After a 5-week penance from my Orthodox online community, Oikonomia, I’ve learned a lot about myself, the faith, those in it, real values that I can carry with me through life. I intended on not writing these types of autobiographical posts, but this one I feel is worth sharing. This reflection won’t cover just the penance, but the events leading up to now.
Illumination and Darkness
In the midst of some of the more intense periods of the pandemic, I was chrismated as an Orthodox Christian under my priest Fr. Gabriel Bilas at St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church in Fenton, Michigan. This was on June 17th. After the chrismation service, my godparents invited my priest to lunch during which he said that I was “glowing.” It’s one of the most important days of my life, a direct encounter with the Holy Spirit along with a life confession that provided the greatest internal, spiritual cleanse that I’ve ever had. If I could replay the day, I would. Hopefully it’s something that I can do if I join the Kingdom.
Not long after the event, my significant other at the time (who I’ll refer to as “Q”), began having spiritual experiences that I couldn’t quite understand. I didn’t have any reason to dispute their legitimacy, it was all very sincere and seemed to be sober-minded. While I don’t want to divulge into these experiences, I will at least disclose that it involved a direct connection with God on a communicative level. I’ve known others who have these abilities, so it wasn’t something unknown or unfamiliar to me.
About a week after these began, she had explained to me that she wanted to discern monasticism, that God had led her to the conclusion. I disputed the idea, seeing as we were a month past our 3rd anniversary. I felt betrayed and confused, as though those 3 years were suddenly vapor. She wanted a month to discern, I remained adamant in my position. As a result, she decided to end the relationship.
From then, we stopped communicating generally. The wound was too fresh and any encounters led me to depression and frustration. At the same time, I felt isolated and lost. The person I had spent my days with was suddenly out of my life, what was I to do? On July 13th, we resumed communication after I was told through a mutual friend that she had went to the hospital. During the time, I reiterated my feelings about the situation and while she expressed sympathy, she didn’t express empathy. I was talking to the embodiment of a stoic. She got out of the hospital that same day.
The following day, we spoke on call and went through everything once more. I was able to put a voice to the emotions I felt, only to result in her frustration at my unwillingness to accept what happened between us. About 3 hours after that, she called me and told me that what I said hurt her, and to never speak to her again.
Out of loneliness and depression that night, I desperately attempted to contact her. The last thread of hope I had was removed that night.
I remember little about the period between then and the events I’m about to get into. I had a brief stint in making music to express how I felt about everything, which went pretty well, but the rest is pretty blurry.
On July 23rd, a mutual friend (who I’ll name “W”) spoke with me about Q telling others about how I mistreated her. I had no clue about what she could’ve possibly been talking about, but W didn’t want to disclose what was said in confidence to Q’s private group of friends. I assumed that it was about Q’s disagreement with how I felt about the situation.
A little over a week later, W and I had a conversation about music. I shared what I had made and what I was working on, about how cathartic it was. W had asked whether any of my friends had told me what Q was speaking about. No one had at that point, but it wasn’t something I wanted to get involved in. W vented to me a bit about how it was a conflicting situation for her and that she was looking to confront Q about it. I told her not to defend me. I still had no clue about what Q was talking about, but I knew there wasn’t anything critical that she could’ve been speaking about.
W cut to the chase and told me that Q was accusing me of sexual abuse.
At first I was incredibly confused, where was this coming from? Her and I had our “encounters”, but nothing that could’ve been even slightly malicious. I asked some questions to explain what exactly was being said, but ultimately none of it was based in reality. W went to go do something for about an hour, which was more than enough time for the grief to settle in.
I was disgusted, grieved, confused. I was at a loss how she had conjured this idea, let alone the fact that she was spreading this to friends and those who already had a bad history with me. The betrayal was turned up to 11. W had recounted some other miscellaneous details about what Q had been up to during the time. Not too long after, I tried to sleep.
The following afternoon, I spoke to a different mutual friend (named “T”) just checking in on how she was doing. T was struggling with getting a foundation spiritually, so I just wanted to make sure progress was getting made. T had told me that she was on my side regarding Q’s accusations. I was a bit surprised that she knew about it, but it turns out she was in the audience of people where Q was making the accusations. She offered to explain the situation as she understood it, so we spent a good two hours going through the situation.
I learned that the accusations began the day after Q told me to never speak to her again. I was provided screenshots of vaguely-worded lies and complete untruths. I also learned that my private conversations between Q and myself were put on livestream for her friends during some sort of “evidence collecting”. These screenshots spanned from July 15th up until my conversation with T on August 2nd. In conclusion, due to one of Q’s friends putting a conclusive term to what happened, Q accused it of being rape.
The First Exile and the First Disclosure
The following day, I spoke to my priest to recount everything that occurred, and I was instructed to drastically reduce my time on Oikonomia (the Orthodox community I run, also my main “social media” outlet). I announced it to the community, without much explanation. Thankfully, the Dormition Fast had just begun so that was my cover for the two weeks I was away. Nothing of note happened during this period, it went by pretty quickly.
I returned on August 15th, the feast day of the Dormition (Revised Julian Calendar). The following day I felt compelled to disclose what the reason for my temporary exile was about. I spoke to T about how to briefly explain the situation I was in without going into great detail. I answered some small questions but I thankfully received a lot of support toward my plight. The day after, the announcement had made its way to Q, who believed that W was responsible for my knowledge. W, in her honesty, came clean. She ultimately became the scapegoat for what everything I had learned, despite 90% of it coming from T.
I struggled with the remnants of my grief during this period, but the situation calmed down after that and all was quiet in the world. At the same time, I wanted to talk to her, I wanted to get a glimpse into the mindset leading to this. I try to reconcile as much as possible, so I was hopeful that we could talk this out. I never attempted to talk, though, I knew it wasn’t favorable.
The Ripple Effect
On October 1st, around 3 am, a notification popped up on my computer that provided the largest panic attack I ever faced. Q had come to Oikonomia. She acted quite reserved but I refused to grant her access until after I tried to sleep. Meanwhile, I was panic venting to my friends about what was going on.
I woke up around noon to a small handful of impatient direct messages from Q. She apparently called me a couple hours prior, although I didn’t even notice these until a day after. She acted as though I was already awake. One of my staff had erroneously told her I was awake to avoid an in-server conflict. All in all, I was pretty frustrated, she came to my solace as though she had some sort of power over me. I had also discovered through other users that a manifesto of sorts as well as a collection of “evidential” screenshots had attempted to been posted on the server, which was removed by my staff, only to end up being spammed into any user’s DM by her and her friend.
I asked her to a voice chat. It was going to be my one opportunity to try to reconcile. We had a chat with two others present. It ended up being very strange, as a lot of you already know. Her thought process toward the situation was incredibly disjointed and careless, as if her own mind hadn’t actually registered the severity of her accusations. She seemed to be entirely led by emotion, to the point of bringing up the desperate contact attempts that happened following the severing of all communication. She brought it up as though it were a grudge and she expressed a disproportionate amount of anger toward it, which to date I have no idea how it was practically unforgiveable to her.
No fruit of reconciliation came from it, although myself and countless others had validation toward how careless the accusations were made. I recorded the chat, added it to my growing collection of files I kept on the situation, for defensive purposes. I compressed the collection into an archive and posted it publicly on my community for about a day.
The Second Exile
On October 2nd, I made an emergency call to my priest about everything that had occurred. We had discussed about how novel the situation is to Orthodoxy as a whole, being that it’s online. Ultimately, this led to him placing a 6-week penance, to be away from Oikonomia. For the uninitiated, the penalty for breaking penance is being barred from communion. I was not able to even look at Oikonomia’s chats without violating this penance. Thankfully, I was still able to communicate with my friends elsewhere.
I didn’t disagree with the penance. It was to protect me, I was keenly aware of that.
The first two weeks of the penance went like the first exile, pretty quickly. On the third week, I became more aware of my social isolation and my struggle with despondency. I touched base with my priest asking for his advice. The following week had improvement but the “shadows” of my issues were still lingering. The fifth week, I had become aware of disarray in the community. Those I had assigned to oversee had their own issues and the community didn’t have the proper level of moderation that it demanded. I asked my priest for an end to the penance. He compromised and said that the fifth week would be my final week of penance. On the condition that I eased myself into everything the sixth week.
During the later end of this penance, I founded a company for my long-term side project, BibleBot. I founded Evangelion Ltd. and incorporated in Scotland. The legitimization of the project has bore fruit rather quickly, thankfully. I’ve negotiated multiple licensing agreements for the project and it’s all been incredibly blessed and fun. I spent most of the later end working on kickstarting this.
I also was able to realign myself toward my occupational and educational goals. Of finishing my degree and working towards great employment. The passion I had for my hobby had fired up again (after a pretty long burnout, I must add).
Today, November 7th, I returned from my penance to Oikonomia. The feeling is rather strange, being without it for so long makes being back in feel foreign. I saw how the server had been in some disarray, which I’ve addressed but the cleanup will take some time. All in all, I still don’t really know how to feel or act in the server. I feel detached but at the same time this was something I enjoyed running for the longest time. Hopefully easing into everything will solve this.
I’m glad to be back, but I feel I have more work to do than when I left, for the better and the worse. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Writing is cathartic and setting it free is as well.