The life of every one of us was once changed with our coming to the Church, the event inaugurating the beginning of our spiritual growth and upbringing. What would our lives be like without that personal entry into the temple and encounter with God?
On the eve of the Presentation of the Most Holy Theotokos, members of our congregation shared their thoughts and feelings about the moment when they consciously joined the Church and began their life with Christ.
Before I consciously came to church (I was in my fourth year of university at the time) some positive events happened that made me think more deeply about the presence of God and His works in my life. Yet I had four permanent problems that were not resolving, which in the course of time became depressing.
I turned to God in my own words and short prayers, and within a week, all four were resolved almost effortlessly. If there had been one or two problems, it could have been a coincidence, but the fact that there were four of them convinced me that it was the action of God. I asked God for help, and He immediately responded.
Inside I was ready to attend a religious service and pray in church, but I kept waiting for the right moment, which did not seem to come.
I was studying in Minsk and travelled to my hometown every weekend. Although I was free on Sunday morning, I kept thinking, “Okay, next Sunday I will definitely go.” Every time, it seemed like there were good reasons for this decision. However, a month or more had passed, and I still could not make it.
Then the Lord sent me a person with some experience in spiritual life who told me that demonic forces often use worldly reasons to prevent people from going to church. He suggested that I support my good intention with a short prayer, as simple as, "Lord, help me make it to church."
This is exactly what I did. I asked God to help me come to church, and soon I was able to attend a religious service for the first time. It happened in spring, and from that moment, my spiritual spring began…
I consciously came to God at the age of seventeen. I was born and raised in Eastern Poland, and my parents began to take me to church when I was still little. However, it was nothing more than a tribute to tradition. As a teenager, I began to look for what I defined as truth and freedom, not knowing that I was really looking for God. It was my way of asking Him to show me the meaning of life. My soul was suffering, unable to find a place in this world.
At the age of 17, I realised that the meaning of life is to know God, and this became the backbone of my spiritual life. When you begin to see yourself as a creation of God, the salvation of your soul becomes the goal of your life. The main thing is to enter the church not in word but in deed.
Coming to church changed everything for me. I stopped looking elsewhere, because my soul was filled with meaning. This, one might say, was my personal "presentation in the temple". I believe, every person should have such a moment. The Mother of God had Hers at the age of three; the sooner we have ours, the better.
At first, it seems that entering the big wide world will make us happy. Then you begin to see the grace of God and realise that He is really the Way and the Truth, Something that we are all in need of.
We come to God in a moment when we can no longer see the meaning in everyday life, because after all, the true meaning is in the life of Heaven.
For several years, I have been reading prayers, confessing and taking communion without elaborating on the meaning of these actions. Frankly, I was mostly doing it for my mother's peace of mind. Eventually I broke free of her control, and from that point, everything started going downhill, since I did not really know what to hold onto in life.
Trapped in a spiritual hell inside my own heart, I desperately prayed to God. He rescued me through a spontaneous offer that I received from friends asking me to become godmother to their child. Realising that it was a serious matter, for the first time I went to church myself, first for a conversation with a priest, and then for confession and communion.
It happened on the feast of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos. After the confession, I cried tears of joy throughout the entire service, because for the first time I felt in my heart the infinite greatness of God's love for me, a repentant sinner. He accepted me into His flock, and my new life began...
To me, living with God means always feeling safe, always being able to tell Him the worst, most shameful and embarrassing things about myself and knowing that I will still be accepted, loved and forgiven, in spite of everything. It also means understanding that I am never alone and that I always have Someone to rely on. This is real happiness, which no money can buy.
The first time I came to church was in the winter of 2008. I was filled with awe. Everything was extraordinary. I saw the Church as a place separated from the worldly vanity, where absolutely everything is holy, including every nail in its walls and, of course, the people. By "people", I mean not only the clergy, but also those who help organise church services, as well as simple parishioners.
Similar to the Gospel publican, I felt like a complete sinner, and saw the people in the church as saints. Looking at the woman selling candles, I tried to grasp her every word, or movement as the standard of Christian behaviour.
Living outside the Church, you do not feel it, but even then, some words directed to God accumulate in the soul. Many of them, you have never spoken to God. When you start attending church regularly, such sensitivity gradually disappears... I venerated icons with tears in my eyes; maybe I even cried as I was praying for my personal intentions, and the cup of my soul was overflowing.
Unfortunately, over the years this feeling became replaced with that of familiarity and routine. This is partly natural, yet I feel that I must remember this feeling of the “presentation in the temple”.
I am new to the Church. For a long time I was one of those people who only come to church on Easter.
Even when last fall I read the Gospel, and the Word of God touched my heart, I still hoped that I could live according to His commandments without going to church.
One day, my mother invited me to join her for a festive Liturgy. To be honest, it was still difficult for me, and I spent most of the time in the church wondering how the old women there had so much strength to endure the entire service to the end, while I was ready to drop from exhaustion despite my young age.
At the same time, something happened in my soul on that day that inspired me to come to church regularly, to confess and take communion.
I did not pay much attention then to what Feast it was.
Later I remembered that we were celebrating the Presentation of the Most Holy Theotokos. It was also my own "Entry into the temple".