Eastern Orthodoxy (Part II)

by Frederica Mathewes-Green

2.) I have found that many Evangelicals are surprised to hear that the Holy Spirit is so central to the experience within the Orthodox Church. I think this is because they equate a "spirit-filled" church with a charismatic, Pentecostal context. Can you describe the Orthodox understanding of what the moving of the Holy Spirit amongst the community looks like?

It's funny, but I've noticed that people who come into Orthodoxy from a Pentecostal or charismatic background can be the ones who have the easiest transition. Orthodoxy is, after all, a premodern church--so it includes a natural expectation that there are miracles, healings, angels, and so forth. When you start expecting those things, they start to happen. A few years ago we had a family visiting that included a 3 yr old girl. During coffee hour she saw my husband (the pastor) and told her mom, "There's the man who was singing with the angels!"

We also have an ancient liturgy that gathers the community to pray over the oil that will be used to anoint for healing during the coming year. My husband told me one year that he knew of three people who had arisen from deathbeds after being anointed with this oil.

The worship, of course, is not "free" like it might be in a charismatic church. The thing that struck me abt the liturgy when I started attending was how *intimate* it is. There is a real theme of humility, tenderness, and intimacy that you don't get in Western formal worship. In fact, it is not "formal" in that sense. There's much less fussiness than we had in our Episcopal "high church" worship. The worship is gorgeously beautiful, but not stuffy; the kind of beautiful, joyous combination you aim at for Christmas dinner or a wedding reception. And a service like the one for the anointing oil puts in the priest's mouth prayers that are almost embarrassing, as he stresses to the congregation that he is a sinner, that his thoughts are sinful and unworthy, that the power does not come from him but from God alone.


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