I've said before that, as a new convert to Orthodoxy, the first six months or so, I was 'drunk off the incense.' There is a heady richness to Orthodoxy that, as a beer snob, I can compare to the first time I had "real beer" after thinking that beer was Budweiser (or other mass produced American swill). I grew up thinking that American Swill (tm) was what beer was, in much the same way that I grew up thinking the evangelical protestantism is was Christianity was. There is a direct analogy here. Genuine oatmeal stout::American Swill as Orthodoxy::evangelical protestantism.
This 'heady richness' in Orthodoxy makes for some interesting times for those not acquainted with it, at least at first. Like a man who had been starved for the first 22 year of his life, I came to the Orthodox banquet (to change metaphors mid-post; my apologies) and saw dishes of types and varieties that I never so much as dreamed of existing, much less ever thought would be spread out in front of me for the trying. So, being prone to gluttony (God forgive me!), instead of doing what you ought to do in such situations and just focusing on the two of three dishes nearest to you, I decided to take a spoon to all of them at once. (Incidentally, I did this also during my first Bright Week; I went as overboard with the feasting as I did with the fasting, and ended up putting my intestines into shock and spent an overnight in the hospital. Good convert lessons, these are.)
I am rapidly losing my point, as I tend to do, so I'm going to cut through here a bit and try to just make it; part of the 'drunk off incense' phenomenon is the sensory overload of Orthodoxy. Orthodox aesthetics appeal to me in great ways. The icons, Russian-style lampadas, deep-stained wooden altars...all of which I incorporated into my first icon wall (at mom and dad's house). I built the altar myself, stained it, mounted a cast iron cross on the front of it, made tons of print icons that I arranged in stacked, Russian style, used rich fabrics for altar cloths, etc. It is a very nice icon corner, if I do say so myself. But, since I've moved to my own place now, and am just getting things together for myself, my new icon corner (which I set up yesterday...it didn't feel like home until I got it up, which again is interesting how quickly icons have become the norm for me) was sort of assembled out of pieces of furniture I had. An old table from mom and dad's, a spare floating shelf from my old room in Lexington, a hanging lamp I bought on clearance from World Market, some candlesticks I bought at a second-hand shop, and just a handful of icons (my Pantocrator-and-Theotokos diptych, the Archangel Gabriel that Eric and April brought be back from Greece, my St. Jusinian that my godparents gave me at my Chrismation, and St. Anthony that I got at the Greek Festival this year), and a small silver-plated crucifix I bought on ebay, and an incense box I bought at a big box retail store, are all that make up the corner at present.
So, last night I did my evening prayers there, hoping to establish it as the place where I'll be doing my prayer rule now; I'll swear to you, I felt what people talk about feeling in their prayer rules for the first time. Although 'feeling' is misleading; I knew Christ was there, the way I encounter him at the Chalice in Divine Liturgy, the way I encounter him at Vespers service when we sing the Evening Prokeimenon. There is an ineffable wonder at this, which cannot truly be conveyed to those who do not know it themselves. These hidden things, these mysteries of the Incarnate God, are found in the simplest expressions of Orthodoxy, as well as in the rich and full ones. You'd think I'd know this, attending a mission that borrows space to meet each week, but sometimes, Christ needs to poke us with a needle to get our attention, because we would hardly notice the sword we expect to stab us.
St. John Chrysostom would be proud, I think, that I'm re-learning the value of simplicity. Learning to integrate simplicity into the practice of living Orthodoxy (which, btw, the indigenous Orthodox don't seem to have much trouble with--the problem is with the overthinking, overzealous converts) is a challenge I'm glad to take up.