I have some problems, whether I become Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. The first part is what my story is, the second what my questions and problems with both churches are, would you be so kind to help me with them and give your explanations to my problems :o
Since childhood I held to protestant beliefs and looked down upon catholic teaching and thought, for example, that statues or icons were all idolatry and thought the notion of the Real Presence was insane, like most calvinists do, this was even taught in school.
One day I stumble upon a little book called “Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images”, written by a certain John of Damascus, who, within a few pages of reading, convinced me that all what I’d heard or thought about icons and statues were all wrong! God even ordered the making of statues, images testified to the Incarnation and some old testament persons even ‘worshipped’ (proskynesis, not latreia) evil men. Thus, images of Christ and of the saints are not bad. After reading the book my world was upside down. Could it then be, I said to myself, that the Catholics are right about more things and I’m just wrong? If they can be right on this fundamental doctrine, they could be right about more things.
Not before long I was reading all I can about Church History and the Fathers, looking especially towards the earlier ones. One day I was at home, sick in bed, and started reading some of the earliest Chuch Fathers, and then I read a book called the “Martyrdom of Ignatius”. In chapter 6 I read:
"For only the harder portions of his holy remains were left, which were conveyed to Antioch and wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by the grace which was in the martyr."
Wow, I thought, relics in early Christianity! Later I learned that the date of his martyrdom could be even before the closing of the first century! How interesting! I though, maybe I could read some of this man’s writing, that would be a way to know exactly what and how these men, taught by the Apostles themselves, believed! So I went on to read some of his epistles. On of the first I read was the “Epistle to the Smyrnaeans”. In that I read:
“They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes”"
The early christians did, unlike I was taught, believe in the Real Presence! And I read in the New Testament that: “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (John 6:53-57)”
So, if the Eucharist is literally and not symbolically the Body of Christ, and unless I partake of it I will have no life in me, I though it might be a good idea to join the Church which, to this day, teaches these doctrines and gives these sacraments. I continued to read the works of the Church Fathers, and from St. Polycarp and St. Justin Martyr to St. John of Damascus, almost everything seemed to agree with Catholic doctrine and everyone with key doctrines. So then I tried to find this “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” against which the Gates of Hell will never prevail, and this has been the hard part for me.
I started to do some research, and I thought I’d had cut down the list to two communions. The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Catholic (Eastern Orthodox) Churches. Both can lay claim to being the Church founded on pentecost in 33AD, both can trace the lines of their bishops back to the Apostles and both retain basically the same teaching. Both have their problems however.
I have been in beautiful Catholic Cathedrals many times, and a few months ago I went to Greece and there I saw some Orthodox Churches and monasteries. I must confess that I had never seen such beauty before! I knew not whether I was in heaven or on earth. Be it in small village churches or great monasteries, I was awestruck and had never see such greatness before. I have a great weakness to Eastern Christianity and can look hours to icons, my sleeping room is too small for all the icons I now have :rolleyes:.
Anyway, this is how I came to the conclusion that either the Catholic or the Orthodox Church is the True Church.