With this theological term Orthodoxy and Christianity generally call beginners, people new-coming to faith, who have not yet got Baptizing and Chrismation Sacraments. In Greek such people are called catechumen from KATECHESIS (verbal teaching), i.e. they are people studying elementary science of Orthodoxy. But in conditions of post-sovied reality and, generally, modern society, it would be correct to call „neophytes" in wider sense of the word most of Orthodox people baptized formally. In the USSR catechizing of population and especially youth was penal act as “religious agitation and propaganda”. But, despite of this, "Soviet Fathers", headed by chestful of decorations Right Reverends, semi-legally, though, but massively baptized population of Ukraine, for it was not pursued so fiercely by the godless authority, as teaching of Christ itself. The fact, that Soviet-Orthodox people often had even no idea about basics of Orthodox faith, did not disturb Soviet "servants of worship". So today we deal with a great many factual, involuntary, though, apostates from Church, who even do not suspect about their duties by Lord and their responsibility in great assise of Christ. These formal baptized peoples take Orthodoxy as “natural religion of their ethnos or wider – "slavonic race", as customs, so accept it as their folk faith, heathendom, pagandom … In pagandom only voodoos and Magi are occupied with esoteric science and people is only an object of their spiritual influence, their manipulations, it must thoughtlessly keep its tradition, rite...
So, we should like to devote this chapter to those brothers and sisters of us, who don’t shift affair of their spirituality to shoulders of traditional servants of Slavonic cult, but think seriously over their destinies in perspective of eternity, significance of their being, who are not satisfied with formal-traditional "religiousness", but feel in their hearts God’s call, but have no friends or relatives to help them to make a first step in spiritual movement, to overcome inertness and shyness, when a human, coming into Temple of God doesn’t know how to behave, what is doing around, what he/her should not do… It is like first visiting public library, philharmonic, theater; but Temple of God is radically different from these human founding so preparing to visiting it must be different too. Temple of God is a place for communication a human with Lord, so goal of visiting it must be holy. We advise you to go to a church, the faithful of which you treat impartiality, kindly, brotherly, hoping on sincere love, disinterestedly… Fist of all tune yourself to behave naturally, restrained, though. You will be offended never in really Orthodox Temple with contemptuous directions, police censoriousness around your clothing, absurd demands to wear someone else’s skirt or shawl… Really it is addicted just external ritual religiousness in some Orthodox Parishes, a sort of mix of modern paganism and idolatry, but you should not think it is real Orthodoxy. And even if you are brought up against something like this, don’t take offence immediatelly, don’t turn away from Creator because of simplicity, malignity, insolence, in the single word – imperfection of His not very amenable creations – not the best servants, have forbearance in so important affair, learn to forgive and throw away small things for getting most important, the main – eternal life. Though not to feel a white crow try to keep some elementary regulations:
1. Coming to Temple, bless yourself (make the sign of the cross) before the door. Then come at once to the table in the middle of the Temple, called in Greek tetrapod, bless yourself twice and kiss the icon lying on the tetrapod, then bless in third. Turn to the right, bless yourself and give a bow to Holy icons setting in right part of the Temple, do the same to the left.
2. Men must stay in the Temple bare-headed and keep right side, women ought to have their heads covered and stand on left side.
And then just observe church people and emulate their behaviour. You will learn details and refinements afterward. After service finishing come to a person whom you liked the most and try to ask him/her of most needed as for you, and survey information vitrins in narthex of the Temple. Be not shy to study, for we all are pupils of Christ till our last days in the world.
The main – don’t hesitate or postpone! Don’t wait for some extraordinary cause or misfortune to come to God. Find several hours in your schedule right next Sunday, remember, it is holy day. Experiencing through all Divine Liturgy will be Great Event for you. And it would be at least impolitive from your side to come some later or go away prematurely. It is not a problem if you don’t realize everything at once, for modern Byzantic-Ukrainian rite of divine service formed for 2000 years, is it possible really to catch such enormous experience of spiritual practice from first attempt? Moreover, it is business of all your life! For life is way to God, approaching to Him, movement, deed… And drift away from God is death, degradation, decay... So, even if you had failure in your past attempt don’t lose your hope, try again in another Orthodox Temple. Faith is most intimate anbut most important business of a free human.
There is an ancient latin proverb: "Qualis rex, talis grex" what means "Like priest, like people". A priest has a strong hold upon forming parish, at the same time community influence him intensively too. And these mutual influences are salutary, if the main business of the rallying is sincere belief in God, if spirit of commerciality, cynical making money, careerism or even atheism don’t prevail there, and all faith is driven to obstinate guarding of often incomprehensible ceremonies. Neophyte in community is like a child in family, he/her feels the same keenly least falsity, insincerity, any pharisaism, and it may hold the person away forever from God. That’s why we should advise you having at the least opportunity not to take wrong, as for you, things with juvenile maximalism, directed as a rule aggressively against shortcomings of other people. Remember, not blameless people gather Church, but seeking saving in Christ, needing spiritual cure: "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick" /Mt 9:12/ says Lord Himself, and continues: "For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." /Mt 9:13/. So, joint to common and most urgent business of saving. And then, perhaps, it will be enough you to be on one divine service, to feel whether the church community be able to become your spiritual family or not.
We remind, it is impossible to be Orthodox without regular Eucharist. Person not communing flesh and blood of Christ for longer than an year sin with apostasy and unchurches him/herself, ignoring Christ’s Sacrifice, as He says Himself: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselfves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." /In 6: 53-54/.
The main in practice of spiritual life of an Orthodox Christian is the Sacrament, put to effect during Holy Liturgy. Unfortunately, majority of our post-soviet Orthodox people even don’t suspect of this, for they were not taught, and don’t long for knowledge in this sphere, too. And just through the Sacrament human becomes a part, a member of One Holy Cathedral Apostolic Church –Christ’s body: "Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it." /1 Corinthians 12:27/ –Saint Apostle Pavel reminds us. You must fulfil some simple demands to commune: to fast for a short time, to keep praying regulation, to confess and repent your sins, that is quite easy for any believer. It is harder to realize urgency and necessity of this, and we should advise you to visit a temple regularly for a while without participation in the Sacrament.
Know, that no new-made "Christian" organizations will not be able to give you the main: bloody unity with Jesus Christ, Lord and God of us. The pseudo-Christian foundations only say of Christ, and only Apostolic Church lives in Him. So, don’t let them put yourself to devious paths, tempt you with gratuitous help or literature, affair of Christ is far more than publishing or social security acting.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to discuss very actual theme "Estimate of Our Chances to Obtain Salvation".
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!
Contact authors of the Web-site:
Dean of the church Father Ihor (Lytvyn) tel. 00380 (532) 586025 (Ukrainian, Russian)
Web-master, co-author of the site, translator Volodymyr tel 00380 (532) 586777