Converting to Orthodox Christianity
If you are interested in becoming an Orthodox Christian, and are doing so of your own free will, you should firstly meet with a priest.
Conversion to Orthodox Christianity is a serious matter both for the Orthodox Church and for the person seeking to convert to Orthodoxy. It is essentially, a lifetime mutual commitment.
Consequently, the matter should never be taken lightly. Changing your faith is the most crucial choice in life. Converting to the Orthodox Christian Faith is not an automatic or mechanical procedure.
Therefore, the priest will want to discuss the matter carefully to explore the reasons of your conversion.
To become a member of the Body of Christ, a period of instruction is necessary so that:
(1) you may come to know the Good News of Christ,
(2) what the Church is, and isn’t;
(3) what membership in the Church means,
(4) responsibilities and expectations for members,
(5) benefits of membership, and
(6) what discipleship means to believers in Christ.
From the earliest days of the Church, this period of instruction was called the Catechumenate, and those wishing to join were called catechumens.
Through this process, you will not only have the opportunity to learn more about the Orthodox Christian Faith, but you will also have the chance to immerse yourself into the Orthodox Christian way of life.
If you have decided to enter into the process of preparation, the following is an outline of the process.
Regular Church Attendance
Worship of God is at the center of Orthodox Christian life and spirituality. Worship is not only an experience of learning but a way that God’s mystical grace comes to us, touches us and changes us. A catechumen is expected to attend Sunday Divine Liturgy each week as well as special services throughout the year. Some examples of the other services are: Holy Week - Bridegroom Services (Sunday - Tuesday evenings), Holy Unction on Wednesday evening, Holy Friday services and Pascha midnight services; Entreaty Service - offered once a month; Great Feasts of the Precious Cross (September 27), Christmas (January 7), Theophany (January 19), and Pentecost.
In the Orthodox Church, one does not determine and follow their own spiritual path without the advice and guidance of spiritual fathers and mothers. Personal accountability is essential to growth in Christ along with intellectual knowledge and church attendance. In a spirit of love, the spiritual guide watches over the growth and progress of the spiritual child. The priest will help the catechumen in a spiritual self-examination to prepare for Holy Confession. The priest will also help deal with personal questions, issues, problems that arise before and after joining the Orthodox Faith. The catechumen is expected to participate in spiritual guidance and counseling with the priest of the community.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a member of the Orthodox Faith?
Usually, it is a year-long process. However, the priest always uses discretion to determine the readiness of a catechumen. Becoming a member is not just learning about the Faith but growing in Faith. A personal transformation must be evident. Often, this takes time and is dependent on the level of commitment of the catechumen.
When can I start receiving Holy Communion and other Sacraments?
Holy Communion and the other Sacraments are offered only to those persons who are baptized and chrismated in the Orthodox Church. Becoming a catechumen is the process of preparing for Baptism. After you are baptized, you may receive Holy Communion and other Sacraments.
Do I need to change my name?
Legally, no. Spiritually, one who is converting to Orthodoxy through baptism is encouraged to take on a Christian or Saint’s name. The reason is two-fold. First, the saint becomes a personal example to the catechumen of how to live the Christian life. Second, the saint becomes the patron of the newly converted, praying and interceding to God on their behalf. This new name would be used when participating in the sacraments of the Orthodox Church. Some catechumens may already have a saints’ name, some might choose a name that sounds similar to their name, some may choose a name based on admiration for a particular saint.
Do I need a Godparent?
Yes, everyone who is converting to the Orthodox Faith needs a godparent (aka sponsor). The sponsor must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church. He/she should be a model and example of faithfulness and take quite seriously the role of godparent. A female catechumen is encouraged to choose a female godparent and likewise male for male.
After a period of instruction (called catechesis. The length of time varies from person to person), and once the priest has satisfactorily prepared the catechumen, the next step towards full membership in the Orthodox Church is Baptism.