Father Seraphim Rose, of Blesséd Memory
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 an 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 into
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
Life today has
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), of
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 mind-bending
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 here 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
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 respect. 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, is 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; and
the 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 of the 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, and 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
Sinaite. 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 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
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
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 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 strive as Orthodox
What we can
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 know much less 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 as 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 good 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 all 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 know
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.
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
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
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
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 them,
will 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
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
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.
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 fire 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 too
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 interested 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 nominal. 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 alone 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 be not 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
open a "department of missions" to do this; the life 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
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
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 Orthodoxy is, after all. That Orthodoxy
is a small drop in the bucket when you look at the whole society, but
in these 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.
It is obvious to
any Orthodox Christian who is aware of what 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
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 treat of the unthinkable universal nuclear war,
which could be set off by the touch of a button.
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.
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 foreheadprecisely 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.
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.
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
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 now crave, for most
men even to know that they have lost their Christianity by bowing down
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 friends.
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 and us to a deeper awareness of Christ's Church
and of how our "formal membership" in it is not enough to
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 cry out: "Lord,
help me." 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.
The Orthodox Word, vol. 18, no. 4 (105), July-August 1982, pp. 160-176.