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Seraphim Rose

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pi tardi di quanto pensiate. Affrettatevi, pertanto, a compiere l'opera di Dio.

Seraphim Rose (Seraphim di Platina), al secolo Eugene Dennis Rose (San Diego, 13 agosto
1934 Platina, 2 settembre 1982) stato un religioso statunitense. Fu uno ieromonaco della Chiesa
Ortodossa Russa fuori dalla Russia e co-fondatore del monastero di Sant'Herman dell'Alaska a
Platina, California. Fu anche traduttore di testi Cristiani Ortodossi e autore di numerosi testi
polemici. I suoi scritti hanno contribuito alla diffusione del cristianesimo ortodosso in tutto
l'Occidente; la sua popolarit si estese anche nella stessa Russia, dove i suoi lavori sono stati
segretamente riprodotti e distribuiti durante l'epoca comunista, rimanendo popolari ancora oggi

L'opposizione di padre Seraphim Rose alla partecipazione ortodossa al movimento ecumenico e la


sua difesa del contenzioso sulle "Stazioni di pedaggio" lo hanno portato in conflitto con alcune
figure di rilievo dell'Ortodossia del 20 secolo. La sua figura resta tuttora controversa in alcuni
ambienti anche dopo la sua morte improvvisa dovuta ai postumi di una malattia giovanile. Tuttavia
molti altri Cristiani Ortodossi lo tengono in alta considerazione venerandolo come un santo
nell'iconografia, nella liturgia e nella preghiera anche se non stato formalmente canonizzato da
nessun sinodo ortodosso.

Il Monastero di padre Rose (al 2010) attualmente affiliato alla Chiesa Ortodossa Serba e continua
a svolgere il suo lavoro di pubblicazione e attivit missionaria ortodossa.

Indice
1 Primi anni
2 Ricerca spirituale ed omosessualit
3 Ortodossia
4 Opere
5 Polemiche su opinioni teologiche
6 Morte
7 Il monastero S. Herman oggi
8 Note
9 Bibliografia
10 Risorse Biografiche
11 Collegamenti esterni

Primi anni
Eugene Rose nasce il 13 agosto 1934 a San Diego, California da Frank Rose, un veterano della
prima guerra mondiale, ed Esther Rose, una donna d'affari e un'artista californiana specializzata in
scene impressioniste della costa del Pacifico. Cresciuto a San Diego, Eugene rimarr un
californiano per il resto della sua vita.
Anche se Eugene stato descritto da un biografo come un "atleta naturale" nella sua giovinezza,
non si mai impegnato seriamente nello sport. Battezzato nella Chiesa Metodista quando aveva 14
anni, Eugene in seguito rifiuter il Cristianesimo per l'ateismo. Dopo il diploma alla San Diego
High Scool, Eugene frequenta il Pomona College, dove studia Filosofia Cinese e si laurea magna
cum laude nel 1956. Successivamente Rose studia con Alan Watts alla American Academy of
Asian Studies prima di entrare nella graduatoria del Master in lingue orientali presso la University
of California, Berkeley, dove si laurea nel 1961 con una tesi dal titolo vuoto' e 'pienezza' in Lao
Tzu.[1]

Oltre ad un dono naturale per le lingue, Eugene era noto anche per il possesso di un acuto senso
dell'umorismo e spirito.[2] Frequentava l'Opera, concerti, arte, letteratura e tutte le iniziative culturali
abbondantemente disponibili a San Francisco, dove si era stabilito dopo la laurea, ed inizi la sua
esplorazione al Buddismo e altre filosofie asiatiche.

Ricerca spirituale ed omosessualit


Mentre studia all'Asian Institute di Watts, Eugene scopre gli scritti di un metafisico francese Ren
Gunon, e fa conoscenza con uno studente cinese taoista, Gi-ming Shien. Shien sottolineava
l'approccio cinese antico all'apprendimento, valorizzando i punti di vista e i testi tradizionali alle pi
moderne interpretazioni. Ispirato da Shien, Eugene intraprende gli studi del Cinese antico in modo
da poter leggere i testi Taoisti nella loro lingua originale. Attraverso le sue esperienze con Shien e
gli scritti di Gunon, Eugene ispirato alla ricerca di un autentico terreno spirituale. Anche se in
precedenza si era focalizzato sulle Religioni Orientali, il cammino spirituale di Eugene alla fine lo
porta di nuovo al Cristianesimo e alla Chiesa Ortodossa Russa, in parte come risultato della sua
amicizia con Jon Gregerson, un Californiano di origine finlandese che Eugene aveva incontrato
nell'estate del 1955 quando frequentavano l'Accademia di Watts.[3]

Nel 1956 Eugene si dichiar omosessuale ad un caro amico del college dopo che la madre scopr
lettere tra lui e Walter Pomeroy, un amico della scuola superiore.[4] Eugene cess la sua attivit
omosessuale dopo aver accettato l'Ortodossia, mettendo fine alla sua relazione con Gregerson, che
era diventato il suo compagno prima della sua conversione all'Ortodossia.[4]

Ortodossia
Nel 1962, in parte come risultato dell'influcenza di Jon Gregerson, Eugene fu ricevuto nella Chiesa
Ortodossa Russa fuori dalla Russia (ROCOR) a San Francisco. Ben presto si distinse agli occhi del
prelato di San Francisco, St. John Maximovitch, come convertito serio e studioso. Nel 1963
l'Arcivescovo Giovanni diede la benedizione a Eugene ed al suo nuovo amico Gleb Podmoshensky,
un seminarista Ortodosso Russo, per formare una comunit di ortodossi, la fratellanza
"Sant'Herman dell'Alaska". Nel marzo del 1964 aprono una libreria ortodossa vicino alla futura
cattedrale della ROCOR su Geary Boulevard a San Francisco, che era ancora in costruzione. Nel
1965 la confraternita fond la casa editrice St. Herman Press, tuttora esistente.[5]

Sempre pi attratta da uno stile di vita pi solitaria, la comunit di Eugene e Gleb alla fine decise di
lasciare la citt per il deserto della California settentrionale, dove Rose e Podmoshensky divennero
monaci nel 1968 e trasformarono la fratellanza "St. Herman of Alaska" in una vera e propria
comunit monastica. I genitori di Eugene pagarono l'acconto per un terreno montano nei pressi della
frazione isolata di Platina, California, dove Rose e alcuni amici costruirono un monastero dedicato a
Sant'Herman dell'Alaska. Alla sua tonsura, nell'ottobre 1970, Eugene Rose prese il nome di
"Seraphim" in onore a San Serafino di Sarov. Egli scrisse, tradusse e studi per il sacerdozio nella
sua cella, una semplice stanza senza acqua corrente n elettricit, dove avrebbe trascorso il resto dei
suoi giorni. Fu ordinato nella primavera del 1977 dal vescovo Nektary di Seattle, figlio spirituale di
San Nettario di Optina, l'ultimo dei grandi Starecs di Optina.[6]

Nel suo ministero padre Seraphim Rose ha parlato spesso di una "Ortodossia del Cuore", che egli
vedeva sempre meno presente nella vita ecclesiastica americana. Ha parlato anche della necessit di
affetto e gentilezza dello spirito, specialmente quando si tratta di coloro con i quali si in
disaccordo, un problema crescente nell'Ortodossia Statunitense nel conflitto tra i cosiddetti
"tradizionalisti" e i "modernisti". Si pu essere fermi, ricordava padre Seraphim, senza dover
scendere a compromessi con gli insegnamenti fondamentali del Cristianesimo su bont, pazienza e
misericordia verso gli altri.[7][8]

Opere
Usando un ciclostile nella libreria di Geary Boulevard, Rose pubblica la rivista bimestrale "The
Orthodox Word" nel gennaio 1965; questo periodico tuttora pubblicato (con macchine pi
moderne). Compose e pubblic decine di altri titoli, tra cui La Rivelazione di Dio al cuore umano,
Ortodossia e la religione del futuro e L'anima dopo la morte, tutti ancora in stampa. Ha tradotto e
stampato La Teologia Dogmatica Ortodossa di p. Michael Pomazansky, che resta ancora oggi un
testo usato sia dagli studenti seminaristi che dai profani. I suoi libri tradotti in russo sono stati
ampiamente diffusi come samizdat all'interno dell'Unione Sovietica anche se sono stati formalmente
pubblicati solo dopo la caduta del regime comunista. Fu anche uno dei primi Cristiani Ortodossi
americani a tradurre grandi opere di alcuni Padri della Chiesa in lingua inglese.[3]

Polemiche su opinioni teologiche


Sebbene la maggior parte delle opere di Rose sono state ampiamente accolte all'interno della
comunit ortodossa, alcune hanno sollevato polemiche. La pi importante di queste stata L'anima
dopo la morte che pretende di descrivere certe presunte "stazioni di pedaggio aeree" descritte da
vari Padri della Chiesa e santi. Secondo questo insegnamento (che largamente accettato in alcune
parti della Chiesa ma che non mai stato ufficialmente accettato da un Concilio Ecumenico della
Chiesa Ortodossa nel suo insieme), l'anima di ogni essere umano deve passare attraverso una serie
di queste stazioni di pedaggio come prima parte del Giudizio di Dio dove saranno accusati di colpe
specifiche ed eventualmente condannati all'inferno.

Teologi ortodossi, tra cui l'arcivescovo Lazar Puhalo, il dottor Stanley Harakas e il dr. Alexander
Kalomiros tra gli altri, hanno sostenuto che alcune idee nel libro di p. Seraphim Rose sono eretiche
e che molti Padri della Chiesa sono stati male interpretati o travisati per sostenere le sue ipotesi.[9]
L'Arcivescovo Puhalo ha affermato che la teoria delle "stazioni di pedaggio" abbia origini
gnostiche.[10] Queste accuse sono state successivamente dichiarate prive di fondamenta dal Santo
Sinodo della Chiesa Russa all'Estero, il quale ha sottolineato che ben poco stato rivelato alla
Chiesa su questo argomento e che quindi tutte le controversie su questo tema dovrebbero cessare.[11]
Pur continuando ad opporsi con forza all'insegnamento di padre Rose su questo tema, l'Arcivescovo
Puhalo ha dichiarato di considerare padre Seraphim Rose un "vero asceta" e che rispetta le
intenzioni e la sincerit della vita monastica di p. Seraphim[12].

Altri pensatori contemporanei Ortodossi come ad esempio San John Maximovitch, il Metropolita
Hierotheos Vlachos, p. Michael Pomazansky e il vescovo Girolamo (Shaw) di Manhattan
respingono invece l'interpretazione del Vescovo Puhalo e affermano la realt delle stazioni di
pedaggio.[13] Rose ha cercato di dimostrare con citazioni che numerosi santi, come Atanasio il
Grande, Giovanni Crisostomo, Macario d'Egitto, Teofane il Recluso, Serafino di Sarov, e altri Padri
della Chiesa Ortodossi avevano riconosciuto ed accettato l'ortodossia delle stazioni di pedaggio.[14]
In "Risposta ad una critica", pubblicato in appendice al libro L'anima dopo la morte ha cercato di
rispondere ai suoi detrattori.[15]

Un'altra questione riguardava se il Patriarcato di Mosca, quella parte della Chiesa Ortodossa Russa
nella Russia Sovietica, possedeva ancora la "Grazia". Anche se alcuni Cristiani Ortodossi hanno
affermato che la cosiddetta Chiesa "Rossa" aveva perduto legittimit cooperando con il governo
comunista, padre Rose non d'accordo. Nonostante disapprovasse con tutto il cuore gli stretti
rapporti tra la Chiesa di Mosca e i capi del partito Comunista Russo, p. Seraphim era convinto che il
Patriarcato era ancora legittimo e in possesso di validi sacramenti.[7]

Rose diede il suo contributo anche nel dibattito in corso tra il Creazionismo biblico e
l'Evoluzionismo affermando in Genesi, Creazione e il primo uomo che la Patristica Ortodossa
sosteneva esclusivamente il punto di vista creazionista. Questa idea fu violentemente attaccata da
altri teologi ortodossi, i quali affermavano che bench l'esistenza dell'uomo non frutto del caso
non c' una dottrina ufficiale della Chiesa sul processo utilizzato da Dio per la creazione, n il
periodo di tempo che potrebbe avere necessitato.[16]

Morte
Dopo aver patito dolori acuti per diversi giorni mentre lavorava nella sua cella nell'agosto 1982, un
padre Seraphim riluttante fu portato dai confratelli al Mercy Medical Center di Redding per le cure.
Quando arriv in ospedale era gi in condizioni critiche e cadde in uno stato di semi incoscienza.
Dopo un intervento chirurgico esplorativo si scoperto che un grumo di sangue aveva bloccato una
vena e parte del suo intestino era andato in necrosi. Dopo essere entrato in coma dopo un secondo
intervento chirurgico, non riprese pi conoscenza. Centinaia di persone visitarono l'ospedale e
celebrarono la Divina Liturgia regolarmente pregando per un miracolo per salvare la vita di padre
Rose. Preghiere di intercessione per lo ieromonaco malato furono fatte da luoghi lontani come il
monte Athos, in Grecia, il cuore spirituale del monachesimo ortodosso. Padre Seraphim Rose mor
il 2 settembre 1982.

Il suo corpo fu lasciato diversi giorni in una semplice bara di legno nel suo monastero. I visitatori
hanno affermato che il corpo non ha ceduto alla decomposizione e al rigor mortis, rimanendo
elastico e profumando di rosa. Diversi eventi miracolosi, guarigioni e apparizioni sono stati
segnalati in tutto il mondo subito dopo la sua morte.[17] La causa di canonizzazione fu iniziato
subito dopo la sua sepoltura e il titolo di "beato" gli stato attribuito in modo popolare. Attualmente
in attesa di canonizzazione da un Sinodo Ortodosso, la sua tomba al monastero di St. Hermann
diventato un luogo popolare per i pellegrinaggi.

Il monastero S. Hermann oggi


Il Monastero di "S. Hermann dell'Alaska" di Platina attualmente parte della diocesi per l'America
occidentale della Chiesa Ortodossa Serba. Anche se tutti i fratelli sono americani molti parlano
russo. La loro attivit principale continua ad essere la stampa di libri che stata la principale attivit
della confraternita sin dal suo inizio. Inoltre il monastero assistite con la tutela e l'educazione i
giovani locali con problemi comportamentali o di apprendimento. I pellegrini visitano il monastero
tutto l'anno ma soprattutto il 2 settembre, anniversario della morte di padre Seraphim Rose.

Note
1. ^ Eugene Rose Thesis
2. ^ Fr. Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, Chapter 87: "Simplicity"
3. ^ a b Lives of a Saint.
4. ^ a b Lives of a Saint
5. ^ Fr. Seraphim Speaks, from the Orthodox Christian Information Center.
6. ^ The Royal Path "In Memory of Fr. Seraphim Rose", pg. 2.
7. ^ a b Fr. Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, Chapter 99: "Hope".
8. ^ Fr. Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, Chapter 86: "Orthodoxy of the Heart".
9. ^ See references for and against this claim in OrthodoxWiki's Aerial Toll-Houses article;
see also Letter From Archbishop Lazar for Dr. Harakas' and Dr. Kalomiros' opinions on the
subject.
10. ^ "Two troubling teachings reported", by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo.
11. ^ Holy Synod of the Russian Church Abroad
12. ^ Questions and Answers by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo. See Question added August 2007 on
the "Toll Houses".
13. ^ See Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos)' essay The Taxing of Souls. See
also Life After Death, by St. John Maximovitch; and Our War is Not Against Flesh and
Blood, by Orthodox theologian Fr. Michael Pomazansky.
14. ^ See footnotes to St. John Maximovitch's Life After Death, cited above, for specific names
and commentary.
15. ^ Answer to a Critic: Appendix III from The Soul After Death, by Fr. Seraphim Rose.
16. ^ See Evolution and Orthodoxy, by Fr. John Matusiak at the Orthodox Church in America
website.
17. ^ Some of these accounts may be read in Nun Brigid's The Last Chapter in the Short Life of
Father Seraphim of Platina.

Bibliografia
Blessed John the Wonderworker: A Preliminary Account of the Life and Miracles of
Archbishop John Maximovitch. Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1987. (ISBN
0938635018)
Genesis, Creation and Early Man. Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2000. (ISBN
1887904026)
God's Revelation to the Human Heart. Platina: Saint Herman Press, 1988. (ISBN
0938635034)
Letters from Father Seraphim. Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society. (ISBN
1879066084)
Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age. Platina: St. Herman of Alaska
Brotherhood, 1994. (ISBN 1887904069) (as Eugene Rose).
Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. Platina: Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood,
1975. (ISBN 188790400X)
The Apocalypse: In the Teachings of Ancient Christianity. Platina: Saint Herman of Alaska
Brotherhood, 1985. (ISBN 0938635670)
The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church. Platina: Saint Herman of Alaska
Brotherhood, 1983. (ISBN 0938635123)
The Soul After Death: Contemporary "After-Death" Experiences in the Light of the
Orthodox Teaching on the Afterlife. Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1988.
(ISBN 093863514X)

Risorse Biografiche
Not of This World: the Life and Teaching of Fr Seraphim Rose ISBN 0-938635-52-2. An
extensive biography written by monk Damascene Christensen - now out of print.
Father Seraphim: His Life and Work ISBN 1-887904-07-7. Significantly revised and
expanded version of the above.
Letters from Father Seraphim ISBN 1-879066-08-4. Correspondence with Fr. Alexey (now
Hieromonk Ambrose) Young, Rose's spiritual son.
Seraphim Rose: The True Story and Private Letters ISBN 1-928653-01-4. A biography of
his life, his letters and his works, by author Cathy Scott, Father Seraphim's niece.

Collegamenti esterni
Death to the World Magazine Pubblicazioni Ortodosse Online; contengono alcuni scritti di
p. Seraphim.
Death to the World Website Collezione Online di scritti di e ispirati da p Seraphim Rose.
'Emptiness' and 'Fullness' in the Lao Tzu Tesi di Laurea di Eugene Rose, University of
California, Berkeley, 1961.
Genesis and Early Man: The Orthodox Patristic Understanding Replica al discorso pro-
evolutivo del teologo Ortodosso Dr. Alexander Kalomiros.
Liturgical Resources Collezione di fotografie, articoli e icone di p. Seraphim insieme a
preghiere composte da lui.
Lives of a Saint Articolo biografico su p. Seraphim da Pomona College Magazine,
Primavera 2001.
Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age. Libro scritto da p. Seraphim
Rose. Pubblicato dalla St. Herman Press, 1994.
Online Biography and Books Offre versioni online di Not of This World, una biografia di
1000 pagin di Rose fuori stampa assieme ad altri lavori.
Orthodox Wiki: Seraphim Rose Articolo su Seraphim Rose dell'Orthodox Wiki
Encyclopedia.
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia Icona non ufficiale di p. Seraphim Rose.

Una diversa biografia pi teologica

Uno strano "segno dei tempi" ha visto sorgere in un territorio apparentemente inconsueto (la California) e
in un ambiente culturale dei pi impensabili (la Beat generation) una delle voci pi profetiche
dell'Ortodossia del ventesimo secolo. Un umile convertito americano, vissuto per gran parte della sua vita
in uno stretto isolamento, e morto (per i criteri di questo mondo) nel fiore dei suoi anni, oggi a livello
internazionale una delle figure pi conosciute del monachesimo ortodosso.
Eugene Rose nasce nel 1934 a San Diego, sulla costa meridionale della California, da una famiglia che
incarnava il tipico "sogno americano" (laboriosit, benessere economico, una vaga religiosit vissuta
all'interno di "rispettabili" comunit protestanti, valori morali perseguiti in modo onesto ma superficiale).
La sua educazione il prodotto tipico dell'America del dopoguerra, e di tutte le sue inquietudini e
contraddizioni. Avvertendo un vuoto di fondo alla base di questa visione del mondo, lo spirito intelligente e
analitico di Eugene lo porta negli anni universitari a immergersi nel mondo della contro-cultura californiana
degli anni '60.

Come molti suoi contemporanei, Eugene inizia un cammino di conoscenza delle religioni e filosofie
dell'estremo Oriente, ma rimane presto insoddisfatto della gerarchia di valori "alternativi" proposti
dall'incontro tra queste millenarie tradizioni e la mentalit moderna dell'Occidente. La debolezza e il
relativismo delle risposte della contro-cultura stimolano in lui un cammino di scoperta di una verit pi
profonda.
In un periodo di ricerca di un nucleo di verit comuni alle grandi tradizioni religiose, viene in contatto con la
Chiesa ortodossa, e inizia a frequentare la cattedrale della Chiesa Russa all'Estero a San Francisco. Questo
incontro il seme di una trasformazione interiore che, in capo a un paio di anni, gli fa acquisire una visione
rinnovata.
A contatto con l'Ortodossia, la fede cristiana dei suoi anni di infanzia gli si ripresenta nella pienezza di una
verit trasformante, fattasi persona (un tratto di netta distinzione con le filosofie spiritualiste allora in
crescita), ed espressa in una continuit ininterrotta di fede e di dottrina. Trovando finalmente un'autentica
alternativa agli approcci parziali e accomodanti del cristianesimo occidentale, e alle soluzioni altrettanto
ristrette della contro-cultura, Eugene entra a far parte della Chiesa ortodossa nel Febbraio 1962.
Con la nuova prospettiva fornitagli dalla visione ecclesiale ortodossa, Eugene pu sviluppare un'analisi
critica del mondo moderno: inizia a dedicarsi alla stesura di un libro che passa in rassegna le tappe della
progressiva scristianizzazione degli ultimi secoli, e mostra come il graduale allontanamento dall'ordine
tradizionale apre la strada a un futuro ben pi inquietante di quanto si creda. Quest'opera, il cui titolo
avrebbe dovuto essere Il regno dell'uomo e il Regno di Dio, rimasta incompleta: Il testo pubblicato anche
in italiano, Nichilismo. Le radici della rivoluzione nell'et moderna (Schio: Interlogos 1998), non ne copre
che un singolo capitolo. Tra i numerosi incontri che arricchiscono la vita ecclesiale di Eugene, decisivo
quello con Gleb Podmoshensky, un seminarista di famiglia russo-lettone, che al suo fianco nel cammino di
approfondimento della fede ortodossa, e che in seguito condivider con lui la vocazione eremitica e
monastica e il sacerdozio.

Nel Novembre 1962, viene insediato a San Francisco uno dei pi straordinari vescovi ortodossi del
ventesimo secolo, che avrebbe lasciato una decisiva impronta su Eugene e sul suo cammino: si tratta del
santo Arcivescovo John Maximovich (la cui canonizzazione ha avuto luogo a San Francisco nel 1994, a opera
delle gerarchie della Chiesa Russa all'Estero e del Patriarcato di Serbia). L'Arcivescovo John giunge in
California dopo una vita di infaticabile opera missionaria in Asia (era stato consacrato in origine come
Vescovo di Shanghai), Africa, e in vari paesi d'Europa. La sua fama di asceta e taumaturgo lo ha preceduto
da tutti questi luoghi, cos come i frutti della sua visione apostolica, non sempre compresa dalle stesse
gerarchie ortodosse. L'ideale perseguito dall'Arcivescovo John la costituzione di un'Ortodossia
occidentale, non tramite la fondazione di "filiali" delle Chiese orientali storiche, ma attraverso la
rigenerazione, compiuta all'interno della vita ecclesiale ortodossa, delle radici cristiane ortodosse
dell'Occidente contemporaneo. Questo compito davvero arduo ha ricondotto molti francesi all'Ortodossia,
e ha aiutato a creare in altri paesi (tra cui i Paesi Bassi e la stessa Italia) un clima favorevole alla costituzione
di una Chiesa ortodossa genuinamente locale. Ispirati dall'Arcivescovo John, Eugene e Gleb, assieme ad
alcuni amici, si costituiscono in una fraternit, posta sotto il patronato di uno dei primi evangelizzatori
ortodossi in America: il beato Hermann dell'Alaska. Tra gli scopi della fraternit, oltre a un esperimento di
vita comune tra giovani attivisti della Chiesa, vi la diffusione degli insegnamenti patristici e ascetici
dell'Ortodossia: un campo per il quale l'Occidente inizia in questi anni a mostrare i primi, timidi segni di
interessamento.
I fratelli preferiscono operare attraverso modalit non necessariamente vincolate alle strutture parrocchiali
esistenti, e decidono di aprire un negozio di libri e icone a San Francisco: in questo modo sono in grado di
estendere una testimonianza di fede ortodossa a molte persone per diverse ragioni estranee agli ambienti
ecclesiali, per ignoranza, distanza culturale o per un esplicito rigetto delle tradizioni.
Molte sono le persone che scoprono l'Ortodossia attraverso la libreria gestita dalla fraternit, e diversi
iniziano qui un cammino di fede che li porta in seno alla Chiesa. Con la benedizione dell'Arcivescovo John, la
fraternit inizia nel 1964 la pubblicazione della rivista The Orthodox Word (La parola ortodossa), che per
oltre un trentennio ha continuato a fornire traduzioni di testi patristici (molti dei quali apparsi per la prima
volta in una lingua occidentale), scritti spirituali, vite di santi e testimonianze dell'Ortodossia sofferente.
Un compito particolarmente sentito dai fratelli, attraverso le pagine della rivista e l'impegno di
testimonianza personale, quello di suonare una nota di cautela nei confronti del gusto di compromesso
con il mondo che sta iniziando a intaccare, in quegli anni, alcuni ambienti delle giurisdizioni ortodosse pi
propense al dialogo ecumenico e ai confronti con la civilt contemporanea. Dopo la morte (nell'estate del
1966) dell'Arcivescovo John, il timore di coinvolgimento dell'attivit missionaria ortodossa in una politica di
rivalit ecclesiastiche, a livello parrocchiale e diocesano, la molla che spinse Eugene e Gleb ad
abbandonare San Francisco e a ritirarsi in solitudine, fondando uno skit (eremo).
Nel 1967, dopo avere trovato un terreno boschivo a Platina, nella California settentrionale, Eugene e Gleb
abbandonano il mondo e vi si trasferiscono, combinando la loro missione di traduzione, stampa e diffusione
di testi patristici con una vita di stile monastico nella frontiera occidentale americana.
La vita di fratellanza nel deserto, iniziata tra mille difficolt pratiche, per sostenuta dalla sapiente
esperienza di secoli di monachesimo ortodosso: i fratelli sono in grado di applicarne gli insegnamenti in un
modo pi efficiente (e senza dubbio pi vissuto) di quanto avevano potuto fare nel loro periodo di
apostolato urbano.
Nel 1970 ha luogo la canonizzazione del Santo Hermann dell'Alaska, il patrono delle attivit missionarie
della piccola fraternit: pochi mesi dopo, anche i due fratelli accettano di essere tonsurati monaci, Eugene
con il nome di Seraphim, e Gleb con quello di Hermann. La tonsura monastica, che era sembrata ai due
fratelli il naturale coronamento della loro scelta di vita eremitica, d luogo a vari problemi con l'Arcivescovo
locale; il desiderio di quest'ultimo di assegnare Padre Seraphim e Padre Hermann come parroci in chiese
prive di pastore rischia di distruggere le attivit missionarie e la loro esperienza di monachesimo del
deserto.
Con il tempo, tuttavia, cresce l'affluenza di pellegrini e fedeli, che cercavano attraverso i due padri una luce
spirituale per orientare la propria vita cristiana; arrivano anche novizi, e all'eremo di Platina si istituisce un
percorso di studi religiosi monastici. L'esperienza missionaria della fraternit aveva preparato i padri
Hermann e Seraphim ad affrontare i casi pi diversi, e talvolta pi disperati, di necessit spirituali.
Nella sua opera di trasmissione dell'esperienza monastica, Padre Seraphim si adopera con incredibile
energia per far comprendere la validit del monachesimo ortodosso anche in un mondo pieno di
alternative religiose: dalle sue lezioni ai novizi, si sviluppa un vero e proprio "corso di sopravvivenza
ortodossa", che spazia su ogni campo dello scibile umano.

L'isolamento dell'eremo di Platina, lungi dall'attenuare la sensibilit ecclesiale dei padri, permette loro di
valutare con un maggiore distacco alcuni temi delicati della vita ortodossa americana, tra cui lo stesso zelo
per la tradizione, che aveva portato in altri contesti a un certo intransigentismo. Sono interessanti alcuni
tentativi, compiuti da Padre Seraphim nei suoi ultimi anni, di contrastare con un approccio di moderazione
gli eccessi di "rinnovamento" all'interno dell'Ortodossia, sia in senso modernista che conservatore.
Solo alla fine del 1976 Padre Hermann e Padre Seraphim accettano di essere ordinati sacerdoti, quasi a
malincuore, sicuri che le necessit del ministero avrebbero sottratto tempo prezioso all'attivit di
traduzione e diffusione di testi patristici.

L'attivit sacerdotale dei due padri comunque fondata sulla roccia degli insegnamenti spirituali che essi
avevano fatti propri e cercato di vivere da oltre un decennio, e, a quel punto, lo sforzo missionario della
piccola fraternit non tarda a far vedere i suoi primi importanti frutti. Nel corso di pochi anni, i padri
accolgono centinaia di nuovi membri nella Chiesa ortodossa; attraverso un'opera iniziata in piccole missioni
domestiche, si aprono numerose chiese nella California settentrionale e negli stati confinanti.
Un ulteriore numero di novizi e monaci viene a stabilirsi nell'eremo, non lontano dal quale si fonda anche
un eremo femminile dedicato a Santa Xenia. Platina diviene il centro di un movimento che coinvolge un
numero crescente di ortodossi negli Stati Uniti, e che dopo la morte di Padre Seraphim riuscir ad aprire un
monastero in Alaska, nelle terre originariamente evangelizzate dal Santo Hermann.

Padre Seraphim muore il 20 Agosto/2 Settembre 1982, dopo una breve ma intensa agonia, per i postumi di
una malattia giovanile che gi avrebbe potuto stroncarlo negli anni in cui era divenuto ortodosso. Egli aveva
anzi vissuto tutti gli anni della sua missione nella certezza che questi fossero un "tempo regalato", un dono
fattogli al solo scopo di diffondere la conoscenza dell'Ortodossia in Occidente. Dopo la sua morte (come
gi era accaduto per l'Arcivescovo John Maximovich) ha luogo una serie di guarigioni e di conversioni in
seguito a preghiere a lui rivolte; forse l'episodio pi significativo la conversione all'Ortodossia, tramite
ispirazione alla sua figura, di centinaia di membri di un gruppo monastico indipendente, l'Ordine di MANS,
partito da posizioni sincretiste comuni all'ambiente New Age, ed evolutosi in una attiva fraternit
ortodossa.
Oltre a questi numerosi eventi (per nulla insoliti per coloro che credono), ci resta di Padre Seraphim un gran
numero di scritti di notevole valore, e un esempio di come, anche in questa civilt sempre pi aliena dal
cristianesimo, sia possibile vivere una vita del tutto simile a quella degli antichi Padri e santi asceti.
Per le persone che sperimentano maggiore inquietudine nella ricerca della verit, soprattutto i pi giovani,
e coloro che si sono rivolti a religioni e spiritualit orientali non cristiane, Padre Seraphim il punto di
riferimento ideale nel mondo ortodosso, in grado di comprendere le tappe dei pi diversi pellegrinaggi
verso la fede cristiana.

L'approccio di Padre Seraphim ai problemi dell'Ortodossia contemporanea, pur muovendosi in una totale
fedelt alla Tradizione, caratterizzato dalla mancanza di qualsiasi polemica a livello giurisdizionale: egli
rimasto leale per tutta la vita, scontrandosi spesso con l'ostilit della propria gerarchia, alla Chiesa Russa
all'Estero, che lo aveva accolto come convertito; tuttavia, non ha voluto cadere negli eccessi di zelo e di
rivalit che talora dividono le giurisdizioni ortodosse, adoperandosi anzi per promuovere uno spirito di
mutua comprensione: ne una testimonianza il suo spirito di profonda comunione con i confessori
dell'Ortodossia nel Patriarcato di Mosca, come Padre Dimitri Dudko.

A fianco del suo prezioso impegno di traduzione e diffusione di letteratura patristica, Padre Seraphim ci ha
lasciato anche contributi letterari di notevole chiarezza, che tentano di offrire una risposta ortodossa ad
alcuni grandi problemi contemporanei. Affrontando nel 1978 il tema dei nuovi movimenti religiosi
nell'opera Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future (L'Ortodossia e la religione del futuro), ci mostra
quanto la tradizione patristica ortodossa abbia da dirci in proposito alle tendenze della religiosit
contemporanea (inclusi alcuni nuovi movimenti orientali, il fenomeno degli UFO, i movimenti carismatici e
certe tendenze dell'ecumenismo e del dialogo interreligioso). Altri scritti provano a rivalutare una posizione
cristiana di fronte a ideologie costruite su dati presi per scontati (come l'intero mondo dell'evoluzionismo
contemporaneo).
Di fronte a casi di incapacit pastorale di rispondere alle domande sulla vita oltre la morte (una incapacit
manifestata purtroppo anche all'interno di strutture ecclesiali ortodosse), Padre Seraphim ha voluto
presentare l'escatologia ortodossa, le esperienze dei santi e la dottrina dei Padri della Chiesa a fianco delle
esperienze extracorporee e di "pre-morte", e delle loro spiegazioni provenienti da antiche tradizioni pre-
cristiane o da moderne ipotesi occultiste o parapsicologiche. Quest'opera, intitolata The Soul After Death
(L'anima dopo la morte), probabilmente il pi diffuso tra i libri di Padre Seraphim, e le sue traduzioni in
varie lingue sono diffuse in tutto il mondo ortodosso. La traduzione italiana del 1999 (L'anima dopo la
morte, Schio: Interlogos).

Una delle opere patristiche di Padre Seraphim ha un valore particolare per la riscoperta dell'Ortodossia nei
paesi dell'Europa occidentale. Traducendo una raccolta di vite di santi dell'antico Occidente cristiano, la
Vita Patrum di San Gregorio di Tours, Padre Seraphim l'ha corredata di uno studio sull'antica Gallia
cristiana: da questo, e dalle esperienze dei santi monaci narrate da San Gregorio, vengono alla luce
impensabili paralleli tra i primi secoli dell'Occidente cristiano e la realt attuale della Chiesa ortodossa. Uno
sforzo simile, attuato anche per il nostro paese, potrebbe aprirci gli occhi sulle radici ortodosse del nostro
passato.
Di tutta la notevole produzione letteraria di Padre Seraphim, solo un paio di opere sono oggi disponibili in
lingua italiana (tuttavia, all'interno della comunit torinese del Patriarcato di Mosca, abbiamo anche
tradotto alcuni capitoli della sua biografia). Ci auguriamo una maggiore diffusione delle opere che furono
oggetto della missione di approfondimento e di trasmissione spirituale di uno dei pi straordinari testimoni
della Fede ortodossa dei nostri tempi.

Alcuni suoi Testi in lingua inglese

A Letter to Thomas Merton, 1962


by Eugene [Fr. Seraphim] Rose
I am a young American convert to Russian Orthodoxynot the vague "liberal" spirituality of too
many modern Russian "religious thinkers," but the full ascetic and contemplative Orthodoxy of the
Fathers and Saintswho have for some years been studying the spiritual "crisis" of our time, and
am at present writing a book on the subject. [1] In the course of my study I have had occasion to
read the works of a great number of Roman Catholic authors, some of which (those, for example, of
Pieper, Picard, Gilson, P. Danielou, P. de Lubac) I have found quite helpful and not, after all, too
distant from the Orthodox perspective, but others of which I have found quite disturbing in the light
of what seems to me the plain teaching of the universal Church. I have read several of your works,
and especially in some recent articles of yours I seem to find signs of one of the tendencies in
contemporary Roman thought (it exists in Orthodoxy too, to be sure) that has most disturbed me.
Since you are a Roman monk, I turn to you as to someone likely to clarify the ambiguities I have
found in this trend of thought. What I would like to discuss chiefly concerns what might be called
the "social mission" of the Church.

In an essay entitled Christian Action in World Crisis [2] you devote yourself especially to the
question of "peace." In an age when war has become virtually "impossible," this is, of course, of
central concern to any Christian, but your remarks particularly on this subject have left me troubled.

What, first of all, are the real antagonists of the spiritual warfare of our age? To say "Russia and
America" is, of course, trivial; the enemy, as you say, "is in all of us." But you further say, "The
enemy is war itself" and its roots, "hatred, fear, selfishness, lust."

Now I can quite agree with you that war today, at least "total war," is quite unjustifiable by any
Christian standard, for the simple reason that its "unlimited" nature escapes measure of any sort.
The point in your argument that disturbs me is your statement that the only alternative to such war
is "peace."

The alternative to "total war" would seem to be "total peace;" but what does such a "peace" imply?
You say, "we must try as best we can to work for the eventual abolition" of war; and that is indeed
what "total peace" must be: abolition of war. Not the kind of peace men have known before this, but
an entirely new and "permanent" peace.

Such a goal, of course, is quite comprehensible to the modern mentality; modern political idealism,
Marxist and "democratic" alike has long cherished it. But what of Christianity?and I mean full
uncompromising Christianity, not the humanist idealism that calls itself Christian. Is not
Christianity supremely hostile to all forms of idealism, to all reduction of its quite "realistic" end
and means to mere lofty ideas? Is the ideal of the "abolition of war" really different in kind from
such other lofty aims as the "abolition" of disease, of suffering, of sin, of death? All of these ideals
have enlisted the enthusiasm of some modern idealist or other, but it is quite clear to the Christian
that they are secularizations and so perversions of genuine Christian hopes. They can be realized
only in Christ, only in His Kingdom that is not of this world; when faith in Christ and hope in His
Kingdom are wanting, when the attempt is made to realize Christian "ideals" in this worldthen
there is idolatry, the spirit of Antichrist. Disease, suffering, sin, and death are an unavoidable part of
the world we know as a result of the Fall. They can only be eliminated by a radical transformation
of human nature, a transformation possible only in Christ and fully only after death.

I personally think that "total peace" is, at bottom, a utopian ideal; but the very fact that it seems
practical today raises a profounder question. For, to my mind, the profoundest enemy of the Church
today is not its obvious enemieswar, hatred, atheism, materialism, all the forces of the impersonal
that lead to inhuman "collectivism," tyranny and miserythese have been with us since the Fall,
though to be sure they take an extreme form today. But the apostasy that has led to this obvious and
extreme worldliness seems to me but the prelude to something much worse; and this is the chief
subject of my letter.

The hope for "peace" is a part of a larger context of renewed idealism that has come out of the
Second World War and the tensions of the post-war world, an idealism that has, especially in the
last five or ten years, captured the minds of menparticularly the youngall over the world, and
inspired them with an enthusiasm that has expressed itself concretelyand, often, quite selflessly
in action. The hope that underlies this idealism is the hope that men can, after all, live together in
peace and brotherhood in a just social order, and that this end can be realized through "non-violent"
means that are not incompatible with that end. This goal seems like the virtual revelation of a "new
world" to all those weary of the misery and chaos that have marked the end of the "old" world, that
hollow "modern" world that seems now to have finallyor almostplayed out its awful
possibilities; and at the same time it seems like something quite attainable by moral means
something previous modern idealisms have not been.

You yourself, indeed, speak of a possible "birth agony of a new world," of the duty of Christians
today "to perform the patient, heroic task of building a world that will thrive in unity and peace, "
even, in this connection, of "Christ the Prince of Peace." The question that sorely troubles me about
all this is, is it really Christianity, or is it still only idealism? And can it be both-is a "Christian
idealism" possible?

You speak of "Christian action," "the Christian who manifests the truth of the Gospel in social
action," "not only in prayer and penance, but also in his political commitments and in all his social
responsibilities." Well, I certainly will say nothing against that; if Christian truth does not shine
through in all that one does, to that extent one is failing to be a Christian, and if one is called to a
political vocation, one's action in that area too must be Christian. But, if I am not mistaken, your
words imply something more than that; namely, that now more than ever before we need Christians
working in the social and political sphere, to realize there the truth of the Gospel. But why, if
Christ's Kingdom is not of this world? Is there really a Christian "social message," or is not that
rather a result of the one Christian activityworking out one's salvation with diligence? I by no
means advocate a practice of Christianity in isolation; all Christianityeven that of the hermitis a
"social Christianity," but that is only as context, not as end. The Church is in society because men
are in society, but the end of the Church is the transformation of men, not society. It is a good thing
if a society and government profess genuine Christianity, if its institutions are informed by
Christianity, because an example is given thereby to the men who are a part of that society; but a
Christian society is not an end in itself, but simply a result of the fact that Christian men live in
society.

I do not, of course, deny that there is such a thing as a Christian "social action"; what I question is
its nature. When I feed my hungry brother, this is a Christian act and a preaching of the Kingdom
that needs no words; it is done for the personal reason that my brotherhe who stands before me at
this momentis hungry, and it is a Christian act because my brother is, in some sense, Christ. But
if I generalize from this case and embark on a political crusade to abolish the "evil of hunger," that
is something entirely different; though individuals who participate in such a crusade may act in a
perfectly Christian way, the whole projectand precisely because it is a "project," a thing of human
planninghas become wrapped in a kind of cloak of "idealism."

A few more examples: The efficiency of modern medicines adds nothing to the fulfillment of the
commandment to comfort the sick; if they are available, finebut it is not Christian to think our act
is better because more "efficient" or because it benefits more people. That, again, is idealism. (I
need hardly mention the fact that medicines can become, indeed, a substitute for Christian
"comfort" when the mind of the practitioner becomes too engrossed in efficiency; and the research
scientist searching for a "cure for cancer" is not doing anything specifically "Christian" at all, but
something technical and "neutral."

"Brotherhood" is something that happens, right here and now, in whatever circumstances God
places me, between me and my brother; but when I begin to preach the "ideal" of brotherhood and
go out deliberately to practice it, I am in danger of losing it altogether. Even ifespecially ifI
make use of a seemingly Christian "non-violence" and "passive resistance" in this or any other
cause, let me before I call it a Christian actcarefully ask myself whether its end is merely a lofty
worldly ideal, or something greater. (St. Paul, to take a pretty clear example, did not tell slaves to
revolt "non-violently;" he told them not to revolt at all, but to concern themselves with something
much more important.)

The "Peace of Christ," being in the heart, does not necessarily, in our fallen world, bring about
outward peace, and I would wonder if it has any connection at all with the ideal of the "abolition of
war."

The difference between organized "charity" and Christian charity needs no comment. [3]

There may beI would not have written this letter if I did not hope there wasa kind of true,
though so to speak subterranean, "ecumenism" between separated Christians, especially in times of
persecution; but that has nothing remotely to do with the activities of any "World Council of
Churches." [4]

You may from these examples, I hope, understand the doubts I entertain about the resurgence of
seemingly "Christian" ideals in our time. I say "doubts," for there is nothing intrinsically evil about
any of these "crusades," and there are involved in them all quite sincere and fervent Christians who
are really preaching the Gospel; but, as I say, there is a kind of cloak of "idealism" wrapped about
them all, a cloak that seems to be drawing them into its own quite independent service (without
thereby negating, of course, the personal Christian acts performed under their auspices). What
"service" is this?the placating of the modern sense of "idealism" by translating inward and
Christian truths into outward andat bestsemi-Christian ideals. And we must be realistic enough
to see that the general effect on the minds of people both inside and outside these movements, both
inside and outside the Church, is precisely to place emphasis upon the realization of outward ideals,
thus obscuring inward truths; and since this emphasis has been made, the path is all too short to the
palpable falsehood that "doing good is the real purpose of Christianity anyway, and the only basis in
which all Christians can unite, while dogma and liturgy and the like are purely personal matters
which tend more to separate than unite." How many of those indeed, even Catholic and Orthodox,
who are participating in the world of "social Christianity" today, do not believe that this is really a
more "perfect" and even "inward" Christianity than a dogmatic, ascetic, and contemplative
Christianity that doesn't get such obvious "results"?

I have, before this, been reproached by Catholics for lack of interest in the social mission of the
Church, for holding to a one-sided "ascetic" and "apocalyptic" Christianity; and some Catholic
philosophers and theologians have made such accusations against the Orthodox Church itself
accompanied, sometimes, if I am not mistaken, by a somewhat patronizing tone that assumes the
Church is rather "backward" or "out-of-date" about such things, having always been "repressed" by
the State and used to looking at the world through the all-too-unworldly eyes of the monk. Far be it
from me to presume to speak for the Church; but I can at least speak of some of the things I think I
have learned from Her.

You may legitimately ask me what, if I am sceptical of "social Christianity "though of course I do
not wish it abolished or given to the devil, I am merely pointing out its ambivalencewhat I
advocate as "Christian action" in the midst of the "crisis" of the age with its urgent alternatives.

First and foremost I radically question the emphasis upon "action" itself, upon "projects" and
"planning," upon concern with the "social" and what man can do about itall of which acts to the
detriment of acceptance of the given, of what God gives us at this moment, as well as of allowing
His will to be done, not ours. I do not propose a total withdrawal from politics and social work by
all Christians; no arbitrary rule can govern that, it is up to the individual conscience. But in any
case, if many may still be called to work for "justice," "peace," "unity," "brotherhood" in the
worldand these are all, in this generalized, ideal form, external and worldly goalsis it not at
least as good a thing to be called to the totally unequivocal work of the Kingdom, to challenge all
worldly ideals and preach the only needful Gospel: repent, for the Kingdom is at hand? You
yourself quite rightly say of America and Russia, "the enemy is not just on one side or the other....
The enemy is on both sides." Is it not possible to deepen this perception and apply it to those other
seemingly ultimate alternatives, "war" and "peace"? Is one really any more possible for a Christian
than the other, if the "peace" is a "total (i.e. idealistic) peace"? And does not the recognition of these
two equally unacceptable alternatives lead us back to a genuine "third way"one that will never be
popular because it is not "new," not "modern," above all not "idealistic "a Christianity that has as
its end neither worldly "peace" nor "war," but a Kingdom not of this world?

This is nothing "new," as you say, and a world that imagines itself "post-Christian" is tired of it. It is
true that when we, as Christians, speak to our brothers we often seem to be faced with a blank wall
of unwillingness even to listen; and, being human, we may be made somewhat "desperate" by this
lack of response. But what can be done about this? Shall we give up speaking about what our
contemporaries do not want to hear, and join them in the pursuit of social goals which, since they
are not specifically Christian, can be sought by non-Christians too? That seems to me an abdication
of our responsibility as Christians. I think the central need of our time is not in the least different
from what it has always been since Christ came; it lies, not in the area of "political commitments"
and "social responsibilities," but precisely in "prayer and penance" and fasting and preaching of the
true Kingdom. The only "social responsibility" of a Christian is to live, wherever and with
whomever he may be, the life of faith, for his own salvation and as an example to others. If, in so
doing, we help to ameliorate or abolish a social evil, that is a good thingbut that is not our goal. If
we become desperate when our life and our words fail to convert others to the true Kingdom, that
comes from lack of faith. If we would live our faith more deeply, we would need to speak of it less.

You speak of the necessity, not just to speak the truth of Christianity, but "to embody Christian truth
in action." To me, this means precisely the life I have just described, a life infused with faith in
Christ and hope in His Kingdom not of this world. But the life you seem to describe is one very
much involved in the things of this world; I cannot help but regard it as an "outward" adaptation of
true Christian inwardness.

Modern idealism, which is devoted to the realization of the idolatrous "Kingdom of Man," has long
been making its influence felt in Christian circles; but only in quite recent years has this influence
begun to bear real fruit within the womb of the Church itself. I think there can be no question but
that we are witnessing the birth pangs of something that, to the true Christian, is indeed pregnant
with frightful possibilities: a "new Christianity," a Christianity that claims to be "inward," but is
entirely too concerned with outward result; a Christianity, even, that cannot really believe in
"peace" and "brotherhood" unless it sees them generalized and universally applied, not in some
seemingly remote "other world," but "here and now." This kind of Christianity says that "private
virtue" is not enoughobviously relying on a Protestantized understanding of virtue, since
everything the true Christian does is felt by all in the Mystical Body; nothing done in Christ is done
for oneself alonebut not enough for what? The answer to that, I think, is clear: for the
transformation of the world, the definitive "realization" of Christianity in the social and political
order. And this is idolatry. The Kingdom is not of this world; to think or hope that Christianity can
be outwardly "successful" in the world is a denial of all that Christ and His prophets have said of
the future of the Church. Christianity can be "successful" on one condition: that of renouncing (or
conveniently forgetting) the true Kingdom and seeking to build up a Kingdom in the world. The
"Earthly Kingdom" is precisely the goal of the modern mentality; the building of it is the meaning
of the modern age. It is not Christian; as Christians, we know whose Kingdom it is. And what so
greatly troubles me is that today ChristiansCatholic and Orthodox alikeare themselves joining,
often quite unaware of the fact, often with the best possible intentions, in the building of this new
Babel....

The modern idealism that hopes for "heaven on earth" hopes likewise for the vague
"transformation" of manthe ideal of the "superman" (in diverse forms, conscious or not), which,
however absurd, has a great appeal to a mentality that has been trained to believe in "evolution" and
"progress." And let not contemporary despair make us think that hope in the worldly future is dead;
despair over the future is only possible for someone who still wants to believe in it; and indeed,
mingled with contemporary despair is a great sense of expectation, a will to believe, that the future
ideal can, somehow, be realized.

The power of the impersonal and inhuman has ruled the first part of our century of "crisis"; a vague
"existential" spirit, semi- or pseudo-religious, idealistic and practical at the same time (but never
otherworldly), seems destined to rule the last part of this century. They are two stages of the same
disease, modern "humanism," the disease caused by trusting in the world and in man, while
ignoring Christexcept to borrow His name as a convenient "symbol" for men who, after all,
cannot quite forget Him, as well as to seduce those who still wish to serve Him. Christianity
become a "crusade," Christ become an "idea," both in the service of a world "transformed" by
scientific and social techniques and a man virtually "deified" by the awakening of a "new
consciousness": this lies before us. Communism, it seems clear, is nearing a transformation itself, a
"humanizing," a "spiritualizing," and of this Boris Pasternak [5] is a sign given in advance; he does
not reject the Revolution, he only wants it "humanized." The "democracies," by a different path, are
approaching the same goal. Everywhere "prophets "semi- or pseudo-Christians like Berdyaev and
Tolstoy, more explicit pagans like D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Kazanzakis, as well as the legions
of occultists, astrologers, spiritualists and millenialistsall herald the birth of a "new age."
Protestants, and then more and more Catholics and Orthodox, are caught up in this enthusiasm and
envisage their own age of ecumenical unity and harmony, some being so boldand so
blasphemousas to call it a "third age" of the "descent of the Holy Spirit" (a la D. H. Lawrence,
Berdyaev, and ultimately, Joachim of Floris).

An age of "peace" may come to weary, yet apocalyptically anxious, man; but what can the Christian
say of such "peace"? It will not be the Peace of Christ; it is but fantasy to imagine a sudden,
universal conversion of men to full Christian faith, and without such faith His Peace cannot come.
And any human "peace" will only be the prelude to the outburst of the only and real "war" of our
age, the war of Christ against all the powers of Satan, the war of Christians who look only for the
Kingdom not of this world, against all those, pagan or pseudo-Christian, who look only for a
worldly Kingdom, a Kingdom of Man.
+++

It was only after I had completed the preceding pages that I saw your article in Commonweal,
"Nuclear War and Christian Responsibility." [6] There you bring up the topic to which I was
planning to devote the rest of this letter: the Apocalypse.

There is, of course, nothing of which it is more dangerous to speak. Futile and overliteral
speculation on apocalyptic events is an only too obvious cause of spiritual harm; and no less so, I
think, is the facile way in which many of our contemporaries refer to the "apocalyptic" character of
the times, and in so doing raise in others deep fears and hopes which their own vague
pronouncements are far from satisfying. If a Christian is going to speak of the Apocalypse at all, it
is quite clear that in this as in everything else his words must be sober, as precise as possible, and
fully in accord with the universal teaching of the Church. In this case I can see no reason why Latin
and Orthodox testimony should be substantially different. The prophetic texts are the possession
alike of East and West; the commentaries and statements of the Fathers, both Greek and Latin, on
these texts are explicit, detailed, and in mutual agreement; and the tradition of the Fathers has been
affirmed, after the schism, by both the Orthodox and Latin Churchesin the latter most
authoritatively, I would presume, in the person of Thomas Aquinas. [7] The recent book of Josef
Pieper, The End of Time, basing itself almost entirely on Western sources, is, so far as I know, in no
essential point at variance with Orthodox tradition. It is rather a shock, in fact, to read in Fr.
D'Arcy's Meaning and Matter of History that "not all Christian scholars would accept such a literal
acceptance" of apocalyptic literature. Perhaps not, indeed, but that is to say no more than that, just
as many Jews did not recognize the Christ of their prophecies, so will many Christians fail to
discern the signs of the times with regard to the Antichrist and the end of time. (Many Christians
have departed so far from tradition as to believe that the Antichrist will be no actual man, but a
vague "spirit" only, much as many modern Jews have transformed their messianic hope into belief
in a mere "messianic age.")

But this failure of many Christians is itself part of the prophecies concerning the "falling away,"
even within the Church itself; as Blessed Jerome said, "Many esteemed as the Patriarch shall fall."
For the Antichrist is a deceiver, and too few Christians are prepared for his deceptions. It is thus
dangerous to speak of "apocalyptic" things without speaking of the Antichrist and his spirit. It is
easy for the weakest understanding today to see something "apocalyptic" in the fantastic destructive
powers man now possesses; but worldly power is only one aspect of the reign of the Antichrist
great deceptiveness, such as to deceive, if possible, even the elect, is another and less obvious one.
You speak, like many today, of the possible "destruction of the human race"; is this not a rather
strong phrase for a Christian to use? Does it not, again, place too much emphasis on the power of
man? Does it not, above all, overlook the prophecies of what must come to pass before God (Who,
of course, alone can "destroy the human race" He has created) calls men into His Kingdom?

In no uncertain words you affirm, once more, "War must be abolished. A world government must
be established." Is not "must" a rather strong word? It is indeed a symptom of the apocalyptic
character of the age that the only "practical" solution to the present crisisthe abolition of war
should at the same time be (as I think) totally idealistic. To some this situation gives rise to thoughts
of a "new age" or a "new world"; to me, it suggests the possibility that we are, in actual fact, on the
threshhold of the last days, when all courses of worldly action begin to become impossible.

A "new world"this is a phrase, I have noticed, that you yourself use. In The Living Bread you
even suggest that "we are witnessing the dawn of a light that has never before been seen.... We live,
perhaps, on the threshhold of the greatest eucharistic era of the worldthe era that may well
witness the final union of mankind." You ask, to be sure (but without giving an answer), "Will this
visible union be a political one?" And you even suggest that "perhaps the last age of all will be
'eucharistic' in the sense that the Church herself will give the glory and praise to God by being put
to the Cross."

To Christians, who possess the word of Christ and His Prophets and Saints concerning the last days,
I do not see how there can be any "perhaps" in the matter. The political union of mankind, however
legitimate it may be as a political goal, can only end in the reign of Antichrist; the Church, beyond
all doubt, will be crucified after a good many of the faithful have betrayed Her through the
deceptions of the Antichrist.

I by no means preach an imminent "reign of Antichrist" and apocalypse that is possible, of course,
and Christians at all times must be prepared for it; but no one knows the hour.... What I do wish to
emphasize is the factI take it sothat, spiritually speaking, contemporary man in his despair of
the present and still-present hope in the future, confronted with "ultimate" alternatives and
seemingly "apocalyptic" social and scientific transformations (and evolutionary hope), has never
been more receptive to the advent of a pseudo-Messiah, a supreme "problem-solver" and inspirer of
the bright human "idealism."

In times like these, I think, the Christian should be wary of involving himself in the tangled web of
political activity, lest in striving for too much he lose all; boldness in faith and in preaching the
Kingdom (above all by the example of one's life), to be sure there is not nearly enough of that
todaybut caution in worldly "planning," of which we have a superfluity, even (in fact, most of all)
in the interest of "high ideals."

Above all, the Christian in the contemporary world must show his brothers that all the "problems of
the age" are of no consequence beside the single central "problem of man": death, and its answer,
Christ. Despite what you have said about the "staleness" of Christianity to contemporary men, I
think that Christians who speak of this problem, and in their lives show that they actually believe all
that "superstition" about the "other world"I think they have something "new" to say to
contemporary man. It has been my own experience that serious young people are "tired" of
Christianity precisely because they think it is an "idealism" that hypocritically doesn't live up to its
"ideals"; of course, they don't believe in the other world eitherbut for all they know, neither do
"Christians."

I think Christians have of late become entirely too "sophisticated," too anxious to feel at home in
the world by accommodating their faith to passing fashions of thought; so contemporary Christians
become "existential," speak of the "here and now" of faith and spiritual things. Well, that is fine, as
far as it goesbut it doesn't go far enough. Our hope as Christians cannot be reduced to the
abstract, but neither can it be reduced to the concrete; we believe and hope in a Kingdom no one
living has ever seen, our faith and hope are totally impossible in the eyes of the world. Well then, let
us tell the world that we believe the "impossible." It has been my experience that contemporary men
want to believe, not little, but much; having abandoned Christian faith, nothing can seem too
fantastic to them, nothing can seem too much to hope forhence the "idealism" of today's youth.
For myself, my own faith grew rather gradually, as a more or less "existential" thing, until the
stunning experience of meeting a Christian (a young Russian monk) for whom nothing mattered but
the Kingdom of the world to come. Let the contemporary sophisticate prattle of the childishness of
seeking "future rewards" and all the restlife after death is all that matters. And hope in it so fires
the true believerhe who knows that the way to it is through the hard discipline of the Church, not
through mere "enthusiasm"that he is all the more in the present (both in himself and as an
example) than the "existentialist" who renounces the future to live in the present.
The future Kingdom has not been abandoned by modern Christians, but it has been so "toned down"
that one wonders how strong the faith of Christians is. Particularly all the involvement of Christians
in the projects of social idealism, seems to me a way of saying: "You, the worldly, are right. Our
Kingdom 'not of this world' is so distant and we can't seem to get it across to you; so we will join
you in building something we can actually see, something better than Christ and His Kingdoma
reign of peace, justice, brotherhood on earth." This is a "new Christianity," a refinement, it seems to
me, of the Christianity of the "Grand Inquisitor" of Dostoyevsky.

And what of the "old" Christianity of "private virtue"? Why has it become so stale? Because, I
think, Christians have lost their faith. The outward Gospel of social idealism is a symptom of this
loss of faith. What is needed is not more busyness but a deeper penetration within. Not less fasting,
but more; not more action, but prayer and penance. If Christians really lived the Christian hope and
the full path of unification that looks to its fulfillment, instead of the easy compromise that most
laymen today think sufficientand doesn't the "new Christianity" tell them that working for social
ideals is really more important than following the Christian discipline?; if Christians in their daily
life were really on fire with love of God and zeal for His Kingdom not of this worldthen
everything else needful would follow of itself.

We can hardly hope that such a life will be too widespread in our time, or even, perhaps, that its
example will make many convertssurely not as many as will the "new" Gospel; for social
idealism is a part of the spirit of the age, while genuine Christian otherworldliness is most
emphatically not. Too, it is more difficult and often less certain of itselfso weak is our faith;
altogether, in short, an unappealing goal for outwardly-minded modern man. All of this is
inconsequential: ours it is to live the full Christian lifethe fruit of it is in God's hands.

Well, I have said what I wanted to say. I should be very grateful to receive a reply from you, if you
think my remarks worth replying to. And if you do reply, I hope you will be as frank as I have tried
to be. This is the only kind of ecumenical "dialogue" of which I am capable; and if it seems more
like a challenge to "combat," I hope that will not deter you. My criticisms, I am sure you know, are
directed not at you but at your words (or at what I have made of them).

Yours in Christ,

Eugene Rose

Endnotes
1. The Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God.

2. First published in Black Friars, June, 1962, pp. 266-268. Republished in Thomas Merton on
Peace, McCall Publishing, 1971.

3. See Part III above. [This Letter was Part IV of a larger work that is not on this website
webmaster].

4. Eugene here alludes to an idea articulated in a work that highly influenced him at this time: A
Short History of Antichrist by Vladimir Soloviev. Although this work clearly contains some un-
Orthodox teachings, it is valuable in that it presents a striking contrast between the true unity of
catacomb Christians in the last times and the false unity of the "official" church under Antichrist.
For a more qualified and thorough discussion of what Eugene hints at, see Before the Face of
Antichrist by Archimandrite Constantine in The Orthodox Word, no. 121.

5. Merton had recently written an article entitled Pasternak and the People with Watch Chains
(published in Jubilee, July, 1959). In response to this article, Eugene wrote to Merton:

"The 'religion' of Pasternak, the author of Dr. Zhivago, is that 'new spirituality' that wants
something more than the 'small' and 'limited' Christ the Church worships, rather a 'new' Christ more
in keeping with the 'free human spirit' of the age. This is the spirit of the man-god, the superman, no
longer crude as in Nietzsche, but refined, spiritualized, made plausible as the logical and historical
continuation, even the messianic successor, of the bankrupt 'humanist' tradition: a 'new humanism.'
This spirit is no friend of true Christianity, but its mortal enemy.

"The language you use in describing the 'spirituality' of Pasternak, though it might seem to have the
excuse of being addressed to a 'popular' audience, cannot but cause sorrow to an Orthodox reader.
To speak of a 'liturgical and sacramental character' that has little or nothing to do with 'established
ritual form' or 'ritualistic routine,' but instead 'unstrained by formal or hieratic rigidities'; of the
'world of God-manhood' and 'the transfigured cosmos' as seen by someone whom you admit to be
rather 'pagan' and perhaps 'agnostic,' and who is only in the vaguest sense 'Christian'; of a 'symbolic
richness' akin to that of the Greek Fathers, yet 'without their dogmatic and ascetic preoccupations';
of a 'freedom' and 'life' totally outside the Churchnone of this can make any sense to a right-
believing Orthodox (nor, I should think to a Catholic); at best vague and rather 'Protestant,' it too
easily lends itself to the service of the 'new Christianity,' born of Protestantism, Humanism, and
natural human idealism, that is now sweeping over the world. My own faith has been nurtured
precisely by the spirituality that has emerged from the fires of Soviet persecution; but this
spirituality is by no means the 'simple,' 'primitive,' and romantic 'spontaneity' you find in
Pasternak....

"The faith of Pasternak is a vague and impotent faith that will not accept Christ, that believes only
in 'life,' in the world, dressed up (no doubt from a quite genuine aesthetic interest) in some shreds of
the outward garb of Orthodoxy, and hoping, against hope that its idealism can be realized in this
world...."

6. Commonweal, vol. 75, Feb. 9, 1962.

7. In the manuscript notes of Eugene's letter to Merton are found other comments relating to
Thomas Aquinas, and more particularly to the results of his philosophy. When Eugene commented
on "realism" in modern Roman Catholic thought, this was in a context different from the Christian
realism mentioned in Part II above [This Letter was Part IV of a larger work that is not on this
websitewebmaster].. "Thomist philosophy and Catholic realism in general," he wrote, "inspires
us [i.e. , Orthodox Christiansed.] with a certain uneasiness. Why? In a word, because it is too
much concerned with the things of this world. It overestimates the worth of the 'natural' in
underestimating the corruption of the natural order and of the human intellect, by the Fall; the
'natural' we know is no longer fully natural. But more essential than this, it aspires to a knowledge
and 'wisdom' that are 'heavy' with all the weight of the 'world,' that act as thoughfor all practical
purposesthe world is eternal. The time of the Kingdom has come: in the light of this truth, which
is central to Christianity, all the worldly preoccupations of Catholic realism seem almost a mockery.
Does not this 'realism' say: Let man fulfill his 'natural' self, let him seek worldly knowledge and
happiness and temporal improvement, and then look to the knowledge and happiness that lie above
these, proceeding from what is humbler and more accessible to what is nobler and more hidden. But
if the time of the Kingdom has come, is it not too late to be pursuing these worldly aims? And is it
not inevitable that many who begin with the humble will never leave it? Seek ye first the Kingdom
of God. The imperative to Christians seems all too obvious: put away all worldly things, and seek
the Kingdom. The Kingdom has been 'delayed'; do we then return to our original path, that worldly
wisdom to which Christ's message is folly? Alas, with 'Christian philosophy,' and how much more
so with modern 'science,' we do just that. Christ is our wisdom, not the world; and in the end these
two cannot be reconciled. A 'natural wisdom' subordinated to Christian Truth; a 'natural science'
devoted to Christian uses (horror of horrors!)these, in a 'normal' time, might be legitimate. But
the fact that Christ has come marks our time as an extraordinary time, a time in which 'normal'
concerns, wisdom and worldly knowledge, must be put aside, and we too must be crucified and
made a scandal and folly to the world. Christianity stands opposed to the world. True, there is too
the 'world' that is to be savedbut not by descending to its level. Christianity must teach art to
paint Christ, not to paint the world in a Christian 'spirit'; science must place Christ in the center of
the universe, though it crucify all its formulas to do so (it is in that case that the formulas, not
Christ, are wanting)"

On the same theme of Catholic "realism," Fr. Seraphim stated: "It is not surprising that many
modern Catholic 'realists' find the traditional teaching of the reign of Antichrist shockingtoo
'literal' at any rate. For one cannot believe that everything 'natural' is good and at the same time see
a reign of evil as its historical outcome."

+++

Webmaster Note. One of the reasons I posted this Letter is that too often I have heard Orthodox
teachers speak glowingly and incautiously about Thomas Merton. I have also been to Orthodox
parishes where his many books are proudly displayed on their bookstore shelves, mixed in with
Orthodox writings. This sends a confusing message to the faithful, who, in trusting their pastors and
teachers, might unwittingly become infected with some of Merton's more erroneous and seductive
ideasthe very ones that Fr. Seraphim of Platina exposed in his Letter. This is not to say that
Thomas Merton had nothing of value in his writings. Indeed, he said many good and true things.
But a thoughtful Orthodox Christian, in witnessing parish bookstores filled with Merton's writings,
or Orthodox seminary professors promoting aspects of his teachinghowever good and true,
undoubtedly will reflect upon this and question the wisdom of these activities. I, for one, cannot
help but ask these questions: "What is there in Merton's writings that cannot be found in the
writings of our Orthodox Fathers? There is so much good Orthodox literature in English now. Why
confuse the faithful by promoting Roman Catholic works that contain subtly poisonous teachings?
Is not Roman Catholic spirituality, of which he wrote so extensively, often quite different from that
of the Orthodox?" I can only conclude that, at best, any promotion of his works is unnecessary and
unwise. At worst, it can lead to a subtle infection that ultimately prepares the way for reception of
the Antichrist into the hearts of those who are insufficiently grounded in the Orthodox Faith and
Way of Life.

Fr. Seraphim (Rose) Speaks


Excerpts from His Writings

A Man Not of This World

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose, co-founder and co-editor of The Orthodox Word and co-
founder of the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood and Monastery at Platina,
California, reposed in the Lord on September 2, 1982 n.s. Born in 1934 in California,
he was raised in a typical American Protestant family. He graduated from Pomona
College in the Los Angeles area, and later received his M.A. in Chinese (Mandarin)
from the University of California at Berkeley.

He first encountered true Orthodoxy as a result of the lecture of newly-graduated


Jordanville seminarian Gleb (Abbot Herman) Podmoshensky in 1961. By 1963 the
establishment of the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, as a missionary endeavor
toward the conversion of English-speaking people, under the aegis of Blessed
Archbishop John (Maximovitch) (+1966) had been decided upon. The Brotherhood
began with headquarters on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco next door to the
Cathedral, which was then in process of construction. The Orthodox Word began
publication with the January-February issue of 1965. The first issues were handset
and printed on hand-operated and hand-powered press. In addition to the
publication of the magazine, an icon and book store was operated. Father Seraphim,
with his modest smile and meek manner, was there to greet customers and answer
questions, and let his light shine.

By 1967, in pursuance of long-range and long-standing plans, search began for a


suitable location for a skete, so that full-fledged monasticism could be undertaken.
Vladika John having reposed in 1966, the Brotherhood now had a heavenly patron
to assist them in all their righteous endeavors. After considerable searching
throughout northern California, the present location of the St. Herman of Alaska
Monastery was decided upon. Living quarters and the printing shop were made
ready so that the two-hundred and-fifty-mile move northward from San Francisco
was accomplished by Dormition of 1969. For one year the two members of the
brotherhood labored in solitude and silence before they received tonsure to the
Small Schema in October of l970. In the previous August of 1970, St. Herman of
Alaska had been glorified in the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin the Joy of All Who
Sorrow, in San Francisco. The Brotherhood had labored long and tirelessly to bring
this about, and to make known the wonders worked by St. Herman, and his
importance for the Orthodox Church, especially in America.

Father Seraphim belonged to that rare species, the ascetics. His labors, who can
tell? Perhaps only Abbot Herman. But others have been witnesses. Many were the
nights when his attention could be had only with difficulty, because he was so
enrapt in the Jesus Prayer even while at table. He demonstrated the virtues as few
people in our time are capable of doing. He believed implicitly in the teaching of the
Fathers that obedience to ones spiritual father and director must be given without
question. He seldom ever allowed himself to become aroused enough for one to call
it anger.

He built a small hut, approximately 6 x 10 feet, on the mountainside, so that he had a


refuge from ever-increasing numbers of visitors. For seven years he was blessed to
enjoy this refuge, where he prepared many articles for publication, where he prayed
and prepared himself to leave this world, where he was indeed a stranger and a
pilgrim, and to enter his heavenly homeland. He was ordained hierodeacon in
January 1977 and was raised to the rank of hieromonk on the Sunday of the Myrrh-
bearers the same year, so that after eight years of desert-dwelling he and Abbot
Herman were able to celebrate the Holy Mysteries.
Father Seraphim was an inspiration for thousands of people. He gave some of the
most inspiring sermons ever uttered in the English language. His constant counsel
was: Censure yourself. Never excuse yourself. If you must, or think you must, give
way to a weakness, then be certain that you recognize it as a weakness, and a sin.
But see your own faults and condemn not your brother! During the latter portion of
his life, Father Seraphim continually emphasized the need for spiritual attentiveness
in preparation for struggles to come. He seemed to have an awareness, a
foreknowledge, of apocalyptic times ahead. His message was conveyed in the well-
known phrase: It is later than you think.

Writing both in Russian and English, Fr. Seraphim was able to produce a torrent of
articles and books in a relatively short span of timeonly 17 yearscovering every
conceivable subject of interest and importance to the Orthodox reader, including
lives of saints, Divine services, contemporary problems, and theology. He also
translated many works, making them available in English for the first time
incomparable service to English-speaking Orthodox Christians.

Father Seraphim accomplished more for the glory of God and the spread of true
Orthodox Christianity than any other person born on the American continent. May
God grant him rest with His saints, where the light of His countenance shall visit
him. And may his memory be eternal!

Rassophore-monk, Reader Laurence

(Fr. Seraphims first godchild)

***

The following letter was written by Hieromonk Seraphim in response to a question


concerning spiritual guidance.

Dear brother in Christ:

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ! Thank you for your letter. I appreciate the
seriousness of what you have written, and I will reply with the same seriousness.

I must tell you first of all that, to the best of our knowledge, there are no startsi
todaythat is, truly God-bearing elders (in the spirit of the Optina elders) who could
guide you not by their own wisdom and understanding of the Holy Fathers, but by
the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. This kind of guidance is not given to our
timesand frankly, we in our weakness and corruption and sins do not deserve it.

To our times is given a more humble kind of spiritual life, which Bishop Ignatius
Brianchaninov in his excellent book The Arena (do you have it?) calls life by
counselthat is, life according to the commandments of God as learned in the
Holy Scriptures and Holy Fathers and helped by those who are elder and more
experienced. A starets can give commands; but a counsellor gives advice,
which you must test in experience.

We do not know of anyone in particular who would be especially able to counsel


you in the English language. If this is really needful for you, God will send it to you
in His time, according to your faith and need, and without your making too
deliberate a search for it.

Since you have written me, I will venture to give you a word or two of general
advice, based upon what you have said in your letters, as derived from the
experience of our small monastic community and our reading of the Holy Fathers.

1) Learn first of all to be at peace with the spiritual situation which has been given
you, and to make the most of it. If your situation is spiritually barren, do not let this
discourage you, but work all the harder at what you yourself can do for your
spiritual life. It is already something very important to have access to the
Sacraments and regular church services. Beyond this you should have regular
morning and evening prayers with your family, and spiritual readingall according
to your strength and the possibilities afforded by your circumstances.

2) Among spiritual writings you should read especially those addressed to people
living in the world, or which give the ABCs of spiritual lifesuch as St. John of
Kronstadts My Life in Christ, St. Nikodemos Unseen Warfare, the Lives of Saints in
general, and Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninovs The Arena (this book, while
addressed to novices, is suitable for laymen insofar as it gives in general the
ABCs of spiritual life as applied to modern times).

3) To help your spiritual growth and remind you of spiritual truths, it would be good
to keep a journal (the hardbound record books sold in stationery stores are good),
which would include excerpts from the writings of spiritual books which you find
especially valuable or applicable to you, and perhaps comments of your own
inspired by reading and reflection, including brief comments on your own
shortcomings which you need to correct. St. John of Kronstadt found this
especially valuable, as can be seen in his My Life in Christ.

4) Dont criticize or judge other peopleregard everyone else as an angel, justify


their mistakes and weaknesses, and condemn only yourself as the worst sinner.
This is step one in any kind of spiritual life.

I offer this for whatever help it may be to you. I would be glad to try to answer any
specific questions you might have, especially on the teaching of the Holy Fathers,
almost all of which we have access to in Russian-language editions.

Asking your prayers,

With love in Christ,

Seraphim, monk

Reprinted from Living Orthodoxy, Jan.-Feb., 1984.

***

The life of self-centeredness and self-satisfaction lived by most of todays


Christians is so all-pervading that it effectively seals them off from any
understanding at all of spiritual life; and when such people do undertake spiritual
life, it is only as another form of self-satisfaction. This can be seen quite clearly in
the totally false religious ideal both of the charismatic movement and the various
forms of Christian meditation: all of them promise (and give very quickly) an
experience of contentment and peace. But this is not the Christian ideal at all,
which, if anything, may be summed up as a fierce battle and struggle.

Orthodox Christians! Hold fast to the grace which you have; never let it become a
matter of habit; never measure it by merely human standards or expect it to be
logical or comprehensible to those who understand nothing higher than what is
human Let all true Orthodox Christians strengthen themselves for the battle
ahead, never forgetting that in Christ the victory is already ours.

Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood,


Platina, CA, 1979.

***

...Orthodox Christians of these latter times are indeed spiritually sleeping and
desperately need to be awakened by a trumpet of the Spirit like Saint Symeon [the
New Theologian]. Those who are Orthodox by birth and habit are not those who will
inherit the eternal Kingdom of Heaven; they must be awakened to the conscious
fulfillment of Christs commandments and a conscious reception of Gods Holy
Spirit, as Saint Symeon so eloquently taught.

...For Saint Symeon, as for all true Orthodox Christians, theology is life; the true
words of God which speak to the Christian heart, raise it from its sloth and
negligence, and inspire it to struggle for the eternal Kingdom, which may be tasted
in advance even now in the life of grace which God sends down upon His faithful
through His sanctifying Holy Spirit.

Preface to The Sin of Adam and our Redemption: Seven Homilies by Saint Symeon
the New Theologian; St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, CA, 1979.

***

We must not deceive ourselves: the life of the desert-dwellers of the Northern
Thebaid is far beyond us in our time of unparalleled spiritual emptiness. In any
epoch the monastic life is limited by the kind of life which is being led in the world.
At a time when daily Orthodox life in Russia was both extremely difficult and very
sober, monasticism could flourish; but in our time when ordinary life has become
abnormally comfortable and the world-view of even the best religious and
intellectual leaders is shockingly frivolous, what more is to be expected than that
luke-warm spirituality with comfort with which bold voices from inside Soviet
Russia even now are reproaching the free West?

Everywhere today the disease of disbelief has entered deeply into the minds, and
most of all the hearts, of men. Our Orthodoxy, even when it is outwardly still
correct, is the poorest, the feeblest Christianity there has ever been And still the
voice of the Northern Thebaid calls usnot, it may be, to go to the desertbut at
least to keep alive the fragrance of the desert in our hearts: to dwell in mind and
heart with these angel-like men and women and have them as our truest friends,
conversing with them in prayer; to be always aloof from the attachments and
passions of this life, even when they center about some institution or leader of the
church organization; to be first of all a citizen of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the City
on high towards which all our Christian labors are directed, and only secondarily a
member of this world below which perishes.

Epilogue to The Northern Thebaid, St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, CA,


1975.

***

The time of the end, though it seems to be near, we do not know. However close,
it is still future, and in the present we have only the same age-old fight against the
unseen powers, against the world, and against our own passions, upon the
outcome of which our eternal fate will be decided. Let us then struggle while it is
still day, with the time and the weapons which our All-merciful God has given us!

Truly, we are far more in need today of a return to the sources of genuine
Orthodoxy than Blessed Paisius was! Our situation is hopeless! And yet Gods
mercy does not leave us, and even today one may say that there is a movement of
genuine Orthodoxy, which consciously rejects the indifference, renovationism, and
outright apostasy which are preached by the world-famous Orthodox theologians
and hierarchs, and also hungers for more than the customary Orthodoxy which
is powerless before the onslaughts of a world refined in destroying souls.

Many young people today are seeking gurus and are ready to enslave themselves
to any likely candidate; but woe to those who take advantage of this climate of the
times to proclaim themselves God-bearing elders in the ancient traditionthey
only deceive themselves and others.

Our times, above all, call for humble and quiet labors, with love and sympathy for
other strugglers on the path of the Orthodox spiritual life and a deep resolve that
does not become discouraged because the atmosphere is unfavorable. We
Christians of the latter times are still called to work persistently on ourselves, to be
obedient to spiritual fathers and authorities, to lead an orderly life with at least a
minimum of spiritual discipline and with regular reading of the Orthodox spiritual
literature which Blessed Paisius was chiefly responsible for handing down to our
times, to watch over our own sins and failings and not judge others. If we do this,
even in our terrible times, we may have hopein Gods mercyof the salvation of
our souls.

Introduction to Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky, by Schema-monk Metrophanes; St


Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, CA, 1976.

***

As to the fatalism of those who believe that man must be a slave to the spirit of
the age, it is disproved by the experience of every Christian worthy of the name, for
the Christian life is nothing if it is not a struggle against the spirit of every age for
the sake of eternity.
Mans freedom has been given him to choose between the true God and himself,
between the true path to deification whereon the self is humbled and crucified in
this life to be resurrected and exalted in God and eternity, and the false path of self-
deification which promises exaltation in this life but ends in the Abyss. These are
the only two choices, ultimately, open to the freedom of man; and upon them have
been founded the two Kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man,
which may be discriminated only by the eye of faith in this life, but which shall be
separated in the future life as Heaven and Hell. It is clear to which of them modern
civilization belongsThe old commandment of Thou shalt, says [Nietzsches]
Zarathustra, has become outmoded; the new commandment is I will.

In the Christian life, the old self with its constant I will must be done away
with and a new self, centered in Christ and His will, be born.

Christian compromise in thought and word and negligence in deed have opened
the way to the triumph of the forces of the absurd, of Satan, of Antichrist. The
present age of absurdity is the just reward of Christians who have failed to be
Christians.

It is futile, in fact it is precisely absurd, to speak of reforming society, of changing


the path of history, of emerging into an age beyond absurdity, if we have not Christ
in our hearts; and if we do have Christ in our hearts, nothing else matters.

Subhumanity: The Philosophy of the Absurd in The Orthodox Word, Platina,


Sept.-Oct. 1982.

***

Looking at Orthodoxy, at its present state and its prospects in the period before
us, we may see two opposed aspects. First of all, there is the spirit of worldliness
which is so present in the Orthodox Churches today, leading to a watering-down of
Orthodoxy, a loss of the difference between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy. This
worldliness has produced the Ecumenical movement, which is leading to the
approaching Unia with Rome and the Western confessionssomething that may
well occur in the 1980s. In itself, this will probably not be a spectacular event: most
Orthodox people have become so unaware of their faith, and so indifferent to it, that
they will only welcome the opportunity to receive communion in a Roman or
Anglican church. This spirit of worldliness is what is in the air and seems natural
today; it is the religious equivalent of the atheist-agnostic atmosphere that prevails
in the world.

What should be our response to this worldly ecumenical movement?


Fortunately, our bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia have given us a
sound policy to follow: we do not participate in the Ecumenical Movement, and our
Metropolitan [Philaret] has warned other Orthodox Christians of the disastrous
results of their ecumenical course if they continue; but at the same time our
bishops have refused to cut off all contact and communion with Orthodox Churches
involved in the Ecumenical Movement, recognizing that it is still a tendency that has
not yet come to its conclusion (the Unia with Rome) and that (at least in the case of
the Moscow Patriarchate and other churches behind the Iron Curtain) it is a political
policy forced upon the Church by secular authorities. But because of this policy,
our Church suffers attacks both from the left side (from ecumenists who accuse us
of being uncharitable, behind the times,and the like) and from the right side (by
groups in Greece that demand that we break communion with all Orthodox
Churches and declare them to be without grace).

Indeed, if one looks at the state of the Orthodox Church in Greece, we can see
that the Ecumenical Movement has produced a reaction that has often become
excessive, and sometimes is almost as bad as the disease it seeks to cure. The
more moderate of the Old Calendarist groups in Greece has a position similar to
that of our Russian Church Abroad; but schism after schism has occurred among
the Old Calendarists over the question of strictness. A few years ago one of these
groups cut off communion with our Russian Church Abroad because our bishops
refused to declare that all other Orthodox Churches are without grace; this group
now declares that it alone has grace, only it is Orthodox. Recently this group has
attracted some converts from our Russian Church Abroad, and we should be aware
that this attitude is a danger to some of our American and European converts: with
our calculating, rationalistic minds it is very easy to think we are being zealous and
strict, when actually we are chiefly indulging our passion for self-righteousness.

One Old Calendarist bishop in Greece has written to us that incalculable harm
has been done to the Orthodox Church in Greece by what he calls the correctness
disease, when people quote canons, Fathers, the typicon in order to prove they are
correct and everyone else is wrong. Correctness can truly become a disease
when it is administered without love and tolerance and awareness of ones own
imperfect understanding. Such a correctness only produces continual schisms,
and in the end only helps the Ecumenical Movement by reducing the witness of
sound Orthodoxy.

Conspicuous among Orthodox todaycertain to be with us into the 1980sis


the worldly spirit by which Orthodoxy is losing its savor, expressed in the
Ecumenical Movement, together with the reaction against it, which is often
excessive precisely because the same worldly spirit is present in it.

There will undoubtedly be an increasing number of Orthodox converts in America


and Europe in the coming decade, and we must strive that our missionary witness
to them will help to produce, not cold, calculating, correct experts in the letter of
the law, but warm, loving, simple Christiansat least as far as our haughty Western
temperament will allow.

Once Fr. Dimitri [Dudko] was asked about how much better off religion was in the
free world than in Russia, and he answered: Yes, they have freedom and many
churches, but theirs is a spirituality with comfort. We in Russia have a different
path, a path of suffering that can produce real fruit.

We should remember this phrase when we look at our own feeble Orthodoxy in
the free world: are we content to have beautiful churches and chanting; do we
perhaps boast that we keep the fasts and the church calendar, have good icons
and congregational singing, that we give to the poor and perhaps tithe to the
Church? Do we delight in exalted patristic teachings and theological conferences
without having the simplicity of Christ in our hearts? Then ours is a spirituality
with comfort, and we will not have the spiritual fruits that will be exhibited by those
without all these comforts, who deeply suffer and struggle for Christ. In this sense
we should take our tone from the suffering Church in Russia and place the externals
of the Churchs worship in their proper place.

Our most important task, perhaps, is the Christian enlightenment of ourselves


and others. We must go deeper into our faithnot by studying the canons of
Ecumenical Councils or the typicon (although they also have their place), but by
knowing how God acts in our lives; by reading the lives of God-pleasers in the Old
and New Testaments (we read the Old Testament far too little; it is very instructive);
by reading the lives of Saints and the writings of the Holy Fathers on practical
spiritual life; by reading about the suffering of Christians today and in recent years.
In all of this learning our eyes must be on heaven above, the goal we strive for, not
on the problems and disasters of earth below.

Our Christian life and learning must be such that it will enable us to know the true
Christ and to recognize the false Christ (Antichrist) when he comes. It is not
theoretical knowledge or correctness that will give this knowledge to us. Vladimir
Soloviev in his parable of Antichrist has a valuable insight when he notes that
Antichrist will build a museum of all possible Byzantine antiquities for the Orthodox,
if only they accept him. So, too, mere correctness in Orthodoxy without a loving
Christian heart will not be able to resist Antichrist; one will recognize him and be
firm to stand against him chiefly by the heart and not the head. We must develop in
ourselves the right Christian feelings and instincts, and put off all fascination with
the spiritual comforts of the Orthodox way of life, or else we will beas one
discerning observer of present-day converts has observedOrthodox but not
Christian.

Orthodox Christians Facing the 1980s, A lecture given at the St. Herman Summer
Pilgrimage, Platina, CA, August 9, 1979.

***

The significance of the Catacomb Church does not lie in its correctness; it lies
in its preservation of the true spirit of Orthodoxy, the spirit of freedom in Christ.
Sergianism was not merely wrong in its choice of church policy, it was something
far worse: it was a betrayal of Christ based on agreement with the spirit of this
world. It is the inevitable result when church policy is guided by earthly logic and
not by the mind of Christ.

Introduction to Russias Catacomb Saints, by I.M. Andreyev, Platina, 1982.

***

The Orthodox Christian of today is overwhelmed to open Saint Gregorys Book


of Miracles and find there just what his soul is craving in this soulless, mechanistic
modern world; he finds that very Christian path of salvation which he knows in the
Orthodox services, Lives of the Saints, the Patristic writings, but which is so absent
today, even among the best of modern Christians, that one begins to wonder
whether one is not really insane, or some literal fossil of history, for continuing to
believe and feel as the Church has always believed and felt. It is one thing to
recognize the intellectual truth of Orthodox Christianity; but how is one to live it
when it is so out of harmony with the times? And then one reads Saint Gregory and
finds that all of this Orthodox truth is also profoundly normal, that whole societies
were once based on it, that it is unbelief and renovated Christianity which are
profoundly abnormal and not Orthodox Christianity, that this is the heritage and
birthright of the West itself which it deserted so long ago when it separated from the
one and only Church of Christ, thereby losing the key to the secret which so
baffles the modern scholarthe secret of true Christianity, which must be
approached with a fervent, believing heart, and not with the cold aloofness of
modern unbelief, which is not natural to man but is an anomaly of history.

Introduction to Vita Patrum, by Saint Gregory of Tours, Platina, 1988.

***

We must not artificially isolate ourselves from the reality of todays world; rather,
we must learn to use the best things the world has to offer, for everything good in
the worldif we are only wise enough to see itpoints to God, and we must make
use of it. Too many people make the mistake of limiting Orthodoxy to church
services, set prayers, and the occasional reading of a spiritual book. True
Orthodoxy, however, requires a commitment that involves every aspect of our lives.
One is Orthodox all the time every day, in every situation of lifeor one is not really
Orthodox at all. For this reason we must develop an Orthodox worldview and live it.

Living an Orthodox World-View, a lecture given at the St Herman Summer


Pilgrimage, Platina, CA, August 1980; Orthodox America, Aug.-Sept. 1982.

***

Do not trust your mind too much; thinking must be refined by suffering, or it will
not stand the test of these cruel times.

Of course, one can always act wrong even on a clear conscience! But even that
is not a fatal mistake as long as ones mind and heart remain open and one keeps
first things first.

How much our American Orthodoxy needs more heart and not so much mind! I
dont know any answer for it, except more prayer and basic education in Orthodox
sources.

Orthodox Christians, surrounded by and already swimming in a sea of humanist-


worldly philosophy and practice, must do everything possible to create their own
islands, in that sea, of other-worldly, God-oriented thought and practice.

Above all, may we all grow in spiritual understanding, not rational


understandingwhich I fear is the constant plague of all us poor converts!

the two sides quote canons back and forth, when what is needed is love and
understandingand that statement, I realize, could have come straight from the lips
of some ecumenist, which only shows how difficult the path of true Orthodoxy has
become in our days.
Good heavens! What is happening to people? How easily one gets dragged off
the path of serving God into all kinds of factions and jealousies and attempts at
revenge.

How much hope there is for those who do not trust in themselves too much and
are not overly-critical of others! And how little hope for those whose orientation is
the opposite!

psychological trials of dwellers in the last times will equal the physical trials of
the martyrs. But in order to face these trials we must be living in a different world.

I think aboutthat older generation that is now almost gone, and I want to weep
for the young know-it-alls who have missed the point. But the understanding comes
only through real suffering, and how many can do that?

We must be open rather than closed with regard to the Moscow Patriarchate. The
whole question of ecumenism and apostasy cannot be placed simply on the
canonical-dogmatic-formal level, but must be viewed first spiritually!

Its obvious that the zeal not according to knowledge is becoming a matter of
some concern to [Metropolitan Philaret] and for many of our bishops, and Im afraid
the solution to it, if any, wont be easy I think the quality needed is a certain deep
humility of mind that enables one to accept other ways of looking at things, other
emphases, as equally Orthodox with ones own.

Try to remember that all real Christian work is localright here and now, between
myself and God and my neighbor.

Do you have a notebook for taking down quotes from Holy Fathers in your
reading? Do you always have a book of Holy Fathers that you are reading and can
turn to in a moment of gloom? Start nowthis is essential!

Now one cannot be a half-hearted Christian, but only entirely or not at all.

Letters from Father Seraphim, Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society, Richfield


Springs, NY, 2001.

Many thanks to Mary Mansur, editor of Orthodox America, for permission to post these
excerpts.

How to Read the Holy Scriptures

From a lecture delivered by Hieromonk Seraphim Rose at the 1979 St. Herman Summer Pilgrimage Platina,
CA
IT IS WELL known that Protestants spend a great deal of time on Holy Scripture, because for them it is
everything. For us Orthodox Christians the Scripture also holds an essential place. Often, however, we do
not take advantage of it, and do not realize what importance it has for us; or if we do, we often do not
approach it in the right spirit because the Protestant approach and Protestant books about the Scriptures
are widespread, while our Orthodox approach is quite different.

The fact that Scripture is an essential part of our Faith can be seen in our Orthodox services. There are
daily readings from the New Testament from both the Epistles and Gospels. In one year we read through
almost the entire New Testament. In the first three days of the week before Pascha--the feast of Christ's
Resurrection, the four Gospels are read in church, and on Thursday night of Passion Week twelve long
selections from the Gospels are read concerning the Passion of our Lord, with verses sung in between,
commenting on these passages. The Old Testament is also used in the services. In the vespers for every
great feast three parables are read prefiguring the feast. And the Divine services themselves are filled with
Scriptural quotations, Scriptural allusions and inspiration coming directly from Holy Scripture. Orthodox
Christians also read the Scripture outside the services. St. Seraphim, in his monastic life, read the entire
New Testament every week. Perhaps it is because we have such a richness of Scripture in our Orthodox
tradition that we are often guilty of taking them for granted, of not valuing and making use of the
Scriptures.

One of the leading interpreters of Holy Scripture for us is St. John Chrysostom, an early 5th century Holy
Father. He wrote commentaries on practically the whole of the New Testament, including all of St. Paul's
epistles and also many Old Testament books. In one sermon concerning Scripture, he addresses his flock:

'I exhort you, and I will not cease to exhort you to pay heed not only to what is said here, but when you
are home also you should occupy yourselves attentively with the reading of Holy Scripture. Let no one say
to me such cold words-worthy of judgment---as these: 'I am occupied with a trial, I have obligations in the
city, I have a wife, I have to feed my children, and it is not my duty to read the Scripture but the duty of
those who have renounced everything.' What are you saying?! It is not your duty to read Scripture because
you are distracted by innumerable cares? On the contrary, it is your duty more than those others, more
than the monks; they do not have such need of help as do you who live in the midst of such cares. You need
treatment all the more, because you are constantly under such blows and are wounded so often. The
reading of Scripture is a great defense against sin. Ignorance of the Scripture is a great misfortune, a great
abyss. Not to know anything from the word of God is a disaster. This is what has given rise to heresies, to
immorality; it has turned everything upside down."

Here we see that the reading of Holy Scripture provides us with a great weapon in the fight against the
worldly temptations surrounding us and we do not do enough of it. The Orthodox Church, far from being
against the reading of Scripture, greatly encourages it. The Church is only against the misreading of
Scripture, against reading one's own private opinions and passions, even sins into the sacred text. When we
hear that the Protestants are all excited about something that they say is in the Scripture--the rapture, for
example, or the millennium--we are not against their reading the Scripture but against their
misinterpretation of the Scripture. To avoid this pitfall ourselves we must understand what this sacred text
is and how we should approach it.

The Bible --the Holy Scripture, the Old and New Testaments---is not an ordinary book. It is one that
contains not human but divinely revealed truths. It is the word of God. Therefore, we must approach it with
reverence and contrition of heart, not with mere idle curiosity and academic coldness. Nowadays one
cannot expect a person who has no sympathy for Christianity, no sympathy for the Scriptures to have a
proper attitude of reverence. There is, however, such power in the words of Scripture--especially in the
Gospels-that it can convert a person even without this proper attitude We have heard of cases in
communist countries; the police go out in special squads to persecute believers and break up their
meetings; they confiscate all their literature: Bibles, hymn books, patristic texts---many written out by
hand. They're supposed to burn them, but sometimes either the person who is assigned to bum them or
the person collecting them gets curious and begins reading the condemned materials. And there have been
cases where this has changed the person's life. All of a sudden he meets Jesus Christ. And he's shocked,
especially if he has been raised with the notion that this is a great evil; here he discovers that there is no
evil here but rather something quite fantastic.

Many modern scholars approach the Scriptures with a cold, academic spirit; they do not wish to save
their souls by reading Scripture: they only want to prove what great scholars they are, what new ideas they
can come up with; they want to make a name for themselves. But we who are Orthodox Christians must
have utmost reverence and contrition of heart; i.e., we must approach the word of God with a desire to
change our hearts. We read the Scripture in order to gain salvation, not, as some Protestants believe,
because we are already saved without the possibility of falling away, but rather as those desperately trying
to keep the salvation which Christ has given us, fully aware of our spiritual poverty. For us, reading
Scripture is literally a matter of life and death. As King David wrote in the Psalms: Because of Thy words my
heart hath bee, afraid. I will rejoice in Thy sayings as one that hath found great spoil.

The Scripture contains truth, and nothing else. Therefore, we must study the Scripture believing in its
truth, without doubt or criticism. If we have this latter attitude we shall receive no benefit from reading
Scripture but only find ourselves with those "wise" men who think they know more than God's revelation.
In fact, the wise of this world often miss the meaning of Scripture. Our Lord prayed: I thank Thee, O Father
..that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes (Luke
10:21). In our approach we must not be sophisticated, complicated scholars; we must be simple. And if we
are simple the words will have meaning for us.

The Orthodox World-View


by Blessed Father Seraphim Rose

Before beginning my talk, a word or two on why it is important to have an Orthodox world-view,
and why it is more difficult to build one today than in past centuries.
In past centuriesfor example, in 19th century Russiathe Orthodox world-view was an
important part of Orthodox life and was supported by the life around it. There was no need even to
speak of it as a separate thingyou lived Orthodoxy in harmony with the Orthodox society around
you, and you had an Orthodox world-view provided by the Church and society. In many countries
the government itself confessed Orthodoxy; it was the center of public functions and the king or
ruler himself was historically the first Orthodox layman with a responsibility to give a Christian
example to all his subjects. Every city had Orthodox churches, and many of them had services every
day, morning and evening. There were monasteries in all the great cities, in many cities, outside the
cities, and in the countryside, in deserts and wildernesses. In Russia there were more than 1000
officially organized monasteries, in addition to other more unofficial groups. Monasticism was an
accepted part of life. Most families, in fact, had somewhere in them a sister or brother, uncle,
grandfather, cousin or someone who was a monk or a nun, in addition to all the other examples of
Orthodox life: people who wandered from monastery to monastery, and fools-for-Christ. The whole
way of life was permeated with Orthodox kinds of people, of which, of course, monasticism is the
center. Orthodox customs were a part of daily life. Most books that were commonly read were
Orthodox. Daily life itself was difficult for most people: they had to work hard to survive, life
expectancy was not great, death was a frequent realityall of which reinforced the Church's
teaching on the reality and nearness of the other world. Living an Orthodox life in such
circumstances was really the same thing as having and Orthodox world-view, and there was little
need to talk of such a thing.
Today, on the other hand, all this has changed. Our Orthodoxy is a little island in the midst of a
world which operates on totally different principlesand every day these principles are changing
for the worse, making us more and more alienated from it. Many people are tempted to divide their
lives into two sharply distinct categories: the daily life we lead at work, with worldly friends, in our
worldly business, and Orthodoxy, which we live on Sundays and at other times in the week when
we have time for it. But the world-view of such a person, if you look at it closely, is often a strange
combination of Christian values and worldly values, which really do not mix. The purpose of this
talk is to see how people living today can begin to make their world-view more of one piece, to
make it a whole Orthodox world-view.

Orthodoxy is life. If we don't live Orthodoxy, we simply are not Orthodox, no matter what formal
beliefs we might hold.
Life in our contemporary world has become very artificial, very uncertain, very confusing.
Orthodoxy, it is true, has a life of its own, but it is also not very far from the life of the world around
it, and so the life of the Orthodox Christian, even when he is being truly Orthodox, cannot help but
reflect it in some way. A kind of uncertainty and confusion have also entered in Orthodox life in our
times. In this talk we will try to look at contemporary life, and then at Orthodox life, to see how
better we might fulfill our Christian obligation to lead other-worldly lives even in these quite
terrible times, and to have an Orthodox Christian view of the whole of life today that will enable us
to survive these times with our faith intact.

Life today has become abnormal

Anyone who looks at our contemporary life from the perspective of the normal life lived by
people in earlier timessay, Russia, or America, or any country of Western Europe in the 19th
centurycannot help but be struck by the fact of how abnormal life has become today. The whole
concept of authority and obedience, of decency and politeness, of public and private behaviorall
have changed drastically, have been turned upside down except in a few isolated pockets of
peopleusually Christians of some kindwho try to preserve the so-called "old-fashioned" way of
life.
Our abnormal life today can be characterized as spoiled, pampered. From infancy today's child is
treated, as a general rule, like a little god or goddess in the family: his whims are catered to, his
desires fulfilled; he is surrounded by toys, amusements, comforts; he is not trained and brought up
according to strict principles of Christian behavior, but left to develop whichever way his desires
incline. It is usually enough for him to say, "I want it!" or "I won't do it!" for his obliging parents to
bow down before him and let him have his way. Perhaps this does not happen all the time in every
family, but it happens often enough to be the rule of contemporary child-rearing, and even the best-
intentioned parents do not entirely escape its influence. Even if the parents try to raise the child
strictly, the neighbors are trying to do something else. They have to take that into consideration
when disciplining the child.
When such a child becomes an adult, he naturally surrounds himself with the same things he was
used to in his childhood: comforts, amusements, and grown-up toys. Life becomes a constant search
for "fun" which, by the way, is a word totally unheard of in any other vocabulary; in 19th century
Russia they wouldn't have understood what this word meant, or any serious civilization. Life is a
constant search for "fun" which is so empty of any serious meaning that a visitor from any 19th-
century country, looking at our popular television programs, amusement parks, advertisements,
movies, musicat almost any aspect of our popular culturewould think he had stumbled across a
land of imbeciles who have lost all contact with normal reality. We don't often take that into
consideration, because we are living in this society and we take it for granted.
Some recent observers of our contemporary life have called the young people of today the "me
generation" and our times the "age of narcissism," characterized by a worship of and fascination
with oneself that prevents a normal human life from developing. Others have spoken of the "plastic"
universe or fantasy world in which so many people live today, unable to face or come to terms with
the reality of the world around them or the problems within themselves.
When the "me generation" turns to religionwhich has been happening very frequently in the
past several decadesit is usually to a "plastic" or fantasy form of religion: a religion of "self-
development" (where the self remains the object of worship), brainwashing and mind-control, of
deified gurus and swamis, of a pursuit of UFO's and "extra-terrestrial" beings, of abnormal spiritual
states and feelings. We will not go into all these manifestations there, which are probably familiar
enough to most of you, except to discuss a little later how these touch on the Orthodox Christian
spiritual life of our days
It is important for us to realize, as we try ourselves to lead a Christian life today, that the world
which has been formed by our pampered times, makes demands on the soul, whether in religion or
in secular life, which are what one has to call totalitarian. This is easy enough to see in the
mindbending cults that have received so much publicity in recent years, and which demand total
allegiance to a self-made "holy man"; but it is just as evident in secular life, where one is confronted
not just by an individual temptation her or there, but by a constant state of temptation that attacks
one, whether in the background music heard everywhere in markets and businesses, in the public
signs and billboards of city streets, in the rock music which is brought even to forest campgrounds
and trails, and in the home itself, where television often becomes the secret ruler of the household,
dictating modern values, opinions, and tastes. If you have young children, you know how true this
is; when they have seen something on television how difficult it is to fight against this new opinion
which has been given as an authority by the television.
The message of this universal temptation that attacks men todayquite openly in its secular
forms, but usually more hidden in its religious formsis: Live for the present, enjoy yourself, relax,
be comfortable. Behind this message is another, more sinister undertone which is openly expressed
only in the officially atheist countries which are one step ahead of the free world in this aspect. In
fact, we should realize that what is happening in the world today is very similar whether it occurs
behind the Iron Curtain or in the free world. There are different varieties of it, but there is a very
similar attack to get our soul. In the communist countries which have an official doctrine of
atheism, they tell quite openly that you are to: Forget about God and any other life but the present;
remove from your life the fear of God and reverence for holy things; regard those who still believe
in God in the "old-fashioned' way as enemies who must be exterminated. One might take, as a
symbol of our carefree, fun-loving, self-worshipping times, our American "Disneyland"; if so, we
should not neglect to see behind it the more sinister symbol that shows where the "me generation" is
really heading; the Soviet Gulag, the chain of concentration camps that already governs the life of
nearly half the world's population.

Two False Approaches to Spiritual Life

But what, one might ask, does all this have to do with us, who are trying to lead, as best we can, a
sober Orthodox Christian life? It has a lot to do with it. We have to realize that the life around us,
abnormal though it is, is the place where we begin our own Christian life. Whatever we make of our
life, whatever truly Christian content we give it, it still has something of the stamp of the "me
generation" on it, and we have to be humble enough to see this. This is where we begin.
There are two false approaches to the life around us that many often make today, thinking that
somehow this is what Orthodox Christians should be doing. One approachthe most common
oneis simply to go along with the times: adapt yourself to rock music, modern fashions and
tastes, and the whole rhythm of our jazzed-up modern life. Often the more old-fashioned parents
will have little contact with this life and will live their own life more or less separately, but they will
smile to see their children follow after its latest craze and think that this is something harmless.
This path is total disaster for the Christian life; it is the death of the soul. Some can still lead an
outwardly respectable life without struggling against the spirit of the times, but inwardly they are
dead or dying; andthe saddest thing of alltheir children will pay the price in various psychic
and spiritual disorders and sicknesses which become more and more common. One of the leading
members of the suicide cult that ended so spectacularly in Jonestown four years ago was the young
daughter of a Greek Orthodox priest; satanic rock groups like Kiss"Kids in Satan's Service"are
made up of ex-Russian Orthodox young people; the largest part of the membership of the temple of
satan in San Francisco, according to a recent sociological surveyis made up of Orthodox boys.
These are only a few striking cases; most Orthodox young people don't go so far astraythey just
blend in with the anti-Christian world around them and cease to be examples of any kind of
Christianity for those around them.
This is wrong. The Christian must be different from the world, above all from today's weird,
abnormal world, and this must be one oft he basic things he knows as part of his Christian
upbringing. Otherwise there is no point in calling ourselves Christianmuch less Orthodox
Christians.
The false approach at the opposite extreme is one that one might call false spirituality. As
translations of Orthodox books on the spiritual life become more widely available, an the Orthodox
vocabulary of spiritual struggle is placed more and more in the air, one finds an increasing number
of people talking about hesychasm, the Jesus Prayer, the ascetic life, exalted states of prayer, and
the most exalted Holy Fathers like St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, and St.
Gregory the Sianite. It is all very well to be aware of this truly exalted side of Orthodox spiritual life
and to have reverence for the great saints who have actually lived it; but unless we have a very
realistic and very humble awareness of how far away all of us today are from the life of hesychasm
and how little prepared we are even to approach it, our interest in it will be only one more
expression of our self-centered, plastic universe. "The me-generation goes hesychast!"that is
what some are trying to do today; but in actuality they are only adding a new game called
"hesychasm" to the attractions of Disneyland.
There are books on this subject now that are very popular. In fact, Roman Catholics are going in
very big for this kind of thing under Orthodox influence and themselves influencing other Orthodox
people. For example, there is a Jesuit priest, Fr. George Maloney, who writes all kinds of books on
this subject and translates St. Macarius the Great and St. Symeon the New Theologian and tries to
get people in everyday life to be hesychasts. They have all kinds of retreats, usually "charismatic";
people are inspired by the Holy Spirit, supposedly, and undertake all types of these disciplines
which we get from the Holy Fathers, and which are far beyond the level at which we are today. It is
a very unserious thing. There is also a lady, Catherine de Hueck Doherty (in fact, she was born in
Russia and became a Roman Catholic), who writes books about Poustinia, the desert life, and
Molchanie, the silent life, and all these things which she tries to put into life like you would have
some fashion for a new candy. This, of course, is very unserious and is a very tragic sign of our
times. These kind of exalted things are being used by people who have no idea of what they are
about. For some people it is only a habit or a pastime; for others who take it seriously, it can be a
great tragedy. They think they are leading some kind of exalted life and really they have not come
to terms with their own problems inside of them.
Let me re-emphasize that both of these extremes are to be avoidedboth worldliness and super-
spiritualitybut this does not mean that we should not have a realistic awareness of the legitimate
demands which the world makes upon us, or that we should cease respecting and taking sound
instruction from the great hesychast Fathers and using the Jesus prayer ourselves, according to our
own circumstances and capacity. It just has to be on our level, down to earth. The point isand it is
a point that is absolutely necessary for our survival as Orthodox Christians todaywe must realize
our situation as Orthodox Christians today; we must realize deeply what times we live in, how little
we actually know and feel our Orthodoxy, how far we are not just from the saints of ancient times,
but even from the ordinary Orthodox Christians of a hundred years or even a generation ago, and
how much we must humble ourselves just to survive as Orthodox Christians today.

What we can do

More specifically, what can we do to gain this awareness, this realization, and how can we make
it fruitful in our lives? I will try to answer this question in two parts: first, concerning our awareness
of the world around us, which as never before in the history of Christianity has become our
conscious enemy; and second, concerning our awareness of Orthodoxy, which, I am afraid, most of
us known much lass than we should, much less than we have to know if we wish to keep it.
First, since whether we wish it or not we are in the world (and its effects are felt strongly even in a
remote place like our monastery here), we must face it and its temptations squarely and realistically,
but without giving in to it; in particular, we must prepare our young people for the temptations
facing them, and is it were inoculate them against these temptations. We must be aware that the
world around us seldom helps and almost always hinders the upbringing of the child in the true
Orthodox spirit. We must be ready every day to answer the influence of the world by the principles
of a sound Christian upbringing.
This means that what a child learns at school must constantly be checked and corrected at home.
We cannot assume that something he is going to learn at school is simply something that is
profitable or secular and has nothing to do with his Orthodox upbringing. He may be taught useful
skills and facts (although many schools in America today are failing miserably even at this; many
school teachers tell us that all they can do is keep the children in god order in class without even
teaching them anything), but even if he gets this much, he is also taught many wrong attitudes and
philosophies. A child's basic attitude towards and appreciation of literature, music, history, art,
philosophy, even science, and of course life and religionmust come first of al not from school, for
the school will give you all this mixed up with modern philosophy; it must come first from the
home and Church, or else he is bound to be miseducated in today's world, where public education is
at best agnostic, and at worst, openly atheistic or anti-religious. Of course, in the Soviet Union all
this is forced upon the child, with no religion whatsoever and an active program of making the child
an atheist.
Parents must now exactly what is being taught their children in education courses, which are
almost universal today in American schools, and correct it at home, not only by a frank attitude to
this subject (especially between fathers and sonsa very rare thing in American society), but also
by a clear setting forth of the moral aspect of it which is totally absent in public education.
Parents must know just what kind of music their children are listening to, what is in the movies
they see (listening and seeing together with them when necessary), what kind of language they are
exposed to and what kind of language they use, and give the Christian attitude to all this.
Televisionin households where there is not enough courage to throw it out the windowmust
be strictly controlled and supervised to avoid the poisonous effects of this machine which has
become the leading educator of anti-Christian attitudes and ideas in the home itself, especially to the
young.
I speak about the raising of children because this is where the world first strikes its blows at
Orthodox Christians and forms them in its image; once wrong attitudes have been formed in a child,
the task of giving him a Christian education becomes doubly difficult.
But it is not only children, it is all of us, who are facing the world which is trying to form us in
anti-Christianity, by means of schools, television, movies, popular music, and all the other
influences that pound in upon us, most of all in the big cities. We have to be aware that what is
being pounded in upon us is all of one piece; it has a certain rhythm, a certain message to give us,
this message of self-worship, of relaxing, of letting go, of enjoying yourself, of giving up any
thought of the other world, in various forms, whether in music, or in movies, television, or what is
being taught in schools, the way subjects are emphasized, the way the background is given, and
everything else; there is one particular thing which is being given to us. It is actually an education in
atheism. We have to fight back by knowing just what the world is trying to do to us, and by
formulating and communicating our Orthodox Christian response to it.
Frankly, from observing the way Orthodox families in today's world live and pass on their
Orthodoxy, it would seem that this battle is more often lost than won. The percentage of Orthodox
Christians who retain their Orthodox identity intact and are not changed into the image of today's
world, is small indeed.
Still, it is not necessary to view the world around us as all bad. In fact, for our survival as
Orthodox Christians we have to be smart enough to use whatever is positive in the world for our
own benefit. Here I will go into a few points where we can use something in the world which seems
to have nothing to do directly with Orthodoxy in order to formulate our Orthodox world-view.
The child who has been exposed from his earliest years to good classical music, and has seen his
soul being developed by it, will not be nearly as tempted by the crude rhythm and message of rock
and other contemporary forms of pseudo-music as someone who has grown up without a musical
education. Such a musical education, as several of the Optina elders have said, refines the soul and
prepares it for the reception of spiritual impressions.
The child who has been educated in good literature, drama, and poetry and has felt their effect in
his own soulthat is, has really enjoyed themwill not easily become an addict of the
contemporary movies and television programs and cheap novels that devastate the soul and take it
away from the Christian path.
The child who has learned to see beauty in classical painting and sculpture will not easily be
drawn into the perversity of contemporary art or be attracted by the garish products of modern
advertising and pornography.
The child who knows something of the history of the world, especially in Christian times, and
how other people have lived and thought, what mistakes and pitfalls people have fallen into by
departing from God and His commandments, and what glorious and influential lives they have lived
when they were faithful to Himwill be discerning about the life and philosophy of our own times
and will not be inclined to follow the first new philosophy or way of life he encounters. One of the
basic problems facing the education of children today is that in the schools they are no longer given
a sense of history. It is a dangerous and fatal thing to deprive a child of a sense of history. It means
that he has no ability to take examples from the people who lived in the past. And actually, history
constantly repeats itself. Once you see that, it becomes interesting how people have answered
problems, how there have been people who have gone against God and what results came from that,
and how people changed their lives and became exceptions and gave an example which is lived
down to our own times. This sense of history is a very important thing which should be
communicated to children.
In general, the person who is well acquainted with the best products of secular culturewhich in
the West almost always has definite religious and Christian overtoneshas a much better chance of
leading a normal, fruitful Orthodox life than someone who knows only the popular culture of today.
One who is converted to Orthodoxy straight from "rock" culture, and in general anyone who thinks
he can combine Orthodoxy with that kind of culturehas much suffering to go through and a
difficult road in life before he can become a truly serious Orthodox Christian who is capable of
handing on his faith to others. Without this suffering, without this awareness, Orthodox parents will
raise their children to be devoured by the contemporary world. The world's best culture, properly
received, refines and develops the soul; today's popular culture cripples and deforms the soul and
hinders it from having a full and normal response to the message of Orthodoxy.
Therefore, in our battle against the spirit of this world, we can use the best things the world has to
offer in order to go beyond them; everything good in the world, if we are only wise enough to see it,
points to God, and to Orthodoxy, and we have to make use of it.

The Orthodox World-view

With such an attitudea view of both the good things and the bad things in the worldit is
possible for us to have and to live an Orthodox world-view, that is, an Orthodox view on the whole
of life, not just on narrow church subjects. There exists a false opinion, which unfortunately is all to
widespread today, that it is enough to have an Orthodoxy that is limited to the church building and
formal "Orthodox" activities, such as praying at certain times or making the sign of the Cross; in
everything else, so this opinion goes, one can be like anyone else, participating in the life and
culture of our times without any problem, as long as we don't commit sin.
Anyone who has come to realize how deep Orthodoxy is, and how full is the commitment which
is required of the serious Orthodox Christian, and likewise what totalitarian demands the
contemporary world makes on us, will easily see how wrong this opinion is. One is Orthodox all the
time every day, in every situation of life, or one is not really Orthodox at all. Our Orthodoxy is
revealed not just in our strictly religious views, but in everything we do and say. Most of us are very
unaware of the Christian, religious responsibility we have for the seemingly secular part of our
lives. The person with a truly Orthodox world-view lives every part of his life as Orthodox.
Let us, therefore, ask here: How can we nourish and support this Orthodox world-view in our
daily life?
The first and most obvious way is to be in constant contact with the sources of Christian
nourishment, with everything that the Church gives us for our enlightenment and salvation: the
Church services and Holy Mysteries, Holy Scripture, the Lives of Saints, the writings of the Holy
Fathers. One must, of course, read books that are on one's own level of understanding, and apply the
Church's teaching to one's own circumstances in life; then they can be fruitful in guiding us and
changing us in a Christian way.
But often these basic Christian sources do not have their full effect on us, or don't really affect us
at all, because we don't have the right Christian attitude towards them and towards the Christian life
they are supposed to inspire. Let me now say a word here about what our attitude should be if we
are to obtain real benefit from them and if they are going to be for us the beginning of a truly
Orthodox world-view.
First of all, Christian spiritual food, by its very nature, is something living and nourishing; if our
attitude towards it is merely academic and bookish, we will fail to get the benefit it is meant to give.
Therefore, if we read Orthodox books or are interesting in Orthodoxy only to gain informationor
show off our knowledge to others, we are missing the point; if we learn of the commandments of
God and the law of His Church merely to be "correct" and to judge the "incorrectness" of others, we
are missing the point. These things must not merely affect our ideas, but must directly touch our
lives and change them. In any time of great crisis in human affairssuch as the critical times right
in front of us in the free worldthose who place their trust in outward knowledge, in laws and
canons and correctness, will be unable to stand. The strong ones then will be those whose Orthodox
education has given them a feel for what is truly Christian, those whose Orthodoxy is in the heart
and is capable of touching other hearts.
Nothing is more tragic than to see someone who is raised in Orthodoxy, has a certain idea of the
catechism, has read some Lives of Saints, has a general idea of what Orthodoxy stands for,
understands some of the services, and then is unaware of what is going on around him. And he
gives his children this life in two categories: one is the way most people live and the other way is
how Orthodox live on Sundays and when they are reading some Orthodox text. When a child is
raised like that he is most likely not going to take the Orthodox one; it is going to be a very small
part of his life, because the contemporary life is too attractive, too many people are going for it, it is
too much a part of reality today, unless he has been really taught how to approach it, how to guard
himself against the bad effects of it and how to take advantage of the good things which are in the
world.
Therefore, our attitude, beginning right now, must be down-to-earth and normal. That is, it must
be applied to the real circumstances of our life, not a product of fantasy and escapism and refusal to
face the often unpleasant facts of the world around us. An Orthodoxy that is too exalted and too
much in the clouds belongs in a hothouse and is incapable of helping us in our daily life, let along
saying anything for the salvation of those around us. Our world is quite cruel and wounds souls
with its harshness; we need to respond first of all with down-to-earth Christian love and
understanding, leaving accounts of hesychasm and advanced forms of prayer to those capable of
receiving them.
So also, our attitude must not be self-centered but reaching out to those who are seeking for God
and for a godly life. Nowadays, wherever there is a good-sized Orthodox community, the
temptation is to make it into a society for self-congratulation and for taking delight in our Orthodox
virtues and achievements: the beauty of our church buildings and furnishings, the splendor of our
services, even the purity of our doctrine. But the true Christian life, even since the time of the
Apostles, has always been inseparable from communicating it to others. An Orthodoxy that is alive
by this very fact shines forth to othersand there is no need to pen a "department of missions" to
do this; the fire of true Christianity communicates itself without this. If our Orthodoxy is only
something we keep for ourselves, and boast about it, then we are the dead burying the deadwhich
is precisely the state of many of our Orthodox parishes today, even those that have a large number
of young people, if they are not going deeply into their Faith. It is not enough to say that the young
people are going to church. We need to ask what they are getting in church, what they are taking
away from church, and, if they are not making Orthodoxy a part of their whole life, then it really is
not sufficient to say that they are going to church.
Likewise, our attitude must be loving and forgiving. There is a kind of hardness that has crept
into Orthodox life today: "That man is a heretic; don't go near him;" "that one is Orthodox,
supposedly, but you can't really be sure;" "that one there is obviously a spy." No one will deny that
the Church is surrounded by enemies today, or that there are some who stoop to taking advantage of
our trust and confidence. But this is the way it has been since the time of the Apostles, and the
Christian life has always been something of a risk in this practical way. But even if we are
sometimes taken advantage of and do have to show some caution in this regard, still we cannot give
up our basic attitude of love and trust without which we lose one of the very foundations of our
Christian life. The world, which has no Christ, has to be mistrustful and cold, but Christians, on the
contrary, have to be loving and open, or else we will lose the salt of Christ within us and become
just like the world, good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden underfoot.
A little humility in looking at ourselves would help us to be more generous and forgiving of the
faults of others. We love to judge others for the strangeness of their behavior; we call them
"cuckoos" or "crazy converts." It is true that we should beware of really unbalanced people who can
do us great harm in the Church. But what serious Orthodox Christian today is not a little "crazy?"
We don't fit in with the ways of this world; if we do, in today's world, we aren't serious Christians.
The true Christian today cannot be at home in the world; he cannot help but feel himself and be
regarded by others as a little "crazy." Just to keep alive the ideal of other-worldly Christianity today,
or to get baptized as an adult, or to pray seriously, is enough to put you into a crazy house in the
Soviet Union and in many other countries, and these countries are leading the way for the rest of the
world to follow.
Therefore, let us not be afraid of being considered a little "crazy" by the world, and let us
continue to practice the Christian love and forgiveness which the world can never understand, but
which in its heart it needs and even craves.
Finally, our Christian attitude must be what, for want of a better word, I would call innocent.
Today the world places a high value on sophistication, on being worldly-wise, on being a
"professional." Orthodoxy places no value on these qualities; they kill the Christian soul. And yet
these qualities constantly creep into the Church and into our lives. How often one hears enthusiastic
converts especially, express their desire of going to the great Orthodox centers, the cathedrals and
monasteries where sometimes thousands of the faithful come together and everywhere the talk is of
church matters, and one can feel how important Orthodox is, after all. That Orthodoxy is a small
drop in the bucket when you look at the whole society, but in the great cathedrals and monasteries
there are so many people that it seems as though it is really an important thing. And how often one
sees these same people in a pitiful state after they have indulged their desire, returning from the
"great Orthodox centers" sour and dissatisfied, filled with worldly church gossip and criticism,
anxious above all to be "correct" and "proper" and worldly-wise about church politics. In a word,
they have lost their innocence, their unworldliness, being led astray by their fascination with the
worldly side of the Church's life.
In various forms, this is a temptation to us all, and we must fight it by not allowing ourselves to
overvalue the externals of the Church, but always returning to the "one thing needful": Christ and
the salvation of our souls from this wicked generation. We needn't be ignorant of what goes on in
the world and in the Churchin fact, for our own selves we have to knowbut our knowledge
must be practical and simple and single-minded, not sophisticated and worldly.

Conclusion

It is obvious to any Orthodox Christian who is aware of hat is going on around him today, that
the world is coming to its end. The signs of the times are so obvious that one might say that the
world is crashing to its end. What are some of these signsThe abnormality of the world. Never
have such weird and unnatural manifestations and behavior been accepted as a matter of course as
in our days. Just look at the world around you: what is in the newspapers, what kind of movies are
being shown, what is on television, what it is that people think is interesting and amusing, what they
laugh at; it is absolutely weird. And there are people who deliberately promote this, of course, for
their own financial benefit, and because that is the fashion, because there is a perverse craving for
this kind of thing The wars and rumors of wars, each more cold and merciless than the preceding,
and all overshadowed by the threat of the unthinkable universal nuclear war, which could be set off
by the touch of a button The widespread natural disasters: earthquakes, and now volcanoesthe
newest one forming not far from here near Yosemite Park in central Californiawhich are already
changing the world's weather patterns.The increasing centralization of information on and power
over the individual, represented in particular by the enormous new computer in Luxembourg, which
has the capacity to keep a file of information on every man living; its code number is 666 and it is
nicknamed "the beast" by those who work on it. To facilitate the working of such computers, the
American government plans to begin in 1984 the issuance of Social Security checks to persons with
a number (apparently including the code number 666) stamped on their right hand or forehead
precisely the condition which will prevail, according to the Apocalypse (ch. 13) during the reign of
antichrist. Of course, it doesn't mean that the first person to get himself stamped 666 is the
antichrist, or the servant of antichrist, but once you are used to this, who will be able to resist? They
will train you first and then they will make you bow down to him.
Again, the multiplication of false Christs and false Antichrists. The latest candidate just this
summer spent probably millions of dollars advertising his impending appearance on world
television, promising to give at that time a "telepathic message" to all the world's inhabitants. Quite
apart from any occult powers that might be involved in such events, we already know well enough
the opportunities for presenting subliminal messages by radio and especially by television, as well
as the fact that this can be done by anyone with the technology for breaking into normal radio and
television signals, no matter how many laws there might be against it.
The truly weird response to the new movie everyone in America is talking about and seeing:
"E.T.", which has caused literally millions of seemingly normal people to express their affection
and love for the hero, a "saviour" from outer space who is quite obviously a demonan obvious
preparation for the worship of the coming Antichrist. (And incidentally, the movie editor of the
official Greek Archdiocese newspaper in America, an Orthodox priest, has heartily recommended
this movie to Orthodox people saying that it is a wonderful movie which can teach us about love,
and everyone should go see it. There is quite a contrast between people who are trying to be aware
of what is going on, and those who are simply led into the mood of the times.)
I could go on with details like this, but my purpose is not to frighten you, but to make you aware of
what is happening around us. It is truly later than we think; the Apocalypse is now. And how tragic
it is to see Christians, and above all Orthodox young people, with this incalculable tragedy hanging
over their heads, who think they can continue what is called a "normal life" in these terrible times,
participating fully in the whims of this silly, self-worshipping generation, totally unaware that the
fool's paradise we are living in is about to crash, completely unprepared for the desperate times that
lie just ahead of us. There is no longer even a question of being a "good" or a "poor" Orthodox
Christian; the question now is: will our Faith survive at all? With many, it will not survive; the
coming Antichrist will be too attractive, too much in the spirit of the worldly things we no crave, for
most men even to know that they have lost their Christianity by bowing down to him.
Still the call of Christ comes to us; let us begin to heed it. The clearest expression of this call
today is coming from the enslaved atheist world, where there is real suffering for Christ and a
seriousness of life which we are rapidly losing or have already lost. One Orthodox priest in
Romania, Fr. George Calciu, is now near death in a communist prison for daring to challenge young
seminarians and students to put off their blind allegiance to the spirit of the times and come forward
to labor for Christ. After speaking of the emptiness of atheism, he tells today's young people: "I call
you to a much higher flight, to total abandonment, to an act of courage which defies reason. I call
you to God. To the One that transcends the world so that you might know an infinite heaven of
spiritual joy, the heaven which you presently grope for in your personal hell, and which you seek
even while in a state of non-deliberate revolt Jesus has always loved you, but now you have the
choice to respond to His invitation. In responding, you are ordained to go and bear fruit that will
remain. To be a prophet of Christ in the world in which you live. To love your neighbor as yourself
and to make all men your friend. To proclaim by every action this unique and limitless love which
has raised man from the level of a serf to that of a friend of God. To the prophets of this liberating
love which delivers you from all constraint, returning to you your integrity as you offer yourself to
God."
Fr. George, speaking to young people who had little inspiration to serve Christ's Church because
they had accepted the worldly opinion (common also among us in the free world) that the Church is
only a set of buildings or a worldly organization, calls them to a deeper awareness of Christ's
Church and of how our "formal membership" in it is not enough to save us.
"The Church of Christ is alive and free. In her we move and have our being, through Christ Who
is her Head. In Him we have full freedom. In the Church we learn of truth and the truth will set us
free (John 8:32). You are in Christ's Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, or
when you give alms to the poor, and visit the sick. You are in Christ's Church when you are good
and patient, when you refuse to get angry at your brother, even if he has wounded your feelings.
You are in Christ's Church when you pray: 'Lord, forgive him.' When you work honestly at your
job, returning home weary in the evenings but with a smile upon your lips; when you repay evil
with loveyou are in Christ's Church. Do you not see, therefore, young friend, how close the
Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church upon you. You are the rock of
His Church against which nothing can prevail Let us build churches with our faith, churches
which no human power can pull down, a church whose foundation is Christ Feel for your brother
alongside you. Never ask: 'Who is he?' Rather say: 'He is no stranger; he is my brother. He is the
Church of Christ just as I am."

With such a call in our hearts, let us begin really to belong to the Church of Christ, the Orthodox
Church. Outward membership is not enough; something must move within us that makes us
different from the world around us, even if that world calls itself "Christian" and even "Orthodox."
Let us keep and nourish those qualities of the true Orthodox world-view which I mentioned earlier:
a living, normal attitude, loving and forgiving, not self-centered, preserving our innocence and
unworldliness even with a full and humble awareness of our own sinfulness and the power of the
worldly temptations around us. If we truly live this Orthodox world-view, our Faith will survive the
shocks ahead of us and be a source of inspiration and salvation for those who will still be seeking
Christ even amidst the shipwreck of humanity which has already begun today.