Orthodoxing Your Life
There is nothing stopping any Catholic from hanging icons on his or her walls (although it's a bit more complicated than that for Orthodox), crucifixes, or otherwise making their home the domestic temple Orthodoxy expects. Catholics have feasts to sanctify the year, and the Liturgy of the Hours to sanctify the day. (See 2014 article "YOU Can Pray the Liturgy of the Hours" for more about that.)
Icon corner at one particular time.
They tend to change, although
the large icon & Romanov
lampada are constants.
However, there is a "physicality" in Orthodoxy one just does not find developed to the same degree in Catholicism. Orthodox kiss everything. Icons. Priests' hands. Each other. (One cheek, the other, then the first again for good measure, if you're Russian.)
Their icon corner is more than decoration. It is truly the center of the home. Orthodox visitors will first thing greet your icon corner when entering your home. It's where the family gathers to pray. It may have the traditional lampada burning 24/7.
The rosary is a Western feature, but the Orthodox have knotted prayer ropes upon which they say the popular Jesus Prayer. It takes less concentration and is somewhat less obvious, and when the Bear was Orthodox, it was often in his hands beneath counsel table during trial.
The Orthodox year also has its feasts, but is memorable more for its fasts. It sometimes seems like there are more days of fasting and abstinence than there are regular days. Someone - presumably a joker - counted up all the official days of fasting and abstinence and concluded there were only five days during the year one could enjoy marital relations!
Like most jokes, it is the bit of truth that makes it funny. Orthodoxy is extremely strict by Catholic standards. Catholics don't even have to avoid meat on Friday anymore (and the Bear is not certain that people caught the rest of that change - that you're supposed to substitute some act of denial of your own choosing).
An Orthodox temple may or may not have pews (although if not, there are probably a few chairs along the wall for those who can't stay on their feet for the whole Divine Liturgy). In any event, there is a lot of standing. The Divine Liturgy is beautiful, but not a model of economy, repeating things in case your attention might have wandered the first or second time.
The Sabbath starts on Saturday evening, and Vespers is the service that traditionally kicks off the weekend's worship, although attendance probably varies from place to place. It is a lovely service, and "O Gladsome Light" is its beautiful signature hymn.
But Orthodoxy played on "normal" mode finds different ways to wrap you in the ancient faith as a normal part of your life. Certainly, Catholics can do the same, but it seems more encouraged and expected in Orthodoxy.
St. Corbinian's Bear carried St. Corbinian's stuff to Rome. Big whoop. St. Seraphim's Bear built him a cabin. Pretty much says it all.
Being More Orthodox than the Orthodox?
Since the Bear is witnessing to the "Orthodox Convert Experience" in both positive and negative (close enough) ways he must comment on something he noticed in himself and others.
Part of the appeal of Orthodoxy is that it is right, right? So, because of this or some other reason, converts tend to take things really seriously. The Bear cannot testify to the inner experience of native Orthodox persons, but he seems to remember among many converts a sort of grim, white-knuckled approach to Orthodox discipline. He would certainly plead guilty to that. Fasts had to be by-the-letter, you know. Often, the Bear family would be the only ones at Vespers. (Bear does not know what the priest did when no one showed up - he suspects there were no Vespers.)
Bear means, if you're not going to take Orthodoxy seriously, you might as well stay Catholic, right?
So, this isn't really as much a negative as a heads up to those thinking about converting. They should realize there is a whole lot more than icons and the awesome Divine Liturgy. There is a discipline (probably that varies among the jurisdictions, too, like most everything else) toward which you are going to have to figure out your own, sensible, approach.
There's also one bald fact that deserves some thought.
Converts Come into Orthodoxy by the Front Door and Leave by the Back
"We get a lot of converts," said one old Russian Orthodox lady. "But they never stay."
There seems to be a honeymoon period, like with anything else, beyond which converts are no longer carried along by enthusiasm. Has anyone else seen Orthodox convert burnout? Certainly the "churn rate" among converts is famously high. It is a commonplace to say it, but an impressive number of converts come through the front door, while a worrisomely high number leave through the back door. See e.g. this article by an Orthodox writer on Why You Shouldn't Convert to Orthodoxy.
Why should this be? The Bear thinks you might do well to think about this and why you are tempted to convert to Orthodoxy.
Because it's a "better Catholic Church," only without some pope running around saying weird stuff? Because it has an ancient and beautiful Divine Liturgy and Russian polyphony instead of Father Dave's jokes and bad music? Because an Orthodox temple gives the eye no rest from wonder while your own parish church features a beardless Resurrectifix that looks like Floating Fabio?
The Bear suspects that if Catholics thinking about converting are honest, there may be at least an equal desire to flee from a Catholic Church that sometimes seems like nothing but headaches to the proverbial greener pastures. And, the Bear would humbly suggest that conversion to Orthodoxy for that reason is probably the wrong reason.