I am a priest now. However, there once was a day when I tore my baptismal cross off my neck. My father was a Catholic, my mother was Orthodox and I was baptized as a child in one of the Lithuanian Uniate communities. My family was not particularly religious. Thinking of my teenage years, I recall looking down on Christians, believing Christianity to be a collection of prejudices, a belief in a “bearded old man on a cloud”.
I also loved to arrange numerous “tests” for God, kind of like “If you exist, let this happen tomorrow.” It did not touch my heart, however, or convince me of anything when things did go my way. One day I proudly declared myself an atheist and took off my cross. But after a few years, a whole series of events occurred that changed everything.
When I was studying at the university in Vilnius, we were told to read the Gospel of Luke in preparation for a test in a discipline studying, among other things, the history of religions. I remember my classmate and myself sitting in the dormitory, drinking tea, taking turns in reading aloud chapter after chapter, taking cigarette breaks, exchanging some comments and becoming more and more amazed at the power of what we were reading. I recall myself thinking, “How great it would be if it were all true.” We could not help but be fascinated with the compassionate and loving Personality of Christ, which seemed to be the ideal that we wanted to believe and strive for. Smoking on the balcony after the book was finished, we agreed to attend a service at the nearest Catholic church on Sunday.
We did as planned and soon began to visit temples of other confessions as well. We were not considering ourselves Christians yet, but our habits and way of life were gradually changing. My friend felt that “stirring his senses” by looking at frivolous pictures was a sin. Once he confessed, “You know, I can no longer look at these abominations. I feel that this is somehow wrong.” It happened around the same time that smoking became to disgust me.
Then one night I had an amazing dream. I saw myself ascending somewhere high, and being surrounded there by some luminous beings. I remember it first making me proud, but suddenly I became scared of something. I tried to read the Lord’s prayer, but I could barely remember it. Then everything changed: the light dimmed, the creatures darkened and began to scream. I started falling and woke up feeling as if I had landed on my bed. It was dark outside. Still in fear and trying to remember the words of “Our Father”, I began looking for my old baptismal cross. I found it, put it on and never took it off again.
The last straw for me was attending an Orthodox church service while visiting my Orthodox grandmother in summer. I was standing at the all-night vigil, not understanding anything, but feeling… at home. I felt that God was near. And I already knew that I wanted to come here for the Liturgy in the morning.
Everything finally fell into place when, after a long break, I came to the Easter service at the Orthodox monastery in Vilnius. Again I had the feeling of God’s presence during the service. I came back on the following Sunday and told the lady selling candles that I would like to talk to the priest. It turned out that the priest had already left and would not be back soon, but I said that I would wait.
I sat down on a bench and prayed for two hours before the icon of the Vilnius martyrs. Suddenly a monk came up to me and asked what was on my mind. I told him that I was baptized by the Uniates as a child, and that now I would like to join the Orthodox Church. He gave me a Catechism book. I read it in a month, and then I confessed my sins, became a member of the Orthodox Church and united with Christ, Who brought into my life the true happiness, peace and joy that I had never experienced before. Later I decided to dedicate myself and all my life to serving at the altar of His temple.
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