Genuine conversion is all about not being different in externals, not attention seeking, but about converting the inside. Go to any ordinary parish and you will see people dressed anonymously – they could be anyone, but maybe one of them is a saint. Genuine Orthodox Christians do not stand out, except by their example of living a good life.
It is strange that a foreign word, the Slavonic (not Russian) word ‘prelest’, should sometimes be used in English. It is only a translation of the Greek word ‘plani’ and long ago in the fifth century it was translated from Greek ascetic works into Latin by the Gaulish St John Cassian as ‘illusio’. So in English it could be translated simply as (spiritual) illusion, but perhaps the English word ‘self-delusion’ is even more exact. ‘Prelest’ simply means a state of mind in which we imagine that we are something that we are not, in other words, we are deluded. There are two states that greatly contribute to the development of self-delusion.
Residents of large cities are almost never able to see the beauty of a starry sky. The light of the street lamps and the bright advertisements blot out the stars from them, and they appear faint and feeble. And only when one gets out to a field or the mountains, amongst nature’s quiet wind, on a calm night, does the boundless starry night open before his eyes in all of its beauty, and then the words of the Psalmist ring out in his soul: "The heavens declare (in Russian: preach) the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork" (Psalm 18:2).
Something similar often happens with man in his relationship to God’s Church. The quiet wind of heavenly life blows within Christ’s Church. Through her is established a connection to the World on High, and mystical contact with eternity. In her is defeated death, which becomes a rest from labors and a portal to "the best and most useful." Nevertheless, the majority of people, blinded by the sorry trumpery of life, does not notice the mystical spiritual life in the Church and cannot draw from her that water of life, about which the Lord said that those who drink of it shall never thirst; that is, they will receive complete spiritual fulfillment.
Modern apostates from the Church, sectarians, accuse Christ’s Church of supposedly forgetting to preach the Gospel and turning her whole life toward outward ritual. This accusation is based on an inattentive or dishonest attitude toward the Church. The life of the Church is an uninterrupted and never-silenced preaching of the Gospel, which is realized in a strict and elaborate order, inspired from above, and is revealed in every avenue capable of influencing human perception.
When my husband and I became Eastern Orthodox seven years ago, I knew I had come home. However, I wasn’t sure how to make my own home reflect my new faith. This series–”So I’m Orthodox, Now What?”–is based on the questions I asked myself in the first few years after our chrismation: How could I make our home a “Little Church”? How could I instruct my children in a faith that I myself was only beginning to explore? After some experimentation, conversations with older and wiser Orthodox mothers, readings, and instruction from spiritual fathers, I have found ways to create an Orthodox home. I hope that this series can provide encouragement and practical ideas for new converts and a forum for more seasoned Orthodox families to share their practices.
I remember it so clearly. It was Holy Week, and I was in church with my very active two-year-old. All was somber as we began the Procession for Holy Friday. So quiet and reverent…..until my son made a beeline for his father, who was holding the cross in the procession. He ran right in front of the priest and nearly tripped him, knocked into the subdeacon holding the incense, and ended up on my husband’s feet at the front of the procession.