“The fragrant path of Orthodoxy...” is an oft-repeated phrase I use when talking about my conversion from Protestantism to Orthodoxy. In fact, there are several pathways that ushered me to the door of the church:
*The path of history; the ancient Celts
*The path of John Calvin & St. Augustine
*The path of circumstance and healing
And, I might be tempted to add another one here, “The path of J.R.R. Tolkien”, but that wouldn’t exactly be correct. In truth, it was as I was making discoveries along these pathways that The Lord of the Rings came into my life. It was an exhilarating time; sort of like stumbling along an overgrown trail in the woods and then, by chance, to meet up with a friendly local. Someone who not only gives you directions, but is most glad to show you the way. I am indebted to Professor Tolkien for seeing spiritual truths with new eyes.
The first and still the most traveled path in my religious reading is the path of history and of the Celtic peoples in particular. Maybe it’s because my mom is Irish that I have a fondness for all things related to the British Isles. Growing up listening to her records of pipes and drums, Irish jigs and the like, maybe there is a sentimental value linked to reading about this culture. I began reading romance novels about knights and damsels in distress in high school, but by college was keen to learn about the real men who wore armour and swore allegiance to a king centuries ago. What made them so loyal? How did this system really work? What were their religious beliefs?
Soon I discovered the story of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester (1208-1265) and the romance that I had found so entertaining in earlier novels was replaced by an infatuation with war, siege engines, codes of chivalry and that one element I most wondered about: loyalty. War tactics evolve, but loyalty is an immortal lion.
It is said that a Bishop spoke these words to Simon’s eldest son, Henry: "My beloved child, both you and your father will meet your deaths on one day, and by one kind of death, but it will be in the name of justice and truth."
Somewhere in here, in this wonder upon the Medieval period and the faith of men came a song of the sparrow which said: whatever was true then is true now. God is unchanging.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
We are the ones who change, who fall and get back up again. We are the ones who fail to learn from history because we will not own it. Of the Middle Ages, some might say men were consumed with the power inherent in the Roman Catholic Church, but I wondered about the farmers, the serfs who had no thought of power and manipulation. What kind of faith did they have?
*Painting is by Alan Ayers