When I was asked to write about my journey to Orthodoxy, it was a perfect moment to reflect back on what brought me here. In fact I was born and raised as Orthodox Hindu. My journey to Orthodox Christianity began while I was studying at college in Arizona. Prior to my college life, I was just happily lost in illusions and myths (now I can say!). Although the core spiritual teaching of Hinduism seemed similar – about love, prayers, self-denial, overcoming pride, fasting etc. – there were many things that I would just never get. Without diving too deeply here, in a nutshell, I often had feeling of nostalgia for something of which I could never clearly understand. Some stuff that I read or heard seemed meaningless, myth or fairy tales to me. Most importantly, I didn’t even have the urge to look deeper into those. Along with genetic and cultural inheritance, I felt that I had also inherited a spiritual life, so I would just do what I was asked to do, basically tag along; but never knew what, why, whom we are worshiping until I encountered the Orthodox Christian Faith.
In a way, I didn’t pay attention to the spiritual part of my life until I met my beloved Orthodox Christian friend, through whom I had opportunities to learn about Christianity, the Gospels, sermons, hymns etc. I gradually started to have an urge to look deeper into the Christian Faith and try to understand the theology behind it. I was blessed and truly grateful to God for bringing the right people, in my life, who always provided unconditional guidance, support, love, and most importantly kept me in their thoughts and prayers.
My first visit to a church was St. Saba Serbian Orthodox Church in Phoenix. I was invited to attend Sunday Liturgy for the feast of Pentecost. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew that I was entering Church where God Jesus Christ is worshipped. That moment, when I entered Orthodox Church, was a mesmerizing moment: the altar, iconography, vestments, candlelight, incense, chanting and rituals were just amazing, but nothing made sense to me. In addition, the whole service was in Slavic which didn’t help either. Before the service started, I was handed an English version of the Liturgy by my friend. He also whispered intermittently into my ears, so that I follow correctly throughout the service without feeling lost. Prior to service, I was also given a crash course on when and how to enter the Orthodox Church, venerate icons, and cross myself. Love and guidance were very instrumental to bring me to the Orthodox Church. Sometimes I feel that I came to know the Faith with little effort on my own part but mainly because of the power of sincere prayers by my brothers and sisters in Christ.
My faith strengthened after college, as I devoted time to reading books, learning about saints’ lives, prayers, and attending church more frequently. I was introduced to a local parish church, St. John the Evangelist OCA Church in Tempe, AZ. I joined the church and became a catechumen. I started to participate in church activities, theology classes, and readings, as guided by my spiritual father. I remained a catechumen until my doubts were diminished, had strength to make a life confession with repentance, and I believed in one true God. I was baptized on Jan 7, 2007. Afterward I started to visit other Orthodox churches in the city, as well as our beloved St. Anthony Monastery in Florence, AZ. Visiting monasteries was totally a new spiritual experience for me, also very instrumental to my Orthodox journey. I would seek out and talk to the abbot, Geronda Paisios, and monks to learn about their lives, the saints’ lives, what to pray, the way to do prayers, and much more. As part of my continuous struggles in life, I regularly visited the monastery to see Geronda for confessions and guidance to fight my spiritual warfare and passions in the wiles of this world. Doing so made a profound impact on my Orthodox journey to life in Christ. Having confession and an intentional life has brought me better realization about my conscience and the need for repentance and communion. It has brought me healing, joy, and an understanding of God’s love and His statutes. Only by God’s grace I am able to see the light and know that Orthodoxy is the Way passed down to us by Christ.
I wrote a long story but in short, I was brought to faith by other faithful people and their prayers. I hope it reminds us to pray for others to come to Christ and pray that God will lift anyone above any illusion, myths or denial that keep them away from Him.