October 24, 2011
I fell in love with the Orthodox Church when I was around 8 years old. As a family, we did not go to church very often. The child of a mixed marriage – mixed religiously and ethnically, the great distance from our home to an “acceptable” Orthodox Church – one of the right ethnic variety for my father – and a father who worked many hours – all added up to infrequent church attendance. I did not understand any of the divine services – but I knew what I loved – the sights, the sounds, the smells and the tastes. The beauty of the church drew me in
– the mellifluous and prayerful voice of the elderly archbishop, his very careful but deliberate movements, the splendor of the music coming from the choir loft and the wonderful sight and smell of incense emanating from the altar. There were also two very important “tastings” at every Liturgy that we did attend – the prosphora (antidoron – blessed bread) at the end of the service and the candy from the purse of my babtsya (grandmother) given to me at some point during the service – usually during the long, incomprehensible, to me, sermon. It was not until I was a teenager, that as a family, we started to attend Divine Liturgy regularly. A letter to my grandmother in England complaining that my parents did not take us to church and a Ukrainian Orthodox Church opening closer to our home were, the main catalysts of regular church attendance. By that time, as a teenager, I knew that I was different. Certainly, I did not call myself gay or even a homosexual – but I knew that I was different. My relationship with the Church progressed – guided by a very loving, kind and caring priest, Father Orest, I became an altar server and reader and finally went to Seminary. Christ had called me to the priesthood, and I began my journey through prayer and study to ordination. By this time, at the age of 18, I was able to call myself gay. I also certainly caught the ecclesiastical and societal directives – to keep that information to myself! Strange now to think that God knew I was gay, but Church could not. The Creator, in His unfathomable wisdom created me as a gay man. Christ, the High Priest, called me, a gay man, to be a priest in His church. He did not ask me to renounce my sexuality, the sexuality that He gave me, nor did He call me to be celibate. This is the beauty of the diversity of creation from the same Lord who gave us the beauty of the Orthodox Church that I became enamored with as a child. Only years later did I realize that the institutional church demanded that I hide and remain silent about the true person that God had made. The strange thing about the truth is that no matter how hard you try to hide it – it remains the truth – even when unspoken – it is revealed.