Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Excerpt from Ancient Faith Radio- From General Hospital to the Hospital of Souls: Interview with Jonathan Jackson

Four-time Emmy award-winner Jonathan Jackson, star of General Hospital andTuck Everlasting, talks with Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick about his journey into Orthodox Christianity, his family, how he lives his faith as a Hollywood actor, music and writing, on this special episode of Roads From Emmaus.

Mr. Jackson: The first service—feel free to cut me off if you have more questions—
Fr. Andrew: No, no, this is a good story!
Mr. Jackson: All right. The first service I actually went to there was… I was all by myself, because I was still scouting this out. It was interesting because the first reaction I had when I entered into the church… I got this very, very strong impression that said, “Leave. Run. Just get out. Just go. Don’t. You shouldn’t be here.” And I thought it was so strange, because I had already read quite a few books, I knew in my heart that this was where God was sending me, and I thought, “Wow.” I almost started sweating. It was like this really intense thing.
I was very uncomfortable. I didn’t know anybody. It was very foreign. I didn’t know what to do and all of that, but, after that, I felt like the Holy Spirit said, “No, stay for the whole thing, and then you’ll know how you feel about it.” [Sigh.] I said, “Okay, I can do this. I can do this.” So the first 45 minutes was just absolute discomfort, just absolute.
Fr. Andrew: You know, you’re not the first person I’ve heard that from. There’s been a lot of people that, when they encounter Orthodoxy, that there is this strong sense of discomfort, and I think, to sort of put it into an interpretive matrix, I think it’s because you really are standing in the presence of God. And just as your reaction to seeing the Pantocrator was to throw out some four-letter words, what does one say in the presence of God? What does one feel or do?
I actually saw one guy who was an atheist who came to an Orthodox church because he was interested in a girl who was attending, and he was present for about 20 minutes, and then he ran out the front door and threw up on the front lawn and literally ran away. That’s a little bit more extreme than your reaction, but yeah.
Mr. Jackson: I was sweating. I was on my way there. But it was like avivid thought. It was not my own thought. It was like: “Run. Leave. Get out of here. Now.” And I thought, “What on earth? That’s not… I don’t think that’s from God, but what is going on here?” The incredible thing was: “Stay for the whole thing and then you’ll know how you feel.”
45 minutes into it, something happened. The whole room transformed, and it went from utter discomfort to—and I’ll tell you when it was for the Orthodox listeners who would know in the Divine Liturgy—it was right after the homily, after the prayers for the catechumens. Whatever hymn is sung—I’m sure there are many, but there’s a specific hymn that is sung after “Catechumens depart.” And the whole place visually transformed.
Fr. Andrew: It’s probably the Cherubic Hymn.
Mr. Jackson: I think that’s probably what it is.
Fr. Andrew: It’s about that we represent the angels.
Mr. Jackson: Yes.
Fr. Andrew: And we’re worshiping at the very throne and the altar of God.
Mr. Jackson: So that’s what happened, because heaven… opened up. And I was just standing there. From one extreme of just “Get out of here. This is just really foreign and bizarre and uncomfortable.” to tears streaming down my face, completely captivated. And the first service I went to, which, in my chronological memory now, I visited those Greek churches after; I think I actually went to this one first, and then checked out a few other ones to see which ones were a better connection for me personally, but the whole room [transformed]—but the first service was on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, which we just had a few weeks ago.
And what captivated me in that moment was I had never seen a corporate body of people praying to God with such humility. I just had never seen it. It took my breath away, to see people crossing themselves, “Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” And it wasn’t the self-flagellation, I’m-a-worm kind of repentance. It wasn’t. It was not. It was a repentance that was somehow connected to joy. It was somehow connected to the Resurrection. It was somehow… It was like a romantic connection with God.
I had never seen that before, and as tears were streaming down my face, I just found myself praying, “All I want to do is be here, in the presence. I don’t care about anything else in the world. All I want to do is just be here in this presence with this body of people.” Not just the local body of people, but the Body.
Fr. Andrew: The Body.
Mr. Jackson: The Body of Christ.
At that point… It wasn’t easy from that point.
Fr. Andrew: No, it’s never easy. It’s never easy.
Mr. Jackson: But that was certainly a pivotal moment

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