformation, when everyone was told that they must decide what truth is all by themselves. However, the church Christ left the world knows nothing about teachings made by one person or one sect of the Church; it knows only one whole faith, without deviation at any point.
I for one know that I am self-deceived at many points, and I hope to learn how to decipher these delusions brought about by my ego. I also know that I desire nothing other than the faith of our Lord, the apostolic faith, the faith of the fathers, the faithof the undivided ecumenical church and her councils. Therefore, I gladly lay down my office, and sit at the church’s feet, as a little child, and begin this time in my life with a great big smile.