He won five Emmy awards for playing "Lucky Spencer" on General Hospital. And he became an Orthodox Christian. This is how it happened. Full video transcript included.
How does a famous Hollywood actor discover Orthodox Christianity? During this visit to Mt. Athos, Greece, Jonathan Jackson discusses his reasons for becoming an Orthodox Christian. A full transcript of the video is available below.
Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for grace and for mercy which I am in great need of. This is testament to Anthony Geary, and his humility, and his love and graciousness towards me. I want to thank Rebecca Herbst and all the actors of General Hospital, the directors, Jill Farren Phelps, Bob Guza, my wife Lisa, my children Caleb, Adora, and Titus, my parents, my brother and sister. I just have so many people to thank. My godfather Gary Hartz, It's an incredible thing we do, putting 68 pages a day on the air. It's insane. I'm humbled to be here, so thank you all very much. Thank you to the Academy, and also thank you to all the monks on Mount Athos who are ceaselessly praying for the life of the world. Thank you.
In 2007, I was doing a film in Romania. I had a week off from filming, and we went to Rome. My wife is Italian, so we wanted to visit Rome. I was raised Protestant, so I knew nothing about the Orthodox Church. But I loved God very much, and I had been really seeking him since I was about 12 years old, reading the Scriptures and cultivating some form of prayer life.
And when we were visiting Rome, we were overwhelmed by the presence of the martyrs and the saints — to walk the streets where St. Paul and St. Peter walked. And when we went into the Colosseum, there was a huge Cross, and my wife said, "Why is there a Cross in the Colosseum?" Then, we got up closer and realized it was a monument to the martyrs, and something just came over us. We could feel it in the air, and I knew, being there, that I had to start reading Christian history. I'd been reading the Scriptures for many years, but I knew nothing of Christian history. I didn't know what happened after the Book of Acts.
So, I started reading, and I read the Fathers of th Church: St. Ignatius of Antioch, his letters; St. Justin Martyr; St. Clement of Rome, and so on; St. Cyprian of Carthage. And just, my mind started to open up. My heart began to open up. I wanted to know — because in America, there are 20,000-30,000 different denominations, different churches, and it just didn't make sense to me. So I spent about 3 1/2 years reading Christian history. I still had not discovered the Orthodox Church because it's all Catholic and Protestant literature in America.
Finally, by the grace of God, I was praying, and a thought came into my mind — because I was in despair because I could no longer be Protestant, but my heart — I couldn't become Catholic. But I wanted the real Church, the Church that I was reading in the letters of the Fathers. I wanted that Church. I wanted to be a part of that, and I couldn't find it.
And this thought came into my mind to really look at the Great Schism, to study what happened. And as soon as that took place, everything opened up. It was like the stars aligned, and that whole search was - the prayer was beginning to be answered, and I knew that I had to become Orthodox. But it took some time. I had to actually go to an Orthodox Church before I was ready.
Well, it was an interesting experience because, as I was reading many books about the Orthodox Church, finally, I had a dream where I was in an Orthodox Church, but I had never been to one yet. And it was very specific. There were no pews, and there were icons everywhere, and people were lighting candles, and crossing themselves, and moving about, and it was beautiful. It was beautiful. There was just a presence of prayer. And I woke up, and I wanted to experience that.
So I went to a couple of local Orthodox churches in Los Angeles, but they weren't quite like the dream that I'd had. So I kept looking, and online, on the internet, I came across a website where the photo was from my dream. And it was — this is the church. So I called, and a wonderful priest, Fr. John Strickland, answered the phone. And he was from my home state, Washington State, and he was a convert. And that was the beginning.
Well, it's interesting because, when I walked into the church — I left my family at home because I wanted to feel it out myself. I knew God was taking me here, but it was still very uncomfortable and sort of frightening a little bit. I walked into the church, and I was overwhelmed with this feeling that came over me, and this very, very persistent voice said, "Leave. Run. Get out of here. You don't want to be here. Go. Now. Go." And it was very strong, and my hands got hot, and I started feeling very anxious, and, you know, everything in me wanted to leave.
I thought, "What is this? I've been spending years reading, trying to find. . ." And I knew that this was where God was taking me. So it was strange. And I prayed, and I felt a different voice, a different presence say, "No, stay for the whole thing, and then you'll know how you feel." So I thought, "Okay, I'll stay for the whole thing."
And it was very uncomfortable for probably about 45 minutes. I didn't know anybody. The icons were still very scary. And foreign — it was just all very different. And, after the homily, when the Cherubic Hymn began — I didn't know what it was at the time — but the Cherubic Hymn began, and I went from feeling completely uncomfortable and anxious. . . I went from feeling completely uncomfortable and anxious to leave, and the whole place just became like light. And it was like — I don't know how to explain it. The whole — it just changed. It sort of transfigured, you know.And I started crying and felt the presence of God so heavily. I'd never seen such beautiful humility before God. And people were crossing themselves so beautifully and saying, "Lord have mercy." And it just . . . I started praying to God saying, "I don't want to be anywhere else. I just want to be right here with the Body of Christ. I don't care about worldly things, what's going on — you know, career pursuits, it doesn't matter. I just want to be right here."
Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Professional Services