A Story Of One Man’s Journey To Orthodoxy

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A personal odyssey

Skoufis said he has always had a relationship with God. An icon of the Virgin Mary holding a young Jesus was above his bed, a gift from his parents, was his first link to the Almighty. A trip to Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, in 1993 and a visit to a Christian bookstore sparked his search for God. He began to read Orthodox theology. He fell in love with the spirituality of the Holly Mount Athos.

“Many things did not happen by accident. I tried to always give space to God,” he recalled.  

Over time, he said, his relationship with God evolved. Skoufis said he could clearly observe that God was leading his life — but he was happy with his personal development. His relationship with the church was typical. He didn’t fast or attend liturgy frequently.

“I was not theologically well armed; I only knew the prayer,” he admitted. “There was no deep connection with God.”

Things then changed.

“I experienced my personal odyssey,” he said. “Everything went wrong.”

His life, after moving to Prague, had improved — but Skoufis never thanked God.

“I chased my own satisfaction,” he said, at a time where he also sought spiritual counsel.

In 2017, following an emotional breakdown, he found himself searching for God once again.  

After spending some time in a Prague parish, where most of the worshippers are of Greek descent, Skoufis returned to his first parish — the Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius. This is a congregation that resembles a Byzantine mosaic. Ethnic Czechs, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Georgians and North Macedonians all worship there.

“Nationalism has no place into community’s life,” he said. “We are one body.”

There must be ‘something’

Nearly 40% of Czechs consider themselves atheist, 39.2% Roman Catholics and 4.6% Protestant, with 1.9% members of the Czech-founded Hussite Reform Church, 1.6% in the Czech Brotherhood Evangelic Church and just 0.5% in the Silesian Evangelic Church.

Only 3% are members of the Orthodox Church, while 13.4% claim to be undecided. In addition, Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, have been introduced since 1989 since the fall of communism and have established small congregations around the country. A small Jewish community of about 10,000 still exists. Before the Nazi invasion, Jews numbered as high as 360,000.

David Raus, a journalist in the Czech Republic, has for many years coordinated the transmission of religious broadcasting on Czech Public Radio. His fellow citizens use a specific word to describe their relationship with spirituality.

“A normal Czech,” Raus said, “would tell you that he or she is not religious, but that (there) must be ‘something.’ So we feel there is a beginning and obviously an end of things, and we refer to that as “something-ism.”

Skoufis confirmed that an observer could easily track signs of religious awareness among the Czechs, even though they were heavily influenced by their communist past and Eastern religions. Orthodox spirituality bears some general principles such as humility and obedience.

“The Czechs have spirituality without knowing it,” he said.

While trends show that the number of believers in Czech Republic is in decline, at the same time, churches and religious communities are present in daily life. Pavel Svoboda, a law professor, lawyer and former Czech lawmaker to the European Parliament, said religious life is regulated in his homeland.

“There is a law on churches and religious communities, which means that if you want to legally act in Czech Republic you have to fulfill certain conditions given by the law and then you are enjoying full freedom,” Svoboda said.

He emphasized that his country is heading toward full separation of church and state, but otherwise churches have the freedom they need to attract people.

For Skoufis, “Christ’s door has only one handle, which is on man’s side.”

“We, the men, only decide whether we open our life’s door for Christ to enter or not,” he added. “So, that is why the Czechs stay in this something-ism.”





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